Opinion Section

Explaining the Conflict in Ethiopia, Finding Solutions, & Looking Forward: By Dr. Getachew Metaferia

AP photo

Opinion

By Getachew Metaferia, Ph.D.

Situations have led the country to oppose the TPLF as an organization, and not the Tigrian people.

The current conflict in Ethiopia seems to be given different and erroneous interpretations by most members of the international community. This misinterpretation could be because of misinformation about the situation, misunderstanding of Ethiopian history and general ethos of Ethiopians, or simply the desire to provide simplistic answers to a complex situation. This is a country that boasts a long, and enduring history full of triumphs and tribulations, especially in its recent memory. As such Ethiopia’s history is dotted with periods of assimilation, nation-building, external conquests and being on the verge of total disintegration, and internal regional strife. Through such course of history, this ancient country has managed to build and foster a sense of strong Ethiopian identity and national spirit. Hence, although they might have their own internal differences, interests, and aspirations, like other countries, its people have forged a unity and strength especially when faced with external or internal threats. Unlike most countries, Ethiopia’s people have a common and shared history they can refer to. Based on such historical facts, the degeneration of the current situation into civil conflict and disintegration of the country remains implausible. That is the link that foreign observers most often miss.

Ethiopia was under a Monarchy that for centuries was known for bringing the vast realm of the country together at times through conquests and at times through amicable relations such as generations of intermarriages and blended blood. Consequently, most Ethiopians remain uneasy about claiming full-blooded membership in any single ethnic group. The country has always been a mosaic of interwoven cultures and beliefs uninterrupted by foreign dominations or colonial rules.

The monarchy which, despite some flaws, played an important role in Ethiopia’s history, was terminated when a despotic military dictatorship, Derg (1974-1991), assumed power and left its atrocious imprint in the country’s history. Later, it was replaced by the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), that had its genesis in a secessionist guerrilla warfare. When the end of the Derg became eminent, in order to gain acceptance by Ethiopians, TPLF formed and controlled Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Forces (EPRDF), composed of four ethnic-based rebel groups who had fought against the Derg. After 27 years of total control of the country TPLF/EPRDF was dismantled in 2018 through internal rearrangements and reorganized as the Prosperity Party headed by the current Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmad. As a result, the TPLF felt marginalized in the new political arrangement, recoiled back into its ethnic-region (Tigri) and continued to challenge the central government and undermine peace and stability in the country. Because it used to totally control all aspects of the country for 27 years, it now felt powerless, having lost the pinnacle of power, and thus became an existential threat to the country.

Finally, the TPLF’s abuse of power and misrule of Ethiopia (1991-2018) led most Ethiopians to hold ill feelings towards the ruling cabal. The following are some of the serious grievances leveled against the TPLF:

1. It exhibited outrageous corruption, land grabbing, and ethnic-based favoritism and ethnic chauvinism. Ethiopians felt marginalized, neglected and alienated.

2. It inflicted gross human rights abuses and inhuman treatment of the incarcerated.

3. It gerrymandered the country on ethnic and linguistic bases, leading the citizenry into a dichotomous relation of “we and them”, downplaying their long and interwoven tapestry of history and culture. On the other hand, TPLF concocted and/or emphasized real or imaginary differences and divisions.

4. It monopolized all facets of the country: politics, economy, military, social, and even intruded in the affairs of religious institutions to garner loyalty.

5. It muzzled the free press, denied freedom of speech and democratic rights, secretly armed followers and stockpiled illegal weapons, unleashed agents and informers in the society nand governmental institutions, unbecoming of a junior partner (province/region) of a federated sovereign state.

6. It assisted and enabled domestic uprisings and collaborated with foreign enemies in order to destabilize and/or undermine the country and even forcefully overthrow the government.

7. Finally, it attacked, slaughtered and inhumanly treated the Ethiopian national army posted in Tigri region. The army was involved in providing community services to farmers such as collecting harvest and fighting locust invasion. Such a heinous act is unacceptable by any country. The Ethiopian government was forced to take appropriate measures to bring the criminals to justice.

Such situations have led the country to oppose the TPLF as an organization, and not the Tigrian people. Ethiopians feel that Tigrians themselves have suffered under the regime, and only a handful of cliques tied through family connections benefited. As a result, most Ethiopians would hardly shed tears for the demise of the TPLF and the predicament their elites face today which is of their own making. The TPLF, during its waning day, is trying to internationalize this conflict by claiming to have bombed Eritrea. However, cool heads seem to have prevailed in the Eritrean leadership which refused to be drawn into the conflict, as they well know that it was not worth flogging this dying horse. It is on the edge of a cliff facing its mortal demise. The Eritrean position will also deter other historical enemies of Ethiopia who may have overt or covert ties to the TPLF from joining this conflict.

Looking forward, after the situation subsides and the dust settles, it would be an opportune time for the government, civic organizations, and political, religious and cultural leaders of the country to call for a national peace and reconciliation convention in order to find lasting solutions to the country’s myriad problems. Then, the focus must be on national development, democracy-building and embarking on bold programs that address poverty reduction, actively engage the large number of youths towards building the country, and generally meeting the basic needs of the people. It is about time for friendly countries, as they have done in the past, to extend their hands to help Ethiopia get reinvigorated and embark on the arduous task of recovery and reconstruction. The lion’s share of the task, however, remains in the hands of all Ethiopians who continue to be the captains of the ship of state (to use Plato’s analogy) of Ethiopia and its destiny.

About the author: Dr. Getachew Metaferia is professor of political science at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

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ETHIOPIA UPDATE: War, Fake News, Refugee Crisis & Crime Against Humanity

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The Ethiopian American Vote and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

The Ethiopian community in the United States is proving itself to be a solid voting block and a strong advocate for the 117 years U.S. - Ethiopian relations. (Image courtesy of Ethiopian-Americans for Biden-Harris)

By Fiqir Taye

Published: November 2nd, 2020

Los Angeles, California — With just hours remaining until the final votes are counted, a collective anxiety flows throughout the country. The 2020 presidential election has been one of the most controversial to date, circling issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the current state of rampant domestic racism, both of which have infected the nation. This election is monumental in many ways, as it is the first to call so strongly upon the action of the Ethiopian community. As a video surfaced just days before the closing election day, Ethiopian-Americans and Ethiopians across the world were shocked and disgusted as they heard Trump’s insidious words in a conversation with the Sudanese and Israeli Prime Ministers. This video captures President Trump suggesting that Egypt will bomb the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, after the United States has already backtracked millions of dollars worth of aid that were intended to go towards Ethiopia. Many view these claims as a threat of war, and as this message plays on the background of countless anti-African acts on behalf of the current administration, the Ethiopian community is experiencing an unparalleled level of political activism and mobilization.

The last three and a half years have been filled with injustice and violence perpetrated by the hands of the state. Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, an Ethiopian-American serving as the Democratic representative of the 42nd district of Nevada, called upon the administration’s actions of family separation and biased deportation in his own district. This serves as a devastating example of exactly why citizens need to vote now more than ever, as he points out that “[voting] is a responsibility bestowed upon us by those who paid so much sacrifice to build this amazing democracy that we enjoy, that is literally being torn apart”. Other influential leaders in the Ethiopian-American community such as Dr. Menna Demessie, the senior vice president of Policy Analysis and Research of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, have also directly addressed Ethiopians and African Americans at large to get active, underscoring that “On a humanitarian level of respecting our democracy, this [election] could not be more important.”

In a recent public forum, Mimi Alemayehou, former Vice President of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation as appointed by Barack Obama, took the time to remind voters what is at stake for the next coming years. She delineated that this election covers questions of women’s rights, affordable health care and education, and criminal justice and immigration reform. When a number of votes is what stands between access to such essential human rights,the Ethiopian community has stepped up to the plate in terms of fulfilling their civic duty, and will hopefully continue to do so until the ballots close this Tuesday night. Addisu Demissie himself, as the Senior advisor of the 2020 Democratic Convention, has also addressed his fellow Ethiopian-Americans, saying that they “[should] not underestimate your power and our power as a community as people of Ethiopian descent”, as the Ethiopian voting bloc has the numbers to change the outcome of this election. This powerful sentiment is carried on by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas representative, who spoke of the Ethiopians in her state, saying that “they are a part of this election, and a part of the victory, we count on them”.

With the strength of the Ethiopian vote, the success of a Biden-Harris administration has implications far greater than our community here in the United States. Congresswoman Karen Bass, the current Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, describes that under a Biden presidency, “Africa will become a priority and become the partner that it should be.” The participation of Ethiopian-Americans and the various communities of the African diaspora can be the ticket to an America that focuses on our needs domestically, and is able to foster political and economic harmony with the African continent at large. This unique opportunity could not be better summarized than with the words of Amb. Daniel Yohannes, the first Ethiopian-American to be appointed as high official in the U.S. as former President Obama selected him to serve as the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and later as the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Reflecting on this election, he reminds Ethiopians that “it is in our hands to take action in this election and propel the result we want to see. Our vote represents our voice, and through a united Ethiopian front, we have the power to change the next 4 years and American history”.

The Ethiopian community in the United States is proving itself to be a solid voting block and a strong advocate for the 117 years U.S. – Ethiopian relations.

About the Author: Fiqir Taye is a TSEHAI Media fellow. She earned her B.A. in Political Science with a Concentration in International Relations from Santa Clara University in California.

Related:

Video: Tadias Panel Discussion on Civic Engagement and Voter Mobilization


On Sunday, October 25th, Tadias Magazine hosted a timely virtual panel discussion on civic engagement and voter mobilization featuring a new generation of Ethiopian American leaders from various professions. You can watch the video below. (Photos: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: October 28th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — The U.S. presidential election is only one week away and Tadias hosted a timely and lively discussion on building political power through civic engagement and voter mobilization on Sunday, October 25th featuring a new generation of Ethiopian American leaders from various professions. You can watch the video below.

Panelists included Henock Dory, who currently serves as Special Assistant to former President Barack Obama; Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; Selam Mulugeta Washington, a former Field Organizer with Obama for America, Helen Mesfin from the Helen Show DC, Dr. Menna Demessie, Vice President of Policy Analysis & Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Helen Amelga, President of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles (moderator) as well as Bemnet Meshesha and Helen Eshete of the Habeshas Vote initiative. The event opened with poetry reading by Bitaniya Giday, the 2020-2021 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate.

Ethiopian Americans are as diverse as mainstream America when it comes to our perspectives on various social and political issues, but despite our differences we are all united when it comes to the need to
empower ourselves and participate in the democratic process through our citizenship rights to vote and run for office.

So vote on November 3rd.

Related:

‘Habeshas Vote’ Phone Banking Event This Week Aims Outreach to Ethio-Americans


(Photo courtesy of Habesha Networks)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: October 19th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — We are now almost two weeks away from the November 3rd U.S. presidential election. This week the ‘Habeshas Vote’ initiative and the non-profit organization Habesha Networks in partnership with Tadias Magazine and Abbay Media will host their first virtual phone banking event to reach out to the Ethiopian American community.

The online event, which is set to take place on Thursday, October 22nd from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT, will feature various panel discussions, public service announcements and cultural engagements.

Organizers note that there will be a brief training on phone banking as well as “some amazing prizes” for those that call and text the most voters.

If You Attend:

Click here to lean more and RSVP.

—-

Related:

Ethiopian-Americans for Biden-Harris Hosts Virtual Conversation


Ethiopian-Americans for Biden-Harris is a volunteer-led group that supports the candidacy of Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: October 19th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — As the highly anticipated 2020 U.S. presidential election fast approaches on November 3rd, various Ethiopian American associations are organizing voter turnout and education events across the country.

The latest to announce such an event is the newly formed, volunteer-led group, Ethiopian-Americans for Biden-Harris, which supports the candidacy of Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris and will be hosting an online conversation next week Friday, October 23 at 6:00 PM EDT/3:00 PM PDT.

“As one of the largest African Diaspora groups in the United States, the community has historically supported causes championed by the Democratic Party, including but not limited to, immigration reform, healthcare reform, promotion of democracy, human rights and improved trade and investment between the United States and Ethiopia,” the group states in its press release. “Ethiopian-Americans believe that a Biden-Harris Administration will champion equitable access and opportunity for all Americans, restore mutually beneficial relationships with Ethiopia and improve America’s standing among the community of nations.”


(Courtesy photo)

The virtual event, which will be moderated by Dr. Menna Demessie, Senior Vice President of Policy Analysis & Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, features Congresswoman Karen Bass, who has represented California’s 37th congressional district since 2013; Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas; Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the One Campaign and the former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development; and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Senior Vice President at Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG) leading the firm’s Africa practice. Thomas-Greenfield was also the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the United States Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs from 2013 to 2017.

Ethiopian American speakers include Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, the first Ethiopian-American elected to public office in the United States and the first African immigrant to serve in elected office in the State of Nevada; Addisu Demissie, who served as Senior Advisor to U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, and was responsible for organizing the nominating convention for the Democratic Party this past summer; Marcus Samuelsson, an award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, philanthropist and food activist; Mimi Alemayehou, a development finance executive who has served as Executive Vice President of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and as United States Executive Director of the African Development Bank.

If You Attend

Click here to RSVP now staring $25.

Learn more at www.ethiopiansforbidenharris.com.

Related:

Ethiopian Americans: Election is Approaching, Let’s Make Sure our Voices are Heard


In this OP-ED Helen Amelga, President of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles, urges Ethiopian Americans to participate in the upcoming U.S. election that will directly impact our lives for many years to come, and shares resources to help our community to get involved in the democratic process. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Helen Amelga

Updated: October 16th, 2020

Los Angeles (TADIAS) — How many people of Ethiopian descent live in the United States? 300,000? 400,000? 500,000? We don’t really know for sure. But with the 2020 census, we will for the first time have the opportunity to get a truly accurate count. If you haven’t done so already, go to 2020cencus.gov and complete your census today.

While the exact numbers are yet to be determined, it is clear that there is a significant Ethiopian-American population in the United States. Why is it then that we do not have a strong political presence?

We know our community can organize. We have Iqub (እቁብ), mahbers (ማህበር), business associations, and our faith based groups are extremely organized. We need to use those same skills to mobilize politically.

We must equip ourselves with the knowledge of political systems, major policies and voter rights, not only to serve as advocates for our community, but so that we ourselves can occupy positions of power and authority to be the decision makers who shape the society and world we want to live in.

We know it’s possible because we already have trailblazers such as Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, the first Ethiopian American to be elected into office in the Nevada Legislature and the first Ethiopian American ever elected in the U.S. to a state-wide governing body as well as Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson of Florida, who is the first Ethiopian-American judge in the United States who was re-elected to a third term his year.

We cannot afford to give our vote away to candidates who are not serving our needs. We are ready to spring into action when there is a problem in our community, but it is not enough to go to our elected officials once we have a problem and try to convince them to help us. We need to be proactive.

We must purposefully engage to get the right people elected in the first place. We must identify candidates who align with and will fight for our values. Then, we must do everything we can to make sure those candidates are elected.

Here are a few steps you can take to get involved:

1. Register to vote

2. Request a vote by mail ballot today

3. Reach out to 5 friends and make sure they’re registered to vote

4. Research your candidates & ballot measures

5. Volunteers to phone bank for a campaign

6. Sign up to be a poll worker on election day

The November 3rd general election is fast approaching. Let’s make sure our voices are heard.

Related:

Interview: Helen Amelga, Founder of Ethiopian Democratic Club of LA

Interview With Addisu Demissie: Senior Adviser to Joe Biden

Biden Selects Yohannes Abraham as Member of Transition Team


Related:

Election 2020 – The Youth Vote Event In Seattle


Bitaniya Giday, age 17, is the 2020-2021 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate. She is a first-generation Ethiopian American residing in Seattle. Bitaniya is one of the young interviewers in a timely upcoming Zoom event on October 14th titled “The Youth Vote: A conversation about leadership, ethics and values and how they factor into choosing a candidate.” (KNKX PUBLIC RADIO)

KNKX PUBLIC RADIO

Young people make up a projected 37% of the 2020 electorate, yet historically they vote less than other age groups. Will it be different this time? The pandemic crisis and the call for racial justice and institutional changes are top concerns as we move closer to this high stakes election. Ethics and values also underpin our decisions. This virtual event aims to bring together first-time and new voters with older adults with a track record of civic leadership to discuss a number of issues through the lens of beliefs and values, touching on things like:

What does it mean to be a leader?
In thorny situations, how do you speak for a community?
If there are three important issues facing your community and you only have enough resources to address one, how would you choose?

Because this is leading up to the general election, we want to frame this conversation around the power to change systems for the greater good and how that ties in with being an informed voter.

The six young interviewers will ask the four speakers questions relating to the themes of conflict/failure, challenges, accountability, transparency, priorities and representation, with the speakers drawing on their personal and professional experiences; and offering examples of how they have faced challenging situations and how that speaks to leadership and community building.

Young Interviewers

Bitaniya Giday, age 17, is the 2020-2021 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate. She is a first-generation Ethiopian American residing in Seattle. Her writing explores the nuances of womanhood and blackness, as she reflects upon her family’s path of immigration across the world. She hopes to restore and safeguard the past, present, and future histories of her people through traditional storytelling and poetry.

Read more »

Related:

Ethiopian Americans Hold Virtual Town Hall Ahead of November Election


The nationwide town hall event, which will be held on Thursday, September 24th, 2020 plans to emphasize the importance of exercising our citizenship right to vote and to participate in the U.S. democratic process. The gathering will feature panel discussions, PSAs, and cultural engagements. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 23rd, 2020

Los Angeles (TADIAS) — Ethiopian Americans are holding a virtual town hall this week ahead of the November 3rd U.S. election.

The nationwide event, which will be held on Thursday, September 24th, will emphasize the importance of exercising our citizenship right to vote and to participate in the U.S. democratic process.

According to organizers the town hall — put together by the ‘Habeshas Vote’ initiative and the non-profit organization Habesha Networks — will feature various panel discussions, public service announcements and cultural engagements.

“We intend on discussing various subject matters related to civic engagement issues affecting our community at the moment,” the announcement notes, highlighting that by the end of the conference “participants will be able to understand the importance of taking ownership of our local communities, learn more about the voting process and gain a better [appreciation] of why we should all care about voting.”

Speakers include Helen Amelga, President of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles; Dr. Menna Demissie, Senior Vice President of Policy Analysis & Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, the first Ethiopian American to be elected into office in the Nevada Legislature and the first Ethiopian American ever elected in the U.S. to a state-wide governing body; Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson of Florida, who is the first Ethiopian-American judge in the United States who was re-elected to a third term this year; and Girmay Zahilay, Councilman in King County, Washington.


(Courtesy photos)

Additional presenters include: Andom Ghebreghiorgis. former Congressional candidate from New York; Samuel Gebru, former candidate for City Council in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and current managing director of Black Lion Strategies; as well as Hannah Joy Gebresilassie, journalist and community advocate; and Debbie Almraw, writer and poet.

Entertainment will be provided by Elias Aragaw, the artist behind @TheFunkIsReal, and DJ Sammy Sam.

The announcement notes that “voting is a core principle of being American, but to exercise this basic right we must be registered to vote! That’s why Habesha Networks and Habeshas Vote are proud partners of When We All Vote and supporters of National Voter Registration Day.”

Watch: Students Interview Kamala Harris (U.S. ELECTION UPDATE)


Fana R. Haileselassie, a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, asks Sen. Kamala Harris a question during a virtual Q&A hosted by BET featuring the Democratic nominee for Vice President and students discussing the interests of millennial voters. (Photo: BETNetworks)

BET News Special

HBCU Students Interview Kamala Harris

A virtual Q&A hosted by Terrence J featuring Democratic nominee for Vice President Sen. Kamala Harris and HBCU students discussing the interests of millennial voters.

Watch: Sen. Kamala Harris Answers HBCU Students’ Questions About Voting, Student Loan Debt & More

Related:

Virginia’s Era as a Swing State Appears to be Over


President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave after a campaign event in May 2012 in Richmond. (Getty Images)

The Washington Post

Updated: September 18th, 2020

No TV ads, no presidential visits: Virginia’s era as a swing state appears to be over

Barack Obama held the very last rally of his 2008 campaign in Virginia, the longtime Republican stronghold he flipped on his way to the White House.

Four years later, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney made more visits and aired more television ads here than nearly anywhere else. And in 2016, Donald Trump staged rally after rally in the Old Dominion while Hillary Clinton picked a Virginian as her running mate.

But Virginia isn’t getting the swing-state treatment this time around. As in-person early voting got underway Friday, President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden were dark on broadcast television. Super PACs were clogging somebody else’s airwaves. Even as Trump and Biden have resumed limited travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, neither has stumped in the Old Dominion.

There’s really no discussion about the state being in play,” said Amy Walter, national editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “If you’re Ohio or New Hampshire, or Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, you’ve always been in that spotlight. Virginia got it for such a short period of time.”

The last time presidential candidates stayed out of Virginia and off its airwaves was 2004. The state was reliably red then, having backed Republicans for the White House every year since 1968. Now Virginia seems to be getting the cold shoulder because it’s considered solidly blue.

“Virginia was the belle of the ball in 2008, and again in 2012, and still once more in 2016, but in 2020, the commonwealth is a wall flower,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a University of Mary Washington political scientist.

Read more »

Related:

Virginians come out in force to cast ballots on the first day of early voting

Mike Bloomberg to spend at least $100 million in Florida to benefit Joe Biden


Former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to spend at least $100 million to help elect Joe Biden, a massive late-stage infusion of cash that could reshape the presidential contest. (Getty Images)

The Washington Post

Updated: September 13th, 2020

Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to spend at least $100 million in Florida to help elect Democrat Joe Biden, a massive late-stage infusion of cash that could reshape the presidential contest in a costly toss-up state central to President Trump’s reelection hopes.

Bloomberg made the decision to focus his final election spending on Florida last week, after news reports that Trump had considered spending as much as $100 million of his own money in the final weeks of the campaign, Bloomberg’s advisers said. Presented with several options on how to make good on an earlier promise to help elect Biden, Bloomberg decided that a narrow focus on Florida was the best use of his money.

The president’s campaign has long treated the state, which Trump now calls home, as a top priority, and his advisers remain confident in his chances given strong turnout in 2016 and 2018 that gave Republicans narrow winning margins in statewide contests.

Watch: Former 2020 presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg slammed Trump during his Democratic National Convention speech on Aug. 20.

Bloomberg’s aim is to prompt enough early voting that a pro-Biden result would be evident soon after the polls close.

Read more »

Related:

Biden Leads by 9 Percentage Points in Pennsylvania (ELECTION UPDATE)


In the survey, Biden, who was born in the state, draws the support of 53 percent of likely voters, compared to 44 percent who back Trump. (Reuters photo)

The Washington Post

Updated: September 9, 2020

Biden Leads by 9 Percentage Points in Pennsylvania, Poll Finds

Joe Biden leads President Trump by nine percentage points among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that Trump narrowly won four years ago, according to a new NBC News-Marist poll.

In the survey, Biden, who was born in the state, draws the support of 53 percent of likely voters, compared to 44 percent who back Trump.

In 2016, Trump carried Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The NBC-Marist poll shows Biden getting a boost from suburban voters, who side with him by nearly 20 percentage points, 58 percent to 39 percent. In 2016, Trump won suburban voters in Pennsylvania by about eight points, according to exit polls.


Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stand outside the AFL-CIO headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., on Monday. (Getty Images)

The poll also finds the candidates are tied at 49 percent among white voters in Pennsylvania, a group that Trump won by double digits in 2016. Biden leads Trump among nonwhite voters, 75 percent to 19 percent.

Pennsylvania has been a frequent destination for both campaigns in recent weeks. Vice President Pence has events scheduled there on Wednesday.

Kamala D. Harris Goes Viral — for Her Shoe Choice


Sporting Chuck Taylor sneakers, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) greets supporters Monday in Milwaukee. (AP photo)

The Washington Post

Updated: September 8, 2020

It took roughly eight seconds of on-the-ground campaigning for the first Black woman to be nominated on a major party’s ticket to go viral.

At first glance, little seemed noteworthy as Sen. Kamala D. Harris deplaned in Milwaukee on Monday. She was wearing a mask. She didn’t trip. Instead, what sent video pinging around the Internet was what was on her feet: her black, low-rise Chuck Taylor All-Stars, the classic Converse shoe that has long been associated more closely with cultural cool than carefully managed high-profile candidacies.

By Tuesday morning, videos by two reporters witnessing her arrival had been viewed nearly 8 million times on Twitter — for comparison’s sake, more than four times the attention the campaign’s biggest planned video event, a conversation between Joe Biden and Barack Obama, had received on both Twitter and YouTube combined.

Harris’s sister, Maya, tweeted Monday that Chuck Taylors are, indeed, her sister’s “go-to.” A few hours later, Harris’s official campaign account tweeted the video with the caption “laced up and ready to win.”

Read more »

81 American Nobel Laureates Endorse Biden for Next U.S. President


The Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine “wholeheartedly” endorsed the Democratic nominee in an open letter released Wednesday. “At no time in our nation’s history has there been a greater need for our leaders to appreciate the value of science in formulating public policy,” they said. (Courtesy photo)

Press Release

Nobel Laureates endorse Joe Biden

81 American Nobel Laureates in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine have signed this letter to express their support for former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election for President of the United States.

At no time in our nation’s history has there been a greater need for our leaders to appreciate the value of science in formulating public policy. During his long record of public service, Joe Biden has consistently demonstrated his willingness to listen to experts, his understanding of the value of international collaboration in research, and his respect for the contribution that immigrants make to the intellectual life of our country.

As American citizens and as scientists, we wholeheartedly endorse Joe Biden for President.

Name, Category, Prize Year:

Peter Agre Chemistry 2003
Sidney Altman Chemistry 1989
Frances H. Arnold Chemistry 2018
Paul Berg Chemistry 1980
Thomas R. Cech Chemistry 1989
Martin Chalfie Chemistry 2008
Elias James Corey Chemistry 1990
Joachim Frank Chemistry 2017
Walter Gilbert Chemistry 1980
John B. Goodenough Chemistry 2019
Alan Heeger Chemistry 2000
Dudley R. Herschbach Chemistry 1986
Roald Hoffmann Chemistry 1981
Brian K. Kobilka Chemistry 2012
Roger D. Kornberg Chemistry 2006
Robert J. Lefkowitz Chemistry 2012
Roderick MacKinnon Chemistry 2003
Paul L. Modrich Chemistry 2015
William E. Moerner Chemistry 2014
Mario J. Molina Chemistry 1995
Richard R. Schrock Chemistry 2005
K. Barry Sharpless Chemistry 2001
Sir James Fraser Stoddart Chemistry 2016
M. Stanley Whittingham Chemistry 2019
James P. Allison Medicine 2018
Richard Axel Medicine 2004
David Baltimore Medicine 1975
J. Michael Bishop Medicine 1989
Elizabeth H. Blackburn Medicine 2009
Michael S. Brown Medicine 1985
Linda B. Buck Medicine 2004
Mario R. Capecchi Medicine 2007
Edmond H. Fischer Medicine 1992
Joseph L. Goldstein Medicine 1985
Carol W. Greider Medicine 2009
Jeffrey Connor Hall Medicine 2017
Leland H. Hartwell Medicine 2001
H. Robert Horvitz Medicine 2002
Louis J. Ignarro Medicine 1998
William G. Kaelin Jr. Medicine 2019
Eric R. Kandel Medicine 2000
Craig C. Mello Medicine 2006
John O’Keefe Medicine 2014
Michael Rosbash Medicine 2017
James E. Rothman Medicine 2013
Randy W. Schekman Medicine 2013
Gregg L. Semenza Medicine 2019
Hamilton O. Smith Medicine 1978
Thomas C. Sudhof Medicine 2013
Jack W. Szostak Medicine 2009
Susumu Tonegawa Medicine 1987
Harold E. Varmus Medicine 1989
Eric F. Wieschaus Medicine 1995
Torsten N. Wiesel Medicine 1981
Michael W. Young Medicine 2017
Barry Clark Barish Physics 2017
Steven Chu Physics 1997
Jerome I. Friedman Physics 1990
Sheldon Glashow Physics 1979
David J. Gross Physics 2004
John L. Hall Physics 2005
Wolfgang Ketterle Physics 2001
J. Michael Kosterlitz Physics 2016
Herbert Kroemer Physics 2000
Robert B. Laughlin Physics 1998
Anthony J. Leggett Physics 2003
John C. Mather Physics 2006
Shuji Nakamura Physics 2014
Douglas D. Osheroff Physics 1996
James Peebles Physics 2019
Arno Penzias Physics 1978
Saul Perlmutter Physics 2011
H. David Politzer Physics 2004
Brian P. Schmidt Physics 2011
Joseph H. Taylor Jr. Physics 1993
Kip Stephen Thorne Physics 2017
Daniel C. Tsui Physics 1998
Rainer Weiss Physics 2017
Frank Wilczek Physics 2004
Robert Woodrow Wilson Physics 1978
David J. Wineland Physics 2012

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Biden Calls Trump ‘a Toxic Presence’ Who is Encouraging Violence in America


“Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years,” Biden said. “Will we rid ourselves of this toxin? (Photo: Joe Biden speaks Monday in Pittsburgh/Reuters)

The Washington Post

Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Monday as a threat to the safety of all Americans, saying he has encouraged violence in the nation’s streets even as he has faltered in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

For his most extensive remarks since violent protests have escalated across the country in recent days, Biden traveled to Pittsburgh and struck a centrist note, condemning both the destruction in the streets and Trump for creating a culture that he said has exacerbated it.

“I want to be very clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting,” Biden said. “It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”

The former vice president also rejected the caricature that Trump and his allies have painted of him as someone who holds extremist views and has helped fuel the anger in urban centers across the country.

“You know me. You know my heart. You know my story, my family’s story,” Biden said. “Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”

While the speech was delivered amid heightened tensions over race and police conduct, Biden did not outline new policies, instead focusing on making a broader condemnation of Trump.

He called the president a danger to those suffering from the coronavirus, to anyone in search of a job or struggling to pay rent, to voters worried about Russian interference in the upcoming election and to those worried about their own safety amid unrest.

“Donald Trump wants to ask the question: Who will keep you safer as president? Let’s answer that question,” Biden said. “When I was vice president, violent crime fell 15 percent in this country. We did it without chaos and disorder.”

Pointing to a nationwide homicide rate rising 26 percent this year, Biden asked, “Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?”

“If I were president today, the country would be safer,” Biden said. “And we’d be seeing a lot less violence.”

It was a marked shift for Biden from his convention speech less than two weeks ago, in which he never named Trump in his remarks. During his speech Monday, he mentioned Trump’s name 32 times.

“Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years,” Biden said. “Will we rid ourselves of this toxin? Or will we make it a permanent part of our nation’s character?”

Read more »

Spotlight: The Unravelling of the Social Fabric in Ethiopia and the U.S.


As Ethiopian Americans we are increasingly concerned about the decline of civil discourse and the unravelling of the social fabric not only in Ethiopia, but also here in the United States where in the era of Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic politics has also become more and more violent. Below are excerpts and links to two recent articles from The Intercept and The Guardian focusing on the timely topic. (AP photo)

The Intercept

August, 29th, 2020

The Social Fabric of the U.S. Is Fraying Severely, if Not Unravelling: Why, in the world’s richest country, is every metric of mental health pathology rapidly worsening?

THE YEAR 2020 has been one of the most tumultuous in modern American history. To find events remotely as destabilizing and transformative, one has to go back to the 2008 financial crisis and the 9/11 and anthrax attacks of 2001, though those systemic shocks, profound as they were, were isolated (one a national security crisis, the other a financial crisis) and thus more limited in scope than the multicrisis instability now shaping U.S. politics and culture.

Since the end of World War II, the only close competitor to the current moment is the multipronged unrest of the 1960s and early 1970s: serial assassinations of political leaders, mass civil rights and anti-war protests, sustained riots, fury over a heinous war in Indochina, and the resignation of a corruption-plagued president.

But those events unfolded and built upon one another over the course of a decade. By crucial contrast, the current confluence of crises, each of historic significance in their own right — a global pandemic, an economic and social shutdown, mass unemployment, an enduring protest movement provoking increasing levels of violence and volatility, and a presidential election centrally focused on one of the most divisive political figures the U.S. has known who happens to be the incumbent president — are happening simultaneously, having exploded one on top of the other in a matter of a few months.

Lurking beneath the headlines justifiably devoted to these major stories of 2020 are very troubling data that reflect intensifying pathologies in the U.S. population — not moral or allegorical sicknesses but mental, emotional, psychological and scientifically proven sickness. Many people fortunate enough to have survived this pandemic with their physical health intact know anecdotally — from observing others and themselves — that these political and social crises have spawned emotional difficulties and psychological challenges…

Much attention is devoted to lamenting the toxicity of our discourse, the hate-driven polarization of our politics, and the fragmentation of our culture. But it is difficult to imagine any other outcome in a society that is breeding so much psychological and emotional pathology by denying to its members the things they most need to live fulfilling lives.

Read the full article at theintercept.com »

Ethiopia falls into violence a year after leader’s Nobel peace prize win


Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, centre, arrives at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa in July. Photograph: AP

By Jason Burke and Zecharias Zelalem in Addis Ababa

Sat 29 Aug 2020

Abiy Ahmed came to power promising radical reform, but 180 people have died amid ethnic unrest in Oromia state

Ethiopia faces a dangerous cycle of intensifying internal political dissent, ethnic unrest and security crackdowns, observers have warned, after a series of protests in recent weeks highlighted growing discontent with the government of Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace prize winner.

Many western powers welcomed the new approach of Abiy, who took power in 2018 and promised a programme of radical reform after decades of repressive one-party rule, hoping for swift changes in an emerging economic power that plays a key strategic role in a region increasingly contested by Middle Eastern powers and China. He won the peace prize in 2019 for ending a conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

The most vocal unrest was in the state of Oromia, where there have been waves of protests since the killing last month of a popular Oromo artist and activist, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, in Addis Ababa, the capital. An estimated 180 people have died in the violence, some murdered by mobs, others shot by security forces. Houses, factories, businesses, hotels, cars and government offices were set alight or damaged and several thousand people, including opposition leaders, were arrested.

Further protests last week prompted a new wave of repression and left at least 11 dead. “Oromia is still reeling from the grim weight of tragic killings this year. These grave patterns of abuse should never be allowed to continue,” said Aaron Maasho, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

Read more »

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‘How Dare We Not Vote?’ Black Voters Organize After DC March


People rally at Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Speakers implored attendees to “vote as if our lives depend on it.” (AP Photos)

The Associated Press

Updated: August 29th, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tears streamed down Brooke Moreland’s face as she watched tens of thousands gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to decry systemic racism and demand racial justice in the wake of several police killings of Black Americans.

But for the Indianapolis mother of three, the fiery speeches delivered Friday at the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom also gave way to one central message: Vote and demand change at the ballot box in November.

“As Black people, a lot of the people who look like us died for us to be able to sit in public, to vote, to go to school and to be able to walk around freely and live our lives,” the 31-year-old Moreland said. “Every election is an opportunity, so how dare we not vote after our ancestors fought for us to be here?”

That determination could prove critical in a presidential election where race is emerging as a flashpoint. President Donald Trump, at this past week’s Republican National Convention, emphasized a “law and order” message aimed at his largely white base of supporters. His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has expressed empathy with Black victims of police brutality and is counting on strong turnout from African Americans to win critical states such as North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“If we do not vote in numbers that we’ve never ever seen before and allow this administration to continue what it is doing, we are headed on a course for serious destruction,” Martin Luther King III, told The Associated Press before his rousing remarks, delivered 57 years after his father’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. “I’m going to do all that I can to encourage, promote, to mobilize and what’s at stake is the future of our nation, our planet. What’s at stake is the future of our children.”

As the campaign enters its latter stages, there’s an intensifying effort among African Americans to transform frustration over police brutality, systemic racism and the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus into political power. Organizers and participants said Friday’s march delivered a much needed rallying cry to mobilize.

As speakers implored attendees to “vote as if our lives depend on it,” the march came on the heels of yet another shooting by a white police officer of a Black man – 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last Sunday — sparking demonstrations and violence that left two dead.

“We need a new conversation … you act like it’s no trouble to shoot us in the back,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said. “Our vote is dipped in blood. We’re going to vote for a nation that stops the George Floyds, that stops the Breonna Taylors.”

Navy veteran Alonzo Jones- Goss, who traveled to Washington from Boston, said he plans to vote for Biden because the nation has seen far too many tragic events that have claimed the lives of Black Americans and other people of color.

“I supported and defended the Constitution and I support the members that continue to do it today, but the injustice and the people that are losing their lives, that needs to end,” Jones-Goss, 28, said. “It’s been 57 years since Dr. King stood over there and delivered his speech. But what is unfortunate is what was happening 57 years ago is still happening today.”

Drawing comparisons to the original 1963 march, where participants then were protesting many of the same issues that have endured, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said it’s clear why this year’s election will be pivotal for Black Americans.

“We are about reminding people and educating people on how important it is to translate the power of protest into the power of politics and public policy change,” said Morial, who spoke Friday. “So we want to be deliberate about making the connection between protesting and voting.”

Nadia Brown, a Purdue University political science professor, agreed there are similarities between the situation in 1963 and the issues that resonate among Black Americans today. She said the political pressure that was applied then led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other powerful pieces of legislation that transformed the lives of African Americans. She’s hopeful this could happen again in November and beyond.

“There’s already a host of organizations that are mobilizing in the face of daunting things,” Brown said. “Bur these same groups that are most marginalized are saying it’s not enough to just vote, it’s not enough for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party to ask me for my vote. I’m going to hold these elected officials that are in office now accountable and I’m going to vote in November and hold those same people accountable. And for me, that is the most uplifting and rewarding part — to see those kind of similarities.”

But Brown noted that while Friday’s march resonated with many, it’s unclear whether it will translate into action among younger voters, whose lack of enthusiasm could become a vulnerability for Biden.

“I think there is already a momentum among younger folks who are saying not in my America, that this is not the place where they want to live, but will this turn into electoral gains? That I’m less clear on because a lot of the polling numbers show that pretty overwhelmingly, younger people, millennials and Gen Z’s are more progressive and that they are reluctantly turning to this pragmatic side of politics,” Brown said.

That was clear as the Movement for Black Lives also marked its own historic event Friday — a virtual Black National Convention that featured several speakers discussing pressing issues such as climate change, economic empowerment and the need for electoral justice.

“I don’t necessarily see elections as achieving justice per se because I view the existing system itself as being fundamentally unjust in many ways and it is the existing system that we are trying to fundamentally transform,” said Bree Newsome Bass, an activist and civil rights organizer, during the convention’s panel about electoral justice. “I do think voting and recognizing what an election should be is a way to kind of exercise that muscle.”


Biden, Harris Prepare to Travel More as Campaign Heats Up (Election Update)


Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris. (AP Photos)

The Associated Press

August 28th, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — After spending a pandemic spring and summer tethered almost entirely to his Delaware home, Joe Biden plans to take his presidential campaign to battleground states after Labor Day in his bid to unseat President Donald Trump.

No itinerary is set, according to the Democratic nominee’s campaign, but the former vice president and his allies say his plan is to highlight contrasts with Trump, from policy arguments tailored to specific audiences to the strict public health guidelines the Biden campaign says its events will follow amid COVID-19.

That’s a notable difference from a president who on Thursday delivered his nomination acceptance on the White House lawn to more than 1,000 people seated side-by-side, most of them without masks, even as the U.S. death toll surpassed 180,000.

“He will go wherever he needs to go,” said Biden’s campaign co-chairman Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman. “And we will do it in a way the health experts would be happy” with and “not the absolutely irresponsible manner you saw at the White House.”

Richmond said it was “always the plan” for Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris to travel more extensively after Labor Day, the traditional mark of the campaign’s home stretch when more casual voters begin to pay close attention.


Biden supporters hold banners near the White House on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention, Thursday evening, Aug. 27, 2020, in Washington, while Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech from the nearby White House South Lawn.(AP Photo)

Biden has conducted online fundraisers, campaign events and television interviews from his home, but traveled only sparingly for speeches and roundtables with a smattering of media or supporters. His only confirmed plane travel was to Houston, where he met with the family of George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25, sparking nationwide protests. Even some Democrats worried quietly that Biden was ceding too much of the spotlight to Trump. But Biden aides have defended their approach. “We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm’s way,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in May.

Throughout his unusual home-based campaign, Biden blasted Trump as incompetent and irresponsible for downplaying the pandemic and publicly disputing the government’s infectious disease experts. Richmond said that won’t change as Biden ramps up travel.

“We won’t beat this pandemic, which means we can’t restore the economy and get people’s lives back home, unless we exercise some discipline and lead by example,” Richmond said, adding that Trump is “incapable of doing it.”

As exhibited by his acceptance speech Thursday, Trump is insistent on as much normalcy as possible, even as he’s pulled back from his signature indoor rallies after drawing a disappointing crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20. Trump casts Biden as wanting to “shut down” the economy to combat the virus. “Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender,” Trump declared on the White House lawn. Biden, in fact, has not proposed shutting down the economy. He’s said only that he would be willing to make such a move as president if public health experts advise it. The Democrat also has called for a national mask mandate, calling it a necessary move for Americans to protect each other. Harris on Friday talked about the idea in slightly different terms than Biden, acknowledging that a mandate would be difficult to enforce.

“It’s really a standard. I mean, nobody’s gonna be punished. Come on,” the California senator said, laughing off a question about how to enforce such a rule during an interview that aired Friday on “Today.” “Nobody likes to wear a mask. This is a universal feeling. Right? So that’s not the point, ’Hey, let’s enjoy wearing masks.′ No.”


Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo)

Harris suggested that, instead, the rule would be about “what we — as responsible people who love our neighbor — we have to just do that right now.”

“God willing, it won’t be forever,” she added.

Biden and Harris have worn protective face masks in public and stayed socially distanced from each other when appearing together at campaign events. Both have said for weeks that a rule requiring all Americans to wear them could save 40,000 lives in just a three-month period. While such an order may be difficult to impose at the federal level, Biden has called on every governor in the country to order mask-wearing in their states, which would likely achieve the same goal.

Trump has urged Americans to wear masks but opposes a national requirement and personally declined to do so for months. He has worn a mask occasionally more recently, but not at any point Thursday at the Republican National Convention’s closing event, which violated the District of Columbia’s guidelines prohibiting large gatherings.

Related:

Joe Biden Claims the Democratic Presidential Nomination


Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepted the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday evening during the last day of the historic Democratic National Convention, August 20, 2020. (AP photo)

The Washington Post

Updated: August 21st, 2020

Biden speaks about ‘battle for the soul of this nation,’ decries Trump’s leadership

Joe Biden accepted his party’s presidential nomination, delivering a speech that directly criticized the leadership of Trump on matters of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and racial justice.

“Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness,” Biden said, calling on Americans to come together to “overcome this season of darkness.”

The night featured tributes to civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis, who died in July, as well as to Beau Biden, Joe Biden’s son who died in 2015.


Kamala Harris Accepts Historic Nomination for Vice President of the United States


Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) accepted her party’s historic nomination to be its vice-presidential candidate in the 2020 U.S. election on Wednesday evening during the third day of the Democratic National Convention. (Reuters photo)

Reuters

Updated: August 20th, 2020

Kamala Harris makes U.S. history, accepts Democrats’ vice presidential nod

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday, imploring the country to elect Joe Biden president and accusing Donald Trump of failed leadership that had cost lives and livelihoods.

The first Black woman and Asian-American on a major U.S. presidential ticket, Harris summarized her life story as emblematic of the American dream on the third day of the Democratic National Convention.

“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” Harris said.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama told the convention Trump’s failures as his successor had led to 170,000 people dead from the coronavirus, millions of lost jobs and America’s reputation badly diminished in the world.

The evening featured a crush of women headliners, moderators and speakers, with Harris pressing the case against Trump, speaking directly to millions of women, young Americans and voters of color, constituencies Democrats need if Biden is to defeat the Republican Trump.

“The constant chaos leaves us adrift, the incompetence makes us feel afraid, the callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing: we can do better and deserve so much more,” she said.

“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons. Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose,” she said, speaking from an austere hotel ballroom in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden leads Trump in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, bolstered by a big lead among women voters. Throughout the convention, Democrats have appealed directly to those women voters, highlighting Biden’s co-sponsorship of the landmark Violence Against Woman Act of 1994 and his proposals to bolster childcare and protect family healthcare provisions.

Obama, whose vice president was Biden from 2009-2017, said he had hoped that Trump would take the job seriously, come to feel the weight of the office, and discover a reverence for American democracy.

Obama on Trump: ‘Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t’

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe,” Obama said in unusually blunt criticism from an ex-president.

“Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before,” Obama said.

The choice of a running mate has added significance for Biden, 77, who would be the oldest person to become president if he is elected. His age has led to speculation he will serve only one term, making Harris a potential top contender for the nomination in 2024.

Biden named Harris, 55, as his running mate last week to face incumbents Trump, 74, and Vice President Mike Pence, 61.

Former first lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who lost to Trump, told the convention she constantly hears from voters who regret backing Trump or not voting at all.

“This can’t be another woulda coulda shoulda election.” Clinton said. “No matter what, vote. Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are.”

Clinton, who won the popular vote against Trump but lost in the Electoral College, said Biden needs to win overwhelmingly, warning he could win the popular vote but still lose the White House.

“Joe and Kamala can win by 3 million votes and still lose,” Clinton said. “Take it from me. So we need numbers overwhelming so Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”


U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) accepts the Democratic vice presidential nomination during an acceptance speech delivered for 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., August 19, 2020. (Getty Images)

Democrats have been alarmed by Trump’s frequent criticism of mail-in voting, and by cost-cutting changes at the U.S. Postal Service instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump supporter, that could delay mail during the election crunch. DeJoy said recently he would delay those changes until after the election.

Democrats also broadcast videos highlighting Trump’s crackdown on immigration, opposition to gun restrictions and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

‘DISRESPECT’ FOR FACTS, FOR WOMEN

Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told the convention she had seen firsthand Trump’s “disrespect for facts, for working families, and for women in particular – disrespect written into his policies toward our health and our rights, not just his conduct. But we know what he doesn’t: that when women succeed, America succeeds.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive who ran against Biden in the 2020 primary, spoke to the convention from a childcare center in Massachusetts and cited Biden’s proposal to make childcare more affordable as a vital part of his agenda to help working Americans.

“It’s time to recognize that childcare is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation — it’s infrastructure for families,” she said. “Joe and Kamala will make high-quality childcare affordable for every family, make preschool universal, and raise the wages for every childcare worker.”

In her speech later, Harris will have an opportunity to outline her background as a child of immigrants from India and Jamaica who as a district attorney, state attorney general, U.S. senator from California and now vice-presidential candidate shattered gender and racial barriers.

She gained prominence in the Senate for her exacting interrogations of Trump nominees, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General Bill Barr.

The Republican National Convention, also largely virtual, takes place next week.

Democrats Officially Nominate Joe Biden to Become the Next U.S. President


It’s official: Joe Biden is now formally a candidate to become the next President of the United States. Democrats officially nominated Biden as their 2020 candidate on Tuesday with a roll-call vote of delegates representing all states in the country during the second day of party’s historic virtual convention. (Photo: Courtesy of the Biden campaign)

The Associated Press

Updated: August 19th, 2020

Democrats make it official, nominate Biden to take on Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden as their 2020 presidential nominee Tuesday night, as party officials and activists from across the nation gave the former vice president their overwhelming support during his party’s all-virtual national convention.

The moment marked a political high point for Biden, who had sought the presidency twice before and is now cemented as the embodiment of Democrats’ desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump this fall.

The roll call of convention delegates formalized what has been clear for months since Biden took the lead in the primary elections’ chase for the nomination. It came as he worked to demonstrate the breadth of his coalition for a second consecutive night, this time blending support from his party’s elders and fresher faces to make the case that he has the experience and energy to repair chaos that Trump has created at home and abroad.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry — and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell — were among the heavy hitters on a schedule that emphasized a simple theme: Leadership matters. Former President Jimmy Carter, now 95 years old, also made an appearance.

“Donald Trump says we’re leading the world. Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple,” Clinton said. “At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos.”


In this image from video, former Georgia House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams, center, and others, speak during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

Biden formally captured his party’s presidential nomination Tuesday night after being nominated by three people, including two Delaware lawmakers and 31-year-old African American security guard who became a viral sensation after blurting out “I love you” to Biden in a New York City elevator.

Delegates from across the country then pledged their support for Biden in a video montage that featured Democrats in places like Alabama’s Edmund Pettis Bridge, a beach in Hawaii and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

In the opening of the convention’s second night, a collection of younger Democrats, including former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were given a few minutes to shine.

“In a democracy, we do not elect saviors. We cast our ballots for those who see our struggles and pledge to serve,” said Abrams, 46, who emerged as a national player during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018 and was among those considered to be Biden’s running mate.

She added: “Faced with a president of cowardice, Joe Biden is a man of proven courage.”

On a night that Biden was formally receiving his party’s presidential nomination, the convention was also introducing his wife, Jill Biden, to the nation as the prospective first lady.


In this image from video, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, and members of the Biden family, celebrate after the roll call during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

Biden is fighting unprecedented logistical challenges to deliver his message during an all-virtual convention this week as the coronavirus epidemic continues to claim hundreds of American lives each day and wreaks havoc on the economy.

The former vice president was becoming his party’s nominee as a prerecorded roll call vote from delegates in all 50 states airs, and the four-day convention will culminate on Thursday when he accepts that nomination. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, will become the first woman of color to accept a major party’s vice presidential nomination on Wednesday.

Until then, Biden is presenting what he sees as the best of his sprawling coalition to the American electorate in a format unlike any other in history.

For a second night, the Democrats featured Republicans.

Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush and appeared at multiple Republican conventions in years past, was endorsing the Democratic candidate. In a video released ahead of his speech, he said, “Our country needs a commander in chief who takes care of our troops in the same way he would his own family. For Joe Biden, that doesn’t need teaching.”

Powell joins the widow of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, Cindy McCain, who was expected to stop short of a formal endorsement but talk about the mutual respect and friendship her husband and Biden shared.

While there have been individual members of the opposing party featured at presidential conventions before, a half dozen Republicans, including the former two-term governor of Ohio, have now spoken for Democrat Biden.

No one on the program Tuesday night has a stronger connection to the Democratic nominee than his wife, Jill Biden, a longtime teacher, was speaking from her former classroom at Brandywine High School near the family home in Wilmington, Delaware.

“You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways. There’s no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors,” she said of the school in excerpts of her speech before turning to the nation’s challenges at home. “How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding—and with small acts of compassion. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”

The Democrats’ party elders played a prominent role throughout the night.

Clinton, who turns 74 on Tuesday, hasn’t held office in two decades. Kerry, 76, was the Democratic presidential nominee back in 2004 when the youngest voters this fall were still in diapers. And Carter is 95 years old.

Clinton, a fixture of Democratic conventions for nearly three decades, addressed voters for roughly five minutes in a speech recorded at his home in Chappaqua, New York.

In addition to railing against Trump’s leadership, Clinton calls Biden “a go-to-work president.” Biden, Clinton continued, is “a man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame; concentrate, not distract; unite, not divide.”…

Kerry said in an excerpt of his remarks, “Joe understands that none of the issues of this world — not nuclear weapons, not the challenge of building back better after COVID, not terrorism and certainly not the climate crisis — none can be resolved without bringing nations together.”

Democrats Kick Off Convention as Poll Show Biden, Harris With Double-Digit Lead


Democrats kicked off their historic virtual convention on Monday with the keynote speaker former first lady Michelle Obama assailing the current president as unfit and warning Americans not to reelect him for a second term. Meanwhile new poll show Biden, Harris with double-digit lead over Trump. (Getty Images)

The Associated Press

Updated: August 18th, 2020

Michelle Obama assails Trump as Democrats open convention

NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama delivered a passionate broadside against President Donald Trump during Monday’s opening night of the Democratic National Convention, assailing the Republican president as unfit for the job and warning that the nation’s mounting crises would only get worse if he’s reelected.

The former first lady issued an emotional call to the coalition that sent her husband to the White House, declaring that strong feelings must be translated into votes.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she declared. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.”

Obama added: “If you think things possibly can’t get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.”

The comments came as Joe Biden introduced the breadth of his political coalition to a nation in crisis Monday night at the convention, giving voice to victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the related economic downturn and police violence and featuring both progressive Democrats and Republicans united against Trump’s reelection.


Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. The DNC released excerpts of her speech ahead of the convention start. (Democratic National Convention)

The ideological range of Biden’s many messengers was demonstrated by former presidential contenders from opposing parties: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who championed a multi-trillion-dollar universal health care plan, and Ohio’s former Republican Gov. John Kasich, an anti-abortion conservative who spent decades fighting to cut government spending.

The former vice president won’t deliver his formal remarks until Thursday night, but he made his first appearance just half an hour into Monday’s event as he moderated a panel on racial justice, a theme throughout the night, as was concern about the Postal Service. The Democrats accuse Trump of interfering with the nation’s mail in order to throw blocks in front of mail-in voting.

“My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders declared.

Kasich said his status as a lifelong Republican “holds second place to my responsibility to my country.”

“In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times,” he said of his participation at the Democrats’ convention. He added: “Many of us can’t imagine four more years going down this path.”

Read more »

Post-ABC poll shows Biden, Harris hold double-digit lead over Trump, Pence

The race for the White House tilts toward the Democrats, with former vice president Joe Biden holding a double-digit lead nationally over President Trump amid continuing disapproval of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Democrats [kicked] off their convention on Monday in a mood of cautious optimism, with Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), leading Trump and Vice President Pence by 53 percent to 41 percent among registered voters. The findings are identical among a larger sample of all voting-age adults.

Biden’s current national margin over Trump among voters is slightly smaller than the 15-point margin in a poll taken last month and slightly larger than a survey in May when he led by 10 points. In late March, as the pandemic was taking hold in the United States, Biden and Trump were separated by just two points, with the former vice president holding a statistically insignificant advantage.

Today, Biden and Harris lead by 54 percent to 43 percent among those who say they are absolutely certain to vote and who also report voting in 2016. A month ago, Biden’s lead of 15 points overall had narrowed to seven points among similarly committed 2016 voters. Biden now also leads by low double-digits among those who say they are following the election most closely.

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Team Joe Announces Convention Speakers


Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and his running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: August 17th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Joe Biden’s campaign has announced its speaker lineup for the Democratic National Convention that’s set to open on Monday, August 17th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Below are the list of speakers that will be featured “across all four nights of the Convention which will air live August 17-20 from 9:00-11:00 PM Eastern each night.”

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Biden Selects Yohannes Abraham as Member of Transition Team

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Boeing Must Never Disrespect Ethiopian Airlines Again

Last week saw Ethiopian Airlines make headlines for all the right reasons: It opened the world’s first contactless airport terminal and the US Congress vindicated the airline concerning the 737-MAX 8 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10th, 2019 killing all 157 on board. (Photo: ANA)

Independent Online

Ethiopian Airlines (ET) made another noteworthy headline last week. It opened the world’s first contactless airport terminal, which was completed during the pandemic when airlines were closing operations.

The $300 million (about R5 billion) project is part of Terminal 2 of the bigger Bole International Airport project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This headline coincided with another historic announcement involving ET. The US Congress vindicated ET in ways nobody imagined, especially Boeing – the American manufacturer of the four-month old 737-MAX 8 jet that crashed on March 10, last year, just outside Addis Ababa.

What made the crash of flight ET 302 spectacular was not only the death of 150 or so passengers and crew, but the arrogance with which Boeing initially handled everything.

Instead of waiting for an investigation, the company dismissively said: “Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.”

Although the crash was the second involving the 737 MAX 8 in less than five months, the other having been the October 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia, Boeing – a $101billion Fortune 500 company – displayed disdain and insensitivity towards African life, by shirking responsibility.

Now, the US Congress has found that the reason for the crash had nothing to do with the pilot or management of ET. The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure says: “The facts laid out in this report document a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing. It also illuminates numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA that played a significant role in the … crashes”.

The report commended ET for having “flourished over the past two decades as it has capitalised on a strategy to connect primary and secondary markets across the African continent with North American, European, and Asian destinations”, adding its “pilot training programs and facilities have garnered praise from seasoned American pilots”.

As Boeing prepares to return about 700 of its 737s to the skies in the gradual reopening of international air travel it will do so while eating humble pie. It hopefully has learnt to duly respect ET – one of its major customers.

The bottom line remains that the 737 MAX 8 had a technical fault due to the aircraft design. The design improvement was intended to make the jet travel longer distances and carry more passengers. The new bigger 737 MAX 8 shape shifted the engine of the aircraft forward, without any major redesign of the 737 fuselage – which apparently has not changed in five decades.

Read more »

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Boeing CEO Apologizes to Victims of Ethiopia, Indonesia Crashes

Ethiopian Airlines Slams Bloomberg’s Ex-Pilot Story as ‘Baseless & False Allegation’

Read Excerpt From Ethiopia Crash Report

Ethiopian Airlines Expresses Disappointment – Calls Out Media Outlets Eager to Blame Pilot

Watch: Ethiopian CEO on The Future of Boeing 737 Max Planes — NBC Exclusive

Watch: Ethiopia Releases 737 Max Preliminary Crash Report

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Abiy Ahmed on the Threats to Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition (The Economist)

Abiy Ahmed is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his contribution in ending a decades-long conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (The Economist)

The Economist

BY ABIY AHMED

Updated: September 17th, 2020

By Invitation

This guest commentary is the first in a series on democracy in Africa. Ethiopia committed itself to democratic reforms in 2018. But ethnic and separatist violence, as well as state repression, have resumed. The government postponed this year’s general election, citing covid-19. An unauthorised local election was held in the Tigray region in early September. Read more about Ethiopia’s tense politics here. For other commentaries, visit Economist.com/by-invitation

The government must stop violent ethnic and religious demagogues. But only democracy can hold the country together, says the prime minister.

A STABLE DEMOCRACY is built on the rule of law; if there is no law there is no freedom. With this core belief, Ethiopia is working tirelessly to realise its constitution’s promise of a democratic and pluralistic political order based on the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights and the basic liberties of our citizens.

This commitment remains firm despite the numerous obstacles that the country has faced over the past two-and-a-half years. My administration rejects the false choices of the past, between democracy and development; between compassion and strength. We affirm the importance of a free press, a vibrant civil society, an independent judiciary, a professional civil service, an open political space and political contests based on ideas and clear policy options.

We know this is not an easy task, and managing the complex challenges of transition alongside building democratic institutions takes time and commitment.

Recently Ethiopia has been in the news for the wrong reasons. Individuals and groups, disaffected by the transformations taking place, are using everything at their disposal to derail them. They are harvesting the seeds of inter-ethnic and inter-religious division and hatred. In a country where more than two-thirds of the population are under 30 and most are unemployed, the desperate youths make easy recruits to fuel the tension.

This has caused untold miseries and suffering to so many of our citizens who have been at the receiving end of deliberate attacks by demagogues and by those who peddle hatred, using the ethnic and religious diversity of our nation as a tool of division. The government has taken swift measures to enforce the rule of law by bringing perpetrators and their backers to justice. Some media reports have sensationalised these actions to give the impression that the democratic reforms are being reversed.

Let there be no ambiguity: we remain deeply committed to the vision of building an inclusive, multinational, democratic and prosperous Ethiopia. It is the only way to keep the country together.

Due to the concerted actions of those who are opposed to the democratic transition and who have tried to assume power through violence, the transition is under threat. For those who are accustomed to undue past privileges, equality feels like oppression. They stoke conflict along ethnic and religious lines, they unleash violent ethnic vigilante groups and they use irresponsible media outlets to fan hatred and ethnic divisions. In so doing, these groups imperil the lives and security of millions.

Thankfully, Ethiopians reject the politics of division and hatred. We reject the dangerous demagogues who argue that we cannot be our ethnicity—Oromo, Amhara, Somali, Tigrayan, Sidama—and be an Ethiopian at the same time. We reject the notion that we can’t practise our religion—Christian or Muslim,—and be an Ethiopian at the same time. We can love what we are without hating who we are not. Our destiny lies in our togetherness. Our diversity is the source of our beauty and strength rather than of hatred and weakness.

Our destiny lies in our togetherness. Our diversity is the source of our beauty and strength rather than of hatred and weakness.

A country that is regarded as the birthplace of humanity with the earliest Homo sapiens, and whose collective identity, history and culture have been shaped by the intermingling of major religions and civilisations, must not let that honourable heritage fall prey to the ideology of ethno-religious conflict and massacre.

In these circumstances, it is imperative that Ethiopia restore the rule of law and maintain order. Robust measures are needed to protect citizens and ensure an environment that is conducive to democratic politics. Given the institutions we have inherited, we realise that law-enforcement activities entail a risk of human-rights violations and abuse. The mindset and tactics of the past are not so easy to unlearn. Security and judicial reforms take time.

When individuals and groups of people are targeted in violent attacks by those bent on wreaking havoc in the country, the government has the inherent duty to take the necessary measures to bring both the perpetrators and the instigators to justice. Law-enforcement activities are necessary to alleviate the symptoms of what ails our polity. But we are under no illusion that these measures will solve the many problems we confront.

We are rolling out a substantial, ten-year national-development plan to strengthen and diversify the drivers of economic growth. We will revitalise the processes of national reconciliation and dialogue to foster national consensus and cohesion. We will also work towards having a free and fair election in 2021, while aggressively responding to covid-19.

Progress is never linear nor is it guaranteed. But as long as we remain committed as a nation, with the support of the international community, we are still on course to build an Ethiopia that is a beacon of African prosperity. Our national resolve is unshakeable: no provocation will knock us off the course of democracy and the principles of equality that are the will of the people.

___________________

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U.S. Effort to Block Ethiopian Dam Recalls Legacy of British Colonialism (IDN)

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde in Addis Ababa on February 18, 2020. (State Department Photo)

IDN

Updated: September 14th, 2020

NEW YORK (IDN) – Based on guidance from President Trump, the State Department is suspending $130 million in security-related aid to Ethiopia over a nearly-completed dam that would lift Ethiopia from poverty and end the shadow of British colonialism that favoured Egypt.

Programs on the chopping block include security assistance, counterterrorism and military education and training, anti-human trafficking programs, and broader development assistance funding, congressional aides said. The cuts would not impact U.S. funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance, or health programs aimed at addressing COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, they said.

When fully completed, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Africa’s largest hydroelectric project – would be a game-changer for Ethiopia where some 65 million Ethiopians, comprising 40-45% of the population, have no access to electricity. Plus, it would contribute to transforming neighbouring South Sudan, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania with desperately needed electrical power.

The U.S. move has sparked outrage over its apparent interference in Ethiopia’s development strategy. “This action … is more than an outrageous encroachment of Ethiopia’s sovereignty,” wrote economic analyst Lawrence Freeman. “It is an assault on the right of emerging nations to take actions to improve the living conditions of their people.”

Egypt insists that a 1959 Anglo-Egyptian agreement – when both Egypt and Sudan were British colonies – is the legal framework for control of the Nile. That treaty granted Egypt sole veto power over construction projects on the Nile or any of its tributaries which might interfere with Nile waters.

By 2013, Egyptians at a secret meeting were caught on a hot mike proposing to simply destroy the dam altogether.

Officials in Addis Ababa deny that the Renaissance Dam will choke off water to Egypt, saying the dam will benefit countries in the region, including as a source of affordable electric power.

Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson weighed in on the matter. He cited hydro-politics dominated by Egyptian hegemony to control and own the Nile rather than regulate or cooperate.

“The dam was built without help from the World Bank,” he wrote, “but with the pennies and dinars of shoe shiners and poor farmers. They saw the hydroelectric generating juggernaut as a source of Ethiopian independence and pride. Above all, they saw it as the centrepiece of their bid in their fight against poverty.”

Jackson concluded: “All people of conscience and justice around the world need to condemn the neo-colonial treaty that the US government and the World Bank are imposing on Ethiopia, a peaceful nation whose only desire is to harness its natural resources to elevate its people out of poverty.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 September 2020]

U.S. – ETHIOPIA Relations Take A Wrong Turn: By Ambassador Johnnie Carson


Johnnie Carson, who served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa from 2009 to 2012 during the first Obama administration, is a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace. A career diplomat, he served as U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya. (Photo: AllAfrica)

AllAfrica

By Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Updated: September 10th, 2020

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend and delay development assistance to Ethiopia over the filling of the new Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is misguided and shortsighted. The move will undermine Washington’s relations and influence in one of Africa’s most significant states.

The decision taken in late August was intended to push Ethiopia into accepting a negotiated solution favored by Egypt. At issue is a timetable for filling the new dam and an agreement on how water from the dam will be allocated to Egypt and Sudan.

Although the announcement to suspend Ethiopia’s assistance was confirmed to reporters by officials at the State Department, the impetus behind this decision came from the Treasury Department, which has managed this issue for the administration, mostly to the total exclusion of the State Department and its Africa Bureau, which is led by a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the most widely respected countries in Africa. Headquarters of the African Union, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous state, a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner in the Horn of Africa and – in recent years – the fastest growing economy in Africa.

The government unlikely to bow to U.S. pressure over the dam, which enjoys broad support.

Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam has been a central pillar in the Ethiopian government’s continuing effort to accelerate the country’s economic growth. When completed, the dam is expected to increase Ethiopia’s electrical generation, expand agricultural production and lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

Amid internal regional, religious and political differences, construction of the GERD is one of the few things that all Ethiopians support. For domestic political reasons, the Ethiopian government is likely not to bow quickly or at all to American political pressure on the dam.

The aid suspension is also coming at a very critical moment in Ethiopia’s domestic politics. For the past eighteen months, Ethiopia has been engaged in a sensitive and complicated political transition that could have boosted the country’s potential democratic trajectory. However, national elections that were scheduled for August 2020 were postponed because of the threat of Covid 19, and the evolution of the transition has now been thrown seriously off track by civil unrest, political assassinations and a systematic closing of political space.

As political unrest has increased, Prime Minister Abiy Amed’s popularity has declined and his political control has been challenged. Leaders in Ethiopia’s nine regional states are seriously divided on the shape that Ethiopia’s new democratic transition should take, and Abiy – who won a Nobel Peace prize for ending a long running dispute with Eritrea – is struggling to mend relations between different leaders and ethnic groups in his own country.

The prime minister – once admired country wide – has lost the support of many in his own Oromo community, largely because of the arrest and detention of some the region’s most popular opposition political figures.

Suspension of aid seriously reduces U.S. influence at a time when Ethiopian democracy is threatened

Ethiopia’s political transition and long-term stability are under threat, and the United States should be focused on Ethiopia’s cascading domestic and economic problems, not on leveraging assistance to push Ethiopia into supporting Egypt’s position on the GERD.

The potential for serious unrest and civil war could increase in coming days. Elections are taking place in Tigray province this week, in spite of a central government ban. Tigray, the home of Ethiopia’s once-dominant leadership class, has been operating independently and in open defiance of Prime Minister Abiy for the past two years.


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), under construction since 2011, began holding back water after the the Blue Nile swelled during heavy rains in July. (Photo: ENA)

U.S. efforts should be focused on keeping Ethiopia from descending into a long period of authoritarian rule, intrastate conflict and instability.

More broadly, the Trump administration’s actions threaten to generate problems across the region. The suspension of aid and a downturn in relations could open the door wider for China and others to expand their influence in Addis and increase the government’s current authoritarian tendencies.

Washington’s actions could also embolden domestic opposition groups to take a more belligerent stand against the Abiy government, resulting in an upsurge in fighting in Ethiopia and a large outflow of refugees into neighboring states.

If Ethiopia becomes distracted by internal conflict, al Shabaab terrorists in neighboring Somalia could expand their activities in Ethiopia’s large Somali region. And Eritrea, which has a history of regional conflict and covert interventionism, could take advantage of the situation to destabilize Ethiopia and increase its regional influence.

Ethiopia’s democratic transition is now stalled, and what happens over the coming months could determine whether it falters and fails. Having suspended development assistance and angered the Ethiopian leadership, the ability of the U.S. to engage on Ethiopia’s democratic, human rights and domestic security issues has been diminished.

Thoughtful action is required now. The United States needs to act fast to salvage its relationship with Ethiopia and find a way to stop the downward spiral in Ethiopia’s increasingly fissiparous and fractious domestic politics.

It needs to turn over responsibility for handling Ethiopian issues to the State Department, where experienced Africanists and regional experts can provide more informed policy guidance on how to move forward and manage Ethiopia ties. It needs to prioritize support for Ethiopia’s political transition – hopefully towards greater democracy – above resolution of the GERD issue.

Regional concerns about equitable use of the Nile waters, while important, will be of minor relevance if Ethiopia becomes engulfed in civil strife and begins to fracture like Yugoslavia did in the 1970s.

Build back relations by boosting diplomatic outreach and increasing assistance

Among the steps that should be taken is to keep the current ambassador in his post for another year. Michael Raynor is a skilled diplomat who knows Ethiopia and its current leadership. This is not the time to change leadership in the Addis embassy.

Also, the administration should dispatch Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Tibor Nagy to discuss U.S.-Ethiopia relations and the GERD issue and seek a face-saving way to pull back the suspension of development assistance. To help put bilateral relations back on track, there needs to be an increase in U.S. assistance to support democratic political change and for development programs and for boosting commercial interactions.

Finally, Washington should work with its European and African partners to build a “Friends of Ethiopia” coalition to strengthen diplomatic dialogue and coordinate greater assistance to one of Africa’s most important states.

The Ethiopians may not say it bluntly or loudly, but the suspension of assistance has tarnished relations with Washington. By acting wisely and skillfully, the U.S. can probably still prevent the damage from being deeper and more enduring.

Related:

Jesse Jackson Calls on Congress to ‘Restore Funding for Ethiopia’ and to ‘Investigate’ the Trump Administration


Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging U.S. Congress: “to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.” (Photo: Rev. Jesse Jackson/Facebook page)

Tadias Magazine

By Taias Staff

Updated: September 4th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for Congress to reinstate the recently suspended U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and to investigate the Trump administration for linking the surprising decision to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Jackson made the appeal Thursday in a press release shared by his organization Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jackson said he urges the “US Congress to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.”

The Trump administration confirmed this week that it has cut aid to Ethiopia over GERD. According to the Associated Press “it was an unusual example of Trump’s direct intervention on an issue in Africa, a continent he hasn’t visited as president and rarely mentions publicly.”

AP added: “On the guidance of President Trump, the State Department said Wednesday that the United States was suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the “lack of progress” in the country’s talks with Egypt and Sudan over a disputed dam project it is completing on the Nile River…A State Department spokesperson told The Associated Press the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to a key regional security ally “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.”

In his press release Jackson said: “This is unfortunate and unjust, and the U.S. Congress must intervene, investigate and fully restore aid to Ethiopia.”

Below is the full press release courtesy of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition:

REV. JESSE L. JACKSON, SR. CONDEMNED THE APPROVED PLAN TO STOP US FOREIGN AID TO ETHIOPIA AND CALLED ON CONGRESS TO INTERVENE.

September 3rd, 2020 | Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. condemned the approved plan to stop US Foreign Aid to Ethiopia and called on Congress to Intervene.

News reports that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to stop $100 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ethiopia, because of the country’s ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD), finally confirmed what we all knew from the beginning, that the U.S. has never been an impartial mediator in this conflict and instead fully supportive of Egypt.

With this action, the Trump administration, under the leadership of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (not the State Department), has fulfilled the request made last year by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, in essence, urging President Trump to assist them. This is unfortunate and unjust, and the U.S. Congress must intervene, investigate and fully restore aid to Ethiopia.

Cross boundary water-sharing agreements are thorny issues that are not easily sorted out. It takes good faith and cooperation from all sides to eek out a win-win solution. The conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan has been exacerbated by external interventions, especially the U.S. government.

This is a conflict mainly between two founding members of the African Union (AU), Ethiopia and Egypt. The AU has a Peace and Security Council that serves as “the standing decision-making organ of the AU for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and is the key pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture that is the framework for promoting peace, security and stability in Africa.” This U.S. action is aimed at undermining the ongoing negotiations under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and the current AU Chairperson.

To top it off, in a tweet a few months ago, the World Bank President David R. Malpass let it be known that he has spoken “with Ethiopian PM @AbiyAhmedAli on recent @WorldBank financing approvals important to unifying Ethiopia and its neighbor’s ability to sustain constructive dialogue + cooperation on water sharing.” To my knowledge, no statement was issued to tie the World Bank’s financial support to Egypt with its cooperation (or lack thereof) on water sharing with Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a reliable and very stable democratic ally of the U.S. on many vital fronts and should be treated with respect and dignity.

History will judge the U.S. government and the World Bank’s unjust intervention to deny 110 million Ethiopians an “equitable and reasonable” share of the Nile River for their development needs. This is nothing short of condemning a black African nation and her population to abject and perpetual poverty. No one should condemn Egypt to suffer unduly, considering that 97 percent of its population depends on the Nile River. Justice requires treating both nations and their over 200 million people fairly with justice the result on both sides.

Looking at the World Bank data on electric power consumption (kilowatt per capita) shows how much Ethiopia needs the GERD. In 2014, the most recent year for which World Bank data is available, the average for the world per capita electric power consumption is 3133 kilowatts. The figure for Egypt is 1683. For Ethiopia it is a mere 69 (sixty-nine). A former World Bank Deputy Global Manager, Yonas Biru, wondered how Ethiopia could survive with next to nothing-electric power, in a recent article in Addis Fortune.

His answer was as revealing as it is saddening. “The nation rides on the shoulders and backs of women. From cradle to grave, women carry Ethiopia on their back, literally. Girls are condemned to fetching water from miles away rather than going to school. Their mothers travel just as far and spend just as much time collecting firewood.”

The GERD, Biru said, signifies “the emancipation of Ethiopian women. The interventions by Egypt, the Arab League, the World Bank and the U.S. to delay and scale back the GERD is a setback for women. It is a revocation of the emancipation of Ethiopian girls and women.”

Ethiopia, one of the poorest black African nations, is standing alone against the mighty forces of the U.S. and the World Bank. Befitting of its history, Ethiopia remains unflinching with its indomitable sovereignty and unwavering spirit with its trust in what its people call “Ethiopia’s God.”

The World Bank’s professed dream is “A World Free of Poverty.” It behooves me to ask if Ethiopia, too, is in the Bank’s dream. The World Bank board of directors need to explain to over 50 million girls and women in Ethiopia why the World Bank stands against their economic emancipation.

As to the US government, I call upon the US Congress: (1) to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and (2) to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.

Related:

Cutting Aid to Ethiopia Haunts Trump in Election


David Shinn, a former US envoy to Ethiopia said playing political hardball with Ethiopia will not only fail to obtain the desired result but will probably ensure that the Ethiopian diaspora in the US will rally against Trump and spoil his chances in the close contest. “There are sizeable Ethiopian-American communities in key states such as Georgia, Texas, and Virginia,” he said. (Image: Tulsa World)

AA

Addis Getachew | ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Updated: September 2nd, 2020

Ethiopian-Americans against US cutting $130M aid to Ethiopia to enforce Egypt friendly agreement on sharing Nile waters

The US has now formally stepped in, to support Egypt and punish Ethiopia over the river water sharing dispute between the two African countries.

Last week, the Trump administration announced blocking a $130 million aid that had been earmarked to support Ethiopia’s defense and anti-terrorism efforts.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed the cut in aid, ostensibly to build pressure on Ethiopia, a rugged landlocked country in the Horn of Africa.

While it is not clear to what extent the US decision will affect Ethiopia, but it has united everyone in the country and the diaspora.

“We have officially requested the US administration that they give us an explanation,” said Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Washington Fitsum Arega, while taking to Twitter.

David Shinn, a former US envoy to Ethiopia said playing political hardball with Ethiopia will not only fail to obtain the desired result but will probably ensure that the Ethiopian diaspora in the US will rally against Trump and spoil his chances in the close contest. “There are sizeable Ethiopian-American communities in key states such as Georgia, Texas, and Virginia,” he said.

Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had earlier rejected an agreement brokered by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in February related to the filling and operation of the $5billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia said the US proposal was heavily tilted towards Egypt.

Relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa have strained over recent times, over the filling and operation of the dam that has come upon the Blue Nile, one of the tributaries of the River Nile.

Since June, the African Union has been mediating now to evolve a win-win formula between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.

The AU has entrusted its Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government including South Africa, Kenya, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to prevent any escalation between these countries. The European Union, the World Bank, and the US continue as observers in the group.

Read more »

Related:

Mike Pompeo is the Worst U.S. Secretary of State in History


Mike Pompeo’s handing of the Trump administration’s foreign policy “has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies,” writes The Washington Post’s Deputy editorial page editor and columnist Jackson Diehl. (Photo: The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Updated: August 30, 2020

As secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has presided over the collapse of negotiations with North Korea, the failure of a pressure campaign against Iran and an abortive attempt to oust Venezuela’s authoritarian regime. On his watch, China has carried out genocide in its Xinjiang region and the suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms without resistance from Washington until it was too late.

Pompeo has failed to fill dozens of senior positions at the State Department, and hundreds of career diplomats have left or been driven out in political purges. Morale is at a historic low: In staff surveys, there has been a 34 percent increase between 2016 and 2019 in those who say the State Department’s senior leaders “did not maintain high levels of honesty and integrity.” Maybe that’s because Pompeo himself has defied legal mandates from Congress, skirted a law restricting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, tasked staffers with carrying out errands for himself and his wife, and fired the inspector general who was investigating his violations.

Last week, Pompeo crossed yet another ethical line by speaking before the Republican National Convention, thereby disregarding the State Department’s explicit legal guidance against such appearances. The speech he delivered was weak and littered with false or simply ludicrous claims, such as that the recent diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is “a deal that our grandchildren will read about in their history books.” Maybe if they major in Middle Eastern affairs.

With his ambitions likely fixed on a presidential candidacy in 2024, Pompeo is undoubtedly hoping most of the diplomatic disasters will ultimately be blamed on President Trump, especially if Trump loses the November election. But the former Kansas congressman should not get off so easy. Yes, it’s Trump’s foreign policy. But Pompeo’s steering of it has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies.

Read more »

Related:

Pompeo approves plans to halt aid to Ethiopia over Nile dam dispute


Getty Images

The Hill

08/28/20

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved plans to halt some U.S. aid to Ethiopia, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.

The halt in aid comes as the U.S. mediates a dispute over a dam on the Nile River that’s pitted Ethiopia against Egypt and Sudan, according to Foreign Policy. The decision could impact up to $130 million of assistance to programs including security, counter-terrorism and anti-human trafficking.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” a U.S. official told the magazine. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Ethiopia and Egypt are at a standstill in negotiations over how the dam on a tributary of the Nile will be managed.

Egypt and Sudan, which depend on the Nile for much of their fresh water, are opposed to any development they say will impact the flow downstream, including the 6,000-megawatt power plant Ethiopia hopes to develop at the dam.

Is the Trump Administration Using Aid to Bully Ethiopia Over Nile Dam?


It’s too bad that the U.S. has decided to take the wrong side in a local African dispute regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. As the following FP article reports the Trump administration is cutting off “some foreign assistance” to Ethiopia over GERD. The scheme may be intended to tip the scale in Egypt’s favor, but if history is any indication this kind of foreign intimidation does not work in Ethiopia. It’s also worth mentioning that the dam, a $4.5 billion hydroelectric project, is being fully funded by the Ethiopian people. (Getty Images)

Foreign Policy

U.S. Halts Some Foreign Assistance Funding to Ethiopia Over Dam Dispute with Egypt, Sudan, Some U.S. officials fear the move will harm Washington’s relationship with Addis Ababa.

Updated: AUGUST 27, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to halt U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia as the Trump administration attempts to mediate a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the East African country’s construction of a massive dam on the Nile River.

The decision, made this week, could affect up to nearly $130 million in U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and fuel new tensions in the relationship between Washington and Addis Ababa as it carries out plans to fill the dam, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter. Officials cautioned that the details of the cuts are not yet set in stone and the finalized number could amount to less than $130 million.

Programs that are on the chopping block include security assistance, counterterrorism and military education and training, anti-human trafficking programs, and broader development assistance funding, officials and congressional aides said. The cuts would not impact U.S. funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance, or health programs aimed at addressing COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, officials said.

The move is meant to address the standoff between Ethiopia and other countries that rely on the Nile River downstream that have opposed the construction of the massive dam project, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt sees the dam’s construction as a core security issue given the country’s heavy reliance on the river for fresh water and agriculture, and in the past Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hinted his country could use military force to halt the dam’s construction.

Some Ethiopian officials have said they believe the Trump administration is taking Egypt’s side in the dispute. President Donald Trump has shown a fondness for Sisi, reportedly calling him his “favorite dictator” during a G-7 summit last year. Officials familiar with negotiations said the Trump administration has not approved parallel cuts in foreign assistance to Egypt.

Administration officials have repeatedly assured all sides that Washington is an impartial mediator in the negotiations, which mark one of the few diplomatic initiatives in Africa that the president has played a personal and active role in. These officials pointed out that Egypt has accused the United States of taking Ethiopia’s side in the dispute as well.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” said one U.S. official. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

But the move is likely to face sharp pushback on Capitol Hill, according to Congressional aides familiar with the matter. State Department officials briefed Congressional staff on the decision on Thursday, the aides said, and during the briefing insisted that the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship would remain strong despite a cutback in aid because the United States can have tough conversations “with friends.”

“This is a really fucking illogical way to show a ‘friend’ you really care,” one Congressional aide told Foreign Policy in response.

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U.S. – ETHIOPIA Relations Take A Wrong Turn: By Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Johnnie Carson, who served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa from 2009 to 2012 during the first Obama administration, is a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace. A career diplomat, he served as U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya. (Photo: AllAfrica)

AllAfrica

By Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Updated: September 10th, 2020

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend and delay development assistance to Ethiopia over the filling of the new Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is misguided and shortsighted. The move will undermine Washington’s relations and influence in one of Africa’s most significant states.

The decision taken in late August was intended to push Ethiopia into accepting a negotiated solution favored by Egypt. At issue is a timetable for filling the new dam and an agreement on how water from the dam will be allocated to Egypt and Sudan.

Although the announcement to suspend Ethiopia’s assistance was confirmed to reporters by officials at the State Department, the impetus behind this decision came from the Treasury Department, which has managed this issue for the administration, mostly to the total exclusion of the State Department and its Africa Bureau, which is led by a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the most widely respected countries in Africa. Headquarters of the African Union, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous state, a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner in the Horn of Africa and – in recent years – the fastest growing economy in Africa.

The government unlikely to bow to U.S. pressure over the dam, which enjoys broad support.

Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam has been a central pillar in the Ethiopian government’s continuing effort to accelerate the country’s economic growth. When completed, the dam is expected to increase Ethiopia’s electrical generation, expand agricultural production and lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

Amid internal regional, religious and political differences, construction of the GERD is one of the few things that all Ethiopians support. For domestic political reasons, the Ethiopian government is likely not to bow quickly or at all to American political pressure on the dam.

The aid suspension is also coming at a very critical moment in Ethiopia’s domestic politics. For the past eighteen months, Ethiopia has been engaged in a sensitive and complicated political transition that could have boosted the country’s potential democratic trajectory. However, national elections that were scheduled for August 2020 were postponed because of the threat of Covid 19, and the evolution of the transition has now been thrown seriously off track by civil unrest, political assassinations and a systematic closing of political space.

As political unrest has increased, Prime Minister Abiy Amed’s popularity has declined and his political control has been challenged. Leaders in Ethiopia’s nine regional states are seriously divided on the shape that Ethiopia’s new democratic transition should take, and Abiy – who won a Nobel Peace prize for ending a long running dispute with Eritrea – is struggling to mend relations between different leaders and ethnic groups in his own country.

The prime minister – once admired country wide – has lost the support of many in his own Oromo community, largely because of the arrest and detention of some the region’s most popular opposition political figures.

Suspension of aid seriously reduces U.S. influence at a time when Ethiopian democracy is threatened

Ethiopia’s political transition and long-term stability are under threat, and the United States should be focused on Ethiopia’s cascading domestic and economic problems, not on leveraging assistance to push Ethiopia into supporting Egypt’s position on the GERD.

The potential for serious unrest and civil war could increase in coming days. Elections are taking place in Tigray province this week, in spite of a central government ban. Tigray, the home of Ethiopia’s once-dominant leadership class, has been operating independently and in open defiance of Prime Minister Abiy for the past two years.


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), under construction since 2011, began holding back water after the the Blue Nile swelled during heavy rains in July. (Photo: ENA)

U.S. efforts should be focused on keeping Ethiopia from descending into a long period of authoritarian rule, intrastate conflict and instability.

More broadly, the Trump administration’s actions threaten to generate problems across the region. The suspension of aid and a downturn in relations could open the door wider for China and others to expand their influence in Addis and increase the government’s current authoritarian tendencies.

Washington’s actions could also embolden domestic opposition groups to take a more belligerent stand against the Abiy government, resulting in an upsurge in fighting in Ethiopia and a large outflow of refugees into neighboring states.

If Ethiopia becomes distracted by internal conflict, al Shabaab terrorists in neighboring Somalia could expand their activities in Ethiopia’s large Somali region. And Eritrea, which has a history of regional conflict and covert interventionism, could take advantage of the situation to destabilize Ethiopia and increase its regional influence.

Ethiopia’s democratic transition is now stalled, and what happens over the coming months could determine whether it falters and fails. Having suspended development assistance and angered the Ethiopian leadership, the ability of the U.S. to engage on Ethiopia’s democratic, human rights and domestic security issues has been diminished.

Thoughtful action is required now. The United States needs to act fast to salvage its relationship with Ethiopia and find a way to stop the downward spiral in Ethiopia’s increasingly fissiparous and fractious domestic politics.

It needs to turn over responsibility for handling Ethiopian issues to the State Department, where experienced Africanists and regional experts can provide more informed policy guidance on how to move forward and manage Ethiopia ties. It needs to prioritize support for Ethiopia’s political transition – hopefully towards greater democracy – above resolution of the GERD issue.

Regional concerns about equitable use of the Nile waters, while important, will be of minor relevance if Ethiopia becomes engulfed in civil strife and begins to fracture like Yugoslavia did in the 1970s.

Build back relations by boosting diplomatic outreach and increasing assistance

Among the steps that should be taken is to keep the current ambassador in his post for another year. Michael Raynor is a skilled diplomat who knows Ethiopia and its current leadership. This is not the time to change leadership in the Addis embassy.

Also, the administration should dispatch Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Tibor Nagy to discuss U.S.-Ethiopia relations and the GERD issue and seek a face-saving way to pull back the suspension of development assistance. To help put bilateral relations back on track, there needs to be an increase in U.S. assistance to support democratic political change and for development programs and for boosting commercial interactions.

Finally, Washington should work with its European and African partners to build a “Friends of Ethiopia” coalition to strengthen diplomatic dialogue and coordinate greater assistance to one of Africa’s most important states.

The Ethiopians may not say it bluntly or loudly, but the suspension of assistance has tarnished relations with Washington. By acting wisely and skillfully, the U.S. can probably still prevent the damage from being deeper and more enduring.

Related:

Jesse Jackson Calls on Congress to ‘Restore Funding for Ethiopia’ and to ‘Investigate’ the Trump Administration


Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging U.S. Congress: “to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.” (Photo: Rev. Jesse Jackson/Facebook page)

Tadias Magazine

By Taias Staff

Updated: September 4th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for Congress to reinstate the recently suspended U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and to investigate the Trump administration for linking the surprising decision to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Jackson made the appeal Thursday in a press release shared by his organization Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jackson said he urges the “US Congress to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.”

The Trump administration confirmed this week that it has cut aid to Ethiopia over GERD. According to the Associated Press “it was an unusual example of Trump’s direct intervention on an issue in Africa, a continent he hasn’t visited as president and rarely mentions publicly.”

AP added: “On the guidance of President Trump, the State Department said Wednesday that the United States was suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the “lack of progress” in the country’s talks with Egypt and Sudan over a disputed dam project it is completing on the Nile River…A State Department spokesperson told The Associated Press the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to a key regional security ally “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.”

In his press release Jackson said: “This is unfortunate and unjust, and the U.S. Congress must intervene, investigate and fully restore aid to Ethiopia.”

Below is the full press release courtesy of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition:

REV. JESSE L. JACKSON, SR. CONDEMNED THE APPROVED PLAN TO STOP US FOREIGN AID TO ETHIOPIA AND CALLED ON CONGRESS TO INTERVENE.

September 3rd, 2020 | Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. condemned the approved plan to stop US Foreign Aid to Ethiopia and called on Congress to Intervene.

News reports that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to stop $100 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ethiopia, because of the country’s ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD), finally confirmed what we all knew from the beginning, that the U.S. has never been an impartial mediator in this conflict and instead fully supportive of Egypt.

With this action, the Trump administration, under the leadership of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (not the State Department), has fulfilled the request made last year by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, in essence, urging President Trump to assist them. This is unfortunate and unjust, and the U.S. Congress must intervene, investigate and fully restore aid to Ethiopia.

Cross boundary water-sharing agreements are thorny issues that are not easily sorted out. It takes good faith and cooperation from all sides to eek out a win-win solution. The conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan has been exacerbated by external interventions, especially the U.S. government.

This is a conflict mainly between two founding members of the African Union (AU), Ethiopia and Egypt. The AU has a Peace and Security Council that serves as “the standing decision-making organ of the AU for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and is the key pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture that is the framework for promoting peace, security and stability in Africa.” This U.S. action is aimed at undermining the ongoing negotiations under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and the current AU Chairperson.

To top it off, in a tweet a few months ago, the World Bank President David R. Malpass let it be known that he has spoken “with Ethiopian PM @AbiyAhmedAli on recent @WorldBank financing approvals important to unifying Ethiopia and its neighbor’s ability to sustain constructive dialogue + cooperation on water sharing.” To my knowledge, no statement was issued to tie the World Bank’s financial support to Egypt with its cooperation (or lack thereof) on water sharing with Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a reliable and very stable democratic ally of the U.S. on many vital fronts and should be treated with respect and dignity.

History will judge the U.S. government and the World Bank’s unjust intervention to deny 110 million Ethiopians an “equitable and reasonable” share of the Nile River for their development needs. This is nothing short of condemning a black African nation and her population to abject and perpetual poverty. No one should condemn Egypt to suffer unduly, considering that 97 percent of its population depends on the Nile River. Justice requires treating both nations and their over 200 million people fairly with justice the result on both sides.

Looking at the World Bank data on electric power consumption (kilowatt per capita) shows how much Ethiopia needs the GERD. In 2014, the most recent year for which World Bank data is available, the average for the world per capita electric power consumption is 3133 kilowatts. The figure for Egypt is 1683. For Ethiopia it is a mere 69 (sixty-nine). A former World Bank Deputy Global Manager, Yonas Biru, wondered how Ethiopia could survive with next to nothing-electric power, in a recent article in Addis Fortune.

His answer was as revealing as it is saddening. “The nation rides on the shoulders and backs of women. From cradle to grave, women carry Ethiopia on their back, literally. Girls are condemned to fetching water from miles away rather than going to school. Their mothers travel just as far and spend just as much time collecting firewood.”

The GERD, Biru said, signifies “the emancipation of Ethiopian women. The interventions by Egypt, the Arab League, the World Bank and the U.S. to delay and scale back the GERD is a setback for women. It is a revocation of the emancipation of Ethiopian girls and women.”

Ethiopia, one of the poorest black African nations, is standing alone against the mighty forces of the U.S. and the World Bank. Befitting of its history, Ethiopia remains unflinching with its indomitable sovereignty and unwavering spirit with its trust in what its people call “Ethiopia’s God.”

The World Bank’s professed dream is “A World Free of Poverty.” It behooves me to ask if Ethiopia, too, is in the Bank’s dream. The World Bank board of directors need to explain to over 50 million girls and women in Ethiopia why the World Bank stands against their economic emancipation.

As to the US government, I call upon the US Congress: (1) to fully restore the funding for Ethiopia; and (2) to investigate and demand information regarding the justification for halting aid to Ethiopia from both the State Department and Treasury Department.

Related:

Cutting Aid to Ethiopia Haunts Trump in Election


David Shinn, a former US envoy to Ethiopia said playing political hardball with Ethiopia will not only fail to obtain the desired result but will probably ensure that the Ethiopian diaspora in the US will rally against Trump and spoil his chances in the close contest. “There are sizeable Ethiopian-American communities in key states such as Georgia, Texas, and Virginia,” he said. (Image: Tulsa World)

AA

Addis Getachew | ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Updated: September 2nd, 2020

Ethiopian-Americans against US cutting $130M aid to Ethiopia to enforce Egypt friendly agreement on sharing Nile waters

The US has now formally stepped in, to support Egypt and punish Ethiopia over the river water sharing dispute between the two African countries.

Last week, the Trump administration announced blocking a $130 million aid that had been earmarked to support Ethiopia’s defense and anti-terrorism efforts.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed the cut in aid, ostensibly to build pressure on Ethiopia, a rugged landlocked country in the Horn of Africa.

While it is not clear to what extent the US decision will affect Ethiopia, but it has united everyone in the country and the diaspora.

“We have officially requested the US administration that they give us an explanation,” said Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Washington Fitsum Arega, while taking to Twitter.

David Shinn, a former US envoy to Ethiopia said playing political hardball with Ethiopia will not only fail to obtain the desired result but will probably ensure that the Ethiopian diaspora in the US will rally against Trump and spoil his chances in the close contest. “There are sizeable Ethiopian-American communities in key states such as Georgia, Texas, and Virginia,” he said.

Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had earlier rejected an agreement brokered by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in February related to the filling and operation of the $5billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia said the US proposal was heavily tilted towards Egypt.

Relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa have strained over recent times, over the filling and operation of the dam that has come upon the Blue Nile, one of the tributaries of the River Nile.

Since June, the African Union has been mediating now to evolve a win-win formula between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.

The AU has entrusted its Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government including South Africa, Kenya, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to prevent any escalation between these countries. The European Union, the World Bank, and the US continue as observers in the group.

Read more »

Related:

Mike Pompeo is the Worst U.S. Secretary of State in History


Mike Pompeo’s handing of the Trump administration’s foreign policy “has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies,” writes The Washington Post’s Deputy editorial page editor and columnist Jackson Diehl. (Photo: The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Updated: August 30, 2020

As secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has presided over the collapse of negotiations with North Korea, the failure of a pressure campaign against Iran and an abortive attempt to oust Venezuela’s authoritarian regime. On his watch, China has carried out genocide in its Xinjiang region and the suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms without resistance from Washington until it was too late.

Pompeo has failed to fill dozens of senior positions at the State Department, and hundreds of career diplomats have left or been driven out in political purges. Morale is at a historic low: In staff surveys, there has been a 34 percent increase between 2016 and 2019 in those who say the State Department’s senior leaders “did not maintain high levels of honesty and integrity.” Maybe that’s because Pompeo himself has defied legal mandates from Congress, skirted a law restricting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, tasked staffers with carrying out errands for himself and his wife, and fired the inspector general who was investigating his violations.

Last week, Pompeo crossed yet another ethical line by speaking before the Republican National Convention, thereby disregarding the State Department’s explicit legal guidance against such appearances. The speech he delivered was weak and littered with false or simply ludicrous claims, such as that the recent diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is “a deal that our grandchildren will read about in their history books.” Maybe if they major in Middle Eastern affairs.

With his ambitions likely fixed on a presidential candidacy in 2024, Pompeo is undoubtedly hoping most of the diplomatic disasters will ultimately be blamed on President Trump, especially if Trump loses the November election. But the former Kansas congressman should not get off so easy. Yes, it’s Trump’s foreign policy. But Pompeo’s steering of it has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies.

Read more »

Related:

Pompeo approves plans to halt aid to Ethiopia over Nile dam dispute


Getty Images

The Hill

08/28/20

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved plans to halt some U.S. aid to Ethiopia, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.

The halt in aid comes as the U.S. mediates a dispute over a dam on the Nile River that’s pitted Ethiopia against Egypt and Sudan, according to Foreign Policy. The decision could impact up to $130 million of assistance to programs including security, counter-terrorism and anti-human trafficking.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” a U.S. official told the magazine. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Ethiopia and Egypt are at a standstill in negotiations over how the dam on a tributary of the Nile will be managed.

Egypt and Sudan, which depend on the Nile for much of their fresh water, are opposed to any development they say will impact the flow downstream, including the 6,000-megawatt power plant Ethiopia hopes to develop at the dam.

Is the Trump Administration Using Aid to Bully Ethiopia Over Nile Dam?


It’s too bad that the U.S. has decided to take the wrong side in a local African dispute regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. As the following FP article reports the Trump administration is cutting off “some foreign assistance” to Ethiopia over GERD. The scheme may be intended to tip the scale in Egypt’s favor, but if history is any indication this kind of foreign intimidation does not work in Ethiopia. It’s also worth mentioning that the dam, a $4.5 billion hydroelectric project, is being fully funded by the Ethiopian people. (Getty Images)

Foreign Policy

U.S. Halts Some Foreign Assistance Funding to Ethiopia Over Dam Dispute with Egypt, Sudan, Some U.S. officials fear the move will harm Washington’s relationship with Addis Ababa.

Updated: AUGUST 27, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to halt U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia as the Trump administration attempts to mediate a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the East African country’s construction of a massive dam on the Nile River.

The decision, made this week, could affect up to nearly $130 million in U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and fuel new tensions in the relationship between Washington and Addis Ababa as it carries out plans to fill the dam, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter. Officials cautioned that the details of the cuts are not yet set in stone and the finalized number could amount to less than $130 million.

Programs that are on the chopping block include security assistance, counterterrorism and military education and training, anti-human trafficking programs, and broader development assistance funding, officials and congressional aides said. The cuts would not impact U.S. funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance, or health programs aimed at addressing COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, officials said.

The move is meant to address the standoff between Ethiopia and other countries that rely on the Nile River downstream that have opposed the construction of the massive dam project, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt sees the dam’s construction as a core security issue given the country’s heavy reliance on the river for fresh water and agriculture, and in the past Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hinted his country could use military force to halt the dam’s construction.

Some Ethiopian officials have said they believe the Trump administration is taking Egypt’s side in the dispute. President Donald Trump has shown a fondness for Sisi, reportedly calling him his “favorite dictator” during a G-7 summit last year. Officials familiar with negotiations said the Trump administration has not approved parallel cuts in foreign assistance to Egypt.

Administration officials have repeatedly assured all sides that Washington is an impartial mediator in the negotiations, which mark one of the few diplomatic initiatives in Africa that the president has played a personal and active role in. These officials pointed out that Egypt has accused the United States of taking Ethiopia’s side in the dispute as well.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” said one U.S. official. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

But the move is likely to face sharp pushback on Capitol Hill, according to Congressional aides familiar with the matter. State Department officials briefed Congressional staff on the decision on Thursday, the aides said, and during the briefing insisted that the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship would remain strong despite a cutback in aid because the United States can have tough conversations “with friends.”

“This is a really fucking illogical way to show a ‘friend’ you really care,” one Congressional aide told Foreign Policy in response.

Read more »

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Mike Pompeo is the Worst U.S. Secretary of State in History (UPDATE)

Mike Pompeo's handing of the Trump administration's foreign policy "has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies," writes The Washington Post's Deputy editorial page editor and columnist Jackson Diehl. (Photo: The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Updated: August 30, 2020

As secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has presided over the collapse of negotiations with North Korea, the failure of a pressure campaign against Iran and an abortive attempt to oust Venezuela’s authoritarian regime. On his watch, China has carried out genocide in its Xinjiang region and the suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms without resistance from Washington until it was too late.

Pompeo has failed to fill dozens of senior positions at the State Department, and hundreds of career diplomats have left or been driven out in political purges. Morale is at a historic low: In staff surveys, there has been a 34 percent increase between 2016 and 2019 in those who say the State Department’s senior leaders “did not maintain high levels of honesty and integrity.” Maybe that’s because Pompeo himself has defied legal mandates from Congress, skirted a law restricting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, tasked staffers with carrying out errands for himself and his wife, and fired the inspector general who was investigating his violations.

Last week, Pompeo crossed yet another ethical line by speaking before the Republican National Convention, thereby disregarding the State Department’s explicit legal guidance against such appearances. The speech he delivered was weak and littered with false or simply ludicrous claims, such as that the recent diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is “a deal that our grandchildren will read about in their history books.” Maybe if they major in Middle Eastern affairs.

With his ambitions likely fixed on a presidential candidacy in 2024, Pompeo is undoubtedly hoping most of the diplomatic disasters will ultimately be blamed on President Trump, especially if Trump loses the November election. But the former Kansas congressman should not get off so easy. Yes, it’s Trump’s foreign policy. But Pompeo’s steering of it has led to some of the worst diplomatic damage the United States has suffered in decades — especially in relations with its closest allies.

Read more »

Related:

Pompeo approves plans to halt aid to Ethiopia over Nile dam dispute


Getty Images

The Hill

08/28/20

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved plans to halt some U.S. aid to Ethiopia, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.

The halt in aid comes as the U.S. mediates a dispute over a dam on the Nile River that’s pitted Ethiopia against Egypt and Sudan, according to Foreign Policy. The decision could impact up to $130 million of assistance to programs including security, counter-terrorism and anti-human trafficking.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” a U.S. official told the magazine. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Ethiopia and Egypt are at a standstill in negotiations over how the dam on a tributary of the Nile will be managed.

Egypt and Sudan, which depend on the Nile for much of their fresh water, are opposed to any development they say will impact the flow downstream, including the 6,000-megawatt power plant Ethiopia hopes to develop at the dam.

Is the Trump Administration Using Aid to Bully Ethiopia Over Nile Dam?


It’s too bad that the U.S. has decided to take the wrong side in a local African dispute regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. As the following FP article reports the Trump administration is cutting off “some foreign assistance” to Ethiopia over GERD. The scheme may be intended to tip the scale in Egypt’s favor, but if history is any indication this kind of foreign intimidation does not work in Ethiopia. It’s also worth mentioning that the dam, a $4.5 billion hydroelectric project, is being fully funded by the Ethiopian people. (Getty Images)

Foreign Policy

U.S. Halts Some Foreign Assistance Funding to Ethiopia Over Dam Dispute with Egypt, Sudan, Some U.S. officials fear the move will harm Washington’s relationship with Addis Ababa.

Updated: AUGUST 27, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to halt U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia as the Trump administration attempts to mediate a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the East African country’s construction of a massive dam on the Nile River.

The decision, made this week, could affect up to nearly $130 million in U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and fuel new tensions in the relationship between Washington and Addis Ababa as it carries out plans to fill the dam, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter. Officials cautioned that the details of the cuts are not yet set in stone and the finalized number could amount to less than $130 million.

Programs that are on the chopping block include security assistance, counterterrorism and military education and training, anti-human trafficking programs, and broader development assistance funding, officials and congressional aides said. The cuts would not impact U.S. funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance, or health programs aimed at addressing COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, officials said.

The move is meant to address the standoff between Ethiopia and other countries that rely on the Nile River downstream that have opposed the construction of the massive dam project, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt sees the dam’s construction as a core security issue given the country’s heavy reliance on the river for fresh water and agriculture, and in the past Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hinted his country could use military force to halt the dam’s construction.

Some Ethiopian officials have said they believe the Trump administration is taking Egypt’s side in the dispute. President Donald Trump has shown a fondness for Sisi, reportedly calling him his “favorite dictator” during a G-7 summit last year. Officials familiar with negotiations said the Trump administration has not approved parallel cuts in foreign assistance to Egypt.

Administration officials have repeatedly assured all sides that Washington is an impartial mediator in the negotiations, which mark one of the few diplomatic initiatives in Africa that the president has played a personal and active role in. These officials pointed out that Egypt has accused the United States of taking Ethiopia’s side in the dispute as well.

“There’s still progress being made, we still see a viable path forward here,” said one U.S. official. “The U.S. role is to do everything it can to help facilitate an agreement between the three countries that balance their interests. At the end of the day it has to be an agreement that works for these three countries.”

But the move is likely to face sharp pushback on Capitol Hill, according to Congressional aides familiar with the matter. State Department officials briefed Congressional staff on the decision on Thursday, the aides said, and during the briefing insisted that the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship would remain strong despite a cutback in aid because the United States can have tough conversations “with friends.”

“This is a really fucking illogical way to show a ‘friend’ you really care,” one Congressional aide told Foreign Policy in response.

Read more »

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Ethiopian Americans: Election is Approaching, Let’s Make Sure our Voices are Heard

In this OP-ED Helen Amelga, President of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles, urges Ethiopian Americans to participate in the upcoming U.S. election that will directly impact our lives for many years to come, and shares resources to help our community to get involved in the democratic process. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Helen Amelga

Updated: October 16th, 2020

Los Angeles (TADIAS) — How many people of Ethiopian descent live in the United States? 300,000? 400,000? 500,000? We don’t really know for sure. But with the 2020 census, we will for the first time have the opportunity to get a truly accurate count. If you haven’t done so already, go to 2020cencus.gov and complete your census today.

While the exact numbers are yet to be determined, it is clear that there is a significant Ethiopian-American population in the United States. Why is it then that we do not have a strong political presence?

We know our community can organize. We have Iqub (እቁብ), mahbers (ማህበር), business associations, and our faith based groups are extremely organized. We need to use those same skills to mobilize politically.

We must equip ourselves with the knowledge of political systems, major policies and voter rights, not only to serve as advocates for our community, but so that we ourselves can occupy positions of power and authority to be the decision makers who shape the society and world we want to live in.

We know it’s possible because we already have trailblazers such as Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, the first Ethiopian American to be elected into office in the Nevada Legislature and the first Ethiopian American ever elected in the U.S. to a state-wide governing body as well as Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson of Florida, who is the first Ethiopian-American judge in the United States who was re-elected to a third term his year.

We cannot afford to give our vote away to candidates who are not serving our needs. We are ready to spring into action when there is a problem in our community, but it is not enough to go to our elected officials once we have a problem and try to convince them to help us. We need to be proactive.

We must purposefully engage to get the right people elected in the first place. We must identify candidates who align with and will fight for our values. Then, we must do everything we can to make sure those candidates are elected.

Here are a few steps you can take to get involved:

1. Register to vote

2. Request a vote by mail ballot today

3. Reach out to 5 friends and make sure they’re registered to vote

4. Research your candidates & ballot measures

5. Volunteers to phone bank for a campaign

6. Sign up to be a poll worker on election day

The November 3rd general election is fast approaching. Let’s make sure our voices are heard.

Related:

Interview: Helen Amelga, Founder of Ethiopian Democratic Club of LA

Interview With Addisu Demissie: Senior Adviser to Joe Biden

Biden Selects Yohannes Abraham as Member of Transition Team

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Eskender A. Yousuf: Reflection on Lack of Solidarity With Blacks in Our Community

Eskender A. Yousuf, a second-generation Ethiopian American, is a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota studying education policy and leadership. In the following article published on MinnPost he calls out the lack of insufficient solidarity in our community with African Americans amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. (Photo by Matt Andrea/Tadias archive)

MinnPost

By Eskender A. Yousuf

“I was on a recent conference call helping an organization put a statement together and this Sudanese brother says, ‘I don’t understand this Black Lives Matter stuff, I have never felt racism in this country.’ You know, I’m just letting people have it now … we [African-Americans] can sniff out anti-Blackness right when we step in the room, wherever we are. … I have never felt welcomed or comfortable in any African immigrant establishment in Minnesota.” These words come from a recent conversation I had with a close connection of mine.

This was nothing short of our regular conversations and check-ins; however, this time it felt different. With the wake of the current racial uprisings, it provoked me to publicly call attention this issue.

As a second-generation Ethiopian immigrant who is ethnically Oromo, I was born and raised in the Twin Cities. I never imagined that the place I call home would become the epicenter of historic racial uprisings and protests that sparked a fire across the world.

Amongst the sea of protesters that stood in solidarity in the streets of Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s death were 1.5 and second-generation African immigrants (1.5 generation immigrants refer to those who came to America before they reached 12 years old; second-generation immigrants refer to those who were born in America).

Minneapolis, in fact, is home to a diverse population of racially Black individuals and a large fraction of them are African immigrants and refugees. We have the largest population of Somali immigrants, a vast number of Ethiopians, as well as immigrants from other African countries like Eritrea, Sudan, Liberia, and Nigeria. While African immigrant communities showed up in large numbers to protest police brutality and racial injustices, an oft-neglected nuance is the prevalence of anti-Blackness within these very communities.

The support for the Black Lives Matter movement from the African immigrant community demands that we address and correct the racist practices within our own community that are often left unquestioned. For us to truly support the call for racial injustice, we must take the step eradicate anti-Blackness within our own communities.

Growing up in the Twin Cities, I have witnessed countless anti-Black sentiments, expressions, attitudes, and practices from close relatives and community members. Some examples include: looking down on marrying African-Americans, addressing and treating African-Americans and their communities by negative racialized stereotypes (i.e. lazy, not hardworking, criminals) and our perpetual disassociation with the African-American community in order to distinctly identify ourselves as African immigrants and not “Black/African-American.” This identification process has been heavily documented and proved as a mechanism for us to distance ourselves from African-American communities for various reasons, including social stratification.

Racist undertones within languages

Furthermore, there are racist undertones within our languages and cultural practices that are anti-Black at their core. The way in which we use our own languages to describe African-Americans carry negative connotations. For example, terms like “madow” (Somali) or “gurraacha” (Oromo) literally mean black, but convey a deeper disdain. The way and which we utilize these terms to identify African-Americans is a way of positioning them as inferior to our own African immigrant identities, as noted by immigrant scholars like Nimo Abdi.

I bring forth these examples in order to shed light on the anti-Black and racist injustices that we allow to thrive in our community. As we stand in solidarity against racist practices, it is equally important that we call out and rectify the injustice within our own communities. If we refuse to acknowledge these issues, it is nothing short of hypocrisy.

Read more »

Related:

Ethiopian-Eritrean Trhas Tafere Reflects on Africans’ Perspective on Race in America

The Other Face of Privilege: An Ethiopian American Perspective by Amen Gashaw

Photos: Ethiopians Show Solidarity with Black Lives Matter in D.C.

An Open Letter to PM Abiy Ahmed Ali: By Lydia A. Gorfu

Watch: Mahdere Yared on The Long-Term Effects of Racism (TEDx Pine Crest School class of 2021)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Making of Second Adwa: By Ayele Bekerie

The author of the following article Dr. Ayele Bekerie is an associate professor at the Department of Heritage Studies, Mekelle University in Ethiopia. (Picture: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam via Twitter)

The Ethiopian Herald

By Ayele Bekerie (Ph.d.)

In 1896, Ethiopia registered one of the most decisive victories in the world at the Battle of Adwa by defeating the Italian colonial army. As a result, Adwa marked the beginning of the end of colonialism in Africa and elsewhere. Now, again, Ethiopia is on the verge of registering the second decisive victory, which is labeled the Second Adwa, by building and completing the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Abay/Nile River within its sovereign territory based on the cardinal principle of equitable and reasonable use of shared waters.

Operationalizing GERD means leveling the playing field so that Ethiopia also uses the shared waters and be able to converse with the lower riparian countries, on issues big and small, as equals. Egypt and Sudan affirmed their sovereignty and secure their socio-economic progress by building dams in their territories. Likewise, Ethiopia will make a critical contribution to peace and development in north east Africa, by engaging in an equitable and reasonable use of the Abay waters.

Abay River has a long history. Some of the major world civilizations were built on the banks and plateaus of the river. The River encompasses a wide array of natural environments and human habitations. Mountains, lakes, swamps, valleys, lagoons, moving rivers are places of farming, cattle raising or fishing. It is also a mode of transportation for dhows and steamers go up and down the river valley. In the ancient times, history has recorded positive relations between ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians. Trade thrived for a long period of time between the dynastic Egypt and what Egyptians call the Land of the Punt. Ancient Egyptians obtained their incense and myrrh as well as numerous other products from the Puntites. Egyptians revered and held the Puntites in high regard. They also paid homage to what they call the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ in East Africa. They recognized the mountains or the plateaus as sources of their livelihoods.

In modern times, relations turned unequal and imperialism dictated that brute force should be the arbiter of international relations. Colonialism created the center and periphery arrangements in which there were citizens and subjects. Abay was also defined and put into use in the context of serving the motherland, that is Great Britain in the 19th century CE. Modern Egypt inherited the strategic plan Britain has prepared with regard to the long-term use of the Nile waters. Britain developed a plan to make the whole Nile Basin serve the interests of Egypt. Dams were built in Egypt whereas reservoirs for Egyptian Aswan High Dam were built in Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan other upper riparian countries. With independence and with the unilateral construction of the Aswan High Dam, Egypt pursued a policy of hegemony. It fabricated a narrative that purported historic and natural rights to Nile waters. The treaties of 1902, 1929 and 1959 are used to justify its hegemony. The only agreement that Ethiopia signed together with Egypt and Sudan was the 2015 Declaration of Principles Trilateral Agreement.

The 1902 Treaty was between Britain and Ethiopia. Britain sought to control the sources of the Nile rivers and therefore signed a treaty with Emperor Menelik II in essence agreeing not to impound the river from one bank to the other. In 1929, Britain signed an agreement with Egypt that gave veto or hegemonic power regrading the use and management of the waters. Britain signed the agreement on behalf of its colonial territories in equatorial Africa. With independence, the agreement became null and void. Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, rejected the 1929 Treaty by arguing that Tanzania was no longer a colonial subject nor a signatory of the treaty and therefore would not be bound by it. Nyerere’s argument later labeled the Nyerere Doctrine, which states that “former colonial countries had no role in the formulation and conclusion of treaties done during the colonial era, and therefore they must not be assumed to automatically succeed to those treaties.” As an independent and never-colonized country, Ethiopia had nothing to do with the 1929 Treaty. It is indeed absurd, even immoral for Egypt to cite the treaty in its argument with Ethiopia.

The 1959 Treaty was solely between Egypt and Sudan. The treaty allocated the entire waters of the Nile to Egypt and Sudan. Egypt was allocated 55 billion cubic meters of water, while Sudan got 14 billion cubic meters of water. The treaty was arranged by Britain to serve it neocolonial interest in the region. The treaties are not only outdated, they are also outrageous, for they privilege Egypt, a country that does not contribute a drop to the waters of the River.

Invented narratology of Egypt’s historical and natural rights is central to her arguments to keeping the vast amount of the waters to herself. She brings an argument of ‘the chosen people’ by claiming that Egypt is the ‘Gift of the Nile.’ It passionately advances unilateral and hegemonic use of the waters to herself by distorting the notion of the gift. Gift implies giver and receiver. Further, the receiver ought to acknowledge to giver of the gift. After taking the gift, displaying or acting against the giver is tantamount to biting the hand that feeds. The notion of reciprocity and cooperation among the givers and receivers of the Gift should have been the basis of life in the Nile Basin. Instead we have a government in Egypt that pursue a policy of conflict and escalation in the region.

Egypt, following the long Pharaonic rule, fell under the rule of outsiders for over two millenniums. Among the outsiders were the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks and in modern times, the French and the British. The occupation and annexation of the territory by outsiders may be quite unique. It is such distinct history that gave a sense of aloofness and duplicity to the Egyptian elites, particularly in their interactions with the upper riparian countries. To-be-like the colonizers have become the norm in Egypt. It is not unusual for Egypt to continue looking at fellow Africans with jaundiced eyes, attempting to perpetuate hierarchical and unequal relations.

Egypt continues to preach policies that are written during the colonial times. For her, the gift means controlling and regulating the Nile waters from the sources to the mouths at all times. Egypt’s need supersedes the needs of all other riparian countries. The ever-expanding demand of the Egyptians for the Nile waters made it difficult to reach win-win agreements among the people of the Nile Basin. Unlike the fellaheen of the past, the resident on the banks of the Nile, seeks water for drinking, navigation, generation of electricity, irrigation and recreation. Export crops, vegetation and fruits take a good portion of the waters. Manufacturing industries also consume their share of the water. The cottons grown on the most fertile alluvial soils of the valley are the most preferred raw materials for the cotton mills of Liverpool and Manchester in Britain. The mode of production and distribution of goods and services in modern Egypt tend to favor a regiment of hostility and hegemony to upper riparian countries.

Ancient Egyptians used the Nile waters for farming and navigation. They used the waters to sustain lives and to build cultural monuments and temples, such as the pyramids. They burn incense and spread green grasses in their temples in honor of the mountains of the moon, which they attribute as the sources of the Nile waters. Ancient Egyptians made best use of the waters. They built a civilization and shared the outcome of it with the rest of the world, let alone its southern neighbors in Africa. Ancient Egyptians gave us calendar, writing systems, religion, architecture, wisdom, and governance.

Even those who occupied Egypt in ancient times immersed themselves in tieless traditions of ancient Egypt. The Greeks established themselves in Alexandria. The French scholars deciphered the hieroglyphics, thereby opening the gates of Egyptian knowledge for the world to share and learn from.

The soils and waters of the Nile transformed ancient Egypt perhaps into the greatest power on earth for over three millenniums. Moreover, ancient Egyptians had the longest trade and cultural relations with the Land of the Punt, a reference to upper riparian countries in the Horn of Africa. It is therefore incumbent upon the modern Egyptians to uphold the traditions established by their ancestors and see cooperation and friendship with Ethiopians of the old and the new, that is with the people of Africa.

While Egypt and Sudan built dams in their sovereign territories, Ethiopia did not until she took the bold move to start building one on the mighty Abay River. GERD is nine years old. It is bound to be completed within the next two years. BY making GERD a fact on the ground, Ethiopia will be in a position to ascertain her sovereignty, framing her arguments on the right to use and share the waters, so to speak, dam-to-dam conversations among the tripartite states.

Egypt’s authority with regard to Nile waters is rooted in its ability to build the Aswan High Dam and century storage on Lake Nasser. Such a strategic move allowed her to talk substance and be able to prosper. It also allowed her to establish institutions to generate knowledge on the hydrology of the Nile. Its Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation is one of the largest and well-financed ministries’ in the country. Even the propagation of distorted information about GERD is facilitated by the presence of thousands of highly trained water engineers and technologists, who are not ashamed of advancing the nationalist agenda. In the process of furthering the interest of Egypt, the narrative about the Nile Rivers turned Egypt-centered. Her army of engineers and technologists and diplomats have infiltrated international organizations in large numbers. The financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF, are under the influence of Egypt. Egypt falsely exaggerates her water needs and place herself as utterly dependent on the Nile waters. Her arguments do not address the presence of trillions cubic meters of aquifer and the feasibility of turning the salt water of the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea into fresh potable water.

It is in this context that Ethiopia has to remain focused on her agenda of building and using GERD. Doing so will be the only way to force Egypt from her false narrative. GERD will stop Egypt the pretense of claiming to be the sole proprietor of the Nile waters. The Arab League is heavily influenced by Egypt. It is a mouthpiece of Egypt. Its conventions often are the reflections of its sponsors. IT is also ineffective when it comes to serious issues, such as the Palestinian question, the Yemen and Syrian Civil Wars. The League may provide an international platform to Egypt, but its declarations are toothless.

The European Union, at present, is advocating for equitable use of the waters and favor negotiated settlement of outstanding issues. Britain, given her neocolonial interest in Egypt and Sudan, she may side with Egypt. Since she is the mastermind of the strategic plan of the entire Nile Basin, including the selection of sites of the dams as well as their constructions. Since Britain is on its way out of EU, reasonable and equitable use of the Nile waters in a cooperative manner may become central element of EU’s Nile River policy. On the contrary, Britain prepared the master plan for Egypt to become the super power of the Nile Basin. It is therefore our duty to see to it that EU and Britain compete to earn our attention. Refined diplomacy is needed on our part to make a case for our legitimate use of the Abay River and its tributaries.

The Arab League and EU are two separate international organizations. While the Arab League is in the fold of Egypt, EU maintains a cordial relation with Ethiopia. The Arab League is not known in solving issues within or without. Even in the recent convention of the League, countries, such as Qatar, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia disagreed with the final decision and urged the tripartite countries of the eastern Nile Basin to solve their problems by themselves.

In short, Egypt is making noise, perhaps louder noise by going to the Arab League or EU. The UN Security Council refused to preside over the issue and advised the parties to continue their negotiations. GERD paves the way for real cooperation among the riparian countries.

Egypt built the Aswan High Dam in collaboration with the then Soviet Union with the intent of utilizing the Nile waters to the maximum level. Egypt deliberately placed the Dam near its southern border so that it takes maximum advantage of the water for reclamation and other uses of water throughout Egypt, including the Sinai, across the Suez Canal. For the High Dam to remain dominant, Egypt was directly or indirectly involved in designing and building dams in Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Congo Democratic Republic. The dams or canals in the Equatorial Plateau are designed at sites that serve as reservoirs for Aswan. They are designed to release water on a regular or monitored bases so that Aswan always gets a predictable amount of waters. The artificial lake, Lake Nasser is not only growing in volumes, but it is also displacing hundreds of thousands of Nubians from their homes, temples and farmlands both in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The destruction on ancient heritages in Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia to make space for the massive lake is incalculable.

As stated earlier, modern Egypt anchors itself primarily on Arab nationalism. The attempt to politicize Islam and to perceive Ethiopia as a Christian country often fails to generate support for the elites of Egypt. Islam is present in Ethiopia since its inception in the seventh century CE. Ethiopia gave sanctuary to the first followers of the Prophet. Islam, in the present-day Ethiopia, is influential. It is playing a significant role in shaping the society. On the other hand, Egypt’s Pan-African identity has been let loose since the end of the great ancient Egyptian kingdoms. Modern Egypt was established by Ottoman and Arab rulers. It can be argued that Egypt’s approach to Africa is tainted with paternalism. Egypt enters into agreement with the upper riparian countries in as long as it is free of challenging her self-declared water quota.

The Nile Basin Initiative remained frozen because of Egypt’s refusal to join the Secretariat with a headquarter in Entebbe, Uganda. Sudan is also hesitating to join the group, even so it has a good chance of reversing its position, given the new transitional government in there. Egypt is working actively to divide the member states of the Initiative. Recently, Tanzania was awarded a dam, entirely paid by the Egyptian Government, on a river that does not flow into the Nile. Again, the intent is to drive Tanzania out of the Initiative and to protect the so-called water quota of Egypt. AU is established to advance the interests of member states. It would make a lot of sense to address the issues of the Nile waters within the AU. Unfortunately, Egypt refuses to commit to such an approach and, instead, run to Washington and to the UN Security Council to hoping to force Ethiopia into submission. Threats and making noise are empty and no one will buckle under such sabre rattling. Further, AU does not condone the colonial and hegemonic mentality of the Egyptian elite rulers. In fact, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), in its press release of June 23, 2020, regarding GERD, has endorsed AU as key arbiter to solve issues of the Nile waters. According to CBC, “the AU has a pivotal role to play by expressing to all parties that a peaceful negotiated deal benefits all and not just some on the continent.”

Egypt sticks to the status quo. That is Egypt wants to control and regulate the waters of the Nile Basin from its sources on the mountains of north east Africa to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea. It wants to stay as a major user and owner of the Nile waters. Egypt wants to turn the entire Nile Basin as its backyard. Egypt invented a quota for itself and Sudan without consulting or involving the upper riparian countries. The principle of equity and reasonable use of shared water has no place in the Egyptian lexicons. Therefore, Egypt’s unprincipled approach and practice in the use and management of the Nile waters resulted in protracted conflicts in the basin. The initiative to silence guns would remain sterile as long as Egypt remains unwilling to share the Nile waters.

Nine years ago, Ethiopia laid the foundation for the building of GERD. That was a decision of a sovereign country entitled to use its natural resources, while at the same time acknowledging the rights of the lower riparian countries. That was a decision that eventually resulted in the beginning and the continuation of the Dam. That was a decision that injected sense to the discourse of the Nile waters. That was a decision that paves the way for Egypt to look south and to enter into negotiations with Ethiopia.

Given the hegemonic use of the Nile waters by Egypt, Ethiopia is obligated to carry out a non-hegemonic project on the River. It is obligated to tell her own story to the international community. The whole world has to know that Ethiopia provides 86% of the Nile waters. It makes substantial water contributions to both White and Blue Nile Rivers. Historically, Ethiopia gave birth to Egypt, geographically speaking. It is the water and soils of Ethiopia that created to most fertile banks and deltas of the Nile. Huge alluvial soils were carried to Egypt from Ethiopia. The replenishment of the Nile Valley with fertile soils of Ethiopia is an annual event. The facts on the ground calls for real cooperation and collaboration among all the riparian countries.

The academia of Egypt is committed to advancing the so-called historic rights claim. It is working, cadre-style, to justify the upholding of the status quo. Academia continues to perpetuate the false paradigm and associated Egypt-centered knowledge productions. It is also provided with unlimited funds to equate the River with Egypt only. Alternatively, it is the African and African Diaspora intellectuals who would force Egypt to make a paradigm shift. It is the well-meaning people of the world who would persuade Egypt to come to her senses.

The Nile waters belong to all the people who live in its basin, banks, delta and valleys. The basin constitutes one tenth of Africa’s landmass and a quarter of the total population of Africa. Equitable and fair use of the waters by all the riparian countries ought to be the governing principle. There has to be a paradigm shift from Egypt-centered regimen to multi-centered use and management of the waters. Multi-centered approach paves the way to basin-wide economic and socio-cultural development.

To conclude, Egypt ought to concede that the status quo cannot stand. It has to recognize that the Nile Basin is home to 400 million people. It is only through the principles of cooperation and equity that the people will have a chance to have better lives. It is in the spirit of affirming the sanctity of one’s sovereignty that Ethiopia began to build GERD. The completion and the operation of GERD is bound to be the second victory of Adwa. CBC puts it best when it states that “the Gerd project will have a positive impact on all countries involved and will help combat food security and lack of electricity and power, supply more fresh water to more people and stabilize and grow the economies in the region.” As much as the first victory of the Battle of Adwa inspired anti-colonial movements and struggle, GERD, as a second Adwa victory, which is bound to inspire economic, democratic and social justice movements.

Ed.’s Note: Dr. Ayele Bekerie is an associate professor at the Department of Heritage Studies, Mekelle University.


UPDATE: PM Hails 1st Filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s statement, read out on state media outlets, came a day after he and the leaders of Egypt and Sudan reported progress on an elusive agreement on the operation of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest in Africa. (Photo: Satellite image of Ethiopia’s Dam/ Maxar via AP)

The Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET

Updated: July 22nd, 2020

Ethiopia’s leader hails 1st filling of massive, disputed dam

ADDIS ABABA (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister on Wednesday hailed the first filling of a massive dam that has led to tensions with Egypt, saying two turbines will begin generating power next year.

Abiy Ahmed’s statement, read out on state media outlets, came a day after he and the leaders of Egypt and Sudan reported progress on an elusive agreement on the operation of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest in Africa.

The first filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Ethiopia’s government attributes to heavy rains, “has shown to the rest of the world that our country could stand firm with its two legs from now onwards,” Abiy’s statement said. “We have successfully completed the first dam filling without bothering and hurting anyone else. Now the dam is overflowing downstream.”

The dam will reach full power generating capacity in 2023, the statement said: “Now we have to finish the remaining construction and diplomatic issues.”

Ethiopia’s prime minister on Tuesday said the countries had reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement.”

Meanwhile, new satellite images showed the water level in the reservoir at its highest in at least four years, adding fresh urgency to the talks.

Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir this month even without a deal as the rainy season floods the Blue Nile. But the Tuesday statement said leaders agreed to pursue “further technical discussions on the filling … and proceed to a comprehensive agreement.”

The dispute centers on the use of the storied Nile River, a lifeline for all involved.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat. Sudan is in the middle.

Negotiators have said key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas on Tuesday told reporters that once the agreement has been solidified, Ethiopia will retain the right to amend some figures relating to the dam’s operation during drought periods.

Abbas also said the leaders agreed on Ethiopia’s right to build additional reservoirs and other projects as long as it notifies the downstream countries, in line with international law.

“There are other sticking points, but if we agree on this basic principle, the other points will automatically be solved,” he said.

Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution.


Ethiopia, Egypt Reach ‘Major Common Understanding’ On Dam


The statement came as new satellite images show the water level in the reservoir behind the nearly completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at its highest in at least four years. (Getty Images)

The Associated Press

Updated: July 21st, 2020

Ethiopia’s prime minister said Tuesday his country, Egypt and Sudan have reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement” on a massive dam project that has led to sharp regional tensions and led some to fear military conflict.

The statement by Abiy Ahmed’s office came as new satellite images show the water level in the reservoir behind the nearly completed $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at its highest in at least four years.

Ethiopia has said the rising water is from heavy rains, and the new statement said that “it has become evident over the past two weeks in the rainy season that the (dam’s) first-year filling is achieved and the dam under construction is already overtopping.”

Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the dam, Africa’s largest, this month even without a deal as the rainy season floods the Blue Nile. But the new statement says the three countries’ leaders have agreed to pursue “further technical discussions on the filling … and proceed to a comprehensive agreement.”

The statement did not give details on Tuesday’s discussions, mediated by current African Union chair and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, or what had been agreed upon.

But the talks among the country’s leaders showed the critical importance placed on finding a way to resolve tensions over the storied Nile River, a lifeline for all involved.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat.

Negotiators have said key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi stressed Egypt’s “sincere will to continue to achieve progress over the disputed issues,” a spokesman’s statement said. It said the leaders agreed to “give priority to developing a binding legal commitment regarding the basis for filling and operating the dam.”

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters in the capital, Khartoum, that once the agreement has been solidified, Ethiopia will retain the right to amend some figures relating to the dam’s operation during drought periods. “Generally, the atmosphere was positive” during the talks, he said.

Abbas said the leaders agreed on Ethiopia’s right to build additional reservoirs and other projects as long as it notifies the downstream countries, in line with international law.

“There are other sticking points, but if we agree on this basic principle, the other points will automatically be solved,” he said.

Both Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Ethiopia’s leader called Tuesday’s meeting “fruitful.”

“It is absolutely necessary that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, with the support of the African Union, come to an agreement that preserves the interest of all parties,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU commission, said on Twitter, adding that the Nile “should remain a source of peace.”

Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution.

Now satellite images of the reservoir filling are adding fresh urgency. The latest imagery taken Tuesday “certainly shows the highest water levels behind the dam in at least the past four years,” said Stephen Wood, senior director with Maxar News Bureau.

Kevin Wheeler, a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, told the AP last week that fears of any immediate water shortage “are not justified at this stage at all and the escalating rhetoric is more due to changing power dynamics in the region.

However, “if there were a drought over the next several years, that certainly could become a risk,” he said.


As Seasonal Rains Fall, Dispute over Nile Dam Rushes Toward a Reckoning


Satellite images released this week showed water building up in the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. (Photo: Maxar Technologies/EPA, via Shutterstock)

The New York Times

Updated July 18th, 2020

After a decade of construction, the hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia, Africa’s largest, is nearly complete. But there’s still no agreement with Egypt.

CAIRO — Every day now, seasonal rain pounds the lush highlands of northern Ethiopia, sending cascades of water into the Blue Nile, the twisting tributary of perhaps Africa’s most fabled river.

Farther downstream, the water inches up the concrete wall of a towering, $4.5 billion hydroelectric dam across the Nile, the largest in Africa, now moving closer to completion. A moment that Ethiopians have anticipated eagerly for a decade — and which Egyptians have come to dread — has finally arrived.

Satellite images released this week showed water pouring into the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam — which will be nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Ethiopia hopes the project will double its electricity production, bolster its economy, and help unify its people at a time of often-violent divisions.

#FillTheDam read one popular hashtag on Ethiopian social media this week.

Seleshi Bekele, the Ethiopian water minister, rushed to assuage Egyptian anxieties by insisting that the engorging reservoir was the product of natural, entirely predictable seasonal flooding.

He said the formal start of filling, when engineers close the dam gates, has not yet occurred.

Read more »

Conflicting Reports Issued Over Ethiopia Filling Mega-dam

Bloomberg

By Samuel Gebre

July 15, 2020

AP cites minister denying that dam’s gates have been closed

Ethiopia began filling the reservoir of its giant Nile dam without signing an agreement on water flows, the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele — a step Egypt has warned will threaten regional security.

The minister denied the report, the Associated Press said.

The development comes two days after the latest round of African Union-brokered talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam failed to reach a deal on the pace of filling the 74 billion cubic-meter reservoir. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all its fresh water, has previously described any unilateral filling as a breach of international agreements and has said all options are open in response.

Egypt is asking Ethiopia for urgent and official clarification of the media reports, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Sudan’s irrigation ministry said in a statement that flows on the Nile indicated that Ethiopia had closed the dam’s gate.

Ethiopia, where the 6,000-megawatt power project has become a symbol of national pride, has repeatedly rejected the idea that a deal was needed, even as it took part in talks.

“The inflow into the reservoir is due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling,” Seleshi said later in Twitter posting, without expressly denying that the filling of the dam had begun. Calls to the ministry’s spokesperson for comment weren’t answered.

The filling of the dam would potentially bring to a head a roughly decade-long dispute between the two countries, both of which are key U.S. allies in Africa and home to about 100 million people. Their mutual neighbor, Sudan, has also been involved in the discussions and echoed Egypt’s misgivings over an impact on water flows.


Ethiopia Open to Continue Nile Dam Talks Amid Dispute With Egypt


The Blue Nile river flows to the dam wall at the site of the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. (Photographer: Zacharias Abubeker/Bloomberg)

Bloomberg

Updated: July 15, 2020,

Ethiopia pledged to continue talks with Egypt and Sudan on the operation of its 140-meter deep dam on the Nile River’s main tributary, but said demands from downstream nations were thwarting the chances of an agreement.

The three states submitted reports to African Union Chairman and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa after 11 days of negotiations ended on Monday without an agreement. The AU-brokered talks were held amid rising tensions with Ethiopia planning to start filling the reservoir, and Egypt describing any damming without an agreement on water flows as illegal.

“Unchanged stances and additional and excessive demands of Egypt and Sudan prohibited the conclusion of this round of negotiation by an agreement,” Ethiopia’s water and irrigation ministry said Tuesday in a statement. “Ethiopia is committed to show flexibility” to reach a mutually beneficial outcome, it said.

The Nile River is Egypt’s main source of fresh water and it has opposed any development it says willcause significant impact to the flow downstream. Ethiopia, which plans a 6,000 megawatt power plant at the facility, has asserted its right to use the resource.

The two are yet to conclude an agreement over the pace at which Ethiopia fills the 74 billion cubic-meter reservoir, given the potential impact on the amount of water reaching Egypt through Sudan. Ethiopia’s statement didn’t mention anything conclusive on when it plans to start filling the dam.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry didn’t reply to a request for comment on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told a local TV talk-show on Monday that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s administration seeks to reach an agreement that safeguards the interests of all stakeholders.

Read more »

Photos: Satellite Images of GERD Show Water Rising (UPDATE)


The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan say the latest talks on the contentious project ended Monday with no agreement. Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir this month even without a deal. But Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment Tuesday on the images. An analyst tells AP that the swelling water is likely due to the rainy season as opposed to official activity. (Photo: Maxar Tech via AP)

The Associated Press

Updated: July 14, 2020,

New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst says it’s likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action.

The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan say the latest talks on the contentious project ended Monday with no agreement. Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this month even without a deal, which would further escalate tensions.

But the swelling reservoir, captured in imagery on July 9 by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, is likely a “natural backing-up of water behind the dam” during this rainy season, International Crisis Group analyst William Davison told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“So far, to my understanding, there has been no official announcement from Ethiopia that all of the pieces of construction that are needed to be completed to close off all of the outlets and to begin impoundment of water into the reservoir” have occurred, Davison said.

But Ethiopia is on schedule for impoundment to begin in mid-July, he added, when the rainy season floods the Blue Nile.

Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment Tuesday on the images.

The latest setback in the three-country talks shrinks hopes that an agreement will be reached before Ethiopia begins filling the reservoir.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat.

Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution. Last week’s round, mediated by the African Union and observed by U.S. and European officials, proved no different.

Read more and see the photos at apnews.com »


PM Abiy Says Unrest Will Not Derail Filling of Nile Dam


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Tuesday the recent violence was specifically intended to throw Ethiopia’s plans for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam off course. Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, also criticised politicians who he suggested were trying to profit from Hachalu’s killing to undermine his government. “You can’t become a government by destroying the country, by sowing ethnic and religious chaos,” he said. (AP photo)

AFP

July 7th, 2020

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Tuesday that recent domestic unrest would not derail his plan to start filling a mega-dam on the Blue Nile River this month, despite objections from downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.

Violence broke out last week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region following the shooting death of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.

More than 160 people died in inter-ethnic killings and in clashes between protesters and security forces, according to the latest official toll provided over the weekend.

Abiy said last week that Hachalu’s killing and the violence that ensued were part of a plot to sow unrest in Ethiopia, without identifying who he thought was involved.

On Tuesday he went a step further, saying it was specifically intended to throw Ethiopia’s plans for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam off course.

“The desire of the breaking news is to make the Ethiopian government take its eye off the dam,” Abiy said during a question-and-answer session with lawmakers, without giving evidence to support the claim.

Ethiopia sees the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as essential to its electrification and development, while Egypt and Sudan worry it will restrict access to vital Nile waters.

Addis Ababa has long intended to begin filling the dam’s reservoir this month — in the middle of its rainy season — while Cairo and Khartoum are pushing for the three countries to first reach an agreement on how it will be operated.

Talks between the three nations resumed last week.

Ethiopian officials have not publicised the exact day they intend to start filling the dam.

But Abiy on Tuesday reiterated Ethiopia’s position that the filling process is an essential element of the dam’s construction.

“If Ethiopia doesn’t fill the dam, it means Ethiopia has agreed to demolish the dam,” he said.

“On other points we can reach an agreement slowly over time, but for the filling of the dam we can reach and sign an agreement this year.”

-Ethiopia ‘not Syria, Libya’-

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, also criticised politicians who he suggested were trying to profit from Hachalu’s killing to undermine his government.

“You can’t become a government by destroying a government by destroying the country, by sowing ethnic and religious chaos,” he said.

“If Ethiopia becomes Syria, if Ethiopia becomes Libya, the loss is for everybody.”

A number of high-profile opposition politicians have been arrested in Ethiopia in the wake of Hachalu’s killing.

Some of them, including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed, have accused Abiy, the country’s first Oromo prime minister, of failing to sufficiently champion Oromo interests after years of anti-government protests swept him to power in 2018.

Abiy defended his Oromo credentials on Tuesday. “All my life I’ve struggled for the Oromo people,” he said.

“The Oromo people are free now. What we need now is development.”

‘It’s my dam’: Ethiopians Unite Around Nile River Mega-Project


The Blue Nile flowing through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The project is passionately supported by the Ethiopian public despite the tensions it has stoked with Egypt and Sudan downstream. (AFP)

AFP

Updated: June 29th, 2020

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s press secretary took a break from official statements to post something different to her Twitter feed: a 37-line poem defending her country’s massive dam on the Blue Nile River.

“My mothers seek respite/From years of abject poverty/Their sons a bright future/And the right to pursue prosperity,” Billene Seyoum wrote in her poem, entitled “Ethiopia Speaks”.

As the lines indicate, Ethiopia sees the $4.6 billion (four-billion-euro) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as crucial for its electrification and development.

But the project, set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation, has sparked an intensifying row with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, which worry that it will restrict vital water supplies.

Addis Ababa plans to start filling next month, despite demands from Cairo and Khartoum for a deal on the dam’s operations to avoid depletion of the Nile.

The African Union is assuming a leading role in talks to resolve outstanding legal and technical issues, and the UN Security Council could take up the issue Monday.

With global attention to the dam on the rise, its defenders are finding creative ways to show support — in verse, in Billene’s case, through other art forms and, most commonly, in social media posts demanding the government finish construction.

To some observers, the dam offers a rare point of unity in an ethnically-diverse country undergoing a fraught democratic transition and awaiting elections delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Abebe Yirga, a university lecturer and expert in water management, compared the effort to finish the dam to Ethiopia’s fight against Italian would-be colonisers in the late 19th century.

“During that time, Ethiopians irrespective of religion and different backgrounds came together to fight against the colonial power,” he said.

“Now, in the 21st century, the dam is reuniting Ethiopians who have been politically and ethnically divided.”

-Hashtag activism-

Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011 under then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who pitched it as a catalyst for poverty eradication.

Civil servants contributed one month’s salary towards the project that year, and the government has since issued dam bonds targeting Ethiopians at home and abroad.

Nearly a decade later, the dam remains a source of hope for a country where more than half the population of 110 million lives without electricity.

With Meles dead nearly eight years, perhaps the most prominent face of the project these days is water minister Seleshi Bekele, a former academic whose publications include articles with titles like “Estimation of flow in ungauged catchments by coupling a hydrological model and neural networks: Case study”.

As a government minister, though, Seleshi has demonstrated an ear for the catchy soundbite.

At a January press conference in Addis Ababa, he fielded a question from a journalist wondering whether countries besides Ethiopia might play a role in operating the dam.

With an amused expression on his face, Seleshi looked the journalist dead in the eye and responded simply, “It’s my dam.”

In those five seconds, a hashtag was born.

Coverage of the exchange went viral, and today a Twitter search for #ItsMyDam turns up seemingly endless posts hailing the project.

At recent events officials have even distributed T-shirts bearing the slogan to Ethiopian journalists, who proudly wear them around town.

-Banana boosterism-

Some non-Ethiopians have also gotten in on #ItsMyDam fever.

Anna Chojnicka spent four years living in Ethiopia working for an organisation supporting social entrepreneurs, though she recently moved to London.

In March, holed up with suspected COVID-19, she began using a comb and thread-cutter to imprint designs on bananas.

Her #BananaOfTheDay series has included bruises portraying the London skyline, iconic scenes from Disney movies and the late singer Amy Winehouse.

But by far the most popular are her bananas related to the dam, the first of which she posted last week showing water rushing through the concrete colossus.

On Thursday she posted a banana featuring a woman carrying firewood, noting that once the dam starts operating “fewer women will need to collect firewood for fuel”.

The image was quickly picked up by an Ethiopian television station.


Ethiopia, Egypt & Sudan Agree to Restart Talks Over Disputed Dam


Early Saturday, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister, confirmed that the countries had decided during an African Union summit to restart stalled negotiations and finalize an agreement over the contentious mega-project within two to three weeks, with support from the AU. (Satellite image via AP)

The Associated Press

Updated: June 27th, 2020

The leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed late Friday to return to talks aimed at reaching an accord over the filling of Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, according to statements from the three nations.

Early Saturday, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister, confirmed that the countries had decided during an African Union summit to restart stalled negotiations and finalize an agreement over the contentious mega-project within two to three weeks, with support from the AU.

The announcement was a modest reprieve from weeks of bellicose rhetoric and escalating tensions over the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia had vowed to start filling at the start of the rainy season in July.

Egypt and Sudan said Ethiopia would refrain from filling the dam next month until the countries reached a deal. Ethiopia did not comment explicitly on the start of the filling period.

Ethiopia has hinged its development ambitions on the colossal dam, describing it as a crucial lifeline to bring millions out of poverty.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fears a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million. Sudan, which also depends on the Nile for water, has played a key role in bringing the two sides together after the collapse of U.S.-mediated talks in February.

Just last week, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew warned that his country could begin filling the dam’s reservoir unilaterally, after the latest round of talks with Egypt and Sudan failed to reach an accord governing how the dam will be filled and operated.

After an AU video conference chaired by South Africa late Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said that “all parties” had pledged not to take “any unilateral action” by filling the dam without a final agreement, said Bassam Radi, Egypt’s presidency spokesman.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also indicated the impasse between the Nile basin countries had eased, saying the nations had agreed to restart negotiations through a technical committee with the aim of finalizing a deal in two weeks. Ethiopia won’t fill the dam before inking the much-anticipated deal, Hamdok’s statement added.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said the countries “agreed to an AU-led process to resolve outstanding issues,” without elaborating.

Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam if a multi-year drought occurs and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve any future disagreements.

Both Egypt and Sudan have appealed to the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the years-long dispute and help the countries avert a crisis. The council is set to hold a public meeting on the issue Monday.

Filling the dam without an agreement could bring the stand-off to a critical juncture. Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at military steps to protect their interests, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to open conflict.

Related:

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to agree Nile dam in weeks

Ethiopia agrees to delay filling Nile mega-dam, say Egypt, Sudan

Clock Ticks On Push to Resolve Egypt-Ethiopia Row Over Nile Dam

The Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia. (REUTERS photo/Tiksa Negeri)

Reuters

Updated: June 26th, 2020

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is counting on international pressure to unlock a deal it sees as crucial to protecting its scarce water supplies from the Nile river before the expected start-up of a giant dam upstream in Ethiopia in July.

Tortuous, often acrimonious negotiations spanning close to a decade have left the two nations and their neighbour Sudan short of an agreement to regulate how Ethiopia will operate the dam and fill its reservoir.

Though Egypt is unlikely to face any immediate, critical shortages from the dam even without a deal, failure to reach one before the filling process starts could further poison ties and drag out the dispute for years, analysts say.

“There is the threat of worsening relations between Ethiopia and the two downstream countries, and consequently increased regional instability,” said William Davison, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

The latest round of talks left the three countries “closer than ever to reaching an agreement”, according to a report by Sudan’s foreign ministry seen by Reuters.

But it also said the talks, which were suspended last week, had revealed a “widening gap” over the key issue of whether any agreement would be legally binding, as Egypt demands.

The stakes for largely arid Egypt are high, for it draws at least 90% of its fresh water from the Nile.

With Ethiopia insisting it will use seasonal rains to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next month, Cairo has appealed to the U.N. Security Council in a last-ditch diplomatic move.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being built about 15 km (nine miles) from the border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, the source of most of the Nile’s waters.

Ethiopia says the $4 billion hydropower project, which will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts, is essential to its economic development. Addis Ababa told the U.N. Security Council in a letter this week that it is “designed to help extricate our people from abject poverty”.

The letter repeated accusations that Egypt was trying to maintain historic advantages over the Nile and constrict Ethiopia’s pursuit of future upstream projects. It argued that Ethiopia had accommodated Egyptian demands to allow recent talks to move forward before Egypt unnecessarily escalated by taking the issue to the Security Council.

Ethiopia’s government was not immediately available for comment.

Egypt says it is focused on securing a fair deal limited to the GERD, and that Ethiopia’s talk of righting colonial-era injustice is a ruse meant to distract attention from a bid to impose a fait accompli on its downstream neighbours.

Both accuse each other of trying to sabotage the talks and of blocking independent studies on the impact of the GERD. Egypt requested U.S. mediation last year, leading to talks over four months in Washington that broke down in February.

“PROGRESS”

The resort to outside mediation came because the two sides had been “going round in vicious cycles for years”, said an Egyptian official. The stand-off is a chance for the international community to show leadership on the issue of water, and help broker a deal that “could unlock a lot of cooperation possibilities”, he said.

Talks this month between water ministers led by Sudan, and observed by the United States, South Africa and the European Union, produced a draft deal that Sudan said made “significant progress on major technical issues”.

It listed outstanding technical issues however, including how the dam would operate during “dry years” of reduced rainfall, as well as legal issues on whether the agreement and its mechanism for resolving disputes should be binding.

Sudan, for its part, sees benefits from the dam in regulating its Blue Nile waters, but wants guarantees it will be safely and properly operated.

Like Egypt it is seeking a binding deal before filling starts, but its increasing alignment with Cairo has not proved decisive.

Technical compromises are still available, said Davison, but “there’s no reason to think that Ethiopia is going to bow to increased international pressure”.

“We need to move away from diplomatic escalation and instead the parties need to sit themselves once again around the table and stay there until they reach agreement.”

UN to Hear Ethiopia-Egypt Nile Dam Dispute


The behind-closed-doors meeting [set for Monday in New York] was requested by France, according to diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It came after the latest talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan ended without an agreement. (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — The United Nations Security Council will discuss for the first time Monday a growing dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over a giant hydropower dam being built on the Nile River’s main tributary, diplomats said. The behind-closed-doors meeting was requested by France, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It came after the latest talks between Egypt, Ethi

The behind-closed-doors meeting was requested by France, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It came after the latest talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and mutual neighbor Sudan ended last week with Ethiopia refusing to accept a permanent, minimum volume of water that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam should release downstream in the event of severe drought.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry subsequently asked the UNSC to intervene, calling for a fair and balanced solution. Ethiopia has threatened to start filling the dam’s reservoir when the rainy season begins in July, with or without a deal. That’s a step that Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all its fresh water, considers both unacceptable and illegal.

Ethiopia remains resolute that a so-called declaration of principles agreement signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in 2015 allows it to proceed with damming the GERD.


Dear Ethiopia & Egypt: Nile Dam Update


Nefartari with Simbel and St. Yared holding a Simbel, which is called Tsenatsil in Amharic and Ge’ez.

The Africa Report

By Meklit Berihun, a civil engineer and aspiring researcher in systems thinking and its application in the water/environment sector.

Dear Egypt

My dear, how are you holding up in these trying times? I hope you are faring well as much as one can given the circumstances. And I pray we will not be burdened with more than we can bear and that this time will soon come to pass for the both of us.

Dearest, I hear of your frustration about the progress—or lack thereof—on the negotiations over my dam. That is a frustration I also share. I look forward to the day we settle things and look to the future together.

Beloved, though your approach has recently metamorphosed in addressing your right to our water—officially stating you never held on to any past agreements—the foundation, that you do not want to settle for anything less than 66 percent of what is shared by 10 of your fellow African states, remains unchanged. I must be honest: I cannot fathom how you still hold on to this.

Read more »

Dear Ethiopia,

By Nervana Mahmoud, Doctor and independent political commentator on Middle East issues. BBC’s 100 women 2013.

Thank you for your letter.

The fate of our two countries has been linked since ancient times, as described in Herodotus’s book An Account of Egypt, Egypt is the “gift of the Nile,” “it has soil which is black and easily breaks up, seeing that it is in truth mud and silt brought down from Ethiopia by the river.”

It is sad you question Egypt’s African identity. It may sound surprising to you, but the vast majority of Egyptians are proud Africans. In 1990, my entire family was glued to the television, showing our support for Cameroon against England, in the World Cup. Last year, Egypt hosted the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Many Egyptians supported Senegal and Nigeria, who played Arab teams, in the final rounds because we see ourselves as Africans.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that you — our African brothers — appreciate the potential disastrous impacts of your Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) on our livelihood in Egypt.

Read more »

AP Interview: Egypt Says UN Must Stop Ethiopia on Dam Fill

AP Interview:: Ethiopia To Fill Disputed Dam, Deal or No Deal


This satellite image taken May 28, 2020, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region. In an interview with The Associated Press Friday, June 19, 2020, Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said that Ethiopia will start filling the $4.6 billion dam next month. (AP)

The Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET

Updated: June 19th, 2020

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — It’s a clash over water usage that Egypt calls an existential threat and Ethiopia calls a lifeline for millions out of poverty. Just weeks remain before the filling of Africa’s most powerful hydroelectric dam might begin, and tense talks between the countries on its operation have yet to reach a deal.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew on Friday declared that his country will go ahead and start filling the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam next month, even without an agreement. “For us it is not mandatory to reach an agreement before starting filling the dam, hence we will commence the filling process in the coming rainy season,” he said.

“We are working hard to reach a deal, but still we will go ahead with our schedule whatever the outcome is. If we have to wait for others’ blessing, then the dam may remain idle for years, which we won’t allow to happen,” he said. He added that “we want to make it clear that Ethiopia will not beg Egypt and Sudan to use its own water resource for its development,” pointing out that Ethiopia is paying for the dam’s construction itself.

He spoke after the latest round of talks with Egypt and Sudan on the dam, the first since discussions broke down in February, failed to reach agreement.

No date has been set for talks to resume, and the foreign minister said Ethiopia doesn’t believe it’s time to take them to a head of state level.

The years-long dispute pits Ethiopia’s desire to become a major power exporter and development engine against Egypt’s concern that the dam will significantly curtail its water supply if filled too quickly. Sudan has long been caught between the competing interests.

The arrival of the rainy season is bringing more water to the Blue Nile, the main branch of the Nile, and Ethiopia sees an ideal time to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next month.

Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at military steps to protect their interests, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to conflict.

Ethiopia’s foreign minister would not say whether his country would use military action to defend the dam and its operations.

“This dam should have been a reason for cooperation and regional integration, not a cause for controversies and warmongering,” he said. “Egyptians are exaggerating their propaganda on the dam issue and playing a political gamble. Some of them seem as if they are longing for a war to break out.”

Gedu added: “Our reading is that the Egyptian side wants to dictate and control even future developments on our river. We won’t ask for permission to carry out development projects on our own water resources. This is both legally and morally unacceptable.”

He said Ethiopia has offered to fill the dam in four to seven years, taking possible low rainfall into account.

Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam during a multi-year drought and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve any future disputes.

The United States earlier this year tried to broker a deal, but Ethiopia did not attend the signing meeting and accused the Trump administration of siding with Egypt. This week some Ethiopians felt vindicated when the U.S. National Security Council tweeted that “257 million people in east Africa are relying on Ethiopia to show strong leadership, which means striking a fair deal.”

In reply to that, Ethiopia’s foreign minister said: “Statements issued from governments and other institutions on the dam should be crafted carefully not to take sides and impair the fragile talks, especially at this delicate time. They should issue fair statements or just issue no statements at all.”

He also rejected the idea that the issue should be taken to the United Nations Security Council, as Egypt wants. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement Friday saying Egypt has urged the Security Council to intervene in the dispute to help the parties reach a “fair and balanced solution” and prevent Ethiopia from “taking any unilateral actions.”

The latest talks saw officials from the U.S., European Union and South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union, attending as observers.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told reporters after talks ended Wednesday that the three counties’ irrigation leaders have agreed on “90% or 95%” of the technical issues but the dispute over the “legal points” in the deal remains dissolved.

The Sudanese minister said his country and Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s attempts to include articles on water sharing and old Nile treaties in the dam deal. Egypt has received the lion’s share of the Nile’s waters under decades-old agreements dating back to the British colonial era. Eighty-five percent of the Nile’s waters originate in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile.

“The Egyptians want us to offer a lot, but they are not ready to offer us anything,” Gedu said Friday. “They want to control everything. We are not discussing a water-sharing agreement.”

The countries should not get stuck in a debate about historic water rights, William Davison, senior analyst on Ethiopia with the International Crisis Group, told reporters this week. “During a period of filling, yes, there’s reduced water downstream. But that’s a temporary period,” he said.

Initial power generation from the dam could be seen late this year or in early 2021, he said.

Ethiopia’ foreign minister expressed disappointment in Egypt’s efforts to find backing for its side.

“Our African brotherly countries should have supported us, but instead they are tainting our country’s name around the world, and especially in the Arab world,” he said. “Egypt’s monopolistic approach to the dam issue will not be acceptable for us forever.”


Tussle for Nile Control Escalates as Dam Talks Falter


The Blue Nile river passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Guba, Ethiopia. (Getty Images)

Bloomberg

Updated: June 18th, 2020

A last ditch attempt to resolve a decade-long dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over a huge new hydropower dam on the Nile has failed, raising the stakes in what – for all the public focus on technical issues – is a tussle for control over the region’s most important water source.

The talks appear to have faltered over a recurring issue: Ethiopia’s refusal to accept a permanent, minimum volume of water that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, should release downstream in the event of severe drought.

What happens next remains uncertain. Both Ethiopia and Sudan – a mutual neighbor that took part in the talks – said that progress had been made and left the door open to further negotiation. Yet the stakes in a region acutely vulnerable to the impact of climate change are disconcertingly clear.

Ethiopia has threatened to start filling the dam’s reservoir when the rainy season begins in July, with or without a deal, a step Egypt considers both unacceptable and illegal. In a statement late Wednesday, Egypt’s irrigation ministry accused Ethiopia of refusing to accept any effective drought provision or legally binding commitments, or even to refer the talks to the three prime ministers in an effort to break the deadlock. Ethiopia was demanding “an absolute right” to build further dams behind the GERD, the ministry said.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry threatened on Monday to call for United Nations Security Council intervention to protect “international peace and security” if no agreement was reached. A day later his Ethiopian opposite, Gedu Andargachew, accused Egypt of “acting as if it is the sole owner of the Nile waters.”

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris even warned of a water war. “We will never allow any country to starve us, if Ethiopia doesn’t come to reason, we the Egyptian people will be the first to call for war,” he said in a tweet earlier this week.

Although both sides have played down the prospect of military conflict, they have occasionally rattled sabers and concern at the potential for escalation helped draw the U.S. and World Bank into the negotiating process last year. When that attempt floundered in February, the European Union and South Africa, as chair of the African Union, joined in.

“This is all about control,” said Asfaw Beyene, a professor of mechanical engineering at San Diego State University, California, whose work Egypt cited in support of a May 1 report to the UN. The so-called aide memoire argued that the GERD and its 74 billion cubic meter reservoir are so vastly oversized relative to the power they will produce that it “raises questions about the true purpose of the dam.”

National Survival

Egypt’s concern is that once the dam’s sluices can control the Nile’s flow, Ethiopia could in times of drought say “I am not releasing water, I need it,” or dictate how the water released is used, says Asfaw. Yet he backs Ethiopia’s claims that once filled, the dam won’t significantly affect downstream supplies. He also agrees with their argument that climate change could render unsustainable any water guarantees given to Egypt.

Both sides describe the future of the hydropower dam that will generate as much as 15.7 gigawatts of electricity per year as a matter of national survival. Egypt relies on the Nile for as much as 97% of an already strained water supply. Ethiopia says the dam is vital for development, because it would increase the nation’s power generation by about 150% at a time when more than half the population have no access to electricity.

Read more »


UPDATE: Ethiopian Army Official Says Country Will Defend Itself Over Dam (AP)


A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (Getty Images)

The Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET

Updated: June 12th, 2020

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s deputy army chief on Friday said his country will strongly defend itself and will not negotiate its sovereignty over the disputed $4.6 billion Nile dam that has caused tensions with Egypt.

“Egyptians and the rest of the world know too well how we conduct war whenever it comes,” Gen. Birhanu Jula said in an interview with the state-owned Addis Zemen newspaper, adding that Egyptian leaders’ “distorted narrative” on Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam is attracting enemies.

He accused Egypt of using its weapons to “threaten and tell other countries not to touch the shared water” and said “the way forward should be cooperation in a fair manner.”

He spoke amid renewed talks among Ethiopian, Sudanese and Egyptian water and irrigation ministers after months of deadlock. Ethiopia wants to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in the coming weeks, but Egypt worries a rapid filling will take too much of the water it says its people need to survive. Sudan, caught between the competing interests, pushed the two sides to resume discussions.

The general’s comments were a stark contrast to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s remarks to lawmakers earlier this week that diplomacy should take center stage to resolve outstanding issues.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone else, and at the same time it will be difficult for us to accept the notion that we don’t deserve to have electricity,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. “We are tired of begging others while 70% of our population is young. This has to change.”

Talks on the dam have struggled. Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry on Wednesday called for Ethiopia to “clearly declare that it had no intention of unilaterally filling the reservoir” and that a deal prepared by the U.S. and the World Bank in February serves as the starting point of the resumed negotiations.

Ethiopia refused to sign that deal and accused the U.S. of siding with Egypt.

Egypt said that in Tuesday’s talks, Ethiopia showed it wanted to re-discuss “all issues” including “all timetables and figures” negotiated in the U.S.-brokered talks.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi discussed the latest negotiations in a phone call with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, el-Sissi’s office said, without elaborating.

Egypt’s National Security Council, the highest body that makes decisions in high-profile security matters in the country, has accused Ethiopia of “buying time” and seeking to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in July without reaching a deal with Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia Seeks to Limit Outsiders’ Role in Nile Dam Talks (AFP)


Ethiopia sees the dam as essential for its electrification and development, while Sudan and Egypt see it as a threat to essential water supplies (AFP Photo)

AFP

Updated: June 11th, 2020

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia said Thursday it wants to limit the role of outside parties in revived talks over its Nile River mega-dam, a sign of lingering frustration over a failed attempt by the US to broker a deal earlier this year.

The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it nearly a decade ago.

Ethiopia sees the dam as essential for its electrification and development, while Sudan and Egypt see it as a threat to essential water supplies.

The US Treasury Department stepped in last year after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi put in a request to his ally US President Donald Trump.

But the process ran aground after the Treasury Department urged Ethiopia to sign a deal that Egypt backed as “fair and balanced”.

Ethiopia denied a deal had been reached and accused Washington of being “undiplomatic” and playing favourites.

On Tuesday Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan resumed talks via videoconference with representatives of the United States, the European Union and South Africa taking part.

The talks resumed Wednesday and were expected to pick up again Thursday.

In a statement aired Thursday by state-affiliated media, Ethiopia’s water ministry said the role of the outside parties should not “exceed that of observing the negotiation and sharing good practices when jointly requested by the three countries.”

The statement also criticised Egypt for detailing its grievances over the dam in a May letter to the UN Security Council — a move it described as a bad faith attempt to “exert external diplomatic pressure”.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reiterated Monday that his country plans to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in the coming weeks, giving the latest talks heightened urgency.

The short window makes it “more necessary than ever that concessions are made so a deal can be struck that will ease potentially dangerous tensions,” said William Davison of the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organisation.

One solution could involve Ethiopia “proposing a detailed cooperative annual drought-management scheme that takes Egypt and Sudan’s concerns into account, but does not unacceptably constrain the dam’s potential,” he said.

The EU sees the resumption of talks as “an important opportunity to restore confidence among the parties, build on the good progress achieved and agree on a mutually beneficial solution,” said spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson.

“Especially in this time of global crisis, it is important to appease tensions and find pragmatic solutions,” she said.

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Ethiopian-Eritrean Trhas Tafere Reflects on Africans’ Perspective on Race in America

The author of the following opinion article Trhas Tafere was born in Eritrea and moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia in 2013. She graduated in Spring 2020 from Utah State University with a degree in both anthropology and sociology and was the Anthropology Program’s Undergraduate of the Year. (TUS)

The Utah Statesman

By Trhas Tafere

Featured Guest Column: An African Immigrant’s Experiences Learning What It Means to be Black in America

In light of the civil unrest that is going on in this country, I want to focus on the unique experience of many African immigrants, like myself, who had no prior understanding of the history of racism and the seriousness of the issue in this nation. Many African immigrants have had to face some kind of discrimination to realize the complex nature of race relations in the United States, and to identify themselves as “Black.” African immigrants, like myself, go through a series of identity crises as we make the shift from being “proudly African” to a stage where the only way to navigate the system is by embracing “blackness” from the American point of view and accepting all of the negative consequences that come with it. This strategy requires being extremely cautious while also trying to prove the negative stereotypes wrong. There is a constant struggle– not to avoid being judged by the way we look, because we can’t escape from being judged any way — but to prove that such misconceptions are wrong, and it is exhausting.

Race is a purely social construction, meaning that there is nothing biological or genetic to the social categories that have been created. We know this because the categories and what they mean change over time, and they are different in different places. In Brazil, for instance, they have dozens of “racial” categories, and sometimes I wish there were “intermediate” categories in the US, that would take into consideration the diversity of what it is to be “Black.” Being Black in America, regardless of where you are from, means all of the stress ascribed to race, all of the stereotypes, stigma, and experiences that are related to what it is to be seen as Black by others, including the legacy of racism, even when my ancestors (who were never enslaved nor colonized) never experienced them. Aster Osburn, an Ethiopian immigrant like myself, recently talked about a painful and confusing transition of her identity in a public Facebook post (2020 June 7 https://www.facebook.com/aster.osburn). She says that “The raw truth is, I went through a phase where I denied my ‘blackness’ and uttered the words “I’m not black, I’m Ethiopian” … A few years of living here quickly taught me that being black was going to be a struggle. It meant now I would have to live a life not celebrating it but defending it. Oh, the identity after identity crisis I’ve gone through to tear down my mindset from celebrating blackness to learning its new meaning for my life.”

Such encounters might seem petty, but it has a big psychological impact when you have to deal with it daily.

My first encounter with this stigma was while I was still in my “proud African” phase, before I embraced my “blackness.” My 4-year-old daughter was told by a neighbor girl that she could not play with her due to her skin color. I didn’t take it seriously. I just told my daughter, “maybe the little girl has never seen Queen of Sheba, a beautiful African queen who looks like you before.” My daughter will never forget what this little girl told her, though. Such encounters might seem petty, but it has a big psychological impact when you have to deal with it daily. I am very glad that other mothers, who do not have Black children, will not have to go through this painful reality and I regret that my children will.

Read more »

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The Other Face of Privilege: An Ethiopian American Perspective by Amen Gashaw

Ethiopian Americans. (Photograph: Tadias archive)

Harvard Politics

By Amen Gashaw

The Other Face of Privilege

As a first-generation Ethiopian American who, while not overtly wealthy, has never worried about the status of her family’s financial stability, and as a resident of one of the most diverse regions in the country, racism had always felt like a distant concept. To my erroneously superficial understanding, while it did not seem as archaic as a mere relic of a bigoted history, I didn’t perceive racism to be of significant pertinence to our world. My neighbors thought I was Indian; waiters spoke to my mother in Spanish at restaurants, and more than half of my high school identified as a person of color, so for years, I’d unassumingly bubbled “Black” into standardized tests without truly internalizing the struggles that came with that label. Having never experienced or personalized the notion of racism and infrequently having been considered “Black” by my community upon first glance, I found myself in desperate need of the very re-education catered to many as “Dear White People.”

The inner dissonance I felt was not an individual occurrence. For a number of my close friends — many Black, all “minorities” — we collectively found that each of us felt relatively divorced from the intrinsic fear and dissatisfaction almost universal in the movement for racial justice. That is not to say that we were not angry — we were, but as objectively privileged spectators and critics of a blatantly unjust institution, rather than as victims of racially motivated prejudice.

To look at racism as an outsider, though, is to exclude oneself from a narrative that cares very little about personal experiences or perceptions. In truth, although relatively affluent people of color and children of immigrants may be brought up in environments starkly juxtaposing the African American canon, it is only a matter of time before one comes face to face with the experiential component of racial injustice. By then, every facet of the “privilege” found in such immigrant communities — exclusive cultural distinctions, communal disassociation, and microaggressive ignorance — will have been undermined by the harsh realities of a society that not only sees color but vilifies it.

Growing up, race was an almost nonexistent part of my socialization; after all, how could my parents teach me about a construct with which they, at least at the time, could not identify and were unfamiliar? As a second-generation immigrant, I had been conditioned to view myself as an exception to the racial “rules” that governed America. At home, I spoke Amharic with my parents, often ate traditional Ethiopian cuisine, wore uniquely “habesha” clothes on special occasions, and endured years of Amharic music blaring through our living room stereo. When out in public, there was an unmistakable camaraderie between my family and the odd Ethiopian passerby to whom we called “Selam” in unison. It would not be an understatement, then, to say that Black culture — vernacular English, hip hop, soul food — had no presence in my house, not out of intentional avoidance but because, truly, “Ethiopian American” and “African American” mean very different things.

This same cultural disconnect extends itself to the millions of other Black immigrants in the United States, a divide that continues to widen as the non-American-born Black population grows exponentially. As a result, key statistical differences arise between immigrant communities and their African American counterparts. The Pew Research Center found that Black immigrants are 37% more likely to have earned a college degree than African Americans. They are also 29% less likely to live in poverty, with incomes exceeding those of African Americans by an average of $10,000. These disparities are certainly not due to intrinsic racial inefficacy in the African American community, as has been falsely and maliciously suggested by proponents of “race science” for centuries. Instead, they can be extrapolated to indicate discrepancies in socioeconomic status, societal respect, and even deliberate moves by immigrants themselves to distinguish their communities from what Americans might view as conventionally “Black.”

Many immigrants and their children naturally segregate themselves in what are known as “ethnic enclaves” — a phenomenon that contributes to the perpetuation of both intentional divisions from mainstream America and subliminally developed prejudices against American-born Black people. On several occasions, I’ve heard immigrant-born adults in my own life simultaneously delineate themselves from and speak pejoratively against African Americans, resorting to the stereotypical and substanceless derogations pinned on the Black community by centuries of de facto American culture: lack of education, cyclical poverty, unkempt hair and dress, salacious and libertine lifestyles.

Due to their disparate cultural environments and tendency to self-isolate, many immigrants are often wealthier, unaccustomed to racial friction in their home countries, and unable to own the history of Black America, from slavery to segregation. Such differences, however, become problematic when used as justification for actively pandering to and perpetuating negative societal perceptions of the African American community. In doing so, immigrants, especially African immigrants, become free riders on the wave of progress towards equality, failing to recognize the grave threat racism poses to their livelihoods as people of color. Unfortunately, whether it manifests itself as higher socioeconomic status, elevated expectations of achievement, or subconscious biases developed against those also considered “Black,” privilege blinds many to the inescapable truth that racism and society’s resultant discrimination of BIPOC, ironically, does not discriminate.

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A Look Back at Susan Rice’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Diplomacy: (US Election Update)

Former White House national security adviser Susan Rice is among a short list of people who are being highly considered to become a Vice-presidential candidate in the 2020 U.S. election. Below is an opinion article in support of her selection by former congressman Tom Campbell, who is now a professor of law and economics at Chapman University in California. (AP photo)

TOM CAMPBELL | Orange County Register

Susan Rice is being prominently mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick by Joe Biden.

Rice is the former national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama. She was also the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs under President Clinton. I served on the Africa Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee during Rice’s time overseeing American-African policy.

Most relevantly, my wife (at her own expense) and I traveled to Eritrea and Ethiopia several times during those years, and returned to teach at the University of Asmara in Eritrea on two other occasions. We became closely informed of the circumstances surrounding the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian War and Rice’s remarkable role in ending it. Her involvement illustrated talents and virtues disappointingly rare in United States diplomacy today. She cared about the region. She became thoroughly informed about the individuals and the issues. She built alliances. She brought peace.

Eritrea is located on Africa’s Red Sea coast. The name is Greek for “red.” It was ruled by emirs with local authority under the loose control of the Ottoman Empire until the Italian occupation in 1889. The Italian government had signed a treaty with the emperor of Ethiopia conferring sovereignty over Eritrea, although it was not clear that the land was the Ethiopians to give. Italy built up a colony from the Red Sea port of Massawa to the capital city of Asmara, more than a mile higher and 70 miles away, connected by a road, railroad and overhead cable system that was an engineering miracle.

Mussolini used this infrastructure for his invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. When World War II commenced, British troops defeated the Italians and took control of Ethiopia. The British occupation continued until 1952, when Eritrea was amalgamated with Ethiopia and turned over to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

As Ethiopia fell under the control of a Communist government in 1974, an Eritrean independence movement grew in popular support. The anti-Communist forces in Eritrea and in Ethiopia coordinated their military and guerilla activity and were eventually successful in 1991. As part of the understanding between the liberation forces, Eritrea was given the chance to separate from Ethiopia once the Ethiopian government changed, and Eritrea did so by popular referendum in 1993.

Some irritants lingered from the 1936-1993 Ethiopian dominance over Eritrea. The separation of Eritrea left Ethiopia without a coast, even though Ethiopia had invested millions of dollars building modern port facilities on the Red Sea. Eritrea stopped using Ethiopian currency, ending the advantage Ethiopian exporters had in selling their goods to Eritrea. The border was never precisely defined, and when Ethiopia moved an administrative office into a disputed border town, Eritrea responded with military force. War broke out in May 1998 and continued until December 2000, killing close to 100,000 people.

Susan Rice became America’s top diplomat for Africa seven months before the war started. Immediately upon taking office, Rice had made personal contacts with both countries’ leaders, and with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, whose army was the strongest in central Africa and whose prestige had been established by ending the Rwandan genocide. When war commenced, Rice involved Kagame as an African head of state whom both sides respected, who could propose an African solution. The two sides agreed to a cease fire and international commissions to settle the boundary and other claims. The shooting ended in the last days of Clinton’s presidency.

Susan Rice had, essentially, spent her entire time in that administration trying to end the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. Rice displayed strengths an American leader should possess today. She was well informed, relied on allies and acted for humanitarian purposes. America could have looked away. We did in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. But Susan Rice refused to do so, when she was in a position to influence events in a part of the world most everyone else ignored.

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WHO Director: U.S. Ignoring Global Health

An employee with the Sao Paulo state government works near a screen showing a World Health Organization dashboard on the coronavirus outbreak around the world on June 23. (Reuters photo)

The Washington Post

Opinion by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

July 1, 2020

I’m director-general of the WHO. The U.S. is turning its back on global health.

The United States has been a vital partner to the World Health Organization since its creation in 1948. Together, we have worked to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

If the United States steps back on that essential work, we shouldn’t just think in terms of who will be hurt but also what will be lost. Why? Because the consequences affect everyone.

The covid-19 pandemic has starkly revealed how we need more international cooperation to address global health crises, not less. Not only are we far from addressing all the risks that this insidious virus presents, but the vast majority of people remain susceptible to infection.

Consider the vital role that international cooperation is already playing around the development of a covid-19 vaccine. This began almost as soon as the coronavirus’s sequence was shared online, and there are now 141 vaccines in development. Leading candidates may be only months from success. Of course, there is no guarantee of full protection, but we are hopeful.

Read more »

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Elias Wondimu on Racial Inequality in Publishing

Elias Wondimu is the CEO and President of TSEHAI Corp. Since the 2011 closure of Howard University Press, TSEHAI is the only African or African-American publisher housed in an American or European university. In this unique position, Wondimu plays a crucial role in filling the global knowledge gap on Ethiopia and Africa. (LA Review of Books)

LA Review of Books

By Elias Wondimu

Racial Inequality in Publishing and #BlackPublishingPower

Amistad Books’ Black Publishing Power Initiative encourages everyone to purchase two books written by Black authors during the week of June 13 through June 20, 2020. This is a good start, but it is only a start.

The social media initiative of #BlackPublishingPower responds to centuries of patent inequality in the publishing industry. The call to amplify Black voices through institutions that have historically suppressed them follows a three-week period of Black Lives Matter protests, both nationwide and international, in response to the murder of George Floyd. And it has already led to a record-setting accomplishment in the publishing world; all top 10 books on The New York Times’s nonfiction bestseller list were related to the subject of antiracist activism. The issue of racial inequality is not new, and neither is the call to allyship. Yet the degree to which people are responding to that call, at least online, is unprecedented and overwhelming.

Whether you are new to the work of antiracism or not, it is imperative to understand the imbalance of power White writers and publishers have created and sustained in the history of knowledge creation, and why buying two books by Black authors is not all we should be doing to combat it. The racial injustices that we are still fighting today reach back to the establishment of the days of Gutenberg, when knowledge production began on a mass scale in Europe.

The number of books written about Africa and its inhabitants increased along with the total number of books being printed, but the “experts” in the subject remained White European males with an agenda. When we talk about Blackness and the continent of Africa, our perceptions and beliefs are rooted in texts that promoted the subjugation of Black people for economic purposes. The ability to exploit and enslave populations of African people was carefully devised and upheld by the same voices that crafted false narratives in order to devalue the lives of African and non-White people.

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Dr. Asefa Jejaw Mekonnen: Op-Ed on COVID-19 Phase 3 Vaccine Studies

Asefa Mekonnen, MD, FCCP, is a pulmonologist in active practice as a partner at Rockville Internal Medicine Group in Rockville, Maryland. He also serves as an Investigator with Meridian Clinical Research to oversee clinical trials. (Courtesy photo)

By Dr. Asefa Jejaw Mekonnen

As COVID-19 Phase 3 Vaccine Studies Begin, We Must Improve Minority Participation in Clinical Trials

The minority community’s relationship with the medical and scientific world has not been built upon trust. This is particularly true with African Americans. Brutal and unethical historical practices in medicine subjected African American bodies to dissection and autopsy material without their consent. In addition, sterilizing Native American women without their consent, and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, led to a justifiable fear and luck of trust by people of color regarding clinical trial participation in the U.S.

Recent publications have also indicated African Americans are overly represented in experimental and procedural studies that did not require informed consent. These are studies conducted under emergency situations when subjects cannot make an informed decision. Part of the explanation given was that African Americans represent the largest proportion of geographical catchment in areas where such experiments are done. These are primarily in inner city metro areas where academic medical centers are located. On the contrary, African Americans constituted less than 5% of patients in cancer related clinical trials that led to 24 of the cancer drugs approved between 2015 and 2018. The underrepresentation of African American in oncological clinical trials extends to cancers that have higher rates of occurrence in the African American community. If we follow the same logic for studies that did not require consent, studies on medical conditions that affect African Americans at a disproportionately higher rate (like multiple myeloma) should have a proportionate or higher ratio of African American subjects in the clinical trial.

The system is not serving justice and must change. Clinical trials can provide earlier access to care options that can prolong life and prevent disease.

Opinions differ in terms of the benefit of vaccines to society. I strongly believe in the positive impact of vaccines. The world eradicated small pox and controlled polio, measles, yellow fever, pertussis, etc., with vaccine intervention. We must remember how human health was affected in the pre-vaccine era, when millions died with each major epidemic.

I grew up in a developing nation where infectious disease accounts for the majority of preventable deaths. I witnessed first-hand the impact of mass vaccination. I cannot imagine what the population demography would have looked like if public health was not armed with mass vaccination strategies for major childhood illnesses. As we progress in the fight against COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine would give us the means to resume normal life.

Vaccine trials will show the result of preventing disease, or modifying the course of a disease, in a population that has the highest burden of disease. People at the highest risk of the disease — like healthcare workers, frontline workers, and African American and Hispanic communities — must be included in the study design that identifies requirements for participating in the trial. But protocols will not increase participation in the study unless the trust and fear barriers for clinical trial participation are addressed.

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, early educational intervention to the underrepresented African American and Hispanic communities can improve the knowledge gap. Logistical factors that will curtail access to clinical research sites have to be considered. For example, trial managers should think about creating access to transportation, or taking clinical trial sites to where the target cohorts reside.

While building trust takes a long time, involvement of nonmedical community leaders to champion care in their respective communities will have a positive influence. Primary care physicians who have longstanding relationships with communities should be involved in recruitment and the explanation of research protocols as they have built rapport with their communities.

Having quantitatively and qualitatively proportionate racial, cultural, and ethnic representation on the team of clinical investigators — and among the teams who monitor the observance of rules of clinical investigation — can couple with a compassionate support staff during clinical trials to improve the trust factor. While medicine is a universal human science that assumes each of us should have commitment and care based on our common humanity, historical reasons in America have made race a major factor in care delivery. As such, we must bridge the gap so the community that needs care the most can benefit from early clinical trials and scientific progress to change the course of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Marcus Samuelsson On Showing Up For The Black Community

Marcus Samuelsson is a James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur with numerous restaurants around the world. He is best known for Red Rooster, in Harlem, New York.

By Marcus Samuelsson as told to Nikki Vargas

Staying put to support those who live and work in the city, even during the pandemic.

This pandemic is the hardest thing that has ever hit me, my family, and all of us, because it’s such an unknown entity. We’ve lost co-workers, we’ve lost people in our communities that have been working and contributing for decades. I can’t even put it in words. That first or second week in March was very rough. We closed within the first 10 days. What I thought about right away was, what’s going to happen to my staff? In Scandinavia, I didn’t have to worry so much because there’s a working system that takes care of unemployment—it’s not something we have to recreate during a pandemic.

All other countries in the world that we like to compare ourselves with have a working unemployment system, so building it as we’re trying to figure everything out is very difficult. There are basic fundamental things this pandemic has shown that we need in a government. We need a right-size government, and we need a smart government. Not a government that just says all kinds of stuff, leaving us to figure out which one of those things matter and are of value.

I’m a chef that didn’t go anywhere. I stayed in Harlem. I stayed in New York to fight the pandemic. I say that because when you’re in it, when you see it every day, when you walk to work, it changes you. You can’t unsee what this does to you. When people say New York has emptied out, it hasn’t emptied out. If you go to the Bronx, if you go to Harlem, that’s where a lot of blue-collar workers live. America has been kept together by the essential workers like nurses, grocery-store workers, and people working on minimum wage. We owe that segment of the population a lot. It’s these people that have stayed here and worked to keep this city and country together.

We pretty quickly made the decision to turn our restaurants into community kitchens. Having the partnership with World Central Kitchen and José Andrés made it possible. This week we’ve served 50,000 meals to the neediest in Newark, Miami, and Harlem. With community kitchens, there’s a different level of service versus coming and sitting at the restaurant. But the steps of service are so similar, I knew from a hospitality and functionality level that we could deliver. What I love about the art of cooking is it’s applicable to the most basic and fundamental need to eat, but also to the most beautiful and esoteric art forms. This time, it was about figuring out how to feed the masses.

Read more »


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The African American Freedom Struggle & Ethiopia’s War Against Fascism

Emperor Haile Selassie stands with Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY), pastor of the church, during visit to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem area of New York City on May 30, 1954. (AP photo)

Quartz Africa

By Zecharias Zelalem

The Intertwined Histories of the African American Freedom Struggle and Ethiopia’s War Against Fascism

The uproar from the horrific murder of 46-year old African American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25 continues to reverberate globally, as African Americans continue to take to the streets in a stand against racism and police brutality. But in Ethiopia, public expressions of solidarity with marchers in America are few and far between.

Chapters from Ethiopia’s storied resistance against fascism show how the United States’ Black Lives Matter movement should resonate much more strongly with Ethiopians, young and old.

There is a history that links the African American history of resistance to the African anti-colonial effort in response to the Europe’s 19th century “Scramble for Africa.” The founding fathers of many a Black liberation movement took inspiration in the resilience of a faraway Black African country which successfully fended off military aggression from colonial Italy.

Ethiopia, known then as Abyssinia, secured international recognition of its territorial sovereignty after it defeated Italy in 1896’s Battle of Adwa. That battlefield coup culminated in the end of a campaign which the New York Times described at the time as “one of the most disastrous in which the Italians arms have ever taken part.” Ethiopian forces routed the invaders on the mountains of Adwa.

The stunning defeat sent shockwaves around the world, especially for those who had deemed Africans little more than slave labour for the economic machinery of the colonial powers, or “undisciplined savages” as defeated Italian general Oreste Baratieri had dubbed them.

The events of 1896 had an impact far beyond Ethiopia. The colors of the Ethiopian flag, green yellow and red, became the collective banner for pan-Africanism, a rallying symbol for the pioneers of African resistance. Half a century later, dozens of newly independent African states adopted the colors as part of their national flags.

Ideological fruits were born from seeds sowed at the Battle of Adwa. Those seeds sprouted across the Atlantic too, where African Americans were subjugated by Jim Crow laws and institutional white supremacy. Black nationalists drew inspiration from they saw as a similar underdog-type struggle for Ethiopia against the European powers. The Universal Negro Improvement Association, a leading pan-African organization, named as an official organization anthem “Ethiopia, Thou Land of Our Fathers.” The writer of the song, Harlem resident and renowned musician Josiah Ford, later took up on the offer to migrate to Ethiopia.

African Americans rallied in support of Ethiopia when forty years later, news of an impending second Italian invasion first made the rounds. Prime minister Benito Mussolini’s warmongering heightened tensions between Harlem’s Black and Italian communities. As Ethiopia’s fall was portrayed as the extinguishing of a flame that lit across the African diaspora, news of atrocities including the Italian Air Force’s indiscriminate bombing campaign provoked an intense fury among African Americans. There is evidence a boycott of Italian products, among other efforts was launched. Protests were organized.

While Black-run newspapers, such as the Negro Liberator, highlighted atrocities committed in Ethiopia and reported extensively on pro Ethiopia demonstrations. The New York Times with the headline: “Mob of 400 Battles the Police in Harlem; Italian stores raided, man shot in crowd” used choice words like “mob” to describe pro-Ethiopia protesters.

A campaign to recruit volunteers to join the Ethiopian resistance recruited thousands, including at least 1,500 from Harlem alone and another 600 from Texas, according to newspaper clippings from the era. In the end, the US State Department prevented anyone from traveling, prohibiting participation of its citizens in foreign wars. But a few did, including renowned aviator John Robinson, who took charge of Ethiopia’s fledgling Air Force.

Ethiopian figures for its death toll from the invasion in 1935 up until the end of the occupation in 1941, are as high as half a million, mostly innocent civilians. Ethiopia was in no shortage of supporters in the United States, who played a significant role in voicing the plight of Mussolini’s victims in Ethiopia.

In 1954 recognizing this, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie visited Harlem to thank residents. According to an Associated Press photo caption: “An estimated 200,000 persons lined the streets to give the monarch a warm, noisy welcome during his first visit to Harlem. He presented to the church a gold processional cross made in Ethiopia, and was given an oil portrait of himself by Ivan Tate, African American artist.”

Renowned Ethiopian historian and author Bahru Zewde explained to Quartz Africa that during this visit, the Emperor donated an Ethiopian Orthodox Cross, a relic from his own church, to the Abyssinian Church of Harlem, which itself has a unique history that further intertwines the peoples of both countries.

“The Abyssinian Church of Harlem was founded by Ethiopian sailors and African Americans who refused to attend the segregated churches of the era,” Bahru explains. “So they founded their own independent church.”

Ethiopia has largely failed to nurture this history for its future generations. Regime change in Ethiopia would usher in leaders who sought above all to erase all positive mention of their predecessors from collective memory. As such, the communist military junta of Mengistu Hailemariam which overthrew the Emperor in 1974 made a concerted effort to erase a great deal of history linked to the ousted royal family.

The Derg military government rendered the valiant lobbying efforts of African American activists throughout the second Italo-Abyssinian war, a casualty of the change in this era. Had it not been for the efforts of historians like Bahru Zewde to preserve and archive them, a lot of what had been collectively forgotten, would have been lost. Ethiopians today have little or no knowledge about these events. Comments by Ethiopia’s prime minister a few years ago further confirmed this.

In June of 2018, while giving an address to members of Ethiopia’s arts community, prime minister Abiy Ahmed characterized African Americans as being “free but poor,” because of their unwillingness to “move on from the past.” The prime minister, who was born in 1976, disavowed the very real impact of intergenerational trauma, such a depiction of a people who enshrined Ethiopia’s six-year fight against fascism as their own, was insensitive.

Bahru Zewde believes the history points to Ethiopians having moral obligations they should own up to.

“In view of all these intimate historical links between Ethiopia and the black world in general and the African-American community in particular, Ethiopians should stand beside their African-American brothers and sisters in their struggle to achieve the equality and dignity that they so richly deserve.”

Read the full article at qz.com »


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An Open Letter to PM Abiy Ahmed Ali

The following open letter addressed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, is written by Lydia A. Gorfu, a second year medical student in the United States. (Photo by Aron simeneh)

Medium

By Lydia A. Gorfu

Dear Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali,

As a leader of an uncolonised African nation, you have tasted the pride that is within freedom. As a fighter at Badme, you have tasted the cost of peace. Your selection from a massive pool of billions, as a symbol, is indicative of your knowledge in fostering peace and promoting noble change worthy of recognition. Yet, we are still waiting for words of wisdom, waiting to hear you will stand with black people in the fight against racism in and beyond our border. I believe that there comes a huge responsibility with the Nobel Peace Prize, and I’m afraid that you are limiting your obligations by not expanding your influence globally. I understand that there are national matters that need your undivided attention and I am not by any means lowering the magnitude of that. However, during the fight against Fascist Italy, African Americans came to fight for our freedom, a freedom that you, myself and every Ethiopian have been privileged with. When we were in the midst of our own battles, our African American brothers and sisters selflessly gave aid to our cause, despite being in the midst of their own revolutions. Undoubtedly, because they understood that in order to defend themselves against the violence and abuse of segregation and slavery, that in uplifting and supporting fellow black men/women/nations, that they were ultimately uplifting themselves.

In our freedoms in an uncolonized African nation we have come a long way but still have further ways to go. You preach an ideology Medemer, in which you talk about unity and peaceful coexistence. Such unity and peace cannot coexist in a nation that separates itself from the world by ignoring current events. Your failure to unite with our fellow black people in a war against racism and terror is one in which we cannot accept. It is not only customary to practice what one preaches, but morally required as a public servant. “Does the Medemer philosophy only apply to your service to Ethiopia?”, “Do you not see yourself as a global citizen?”, “Will you continue to ignore current events?” These are all questions that I hope that you can look in your mirror and ask yourself, because the answer is quite simple — NO. I hope your reflection sparks your call to action. Your duty to be A VOICE. Your right to SPEAK UP and speak LOUDLY, against racism but most importantly in SYMBOL of peace for a country in flames. A county where thousands of our own live.

On December 10, 2019, you accepted your Nobel Peace Prize “in the name of those who stand for peace,” so I am not only reminding you, but charging you to put action to what you have been preaching since your inauguration. This charge to act, is one that I am confident that you can and will execute. Because, I have witnessed the strength of your leadership, when you successfully united the Ethiopian Diasporas for the cause of improving the lives of our Ethiopian people. You called and we responded by creating the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund. When you needed the diaspora, the diaspora was there for your cause. We made home in a land that is foreign to us to overcome the burden of life. We are being lynched in broad daylight because of the color of our skin. Yet, our leader that some said resembles Moses, has left us astray. In the time when we need you to speak the most you have chosen to stay quiet. In a time when you need to be on the side of peace you have decided to stay neutral. The Abiy I know would have marched with us. The Abiy I know would have spoken against white supremacy. The Abiy I know would have harvested the hope in my heart.

Read more »


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How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change: By Barack Obama

A young boy holds a "Justice" sign as he peers outside the window of a car passing protesters marching through downtown for a third night of unrest Sunday May 31, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia. (AP Photo)

Medium

By Barack Obama

As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.

Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.

First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

Read more »

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US heads into a new week shaken by violence and frustration

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — After six straight days of unrest, America headed into a new work week Monday with neighborhoods in shambles, urban streets on lockdown and political leaders struggling to control the coast-to-coast outpouring of rage over police killings of black people.

Despite curfews in big cities across the U.S. and the deployment of thousands of National Guard soldiers over the past week, demonstrations descended into violence again on Sunday.

Protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in Philadelphia, set a fire near the White House and were hit with tear gas and pepper spray in Austin, Texas, and other cities. Seven Boston police officers were hospitalized.

Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them first, police said. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.

In some cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and ran off with as much as they could carry, leaving shop owners, many of them just beginning to reopen their businesses after the coronavirus shutdowns, to clean up their shattered stores.

In other places, police tried to calm tensions by kneeling in solidarity with demonstrators.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Racial tensions were also running high after two white men were arrested in May in the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and after Louisville, Kentucky, police shot Breonna Taylor to death in her home in March.

The upheaval has unfolded amid the gloom and economic ruin caused by the coronavirus, which has killed over 100,000 Americans and sent unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Depression. The outbreak has hit minorities especially hard, not just in infections and deaths but in job losses and economic stress.

The scale of the coast-to-coast protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.

“They keep killing our people. I’m so sick and tired of it,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who was at a Boston protest with her mother Sunday, leading chants of “George Floyd, say his name!”

At the White House, the scene of three days of demonstrations, police fired tear gas and stun grenades Sunday into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park.

The crowd ran, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a street nearby. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the flames. A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office was burned down.

The district’s entire National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was called in to help control the protests, according to Pentagon officials.

As the unrest grew, President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton, who called for “overwhelming force” against violent demonstrators.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, visited the site of protests in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and talked to demonstrators. He also wrote a post online expressing empathy for those despairing about Floyd’s killing.

In New York, thieves raided luxury stores, including Chanel, Rolex and Prada boutiques. In Birmingham, Alabama, a Confederate statute was toppled.

In Salt Lake City, an activist leader condemned the destruction of property but said broken buildings shouldn’t be mourned on the same level as black men like Floyd.

“Maybe this country will get the memo that we are sick of police murdering unarmed black men,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. “Maybe the next time a white police officer decides to pull the trigger, he will picture cities burning.”

Thousands marched peacefully in Phoenix; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and other cities, with some calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and theft, saying the destruction weakens calls for justice and reform.

In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said t wo officers had been fired and three placed on desk duty after video showed police surrounding a car Saturday and using stun guns on the man and woman inside.

In Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground. Nearby in Santa Monica, not far from a peaceful demonstration, groups broke into stores, walking out with boxes of shoes and folding chairs, among other items. A fire broke out at a restaurant across the street. Scores of people swarmed into stores in Long Beach. Some hauled armloads of clothing from a Forever 21 store away in garbage bags.

In Minneapolis, the officer who pinned Floyd to the pavement has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding the three other officers at the scene be prosecuted. All four were fired.

“We’re not done,” said Darnella Wade, an organizer for Black Lives Matter in neighboring St. Paul, where thousands gathered peacefully in front of the state Capitol. “They sent us the military, and we only asked them for arrests.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers on Saturday to help quell violence that had damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Minneapolis over days of protests.

That appeared to help minimize unrest, but thousands marching on a closed freeway were shaken when a tractor-trailer rolled into their midst. No serious injuries were reported. The driver was arrested on suspicion of assault.

In tweets Sunday, Trump accused anarchists and the media of fueling violence. Attorney General William Barr pointed a finger at “far left extremist” groups. Police chiefs and politicians accused outsiders of causing the problems.


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Covid-19: Biden on Trump’s False Choice’

Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States. (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

By Joe Biden

How the White House coronavirus response presents us with a false choice

The coronavirus, to date, has taken the lives of more than 79,000 Americans. One of every 5 U.S. workers has filed for unemployment — with the unemployment rate now the highest since the Great Depression. It is an extraordinary moment — the kind that begs for urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.

But instead of unifying the country to accelerate our public health response and get economic relief to those who need it, President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy.

It’s a childish tactic — and a false choice that none of us should fall for.

The truth is that everyone wants America to reopen as soon as possible — claiming otherwise is completely absurd. Governors from both parties are doing their best to make that happen, but their efforts have been slowed and hampered because they haven’t gotten the tools, resources and guidance they need from the federal government to reopen safely and sustainably. That responsibility falls on Trump’s shoulders — but he isn’t up to the task.

It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” It was a baldfaced lie when he said it, and it still isn’t remotely true. If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing. Trump can’t seem to provide it — to say nothing of worker safety protocols, consistent health guidelines or clear federal leadership to coordinate a responsible reopening.

In addition to forgetting the tests, he seems to have forgotten that ours is a demand-driven economy — you can shout from the rooftops that we’re open for business, but the economy will not get back to full strength if the number of new cases is still rising or plateauing and people don’t believe that it’s safe to return to normal activities. Without measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many Americans won’t want to shop in stores, eat in restaurants or travel; small-business owners know that a nervous public won’t provide enough customers to ensure they thrive.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) began “reopening” his state’s dine-in restaurants on April 27 — 12 days later, according to data from restaurant-booking service OpenTable, there were still 92 percent fewer diners than there were on the same day a year ago. States and cities that have attempted to reopen are discovering that the economy isn’t a light switch you can simply flip on — people need confidence to make it run, and that confidence must be earned by credible leadership and demonstrable safety.

Again, the solution isn’t a mystery. The Trump administration could focus on producing and distributing adequate testing and protocols that conform with the guidance of public health experts; doing so would speed up the reopening process considerably and make it a whole lot more effective. The administration is fully aware that this is the right path, too — after all, the president and his staff are now reportedly receiving daily tests. They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it.

They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.

If Trump and his team understand how critical testing is to their safety — and they seem to, given their own behavior — why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?

And why does the president insist on trying to turn this into yet another line of division, pitting strained, grieving Americans against one another across manufactured battle lines of “health” and “the economy”? Everybody knows that we can’t revive the latter unless we safeguard the former — and pretending otherwise is the most transparent of political ploys. Instead of once again seeking to divide us, Trump should be working to get Americans the same necessary protections he has gotten for himself.

It’s the right thing to do, and the only path to truly getting the economy back on track.


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PM Abiy’s COVID-19 Op-Ed on WEF Blog

The following is an Op-Ed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urging developed countries to assist Africa during the Coronavirus crisis. (REUTERS photo)

World Economic Forum

By Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

How can the world help Africa through covid-19?

The world will not be free of the COVID-19 pandemic until all countries are free of the coronavirus that causes it. This simple fact underscores the urgent need for the Global Health Pledging Conference to be held on May 4. Only by acting now to support developing countries’ ability to combat the disease can the world avoid a second wave of the virus this autumn.

African Union leaders welcome the offers that are now coming in of test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) from the developed world. But if we are to turn the tide against COVID-19, the world’s richest countries must hear and respond to the developing world’s pleas for a comprehensive strategy to overcome the dual public-health and economic crisis we face.

Up to now, there has been a huge disconnect between the rhetoric of rich-country leaders – that this is an existential, once-in-a-century global crisis – and the support for the world’s poor and developing countries than they seem willing to contemplate. Indeed, until last week, African countries were spending more on debt payments than on health care.1

In 34 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 45 countries, annual per capita health spending is below $200 – and barely reaches $50 in many of these countries. Such low levels of spending make it impossible to fund acute-care hospital beds, ventilators, and the drugs needed to confront diseases like COVID-19. Paying for doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians, and other health professionals, together with their equipment, can seem almost like a luxury.

Worse yet, many of the measures available to richer economies as they work to mitigate the disease – lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and even frequent handwashing – cannot easily be implemented in much of the developing world. In often-overcrowded cities, social distancing is all but impossible, and there are not enough resources to provide adequate sanitation and, in many cases, the running water that people need.

So, what must be done? For starters, Africa’s governments need an immediate flow of funds to enable investment in health care and social safety nets. Here, the most effective starting point is debt relief. So far, relief from bilateral debt is available for the 173 members of the International Development Association (the World Bank’s concessional lending arm for the poorest developing countries) only until December. To meet our immediate needs and to plan ahead, we need an agreement for debt relief not just for this year but for next year as well.

Beyond debt relief, the grant and lending ceilings of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other multilateral development banks will need to be raised substantially. And an issuance of international money – the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights – to raise $1.5 trillion must take place soon.

We in Africa are asking for this support not only for ourselves, though our needs in this crisis are perhaps greater than they have ever been. We in Africa seek the help of the developed countries (including China) so that we can do our best to protect the entire world from a return of this scourge.

But time is short. Africa may be among the last places on Earth to be struck by COVID-19, but the disease remains as potent and deadly as ever. If we are to eliminate the threat, every country needs to do what it can to accelerate the search for a vaccine and ensure that it is available everywhere.

To that end, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations needs sufficient funding – $3 billion immediately, with more in 2021 and beyond – not only to develop and produce a vaccine for those who can afford it, but also to be in a position to distribute it equitably around the world. And Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance needs the funds to ensure that this happens.

Likewise, a coordinated global effort could greatly accelerate production of the PPE, testing kits, and ventilators that are needed in every country and on every continent, and ensure that these life-and-death supplies are fairly distributed, not hoarded by the rich and few. Countries that have few coronavirus cases and are beyond the pandemic’s peak should be willing to help poorer countries by sending lifesaving equipment to them. And, looking ahead, we should be building up stocks of these supplies for emergencies, so that we can help each other the next time we need help the most.

All of these issues are on the agenda for the Global Health Pledging event on May 4. We ask all countries in a position to do so to participate, to listen and advise, and, most important, to give.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/how-can-the-world-help-africa-through-covid-19/


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We Need Seismic Change, Right Now: by Marcus Samuelsson

Editor's Note: Marcus Samuelsson [owner of Red Rooster Harlem] is the author of multiple books, including "Yes, Chef" and "The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem." (CNN)

CNN

By Marcus Samuelsson

(CNN) - This past week has been the toughest of my career, as I’m sure is true for many of you. My city, New York, is under siege by this cruel and relentless virus. Most of my restaurants are now closed, other than the few mostly serving limited takeout and delivery. Millions of people in my industry are suddenly out of work, and no one knows when — or whether — relief will come.

I am a chef by training, and certainly not a policy expert, but I can share insights from three unique vantage points: 1) as someone who works and lives in the economically disadvantaged neighborhood of Harlem; 2) as a small-business owner who employs and works alongside the residents of my community; and 3) as an émigré who grew up in Sweden, which taught me valuable lessons in how a government can and should care for its own.

Let’s start with the first point. During this crisis, we need to be especially concerned about our nation’s food-insecure population — and think about nutrition the same way we think about health care. Food is as vital a resource as medicine. It’s clear that this virus is going to have a devastating impact on urban communities like mine. We have to ensure we’re not compounding that with the unnecessary deaths of our food-insecure neighbors.

For the past five years, through our Harlem EatUp! festival, we’ve partnered with Citymeals, which was already serving weekend, holiday and emergency meals to more than 18,000 homebound residents of Harlem and beyond, and now face a rapid increase in demand. Having joined on these meal deliveries with my friend and Citymeals board co-President Daniel Boulud, I can tell you that the recipients literally will not survive without those services.

We know the ranks of the food-insecure will grow exponentially in the weeks and months ahead. That’s why we’ve partnered with organizations such as José Andres’ World Central Kitchen to turn our restaurants into community kitchens.

But non-profits and restaurateurs can’t do this work alone. We need federal, state and local governments to support these efforts, in the same way they’re ramping up medical systems. My peers across the restaurant industry are clamoring for ways to help — and we need federal and local guidelines as well as funding to ensure our help is delivered safely, legally and effectively. All levels of government must step up, not just with money but with strategic assistance and direction.

To the second point: As a business owner with restaurants in eight different countries, I’m in the heartbreaking position of seeing thousands of employees forced to go on unemployment across the globe. In the United States, however, the benefits are far too low and don’t last nearly long enough. The American unemployment system is built to “tide you over” while you quickly find another job — it’s not designed to support you if no jobs are available because your industry no longer exists.

In this time of crisis, the federal government should immediately act to double the unemployment benefit for every affected American, extending the term from a length of varying weeks (most states offer 26 but some offer more or much less) to a standard of 200+ days (which, by the way, is what Sweden covers). Benefits should also be expanded to cover unemployed workers’ health coverage, be it COBRA payments or premiums. We must begin decoupling health care from our jobs — especially now that many of those jobs don’t exist.

Finally, we now have critical industries asking low-paid workers to continue working under dangerous circumstances. Not just our heroic health workers and first responders, but also the tireless grocery workers, the restaurant workers still handling takeout and delivery, the truck drivers hauling produce and countless others in the food industry. Without these critical links, our supply chain would fall apart, and the nation’s food system would collapse.

For this reason, the federal government must step in to protect our vulnerable food industry workers, by providing safety equipment, setting guidelines to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, and, most of all, by matching (i.e. doubling) wages to give our critical workers the financial support they desperately need and deserve. That family-run corner deli on my block? They don’t make a lot of money, but they’re a vital lifeline for our community — and in neighborhoods like ours, their value is a hundred times what they’re earning.

As you may have noticed, most of my proposed solutions call for more government action. That’s partly because I grew up in Sweden, where I learned the value of a government that offers help directly to its citizens — through smart, sustainable, sensible state-run programs — not just indirectly through banks and corporations, or relying on charities and non-governmental organizations to step in and fill the void. I chose long ago to become a US citizen and love this country dearly. But I can’t wonder how things might work if the wealthiest, most technologically advanced country in the world were a little more like Sweden.

The fact is, the same old fixes won’t work this time, if they ever really did. There’s no point in offering a restaurant a no-interest small-business loan when the restaurant industry may not survive in the first place. We need seismic change, and we need it right now. I know our politicians are working through the weekend to formulate another stimulus plan. Let’s make sure they don’t leave out the most important ingredient — helping the people who are truly in need.

Join me in reaching out to your elected officials to demand action. You can find them here.


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The United States Must Not Pick Sides in the Nile River Dispute: BY ADDISU LASHITEW

The writer of the following article, Addisu Lashitew, is a research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. (Photo: A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on Dec. 26, 2019/GETTY IMAGES)

Foreign Policy Magazine

BY ADDISU LASHITEW

Ethiopia and Egypt are at odds over a Nile dam. Washington should be helping them compromise, rather than doing Cairo’s bidding.

Egypt and Ethiopia have once again locked horns over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile. On Feb. 26, Ethiopia temporarily suspended its participation in the U.S.-mediated negotiations over the filling and operation of the GERD, requesting more time to deliberate on the draft agreement. With the dam 70 percent complete and its reservoir expected to start being filled in July, the time for reaching an agreement is ticking away. Ethiopia and Egypt should be ready to make significant concessions to avoid a catastrophic escalation in this seemingly intractable dispute.

The longest river in the world, the Nile stretches across 11 countries in its journey of 4,000 miles from the equatorial rivers that feed Lake Victoria to its final destination in the Mediterranean Sea. Among the countries that share the Nile, two have the most at stake. Egypt, a desert nation of 100 million people, is literally the creation of the Nile, relying on the river for 90 percent of its freshwater needs.

Ethiopia, an East African country of 112 million, contributes the lion’s share of the Nile waters, with its three tributaries—the Blue Nile, Sobat, and Atbara—carrying about 84 percent of the total runoff in the Nile. With a growing but otherwise resource-poor economy, Ethiopia is keen to develop its vast potential for hydroelectricity generationWith a growing but otherwise resource-poor economy, Ethiopia is keen to develop its vast potential for hydroelectricity generation in the Nile basin to become a regional hub of electric power exports.

The GERD, a $5 billion project that will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, is a part of that ambition. The dam is located on Ethiopia’s flank of the Blue Nile, just 12 miles from its border with Sudan. It will have paramount economic value to Ethiopia, doubling the country’s electricity generation capacity and earning as much as a billion dollars annually from energy exports to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, and potentially Egypt. The GERD’s massive reservoir will store 74 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water, roughly equal to a year-and-half’s worth of the Blue Nile’s flow, which will be gradually filled upon the dam’s completion.

The Blue Nile is highly seasonal, with 80 percent of its discharge occurring from July to October during the short rainy season on the Ethiopian highlands. This makes it prone to heavy flooding, while the heavy sedimentation it carries reduces hydropower production in dams with small reservoirs. The GERD will help mitigate this, leading to a regulated, steady flow that will improve navigation, irrigation, and hydropower generation downstream. Sudan, which does not have a major dam on the Nile, will enjoy most of these benefits, which explains its decision to side with Ethiopia for the first time in the history of Nile politics.

Egypt, however, has less to gain from these changes as it regulates the flow of the Nile using the massive reservoir of the Aswan High Dam, which has a capacity of 169 BCM. Egypt worries that an upstream dam on the Blue Nile, which contributes about 60 percent of the flow of the Nile, will reduce water supply and power generation at Aswan.Egypt worries that an upstream dam on the Blue Nile, which contributes about 60 percent of the flow of the Nile, will reduce water supply and power generation at Aswan. As a hydropower project, the GERD will not directly consume water once its reservoir is filled. It could, however, reduce the amount of water Egypt receives if it leads to a significant increase of irrigation in Sudan, which adds to Egypt’s worry.

In 2015, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt agreed on a Declaration of Principles that stipulated an “equitable and reasonable” utilization of the Nile that will not cause “significant harm” to other riparian countries. In spite of years of negotiations, however, they have made little progress in specifying the technical details on the filling and operating of the dam.

To safeguard its reservoir at Aswan, Egypt wants to secure an agreement that binds Ethiopia to releasing a fixed amount of the river’s flow and a process for monitoring Ethiopia’s compliance. Ethiopia, on the other hand, seeks to avoid a permanent commitment for a water quota that extends beyond the GERD’s filling period and demands a flexible agreement with a provision for periodic reviews. Behind the facade of legal wrangling, the scope for a future Nile project is at stake. Ethiopia wants to avoid an agreement that restricts its capacity to harness its massive hydropower potential of about 45,000 megawatts; Egypt wants exactly such a restriction.

The negotiations gained momentum in November 2019 after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on U.S. President Donald Trump to help broker an agreement. The foreign and water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have held a series of meetings in Washington since December and met Trump at the White House. What the United States wants to accomplish through its involvement, however, is not clear and appears to be inspired more by Trump’s desire to broker a deal than by a foreign policy imperative.

In a recent speech on the campaign trail, Trump implied that he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his brokering role in the Nile dispute. The negotiations were also coordinated by the Department of the Treasury, sidelining the State Department, which possesses the appropriate expertise for this kind of engagement. The Treasury Department serves as the U.S. governor to the International Monetary Fund, which, along with the World Bank, has committed significant resources to aid Ethiopia’s reform efforts under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The intent behind the involvement of the Treasury and the World Bank, therefore, seems to be stepping up pressure on Ethiopia by signaling the financial costs of recalcitrance.

Ethiopia’s withdrawal has left the negotiations in limbo at a critical time. The country’s foreign ministry has expressed its disapproval of the draft agreement, characterizing it as “unacceptable & highly partisan,” while Egypt has noted that it signed the agreement at a meeting where Ethiopia was not present. Instead of helping resolve these differences, the U.S. Treasury released a statement that argued that the draft agreement “addresses all issues in a balanced and equitable manner” and warned Ethiopia that “final testing and filling [of the GERD] should not take place without an agreement.”

To Ethiopia, this seemed to confirm the longstanding fear that the United States has been a biased mediator. David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, argues that “the United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, argues that “the United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.” Ethiopian analysts interpret U.S. overreach in the Nile negotiations as an overture to appease Egypt in the context of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which has been roundly rejected by Arab nations. While there is no hard evidence, a backroom deal of this sort would not be inconceivable considering Trump’s closeness with Sisi, whom he was overheard calling his “favorite dictator” during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. After the Nile negotiations stalled, Trump reportedly made a phone call to reassure Sisi that he would continue with his mediation effort.

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Ethiopia Won’t be Forced by US on Dam, Foreign Minister Says (Associated Press)

Ethiopia says Trump got inaccurate information on Nile dam (AP)

Nile Dam: Ethiopia Calls US View “Totally Unacceptable (BBC)

Ethiopia Skips Nile Talks in DC (AP)

Ethiopia asks U.S. to postpone final talks on Blue Nile dam (Reuters)

Why Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan should ditch a rushed, Washington-brokered Nile Treaty (Brookings)

Ethiopia says US plans ‘substantial financial support’ (AP)

U.S. to offer financial support for Ethiopia political reforms -PM (Reuters)

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Why Ethiopia & Egypt Shouldn’t be Coerced Into A Nile Dam Agreement in DC

"America’s significant [financial] leverage over Ethiopia could provide U.S. President Trump with a chance to push for a treaty to prove his deal-making prowess...This proposal is likely to cause many years of delay in the filling period of the dam’s reservoir [small amount of water restricted to the Ethiopian winter months of July and August]. Moreover, this restriction could prevent Ethiopia from starting other projects along the Nile" (Reuters photo)

Brookings

By Addisu Lashitew

Why Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan should ditch a rushed, Washington-brokered Nile Treaty

The ambitious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a point of contention among Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in recent years. The GERD is now 70 percent complete, and its reservoir expected to start being filled in the rainy season of 2020. The three countries, however, have not yet reached an agreement on the process of filling and operating it in spite of years of negotiations.

These tensions are not new: The Nile has been a cause of antagonism between Ethiopia and Egypt for centuries. The Blue Nile, which flows from the Ethiopian highlands, contributes to more than half of the annual flow of the Nile (the remaining coming from the White Nile, which flows from Lake Victoria, and Atbara/Tekeze, which also flows from Ethiopia). The rich sedimentation that is carried by the seasonal flow of the Blue Nile has been the mainstay of Egyptian agriculture for millennia. Since the times of the pharaohs, therefore, Egyptians have been wary of an upstream dam that would strangle the flow of the Nile.

Modern Egypt has used legal, political, and military means to protect its access to the flow of the Nile, the only source of fresh water for its almost 100 million inhabitants. The fact that the former prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, launched the GERD—which will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa—in 2011, when Egypt was internally fractured by a revolution, also attests to the lack of trust between the two major riparian countries.

Egypt’s claims of a historical right to the waters of the Nile have been challenged by Ethiopia and other upstream countries that demand a more equitable utilization of the river. After extensive dialogue, 10 riparian countries formed the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999; however, this multilateral approach for developing the Nile has been stalled by Egypt’s insistence to maintain a veto power on future upstream projects, though it is a part of the initiative. It is in this context that Ethiopia unilaterally launched the GERD in 2011.

THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE NEGOTIATIONS AROUND GERD

As a hydro project, the GERD will not lead to additional water consumption in Ethiopia, but will reduce the flow of the Nile until its reservoir is filled. Thus, Ethiopia has been negotiating with the two downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt, on the pace of filling the reservoir. After failing to make progress for many years, the negotiations picked up momentum after Egypt’s President al-Sisi invited the U.S. to be a broker in November 2019. The foreign and water ministers of the three countries have held a series of meetings since December 2019 in Washington, D.C.— some of which were attended by the president of the World Bank, David Malpass, and the U.S. treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. The latest of these meetings came to an end without an agreement on February 13 and is expected to be followed by another round.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who is visiting Ethiopia this week, is likely to make a final push to get Ethiopia to sign on to a proposed Nile Treaty. The U.S. is a major security and development ally of Ethiopia, dolling out more than a billion dollars’ worth of development assistance every year. America’s significant leverage over Ethiopia could provide U.S. President Trump with a chance to push for a treaty to prove his deal-making prowess once again. In the wake of his controversial peace plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Trump might be keen to strengthen his friendship with Egypt by resolving this thorny issue.

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Related:

Ethiopia says US plans ‘substantial financial support’ (AP)

U.S. to offer financial support for Ethiopia political reforms -PM (Reuters)

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Prosperity Party is Good News for Ethiopia

"The new party is a positive step towards ending ethnic strife in the country," argues Yohannes Gedamu, a lecturer of Political Science at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, GA, US. (Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the creation of the Prosperity Party in November 2019/AP photo)

Al Jazeera

By Yohannes Gedamu

Why Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party is Good News for Ethiopia

In November, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed established a new pan-Ethiopian political party. It brings together three of the four ethnic-based parties that make up the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition and five other smaller parties that were previously condemned to the periphery of the country’s political scene.

The establishment of the Prosperity Party (PP) only a few months before the May 2020 general election caused much controversy across the country, with even some in the upper echelons of Abiy’s own government criticising the move.

Nevertheless, many Ethiopians appear to be pleased with the merger, seeing it as an opportunity to unite the country and resolve its many deep-rooted problems. Indeed, it is difficult to deny that a pan-Ethiopian party led by people who have ample experience and significant public support has the unprecedented potential to address major challenges like growing ethnic polarisation and violence.

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Prominent Abiy Critic Says to Stand in Ethiopia Election (AFP)

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Stand With Ethiopian Churches as They Are Attacked – WaPo Letter to the Editor

Father Assefa, 64, has climbed a 1,000-foot cliff to reach the Abuna Yemata Guh church every day for 50 years. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

By Letters to the Editor

The Dec. 2 article and photographs “Climbing to the church in the sky” [The World] gave a glimpse of Ethiopia’s long Christian history and its unique sites of worship. The 100-plus rock-hewn churches in the northern part of the country are truly fascinating for their style, spirituality, artworks and treasures. Century after century, and despite numerous challenges that included foreign military invasions, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has preserved the integrity of most of its historic holy sites.

Churches such as Abuna Yemata Guh and similar religious sites around the world are part of the global human heritage whose preservation and well-being should be the concern of all nations. Lately, however, there were shocking acts of violence against Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia that claimed many lives. Several churches were burned down along with their treasures. The unprovoked attacks, although confined to a few regions, should not be ignored. Those who instigated and carried out the attacks should face the law for their unspeakable acts of crime. Sadly, the prime minister of Ethiopia, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and his government showed disturbing indifference toward the blatant violence and tragic losses.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has made significant contributions to Christianity, global history, knowledge and literature. Innocent civilians who were attacked only for being Christians deserve justice. I hope and trust that all fair-minded and peace-loving people will stand with the church and its followers during these challenging times.

Tewodros Abebe, Accokeek

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Related:

60 Minutes Features Historic Lalibela

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World Needs More Ethiopia & Less Exxon

Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, planting a tree in Addis Ababa. (Image: Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia)

Corporate Knights

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for ending a multi-decade war with Eritrea. Equally notable, he made one of the boldest moves of any world leader yet to end the war on nature. On a single day on July 29, he led a blitz to plant 353 million trees (part of a larger program to plant 4 billion), for an estimated cost of US$548 million, representing almost 1% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product.

To put that number in perspective, if a rich country like Canada were to invest 1% of its GDP planting new trees over a period of just eight years, it could remove up to half of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) that have been deposited by humankind in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Former ExxonMobil scientist Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham also won a Nobel prize this year for his pioneering work in the development of the lithium-ion battery for the company in the 1970s. In its citation for the prize, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said: “This light-weight, rechargeable and powerful battery is now used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. It can also store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society.”

For whatever reason, after Whittingham’s initial breakthrough, Exxon put the rechargeable battery project on ice, citing high manufacturing costs and safety concerns.

That wasn’t the only time Exxon scientists developed potential breakthrough technologies to decarbonize the global economy. Exxon holds more low-carbon patents than any company on the planet, according to a Chatham House report.

Exxon’s annual sales are more than triple Ethiopia’s GDP. One wonders how different the world would be had the company invested its vast resources in a better future rather than holding it back. Exxon’s shareholders should be asking this question too. Over the past 10 years, Exxon’s stock has been a dog, returning just one dollar for every six generated by an equivalent investment in the broader U.S. stock market.

The reason for this is the best news possible: economics. The low-carbon way is now the better, cheaper way. This is true across a host of critical technologies from electric vehicles to renewable power and storage.

To wit: A recent report by BNP Paribas Asset Management (which has US$469 billion in assets under management) found that oil needs a long-term breakeven price of $10–$20 per barrel to remain competitive in mobility, which accounts for more than a third of demand for crude oil. The report concludes the “economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered electric vehicles are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.”

It’s good news that investors are waking up to the greatest threat to humanity, and even better news that it is for economic reasons, as that suggests the possibility of a massive scale-down of financing of climate problems in favour of climate solutions. But it’s not happening fast enough.

It’s as if our house is on fire and we are waiting for the boxing day sale on sprinklers.

We need to turn the firehose on. For decades, dealing with climate change (now a climate emergency) has been a massive collective action problem with little incentive to be a first mover, because it has been viewed as an environmental problem. Any single actor (with the exception of China or the U.S.) could not hope to make more than a dent on their own, and the benefits would not be reaped for decades into the future.

But when viewed through the lens of economics, the first mover disadvantage becomes an advantage. Those who lead the race to the rising low carbon economy stand to reap the biggest gains.

Which brings us to Canada, eh. With our energy industry on the ropes and struggling to remain relevant in what Shell CEO Ben van Beurden describes as a “lower forever” oil price world, the sooner we change our mindset to see the low-carbon economy as something to fight for rather than against the better.

Ditto for the rest of our economy — from the beleaguered internal combustion auto sector and energy-inefficient heavy industry to buildings and the balkanized electrical grid — embracing the opportunities of a low-carbon economy could bring our country together instead of driving it apart.

But it will take a serious chunk of change: about $300 billion over the next six years, according to The Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity, a Corporate Knights report for the Council for Clean Capitalism.

The simplest most effective way to move Canada to the front of the global low-carbon economic expansion would be for the federal government to initiate a large clean stimulus package backed by an annual $50 billion green bond program that would provide grants for businesses to deploy climate solutions.

As the global economy enters a period of contraction, the timing for such a stimulus could not be better.

Using the best models available, such a bold move could add as many as 900,000 jobs and $700 billion of GDP growth over six years.

Unlike Ethiopia we have abundant means to do this. A $300 billion pot of free money would focus the imagination of Canadian businesses. We should not underestimate our ability to capitalize on the awesome low-carbon growth opportunity.


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Rewriting NYT’s Ethiopia Headline on PM Abiy’s Nobel Peace Prize

Below is an excerpt from an opinion article published this week by The New York Times reviewing PM Abiy Ahmed's Nobel Peace Prize. The piece titled "Abiy Ahmed Won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now He Needs to Earn It," is very reflective and fair but we would only argue that Abiy has more than earned the peace prize with what he accomplished when he took over and stopped the massive uprising from becoming an ethnocentric nightmare. The title could have been - "Abiy Ahmed Won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now He Needs to Keep It!" By moving forward with the single most difficulty - addressing ethnic federalism (something we saw come into existence in our generation and utterly dangerous). Abiy didn't create these issues and it's up to the entire nation to help see his vision of multicultural co-existence come true. Abiy embodies it. It's time we all should. (Getty Images)

The New York Times

Some honors come too late; others too early. Others still risk scuttling the efforts they are rewarding.

Last week Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for, the Nobel committee said, “his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea” and starting “important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future.”

Since coming to power in April 2018, Mr. Abiy has taken Ethiopia on a political roller coaster. His administration started rapprochement with Eritrea after nearly two decades of stalemate — following a vicious war from 1998 to 2000 and a peace treaty — which some have called a state of “no war–no peace.” He has had tens of thousands of political prisoners released, has invited back banned political parties and armed groups, has apologized for human rights violations, has revoked repressive laws, has started to open up the economy and has appointed women to leading positions in government.

One could argue that not since Mikhail Gorbachev — another Nobel Peace Prize laureate — introduced glasnost to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s has any country embarked on such radical reforms. But a lot more needs to happen before Mr. Abiy can deliver on his pledges, and for ordinary Ethiopians his efforts so far have been a white-knuckle ride.

Read more »


Related:

Why I Nominated Abiy Ahmed for the Nobel Peace Prize

PM Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize is deserved, but he still has work to do (WaPo Editorial)

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Susan Rice Has Spent Her Career Fighting off Detractors: WaPo on Her Memoir

Former national security adviser Susan Rice at her Washington home last month. Her memoir, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” is being published this week. (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Susan Rice has spent her career fighting off detractors: ‘I inadvertently intimidate some people, especially certain men’

She should have listened to her mother.

“Why do you have to go on the shows?” Lois Dickson Rice asked her daughter, Susan, in September 2012 “Where is Hillary?”

Susan Rice was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, equipped with a gold-standard Washington résumé — Stanford, Rhodes scholar, Oxford doctorate, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She explained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “wiped after a brutal week.” The Obama White House asked Rice to appear “in her stead” on all five Sunday news programs.

It was days after attacks in Libya killed four U.S. officials.

“I smell a rat,” said her mother, a lauded education policy expert. “This is not a good idea. Can’t you get out of it?”

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous,” Rice said. “I’ve done the shows. It will be fine.”

Well, no, it was not.

Benghazi became the millstone in Rice’s stellar career. It stopped her from succeeding Clinton.

Criticism of Rice was relentless… The scrutiny lasted through multiple congressional investigations.

The aftermath took a punishing toll on Rice’s family and professional reputation, she reveals in her frank new memoir, “Tough Love.” The book also explores how, despite Rice’s many accomplishments during two administrations, she attracted criticism for her brusque manner. And Rice faces an extra challenge — she’s been forced to grapple with whether any of this adversity was somehow a result of her race and gender.

“The combination — being a confident black woman who is not seeking permission or affirmation from others — I now suspect accounts for why I inadvertently intimidate some people, especially certain men,” she writes, “and perhaps also why I have long inspired motivated detractors who simply can’t deal with me.”

Read the full article at www.washingtonpost.com »


Related:

What My Father Thought Me About Race: By Susan Rice


Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” from which this essay is adapted. (Photo: Susan Rice with her father Emmett J. Rice, right, and the Federal Reserve chairman, William Miller, in 1979. (Getty Images)

The New York Times

By Susan E. Rice

My father, Emmett Rice, was drafted into military service at the height of World War II and spent four and a half years in uniform, first as an enlisted man and ultimately as an officer with the rank of captain. Called up by the Army Air Force, he was sent to a two-part officer training program, which began in Miami and was completed at Harvard Business School — where he learned “statistical control” and “quantitative management,” a specialized form of accounting in an unusual program designed to build on his business background.

Emmett eventually was deployed to Tuskegee, Ala., where he joined the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first black fighter pilot unit, which distinguished itself in combat in Europe. Though he learned to fly, my father was not a fighter pilot, but a staff officer who ran the newly created Statistics Office, which performed management analyses for commanding officers. He earlier served a stint at Godman Field adjacent to Fort Knox, Ky. There, he was denied access to the white officers’ club. To add insult to injury, he saw German prisoners of war being served at restaurants restricted to blacks. Both in the military and the confines of off-base life, his time in Kentucky was a searing reintroduction to the Southern segregation he had experienced as a child in South Carolina.


Susan and Emmett Rice in 1996. (Credit Ian Cameron)

Still, socially and intellectually, dad’s Tuskegee years were formative. He met an elite cadre of African-American men who would later be disproportionately represented in America’s postwar black professional class, among them my mother’s brothers, Leon and David Dickson. Dad’s Tuskegee friends and acquaintances formed a network he maintained throughout his life. What was it, I have often wondered, about those Tuskegee Airmen and support personnel that seemingly enabled them to become a vanguard of black achievement? Perhaps the military preselected unusually well-educated and capable men for Tuskegee, or some aspect of their service experience propelled them as a group to succeed. To my lasting regret, I failed to take the opportunity to study this topic in depth before almost all those heroes passed away.

Read the full article at nytimes.com »


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PM Abiy: Your Instincts Are Right, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

In the following timely editorial the Financial Times newspaper urges PM Abiy Ahmed to continue to trust his instincts, which have been mostly right, and to remain steadfast on his much needed political and economic reforms despite the recent violence and the ethnocentric opposition to his leadership. "But like Yugoslavia after the death of General Josip Tito in 1980, it is not clear the centre can hold," FT points out. "The newly freed press is awash with ethnic slurs and direct attacks on Mr Abiy...It would be a tragedy for the whole continent if it fails." (Photo: PM Abiy's Facebook)

THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Ethiopia’s Abiy should stick to his liberal instincts

The country can blaze a developmental path, but only if it can hold together

Ethiopia, whose economy has grown at near-double digits for 15 years, is one of the most optimistic stories in Africa. Abiy Ahmed, who became prime minister last year, is one of the continent’s most exciting leaders. But the fragility of Africa’s second most populous country became apparent last week with shootings of a regional president and the military’s chief of staff that the administration has portrayed as an attempted regional coup.

Much is riding on Mr Abiy’s ability to withstand such challenges and pursue his vision of a nation that can both be free and open and deliver the development goals needed to lift the living standards of 105m people. It is troubling, then, that Ethiopia feels constantly as though it is about to derail.

Mr Abiy was chosen as prime minister last April in an effort by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of four ethnically constituted parties, to quell a political crisis. The EPRDF had overseen strong growth and gains in health and education, becoming a darling of international donors. But it had stoked ethnic tension both through a constitution that defined the country’s nine regions in ethnic terms and through the perception that the administration was secretly run by a clique of Tigrayans, who make up just 6 per cent of Ethiopia’s population. 

The EPRDF had maintained order through a tightly controlled security state, suppressing demonstrations and banning political parties. Mr Abiy, who comes from Oromia, the centre of anti-government protests, has unpicked much of that. He has released prisoners and unbanned political parties, even ones that had previously taken up arms. He has proposed multi-party elections for 2020. 

But like Yugoslavia after the death of General Josip Tito in 1980, it is not clear the centre can hold. The newly freed press is awash with ethnic slurs and direct attacks on Mr Abiy. Land grabs and disputes between regions have displaced at least 2m people. Mr Abiy, greeted by many as a national saviour during his first months in office, finds himself attacked from all sides as both an “Ethiopian nationalist”, trampling on jealously-guarded regional rights, and a leader too weak to stop revolt. 

In the aftermath of last month’s shootings, Mr Abiy must decide whether to claw back the freedoms he has instituted or press ahead with his liberal agenda. Within reason, he should choose the latter. True, more may need to be done to outlaw hate speech and to stop those who are attempting to whip up violence between ethnic groups. It is true, too, that Mr Abiy will have to think long and hard about whether next year’s promised elections are still feasible, given the political unrest and lack of preparation. In the long run, a form of new federal settlement needs to be worked out that can both guarantee the autonomy of regions — whether ethnically based or not — while pursuing a national agenda.

For the most part, though, Mr Abiy’s instincts have been right. He should attempt to maintain the country’s impressive economic performance not through force but through persuasion that Ethiopia is stronger united than divided. The state’s grip should be loosened, including through the gradual and careful liberalisation of the economy. Ethiopia, almost alone among the populous countries of sub-Saharan Africa, has a chance to blaze a developmental path and achieve the middle-income status that successive leaders have held up as a goal. It would be a tragedy for the whole continent if it fails.

Read more »


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The Biggest Displacement Crisis That Almost No One Is Talking About

Ethiopian Diplomat: ‘Power in Ethiopia to Come Through Voting, Not Violence’

Q&A: The Current Ethiopia Situation

Killings and Claims of an Attempted Coup Rock Ethiopia

An Emotional Memorial for Slain Military Chief in Ethiopia

UPDATE: Plotter of Failed Ethiopia Coup Killed


The PM’s spokeswoman gives details of army chief’s assassination

Watch: Government says rebellion quashed

Ethiopia’s army chief, 3 other officials killed in renegade general’s coup attempt (The Washington Post)

Ethiopia says coup attempt thwarted, military chief killed (AP)

Ethiopia says coup attempt in Amhara region has failed (CNN)

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Ethiopia: Are Anonymous Bloggers Journalists?

(Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine

By Liben Eabisa

Published: June 10th, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — Some of the basic tenets of journalism include being transparent, providing facts, and giving individuals mentioned by name in an article the opportunity to share their responses to the story.

But shouldn’t these core values of ethical journalism also apply to anonymous contributors as well? The usage of pen names is a common trait observed among websites catering to Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Of course, technically speaking there is no such thing as being anonymous in today’s digital age. Given a concerted effort and the proper tools everyone’s online identity could easily be exposed.

The pressing question remains, however, if it is fair for webmasters in our community to allow fictitious name personas with a primary purpose of defaming fellow Ethiopians over ideological differences, or in some cases simply because the author may harbor personal animosity towards the individuals that he or she is writing about. Shouldn’t bloggers have the same responsibility to ascertain the facts first and give the targets of their articles advance notice to explain themselves before publishing?

“While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context,” advises the website for the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), an international coalition of journalists and media professionals. “Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.”

As a New York Times Ethicist blog published a few years back emphasized, blogging in pseudonym festers “a hideous subculture” of mean-spirited, inconsiderate one-way dialogue that prevents meaningful and respectful social communication that otherwise would in the best interest of the general public.

To promote the social good of lively conversation and the exchange of ideas, transparency should be the default mode. And that goes both for lofty political discourse and casual comments…“Says who?” is not a trivial question. It deepens the reader’s understanding to know who is speaking, from what perspective, with what (nutty?) history, and with what personal stake in the matter. It encourages civility and integrity in the writer to stand behind her words. There are times when anonymous posting is necessary, when disclosure is apt to bring harsh retribution but more often, anonymous posting sustains a culture, or at least a hideous subculture, of calumny and malice so caustic as to inhibit the very discourse the Web can so admirably enable. Writers should not do it, and Web site hosts should not allow it…Were it merely a matter of taste or tone or social style — etiquette — the anonymously obnoxious would be unimportant. But those who offer not argument but invective discourage others from speaking.

This ethical perspective appeared following a widely-publicized 2009 court case in which a judge had ordered Google to reveal the real name of an anonymous blogger who had defamed a fellow New York fashion model calling her, among other things, “psychotic, lying, whoring … skank.” According to NYT the court found the writer’s comments to be “reasonably susceptible to a defamatory connotation” and that the model had “the basis for a lawsuit and is entitled to know the identity of the blogger in order to seek legal redress. Google complied, identifying the blogger.”

Aside from the question of legality, among the top five principles of ethical journalism advocated by EJN include the need to show humanity and independence in our work: “Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.”

Finally, and most importantly, EJN argues: “Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.”


Liben Eabisa is Co-Founder & Publisher of Tadias.

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We Miss President Obama: Reflection

Despite what the fork-tongued haters in our community may say (always mixing apples and oranges) in order to promote themselves most of us here in the Ethiopian Diaspora respect and admire President Obama and his place in American history as the first African American president of the United States. If it wasn't for African Americans and their past and present struggle none of us would be enjoying the freedoms that we take for granted today. Below is a great recent article titled 'Waiting for Obama' by the Atlantic magazine showing why the former U.S. president is loved and appreciated by many Americans. (Getty Images)

The Atlantic

Waiting for Obama

Barack Obama is literally more popular than Jesus among Democrats. Unfortunately, neither the former president nor any of the party’s 23 candidates currently seeking the 2020 nomination know quite what to do with that information.

Of course, before any serious endorsement conversation can commence, Obama has to finish his book (between rounds of golf and raising millions for his foundation). The writing has been going more slowly than he’d expected, and according to several people who have spoken with him, the 44th president is feeling competitive with his wife, whose own book, Becoming, was the biggest release of 2018 and is on track to be the best-selling memoir in history. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, like others in this story, these sources note he’ll occasionally say in conversation that he’s writing this book himself, while Michelle used a ghostwriter. He’s also trying to balance the historical and political needs of a project that will be up to his standards as a writer, and not 1,000 pages long. Obama’s research process has been intense and convoluted, and it’s still very much ongoing, from the legal pads he had shipped to Marlon Brando’s old island in French Polynesia, where he spent a month in March 2017, to the interviews that aides have been conducting with former members of his administration to jog and build out memories…

As with Becoming, this book will have more than a standard release. Aides expect Obama to go on tour, with a rush of interviews in which he’ll be expected to talk not just about what he’s written, but about Trump and whatever political news is unfolding that day. When that conversation has come up internally, according to people involved in the discussions, he often says simply, “I can handle it.”

Read more »


Related:
Photos: President Obama Becomes First Sitting U.S. President to Visit Ethiopia – July 2015

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Ethiopia: Want to Stop Hate Speech? Tune Out the Talking Heads

Here in the Diaspora it's amusing to watch the hypocrisy of the self-promoting talking heads (our version of Fox pundits on steroids) lecturing the public about divisive language and hate speech. These are the same people who hold as a badge of honor their ongoing habits of insulting, belittling, demeaning, dismissing and or barking at anyone who may have a different perspective than their own preventing meaningful dialogue. We stopped listening to them during the Obama era. Our generation in Ethiopia would be much better off doing the same today. They're part of the problem. To be sure, they have the right to express their views and we have the same right to tune them out. Hate speech is not limited to Ethiopia, its a global phenomenon. Below is a link to a recent news article showing how Facebook is attempting to deal with the issue in the U.S. as well as an HRW report on hate speech in Ethiopia published a few month ago that's still relevant today. (Getty Images)

HRW

Tackling Hate Speech in Ethiopia: Criminalizing Speech Won’t Solve Problem

Hate and dangerous speech is a serious and growing problem in Ethiopia, both online and offline. It has contributed to the growing ethnic tensions and conflicts across the country that have created more than 1.4 million new internally displaced people in the first half of 2018 alone. The government says it will pass a new law on hate speech to counter this. But around the world, laws criminalizing hate speech have been often and easily abused – and there are other options.

In the past year, speeches by government officials, activists and others in Ethiopia have disseminated quickly through social media and helped trigger or fuel violent conflicts in the country.

It is encouraging that Ethiopia’s government says hate speech must be addressed. But any law that limits freedom of expression by punishing hate speech must be narrowly drawn and enforced with restraint, so that it only targets speech that is likely to incite imminent violence or discrimination that cannot be prevented through other means. Many governments have tried and failed to strike the right balance, and Ethiopia’s own track record offers reason for alarm. In the past, the Ethiopian government has used vague legal definitions including in its anti-terrorism law, to crack down on peaceful expressions of dissent.

What Ethiopia needs is a comprehensive new strategy – one that even a carefully drawn hate speech law should only be one small part of. This could include public education campaigns, programs to improve digital literacy, and efforts to encourage self-regulation within and between communities. The prime minister and other public figures could also speak out regularly and openly about the dangers of hate speech. Donors, eager to support the reform process, could help support such a strategy. And social media companies should do more, including ensuring they have sufficient resources to respond quickly to reports that speech on their platform may lead to violence.

Ethiopians also need new platforms and opportunities to express their grievances and discuss critical issues, beyond social media. The growing list of independent media outlets, as well as universities, civil society organizations, political parties, and others could provide helpful environments for discussion.

Ethiopia is currently rewriting its civil society law and anti-terrorism law – both of which were used in the past to stifle dissent and limit freedom of expression. It should be careful not to undermine those efforts by drafting a new law that could be used for the same kinds of abuse.


Related:
Facebook moderators battle hate speech and violence

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Analysis: Ethiopia’s New Foreign Relations & the Domestic Issue of Ethnic Federalism

Amid the growing and deafening crescendo of fake news, divisive propaganda and the same old ego-based rhetoric (insulting, yelling and barking at each other) in the Diaspora blogosphere, here are two refreshing and well informed analysis of current affairs in Ethiopia. The first one is written by Awol Allo focusing on Ethiopia’s new foreign policy. And the second article by Goitom Gebreluel on Aljazeera asks a timely question: Should Ethiopia stick with ethnic federalism? (Image: Ethiopia on map/Wikimedia)

The Abiy Doctrine: One year of Ethiopia’s new foreign policy

BY AWOL ALLO | African Arguments

APRIL 5, 20190

It’s not just domestically that the new Prime Minister has shaken things up in his first year.

When Abiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s prime minister a year ago on 2 April, he inherited a deeply divided and fractured country. The economy was in free fall, a state of emergency had been declared, and an agitated mass was calling for revolutionary change. Since then, his administration has been praised for pulling the country back from the brink. The government has enacted a series of progressive and transformational reforms, which have made headlines internally and been widely scrutinised.

Much less, however, has been said about Abiy’s foreign policy.

When he entered office, the young prime minister promised to transform Ethiopia’s foreign policy and extend the country’s influence. In his inaugural speech, Abiy noted the complex history of the region. “The Horn of Africa is gripped by lots of crisis,” he said, “where many forces with different interests and objectives are scrambling and where there are many complex entanglements.”

He also spoke of Ethiopia’s commitment to pan-Africanism and its “notable role in regional, continental, and global matters.” He vowed to strengthen this position and stand with “our African brothers in general and with our neighbours in particular…in times of hardship as well as in times of happiness.”

These kinds of promises are not uncommon in inaugural speeches and few expected Abiy to follow through. That is until he made the unexpected move to end twenty years of intractable military stalemate with neighbouring Eritrea and began a flurry of visits to countries in the region and the Middle East. Within just three months of assuming office, Abiy had capably and courageously resolved the long-running conflict with Eritrea and begun to consolidate multiple strategic partnerships within and beyond the region.

Read more »


Related:
Should Ethiopia stick with ethnic federalism? (Aljazeera)

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The Western Erasure of African Tragedy

Media coverage of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 framed a horrifying accident in appallingly familiar ways. (Photo: A passenger passport lies on the ground at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines crash south of Addis Ababa/Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

The Atlantic

By Hannah Giorgis

On Sunday morning, an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner crashed shortly after leaving Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, en route to Nairobi, the capital city of neighboring Kenya. Minutes after takeoff, the Boeing 737 Max 8—the same model of aircraft that went down in Indonesia several months ago—lost contact with air-traffic controllers. Soon after, the aircraft crashed; all 157 people on board Flight 302, including the crew, died.

According to a list shared by Ethiopian Airlines following the crash, these passengers hailed from 35 countries. Several nations suffered more than five casualties—among them, Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, China, Italy, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. In the hours following initial reports, the corners of Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook frequented by African users were filled with shock and horror, mourning and disbelief. The crash seemed senseless, and its human toll devastating.

But in the aftermath of the tragedy, many Western media outlets reported the news with unevenly rationed compassion. Some stoked unfounded suspicions about the caliber of the airline itself. Others stripped their reporting of emphasis on Africa almost entirely, framing the tragedy chiefly in terms of its impact on non-African passengers and organizations.

On a broadcast of the Turkish channel TRTWorld, for example, the British anchor Maria Ramos asserted that Ethiopian Airlines had a “poor safety record historically,” a baseless claim that the British aviation analyst Alex Macheras challenged on air, even after Ramos suggested that a 1996 hijacking attempt made the African airline categorically unsafe. (Macheras also contextualized Ethiopian Airlines’ record, by comparing it to that of American and European carriers such as United Airlines, Air France, and American Airlines.) On Twitter, the Financial Times’ East Africa–based reporter pondered in a now-deleted tweet whether “questions may well be asked about the pace of the carrier’s rapid expansion since 2010,” despite acknowledging that the reasons for the crash remained unknown.

Read more »


Related:
‘Black Box’ Recovered in Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash
Ethiopia Mourns Crash Victims as Investigators Seek Answers (AP UPDATE)
Ethiopia grounds Boeing aircraft involved in devastating crash that killed all aboard (Washington Post)
Passengers Who Missed Doomed Ethiopia Flight ‘lucky’ to be Alive (The New York Post)
No Survivors in Ethiopian Airlines Crash En Route to Kenya (AP)

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Regarding The History of Ethiopic Computing by Fesseha Atlaw (Op-Ed)

In the following OP-Ed Ethiopian-American engineer Fesseha Atlaw responds to readers questions and highlights some important points regarding the history of Ethiopic computing. (Courtesy Photo: Fesseha Atlaw hosting the first Ethiopic software workshop at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa in the mid 1980s.)

Tadias Magazine

By Fesseha Atlaw

February 19th, 2019

The History of Ethiopic Computing: The process of Development; The Key Players; The Patent Process

Santa Rosa, California (TADIAS) — Many individuals have contacted me after the Tadias article on the genesis of Ethiopic computing have been published in 2018.

http://www.tadias.com/04/06/2018/how-ethiopic-script-was-introduced-to-modern-computers-interview-with-fesseha-atlaw/

The majority of the e-mails I received were congratulatory and “Thank you” and some even referred to me as “our hero”. Just to note a few , :

I was a member of the delegation that visited you at Stanford way back in 1987(?) and the follow up of your demonstration at Hilton Hotel in Addis Abeba. So many claimant innovators have popped up since then claiming discovery of an update Geez Script for Computer. As far as I remember I think you are one of the earliest pioneers to introduce the Ethiopian/ethiopic script …. “

Another heart warming e-mail I received from a totally blind reader in Ethiopia who was able to use the Unicode supported technology that allowed him for the computer to read the Amharic text and also allowed him to dictate to the computer to write in Amharic… He said :

ለታዲያስ መጽሄት የሰጠኸውን ስለEthiopic software የተመለከተ ቃለምልልስ አንብቤ በጣም ደስ አለኝ። በተለይ ኢትዮጵያውያን እንደ አንተ ያሉ ታሪካችን እና ባህላችን በቋንቋችን ተጽፎ በDigital ዘመን ተመዝግቦ እንዲቀመጥ ያስቻሉ ለአስርት አመታት የታገሉ ሰዎች መኖራቸውን ሳውቅ እድለኞች ነን አልኩ።እኔ ማየት የተሳነኝ ኢትዮጵያዊ ስለሆንኩ በአማርኛ እየጻፍኩ ኮምፒውተሩ በአማርኛ እያነበበልኝ፤ ስልኬ በአማርኛ ማን እንደደወለ እየነገረኝ ወዘተርፈ የቴክኖሎጂው ትሩፋት ዋነኛ ተጠቃሚ ሆኛለሁ።

I am thankful and humbled by these kinds of words and generous comments. However, I still feel there is a need to clarify and to accurately chronicle the history of digitization of Ethiopic computing. Unfortunately other news media (print and video) have a tendency to exaggerate and write about some technical matter without careful investigation. There were some who seem to be confused about the actual history and as to what exactly was done and who were the players. Some have asked me, if I had secured a “PATENT” or “Copyright”.

Here are some of the questions I received and my reply:

What was the process of developing “Ethiopic/Amharic” software in the 1980’s?

In the 1980’s I was working as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard, the largest technology company to this day. We didn’t have graphical User interface like WINDOWS or a mouse. The main use of computers at that time was to do word processing. (Writing a letter, a report or books etc) The operating system was called DOS (Disk operating system) programs come on a floppy disk and loaded onto a computer thru a disk drive.

The technical process of developing Ethiopic font-sets to work with computers is not as difficult as one thinks. Many talk about “inventions” or “discovery” etc … I have always discouraged people from referring the accomplishment and the development process as “Invention”. Unfortunately many in the general public don’t understand the detail process and see it that way. This has been made worse by some mass media hype and exaggeration and some claimant using the term “invention.” I also understand what digitizing Ethiopic meant for our language and the preservation of our collective heritage. I am proud of the fact I had any part in pioneering and contributing to such a project that will impact the Ethiopian society for generations.

To describe the process in brief, what we have done is to design Ethiopic fonts and insert them in computer programs as one of the fonts. Of course in the 1980’s that was not an easy task because the accessibility of computer programs, upload and download processes were very limited. (It was called load a program—- There was hardly any internet connection— no e-mails; no social media)

The biggest challenge was designing fonts for the limited character space (8X8) of computers at that time. All English alphabets can fit on a 8 by 8 grid, but the limited space was not suited for some Ethiopic characters. So, for example, fitting wide alphabets like ጬ was difficult.

Another challenge was the number of Ethiopic characters. At that time Latin alphabet (English and others) enjoyed the luxury of having only 26 characters —while Ethiopian alphabet was about 270). The manual Amharic type shown in the picture made up almost the entire alphabet using vowel marks.

Fortunately I was involved in the Unicode Technical Symposium early enough where I was part of the discussion of expanding computer encoding system from Ascii to Unicode and changing the name of the script from “Amharic” to its original name as Ethiopic so as to represent all language groups in Ethiopia.

Unicode is an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs. Or Unicode is a digital code for computers that lets them show text in different languages. Unicode standards are promoted by the Unicode Consortium and based on ISO standards.

I worked with Joe Becker, the founder of the Unicode Technical Consortium, to provide the first Ethiopic Proposal to the consortium representing both Dashen Engineering and Hewlett Packard. The consortium participants were computer scientists from all major high tech companies like Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook etc as well as participants from governments like India, Malaysia, etc. Here is the membership list: http://www.unicode.org/consortium/members.html. In 2018 I was nominated to get the title of “LIFE TIME Unicode Member” I am grateful and proud to represent Ethiopian script being the only African member of the Unicode in its history.

If there is anything that took a lot of push and stamina, it was calling the script “ETHIOPIC” rather than Amharic. I am most proud of that more than any of my contributions and starting a process to add more non-Amharic fronts to the unicode such as ቐ (Tigrigna) ፤ ዸ (For Afaan Oromo), etc. As the Unicode consortium member and owner of Dashen Engineering I received recommendations from many non-Amharic users in Ethiopia and adding new characters.

So here is the Unicode encoding scheme permanently embedded in all computers (new or old):

Basic Latin Range: 0000–007F
Greek and Coptic Range: 0370–03FF
Katakana (Japanese) Range: 30A0–30FF
Ethiopic Range: 1200–137F

So “ሀ” is represented by 1200 and ሁ 1201 ሂ 1203 etc all the
way to :137C = ፼ (ETHIOPIC NUMBER TEN THOUSAND )
Reserved for about 384 characters for Ethiopian languages :
አማርኛ ፤ ትግርኛ ፤ አፋን ኦሮሞ ፤ ከፋ፤ ጋሞ Gamo-Gofa-Dawro Basketo
Gumuz have been included : New Characters that were not part
of the Amharic typing system (Amharic Type writer ) have been
added Examples of the new Characters are : ቐ ዸ ꬁ ꬖ ጜ ጛ)

Were there others who were working on digitizing Ethiopic at that time? If so who were the key players? What makes your unique and why is your name mentioned at the forefront? How about others? Did you patent the software?

The short answer is, YES there were many others who were working on “Amharic Word Processor” about the same time as me or later-on. I started my research around 1982 and had the first usable Amharic word processor in 1985 that has been released to the general public. But others were released to the market soon afterwards.

The Ethiopian Science and Technology commission, under the late commissioner Ato Abebe Muluneh, had been tasked with developing an Amharic word processor by the Mengistu government and and they had demonstrated a working model around 1989 shortly after my demonstration at Addis Abeba Hilton. Others who worked on Ethiopic/Amharic word processor and should be recognized include: Dr. Yitna Firdyiwoq (Virginia), Daniel Admassie (Ethiopia Science & Technology), the late Feqade Mesfin (Los Angeles), Abass Alemneh (Texas) and Yemane Russom (Texas).

There are many more names of developers that came later and who have contributed to the Ethiopic digitization, but the above names stand out as early researchers and each of them had complete usable products.

I am also aware there are people who claim being early pioneers and writing their own Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately the ever growing Ethiopia media grab such claimants and mislead the general public (much the same way as they have done with rampant stories and interviews of the Dr. Engineer ZeMichael did). I wish our media develops the culture of due diligence and doing their homework of what exactly happened and when and report it accordingly.

I like to focus on the many positive achievements of Ethiopians and some non-Ethiopian that are working hard developing applications for our script. I am impressed by many new and young Ethiopic Digital application developers who are doing amazing and creative work but shy away from the media limelight and
don’t even want their names to be mentioned.

Some ask “Do you have patent or copyright protection for your early work?

The original MLS Ethiopic Word Processor I (as a founder of Dashen Engineering) had developed has been Copyrighted since 1985. Software is not generally patentable as such. However some typing mechanisms/schemes are patentable. There are several individuals who hold “Amharic/Ethiopic” typing method or KEYBOARDING patents. While these are legitimate patents they are easily misunderstood on what they mean. I have helped few young people apply for Ethiopic Keyboarding Patents on new method of typing. In fact any new scheme of typing/Keyboarding can be submitted for a patent in the US quite easily. There is a free software tool available from Keyman and others that allows anyone to come up with new Ethiopic (Amharic, Afaan Oromo, etc) Keyboarding method and submit that to PATENT office. I know some people who developed a new Keyboarding method to meet a certain needs in less than a week and submitted it for patent. There are many people who still are working to come up with a new “keyboarding scheme for Amharic and other languages. The tools are available to allow any non-technical person to design a unique keyboarding method and can easily patent it. These tools are listed on ethiopicsoftware.org website. I like to emphasize that these patents should Not prevent from coming up with new application of Ethiopic.

The patents are given for a unique method of keyboarding (typing) for example using (“ha” or “H” or “h” to type “ሀ”). The Ethiopic Unicode assignment is FREE to anyone who wants to develop an app or use Ethiopic in anyway. In fact I have heard stories that new developers were being harassed and attempts were made to discourage them from using Ethiopic in new apps.

On the other hand those who design fonts can legitimately claim ownership of their artistic efforts in designing fonts and assign them to the Unicode. The two major font designers are Ato Abass Alemneh of EthioSystems (senamirmir.com) and Ato Solomon Hailu (ethiohahu.com) have done a great work in designing creative Ethiopic fonts.

Recently, you were quoted, in one Ethiopian magazine, as making a call to the Oromo Intellectuals to use Ethiopic/Geez . “ …..የኦሮሞ ምሁራን የግዕዝ ፊደላትን እንዲጠቀሙ ጥሪ አቀርባለሁ….” What is your opinion on the Afaan Oromo writing system using Latin?

Yes, the magazine in Ethiopia extracted some of the Tadias interview and reprinted it in Amharic. However I want to clarify some issues. I never gave an interview to this particular magazine. Most of what they printed was correct but there were lots of exaggerations and some factual errors. All in all what they wrote was mostly correct and reflects my views also.

Some people call the alphabet – Amharic. The correct term is Ethiopic or “Ethiopian Alphabet.” 30 years ago during my participation in the UNICODE committee, I helped push for the adoption of the name “ETHIOPIC” as a name to be recognized for all computer systems. The computer knows the alphabet as Ethiopic not as “Amarigna”. In doing so, it was important we include special characters that were left out in the old Amharic type writer (such as: for “ ቐ” Tigrigna and for “ዸ”Afaan Oromo). So using the term Ethiopic is correct in that the alphabet belongs to all Ethiopians. Because of the Unicode there are many new software applications are developed in Ethiopic (such as Google Translate; Web Translate; text to speech and speech to text applications, etc). We now have computer languages and Operation systems in Amharic and other languages that use Ethiopic characters.

In the 1970’s the concern of many Oromo intellectuals about the growth and development of Afaan Oromo with computer technology was legitimate. Selecting the use of an already existing Latin alphabet was an advantage. Yes, in the 70’s most of computing was done in the English language- using Latin alphabet. Now that is no longer the case— thanks to the Unicode organization, almost all world languages that have a well develop script system have been included in all computers. From technical point of view, using Ethiopic to write Afaan Oromo is much more efficient and will ensure the rich language and literature of the Oromo develop faster. I give this advice as a technical person and do not get involved in political reasons. It is my strong belief that the decision rests entirely on the Oromo speaking people and no one else.


Related:
How Ethiopic Script Was Introduced to Modern Computers: Interview with Fesseha Atlaw

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Navigating Ethiopia’s Journey Towards Reconciliation & Justice: by Awol K Allo

Ethiopia needs both accountability and reconciliation to come to terms with its violent and divisive past, argues Awol K Allo, a Lecturer in Law at Keele University, UK, in the following timely article. (Photo: Reuters)

By Awol K Allo

Since November 9, the Ethiopian government has arrested more than 60 leading figures from the National Intelligence Service and Security (NISS) and the state-owned conglomerate Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC). They stand accused of committing egregious human rights and participating in organised corruption.

This is the biggest campaign of mass arrests targeting powerful figures from the security and military establishment since the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power seven months ago.

Days after the top leadership of two of the most powerful institutions in the country were charged, Ahmed’s cabinet approved draft legislation on the establishment of a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission with the objective of healing the deep social wounds left by years of repression under previous Ethiopian governments. While Ethiopia certainly needs both accountability and reconciliation to come to terms with its violent and divisive past, it is not clear how the government aims to reconcile the two processes.

While legal accountability and reconciliation are not incompatible, they are nevertheless separate processes, with their own unique procedures and different goals. Prosecution emphasises punishment and vengeance, while reconciliation underscores healing.

Prosecution is governed by the strict rules of criminal procedure and focuses on an uncovering the truth about a particular crime and delivering individualised justice. Reconciliation, on the other hand, is not governed by strict legalistic procedures and its primary aim is to help the entire nation confront the past by producing as complete a picture of what happened as possible.

Pursuing prosecutorial justice while at the same time promoting reconciliation of a highly divided society, particularly in a highly fragile setting in which decades of state-sponsored acts of terror and violence resulted in the gradual rupture of the social fabric, requires a strategic and holistic integration of the processes, as well as careful planning…

As a country undergoing a complex period of transition, Ethiopia should hold to account those who perpetrated these detestable crimes which have torn apart the nation.

Under these conditions, the legal prosecution can be an integral part of a multipronged institutional response to state-sponsored acts of violence and organised plunder. It can contribute to the creation of a culture of accountability and strengthen the rule of law.

Reconciliation or justice?

However, the legal prosecution of these criminals would not heal the deep wounds and repair the social fabric ripped apart by decades of violence and antagonism. In her seminal book titled, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence, Martha Minow writes, “when the societal goals include restoring dignity to victims, offering a basis for individual healing, and promoting reconciliation across a divided nation, a truth commission again may be as or more powerful than prosecutions.”

Read more »


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Ethiopia’s Gender-Balanced Cabinet

Ethiopia's gender balanced cabinet is sending women around the country a clear message: the patriarchy can be beaten...PM Abiy's new cabinet has a tremendous transformative potential to end Ethiopian women's experience of invisibility and the silencing of their voice and capacity, writes Awol K Allo, a Lecturer in Law at Keele University, UK. (Photo: Reuters)

By Awol K Allo

The Power of Ethiopia’s Gender-Balanced Cabinet

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is drawing admiration from all corners for his transformative leadership. Since coming to power six months ago, he has released political prisoners, widened the democratic space, ended the military stalemate with Eritrea, and averted a looming financial crisis. In short, his dynamic leadership, energy, and enthusiasm have pulled off what a Washington Post editorial described as an “astonishing turnaround” for the country.

Ahmed’s latest decision to fill 50 percent of his cabinet with female ministers is an integral part of the transformative agenda he has set out during his inaugural speech on April 2. It is easy to dismiss this move as a token gesture or a mere publicity stunt, but in a highly patriarchal society such as Ethiopia where public discourse about gender equality is non-existent or confined to the margins, the mere existence of a gender-balanced cabinet can have a transformative effect.

Ethiopia’s prime minister brought youthful vigour and bold confidence to the masculine, patriarchal, and archaic traditions of the Ethiopian state. During his inaugural address, he broke with tradition and acknowledged his mother and wife. Towards the end of his speech, he said, “in a manner that is not customary in this house, … I would like to politely ask you to thank one Ethiopian mother who … planted this distant and deep and elaborate vision in me, who raised me, and brought me to fruition.” He went on to say that “My mother is counted among the many kind, innocent, and hardworking Ethiopian mothers … In thanking my mother, I consider it equivalent to extending thanks to all Ethiopian mothers.” Given his numerous policy statements and his commitment to liberal ideas of equality, fairness, and representation visible in these policies, there is no reason to believe that these announcements had ulterior motives.

Read more »


Related:
In Ethiopian leader’s new cabinet, half the ministers are women (The Washington Post)

Spotlight: Helen Show on Professional Women and Motherhood (Video)


The latest episode of the Helen Show on EBS TV features a timely topic: professional women
and motherhood. The show’s host Helen Mesfin speaks with Mimi Hailegiorghis, who is
a Department Head of Systems Performance Engineering at Mitre Corporation, & Tseday Alehegn,
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

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Social Media, Disinformation and Press Reform in Ethiopia

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaking at his first press conference on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 in Addis Ababa. (Reuters photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: August 27th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — Just like the underground pamphleteers and newspaper editors during the American revolution, independent journalists and social media activists — some of whom were imprisoned or exiled for many years — played a fundamental role in the longstanding movement for change in Ethiopia that recently culminated with the historic inauguration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on April 2nd, 2018.

In one of his first and most memorable acts as the new leader of Ethiopia Dr. Abiy moved swiftly to free jailed reports, bloggers, opposition members and invited those who were exiled to return home. He also unblocked websites run by opposition groups and granted pardons to owners who were charged under the country’s draconian anti-terror legislation that in the past was primarily used to stifle dissent.

Independent Journalism Driven Out

“Critical media was being decimated one way or another, and journalists were leaving the country,” says Tsedale Lemma, the Editor-in-Chief of Addis Standard. “We became at some point, the second-largest country producing journalist asylum seekers.”

Tsedale’s reflection was part of a recent and timely article titled “How Social Media Shaped Calls for Political Change in Ethiopia,” focusing on the new era and “the hopes for ethnic unity, democracy, freedom of speech and media reform,” which was published by Al Jazeera this month. The piece points out that Ethiopia’s “newfound hope was no coincidence; it was the culmination of hard-fought political activism that had forced change upon the authoritarian nation.”

“You cannot imagine this change without social media,” Al Jazeera quotes Jawar Mohammed, the founder of Oromo Media Network (OMN). Jawar is one of several activists who answered PM Abiy’s call and returned to Ethiopia this summer after 13 years in exile in the United States. In another interview with The Guardian Jawar added: “We used social media and formal media so effectively that the state was completely overwhelmed. The only option they had was to face reform or accept full revolution.”

Disinformation on Social Media

Unfortunately, despite Dr. Abiy’s groundbreaking leadership and the good will from the general public, some detractors are misusing social media to spread disinformation, propaganda and hate speech to divide people, sow distrust and incite ethnic-based animosity. Abiy himself admitted in a recent televised comment that rumors and disinformation were largely to blame for the recent ethnically motivated mob violence in several cities particularly in South Eastern Ethiopia leading to a partial Internet shutdown.

According to Reuters: “A surge in ethnic violence, sometimes in the form of mob attacks, has displaced nearly 1 million people in the past four months in southern Ethiopia and is inflaming bad feeling between ethnic groups in other regions. The violence threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries. It also overshadows the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power in April.”

This past weekend in his first press conference since taking office Dr. Abiy addressed this issue and emphasized his vision to hold a “free and fair election” in 2020. Elias Meseret at Associated Press quotes PM Abiy Ahmed as stating: “My dream is that doubts about the ballot box will disappear,” and promising a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. He continued: “there are groups that are working in unison to cause chaos in different parts of the country. They are triggering peoples’ emotions to this end.”

PM Abiy Ahmed likewise discussed concerns about the practice of shutting down Internet in Ethiopia following unrests, which was routinely implemented by the previous EPRDF leadership. Per the Associated Press: “Abiy appealed for understanding and said it might have saved lives. “But curbing access to information and cutting the internet is not the way forward,” he added, and urged youth to use it responsibly.”

Moving Forward

It is also worth considering that, from our perspective as journalists, in the long-term the most democratic way to sustain the rule of law and counter the dissemination of unverified news via social media is to strengthen, expand, empower and protect independent, professional and private media infrastructure, which has been severely suppressed. Private media groups should be free of government interference as well as be more representative of the population and not just opposition media.

Last week the 13-member justice reform advisory council, which is tasked to revise the country’s most repressive anti-civil society proclamations, held a public meeting in Addis Ababa engaging stake holders including activists and journalists, some of whom had been victims of these laws, according to Human Rights Watch. “The working groups will conduct consultations and propose amendments – reportedly within 3 months, in time for parliament’s return from recess.”

In the Al Jazeera feature journalist Eskinder Nega who was released a few months ago after six years in prison echoes Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers and the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, who went on to serve as the third president of the United States is remembered for eloquently expressing that he’d rather have newspapers without a country than a country without newspapers.

“If Abiy Ahmed does not deliver the promise of democracy, then we’ll be back to social media,” Eskinder says. “I’m prepared to go back to prison again. So, whether there’s democracy or no democracy, it’s back to work. There’s no choice.”


Related:
PM Abiy Ahmed’s US Tour in Pictures

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Why I am Suddenly Optimistic About the Future of Ethiopia: by Joel Makonnen

In the following opinion article published on the TRUE Africa website on Friday, Joel Makonnen, the great-grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie, explains why he feels suddenly optimistic about the future of Ethiopia. Makonnen lives in Washington and works as an attorney for a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. (Photo: PM Abiy Ahmed speaking in DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on July 28th, 2018/Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine)

TRUE Africa

By Joel Makonnen

On April 2, 2018, with Ethiopia on the edge of political collapse, more than 100 million Ethiopians witnessed something different. Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, an energetic, visionary and unifying figure of mixed Muslim Oromo and Christian Amhara heritage, became Prime Minister. Dr. Abiy’s appointment marks the first time power was transferred peacefully in Ethiopia. But it is also significant because his rise to power can be seen as the manifestation of Ethiopians’ yearning for a dynamic agent of democratic change.

Dr. Abiy was an unlikely candidate. A soldier in the armed struggle against the oppressive Marxist Derg regime, he went on to earn a PhD in conflict resolution, entering politics quietly only a few years ago. As Prime Minister, he has been uncharacteristically outspoken about the problems facing government and strident in his pursuit of justice, both unusual for an official from the ruling coalition, not to mention for an African leader.

In his inauguration speech, Dr. Abiy announced sweeping reforms, which he is implementing at a thrilling speed. He negotiated changes that ended years of divisive protests. He lifted the state of emergency, ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners, denounced human rights violations and removed key figures responsible for perpetrating them.

Dr. Abiy also addressed governance issues for which Ethiopia had become notorious. He removed political opposition groups from a “terrorist” list established to shut down dissent, restored internet access and unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels. He gave an historic speech on HIM Emperor Haile Selassie, recognizing the need for healing and reconciliation 40 years after the Ethiopian Revolution and the ensuing Red Terror. And critically, Dr. Abiy concluded a costly (human and financial) 20-year conflict with our brothers and sisters in neighboring Eritrea. He is being compared to historic leaders like Obama, Macron and Mandela – after only 100 days in office.

But as optimism dominates the headlines, there are murmurs of concern about Dr. Abiy’s alleged tendency to act unilaterally. Some also question whether things can be this good over the long-term and still others point to the need for consensus among the ruling coalition party.

We have to temper our expectations. One man cannot have all the answers, and in the haste of effecting significant change, he will make mistakes. For example, he is considering a pardon for former Derg officials, even the Chairman and dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam. I support efforts to unite the country. However, to equate the pardoning of Derg officials with pardoning unjustly accused political dissidents, releasing political prisoners and ending a needless war with Eritrea is a false moral equivalency.

Under the Red Terror – a wave of violence, arbitrary incarcerations, torture, and mass killings – an estimated half-million people died at the hands of Derg officials. The Ethiopian Diaspora itself is a result of it. I urge Dr. Abiy to consider Rwanda and South Africa, which teach us that dealing with such trauma is a years-long process that must be managed carefully. People who commit atrocities should not be forgiven until they have first sought forgiveness and made amends.

Despite mild fears and healthy skepticism, there is far more we celebrate – for Ethiopia, and Ethiopians, everywhere. And with such a bold agenda of reforms, Dr. Abiy will need all of our help to realize his vision. The United States is home to an estimated 500,000 Ethiopians and many of us stand ready to support the new administration. Several Ethiopian attorneys and I have organized a lawyers’ association. We avail ourselves to the new administration to help with legislative and institutional reforms, constitutional amendments, and any other legal counsel needed.

The Ethiopian community was joined by our countrymen from across the United States for Dr. Abiy’s historic visit which included trips to Washington, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles where he was greeted with a hero’s welcome. Every Ethiopian I’ve spoken with, including my family, delights at the prospect of rebooting a positive relationship with our government. And it is a great feeling to know the new administration wants to hear from the Diaspora, too. If this momentum and good faith can be harnessed to sustain a unified front with matching substantive reforms, great things can happen. Ethiopia is rising again and ushering in an era of peace, prosperity, and freedom. As we say in Amharic, Yichalal (We can succeed)!

You can read this and other great stories on culture, music, sports, lifestyle, politics, fashion and tech in Africa and the diaspora at trueafrica.co »


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10,000 Give PM Abiy Ahmed a Rock-Star Greeting at Target Center in Minneapolis
In Pictures: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Visit to LA
Video & Images: PM Abiy Engages Diaspora Business Community & Political Orgs
DC Mayor Proclaims July 28th Ethiopia Day, Will Join PM Abiy at ConventionCenter
First Photos of PM Abiy Meeting With Ethiopian Diaspora in U.S.
Update on PM Abiy’s Visit to U.S.
A Diaspora Trust Fund for Ethiopia and Embracing a Culture of Democracy (Editorial)
Images: Washington DC Rally to Support Ethiopia’s New PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed

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Make America More Like New Zealand, Costa Rica and Ethiopia

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand with her new baby girl (left), President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica (center) and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia. (Getty Images)

Boston Globe

FOR DECADES, AMERICANS have accepted rule by a mendacious and meretricious elite. Today we have reason to believe that our situation is worse than ever. Our president is a hate-mongering bully who promotes foreign wars, the destruction of our natural environment, the further enrichment of the rich, and the impoverishment of everyone else. Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress are cynical money-grubbers who grovel before corporate power. The Supreme Court twists the Constitution to promote the most anti-democratic forces in our society. Founders of our republic would howl in anguished rage if they could see how fully our political leaders have defiled their liberating vision.

The decline of democracy in the United States might logically lead us to conclude that our political system has failed — that democracy is intrinsically unable to resist the power of those who profit from undermining it. That view, however, is contradicted by what other democracies have recently achieved. With hardly any notice in the American press, three very different countries have recently produced leaders who are unapologetically pursuing policies that benefit their people and the world. They are magnificent examples for the United States — unless they lead us to weep in envy…

Just one day after Alvarado was inaugurated in Costa Rica on April 1, another exemplar of democratic will became prime minister of Ethiopia. Abiy Ahmed, 41, comes from the country’s Muslim minority and also from a persecuted ethnic group, the Oromo. He took over a country that has long been ruled by repressive tyrants, is divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines, and has been in constant conflict with neighboring Eritrea. “Expect a different rhetoric from us,” he said upon taking office. “If there is to be political progress in Ethiopia, we have to debate the issues openly and respectfully.”

In just three months as prime minister, Abiy has cut a radical swath through Ethiopian politics. He fired five senior officials who were known for corruption and brutality. Then he announced that he would accept the ruling of a border commission as a way of making peace with Eritrea, even though it requires handing over territory that many Ethiopians consider theirs. He ordered the release of more than 1,000 political prisoners. When a member of Parliament protested that his order was unconstitutional, he replied: “Jailing and torturing, which we did, are not constitutional either. . . Does the Constitution say anyone who was sentenced by a court can be tortured, put in a dark room? It doesn’t. Torturing, putting people in dark rooms, is our act of terrorism.” On June 25 Abiy’s enemies tried to kill him in a grenade attack. “The people who did this are anti-peace forces,” he said afterward. “You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”

Over the brief history of the United States, Americans have shown ourselves ready to seize anything we covet, anywhere in the world. If we could maintain that tradition, we might now arrange an “extraordinary rendition” operation to kidnap Jacinda Ardern, Carlos Alvarado, or Abiy Ahmed so one of them could be installed in the White House. Lamentably, that is impossible. The alternative is to concentrate on encouraging homegrown leaders who share their humanistic vision. Americans once believed that we could inspire and lead the world. Now we can only hope to catch up with New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia.

Read the full article at bostonglobe.com »


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Ethiopia on the Right Track to a More Democratic Society

(Image via YouTube: Faces of Ethiopia)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

June 8th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — This week, Ethiopia’s parliament voted to lift a six-month state of emergency two months in advance than scheduled.

We were not surprised. It is a continuation of a series of positive major policy changes that have taken place in Ethiopia in the past few weeks fueling optimism both at home and abroad since the new PM Abiy Ahmed took office in early April.

The lifting of the State of Emergency follows the government’s recent announcement that it has dropped charges against two Ethiopian media associations based in the United States, ESAT and OMN, as well as granting pardons to several high-profile opposition leaders, journalists and political activists – some whom are set to speak in New York today (June 8th) at an Amnesty International USA conference focusing on the state of human rights in Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia is undergoing remarkable political transformation never seen in the country’s recent history,” says Awol K. Allo, a lecturer at Keele University School of Law in England, writing in a recent opinion article featured on CNN. “Since coming to power just over two months ago, the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has taken a series of radical steps that are transforming the political map and restoring trust in public authority.”

Awol adds: “On Tuesday (June 5), the government made three major and politically consequential announcements. It lifted the state of emergency imposed shortly after former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned, announced plans to liberalize the economy and declared it was ready to fully comply with and implement the Algiers Agreement that ended Africa’s most deadly conflict [with neighboring Eritrea].” Awol then asks: “Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister has had a stellar two months, can he keep it up?”

The Economist, which has dubbed Abiy ‘the Reformer-in-Chief,’ notes : “The exiled opponents have been invited home. Representatives of dissident media outlets based abroad have been encouraged to set up shop in Addis Ababa, the capital. Terrorism charges against dozens of activists have been dropped, including against a British citizen, Andargachew Tsige, who had been on death row.”

The question still remains, will Ethiopia likewise pull off its first ever truly multi-party election in 2020? The answer might as well be PM Abiy’s long lasting legacy.

In the last questionable election, which was held in 2015, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia declared a 100% vote victory for the ruling party. The unrealistic results certainly contributed to the resentment that ignited the three-year popular unrest leading to the abrupt resignation of the former prime minister.

The next election season in 2020 is not that far away, but given what has already been accomplished in a mere 8 weeks under PM Abiy who knows how Ethiopia may yet again surprise the world. In the end, however, what is not in doubt today is that this generation has answered the call of our time and has seized the moment to assure the continuity of Ethiopia’s long history and culture, while at the same time placing the country on the right path to a more peaceful and democratic society.


Related:
Abiy Ahmed pulls off an astonishing turnaround for Ethiopia (Washington Post Editorial)
Momentous days in Ethiopia as new PM pledges major reforms (The Associated Press)

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Prince Ermias on Current Ethiopia Situation: ‘Do Not Harm Our Great Country’

Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie speaking at this year's Victory of Adwa Dinner in Washington, DC on March 3rd, 2018. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

Press Release

Statement on the Current Situation in Our Country

By Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie

Washington, DC — Our beloved Ethiopia is currently beset by challenges and difficulties. It is an historically important time for all Ethiopians. It is a time when we must realize that we can choose a path of unity, hope, and leadership, or we can allow ourselves to fall into mutual antagonisms and thereby choose a path which leads to the break-up of the great experiment which began more than three millennia ago. We can recommit ourselves to being the great, noble, and gracious collection known as Ethiopia, or we can succumb to becoming a mere collection of small, petty, and struggling societies.

We are at a point where we can choose our future, and whether or not we choose to overcome our difficulties and challenges to become again a unified, prosperous example to Africa and the world.

Our forefathers maintained our sovereignty, moving the Solomonic Crown — the historical identity of the peoples of our great collection of societies — to the position where its primary function was to represent and inspire the unity and nobility of our nation and peoples. We reiterate those respective positions of the Crown and the age-old traditions of Ethiopia.

The Crown takes no political role when it calls on all of us to ensure that we do not harm our great country. We understand that there are differences between individuals and between communities, but equally we understand that this is a time when these issues must be approached carefully, judiciously, and not in haste or in anger.

There are many external forces at work on our country, anxious to inflame mutual distrust within Ethiopia, and to promote the forces of secession or irredentism. It is easy to fall into the trap of reaction and indignation, a process which, while addressing short-term challenges and emotions, has long-term consequences. Above all, we must remember the special relationship which our great Ethiopia — and its peoples of several different Abrahamic paths — has with God.

Political frustrations do occur in multi-cultural societies like Ethiopia, but they are best channeled by building and strengthening democratic institutions. But in the meantime, we must remain cognizant of our shared identity, our unity as a gathering of many peoples, and our great and noble purpose as a special society which is destined once again to set an example of tolerance, hospitality, generosity, and learning.

The only beneficiaries of a disunited or dismembered Ethiopia are those who wish to see our great history rendered meaningless and our potential as a society destroyed, and those beneficiaries are not Ethiopians. We have all learned the dangers of times of inflamed emotions, and we trust in our civil society and our institutions of state to act with restraint and kindness.

My fellow Ethiopians: please pause; please offer compassion when provoked to reaction. Let us start to rebuild the greatness of Ethiopia which began with our origins three millennia ago. We pray that calm heads and tolerant hearts prevail, and that together we emphasize and build upon our shared identities and values. What differences exist between our communities must be seen as the shades which exist within a family. Nothing can be as devastating as the destruction of family; but nothing is as worthwhile or productive as the shared pride in the special differences which exist within it.


Related:
In Pictures: Black Tie Adwa Victory Dinner in DC Hosted by Prince Ermias

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How UK Helps Sustain Smallholder Cotton Farmers in Ethiopia: by Tadesse Amera

Tadesse Amera works with smallholder farmers in Arba Minch area to produce organic cotton. (The Guardian)

The Guardian

By Tadesse Amera

These organic cotton farmers would still use pesticides if it weren’t for UK donations. We shouldn’t let the scandals faced by some charities alter our behaviour

Among crops, cotton is notorious for the high volumes of hazardous pesticides used to grow it. Pesticide poisoning of smallholder farmers is all too common and indiscriminate use is a major cause of water pollution and biodiversity loss. For years, the accepted wisdom around the world has been that it is uneconomical to grow cotton in any other way. But today farmers in Ethiopia are proving that it is not only possible, but profitable, to grow cotton without pesticides.

I work with smallholder cotton farmers in the Arba Minch area in the south of the country. In the early 2000s they benefited from some training on sustainable agriculture and, despite having no funding, were very keen to continue. Many had suffered from pesticide poisoning themselves or had witnessed the suffering of family or friends. The high cost of pesticides, coupled with dwindling profits, was having an adverse effect on family incomes. They were motivated to find safer and cheaper methods of cotton production.

While Ethiopia has a number of well-established organic coffee producers, there were then no certified organic cotton farmers in the country, and what happened next was only possible because of international support…The project began with 90 farmers and we have provided practical training to more than 2,000 to date. The successes we have achieved in Ethiopia have only been possible thanks to the generosity of the UK public. That is why, while it is right that sexual abuse and exploitation by aid workers is investigated and uncovered, I hope that the scandals facing Oxfam and Save the Children will not discourage people from supporting the charities that so many projects around the world rely on for support.

Most of the families we work with depend on cotton for income to pay for food, medicine, schooling and other essentials. They are understandably cautious about adopting new approaches, as a failed crop can spell disaster for the family. By first working alongside farmers on test plots, they develop confidence in their skills and experience the pros and cons of new methods first-hand. Close monitoring by our dedicated field agents allows us to measure production costs and yields to determine which techniques work best.

Read more »


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Seize the Moment Ethiopia (Editorial)

(Photo by Girma Berta/Instagram)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: February 16th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — On Thursday, February 15th, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his resignation, following his recent promise to release political prisoners, which has set off a historic moment in Ethiopia for a peaceful social and political reform.

In his televised speech Hailemariam said: “Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many. I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

Now, the question is where does the country go from here?

As Reuters reported: “Hundreds of people have died in violence sparked initially by an urban development plan for the capital Addis Ababa. The unrest spread in 2015 and 2016 as demonstrations against political restrictions and human rights abuses broke out.”

While we welcome the release of thousands of prisoners who were unfairly incarcerated including journalists Eskinder Nega, Woubshet Taye, and the dropping of charges against Zone 9 bloggers and other prominent political opposition figures, we also caution that building a true democracy requires transparency, a responsible and free press, and the maturity to think about the common good, beyond our own selves and group interests, both at the grassroots and leadership levels.

We hope the future of a new Ethiopia will also include a robust participation by existing (and or yet to be formed) political parties that are organized based on ideas and not necessarily by ethnic affiliation.

For better or worse Ethiopia is at a crossroads and it is high time for this generation to seize the moment and assure the continuity of the country’s long history as well as our shared and sovereign culture.


Related:
PM Hailemariam Desalegn Resigns (Reuters)
UPDATE: Eskinder Nega & Woubshet Taye Released From Prison
Ethiopia drops charges against Zone 9 bloggers
Bekele Gerba Freed Amid Protests
Signs of Hopeful Debate Emerge Online as Ethiopia Grapples with Future
Ethiopia’s Crisis of Ethnic Politics Taking Toll on Poor People
Ethiopia: 2,300 More Prisoners Pardoned
Interview: Merera Gudina Calls for Dialogue (AFP)
Ethiopia: Is This the Start of Reforms or Just a Pause in Repression? (The Economist)
Ethiopia: Media Roundup of Reactions to Announced Release of Political Prisoners

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William Hershey: How We Sided With Change in Ethiopia Long Ago (Opinion)

William Hershey, who is a former Washington correspondent and Columbus bureau chief for the Beacon Journal in Ohio, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia during Haile Selassie's time. In the following commentary he recalls how Americans quietly sympathized with the "desire for change" in Ethiopia when he lived there in the late 1960s, while offering a timely advise to the current U.S. President regarding the protests in Iran. Hershey says: "President Trump could try a more indirect or even behind-the-scenes approach than nasty tweets to show support for the Iranian protesters." (Image: screen shot)

Ohio.com

By William Hershey

COLUMBUS: President Donald Trump’s outspoken support for the protesters in Iran brought back memories of half a century ago when hundreds of Peace Corps teachers in Ethiopia, including me, were confronted with a dilemma.

For Trump, the concern is that the president’s bellicose tweets could backfire and give Iranian authorities an excuse to blame the protests on the Americans, still regarded as evil even by some critics of the regime.

In Ethiopia, the challenge was whether to stick to our assigned tasks — mostly teaching English, a key to further education and jobs — or also to provide our students with a vision of a society that could provide more freedom and opportunities than theirs.

I was the only foreigner on the faculty and mostly stuck to teaching but also pulled off a dirty clothes subterfuge. More about that later.

When we landed in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in 1968, we were transported back in time to a feudal regime ruled by Emperor Haile Selassie, King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah.

The emperor’s picture was everywhere, in public buildings, bars and restaurants. He was not just Haile Selassie, but His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie.

The Ethiopian government had a veneer of democracy, including an elected parliament. Haile Selassie, a hero to many around the world for his country’s resistance to Italy in World War II, had initiated efforts at modernization, including providing education to a largely illiterate populace.

Still, the emperor and his allies lived lives of unbelievable luxury in a country where many people struggled to survive.

Our guidance from Peace Corps officials was clear. We were guests of the Ethiopian government, feudal or not, and encouraged to keep political opinions to ourselves.

The Cold War was also a factor.

Ethiopia was an American ally in a region where other nations supported communism and the Soviet Union. No reason for a bunch of foreign do-gooders to upset a friend.

There had been protests by Ethiopian university students, but they had been met with strong resistance. In our small, traditional town, located about 500 miles from Addis Ababa, a student who objected to the way things were would have had his or her education ended promptly.

Still, even in this pre-internet era, short-wave radio brought news of the outside world, including stories of political upheavals.

The students and especially the teachers wanted to learn all they could about what was going on outside Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian teachers and I sometimes discussed how things were in Ethiopia and how they would like them to be. They were especially interested in a book, Ethiopia: A New Political History. It detailed a failed 1960 coup aimed at toppling Haile Selassie and replacing imperial rule with a more representative government.

The book had been banned in Ethiopia, but the teachers knew about it and were eager to get their hands on a copy.

That’s where the dirty clothes subterfuge came in. During a vacation to the East Africa nations of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, I bought several copies of the book for the teachers.

The Ethiopian authorities were on the outlook for such seditious material. To evade customs inspectors, I hid the books among my dirty clothes when I returned to Ethiopia, and they went undetected.

The teachers got their books, and I hope that I signaled that I sympathized with their desire for change.

President Trump could try a more indirect or even behind-the-scenes approach than nasty tweets to show support for the Iranian protesters.

That, of course, is not the preferred approach for somebody who likes to say “you’re fired.”

If he tries, the ayatollahs won’t pay much attention.


William Hershey can be reached at hershey_william@hotmail.com.

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UPDATED: Conversation on Decolonization of Ethiopian Knowledge — Addis Standard

This opinion article has been updated with links to new comments at the bottom. (Photo from the Addis Abeba Ethnographic Museum)

Addis Standard

By Abadir Ibrahim

QUESTIONS, CONCERNS AND A CRITIQUE ON THE DECOLONIZATION OF ETHIOPIAN KNOWLEDGE

Addis Abeba – In an opinion piece published on a previous issue of Addis Standard, Hewan Semon proposed a conversation on the decolonization of Ethiopian studies. As much as I would have liked to take this conversation into my areas of interest (human rights, democracy and the modern Ethiopian/African state) I will stay closer to Hewan’s framing for now. I will only ask further questions, raise some concerns and bring up one critique hoping to spur conversations into my fields of interest.

Colonialism: in the Rearview Mirror?

As an outsider to Ethiopian studies reading a critical take on the field, my first question was whether we needed the field in the first place. Hewan’s call for decolonization suggests that Ethiopian studies, or African studies in general, have and still are growing on colonial roots. Rather than grafting Ethiopian branches on the field, wouldn’t it make sense to simply find other, for example thematic, ways of organizing the study of Ethiopia?

The author’s protest against colonial scholarship is that it constructs Africans in simplified and caricatured ways that make colonization palatable or even necessary. One could assume that such a gross misrepresentation of Africans/Ethiopians did not occur merely due to methodological errors. The colonial roots of Ethiopian/African studies, in all probability, emerged from a complex set of corporate, military, academic and bureaucratic interests that found, sustain and benefit from the systematic and by no means inexpensive study of Ethiopia/Africa. Given how the author expresses frustration over Ethiopian studies taking place in English and French, because scholars would not find (foreign!) funding if they used local languages, the question remains as to whether the field is still a foreign endeavor to study Ethiopia.

More follow-up questions arise when you open up the topic of decolonization beyond the humanities and social sciences. The article alludes to how Ethiopians uncritically jumped on the [colonial] bandwagons of modernization, human rights, ethnicity, development and nationalism. One could ask whether, or to what extent, any of these should also be decolonized.

Read more »


Related:
A FRESH START TO UP THE ANTE: THE DECOLONIZING DEBATE
ON DECOLONIZING ETHIOPIAN STUDIES: METHODOLOGICAL NATIONALISM AS BAD AS EUROCENTRISM
ON DECOLONIZING ETHIOPIAN STUDIES: DECOLONIZE THE DECOLONIZERS FIRST

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Ethiopia: Diaspora Cyberbullies Dumbing Down Online Discourse?

Anti-intellectualism has a very unpleasant past in the not-so-distant and violent history of Ethiopia. But unfortunately even today, while hiding behind a computer screen, some fake news webmaster(s) in the Diaspora still foster this repugnant culture through their fictitious name characters that offer nothing of substance to the public, except to spew hate, personal attacks, juvenile name-calling, labeling and baseless misinformation propaganda against fellow Ethiopians. Are these cyberbullies dumbing down the online political discourse in our community? And how can we stand up to them without resorting to their failed and cynical "shooting the messenger" tactics? It starts with understanding the meaning of cyberbullying. (Photograph: stopbullying.gov)

What Is Cyberbullying

[According to stopbullying.gov:]

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

Special Concerns

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

Read more »


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Ethiopia: In Comparison to Mengistu, Mugabe Ain’t Africa’s Worst

Mobotu Sese Seko, left, turned Zaire, now Congo, into a gangsters’ paradise; Mengistu Haile Mariam, centre, led Stalin-style purges in Ethiopia; and Idi Amin reportedly fed his opponents to crocodiles before being allowed to flee Uganda and live in exile. (AP photos)

The Times

A tyrant and a bungler but Robert Mugabe falls short of Africa’s worst

Among older Africans Robert Mugabe is still held in considerable, though dwindling respect.

Twenty years ago he was seen as the symbol of Africa’s liberation from colonialism, the man who fought a guerrilla war against white minority rule and won.

That respect lingered throughout his rule, making it hard for Britain or the European Union to persuade Zimbabwe’s neighbours or the African Union to support sanctions against him.

His overthrow has divided the continent. Some younger African leaders salute the end of a regime that has bankrupted Zimbabwe, but not a few autocrats see a dangerous precedent, and are underlining the African Union’s condemnation of any coup…

Despite recent excesses, economic misrule and the shameful massacre of 20,000 civilians in Matabeleland at the start of his rule, Mr Mugabe will not go down as the worst of African leaders.

Uganda was more swiftly and more comprehensively ruined by Idi Amin, who murdered 300,000 people and fed some opponents — including his foreign minister — to the crocodiles…Other tyrants included Francisco Macias Nguema, first president of Equatorial Guinea, who had a huge collection of human skulls in his mansion and replaced crucifixes in churches with his own image. He abolished all education in 1974, executed and maimed civil servants, and on his overthrow tried to flee with the entire paper currency of the country in a suitcase.

Equally brutal was [Mengistu Haile Mariam], a Russian-trained Marxist who overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in 1974 and had him murdered and buried beneath a lavatory a year later. He executed thousands of political opponents and brought about mass starvation in 1983-85 with his Marxist economic policies.

Read more »


Related:
UPDATE: Mugabe Resigns After 37 Years in Power

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Ethiopia’s Contradiction: Ethnofederalism or Federalism?

Unlike Ethiopia's ethnofederalism where a state is defined according to ethnicity (see Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, Gambela, Somali, etc), a federal system in other diverse countries, such as the U.S., is simply a constitutional power-sharing arrangement between a central government and the population it serves regardless of group identity and with a purpose of promoting a common national and cultural tradition. (Image: GeoCurrents Maps of Ethiopia)

Study.com

What is a Federal Government? – Definition, Powers & Benefits

A federal government is a system that divides up power between a strong national government and smaller local governments. We’ll take a look at how power plays out between the national and local government, and the benefits of a federal government.

Benefits of A Federal Government

Why does the United States have a federal government but not Great Britain? The answer has to do with size. Federal governments are best used in large countries where there exists a diverse group of people with diverse needs but a common culture that unites them together.

For example, think of the difference between Wyoming (the least densely populated state) and New Jersey (the most densely populated state). Clearly, the needs at the local level of each state will be different, so they should have different local governments to address those needs. Nonetheless, both states share a common culture and interest and, therefore, are united by the national government.

Federal governments help address the wide variety of needs of a geographically large country. It is no wonder, then, that federal governments exist in large countries, like the United States, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and others.

Federal Government in the United States: Division of Power

In the United States, the Constitution created the federal system by limiting the activities of the national government to a few areas, such as collecting taxes, providing for defense, borrowing money on credit, regulating commerce, creating a currency, establishing post offices and post roads, granting patents, creating lower courts, and declaring war. The 10th amendment of the Constitution, on the other hand, gave all other powers to the states. As a result, any specific power not given to the Federal government is a power of the state government.

In theory, the United States federal system has a clear division between what states oversee and what the federal government oversees.

Read more »


Related:
Ethiopian Federal System – What Is in It? (AllAfrica.com)

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Ethiopia: Diaspora Politicos Got ODS?

Urban dictionary defines ODS or Obama Derangement Syndrome as a state of mind when people "stop thinking logically and stop using common sense" when it comes to the former American President. In our case, the politicos in the Diaspora are still peddling the same old fake news narrative that blames not themselves, but the ex-U.S. leader, for their own failure (to date) to meaningfully influence U.S. policy towards Ethiopia. Meanwhile, nothing seems to have changed in Ethiopia since last year. Below is the latest news from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. (Photo: Obama in Ethiopia, July 26th, 2015/Getty Images)

U.S. Embassy Ethiopia

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor at the arrival ceremony of Boeing 787-9 Aircraft at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa


Michael Raynor, the current U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, at Bole airport last week greeting a new Boeing 787-9 Aircraft with Ethiopian airlines CEO Tewolde Gebre Mariam.

(As prepared for delivery)

His Excellency Ahmed Shide, Minister of Transport
Tewolde GebreMariam, Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines
Excellences
Ladies and Gentlemen

It’s a tremendous pleasure and honor for me to be here this afternoon to celebrate the arrival of this newest addition to Ethiopian Airline’s fleet, which symbolizes both the extraordinary progress and growth of Ethiopian Airlines as well as the latest in American aviation engineering.

Having spent much of my career in Africa, I’ve had a front row seat for Ethiopian Airlines’ remarkable growth in becoming the premier carrier for the continent and an important global player in the industry.

And it’s been gratifying for me to witness the role that American technology and aviation know-how have played in supporting Ethiopian Airline’s progress along the way.

The arrival of this magnificent aircraft is only the latest chapter in the long and distinguished partnership between the United States and Ethiopia in the field of aviation.

It’s a history that dates back to 1935, when Colonel John C. Robinson, a pioneering African-American aviator, answered Emperor Haile Selassie’s call to help defend Ethiopia against Italian forces during World War II.

After significant contributions to Ethiopia’s air defenses during the War, Colonel Robinson returned in 1945 to help rebuild the Ethiopian Air Force and to establish an aviation training school.

1945 was also the year when the Government of Ethiopia signed an agreement with the U.S. carrier Trans World Airlines, or TWA, to help establish its national airline.

As a result, many of Ethiopian Airlines very first pilots, technicians, and administrators were American, and the airline has had American aircraft in its fleet throughout its history, starting with the Douglas C-47.

So the United States takes a small amount of pride in helping to launch this extraordinary enterprise.

But Ethiopian Airlines subsequent success is entirely Ethiopia’s to claim.

From those early beginnings, Ethiopian Airlines now offers flights to destinations around the world, including, I’m proud to say, to three great American cities: New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

Ethiopian Airlines helps link the world, and it’s a vital bridge between our two nations as well, supporting growth in trade, investment, tourism, and educational and cultural exchanges, while helping to deepen the connections and enduring friendships between our peoples.

Ethiopian Airlines has also become one of the most significant sources of business cooperation between Ethiopia and the United States.

This relationship of course includes the airline’s significant investments in Boeing aircraft, but also its strong partnerships with other American companies like Sabre, GE, Honeywell, and AAR.

These companies are committed to partnering with Ethiopian Airlines to support its continued growth and success.

To say that these partnerships are mutually beneficial would perhaps be an understatement.

The benefits for the United States in terms of economic growth and job creation are clear.

As to the benefits for Ethiopia of having an increasingly global airline using state-of-the-art American technology, well, let’s just say the sky’s the limit.

From developing Addis Ababa as a regional and global transit hub, to expanding opportunities for tourism, to making Ethiopia more accessible for global trade and investment, the impact of Ethiopian Airlines’ success extends well beyond the airline itself.

Ethiopian Airlines’ success will expand economic opportunities across the breadth of Ethiopian society, and here, too, the United States is a committed partner to Ethiopia, promoting Ethiopian prosperity through our broad array of development, economic growth, humanitarian, and commercial engagement.

In the end, the success of Ethiopian Airlines is ultimately just one symbol – albeit an important and impressive one – of the value and potential of the U.S.-Ethiopian relationship.

If Colonel John Robinson could bridge the 70-plus years between 1945 and today, I expect he would be amazed by, and perhaps a little proud of, the success of Ethiopian Airlines.
And I can only imagine what still-greater successes will be celebrated 70 years from now – for Ethiopian Airlines, for Ethiopia, and for the U.S.-Ethiopian partnership.

Congratulations to you all on this milestone in Ethiopian Airline’s growth and success, and thank you for permitting me to be a part of this wonderful celebration.


Related:
Readout Of Meeting Between Ambassador Haley & PM Hailemariam

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Diaspora: Whatever Happened to Our So-Called Ethiopia Rights Advocates?

They used to be loud and vociferous insulting President Obama with more zeal than the Tea Party, but now they seem like shuffle-shuffle men, busy writing nonsensical letters to the White House. Meanwhile the Human Rights situation remains the same in Ethiopia. Below is the latest news release from HRW urging U.S. congress to support respect for Human Rights in Ethiopia. (Photo: Amnesty International USA blog)

HRW

US Congress: Support Respect for Human Rights in Ethiopia
Vote on H.Res 128

The Honorable Paul Ryan Speaker of the House H-232 The Capitol Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Ryan,

We are writing to underscore the importance of House Resolution (H.Res.) 128 and the need to bring it to a vote as soon as possible. The resolution, which calls for respect for human rights and encourages inclusive governance in Ethiopia, has strong bipartisan support with 71 co-sponsors. It passed the Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously on July 27, 2017 and was scheduled for a vote on October 2nd. However, on Thursday, September 28, the measure was removed from the calendar without explanation.

Last week, a Member of Congress publicly stated that H.Res.128 had been pulled due to threats by the Ethiopian government that if the House proceeded with a vote, Ethiopia would withdraw as a partner on regional counterterrorism efforts.

Ethiopia has long been an important security ally of the United States and continues to receive financial, intelligence and military assistance. However, its worsening human rights record, which includes a brutal crackdown on dissent since 2015 and near elimination of democratic space in the country, has introduced profound instability in the region. The US has long seen a stable and prosperous Ethiopia as crucial to the effectiveness of its counterterrorism efforts.

We believe H.Res.128 represents an important and long overdue response to Ethiopia’s heavyhanded tactics against largely peaceful protests that began in Oromia in 2015 and later spread to the Amhara region in 2016. Together these regions represent around 70 percent of the population of Ethiopia. They indicate a widespread grassroots desire for reform in the country.

A strong, unambiguous signal from the US demanding concrete reforms is required to avert crisis and to create a path toward sustainable regional stability. The passage of H.Res.128 represents an important first step in that direction and should not be derailed by last-minute bullying tactics. This would not be the first time the government of Ethiopia has made threats of this nature and it is worth noting they have never been carried through.

The resolution raises a number of important recommendations that could benefit both Ethiopia and the United States in their counterterrorism partnership while encouraging the government of Ethiopia to take steps to open up civic space, ensure accountability for human rights abuses, and promote inclusive governance.

Read more »


Related:
U.S. Congress Should Call Ethiopia’s Bluff (Freedom House)

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Ethiopia: 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows Tell Their Stories

Abinet Tasew, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow from Ethiopia (pictured above), is the author of the following article. (US Embassy Addis)

US Embassy Addis

By Abinet Tasew, 2017 Fellow

The fellowship is a game changer

The name of the program, “Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders,” itself was my inspiration to apply. I learned about the program two years ago from the radio; someone talked about “Young African Leaders,” then associated it with two great leaders I love the most – Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I thought about two things: how prestigious the program will be and how great young African minds will come together. I looked back at my accomplishments and I told myself that I fulfill all the requirements. I was confident when I wrote my application; I was sure that I would be one of the 2015 fellows. I made it as a semi-finalist, proving me right, but I ended up being an alternate candidate. Guess what I told myself, “This is the result of quotas for the program, and it has nothing to do with me.” I pulled myself together and reapplied. This time, I made it as a finalist and I become a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow. The program is prestigious and I met great, young African minds and hearts.

The fellowship is a game changer. I never thought that a six-week experience could have this huge impact on my worldview.

Read more »


Related:
“Applying To MWF was one of the best decision I have ever made” — By Tigist Seife Haile
Former Mandela Washington Fellow Gersam Abera Shares Advice for 2018 Applicants
“The Mandela Washington Fellowship was a life changing experience” — By Azeb Gebresilassie Tesema
Four tips to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship program — By Helina Stiphanos, 2017 Fellow
What inspired you to apply? — By Melaku Girma Lemma, 2017 Fellow
Meet the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

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Former Mandela Washington Fellow From Ethiopia Shares Advice for 2018 Applicants

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) is conducted annually as a merit-based open competition by U.S. Embassies across the African continent. (Photo: Former Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia/US Embassy Addis Ababa)

US Embassy Addis

By Gersam Abera — Assistant Professor of Surgery at Jimma University

Jimma, Ethiopia — I learned about YALI program first from my wife who had joined the YALI group and invited me to join. I used to see email communications and Facebook posts of different African youth who had been impacted by the different programs. My interest was not high enough to actively participate in it until the 2016 MWF when I saw one of my students posting on Facebook about her experience in the US with President Barack Obama. It was then when I paid attention and understood its purpose and goals, which are to inspire and equip young and potential leaders of Africa to better be ready for tomorrow. To be equipped with richer experience and improve my leadership capacity were the two reasons why I applied the MWF 2017.

I stayed at Florida International University for 6 weeks and then in Washington DC for a 3 day summit. I would never trade the time I spent during my MWF experience for anything because it was a rich cross-cultural experience as well as enlightening leadership training course. I learned the vast potential Africa has hidden and unexploited yet in its culture, mineral resources, and untapped youth who are the majority. The networking moments helped me improve my self-confidence and explain about myself better in a limited time. I had fruitful connections from the networks as well. After my stay in US I was determined to come back to my country and get involved in leadership to ensure the limited resource available would be utilized in a more efficient and effective way to better make the service providers as well as the population to be served satisfied in the service.


Former Washington Mandela Fellow Gersam Abera Shares His Experience and Advice for 2018 Applicants.(Photo: US Embassy Addis)

My advice for the MWF 2018 applicants is to follow their passion and dream big because through good self-leadership anything is achievable. As I have explained earlier, my experience at FIU was unforgettable and I am benefiting from it even in my day to day work. So I would like to encourage anyone who is thinking about applying to do it immediately. My further advice for the application itself is to be yourself. The true you who has a big future dream should be expressed in the essays you write. Be bold and clear to show your achievements and aspirations. Write down your essay first time and re-read and re-correct it until you write it in a fewer words but telling all of your inner feelings with the limited word counts given. I would advise you to be serious about the application because there are a lot of youth who are competing for the few spots available. Choose your track wisely. If your future goal and current achievement is inclined to one track than the other, please choose this track which is more related to your current practice. I wish you all the best.


Related:
The 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship
“The fellowship is a game changer” – Abinet Tasew, 2017 Fellow
Meet the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

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Opinion: Can These Foreign Policy Minded Obama Era Officials Win Election in 2018?

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tomasz Malinowski testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/For The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Can these Obama-era national security officials win in Congress?

In the first national election of the Trump era, more than a half-dozen Obama administration national security officials are running for Congress, which could result in the largest influx of foreign-policy-minded Democrats to Capitol Hill in years. But all of them face the challenge of moving from the world of policy to politics and translating their Washington résumés into arguments that appeal to locally focused voters.

Officials from President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, State Department and Defense Department have returned home to run for Congress in 2018. Each has a different story, constituency and task at hand. But they all have come to the conclusion that, after long careers in government bureaucracies, their best chance to serve meaningfully is to enter the political fray.

But can they convince voters that their foreign policy experience qualifies them to fight on behalf of local issues? That careers in Washington give them the credibility and skills to reform a broken system? And can they raise enough money to win?

Some of these Democratic aspirants are entering politics in reaction to what they see as a national crisis caused by the Trump presidency…

Tom Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under Obama, told me he is running in New Jersey because he sees the United States’ role and identity as a force for good in the world being squandered by President Trump.

“The values that I’ve been fighting for around the world are the values that are being called into question here in the United States,” Malinowski said. “It can’t be fixed by writing policy papers. It can only be fixed through the political process.”

Read the full article at The Washington Post »


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Ethiopia: What Obama’s Record Breaking Mandela Tweet Tells Us About the World

Twitter has announced that Obama's tweet quoting Mandela after Charlottesville is "the most-liked ever." (Photos: Twitter)

The Conversation

What is it about former US President Barack Obama’s record-setting tweet – it has already surpassed 1.6 million retweets and 4.5 million “likes” – that has captured the imagination of the world?

In the tweet Obama quoted Nelson Mandela:

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Judging by the replies and comments, the tweet seems to have offered some respite to the rapid depletion in social morale in the US after the recent Charlottesville violence. White supremacists gathered in the Virginia town for a “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 to protest against plans to remove the statue of the Confederacy general, Robert E Lee. The violent extremists chanted racist and pro-Nazi slogans.

One of them, James Fields (20), allegedly rammed a car into anti-fascist demonstrators, killing activist, Heather Heyer (32).

Then came the current US President Donald Trump’s press statement that effectively legitimised the racism as perpetuated by the rightwingers.

Why did the Mandela words resonate now?

Obama’s stroke of genius

Amid incredulous scenes of flagrant neo-Nazism – incredulous, that is, in an era of progressive human rights – and the inevitable and necessary protest against the rally, the words of Nelson Mandela resounded with a gentle wisdom and a kindly warning.

It was not so much a case of Obama simply not being able to find the correct words to respond to such a loathsome occurrence. After all it’s not uncommon to use someone else’s words or sentiment to make a statement on social media. I too have done this on occasion.

In this instance, however, the use of Mandela’s words was calculated. Strategically speaking, it was a stroke of genius.

Articulating the poignant message as a “direct quote” tweet enabled Obama to pass on a discreet message saturated with meaning because of its content and because it was attributed to its originator.

But, as we have seen on Obama’s timeline, the direct-quote tweet was given added meaning because of who had sent it, and its timing.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation sent out the same quote as a tweet on 29 July. But it enjoyed just over 1,100 “likes”, 18 replies and 737 retweets. While this is obviously related to the number of followers, the point is that the overwhelming global resonance with the quote via Obama’s twitter timeline, is not simply because of its content, as profound as it is.


NelsonMandela ✔ @NelsonMandela

In this case, Obama may have chosen these words precisely because they offered some distance from the political space in America. Had he tweeted a strong and powerful message in his own name or using his own words – which he is clearly skilled at doing – the message may have been regarded as merely playing the opposition card, or indeed, more likely, the race card. Either of these two imaginary readings would inevitably have been shut down either by political loyalists or increasingly courageous racists.

By using Mandela’s quote as a response to Charlottesville, Obama maintained a sophisticated balancing act, while offering a few poignant messages of his own:

  • America is at risk of legitimising racial hatred in much the same way as South Africa did during apartheid;
  • Far-right conservative politics erodes the natural inclination of the human condition towards compassion;
  • Trump’s views represent irresponsible leadership, and are a veritable seedbed for social hostility.

    Perhaps that is why the echoed words of Mandela caused such an outpouring of support and resonance among twitterati. It said what progressively-minded individuals wanted to say, but simply couldn’t find the words.

    Moral authority

    I think the tweet raises another interesting sociological point about moral authority. In a context in which there is such a deflation of morale – such as the violence in Charlottesville and the blatantly irresponsible responses from Trump – any sound-minded progressive individual might hope, or even pray, for some kind of voice of reason.

    Under normal circumstances, and especially in a predominantly Christian society such as the US, this voice of reason may be found in the Bible. But the right wing rally-goers had traded its life force for a narrative of exclusion that supported their bigotry. Invoking the words of the venerated icon Mandela, then, offered the necessary kind of gravitas or moral weight.

    I can’t help but consider how Mandela’s legacy continues to offer respite to the world, though sometimes in quite different ways. In one case, it is Obama’s political wisdom that prompts him to use the words of Mandela to balance out rising social discontent, and to challenge racial hatred.

    In another case, just under our noses, the African National Congress (ANC) with its increasingly dishonourable political leadership, invokes Mandela’s legacy to balance out rising social discontent about its own moral bankruptcy. Perhaps Mandela too, is, tragically, a man for all seasons.


    The author Caryn Abrahams is Senior lecturer at the School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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  • Trump’s Weird Obsession With Obama

    Trump’s strange obsession with Obama explained. (Photo: NYT)

    The New York Times

    Trump’s Obama Obsession

    Donald Trump has a thing about Barack Obama. Trump is obsessed with Obama. Obama haunts Trump’s dreams. One of Trump’s primary motivators is the absolute erasure of Obama — were it possible — not only from the political landscape but also from the history books.

    Trump is president because of Obama, or more precisely, because of his hostility to Obama. Trump came onto the political scene by attacking Obama.

    Trump has questioned not only Obama’s birthplace but also his academic and literary pedigree. He was head cheerleader of the racial “birther” lie and also cast doubt on whether Obama attended the schools he attended or even whether he wrote his acclaimed books.

    Trump has lied often about Obama: saying his inauguration crowd size exceeded Obama’s, saying that Obama tapped his phones and, just this week, saying that Obama colluded with the Russians.

    It’s like a 71-year-old male version of Jan from what I would call the Bratty Bunch: Obama, Obama, Obama.

    Trump wants to be Obama — held in high esteem. But, alas, Trump is Trump, and that is now and has always been trashy. Trump accrued financial wealth, but he never accrued cultural capital, at least not among the people from whom he most wanted it.

    Therefore, Trump is constantly whining about not being sufficiently applauded, commended, thanked, liked. His emotional injury is measured in his mind against Obama. How could Obama have been so celebrated while he is so reviled?

    The whole world seemed to love Obama — and by extension, held America in high regard — but the world loathes Trump. A Pew Research Center report issued this week found:

    Obama was a phenomenon. He was elegant and cerebral. He was devoid of personal scandal and drenched in personal erudition. He was a walking, talking rebuttal to white supremacy and the myths of black pathology and inferiority. He was the personification of the possible — a possible future in which legacy power and advantages are redistributed more broadly to all with the gift of talent and the discipline to excel.

    Read more »


    Related:
    U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership

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    George W. Bush: PEPFAR Saves Millions of Lives in Africa. Keep it Fully Funded.

    Former president George W. Bush greets children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana. (Reuters)

    The Washington Post

    By George W. Bush

    George W. Bush served as 43rd president of the United States and founded the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.

    Last week in Gaborone, Botswana, Laura and I sat in a small room in Tlokweng Main Clinic, a facility that recently started screening and treating women for cervical cancer. Seated with us was Leithailwe Wale, a 40-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the disease. Thanks to early detection and access to treatment, she told us, today she is alive, healthy and able to raise her son.

    Good news like Leithailwe’s is becoming increasingly common in five African countries where Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is operating. Since leaving the White House, Laura and I have been heartbroken to learn that because women with HIV are more likely to have cervical cancer, people who had been saved from AIDS were needlessly dying from another treatable, preventable disease. So at the Bush Institute, we formed this global public-private partnership to fight women’s cancers.

    In the past six years, more than 370,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer and 24,000 for breast cancer through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. More than 119,000 girls have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical and other cancers. Nearly 1,000 health workers have been trained. With the proper resources and international commitment, we could end cervical cancer deaths on the continent in 30 years.

    Critical to this effort is our Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). My administration launched PEPFAR in 2003 to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic that threatened to wipe out an entire generation on the continent of Africa…As the executive and legislative branches review the federal budget, they will have vigorous debates about how best to spend taxpayers’ money — and they should. Some will argue that we have enough problems at home and shouldn’t spend money overseas. I argue that we shouldn’t spend money on programs that don’t work, whether at home or abroad. But they should fully fund programs that have proven to be efficient, effective and results-oriented. Saving nearly 12 million lives is proof that PEPFAR works, and I urge our government to fully fund it. We are on the verge of an AIDS-free generation, but the people of Africa still need our help. The American people deserve credit for this tremendous success and should keep going until the job is done.

    Read the full article at The Washington Post »


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    WSJ on Trump’s Dishonest Presidency

    "If he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President," say editors of Wall Street Journal arguing that Trump’s lies are eroding public trust at home and abroad. (Getty)

    The Hill

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on Tuesday harshly criticized President Trump for damaging his own credibility and undermining his presidency with “his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

    The conservative editorial board said Trump’s repeated accusations that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower will make people second-guess whether he is speaking the truth if something serious happens during his administration.

    “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him?” the editorial stated.

    “We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”
    The attack from the Journal’s editorial board is notable at a time when Trump is struggling to win over voters for legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare. While it is far from unusual for the conservative page to criticize a Republican, the attack on Trump was notable for its language.

    “Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President,” it said.

    It criticized Trump for refusing to apologize for the accusation about Obama, which lawmakers in both parties and the director of the FBI have said is baseless.

    The publication also knocked Trump for repeating an unsubstantiated assertion by a Fox News commentator that a British intelligence agency had helped Obama with wiretaps, while expressing wonder that he would stick to his position.

    “Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims,” the editors write. “[White House press secretary] Sean Spicer — who doesn’t deserve this treatment — was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.”


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    What’s Wrong in Ethiopia? Land, Stupid

    In Ethiopia land dispute led to protests and many deaths outside Addis Ababa last year. (Getty Images)

    ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE – LONDON

    FAILING TO SPOT THAT THE PROBLEM WITH ETHIOPIA IS…[LAND]

    Things are not going well in Ethiopia, this we know. Riots and protests erupt. This is not a good sign for a society. It’s also very much a pity – not just for the usual reasons that violence is a pity – because Ethiopia is one of those places discovering the joys of the early stages of a lift off into the Industrial Revolution. They’re taking those first baby steps to getting rich, that thing that we’ve all done and which has escaped all too much of the world until very recently.

    What’s happening is that those living on a piece of land, working it perhaps, are being thrown off it in favour of those doing something else with it. But why?

    The Guardian tells us what is happening but doesn’t quite manage to grasp that cause, even though they mention it:

    All land is theoretically owned by the government, merely leased by tenants, and when the government says go, you have to go.

    This is the problem that private property solves. OK, sure, you can construct a very rickety indeed case that all land is still owned by the Crown (it isn’t, but) and that compulsory purchase equates to this. But that’s not so – compulsory purchase means that you get paid at the market rate for having to move and then only in favour of a project which contributes to the public, not private, good.

    But in a system where the government really does own all the land, and can allocate usage without reference to current occupiers, the end result is what we see in Ethiopia. Who gets to use the land depends upon access to the political system and those excluded riot as a result.

    It might even be true that no one made the land so there’s no reason why anyone should own it exclusively. Except that, as with democracy, all other systems are worse.

    Read more »


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    Debating Pros & Cons of US Foreign Aid

    Let’s begin by getting the facts straight: US foreign assistance represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget -- tiny category of discretionary spending, experts say. (Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    ‘America first’ shouldn’t mean cutting foreign aid

    We have entered the era of “America first” with only a vague understanding of its meaning. President Trump’s inaugural address signaled an ambitious nationalist reimagining of the post-World War II international order. Trump’s foreign policy team, in contrast, seems to spring from that order. The resulting uncertainty is global and dangerous. Vacuums of leadership are not generally filled by the good guys.

    The administration’s policy shift is most evident so far in the areas of trade and refugees — Trump prefers less of both. Given a narrowed conception of national interest and the president’s discomfort with the idea of “nation building,” foreign assistance would seem a natural next target. Persistent rumors that the administration is mulling major cuts at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have heightened this speculation.

    Although Trump hasn’t spoken much on this topic, some of his comments have reflected an inclination to pull back…Yet Trump has also added notes of ambiguity. In August, he told the Miami Herald that Congress should increase funding to fight the Zika virus abroad. In September, he underlined the importance of ensuring clean water for everyone in the world. In October, he stated that “we’re going to lead the way” on AIDS relief.

    In this case, Trump’s better angels would do more to serve the country than his budget-cutters. Putting foreign assistance on the chopping block would be a serious mistake, by any definition of the national interest.

    ***

    Let’s begin by getting the facts straight. Surveys have shown that many Americans assume the country spends upwards of 20 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. In reality, nonmilitary foreign assistance — including all of America’s work on international development and global health — represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Slashing this tiny category of discretionary spending for the sake of budget control would be a form of deception — a sideshow to avoid truly important (and unpopular) budgetary choices.

    For less than 1 percent of the federal budget, the United States led a global coalition to fight HIV/AIDS when the disease threatened to devastate and destabilize much of the African continent . Battling another of the world’s most lethal killers, malaria, U.S.-led global programs have saved more than 6 million lives, mainly children under 5 years old. America also led a global effort to support agriculture when the food, fuel and financial crisis of 2008 pushed nearly 100 million people back into a state of chronic hunger and extreme poverty. As of 2015, that effort had directly benefited nearly 19 million rural households and reached more than 12 million children with nutrition programs. And America led a global partnership to bring power to half a billion people in Africa who have too often lived, worked, studied and given birth in the dark.

    Read more »


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    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    How Trump is Emboldening Autocrats, Damaging Press Freedom in U.S. & Abroad

    (Image: New York Daily News Twitter@NYDailyNews)

    The New York Times

    Updated: FEB. 25, 2017

    Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, President Trump took his anti-media rhetoric to a new level, doubling down on his description of journalists as “the enemy of the people” and calling for an end to the use of anonymous sources. This on a day when his press secretary Sean Spicer barred reporters from The New York Times, BBC, BuzzFeed News, CNN, Politico, The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post from his daily White House press briefing.

    The unrelenting attacks on the news media damage American democracy. They appear to be part of a deliberate strategy to undermine public confidence and trust by sowing confusion and uncertainty about what is true. But they do even greater damage outside the United States, where America’s standing as a global beacon of press freedom is being drastically eroded.

    This is not just a matter of United States prestige. At a time when journalists around the world are being killed and imprisoned in record numbers, Mr. Trump’s relentless tirades against “fake news” are emboldening autocrats and depriving threatened and endangered journalists of one of their strongest supporters — the United States government.

    Of course the United States’ record on press freedom is far from perfect. During the Obama administration, aggressive leak investigations — including a record number of prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act — regularly ensnared the press. But the United States has had tremendous moral influence when it spoke out about press freedom violations, and not just because of the commitment to the First Amendment. The fact that United States political leaders regularly withstood relentless criticism in the press gave them legitimacy when they called for the protection of critical voices in repressive societies.

    For example, the Obama administration, through public statements and behind-the-scenes diplomacy, helped win the release of imprisoned journalists in Ethiopia and Vietnam. President George W. Bush regularly spoke out about press freedom violations, in places like Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

    Earlier this month, the Venezuelan government suspended CNN’s Spanish language network following accusations by President Nicolás Maduro that the network manipulates the news. President Trump was silent. Really, what could he say?

    Read more »


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    Reporters gather after being denied access to an informal White House press secretary briefing. (AFP)

    CPJ

    February 24, 2017

    New York –The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the decision today to bar nine news outlets from an informal briefing known as “a gaggle” by President Donald Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Separately, at the Conservative Party Action Conference in Maryland today, Trump said that journalists should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and accused the press of producing “fake news,” according to reports.

    “President Trump’s calls for an end to anonymous sources was alarming. It is not the job of political leaders to determine how journalists should conduct their work, and sets a terrible example for the rest of the world, where sources often must remain anonymous to preserve their own lives,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We are concerned by the decision to bar reporters from a press secretary briefing. The U.S. should be promoting press freedom and access to information.”

    Aides to the press secretary denied access to reporters from CNN, The New York Times, Politico, The Hill, the BBC, the Daily Mail, Buzzfeed, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Daily News, saying that only those previously confirmed could attend the briefing, The New York Times reported. An administration spokesperson said in a statement that a press pool was in place for the informal briefing, which was taking in a smaller office that the regular briefings. Reporters from The Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the briefing in solidarity with their colleagues.

    Read more »

    Here’s the audio from the White House briefing that blocked CNN, New York Times


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    Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest To Armed Uprising – OpEd

    People protest against an earlier security force attack on a student rally in central and southern Ethiopia during a demonstration organized by the opposition in Addis Ababa, May 2014. (Reuters)

    EURASIA REVIEW

    What began as a regional protest movement in November 2015, is in danger of becoming a fully-fledged armed uprising in Ethiopia.

    Angered and exasperated by the government’s intransigence and duplicity, small guerrilla groups made up of local armed people have formed in Amhara and elsewhere, and are conducting hit and run attacks on security forces. Fighting at the beginning of January in the North West region of Benishangul Gumuz saw 51 regime soldiers killed, ESAT News reported, and in the Amhara region a spate of incidents has occurred, notably a grenade attack on a hotel in Gondar and an explosion in Bahir-Dar.

    In what appears to be an escalation in violence, in Belesa, an area north of Gondar, a firefight between ‘freedom fighters’, as they are calling themselves, and the military resulted in deaths on both sides. There have also been incidents in Afar, where people are suffering the effects of drought; two people were recently killed by security personnel, others arrested. The Afar Human Rights Organization told ESAT that the government has stationed up to 6000 troops in the region, which has heightened tensions and fuelled resentment.

    Given the government’s obduracy, the troubling turn of events was perhaps to be expected. However, such developments do not bode well for stability in the country or the wider region, and enable the ruling regime to slander opposition groups as ‘terrorists’, and implement more extreme measures to clamp down on public assembly in the name of ‘national security’.

    Until recently those calling for change had done so in a peaceful manner; security in the country – the security of the people – is threatened not by opposition groups demanding human rights be observed and the constitution be upheld, but by acts of State Terrorism, the real and pervasive menace in Ethiopia.

    Oppressive State of Emergency

    The regime’s response has been consistently violent and has fuelled more protests, motivated more people to take part, and brought supressed anger towards the ruling EPRDF to the surface…Unwilling to enter into dialogue with opposition groups, and unable to contain the movement that swept through the country, in October 2016 the government imposed a six-month ‘State of Emergency’…The directive places stifling restrictions of basic human rights, and as Human Rights Watch (HRW) states, goes “far beyond what is permissible under international law and signals an increased militarized response to the situation.”

    Read more »


    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Breaking the Anti-Immigrant Fever in US

    The Times Sunday Review | EDITORIAL. (Image: By João Fazenda)

    The New York Times

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

    Americans have been watching the Trump administration unfold for almost a month now, in all its malevolent incompetence. From morning tweets to daytime news to late-night comedy, many watch and fret and mock, and then sleep, sometimes fitfully.

    Others, a large minority, lie awake, thinking about losing their families, jobs and homes. They have been vilified by the president as criminals, though they are not. They have tried to build honest lives here and suddenly are as fearful as fugitives. They await the fists pounding on the door, the agents in black, the cuffs, the van ride, the cell. They are terrified that the United States government will find them, or their parents or their children, demand their papers, and take them away.

    About 11 million people are living in this country outside the law. Suddenly, by presidential decree, all are deportation priorities, all are supposed criminals, all are threatened with broken lives, along with members of their families. The end could come for them any time.

    This is not an abstract or fanciful depiction. It is not fake news. It’s the United States of today, this month, this morning…

    This vision is the one Donald Trump began outlining at the start of his campaign, when he slandered an entire country, Mexico, as an exporter of rapists and drug criminals, and an entire faith, Islam, as a global nest of murderers. This is the currency of the Trump aides Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, who have brought the world of the alt-right, with its white nationalist strain, into the White House.

    Read more at NYTimes.com »


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    In Divided America, US History Has Become Weapon for Trump Fans & Critics

    Clockwise from top left: Richard Nixon, Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are among the historic figures who have been deployed by pro- and anti-Trump partisans. (Photos: WaPo)

    The Washington Post

    America’s past has become a weapon for Trump’s fans and critics

    On social networks and talk radio, in classrooms and at kitchen tables, the country’s past is suddenly inescapable. Many, many people — as President Trump would put it — are sharing stories about key moments and figures in American history to support or oppose one controversial White House executive order after another.

    Andrew Jackson and Huey Long are alive in Facebook feeds. Twitter is afire with 140-character bursts of historical moments — the St. Louis steaming toward Miami in 1939 with Jewish refugees fleeing Germany’s Third Reich, or the “Saturday Night Massacre,” President Richard Nixon’s firing of a special prosecutor in 1973 during the Watergate scandal.

    Trump may or may not make America great again, but he has certainly revived interest in U.S. history. It has been a long time since Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony were in the news, not to mention import taxes, the Revolutionary War, Japanese internment camps and the Immigration Act of 1917.

    “I’ve never seen so many people desperate to refer to historical examples,” said David Bell, a Princeton University history professor who last month moderated a panel on Trump at the American Historical Association’s annual conference. “Everyone seems to have an example.”

    While Barack Obama’s election renewed discussion of the nation’s tortured racial history and Hillary Clinton’s would have spawned a look back at women’s rights, historians say the speed and breadth of Trump’s policy pronouncements have prompted the electorate to deploy history as an offensive or defensive rhetorical weapon.

    Read more at The Washington Post »


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    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    To the World Trump’s Immigration Ban is Contrary to the Idea of America

    Statue of Liberty. (Photo: Wikimedia)

    Tadias Magazine
    By Tadias Staff

    Published: Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

    New York (TADIAS) — Our stories are depicted in novels, movies, memoirs, articles and plays retelling the brave and diverse lives of millions of immigrant Americans, including many in our community, that had crossed oceans against all odds fleeing imminent danger elsewhere only to find ourselves anew and make it again here in America.

    That was what made the U.S. exceptional and unique for people around the globe until last week’s disastrous roll out of a White House travel ban directive, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights simply described as being “mean-spirited” and without strong legal merit.

    The reaction from the American public has been swift and very loud from coast to coast. And several U.S. federal judges have quickly moved to block parts of the new immigration rule that was ordered by President Donald Trump last Friday, while at least 16 state attorney general have said they will mount a lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order as unconstitutional and in violation of The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which outlawed such discrimination on national origin.

    Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who herself came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was a little girl fleeing communist Czechoslovakia– is among the voices leading the resistance against the new order. “I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child,” Albright recalled in an email sent today to members of Organizing for Action email distribution list. “It proclaims ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.”

    In another astutely upfront article warning patriotic Republican lawmakers to distance themselves from Trump’s mounting historical errors, conservative columnist David Brooks points out that this U.S. presidency is an anomaly in every sense of the word. “In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration,” Brooks states. “The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy-making.”

    Even in the age of ‘alternative facts’ (whatever that means), as Albright says “The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.”


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    Trump’s Immigration Ban is Illegal

    Protesters near the White House on Wednesday. (Photo: The New York Times)

    The New York Times

    The Opinion Pages

    President Trump signed an executive order on Friday that purports to bar for at least 90 days almost all permanent immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria and Iraq, and asserts the power to extend the ban indefinitely.

    But the order is illegal. More than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed such discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

    That decision came after a long and shameful history in this country of barring immigrants based on where they came from. Starting in the late 19th century, laws excluded all Chinese, almost all Japanese, then all Asians in the so-called Asiatic Barred Zone. Finally, in 1924, Congress created a comprehensive “national-origins system,” skewing immigration quotas to benefit Western Europeans and to exclude most Eastern Europeans, almost all Asians, and Africans.

    Mr. Trump appears to want to reinstate a new type of Asiatic Barred Zone by executive order, but there is just one problem: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotas. In signing the new law, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that “the harsh injustice” of the national-origins quota system had been “abolished.”

    Mr. Trump may want to revive discrimination based on national origin by asserting a distinction between “the issuance of a visa” and the “entry” of the immigrant. But this is nonsense. Immigrants cannot legally be issued a visa if they are barred from entry. Thus, all orders under the 1952 law apply equally to entry and visa issuance, as his executive order acknowledges.

    Read more »

    Watch: AS PROTESTS GROW, TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION BAN PROVOKES CRISIS


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    Is US Returning to Its Tribalism Past?

    President Trump after his speech during the presidential inauguration. (Associated Press photo)

    The Washington Post

    January 20, 2017

    Trump’s dark promise to return to a mythical past

    A green lawn, a white picket fence, a shining sun. Small children walk home from school; their mother, clad in an apron, waves to greet them. Father comes home in the evening from his well-paid job, the same one he has had all of his life. He greets the neighbors cheerfully — they are all men and women who look and talk like he does — and sits down to watch the 6 o’clock news while his wife makes dinner. The sun sets. Everyone sleeps well, knowing that the next day will bring no surprises.

    In the back of their minds, all Americans know this picture. We’ve seen this halcyon vision in movies, we’ve heard it evoked in speeches and songs. We also know, at some level, what it conceals. There are no black people in the picture — they didn’t live in those kinds of neighborhoods in the 1940s or 1950s — and the Mexican migrants who picked the tomatoes for the family dinner are invisible, too. We don’t see the wife popping Valium in the powder room. We don’t see the postwar devastation in Europe and Asia that made U.S. industry so dominant, and U.S. power so central. We don’t see half the world is dominated by totalitarian regimes. We don’t see the technological changes that are about to arrive and transform the picture.

    We also know, at some level, that this vision of a simpler America — before civil rights, feminism, the rise of other nations, the Internet, globalization, free trade — can never be recovered, not least because it never really existed. But even if we know this, that doesn’t mean that the vision has no power.

    Over the past few days, multiple polls have shown that Trump is the least popular new president in recent memory. He received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. He won with the aid of a massive Russian intelligence operation, and by propagating lies about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But don’t let any of this fool you: Do not underestimate the appeal of his nostalgic vision. His call for America to “start winning again,” his denunciation of the “crime and gangs and drugs” of the present, these are so powerful that he has triumphed despite his dishonesty, his vulgarity, his addiction to social media, his lack of religious faith, his many wives, all of the elements of his character and personal history that seemed to disqualify him. Surrounded by the trappings of the White House, its appeal may well increase.

    Read more »


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    The Optimism of Barack Obama

    (Photo: The New York Times)

    The New York Times

    Sunday Review | EDITORIAL

    Barack Obama is leaving the White House with polls showing him to be one of the most popular presidents in recent decades. This makes sense. His achievements, not least pulling the nation back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, have been remarkable — all the more so because they were bitterly opposed from the outset by Republicans who made it their top priority to ensure that his presidency would fail.

    Many Americans celebrated the election of the first African-American president as a welcome milestone in the history of a nation conceived in slavery and afflicted by institutional racism. Yet the bigotry that president-elect Donald Trump capitalized on during his run for office confirmed a point that Mr. Obama himself made from the start: that simply electing a black president would not magically dispel the prejudices that have dogged the country since its inception. Even now, these stubborn biases and beliefs, amplified by a divisive and hostile campaign that appealed not to people’s better instincts but their worst, have blinded many Americans to their own good fortune, fortune that flowed from policies set in motion by this president.

    That story begins on Inauguration Day in 2009. That’s when Mr. Obama inherited a ravaged economy that was rapidly shedding jobs and forcing millions of people from their homes. The Obama stimulus, which staved off a 1930s-vintage economic collapse by pumping money into infrastructure, transportation and other areas, passed the House without a single Republican vote. Republican gospel holds that government spending does not create jobs or boost employment. The stimulus did both — preserving or creating an average of 1.6 millions jobs a year for four years. (A timely federal investment in General Motors and Chrysler, both pushed to the brink during the recession, achieved similarly salutary results, preserving more than a million jobs.)

    Mr. Obama’s opponents have had trouble accepting that any of this actually happened. They have not learned the simple truth — a truth clear in the New Deal and just as clear now — that timely and significant federal investment can make a real difference in people’s lives. Or accepted that compassionate and well-designed government programs can do the same. Driven by ideology or envy, or maybe both, Republican leaders have now pounced upon the demonstrably successful Affordable Care Act of 2010, a law that has improved the way medical care is delivered in the United States, providing affordable care for millions and driving the percentage of Americans without insurance to a record low 9.1 percent in 2015. Despite the law’s clear successes, Mr. Trump and Republican congressional leaders have nevertheless declared it a failure, hoping to justify a repeal that would rob an estimated 22 million people of health insurance. The point of following this destructive course can only be to destroy a central Obama legacy — even though doing so will drive up costs and cause havoc in the lives of the newly uninsured.

    Read more »


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    U.S.-Africa Policy in 2017

    People read a Kenyan daily newspaper with the front page showing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Nairobi, November 10, 2016. Trump's election victory was met with surprise in many parts of Africa. (Getty)

    Newsweek

    DON’T DISMISS THE DONALD TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON AFRICA POLICY

    The United States under President Donald Trump will still have an Africa policy. This goes against the popular view that an inward-looking Trump administration will ignore African countries and make it easier for African governments to pivot towards other partners, such as China and neighboring African countries.

    Regardless of a lack of interest in a particular region at the presidential level, the United States’ historical role as the center of global diplomacy and the day-to-day workings of the U.S. bureaucracy mandates the development of an African strategy.

    The new administration would have to make decisions on whether to sustain previous executive programs—such as President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative, aimed at doubling electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa; and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has provided treatment to 11.5 million people since being initiated by George W. Bush—many of which have received bipartisan support through several presidential administrations.

    The administration will also need to decide on what new programs to encourage, if any. Now, therefore, is the time for those with interests in a robust U.S.-Africa policy to put forth ideas and engage with incoming officials.

    Trump administration policymakers should keep three principles in mind when thinking about how to approach an agenda for Africa. First, millions of Africans, just like millions of Americans, are working hard every day to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, so policy must ensure that those bootstraps are within reach. Second, the new administration should ensure that its policies advance American competitiveness in African markets. And third, U.S. policies should be oriented towards enabling business and investment as tools for mutually beneficial economic development.

    As a Democrat who has worked with administrations of both parties over the past 12 years, I recommend the following policy proposals that build on business ties and advance U.S. interests in Africa for consideration:

    Read the full article at Newsweek.com »


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    Photographer Aida Muluneh, Founder of Addis Foto Fest, on Rebranding Africa

    Aida Muluneh. (Getty Images)

    AFP

    December 15, 2016

    Ethiopian photographer seeks new portrayal of Africa

    ADDIS ABABA – Surrounded by untidy stacks of paper and abandoned half-empty coffee cups, photographer Aida Muluneh chain smokes cigarettes in her Addis Ababa office and rails against the negative portrayals of Africa by foreigners.

    The 42-year-old came returned to Ethiopia nine years ago after living in Yemen and Canada and set herself the task of changing perceptions of the continent, replacing the outsiders’ dominant eye with an African one.

    The Addis Foto Fest, which she founded and which opens its fourth edition Thursday, is one way of doing this, she said.

    Read more »


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    Media Under Trump: Advice From African Journalists to US Counterparts

    'Donald Trump: America's African President-The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. (Video Clip | Comedy Central)

    Quartz Africa

    African journalists have tips for their US counterparts on dealing with a president that hates the press

    Last week, Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron voiced great apprehension about press freedom in the U.S. under a Donald Trump’s presidency. “Many journalists wonder with considerable weariness what it is going to be like for us during the next four [years],” Baron said in a stirring speech. “Will we be incessantly harassed and vilified? Will the new administration seize on opportunities to try intimidating us? Will we face obstruction at every turn?”

    As America enters the era of a thin-skinned president known for lashing out at press coverage that does not meet his approval, it might be helpful for U.S. news media to draw from the experiences of journalists operating in hostile environments. Many of such environments are in Africa, particularly those countries with long-serving presidents who have been in power for decades.

    “There’s a thin line between objective critique of the state with regard to security and being called unpatriotic, a terrorist sympathizer.”

    Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama, a former Knight Fellow at Stanford University, commented with sarcasm on the peculiar situation of U.S. journalists. “I was joking with Charles Onyango Obbo [another Ugandan journalist] about being consultants to American journalists who may now face similar challenges with the advent of the African leader Donald Trump.” Izama was probably riffing off Trevor Noah’s comic but profound observation that Donald Trump is just like an African president.

    Watch: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – Donald Trump: America’s African President

    One has to only consider the fact that the only other world leader with a habit of snapping at journalists and other critics with angry tweets is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. The direct comparison between Trump and Kagame probably stops there, but one could also find similarities—in terms of vilification of the press—between Trump and The Gambia’s outgoing Yahya Jammeh or Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

    “From the outside looking in, I am kind of feeling bad for journalists under a Trump administration,” said Liberian editor Rodney Sieh, who has worked in several U.S. newspapers including the Kansas City Star and The Post Standard in Syracuse, NY. “It is clear to see that American journalists are in for a very tough roller coaster ride.”

    Read more »


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    Ethiopia: High Time for Genuine Reform Before Next Unrest Erupts

    It's high time for the government in Ethiopia to move from PR to real and genuine reforms regarding Human Rights concerns in order to save the country from permanent political crisis. (Photo: via Amnesty.org)

    Amnesty International

    After a year of protests, time to address grave human rights concerns

    Nearly one year on from the start of a wave of protests that has left at least 800 people dead at the hands of security forces, the Ethiopian government must take concrete steps to address grave human rights concerns in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The protests began in the central Oromia region on 12 November 2015, in opposition to the Addis Ababa Masterplan, a government plan to extend the capital Addis Ababa’s administrative control into parts of the Oromia.

    “A year after these deadly protests began, tensions in Ethiopia remain high and the human rights situation dire, with mass arrests internet shutdowns and sporadic clashes between the security forces and local communities, especially in the north of the country,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “It’s high time the Ethiopian authorities stopped paying lip service to reform and instead took concrete steps to embrace it, including by releasing the myriad political prisoners it is holding merely for expressing their opinions. They should also repeal the repressive laws that imprisoned them in the first place, including the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation that has also contributed to the unrest.”

    Even after the Addis Ababa Masterplan was scrapped in January 2016, protests continued with demonstrators demanding an end to human rights violations, ethnic marginalization and the continued detention of Oromo leaders.

    The protests later expanded into the Amhara region with demands for an end to arbitrary arrests and ethnic marginalization. They were triggered by attempts by the security forces to arrest Colonel Demeka Zewdu, one of the leaders of the Wolqait Identity and Self-Determination Committee, on alleged terrorism offences. Wolqait, an administrative district in the Tigray region, has been campaigning for reintegration into the Amhara region, to which it belonged until 1991.

    Just as in Oromia, security forces responded with excessive and lethal force in their efforts to quell the protests. Amnesty International estimates that at least 800 people have been killed since the protests began, most of them in the two regions.

    The Ethiopian government’s heavy-handed response to largely peaceful protests started a vicious cycle of protests and totally avoidable bloodshed. If it does not address the protesters’ grievances, we are concerned that it is only a matter of time before another round of unrest erupt.

    Read more »


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    Is Twitter Hurting Ethiopia?

    (Photo: TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS)

    Foreign Affairs Magazine

    November 7, 2016

    Is Twitter Hurting Ethiopia? Rumor and Unrest in a Fragile Federation

    On October 2, police and protesters clashed during a traditional Oromo festival held beside a lake in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, just over 20 miles southeast of Addis Ababa. The stampede that ensued left about 100 drowned or crushed to death. Social media soon pulsed with claims that a government helicopter circling overhead had fired into panicking crowds. A helicopter had indeed been there, but it was dropping leaflets wishing all a “Happy Irreecha”—the name of the festival. Still, social media, and the informal news cycle into which it feeds, whirled on.

    The Irreecha incident is but one of many in a year of turmoil in Ethiopia. Protests that began last November, when Oromo farmers objected to government land grabs to expand the capital and clear space for potential foreign investors, have mushroomed into a movement against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

    The Ethiopian diaspora in the United States, which is estimated to number between 250,000 and one million, has been particularly vocal online. Following the Irreecha incident, U.S. overseas activists called for “five days of rage.” Although it is not clear what effect this call may have had, a few days later in Ethiopia, bands of mostly young men attacked foreign-owned factories, government buildings, and tourist lodges across the Oromo region.

    In response to the upheaval, on October 9, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency, restricting the use of mobile data, increasing Internet blackouts, and blocking social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. At an October 26 press conference Ethiopian government spokesperson Getachew Reda said, “Mobile data will be permitted once the government assesses that it won’t threaten the implementation of the state of emergency.”

    Human Rights Watch has condemned the state of emergency for “draconian restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly that go far beyond what is permissible under international law.” Although there is no explicit ban on print media, the government has issued broad statements condemning writing or sharing material that “could create misunderstanding between people or unrest.” Already, the Addis Standard, a well-respected, privately-funded magazine, has announced that it will cease production of its print edition rather than subject itself to self-censorship.

    But is the state of emergency truly a heavy-handed tactic by an out-of-touch authoritarian elite? Or is it a necessary step to counter dangerous vitriol coming from the likes of Ethiopian diaspora in the United States, determined to see regime change at any cost? The answer probably lies somewhere between the two.

    Colleagues who live in Ethiopia and work in online media told me that activists have called for days of rage in the past, with no result. Overseas activists also have less influence on Ethiopia’s rural population, which often lacks Internet access. Local unrest could have more to do with well-founded anger over longstanding grievances. There are major concerns over whether the government understands the depth of grievances and the resolve of those who feel wronged, as well as whether it even possesses the capacity to enact the meaningful reforms needed for a long-term solutions.

    “The oppressed stay silent, but eventually you reach a critical mass and then it boils over,” Yilikal Getenet, chairman of the opposition Blue Party, told me. “Hundreds have been killed but they keep protesting. They go to protests knowing the risks. So what does that tell you?”

    Foreign observers, some local opposition, and ordinary Ethiopians who feel that the diaspora has gone too far, argue that the government’s crackdown is necessary to counter the dangerous vitriol coming from the Ethiopian diaspora in the United States that is bent on regime change at any cost. There is also the question of how much influence the diaspora has over those in Ethiopia who live in one of the most censored countries in the world and turn to the diaspora for news.

    Lidetu Ayalew, founder of the opposition Ethiopia Democratic Party, explained what happens when they do. “The problem is a lot of things they’d view as gossip, if heard by mouth, when they read about them on social media, they take as fact.” One particularly prominent social media activist based in the United States, Jawar Mohammed, has 500,000 followers on Facebook who absorb the information and footage he posts on the protests, the veracity of which varies from plausible to impossible to substantiate. After the Irreecha incident, Mohammed was one of those who reposted claims about a government helicopter firing into the crowds. (Journalists at the scene reported soldiers shooting rubber bullets and possibly firing live ammunition into the air as a warning.) This is a pattern across much of the diaspora’s social media activity.

    “They live in a secure democracy, send their children to good Western schools, and are at liberty to say whatever they want to cause mayhem in Ethiopia,” one foreign politico in Addis Ababa said of diaspora behavior in influencing protestors in Ethiopia. “They call it freedom of speech and they abuse it to their heart’s content.”

    This could prove dangerous. In Rwanda, radio programs such as Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines spread much of the toxic hatred that fueled the country’s genocide. Social media appears to be just as effective in spreading untruths and even ethnic barbs in Ethiopia. Many of these have an anti-Tigrayan slant, due to the perception that the EPRDF is run by a Tigrayan elite. To make matters worse, the Tigrayan ethnic group only represents about six percent of Ethiopia’s population, yet it dominates the business and security sectors. That is why much of the protesters’ anger is directed against “minority rule.” One Ethiopian journalist of Tigrayan heritage and who worked for an international wire service was singled out on social media. His reporting was ridiculed and he was called a government lackey. In August, after unrest in the Amhara city of Gondar, there were reports of Tigrayans fleeing the city in fear of their lives.

    Diaspora satellite television channels broadcast from the United States, such as Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television, do produce some decent original reporting, but they are clearly one-sided and virulently anti-EPRDF. Their cumulative effect should not be underestimated in a country as diverse as Ethiopia, where historical grudges exist between the main ethnic groups.

    For some time now, the diaspora, which numbers two million globally, has maintained a strong cyber presence with the goal of influencing the political process at home. Although they do not have a unified policy platform, they routinely criticize corruption, lack of jobs, and poor administration. The diaspora’s current fixation is to influence protests on the ground, which many see as a pathway for bringing down the government. Many overseas Ethiopians fled their homes after suffering at the hands of Ethiopia’s authoritarian government and have enough reason to wish it ill. But the militancy of some online activists—such as perpetuating wild and bogus claims about government violence—is making it harder for legitimate claims to break through and gives the government an excuse to dismiss unrest as being driven by nefarious external forces.

    A major barrier to building a legitimate resistance against the government is that the local opposition in Ethiopia is in shambles. To be sure, it certainly has suffered from government oppression. But the fact the opposition is almost entirely funded by the diaspora, which won’t countenance any cooperation with the EPRDF, also hinders its progress. This mentality has polarized opposition politics and allowed no room for negotiation or compromise.

    The clearest example of how this dynamic plays out is Ethiopia’s crucial 2005 election. The opposition won a surprisingly significant number of seats. But following allegations of vote rigging by the EPRDF, the diaspora pressured some opposition members to refuse taking office. The boycott was catastrophic. Had members chosen to work with the EPRDF, the Ethiopian political landscape would likely be hugely different today with a far more influential political channel for angry Ethiopians to voice concerns. Instead, the opposition splintered into disparate groups.

    Amidst the tragedy, rage, and intrigue, blocked communications and restricted travel, it is difficult for journalists, foreign diplomats, and the average Ethiopians to understand what is actually going on. Social media can provide and opening for sorting through the noise and confusion. But in Ethiopia, social media is a double-edged sword, capable of filling a need for more information and of pushing the country toward even greater calamity.

    Read more »


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    Imagining Ethiopia Post-identity Politics

    In the following article for Global Voices Endalk Chala highlights the recent Oromo Conference for National Consensus and Roadmap for Transition and Constitution Making in Ethiopia regarding the country's future.

    Global Voices

    By Endalk Chala

    Ethiopia’s Regime Faces Precarious Times As Diaspora Plans for the Future

    In November 2015, residents of a small town called Ginchi launched protests against a proposal by Ethiopia’s government to expand Addis Ababa, the capital, into the surrounding farmlands in the Oromia region. The protests have since grown into a movement demanding greater self-rule, freedom and respect for the ethnic identity of the Oromo people, who have experienced systematic marginalization and persecution over the last quarter-century.

    In Amhara, the country’s second largest region, protests started in Gonder on July 31 this year, and rapidly devolved from addressing localized identity questions of the Welkait community into a region-wide movement that has spread into numerous other provinces in just four months. Though the large-scale July 31 incident in Gonder marked the first major confrontation between Amhara protest leaders and the Ethiopian government, the dispute between the Amharas and the regime can be traced back as far as the early 1990s, when the Tigrayan-dominated regime redrew the district boundaries of the Welkait community that belonged to ethnic Amharas into Tigray region. Some Amhara activists have described the ongoing Amhara protest as ‘25 years of anger unleashed’. The protesters in Gonder have also expressed slogans of solidarity for the protests in Oromia.

    Although the protests in Oromia and Amhara started for different reasons, they both stem from Ethiopia’s complex identity politics. In both regions, demonstrators are challenging the dominance of elites from one group — the Tigray — in Ethiopian politics. The Tigray make up 6% of the population but dominate the ranks of the military and government, while the Oromo are at 34% and the Amhara represent 27% of the country’s population.

    Since November, hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands arrested. Early this month, at least 52 people were killed at a gathering for the Irreecha holiday in Oromia, after security forces triggered a stampede with smoke bombs and live bullets.

    The protests’ amazing spread from Amhara to Oromia seemed to represent an important turning point in the year-old movement challenging the 25-year rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling political coalition, which is dominated by Tigrayan ethnic minority elites.

    For observers and critics alike, these protests represent a watershed moment in modern Ethiopian political history. In mid-October, the government even declared a six-month state of emergency for the first time in 25 years…As the protests gradually eat away at Ethiopia’s basic political and economic structures, the regime appears more wobbly that ever before. Consequently, the Ethiopian diaspora has convened conferences to discuss regime change, constitutional reforms, and others transitional issues. The conferences are organized by a number of diasporic political groups and individuals who are nevertheless divided along various ethno-national and ideological lines.

    Of the events happening now in the Ethiopian diaspora, two prominent conferences stand out.

    [Oromo Conference for National Consensus, London, UK and Roadmap for Transition and Constitution Making in Ethiopia Washington, D.C.]

    Read the full article at globalvoices.org »


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    Donald Trump vs. a Free Press

    Donald Trump campaigning in Florida on Thursday. (Photo: The New York Times)

    The New York Times

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

    It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, is as ignorant about constitutional law as he is about every other matter pertinent to the nation’s highest office.

    Still, the letter Mr. Trump’s lawyers sent to The Times on Wednesday — in which he threatened to sue the newspaper for publishing an article detailing two women’s allegations that Mr. Trump had groped or kissed them without consent — is extraordinary in its complete misunderstanding of both the facts and the law.

    The letter charged the article with being “libelous,” “reckless” and “defamatory,” called it a “politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy” and accused The Times of inadequately investigating the truth of the claims.

    Similar accounts by other women were published recently in The Palm Beach Post, in People magazine, by NBC News and by a television station in Washington State.

    On Thursday, David McCraw, The Times’s vice president and assistant general counsel, responded to Mr. Trump’s threat with a lesson in basic libel law and the First Amendment’s protections for a free press.

    Libel claims are based on “the protection of one’s reputation,” Mr. McCraw wrote, and nothing in the published article had the slightest effect on Mr. Trump’s reputation, which Mr. Trump had created by, among other things, repeatedly bragging about touching women without their consent.

    The Times was well within its rights to publish the story, Mr. McCraw added, because Mr. Trump is a public figure and the issue is one of national importance. And contrary to Mr. Trump’s claims, The Times’s reporters worked to confirm the women’s accounts and printed his denial of the accusations.

    The Times is, of course, very familiar with threats of litigation by government officials and other public figures who oppose the paper’s reporting on them. It was New York Times v. Sullivan, the unanimous 1964 Supreme Court decision, that set forth the principle that promoting speech of public interest is foundational to a democracy, and therefore a newspaper would be protected from libel claims brought by public figures, even if it printed erroneous statements, as long as the newspaper did not know the statement was false, or recklessly disregard its truth or falsity.

    In his opinion for the court, Justice William Brennan Jr. wrote that “public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.” Such discussion “may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

    Read more »


    Related:

    Watch: Pres. Obama ties Donald Trump to Republicans (MSNBC)


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    Washington Post Editorial on Ethiopia

    Biftu Bole Lutheran Church holds a prayer and candle ceremony for protesters who died in the town of Bishoftu. (Photo: Reuters)

    The Washington Post

    By Editorial Board

    Ethiopia meets protests with bullets

    ETHIOPIA’S RULERS have redoubled a repressive policy that is failing. Instead of looking for ways to alleviate the pent-up frustrations of the ethnic Oromo and Amhara populations that spilled out in demonstrations over the past 11 months, Ethiopia’s authorities on Sunday announced a six-month state of emergency, allowing the deployment of troops and bans on demonstrations. Already, rights have been severely restricted; the state of emergency will bottle up the pressures even more, increasing the likelihood they will explode anew.

    The latest confrontation was tragic and emblematic of the government’s wrongheaded use of force. On Oct. 2, in Bishoftu, a town 25 miles southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, an enormous crowd gathered to celebrate Irreecha, an important festival that marks the end of the rainy season and onset of the harvest. Since last November, protests have been rising among Ethiopia’s approximately 40 million ethnic Oromos, fueled by anger over plans for reallocating their land, political disenfranchisement and detention of opposition activists. Anti-government chants began at the festival, and security forces responded with tear gas. In previous protests, tear gas has foreshadowed live ammunition. When the tear gas in Bishoftu was followed by the sound of gunshots, panic ensued. Many people were killed when they fell into deep trenches and drowned or were trampled.

    In August, at least 90 protesters were shot and killed by Ethiopian security forces in the regions of Oromia and Amhara. All told, according to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 500 people during protests during the past year.

    In announcing the state of emergency, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn blamed “anti-peace forces” and “foreign enemies” whom he claimed are trying to destabilize Ethi­o­pia. But attempts to point to foes abroad masks the truth that unrest is being fueled by a deep sense of anger at home. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the target of the rage, would do better to confront the root causes than to answer with bullets and tear gas. The violence threatens to shake foreign investment that has been a pillar of Ethiopia’s development agenda. In recent days, businesses owned by foreigners have been attacked; Africa Juice, a Dutch-owned firm, was set alight last week by a crowd of hundreds in Oromia.

    Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and political repression must be addressed frontally by the United States and Europe, no longer shunted to the back burner because of cooperation fighting terrorism. With the state of emergency, Ethiopia’s leaders are borrowing a brutal and counterproductive tactic from dictators the world over who have tried to put a cork in genuine popular dissent. It won’t work.


    Related:
    German’s Angela Merkel Calls for Ethiopia to Open Up Politics After Unrest
    Angela Merkel Signals Support for Ethiopia’s Protesters in Visit (AP)
    Ethiopia: Foreign Investors Warily Eye Crackdown – The Wall Street Journal
    Ethiopia Put Under State of Emergency (AP)
    In Ethiopia Protesters Attack Factories, Eco Lodge and Flower Farms
    American Killed in Ethiopia Identified as UC Davis Researcher Sharon Gray
    U.S. citizen killed, foreign factories attacked in Ethiopia
    US Says Female American Citizen Killed in Ethiopia Amid Protest
    After Ethiopia Irrecha Tragedy, Renewed Calls on U.S to Take Stronger Measure
    Ethiopia Protests Continue Over Fatal Bishoftu Stampede at Irrecha Festival

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    Ethiopia’s Failing Ethnic-based Political System

    (Photos: Reuters)

    Foreign Affairs Magazine

    Will Ethiopia’s Experiment With Ethnic Federalism Work?

    When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Africa a year ago, he ended his five-day tour by visiting Ethiopia, the continent’s second-most-populous country. He ­enthusiastically praised Addis Ababa for its role in regional peacemaking, most visibly in and between Sudan and South Sudan, as well for as its careful management of its diverse population; the country is home to tens of millions of Muslims and Christians, who, for the most part, live together peacefully. Obama also highlighted Ethiopia’s track record as a developmental state. In the last quarter century, it has lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty, cut child mortality rates for those under five by more than two-thirds, and overseen a decline in HIV/AIDS-related deaths by more than 50 percent. With Somalia haunted by the jihadist group al Shabab, South Sudan facing an all-out civil war, and Eritrea hemorrhaging thousands of young people fleeing to Europe via the Mediterranean, Ethiopia stood out as a bastion of progress and stability.

    Yet today, Western diplomats and intelligence services are scrambling to assess a series of alarming protests in Ethiopia—what activists have labeled #ethiopianprotests—that are raising questions about whether Africa’s brightest growth story of the last decade is about to unravel. There have been months of demonstrations in Addis Ababa and the surrounding region of Oromia, where more than 35 percent of the Ethiopian population lives. Thousands of Oromo are contesting the unequal gains of the country’s developmental programs, even in the face of live bullets. But what has really instilled a sense of crisis is the violence that has rocked the Amhara region, where long-standing tensions boiled over into the ambush of a senior federal police commander and Amhara protesters, armed with guns, fighting street battles with soldiers. Nobody knows the official body count, but at least several hundred have died over the past few months.


    Protesters have been complaining about economic and political marginalisation. (Photos: Reuters)

    Understanding the demonstrations, and their violent escalations by both security forces and protesters, requires a look at the ideology and political practices of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has governed the country since its overthrow of a military dictatorship in 1991. The protests, which are neither a new phenomenon nor uniform in their demands, revolve around the fundamental question at the heart of Ethiopian politics in both the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries: how to turn a violently built, multiethnic former empire into a modern nation-state.

    Read more at Foreignaffairs.com »


    Related:
    Washington Post Editorial on Current Wave of Protests in Ethiopia
    ‘A Generation Is Protesting’ in Ethiopia, Long a U.S. Ally (The New York Times)
    UPDATE: ‘Nearly 100 killed’ in Ethiopia Protests (BBC News)
    Several dozen shot dead in weekend protests across Ethiopia (AP)

    In Addis Ababa Security Forces Use Tear Gas to Disperse Protests (Reuters)
    What is behind Ethiopia’s wave of protests? (BBC News)
    Protests in Ethiopia’s Gonder City Signal Uncertain Future (VOA News)
    Protest in North Ethiopian Region Signals Rising Discontent (Bloomberg)
    Riots in Gonder Claim Casualties (DW Report — Jul 15, 2016)

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    What Pundits Get Wrong About President Obama’s Africa Diplomacy

    As the U.S. prepares to elect a new President, pundits would be wrong to downplay the signature, historic policy initiatives of America's first black president in strengthening U.S.-Africa relations. (Photo: Reuters)

    Newsweek

    PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LEGACY IN AFRICA IS A STATE OF MIND

    As President Barack Obama winds down his time in office, pundits around the globe, not just in Washington, will begin assessing the impact of his administration.

    Secretary of State John Kerry’s stops in Kenya and Nigeria this week focused attention on the administration’s record in Africa. In stark contrast to 2008, when Obama’s unique personal history made his campaign for—and ultimate election to—the White House the cause for intense pride and excitement across the continent, many Africans today may well be tempted to shrug off the upcoming transition as they carry on with their lives.

    But if the Obama legacy does not include signature initiatives comparable to the enactment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) under President Bill Clinton or the creation of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)—the U.S. military headquarters on the continent—by President George W. Bush, it would be a mistake to discount the change that has occurred during Obama’s watch.

    The first intimation of the change of tact occurred in the first year of his administration in 2009 when, addressing the Parliament of Ghana during his first post-election foray into sub-Saharan Africa, President Obama affirmed: “Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

    Speaking with a personal authority that perhaps only he could claim among recent U.S. heads of state, Obama went on to tell his audience that they had to take responsibility: “Now, it’s easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.”

    It was four years before the president returned to the continent, when he visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in 2013. But during that trip’s major policy address at the University of Cape Town, he reiterated his country’s commitment to the continent, emphasizing a new U.S.-Africa partnership that moves beyond assistance and foreign aid and towards supporting African countries and their militaries to increase their capacity to solve problems: “Now America has been involved in Africa for decades. But we are moving beyond the simple provision of assistance, foreign aid, to a new model of partnership between America and Africa—a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.”

    The emphasis on partnership in general and, specifically, trade and investment dominated the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, the largest gathering of African heads of state and government ever convened by an American president. An innovative feature of the gathering was the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a second edition of which will meet in September at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, bringing together senior African officials with executives of major companies to develop business opportunities.

    If the Obama administration deserves credit for its efforts to shift the emphasis in America’s engagement with Africa towards partnership and opportunity, it nonetheless has also had to contend with and will bequeath to its successor some very real security, humanitarian and developmental challenges for which its stewardship remains to be judged.

    Read the full article at Newsweek »


    Related:
    What Will the Next US President Mean for Africa?
    Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia Meet with President Obama
    President Obama Becomes First Sitting U.S. President to Visit Ethiopia

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    Washington Post Editorial on Current Wave of Protests in Ethiopia

    Protesters demonstrate over what they say is unfair distribution of wealth in Ethi­o­pia at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on Aug. 6. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

    The Washington Post

    By Editorial Board

    OVER THE weekend, Ethiopia reminded the world of how it treats those who dare demonstrate against the government. At least 90 protesters were shot and killed by Ethiopian security forces in the regions of Oromia and Amhara. As demonstrations unusually reached into the capital of Addis Ababa, the regime censored social media posts and blocked Internet access.

    This fresh outburst of repression follows months of unrest in the Oromia region over government plans to expand the Addis Ababa capital territory into the lands of the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. According to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security officers have killed more than 400 people in clashes over the Oromia land dispute since protests broke out in November. Tens of thousands more have been detained. The clashes represent the worst ethnic violence that Ethiopia has seen in years. That the unrest is spreading to regions beyond Oromia underscores the depth of anger against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party.

    The weekend’s bloodshed should prompt the West to reconsider its aid to the regime. Ethiopia has been hailed as a model of economic development and touts its progress on global anti-poverty indicators as proof that its “developmental democratic” style is working. But the repeated use of force to silence dissent threatens development by sowing seeds of future unrest.

    The United States has long relied on Ethiopia as a partner in the fight against al-Shabab’s terrorism in Somalia and sends the country tens of millions of dollars in development assistance, tiptoeing around Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and resistance to democratic reforms. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa remarked that it was “deeply concerned” and expressed its “deep condolences to those who suffered as a result” but stopped short of explicitly urging the Ethiopian government to refrain from using excessive force against its citizens. The Obama administration should encourage a credible investigation into the killings and publicly make clear that Ethiopia’s continued crackdowns are unacceptable.

    Read more at The Washington Post »


    Protesters have been complaining about economic and political marginalisation. (Photos: Reuters)

    —-
    Related:
    ‘A Generation Is Protesting’ in Ethiopia, Long a U.S. Ally (The New York Times)
    UPDATE: ‘Nearly 100 killed’ in Ethiopia Protests (BBC News)
    Several dozen shot dead in weekend protests across Ethiopia (AP)

    In Addis Ababa Security Forces Use Tear Gas to Disperse Protests (Reuters)
    What is behind Ethiopia’s wave of protests? (BBC News)
    Protests in Ethiopia’s Gonder City Signal Uncertain Future (VOA News)
    Protest in North Ethiopian Region Signals Rising Discontent (Bloomberg)
    Riots in Gonder Claim Casualties (DW Report — Jul 15, 2016)

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    What’s Behind Ethiopia & Eritrea’s Clash?

    This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations. (Photo: Ethiopian communications minister Getachew Reda speaks on border clashes with Eritrea, Addis Ababa, June 14, 2016/Getty Images)

    Newsweek

    BY JOHN CAMPBELL AND NATHAN BIRHANU

    WHAT’S BEHIND ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA’S BORDER CLASH?

    International attention is focused on Brexit, the resulting turmoil in the international financial markets, and the resignation of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. There is the risk of overlooking a dangerous confrontation between Ethiopia and Eritrea that could lead to war and further destabilize the Horn of Africa.

    After sixteen years of ceasefire from a border war, Eritrea and Ethiopia clashed on June 12. Hundreds have been reported dead. Both countries are pointing fingers at the other as the original instigator of the incident while maintaining a tenuous, tactical stalemate position.

    The border war Eritrea and Ethiopia fought against each other from 1998-2000 left approximately 80,000 dead. The war over claims to border towns was largely due to cultural and historical differences between the two states in the aftermath of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. The disputed border towns had no significant economic value, with the fight once described as “two bald men fighting over a comb.” After a final attack by Ethiopia, the war came to a halt, and the two countries signed the Algiers Agreement to implement a ceasefire.

    The Algiers Agreement was the vehicle for establishing an independent adjudicator titled the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). Both countries agreed to accept the decision of the EEBC. The EEBC ruled in favor of Eritrea’s claim over the main border town; Ethiopia was unsatisfied with the decision and requested a political dialogue before withdrawing from the disputed territory. The disputed territory thereupon became in effect a buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea with sporadic skirmishes over the past sixteen years, until Sunday’s significantly larger clash.

    What could have caused the recent clash to occur, as either country has little to benefit from a renewed conflict?

    Read more at Newsweek.com »


    Related:
    Border Clashes Between Ethiopia and Eritrea Heighten Fears of War (NY Times)

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    Review of Bewketu Seyoum Book “KeAmen Bashager”

    'KeAmen Bashager' (Amharic) Paperback – 2016 by Bewketu Seyoum (Author)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Berhane Tadese | Edited by Tadias Staff

    Published: Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

    New York — In his reflective new book, KeAmen Bashager, Ethiopian writer Bewketu Seyoum uses the rich Amharic language and poetry to take a satirical look at current affairs in Ethiopia. Sprinkled with occasional humor, KeAmen Bashager, contains nineteen intriguing stories, much of it caricaturing Ethiopia’s modern-day political leaders, spin masters and fixers alike (from all sides) that the writer sees as peddlers of our contemporary troubles, including lack of individual liberty and press freedom, ethnic politics and corruption. The author accomplishes this by juxtaposing a critique of his own generation with lyrical tributes to the country’s well-known past historical and moral figures.

    This is not Bewketu’s first book, however, as his debut poetry collection Nwari Alba Gojowoch (ኗሪ አልባ ጎጆዎች) was published 16 years ago. That was a year after he graduated from Addis Ababa University where he majored in psychology. Since then he has written two more books while his poems have been translated for print in international publications such as the UK-based literary magazine Modern Poetry in Translation.


    Bewketu Seyoum, author of the book ‘KeAmen Bashager,’ is currently a writer-in-residence at Brown University in the United States. (Photo: Author’s Facebook page)

    Bewketu, who was born in Deber Marqos, stresses that his latest book, KeAmen Bashager, was written based on his travels both within Ethiopia and abroad. In one poignant scene, which captures his precise use of words as well as his observant eye, he describes his own neighborhood called Yewaha Lemate where a high school is supposedly located. Except that in the vicinity of the school you do not find a book store, but rather a strange combination of brothels, night clubs, cheap motels and chat bet. In short, the author points out, it is a de facto red light district where prostitution and sex-oriented business is rampant.

    As for the respect for basic human and political rights “There is fundamental similarities between my generation and the ancient Athenian painful era,” he writes. “In both periods there was no hope left for tomorrow. Why would I want to work hard to build a home if the bulldozer could show up any morning.” In addition he highlights the arrest of his friend Temesgen, a prominent newspaper editor and well-known critic of the regime. Sadly, in prison Temesgen’s visitation rights were restricted and he was denied medical care.

    As the book’s description on Amazon states Bewketu Seyoum’s “political essays are an amalgam of humming and lampoon, not a serious ideological analysis, and the historical figures he brought to our attention are pioneers and founding fathers of a great nation Ethiopia.” It’s a must read for Amharic book lovers!


    About the Author:
    Berhane Tadese, an Engineer, is President and Chairman of the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA), which services New York and New Jersey areas.

    Related:
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    The Washington Post Editorial on Deadly Crackdown in Ethiopia Land Dispute

    Ethiopian migrants, all members of the Oromo ethnic group living in Malta, protest against the Ethiopian regime in Valletta, Malta, on Dec. 21. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

    The Washington Post

    By Editorial Board

    IN THE latest chapter of Ethiopia’s escalating authoritarianism, young people, journalists and musicians have been the targets of the ruling regime’s quest to silence political dissent. For several weeks, students from the Oromo majority ethnic group have been protesting the government’s “master plan” to expand the capital territory of Addis Ababa into Oromo lands. Instead of addressing the concerns through dialogue, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime has responded with devastating violence. At least 140 people have been killed by police and security forces in the Oromia region, according to reports from Human Rights Watch. The government claims five have been killed and insists that protesters are trying to “destabilize the country” and that some have a “direct link with a group that has been collaborating with other proven terrorist parties.” Last month, police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Oromia’s largest registered political party. The government also has arrested and allegedly beaten Hawi Tezera, an Oromo singer, in connection with her song about the protests.

    Ethiopian authorities also have begun attempting to silence media covering the demonstrations. According to reports, the government has arrested and charged several journalists, including Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of the Negere Ethiopia news site, under the country’s 2009 anti-terrorism legislation. Fikadu Mirkana, of Oromia Radio and TV, has also been arrested. The U.S.-based television channel ESAT, which has been covering the Oromo protests, claimed that the Ethiopian regime jammed one of its broadcasting satellites.

    Read more at The Washington Post »


    Related:
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    White House: US Wants Journalists Detained in Ethiopia Set Free (VOA)
    US urges Ethiopia to free jailed journalists (Daily Mail)
    White House says concerned by arrest of journalists in Ethiopia (Reuters)
    In Ethiopia a Second Journalist is Arrested in a Week, Zone 9 Bloggers Summoned (BSN)
    Professor Bekele Gerba Arrested Over Land Protests in Ethiopia
    Ethiopian opposition figures arrested over land protests (Reuters)
    Ethiopia Opposition: 80 Killed in Protests Against Land Plan (AP)

    U.S. State Department, Human Rights Organizations Address Crackdown on Protestors in Ethiopia
    Crackdown Turns Deadly In Ethiopia As Government Turns Against Protesters (NPR)
    US Concerned About Protester Deaths in Ethiopia (VOA)
    At least 75 killed in Ethiopia protests: HRW (AFP)
    ‘Unprecedented’ Protests in Ethiopia Against Capital Expansion Plan (VOA News)
    Ethiopians on Edge as Infrastructure Plan Stirs Protests (The New York Times)
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    Protests in Ethiopia leave at least five dead, possibly many more (Reuters)
    Why Are Students in Ethiopia Protesting Against a Capital City Expansion Plan? (Global Voices)
    Yet Again, a Bloody Crackdown on Protesters in Ethiopia (Human Rights Watch)
    Anger Over ‘Violent Crackdown’ at Protest in Oromia, Ethiopia (BBC Video)
    Ethiopian mother’s anger at murdered son in student protests (BBC News)
    Minnesota Senate Condemns Recent Violence in Ethiopia’s Oromia State
    The Brutal Crackdown on Ethiopia Protesters (Human Rights Watch)
    Deadly Ethiopia Protest: At Least 17 Ambo Students Killed in Oromia State (VOA)
    Ethiopia protest: Ambo students killed in Oromia state (BBC)
    Students killed in violent confrontations with police in Ethiopia’s largest state (AP)
    Ethiopia: Oromia State Clashes Leave At Least 11 Students Dead (International Business Times)
    Ethiopia: Discussing Ethnic Politics in Social Media (TADIAS)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    A “Thank You” Reflection From Zone9

    In the wake of their acquittal and release from prison, Ethiopia's Zone9 bloggers reflect on their experience and thank their supporters. (Photo: Zone9 bloggers, together after their release/ Zone9 Facebook page)

    Global Voices

    This post was collectively written by Zone9 and translated from Amharic to English by Endalk Chala.

    Our release was as surprising as our detention. Five of us were released after our charges were “withdrawn” in July. The remaining four of us were released in October because we were acquitted (save for the appeal against our acquittal). Still one member of our group, Befeqadu, was released on bail and must defend himself later this year in December. Even though we were released in different circumstances, one thing makes all of us similar – our strong belief that we didn’t deserve even a single day of arrest.

    Yes, it is good to be released, but we were arrested undeservedly. All we did was write and strive for the rule of law because we want to see the improvement of our country and the lives of its citizens. However, writing and dreaming for the better of our nation got us detained, harassed, tortured and exiled. Undeservedly.

    It makes us happy when we hear people say they are inspired by our story. But it also makes us sad when we learn people are scared to write because they have seen what we have gone through for our writings. Our incarceration makes us experience happiness and grief at the same time. The bottom line is that it is good to know we have inspired people while it is saddening that people have left the public discourse as a result of our detention. It is sad to know that our detention has had a chilling effect on public discourse.

    Read more at Globalvoices.org »


    Related:
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    Ethiopian Bloggers Cleared of Terrorism Charges
    Zone 9 Bloggers Recognized With International Press Freedom Awards
    International Press Freedom Awards Goes to Zone 9 Bloggers from Ethiopia

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    El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times)

    Ethiopia has been hit by a severe drought caused by El Niño. (Photo: Elja de Jong/CARE)

    The New York Times

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

    Ethiopia is suffering its worst drought in more than a decade, a condition exacerbated by El Niño, the water-warming phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that has affected weather patterns and reduced rainfall levels across a large chunk of Africa, hitting Ethiopia particularly hard.

    More than 80 percent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture to make a living, but this year their crops have withered. The government says that 8.2 million people are in need of immediate food assistance and that, by next year, 15 million may face starvation if they don’t get help. The crisis in Ethiopia could be a harbinger of more weather-related disasters if climate change makes El Niño more frequent.

    Read more at NYTimes.com »

    Related:
    Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
    Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
    Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
    Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
    Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
    Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
    The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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    How Real is the Ethiopia Rising Narrative

    The author of the following opinion piece, Dawit Ayele Haylemariam, is a graduate student of Political Science at the University of Passau, a public research institution in Passau, Germany. (Addis/Desta Keremela photo)

    The Huffington Post

    By Dawit Ayele Haylemariam

    If you ask “Is Ethiopia rising?” the answer will most likely depend on who you are asking. If you ask a regular follower of the country’s public media outlets, the answer will be an astounding yes! The same question posed to someone who gets his reports from the independent media and social media activists, will elicit a flagrantly different response, something to the effect that the country is not making any tangible progress and that it is rather engaging in huge infrastructural projects to camouflage and mask the underlying poverty.

    The disagreement from these two groups often comes from misunderstanding of what economic growth represents and how it differs from development.

    Economic growth is simply an increase in the amount of goods and services produced in a country over a given period of time, it is commonly measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Essentially, any activity that involves the transaction of values, however of no use or even harmful to human life, will have an increasing effect on the GDP. But, Economic development refers to the sustained improvement in living conditions, citizen’s self-esteem, meeting of basic needs and enabling of a free and just society.

    Based on the above criteria, it is beyond argument that Ethiopia’s GDP has been growing at a notable growth rate over the past decade. A recent report by IMF also ranks Ethiopia among the five fastest growing economies in the world.

    The objective of this article is to understand the sources of the growth and analyze whether the growth has been (or will be) translated into sustainable improvement in the wellbeing of citizens.

    Why should we question the good news of fast economic growth? you may ask. The reason for maintaining skepticism is because history is replete with examples where economic growth was not followed by similar progress in human development. Instead growth was achieved at the cost of greater inequality, higher unemployment and weakened democracy.

    Read more at The Huffington Post »


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    US Ambassador to OECD Daniel Yohannes Reflects on Addis Financing Conference

    (Image: Third Financing for Development Conference, Addis Ababa, July 2015. Photo credit: UNECA/Flickr)

    U.S. Department of State

    By Daniel Yohannes

    Daniel Yohannes is the United States Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Born in Addis Ababa, Ambassador Yohannes has worked in banking and economic development for over thirty years. In the following article he reflects on the 2015 Financing for Development Conference held in Addis Ababa last month.

    Washington, DC — This July, the world came together in Addis Ababa to agree on a financing framework for the sustainable development agenda.

    It was a key moment that gave new impetus to development cooperation and laid a solid foundation for the adoption of the post-2015 agenda later this year. But the Addis conference was also significant because it signaled a paradigm shift in the way we think about development. Addis built off of previous Financing for Development conferences but went further in emphasizing that private investment and domestic resource mobilization are just as critical to development cooperation as foreign assistance.

    Private investment is already dwarfing Official Development Assistance (ODA). Forty years ago, ODA represented 70% of funding from developed to developing countries; today it makes up only 13%. According to the OECD, developing countries attract more than 50% of foreign direct investment worldwide, up from less than 20% in 1990. And there is potential for much, much more.

    Africa in particular is ripe for additional private investment. Home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, the continent has become the second most attractive investment destination in the world according to the World Bank. But adequate infrastructure is essential to unlocking the full potential of private investment flows and ensuring that resilient global value chains are spread across the continent, rather than concentrated in a few countries.

    In Addis, the international community agreed, among a number of initiatives, to establish a Global Infrastructure Forum in order to identify and address infrastructure gaps. The United States will support this initiative through the G20′s Working Group on Infrastructure and the OECD’s work on transportation and telecoms infrastructure, as well as through innovative projects such as Power Africa. Announced by President Obama in 2013, Power Africa is mobilizing public and private partners with the aim of doubling electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Already, it has succeeded in attracting nearly $32 billion in public and private sector commitments.

    The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is also leveraging public-private partnerships to expand infrastructure in Africa. During my time as CEO of MCC, I saw first-hand how effective these partnerships are at facilitating trade, attracting investment, and driving economic growth and development. I inaugurated highways paved through MCC partnerships in Ghana and Tanzania that are roadways to regional commerce and a lifeline for farmers and entrepreneurs. MCC’s port expansion project in Benin attracted $256 million in private investment. Its electricity project in Ghana led General Electric to build a $1.5 billion power park.

    Of course, inadequate infrastructure isn’t the only impediment to private investment. The OECD Policy Framework on Investment, updated this year, reflects the reality that the investment climate is affected by a number of factors, including public governance, ease of doing business, property rights, rule of law, and political stability. Using this tool, the United States is working with the OECD to help a number of African countries improve their investment climates.

    Just as private investment is necessary to produce economic growth, domestic public resources are needed to ensure that this growth is sustainable and that its benefits are shared broadly across all levels of society. Tax revenues help countries finance their own development and invest in public services such as health care, education and infrastructure. Today, half of sub-Saharan African countries mobilize less than 15% of their GDP in tax revenues, compared to an average of 34% in OECD member countries.

    That’s why we launched the Addis Tax Initiative, which promises to help developing countries improve tax administration. Donor countries will provide funding and technical assistance to help developing countries broaden their tax bases, develop stronger tax institutions, and redouble efforts to stem tax evasion and avoidance. These efforts can also be supported through greater participation by developing countries in the OECD-led Global Forum on Tax Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum).

    The OECD’s research shows that international cooperation in this area can have a major impact. Thanks to a capacity-building program, Colombia was able to increase its tax revenue from transfer-pricing ten-fold, from $3.3 million in 2011 to over $33 million in 2014. Support from the Global Forum helped South Africa collect $62.3 million through a settlement with one taxpayer.

    As a member of the Addis Tax Initiative, the United States will be increasing tax support and assistance while doubling the base resources for the Department of Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance by 2020.

    To help tackle illicit financial flows, which cost African economies billions of dollars each year, we will also be stepping up the Partnership on Illicit Finance, announced by President Obama last year at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

    Of course, ODA remains a precious resource, particularly for Least Developed Countries and fragile states. The United States is proud to be the world’s top contributor of ODA, with nearly $33 billion committed in 2014. But what Addis recognized is that assistance is most powerful when it is used as a transformative tool — one that can catalyze investment and support domestic resource mobilization.

    While much progress has been made since the first Financing for Development conference in 2002, we still have a long way to go towards eradicating extreme poverty and ensuring that economic growth everywhere is inclusive and sustainable. What is clear is that we will need to maximize all three sources of development finance — assistance, investment and domestic resources — if we are to meet the challenges ahead.


    This article was originally published in Jeune Afrique.

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    With the OECD, the United States Can Lead Against Inequality (The Huffington Post)

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    Obama’s Historic Visit to Ethiopia: A Larger Perspective

    President Obama addressing Mandela Washington Fellows in 2014. (Photograph Courtesy: blackpressUSA)

    Tadias Magazine
    Editorial

    Published: Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

    New York (TADIAS) — Seven years ago in October of 2008, a few weeks before Barack Obama was elected President, the late Professor and Ethiopianist Donald N. Levine who was a colleague of Obama during their teaching days at The University of Chicago, wrote an article highlighting “Five Reasons for Ethiopian-Americans to Support Obama.” Levine asked: “Even if this is the most important American presidential election in the last half-century, why should Ethiopians burn with special interest in it?” He added: “Considering what’s at stake for Ethiopian immigrants and their home country, the question warrants a fresh look.”

    On the eve of Obama’s highly publicized inaugural visit to Ethiopia this week — the first by a sitting U.S. President — the question remains more relevant today than ever.

    President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia is a significant milestone for the U.S. government to strengthen one of the first and oldest diplomatic relations with an African nation. Yet we would be remiss not to mention that this U.S. presidential excursion awkwardly comes on the heels of the unrealistic 100% election victory announced last month by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

    Recalling Obama’s commitment during the 2008 campaign, while still soliciting our vote, he addressed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs stating that it “requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy – a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the world’s weakest states.”

    In the days ahead it is our sincere hope that these pillars of democracy – respect for human rights and encouraging the growth of the press sector — are boldly communicated and emphasized by President Obama.

    We hope that the Obama administration has learned from the Wendy Sherman debacle and understands how the President’s tour can be taken as ignoring Ethiopia’s lack of free press and the country’s outdated political culture of muzzling journalists and crushing dissent — a concern that has been duly noted by the Editorial Board of the Washington Post as well as several international human rights organizations. These are serious, legitimate criticisms that President Obama should take to mind and heart as he visits our ancestral home. We urge him to boldly amplify our human rights concerns as much as he is ready to speak about Ethiopia’s economic successes.

    Historically, Ethiopia and its people as a nation, has greatly contributed to the Pan-African movement for independence, paving the way for establishing the African Union as well as forging the first bilateral trade agreement between an African country and the United States. It is fitting that President Obama, the son of an African man and the leader of the United States, makes the first visit to Ethiopia. Moreover, President Obama’s journey to the new African Union headquarters is unprecedented and can serve as a belated opportunity not only to pay tribute to founding fathers such as Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who stood together to plant the seeds of a lasting Pan-African movement, but likewise acknowledge how the OAU listened to a young African American civil rights leader named Malcolm X and passed a resolution in support of his fight against racial discrimination in the United States. Author George Breitman captures Malcolm X’s enthusiasm following the passing of his resolution at the 1964 OAU Summit in Cairo quoting him in his book, Malcolm X Speaks, as stating “from all standpoints it has been an unqualified success, and one which should change the whole direction of our struggle in America for human dignity as well as human rights.”

    So what better stage is there than the AU headquarters to stand firmly behind the ideal that freedom of expression is a global human right?

    It is also equally important that this historic occasion be viewed through a larger lens, acknowledging the long-term relations between the people of America and Ethiopia.

    President Obama can also use this historic moment to recognize another seed of friendship — the first batch of 51 Peace Corps Volunteers who arrived in the new African nation of Ghana in August 1961 and the following year to Ethiopia — shortly after President Kennedy signed an executive order in March of that year. Approximately 11,000 Americans had signed up eager to serve, and since the Peace Corps’ first launch on the African continent the organization has flourished and expanded its network to over 140 nations worldwide. Addressing heads of state at the African Union President Obama will become the first American President to honor the Peace Corps’ first launch in Africa as well as the legacy of a generation that helped create independent African states.

    Last, but not least, the presidential trip is also an opportunity to recognize that Ethiopia and the African Union have been two of America’s oldest friends. It is stunning to think that despite the signing of the first U.S.-Ethiopia bilateral trade agreement in 1903 no sitting American president has ever visited Ethiopia in over a century. Ironically, it is an Ethiopian Head of State (former Emperor Haile Selassie) who held the record as the most frequent traveler to the United States as a foreign leader, only matched by the Queen of England in the last decade. While African leaders continue to travel to headquarters of the European Union and the White House, no American president has addressed African leaders from the African Union headquarters.

    We look forward to witnessing history as President Barack Obama takes the AU stage in Ethiopia this week and stands by the words he spoke in Ghana in 2009, asserting that “mutual responsibility must be the foundation” of a partnership between America and African countries, and emphasizing that “in the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success – strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy.”


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    Obama’s Historic Visit to Ethiopia: A Larger Perspective
    President Obama Visits Kenya and Ethiopia
    Open Letter to The Washington Post Regarding Ethiopia
    Harassing VOA Reporter is Not Your First Amendment Right
    Obama Visit to Ethiopia Brings Fresh Eyes to the Country, Say Seattle Ethiopians
    In Ethiopia, Why Obama Should Give Due Credit to Haile Selassie’s OAU Role
    Breaking News: President Obama to Travel to Ethiopia in Late July
    Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
    Brookings Institution Recommends Obama Visit Kenya, Ethiopia & Nigeria

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Harassing VOA Reporter is Not Your First Amendment Right

    Ethiopian protesters in Washington, D.C. physically and verbally harassing VOA reporter Henok Semaegzer during a "pro-democracy" opposition rally on Friday, July 3rd, 2015. (Photo: Screenshot from VOA video)

    Tadias Magazine
    By Tadias Staff

    Published: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

    New York (TADIAS) — Last week a video showing a rowdy group of Ethiopian protesters physically harassing Voice of America journalist Henok Semaegzer emerged following a rally in front of The White House. Hours before the release of the video Henok had tweeted saying:

    It is highly hypocritical for demonstrators who were demanding freedom of expression and press freedom — calling for the release of jailed journalists, bloggers, and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia — to have shoved and ripped off the badge of a VOA reporter while he was covering their rally. How can they claim to stand for freedom of expression, when they failed miserably to extend the same respect to those they may disagree with? At best they were totally oblivious to the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution that guarantees freedom of expression to all citizens by prohibiting lawmakers from “abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble.”

    Sadly this is not the first time that such harassment of dissenters has occurred. A similar incident was recorded in November 2013 when the microphone was snatched from a young Ethiopian organizer as the crowd disagreed with her comments during a demonstration in Washington D.C. against the violence inflicted on Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle East.

    What happened to Henok Semaegzer is dishonorable and damages the cause of those who claim to stand for human rights. The bystander apathy is likewise inexcusable. Henok’s attackers were heard shouting “shame on you” while chasing the reporter. We say shame on them.


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    Open Letter to The Washington Post Regarding Ethiopia

    Image from past Ethiopian soccer tournament and cultural festival in Washington, D.C. (File photo/Tadias)

    Tadias Magazine
    By Tadias Staff

    Published: Saturday, July 4th, 2015

    New York (TADIAS) — Recently the Washington Post has editorialized about President Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia citing that it is ill-timed and that it ignores the country’s abject record of human rights violations, which includes the arbitrary jailing of journalists and bloggers. They have also covered the recent rally in front of the White House and interviewed activists and several individuals in the DC community. And while we support and commend these efforts — it is high time that mainstream US media cover the Diaspora’s decades-long concern regarding the deterioration of freedom of expression in Ethiopia — we strongly resent Washington Post Reporter Pamela Constable’s simplistic conclusion that the “sharp division” in opinions can be reduced to Amhara and Tigrayan ethnic group affiliations, or even which restaurants Ethiopian Americans choose to frequent in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

    For too long mainstream American media expects ethnic communities such as ours to be grateful that they have covered our “issues” or given our concerns a national spotlight even when the coverage is less than nuanced. We would like to draw Ms. Constable’s attention to the work of reporters such as Goorish Wibneh, writing for the Seattle Globalist, who likewise covered Ethiopian American perspectives on President Obama’s upcoming trip citing conversations with an Ethiopian businessman who came to the U.S. in 1971, a PhD student who arrived in America as recently as 2003, and an Ethiopian American who works with a community initiative — all without feeling compelled to reduce the interviewees’ support or opposition of the trip by emphasizing their ethnic affiliations. Wibneh has also excellently covered additional human rights concerns held by the Ethiopian Diaspora community regarding the plight of Ethiopian migrants in the Middle East.

    Ethiopian American diversity consists of more ethnicities and languages than the Washington Post reporter cares to acknowledge, and a quick stop at the annual Ethiopian soccer tournament being held in Maryland this week, for example, could have easily made this diversity obvious to her. Is it too much to ask that a Washington Post reporter venture beyond two cafes and reach out to Ethiopian community centers, academics, houses of faith, festivals, or even the vibrant Ethiopian Diaspora media organizations found in the nation’s capital and across the US? Had this effort been considered we wouldn’t have had to read the negligent assertion in Constable’s article making government opposition or support an issue merely between two ethnic groups, and ultimately depicting the work of community activists as less than what it truly stands for – a movement for dignity for all persons and an unequivocal belief in the fundamental respect for human rights.

    Moreover, Pamela Constable describes the Ethiopian American community in Washington DC area as consisting of an “emigre community of 35,000 — the largest concentration in the United States.” We are hard-pressed to say that the Ethiopian American community consists of just its foreign born population. We are not simply a bunch of recently arrived immigrants who are hard to reach unless one visits our restaurants. Ethiopians have resided in the United States, in large numbers, since the 1970s, and according to DC-based Migration Policy Institute, if the U.S.-born Ethiopian population is included “the estimates range upwards of 460,000 in the United States” and approximately “350,000 in Washington DC” region. While these numbers are not fully verified by the census, the voice of US-born Ethiopians is equally important to recognize when writing about community views in Washington DC.

    Ultimately, Pamela Constable’s efforts are well-intentioned, but in the age of social media, where a plethora of perspectives are widely and easily accessible, it is no longer enough to be well-meaning. As a major media institution it is critical to also include nuance. The coverage of the Ethiopian American community needs to go beyond the stereotypical reporting of us as refugees and include the voices of the new generation of Ethiopian Americans who see themselves as part of the modern-day American tapestry and are active in influencing US foreign policy towards Ethiopia.

    We hope that in the future the Washington Post provides a highlight of the Ethiopian Diaspora that is more than a rushed stop to U Street, and does not explain away or trivialize our human rights concerns as inevitably tied to our ethnic affiliations. There are plenty of us whose support or opposition crosses ethnic lines, just as there are plenty of us who were born in the United States and who are proud of our Ethiopian heritage and consider ourselves core members of the Ethiopian community.


    Related:
    D.C.-area Ethiopians say Obama trip will send wrong signal to repressive regime in homeland
    Obama Visit to Ethiopia Brings Fresh Eyes to the Country, Say Seattle Ethiopians
    Mr. Obama’s visit to Ethiopia sends the wrong message on democracy (Washington Post‎)
    In Ethiopia, Why Obama Should Give Due Credit to Haile Selassie’s OAU Role
    Breaking News: President Obama to Travel to Ethiopia in Late July
    Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
    Brookings Institution Recommends Obama Visit Kenya, Ethiopia & Nigeria

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    India Landgrabs Ethiopia — CNN

    Rough estimates suggest Indian firms have acquired roughly 600 000 hectares of land in Ethiopia. This is more than ten times the size of land that the firms could legally acquire in India. (CNN)

    CNN

    By Mohammad Amir Anwar, University of Johannesburg

    The African country helping India feed 1.2 billion people

    The global food price crises between 2008 and 2009 led countries that bore the brunt of the catastrophe to look elsewhere for agricultural land to mitigate the effects.

    In 2008 prices of some foods, including wheat, soared by 130% in a single year and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food price index shot up 40%.

    The result was a frenzied scramble that saw countries acquire an estimated 40 million hectares of land in foreign countries, most of it in Africa.

    There is a strong sense that land deals in Ethiopia have benefited both the foreign investors and domestic private capitalists with close ties to the ruling party

    A great deal of attention has been paid to the role of the US, the largest investor in land in the world, China and Middle Eastern countries. Much less attention has been given to the role of India. A global land monitoring initiative, Land Matrix, ranks India as one of the top 10 investors in land abroad. It is the biggest investor in land in Ethiopia, with Indian companies accounting for almost 70% the land acquired by foreigners after 2008.

    Indian land deals in Ethiopia are the result of the strong convergence in the two countries’ domestic political-economic policies. Both advocate the privatisation of public assets and increasing reliance on free trade and open markets.

    India’s investment in land has been driven by the need to obviate the effects of spiralling food prices by outsourcing food supply. Ethiopia’s decisions are driven by its development policy based on commercialisation of agriculture and reliance on foreign investments.

    Rough estimates suggest Indian firms have acquired roughly 600 000 hectares of land in Ethiopia. This is more than ten times the size of land acquired by firms in India under the country’s special economic zones policy. India is followed closely by Saudi Arabian firms, with 500 000 hectares of land, in Ethiopia.

    Read more at CNN.com »


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    US State Dept on Ethiopia Elections

    A woman waits to cast her vote at a polling station during Ethiopia's national election in Addis Ababa, May 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

    Tadias Magazine
    News Update

    Press Statement
    Marie Harf
    Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson

    Washington, DC — The United States commends the people of Ethiopia for their civic participation in generally peaceful parliamentary and regional elections on May 24. We acknowledge the National Electoral Board’s organizational efforts and the African Union’s role as the only international observer mission on the ground. We also note the importance of the nine televised party debates as progress in fostering open public discussion of the challenges facing the country. We encourage all candidates, political parties and their supporters to resolve any outstanding differences or concerns peacefully in accordance with Ethiopia’s constitution and laws.

    The United States remains deeply concerned by continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views. We regret that U.S. diplomats were denied accreditation as election observers and prohibited from formally observing Ethiopia’s electoral process. Apart from the election observation mission fielded by the African Union, there were no international observer missions on the ground in Ethiopia. We are also troubled that opposition party observers were reportedly prevented from observing the electoral process in some locations.

    A free and vibrant media, space for civil society organizations to work on democracy and human rights concerns, opposition parties able to operate without impediment, and a diversity of international and domestic election observers are essential components for free and fair elections. The imprisonment and intimidation of journalists, restrictions on NGO activities, interference with peaceful opposition party activities, and government actions to restrict political space in the lead-up to election day are inconsistent with these democratic processes and norms.

    The United States has a broad and strong partnership with Ethiopia and its people. We remain committed to working with the Ethiopian Government and its people to strengthen Ethiopia’s democratic institutions, improve press freedom, and promote a more open political environment consistent with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations.


    Related:
    As Expected Ruling Party Claims Big Win in Early Ethiopia Election Results (VOA)
    AU Observers Avoid Words ‘Free & Fair’ In Ethiopia Election Assessment (VOA)
    African Observers Say Ethiopia Poll Credible, Opposition Cries Foul (Reuters)
    No Suspense in Ethiopia Election Results (Photos)
    Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Is Expected to Keep Grip on Power (NY Times)
    Ethiopia Election Met With Silence From Ordinary Voters (VOA News)
    Ethiopia’s Election: ‘Africa’s Largest Exercise of Political Theatre’ (The Guardian)
    With Limited Independent Press, Ethiopians Left Voting in the Dark (CPJ)
    Opponents Question Ethiopia’s Democracy (VOA)
    Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
    Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
    No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
    As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
    Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
    Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
    Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Why Is Obama Administration So Reluctant to Criticize Ethiopia’s Repression?

    Defense lawyer Abebe Guta, who represented 24 people found guilty of terrorism in Ethiopia, talks to reporters at a court in Addis Ababa on July 13, 2012. (Getty Images)

    Slate Magazine

    By Sarah Margon

    In July 2012, an Ethiopian court charged the prominent journalist Eskinder Nega with conspiring to commit terrorist acts. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison under a broad and ill-defined law. His crime? Writing about the Arab Spring and calling for peaceful protests.

    A frequent critic of the government and a prominent journalist, Nega was no stranger to detention. But these charges were the most severe—and the corresponding sentence the longest—he’d ever received. Appeals to regional bodies, findings by the United Nations that his detention violates international law, and a litany of international journalism awards all underscore the politically motivated charges that keep him behind bars.

    Sadly, he’s not alone.

    This Sunday’s elections are likely to reinforce Ethiopia’s repression. Since Nega’s detention, Ethiopia has taken a far more repressive turn. At least 19 other Ethiopians are languishing in prison on trumped-up charges for exercising their right to free expression. During the past year alone, six privately owned media outlets have shut down due to ongoing government harassment. At least 22 journalists and bloggers have faced criminal charges for doing their jobs, while nearly 30 more have left the country—preferring exile to the constant threat of arrest.

    The authorities in Addis have never been tolerant of an open media environment, but the political climate has deteriorated dramatically. Even the upcoming elections, scheduled for May 24, have not generated the opportunities for reform some analysts had originally anticipated. Instead, this Sunday’s elections are likely to reinforce the country’s repression.

    Read more at Slate Magazine »


    Related:
    Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
    Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
    No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
    As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
    Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
    Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
    Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    US Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia

    Blanket US support for the Ethiopian regime risks dismantling the country’s already beleaguered opposition. (Image: YouTube)

    Aljazeera America

    By Awol Allo

    It was only two months ago during the Israeli election that the White House was scrambling to convince the American public that the United States does not intervene in the electoral processes of other democracies.

    “This administration goes to great lengths to ensure that we don’t give even the appearance of interfering or attempting to influence the outcome of a democratically held election in another country,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in defense of President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    But the U.S. makes no apologies for its interventions on behalf of autocratic regimes elsewhere. For example, during a recent visit to Ethiopia, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman praised Ethiopia as a vibrant and progressive democracy.

    “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible, open and inclusive,” she said. “Every time there is an election, it gets better and better.”

    Sherman’s remarks drew the ire of activists and human rights organizations. Daniel Calingaert, the executive vice president of Freedom House, dismissed her praise as “woefully ignorant” and at odds with the reality of life as lived by ordinary Ethiopians. Not only were her claims inconsistent with human rights reports, but they also fly in the face of her department’s annual country surveys, which tell a radically different story.

    In its latest Ethiopia report, for example, the State Department identified significant human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of speech, Stalinist-style show trials, and crackdowns on free press, opposition leaders, activists and critical journalists. The report and others by human rights groups reveal a consistent and widespread pattern of abuse, including torture, arbitrary killings, restrictions on freedom of association, interference in freedom of religion and the politicized use of the country’s anti-terrorism proclamation.

    Read more at america.aljazeera.com »


    Related:
    No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
    As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
    Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post

    Ethiopian journalist Simegnish “Lily” Mengesha (R) sits with President Obama during a round table with persecuted journalist for World Press Freedom Day at the White House on May 1, 2015. (Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    By Terrence Lyons

    Ethiopia, Washington’s security partner and Africa’s second most populous country, is scheduled to hold national elections on May 24. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allied parties won 99.6 percent of the seats in the last round of elections in 2010. There is no doubt that the ruling party will win again.

    The party has ruled since 1991 when it seized power following a prolonged civil war. It dominates all major political, economic, and social institutions, has virtually eliminated independent political space, and opposition parties are fractured and harassed. Ethiopia has jailed more journalists than any other country in Africa.

    The EPRDF is an extremely strong and effective authoritarian party. Yet Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of Political Affairs in the Department of State, recently said, “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.” What roles do elections play in authoritarian states and what, if anything, do they have to do with “free, fair, and credible” standards?

    Part of the answer is to recognize that elections and political parties in autocratic states play different roles than they do in democratic states. Electoral processes are used by authoritarian regimes to consolidate power and to demonstrate the ruling party’s dominance, as argued by scholars of comparative politics such as Schedler and Gandhi and Lust-Okar. Research by Geddes shows that single-party authoritarian regimes tend to be more stable and last longer than military or personalistic ones. Strong parties manage instability by encouraging intra-elite compromise, co-opting opposition, and institutionalizing incentives to reward loyalty. Elections and strong political parties thereby contribute to “authoritarian resilience,” as scholars note with reference to China, Iran and Syria, and Zimbabwe.

    Read more at The Washington Post »



    Related:
    Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    ‘Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Amnesty

    An image from a video shows masked militants in a desert in Libya ready to execute men said to be Ethiopian Christians. (Getty Images)

    Amnesty International

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Widespread abuses by armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups in Libya as well as systematic exploitation, lawlessness and armed conflicts are pushing hundreds of thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to risk their lives by attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the continuing influx of refugees and migrants and the scale of abuses against foreign nationals in Libya, the European Union (EU) has failed for a long time to respond to a growing humanitarian crisis and provide the necessary resources to save lives at sea. In 2015 alone, over 1,700 persons died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

    According to 70 new testimonies collected by Amnesty International in Sicily and in Tunisia between August 2014 and March 2015, foreign nationals travelling irregularly to and from Libya face abuses, including abductions for ransom, torture and other ill-treatment, and in some cases rape and other forms of sexual violence at all stages of the smuggling routes running from west and east Africa towards the Libyan coast. Most often they are handed over to criminal groups upon entry to Libya at the country’s southern borders or in major transit cities along the migration routes such as Ajdabya and Sabha. At times, the smugglers themselves hold the migrants and refugees in remote areas in the desert forcing them to call their families to pay a ransom.

    Despite ongoing armed conflicts between various coalitions of armed groups, and the establishment of two parallel governments contending for power, the systematic detention of foreign nationals for migration-related offences has continued. Torture and other ill-treatment in immigration detention centres have remained widespread. In many cases, migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea have been subjected to prolonged beatings in such facilities following their interception and arrest by the Libyan coastguard or militias acting on their own initiative in the absence of strong state institutions. Women held in these facilities, which lack female guards, are vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment.

    The recent videos showing the summary killings of at least 28 Ethiopian Christians claimed by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) in two separate locations has drawn the world’s attention to some of the serious human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war perpetrated with complete impunity in in the context of several interconnected armed conflicts. These deplorable murders follow the summary killing of a group of 21 Christian Copts, most of them Egyptians, which was claimed by the same armed group earlier this year.

    Chaos and lawlessness appear to have sparked increased xenophobia against foreign nationals amongst some local communities who blame them for the rise of smuggling networks and criminality. Research conducted by Amnesty International reveals that migrants and refugees are increasingly exploited and forced to work without pay, physically assaulted and robbed in their homes or in the streets. Religious minorities, in particular Christian migrants and refugees, are at highest risk of abuses, including abductions, torture and other ill-treatment and unlawful killings, from armed groups that seek to enforce their own interpretation of Islamic law and have been responsible for serious human rights abuses. They also face widespread discrimination and persecution from their employers, criminal groups and in immigration detention centres. In some cases the detention and abuse of foreign nationals, in particular sub-Saharan Africans, have been motivated by a fear of illnesses, which was exacerbated by last year’s outbreak of Ebola.

    As violence continues in Libya, neighbouring countries, including Algeria,Tunisia and Egypt, have sealed off their borders and imposed more stringent entry requirements out of fear of the conflict spilling over. Migrants and refugees who cannot obtain valid visas who have had their passports stolen or confiscated from them by smugglers, criminal gangs or their Libyan employers often are effectively left with no viable alternative to embarking on the perilous sea route to Europe.

    In light of the seriousness of the abuses faced by foreign nationals in Libya and in order to reduce deaths at sea, Amnesty International is calling on Tunisia and Egypt to keep their borders open to all those in need of international protection. Amnesty International is also calling on the international community to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees who are currently trapped in Libya.

    The recent deaths of over 1,000 migrants and refugees off the coast of Libya in one week alone shocked the world and prompted the EU to finally act and adopt a set of measures to prevent deaths at sea, fight traffickers and prevent irregular migration flows. Extra resources for search and rescue were committed by EU leaders on 23 April 2015. In order to save lives, however, it is essential that such resources are delivered promptly and remain available for so long as high numbers of refugees and migrants continue to depart from Libya on unsafe boats. It is crucial that ships are deployed along the main migration routes and in the areas where most calls for assistance come from and a great number of shipwrecks occur, which is approximately 40 nautical miles from the Libyan coast.

    While Amnesty International welcomes the EU’s commitment to increase resources for search and rescue operations, it is also concerned that some of the proposed measures, in particular plans to “systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers” would effectively contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya and expose them to a risk of serious human rights abuses. Amid lawlessness, the breakdown of state institutions and fighting, smugglers’ networks in Libya are thriving and exposing persons in need of international protection to serious human rights abuses. However, focusing solely on combating transnational organized crime and smuggling without allowing thousands of migrants and refugees to access a place of safety would be grossly inadequate.

    As more people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the priority for the international community must be to dramatically expand search and rescue operations and take effective steps to urgently address human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Libya. EU governments must also increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection.

    Click here to read the full report at Amnesty.eu »

    Related:
    Ethiopians rescued from Libya arrive in Addis Ababa (BBC)
    Photos: New York Ethiopians Hold Vigil in Times Square for Victims of ISIL Violence (TADIAS)

    In Pictures: Washington, D.C Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims in Libya (TADIAS)

    Vigil Held in Nashville for Ethiopian Christians Killed by ISIS (WSMV-TV Nashville)
    Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
    In Atlanta Suburb of Clarkston, Georgia Christians, Muslims Honor ISIS Victims (WABE Radio)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (TADIAS)

    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.

    Ethiopian-Israelis Want Police Officer Who Beat Soldier To Go On Trial

    (Getty Images)

    JTA

    News Brief

    JERUSALEM — Ethiopian-Israeli activists called for a police officer caught on camera beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier to be put on trial.

    At a news conference Sunday in Tel Aviv, the activists also demanded that charges be dropped against protesters arrested in the city last week during a demonstration spurred by the attack that turned violent, The Jerusalem Post reported. They also called for improved conditions for Ethiopian-Israelis in the areas of education, housing and welfare.

    “Decision-makers abandoned Ethiopian-Israelis as though they were foreign implants and and not a basic part of the foundation of Israeli society,” activist Inbar Bugale said. “They have ignored the difficult reality that there is an entire young generation that feels it is not part of the Israeli society.”

    Also Sunday, the Jewish Agency for Israel said it would immigrants’ eligibility to reside in its absorption centers from two years to three. Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, said the decision would be implemented immediately and that the Jewish Agency would assume the costs of the third year — the Israeli government funds the first two.

    Sharansky called upon the Israeli government to accelerate the development of permanent housing solutions for the Ethiopian immigrants.

    “Integrating Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society is a national mission of tremendous importance, and that begins with the move from immigrant absorption centers to permanent housing,” he said.

    Some 4,755 Ethiopian immigrants currently reside in Jewish Agency immigrant absorption centers, including 853 residing there beyond their period of eligibility, according to the Jewish Agency.

    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry reportedly has issued a statement expressing concern over Israel’s treatment of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The statement extensively quotes statements by Israeli officials admitting that the county has erred in its integration of Ethiopian-Israelis, Ynet reported.

    Ethiopian government officials reportedly summoned Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Belaynesh Zevadia, to discuss the issue and the recent violent protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.


    Related:
    A Message from Tebeka – Legal Aid & Advocacy for Ethiopian Israelis (Press Release)
    Soldier Becomes Unlikely Face of Ethiopian-Israeli Discontent (Video)
    Ethiopian-Israeli Protest in Tel Aviv Turns Unusually Violent (Raw Video)
    Israel’s Ethiopians Protest in Jerusalem (The Associated Press)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’

    U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman. (Photo: freedomhouse.org)

    The Washington Post

    By Wendy R. Sherman, Washington

    Regarding the May 1 editorial “Make-believe on Ethiopia”:

    Ethiopia is a valuable partner in a critical region, from peacekeeping to fighting al-Shabab to pursuing peace in South Sudan. Ethiopia, among the world’s fastest-growing economies, has made significant progress toward its Millennium Development Goals.

    But stability, security and economic development are sustainable only with the development of democratic values. Ethiopia has a long road to full democracy, as I publicly said there. As President Obama suggested, my comments were aspirational in hopes that the upcoming election would be a step forward. Later in the trip, I said, “Ethiopia is a young country in terms of democracy and over time we hope the political system matures in a way that provides real choices for the people.” I highlighted that more journalists are in jail in Ethiopia than anywhere else in Africa. Civil society leaders told me, “They are about solving problems and being advocates for people who don’t believe they have a voice.”

    The United States maintains a frank discussion with Ethiopia regarding democracy and human rights. In my meetings in Addis Ababa, I expressed concerns about restrictions on political space, arrests and imprisonments of independent journalists and use of antiterrorism legislation to stifle political dissent.

    It is unfortunate the editorial mischaracterized my remarks and, more important, underestimated the fullness of our bilateral relationship. The U.S. government closely monitors the human rights situation and works with Ethiopia to foster a true democracy as part of our valued relationship.

    Read more at The Washington Post »


    Related:
    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

    The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post

    Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ethiopia-China Light Industrial Zone outside of Addis Ababa on April 16, 2015. (Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    By Editorial Board

    ETHIOPIA’S ELECTIONS, scheduled for May 24, are shaping up to be anything but democratic. A country that has often been held up as a poster child for development has been stifling civic freedoms and systematically cracking down on independent journalism for several years.

    It was consequently startling to hear the State Department’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, declare during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.” The ensuing backlash from Ethiopians and human rights advocates was deserved.

    Ms. Sherman’s lavish praise was particularly unjustified given Ethiopia’s record on press freedom: It has imprisoned 19 journalists, more than any other country in Africa. According to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country ranks fourth on its list of the top 10 most censored countries in the world. At least 16 journalists have been forced into exile, and a number of independent publications have shut down due to official pressure.

    Last weekend marked one year since six bloggers were arrested and jailed without trial. The “Zone 9” bloggers, who used their online platforms to write about human rights and social justice and to agitate for a democracy in Ethi­o­pia, were charged with terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which has been used to clamp down on numerous journalists critical of the regime. Today, the bloggers remain imprisoned, awaiting what will likely be a trial by farce.

    As for the elections, opposition parties say the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front , led by Hailemariam Desalegn, has undermined their efforts to register candidates for the May vote. Since last year, members of opposition parties and their supporters have been arrested and harassed. In March, the sole opposition leader in Parliament said he would not run for reelection due to state interference with his party’s affairs.

    Read more at The Washington Post »

    Related:
    U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

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