Opinion Section

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 »


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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.”


Related:
FBI Debunks Trump’s Fake Claims Against Obama, Confirms Russia-Trump Probe

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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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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 »


Related:
Trump Era America: US Journos Barred From White House Briefing


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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Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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 »


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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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Watch: AS PROTESTS GROW, TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION BAN PROVOKES CRISIS

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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Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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:

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Ethiopia: US-Africa Relations in Trump Era

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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.

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Tadias Interview: Aida Muluneh on Her Ethiopia Exhibition ‘So Long a Letter’

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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.”

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Related:
Donald Trump will lead the US just like an African ‘strongman’—that’s bad for African democracy
Ethiopia: US-Africa Relations in Trump Era

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 »


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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:
ECMAA NYC Presents Book-Talk at Bunna Cafe with Author Bewketu Seyoum

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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:
140 Dead In Ethiopia Land Dispute: The Problem With Government Ownership Of Land (Forbes)
Residents in Addis Ababa Worried at Ongoing Protests and Deadly Crackdown (RFI)
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)
Opposition: More Than 40 Killed in Ethiopia Protests (VOA News)
Violent clashes in Ethiopia over ‘master plan’ to expand Addis (The Guardian)
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)

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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:
Zone 9 Bloggers Acquitted of Terrorism
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 »


Related:
US Ambassador to OECD Daniel Yohannes Reflects on Addis Financing Conference

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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.

Related:
US Hopes AGOA 10-Year Extension Helps Africa’s Trade Supply Side Gaps (TADIAS)
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.”


Related:
Photos: President Obama Arrives in Kenya
Obama heads to Kenya, Ethiopia
Obama’s Visit to Africa Draws Fire From Human Rights Groups
President Obama Visits Kenya and Ethiopia
Obama’s Ethiopia visit legitimizes authoritarian government, critical expatriates say
A Conversation on President Obama’s Trip to Kenya and Ethiopia
Open Letter to The Washington Post Regarding Ethiopia
Harassing VOA Reporter is Not Your First Amendment Right
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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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‘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)

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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)

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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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U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman. (Photo: freedomhouse.org)

Freedom House

April 16th, 2015

Washington — In response to today’s comments by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, in which she referred to Ethiopia as a democracy and the country’s upcoming elections free, fair, and credible, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Under Secretary Sherman’s comments today were woefully ignorant and counter-productive,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of Freedom House. “Ethiopia remains one of the most undemocratic countries in Africa. By calling these elections credible, Sherman has tacitly endorsed the Ethiopian government’s complete disregard for the democratic rights of its citizens. This will only bolster the government’s confidence to continue its crackdown on dissenting voices.”

Background:
Since coming into power in the early 1990s, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has dominated politics through a combination of political cooptation and harassment. The country experienced a degree of democratization through the early 2000’s, culminating in the most competitive elections in the county’s history in 2005. Since these elections, the EPRDF has restricted political pluralism and used draconian legislation to crack down on the political opposition, civil society organizations, and independent media. In the 2010 elections, EPRDF and its allies won 546 out of 547 parliamentary seats.

Ethiopia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2014.


Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Related:
African Elections & Governance in 2015
African Elections in 2015: A Year of Promise and Peril

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Letter to the Editor: Re: Feb. 9 Washington Post Editorial “Ethiopia’s Stifled Press”

(AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

The Washington Post

Letter to the Editor

By Tesfaye Wolde

The writer is a counselor for public diplomacy and communication for Ethiopia’s U.S. Embassy.

The Feb. 9 editorial “Ethiopia’s stifled press” portrayed Ethiopia as a politically repressive country bent on harassing dissenting media outlets. That is far from the truth. For 24 years, the government has been focused on both building a democratic society based on the rule of law and ensuring economic development. Ethiopia’s new and flourishing constitutional order is the expression of the will of its people, and the government has the duty to protect this constitutional order from any subversion.

It is not appropriate to refer to individual cases, but the implication that journalists should be above the law is unacceptable. To suggest that journalists have been targeted under the guise of “terrorism” ignores the fact that Ethiopia is faced with significant and dangerous terrorist threats, including the activities of organizations linked to al-Qaeda in Somalia and Yemen and terrorist operations in Eritrea. Ethi­o­pia takes seriously its responsibility of bringing perpetrators of grave offenses to justice, irrespective of their profession.

Read more »

Related:
Ethiopia’s Stifled Press (The Washington Post Editorial)
2014 Census: Ethiopia Again Ranks Among the Worst Jailers of Journalists in the World

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Ethiopia’s Stifled Press — Washington Post

Ethiopians read a newspapers in Mercato, Addis Ababa (AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

The Washington Post

By Editorial Board

WHILE ENJOYING its status as an international development darling, Ethiopia has been chipping away at its citizens’ freedom of expression. The country now holds the shameful distinction of having the second-most journalists in exile in the world, after Iran. That combination of Western subsidies and political persecution should not be sustainable.

According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, at least 60 journalists have fled the country since 2010, including 30 last year, and at least 19 have been imprisoned. Twenty-two faced criminal charges in 2014. The government closed five newspapers and a magazine within the past year, leaving Ethiopia with no independent private media outlets. With the country headed toward elections in May, the pressure on the media has undermined the prospect of a free and fair vote.

Ethiopia has long been known for its censorship and repression of the media, but the situation has deteriorated in recent years. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country has since 2009 “banned or suspended at least one critical independent publication per year.” After the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi in 2012, successor Hailemariam Desalegn has tightened the regime’s stranglehold on the press. Even Ethiopia’s rival Eritrea looks better: It released several imprisoned journalists last month.

Read more at The Washington Post »

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Sisi Goes to Addis Ababa (Opinion)

(Illustration by Anthony Russo)

The New York Times | The Opinion Pages

By ALEX DE WAAL

On one of the last occasions an Egyptian president visited Addis Ababa, he got no further than the road from the airport: In 1995 the motorcade of President Hosni Mubarak came under fire from Egyptian jihadists. Mr. Mubarak was saved by his bulletproof car, his driver’s skill and Ethiopian sharpshooters.

After that, Ethiopian and Egyptian intelligence officers worked together to root out terrorists in the Horn of Africa, contributing, along with pressure from the United States government, to Osama bin Laden’s expulsion from Sudan in 1996. But that was the limit of their cooperation.

Egypt and Ethiopia have otherwise been locked in a low-intensity contest over which nation would dominate the region, undermining each other’s interests in Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan. A quiet but long-sustained rivalry, it is one of those rarely noticed but important fault lines in international relations that allow other conflicts to rumble on.

This week, however, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is expected to fly to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to attend a summit of the African Union. He will also meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, a rare chance to shift the political landscape in northeastern Africa.

The heart of the rivalry hinges on how to share the precious waters of the Nile River. Running low is Egypt’s nightmare, and more than 80 percent of the Nile’s water comes from rain that falls on the Ethiopian highlands and is then carried north by the fast-flowing Blue Nile. (Ethiopia is nicknamed “Africa’s water tower.”) Yet management of the Nile is formally governed by a 1929 treaty between Egypt and colonial Britain, and a 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan that awarded most water rights to Egypt, some to Sudan and none explicitly to Ethiopia or the other states upstream. This arrangement is widely considered unfair, especially to Ethiopia, which was never colonized, and on whose behalf Britain could not even claim to have spoken. This legal framework also limits the right of upper riparian states to build dams or irrigation systems even though they were sidelined from helping shape it.

Read more at NYT »

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Kumera Genet Reviews Rebel Music: Youth Led Social Movements and Their Sounds

In the following article Ethiopian American writer Kumera Genet, pictured above speaking at NPC, reviews the book "Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture." (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

The Huffington Post

By Kumera Genet

Hisham Aidi’s book, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture, newly released on paperback, is an exploration of the diverse ways that Muslim youth around the world search for what he terms a “non-racist utopia”. This cultural search often takes political, social and musical forms. The source material for the book is a combination of anecdotes, interviews and detailed research. In wide ranging segments, Aidi recounts stories of European Muslim youth who pay homage by visiting the grave of Malcolm X when passing through New York, young Afro-Brazilian Muslims who use the traditional carnival in Bahia to celebrate the Malê Revolt (a rebellion of enslaved African Muslims in Brazil during Ramadan in 1835), or young Moroccans who are increasingly rediscovering their historical relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora through Gnawa music.

It is often advocated that music is apolitical or that it transcends political divisions. However, for many musicians, creating music is not only rooted in musical talent and personal experience, but also in a political ideology and belief system which inspires the art. Islam and the long history of Islamic practices among black Americans was one of the foundations of the social culture in hip-hop’s “Golden Age” of conscious political rap in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The high output of popular political music in this period of hip-hop is acknowledged throughout the book as a continuing source of artistic inspiration for Muslim youth and black youth in Europe, Latin America and Asia who feel stigmatized by racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, or the war on terror. These youth are often living in marginalized communities like the favelas of metro Brazil or the economically depressed suburbs of major European cities.

Read more at The Huffington Post »

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By Kumera Genet: The Dominican Government Cementing Foundations of Apartheid

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New Inquiry Needed on Eric Garner’s Death

Protesters swarm Times Square in New York demanding justice for Eric Garner on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 following news that a grand jury declined to bring charges in the case. (Photo via Twitter)

The New York Times

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

DECEMBER 3, 2014

The Staten Island grand jury must have seen the same video everyone else did: the one showing a group of New York City police officers swarming and killing an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.

Yet they have declined to bring charges against the plainclothes officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on the video girdling Mr. Garner’s neck in a chokehold, which the department bans, throwing him to the ground and pushing his head into the pavement.

The imbalance between Mr. Garner’s fate, on a Staten Island sidewalk in July, and his supposed infraction, selling loose cigarettes, is grotesque and outrageous. Though Mr. Garner’s death was officially ruled a homicide, it is not possible to pierce the secrecy of the grand jury, and thus to know why the jurors did not believe that criminal charges were appropriate.

What is clear is this was vicious policing and an innocent man is dead…Any police department that tolerates such conduct, and whose officers are unable or unwilling to defuse such confrontations without killing people, needs to be reformed…

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton responded quickly to Wednesday’s development, as they did in July, when anguish and anger flared. Mr. de Blasio went immediately to Staten Island to meet with elected officials, clergy members and other community leaders, and he issued a statement urging that New Yorkers outraged by the grand jury’s failure express themselves in peaceful ways. Protests in New York City on Wednesday unavoidably echoed those in Ferguson, Mo., where an officer escaped indictment for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Protesters in both places have every right to deplore both outcomes, as well as the appalling frequency of fatal encounters between black men and the police.

New Yorkers, at least, have a mayor and Police Department that have not fully squandered their credibility with the public.

Read more at NYT »

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Kumera Genet: The Dominican Government Cementing Foundations of Apartheid

In the following article Ethiopian American writer Kumera Genet, pictured above at Tadias Roundtable Discussion at National Press Club in DC last year, highlights the new anti-Haitians Dominican law. (Tadias)

The Huffington Post

By Kumera Genet

It is over a year since the highest court in the Dominican Republic issued Resolution TC 0168/13, a ruling that stripped the citizenship of up to 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Since this ruling, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Dominican government of have used numerous methods to avoid legal responsibility for their actions, which violate the very Constitution of the Dominican Republic and international human rights treaties to which the country is party. The depressing reality is that the Dominican state is 10 years into a process of constructing a system of legal apartheid for Dominicans born to Haitian parents. This group of second- and third-generation Dominicans has always faced opposition to being fully recognized as Dominican citizens, but their government appears intent on legally cementing this discrimination — and is increasingly close to this goal.

Apartheid is best known as the system of racial segregation in 20th-century South Africa. It is defined by the United Nations as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” These acts include “legislative measures that discriminate in the political, social, economic and cultural fields.”

Race is a complex social construct and not a universally accepted concept, but the United Nations defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

There is a long and documented history in the Dominican Republic of prejudice against the Dominican children of Haitian immigrants. This exercised prejudice fits the United Nations’ definition of racial discrimination, and recent legal steps by the Dominican government appear to be intent on advancing towards a legally segregated society that can be considered an apartheid state.

Read more at The Huffington Post »


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2014 Midterms: Running Away From Obama Is What Cost Democrats (Opinion)

President Barack Obama at a campaign rally for Democratic challenger for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke at North Devision High School, Oct. 28, 2014, in Milwaukee. (Getty Images)

The Root

November 5th, 2014

The Republican Party’s takeover of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s midterm election is the tip of the rather sizable iceberg that saw the GOP win governorships in the blue states of Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.

As the losses for Democrats mounted during election night, any number of pundits questioned the Democratic Party’s Obama Avoidance Syndrome. That philosophy failed to aid Democrats in Kentucky and Georgia hoping for upset victories. The party’s reluctance to embrace the Obama administration’s successes in providing health care, lowering unemployment and saving the nation from a great recession proved to be its undoing.

With the national party abandoning the president, black voters responded with less enthusiasm and less turnout than in 2012.

The Party of No’s success was based on a number of factors, including the 2010 redistricting that has turned Congress into a virtual fortress, President Barack Obama’s relatively low approval ratings and a favorable Senate re-election map that allowed Republicans to play aggressive offense while the Democrats shrank from the fight.

Obama’s absence from the ballot was clearly felt in gubernatorial and Senate races in states the president carried two years ago, most notably Colorado.

It didn’t have to turn out this way.

Both the Obama administration and the Democratic Party have failed to articulate a coherent message and vision to the American people this election cycle. Rather than join forces and extol the president’s leadership on domestic issues, especially with regard to unemployment, health care and the environment, Democrats abandoned the president and, in the process, allowed Republicans to successfully shape this year’s message.

Ironically, the same party that has spent the last four years blocking any and all progressive legislation cast its members as outsiders, ready and willing to change Washington. Perhaps even more incredibly, enough voters believed in that message that they handed control of the Senate to Republicans.

President Obama must now deal with a Republican-controlled Congress for the final two years of his presidency. The lesson, should Democrats choose to take it, is that progressives must act with the courage of their convictions. But many will say the exact opposite, arguing that the red-state election-night tsunami indicates a national tilt to the right.

This is dead wrong.

The failure to mobilize the Obama coalition cost Democrats nationally. Poll-driven gubernatorial and Senate campaigns, orchestrated by well-paid consultants, failed to inspire the kind of grassroots insurgency that made Obama’s victories possible.

Read more at The Root »



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Don’t Let Ebola Dehumanize Africa

The following article is written by Angélique Kidjo (pictured above), a Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin. (Photo: Pierre Marie Zimmerman via Amsterdam News)

The New York Times | OP-ED

By ANGELIQUE KIDJO

A few days ago, I posted a note on Facebook about my scheduled concert next week at Carnegie Hall honoring the late South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was known widely as Mama Africa. I was saddened to see the following comments appear: “Instead of mama africa it should be mama ebola” and “I wonder if she is bringing aby Ebloa [sic] with her?”

Overnight it seems that all the naïve and evil preconceptions about Africa have surfaced again. Ebola has brought back the fears and fantasies of Africa as the Heart of Darkness and the fearmongering about the disease threatens to reverse decades of progress for Africa’s image.

I’ll always remember the night Mama Africa entered my life. I was about 9 years old and there was an old turntable standing in the corner of the dining room of our house in Benin.

I was browsing through my brother’s vinyl-record collection and discovered a Makeba album called “Pata Pata.” On the cover, Miriam’s shoulders were bare; she had a gentle but determined smile. I carefully dropped the needle and an irresistible groove literally jumped out at me. I couldn’t help dancing.

Ms. Makeba became my role model. Every night I dreamed that one day I would be like her, travel the world, meet powerful people and address the United Nations like she did in 1963, when she denounced the South African apartheid regime in front of the whole world.

That an African person — a woman — could accomplish all this and could stand up for her people even though her life had been defined by hardship was amazing to me. She was exiled twice: first from South Africa by the racist apartheid regime, and then from America while she was married to Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panther activist.

Ms. Makeba managed to transform, in the eyes of the world, the image of the African woman. She gave us a human face — a strong face that went beyond all the clichés carried by movies and TV shows. As I kept singing her songs throughout my career, I always felt that my mission was to keep her legacy alive — especially today.

Read more at NYT »

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Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola

Cuban health workers in Sierra Leone. (Credit Florian Plaucheur/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

The New York Times | EDITORIAL

By The Editorial Board

Cuba is an impoverished island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.

Cuba’s contribution is doubtlessly meant at least in part to bolster its beleaguered international standing. Nonetheless, it should be lauded and emulated.

The global panic over Ebola has not brought forth an adequate response from the nations with the most to offer. While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.

Doctors in West Africa desperately need support to establish isolation facilities and mechanisms to detect cases early. More than 400 medical personnel have been infected and about 4,500 patients have died. The virus has shown up in the United States and Europe, raising fears that the epidemic could soon become a global menace.

It is a shame that Washington, the chief donor in the fight against Ebola, is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. In this case the schism has life-or-death consequences, because American and Cuban officials are not equipped to coordinate global efforts at a high level. This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks.

Read more at NYT »

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The Pivotal Role of Free Media in Building A Healthy Democracy

"Democracy is commonly defined as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Like a fish to water, democracy can only exist in an atmosphere of freedom of action." (theviewspaper.net)

UN.org

By SHEILA S. CORONEL

Since the 17th century, the role of the press as Fourth Estate and as a forum for public discussion and debate has been recognized. Today, despite the mass media’s propensity for sleaze, sensationalism and superficiality, the notion of the media as watchdog, as guardian of the public interest, and as a conduit between governors and the governed remains deeply ingrained.

The reality, however, is that the media in new and restored democracy do not always live up to the ideal. They are hobbled by stringent laws, monopolistic ownership, and sometimes, the threat of brute force. State controls are not the only constraints. Serious reporting is difficult to sustain in competitive media markets that put a premium on the shallow and sensational. Moreover, the media are sometimes used as proxies in the battle between rival political groups, in the process sowing divisiveness rather than consensus, hate speech instead of sober debate, and suspicion rather than social trust. In these cases, the media contribute to public cynicism and democratic decay.

Still, in many fledgling democracies, the media have been able to assert their role in buttressing and deepening democracy. Investigative reporting, which in some cases has led to the ouster of presidents and the fall of corrupt governments, has made the media an effective and credible watchdog and boosted its credibility among the public. Investigative reporting has also helped accustom officials to an inquisitive press and helped build a culture of openness and disclosure that has made democratically elected governments more accountable. Training for journalists, manuals that arm reporters with research tools, and awards for investigative reporting have helped create a corps of independent investigative journalists in several new and restored democracies.

Democracy requires the active participation of citizens. Ideally, the media should keep citizens engaged in the business of governance by informing, educating and mobilising the public. In many new democracies, radio has become the medium of choice, as it is less expensive and more accessible. FM and community radio have been effective instruments for promoting grassroots democracy by airing local issues, providing an alternative source of information to official channels, and reflecting ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Internet, too, can play such a role, because of its interactivity, relatively low costs of entry and freedom from state control.

The media can also help build peace and social consensus, without which democracy is threatened. The media can provide warring groups mechanisms for mediation, representation and voice so they can settle their differences peacefully. Unfortunately, the media have sometimes fanned the flames of discord by taking sides, reinforcing prejudices, muddling the facts and peddling half-truths. “Peace journalism,” which is being promoted by various NGOs, endeavours to promote reconciliation through careful reportage that gives voice to all sides of a conflict and resists explanation for violence in terms of innate enmities. Training and the establishment of mechanisms whereby journalists from opposite sides of conflict can interact with the other side, including other journalists representing divergent views, have helped propagate peace journalism.

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Hidden Crisis in Eritrea: Every Month 4,000 Eritreans Flee to Escape Oppression

Survivors of the boat tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa last year that killed 366 young people form Eritrea. According to the UN, every month almost 4,000 Eritreans flee to escape oppression. (UN.Org)

The New York Times

By VITTORIO LONGHI

In Europe’s debate about how to deal with the flow of desperate migrants from Africa, there is an important element missing: the crisis in Eritrea. Every month almost 4,000 Eritreans flee to escape oppression, according to a United Nations special rapporteur.

A visit to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is revealing. In the cafes you won’t hear people talking about the government of President Isaias Afewerki, and in the streets you will never see a march or a demonstration. Any sign of protest is quickly crushed, and opponents of the government face immediate imprisonment and torture, often in underground jails in remote areas. There they are stuffed into metal containers where the heat is unbearable, and given little food or water. The right to trial does not exist, and those convicted have no recourse to appeal.

This oppression is eerily invisible. You won’t see police officers along the sunny avenues of Asmara, nor are there soldiers around. But if you have a camera and start taking pictures, people stare and point at you. In this silent, secret system of terror, reminiscent of Soviet communism, every citizen is a potential spy.

The government in Eritrea exercises control also through the “national service,” which is compulsory and open-ended for both men and women from the age of 17. It is easy to see why Eritreans will risk dangerous journeys to escape.

On Oct. 3, 2013, 366 young Eritreans drowned off the tiny island of Lampedusa. The night after the shipwreck, I watched the survivors mourn the dead. They were taken to an airport hangar to wander among long rows of dark wooden coffins, and a line of five little white coffins for the children. The weeping sounded like a howl of despair for a generation fated to live in a country where hope for a better future had been banished. It was a cry for help.

As people gathered in the main streets of Asmara after the shipwreck to view photos of the dead, the police arrived to disperse the crowd, but not before making a list of those who attended.

Read more at NYT »

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Room for Debate: Cooking for the Family is a Promise Kept – By Blaine Sergew

The following article by Blaine Sergew, a program director for the Nature Conservancy, was published on Monday, September 22, 2014 in the 'Room for Debate' section of the New York Times' Opinion pages.

The New York Times

By Blaine Sergew

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 22, 2014

When my husband and I got married, we made two promises to each other: We would never watch reality shows and we would always eat at least one meal a day together.

Let’s just say we fared better with the second promise.

My husband and I have worked out arguments over meal preparations, laughed through botched recipes. And when we sit down for a meal we stay connected.

We both grew up in Ethiopia and are from large families. Mealtimes were often beautifully choreographed chaos. But there was never any question about everyone eating together, primarily because we Ethiopians live under the vague threat that “he who eats alone, dies alone.”

That adage was so ingrained in me from an early age that I still remember the first dinner I had by myself when I came to the United States. In my aunt’s apartment in the Bronx, I ate a plate of re-heated doro wet – chicken stew –as the exhausted rumbling of the No. 1 train kept me distracted from the possibility of dying before I saw the Empire State Building.

Culturally, food has never been just about nutrition. It’s been about community and connection. Some of my fondest childhood memories center around family feasts prepared by a small army of bustling women who would work out hazy passive-aggressive impulses in the confines of a sweltering kitchen. It was where a delicate hierarchy of women had total control of their environment.

Read more at The New York Times »

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Embracing Development and Security Means Embracing Free Expression By Birtukan Mideksa

Birtukan Mideksa is former federal judge, political leader, and prisoner of conscience in Ethiopia. She is a member of Freedom Now’s Board of Advisors. (Courtesy photo)

Freedom-now.org

By Birtukan Mideksa

Last week, Washington D.C. hosted the US-Africa Leaders Summit, where over 50 African heads of state discussed important issues ranging from public health to trade and development. I was honored to participate in a parallel civil society conference that highlighted the challenges faced by civic leaders on the continent, including the all too prevalent crack-down on free expression.

During the summit, participants repeatedly noted that respect for fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is critical for sustainable economic growth. The press is a vital component of society, allowing diverse voices to be heard and balancing the power between the government and the people. The independent media also plays a particularly important role in combating corruption as it oversees how governments spend development and aid money.

In his post-summit address, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments, noting that “even though leaders don’t always like it, the media plays a crucial role in assuring people that they have the proper information to evaluate the policies that their leaders are pursuing” and that “nations that uphold these rights and principles will ultimately be more prosperous and more economically successful.” Secretary of State John Kerry—who spoke at the civil society forum—reiterated the belief that “when people can trust their government and rely on its accountability and transparency on justice, that society flourishes and is more prosperous and more stable than others.”

According to Secretary Kerry, the U.S. “will continue to support press freedom, including for journalists charged with terrorism or imprisoned on arbitrary grounds.” However, one of the United States’ most important security and development allies in Africa, my home country of Ethiopia, is also one of the continent’s worst jailers of the press.

On April 25 and 26, less than three months before President Obama highlighted the importance of a free press, three independent journalists and six bloggers were arrested and eventually charged under Ethiopia’s widely-criticized 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The journalists were known to write on a wide range of topics, including corruption. The bloggers, for their part, were part of group called “Zone 9,” which had a large following on social media and were known for their campaign to promote the rights provided under Ethiopia’s constitution. They were all arrested shortly after Zone 9 posted an announcement on Facebook indicating that the group would begin blogging again after a seven month hiatus.

The six bloggers and three journalists were held without any formal charges against them for over two and a half months and were finally charged on July 18. In response, 41 NGOs sent a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn calling on his government to immediately release the detainees and revise the law. The U.S. government has also condemned such an abuse of anti-terror legislation. Secretary Kerry publicly expressed his concern about the arrests during a visit to Addis Ababa just days after the they were detained. He specifically mentioned blogger Natnail Feleke, with whom he had met on a previous visit, and adamantly insisted that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation should not be used as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.

Unfortunately, what happened to these independent journalists and bloggers is neither new nor surprising.

On September 14, 2011, Eskinder Nega, a prominent journalist and human rights defender, was arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Ten months later, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. While the Ethiopian government asserts that Mr. Nega’s prosecution is unrelated to his work as a journalist, an independent inquiry found otherwise. In Opinion No. 62/2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held that Mr. Nega’s imprisonment violated Ethiopia’s obligations under international law. In addition to procedural violations, the Working Group found Mr. Nega’s detention resulted directly from his exercise of free expression. They concluded that the overly broad offenses established by the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation constituted “an unjustified restriction on expression rights and on fair trial rights.” Thus far, however, the government has ignored the Working Group’s call to release and compensate Mr. Nega. It also continues to imprison journalists Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye on similar grounds.

Other international bodies have also criticized the use of anti-terror laws against journalist, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and five United Nations special procedure mandate holders. During Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review earlier this year, a number of countries, including the United States, raised similar concerns. Most recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, denounced the arrests of journalists and bloggers declaring that “the fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organizations. And working with foreign human rights organisations cannot be considered a crime.”

The Ethiopian government has long relied on the same arguments to defend its actions—falsely claiming that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation copies equivalent European standards. The international community can no longer tolerate these kinds of wholly inadequate explanations, especially when respect for human rights impacts the prospects for growth and security on the continent so greatly. If we are serious about development and peace in Africa, we need to hold the Ethiopian government accountable and reinforce the proposition that there can be no robust, sustainable growth without respect for the fundamental rights for all Africans.

Video: President Obama Post U.S.-Africa Summit Press Conference


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Finally, A Continent Gets Recognized: US-Africa Summit Begins History Anew

DeWayne Wickham, dean of Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication, writes for USA TODAY. (President Obama at US-Africa White House dinner on August 6th/Getty Images)

USA TODAY

By DeWayne Wickham

The dinner President Obama hosted last week for leaders of more than 50 African nations should be seen by journalists, and the historians who follow in their wake, as a significant moment.

Not because of its mammoth size: A quarter of the member states of the United Nations were represented. Nor for its grand setting: This wasn’t the first time a large presidential dinner was moved to a sprawling tent on the South Lawn of the White House.

This gathering was both a symbolic and substantive final curtain to the 1884 Berlin Conference that sanctioned the partitioning of Africa by European powers. As author Adam Hochschild points out in his book King Leopold’s Ghost, which chronicles the brutal intrigue that led up to that conference: “Not a single African was at the table in Berlin.”

Africa was then seen as a plentiful source of natural resources and a marketplace for European goods. “The Berlin Conference was the ultimate expression of an age whose newfound enthusiasm for democracy has clear limits,” Hochschild writes.

While Europe’s colonial occupation of Africa has long been broken, the continent became a geopolitical football during the Cold War, a status that continues today as an East-West struggle for economic hegemony over Africa rages. China has pumped billions of dollars into the continent. But according to a recent report in The New York Times, the former governor of Nigeria’s central bank, Lamido Sanusi, said, “China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism.”

As American and European companies struggle to keep pace with China’s economic advances in Africa, activists in the United States and Africa complain that some U.S. businesses are blocking the publication of federal regulations that will make the money they pay to do business in Africa more transparent. Bribes and under-the-table payments made by Western nations are believed to divert hundreds of millions of dollars out of the treasuries of African governments.

“Widespread corruption is an affront to the dignity” of African nations and “siphons off resources that should be used to lift people out of poverty,” Vice President Biden said last week in an address to the African leaders.

Speaking at the business forum portion of the summit, Obama, too, signaled the need for a new economic relationship with Africa.

“We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential,” the president said. “We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth. That’s the kind of partnership America offers.”

That’s the truly history-making part of this summit, which — unlike the Berlin Conference — made African leaders major participants in a discussion of their continent’s future. And it happened on the watch of America’s first black president.

“I stand before you as the president of the United States and a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa,” Obama said to African leaders at the White House dinner last Tuesday. “The tides of history … bring us together this week.”

And in giving Africans leaders a collective seat at the table with the world’s greatest superpower to discuss the continent’s fate, Obama’s move demands that those who chronicle the history of these times give special notice to his treatment of the African people and their leaders.

Video: President Obama Post U.S.-Africa Summit Press Conference


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Ethiopia’s “Terrorist” Journalists and Bloggers – Huffington Post

(Image: Zone9 Tumblr)

The Huffington Post

By Adam Bemma

08/13/2014

NAIROBI, Kenya – A cursory glance at the headlines shows that Ethiopia has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. But the noise generated by the hyperbolic international media is drowning out the critical voices.

Political opposition is being strangled by the authorities as activists and journalists are arrested and thrown into jail at a dizzying pace.

On April 25 of this year, the Ethiopian government made news by arresting six bloggers and three freelance journalists. Setting a dangerous precedent for other governments in the region and beyond, authorities are now targeting youth online.

The nine writers are facing terrorism-related charges, standing accused of inciting violence through social media. The six bloggers are members of the online collective known as Zone 9. The moniker was chosen to represent the inalienable right to freedom of expression: journalists are often held in the section of Addis Ababa’s Kality prison known as Zone 8.

“The government claims [those detained] are conspiring with foreign non-governmental organizations, human rights groups,” said journalist Araya Getachew. “It also claims that they are also working for banned terrorist organizations trying to overthrow the state. This is totally false.”

State crackdown online

Araya Getachew, 29, along with Mastewal Birhanu, 27, and Fasil Girma, 29, all sought refuge in Kenya following a state crackdown on media in Ethiopia. Some veteran journalists were not so fortunate: Woubshet Taye, Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu have all been recently sentenced under a new media law.

Human Rights Watch is monitoring the situation. HRW stated: “Since Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law was adopted in 2009, the independent media have been decimated by politically motivated prosecutions under the law. The government has systematically thwarted attempts by journalists to establish new publications.”

Critical blogs and websites are regularly blocked, says HRW. In 2012, even publishers which printed publications that criticized authorities ended up being shut down.

Read more at the Huffington Post »

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Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

It Used to be What US Can Do for Africa, Now It’s What US Can Do with Africa

Representatives from various African nations gather at the opening session of the AGOA Forum during the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC on Monday, August 4th, 2014. (Reuters/VOA News)

Independent Online

By Kuseni Dlamini

Speaking Africa’s language

The inaugural US-Africa Leaders Summit marked a turning point in relations between the two in general and US economic diplomacy towards the continent in particular. The summit was a historic moment, indicative of President Barack Obama’s determination to reset the relationship between Africa and the US from being paternalistic and transactional to being strategic and mutually beneficial.

As Obama indicated in his eloquent address to the Business Forum, “in the past it used to be about what the US can do for Africa. Now it’s about what the US can do with Africa”.

We need to grow and develop the continent in such a way that the US and the world ask what Africa can do for the US and the world.

Africa has the right combination of natural and human resources (youthful and energetic population) to be a first-world continent, provided it does what is necessary. US-Africa relations are in a state of flux for the right strategic reasons.

The world has taken note of Africa’s inexorable rise. So has the US.

Read more »

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President Obama’s Landmark US-Africa Summit (The New York Times Editorial)

Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.(Photo: Getty Images)

The New York Times

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

President Obama’s Africa Push

One major purpose of President Obama’s landmark White House summit meeting on Africa last week was to advertise this often underrated continent’s economic potential and ensure it a brighter future. But determined follow-through will be required if the aspirations of the president and more than 40 African heads of state who were his guests are to be realized and Africa is to satisfy its promise as the world’s last big economic frontier.

Despite the event’s heavy focus on trade and investment, African leaders could not completely ignore (even though some tried) the manifold challenges — conflict, corruption and disease — that still confront them. The ability to achieve real and sustained prosperity will be compromised if such problems are not addressed as robustly as efforts to land lucrative business contracts.

The summit meeting, a mix of plenary sessions and elaborate dinners that also included leaders of major American corporations, was a determined, and splashy, initiative by Mr. Obama to stake a claim for the United States against other countries doing business there, especially China, which is investing heavily in infrastructure projects and using Africa as a source of vital oil and metals. It was also an opportunity to counter critics who say he has devoted insufficient attention to the land where his Kenyan father was born. Billions of dollars in deals and projects were announced, including an expansion of Mr. Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to bring electricity to 60 million houses and businesses, up from a goal of 20 million announced last year.

Read more at NYT »

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Opinion: Why the US-Africa Summit Was Important and Why It Wasn’t Enough

Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters

The Daily Beast

By John Prendergast

08.09.14

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Those words penned by Charles Dickens about the period leading up to the French Revolution seem quite applicable to Africa today on the heels of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Summit. The Summit rightly focused primarily on the “spring of hope” being experienced by many in Africa’s burgeoning middle and upper classes, fueled by impressive economic growth data and lucrative trade and investment opportunities in a continent which hosts six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. But life remains truly a “winter of despair” for the millions of hungry, impoverished, displaced, and conflict-affected people who don’t fit easily into the “Africa Rising” narrative being burnished around Washington this week.

The Summit had many objectives: increasing trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa; delivering messages about the critical need for better governance; showing strong support for African civil society’s contribution to state-building; the list could go on and on. And there was important progress made on a number of these goals. But underlying all this was a more general and ambitious aspiration: to change the narrative about Africa from that of a basket case to a land of opportunity.

Americans’ perceptions of Africa remain rooted in troubling stereotypes of helplessness and perpetual crisis. Therefore, the Summit’s focus on positive trends on the continent is crucial to beginning to re-calibrate the story of Africa to one more balanced between progress and setbacks. But addressing that “winter of despair” should not reinforce the inaccurate perceptions.

There are three ways to counter the negative stereotypes when dealing with African crises that avoid the “heart of darkness” trap of hopelessness that so many commentators fall into.

Read more at The Daily Beast »


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In Ethiopia, A Stranglehold on Freedom By Meron Ahadu & Lulit Mesfin

Secretary of State John Kerry with jailed Ethiopian blogger Natnael Feleke in Ethiopia last year. (File photo)

Los Angeles Times | OP-ED

By MERON AHADU AND LULIT MESFIN

August 3rd, 2014

When Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Ethiopia last year, he met a young blogger named Natnael Feleke. When he returned a few months ago, Kerry found that Feleke, along with five other bloggers and three journalists, had been arrested — the latest in a long line of journalists the Ethiopian government has detained on the claim that they were trying to incite terrorism. Although Kerry addressed the arrests with officials he met, and President Obama has spoken forcefully on the importance of good governance in Africa, preoccupation with immediate security priorities — in particular counter-terrorism — trumps the fine words.

It is our hope that President Obama will use the summit of African leaders he is hosting this week to launch a new chapter in U.S.-African relationships — one in which support for good governance will guide U.S. policy, in deed as well as in word. If not, the result is likely to be more of the very violence and instability that counter-terrorism is supposed to curb.

In our country of Ethiopia, the government maintains a stranglehold on freedom of expression. Journalists or activists who question the ruling party or its actions face arbitrary arrests and repression. After his April visit, when Kerry made the long overdue comment that it was important for anti-terrorist mechanisms to avoid curbing the free exchange of ideas, Ethiopian democracy activists around the world were thrilled.

Yet at the same time, we know that words, even from a U.S. secretary of State, will not be sufficient to counter years of repression and disregard for human rights. The Ethiopian ruling regime — like many others in Africa — has ignored criticism from abroad; indeed, Feleke’s and the other journalists’ arrests came just days before Kerry’s visit to Ethiopia.

In spite of Ethiopia’s well-documented record of oppression and corruption, it has become the biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa.
-
Shortly after his election in 2009, Obama delivered a speech in Accra, Ghana, sketching the elements of his policy toward Africa, which involved focusing on “good governance,” “the rule of law” and “civic participation.”

Ethiopia, though projected by Washington as well as Addis Ababa as an important U.S. ally, violates these principles at every turn. The regime’s draconian Charities and Societies Proclamation Act in essence criminalizes civil society. Under the terms of its 2009 anti-terrorism law, security forces can enter any home and seize any person or belonging. Presumed sympathy to anyone suspected of “terrorism,” which is very broadly defined, is punishable by death. It was under this law that Natnael Feleke was arrested.

Read more at Latimes.com »

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Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

We Must Not Look Away From the Crises in Africa by Maaza Mengiste

A single photo focused the world’s attention on Sudan in 93. As Gaza and MH17 dominate, Africa’s horrors remain invisible. (Photo: Kevin Carter)

The Guardian

By Maaza Mengiste

Thursday 31 July 2014

In the photograph a little girl is hunched low, head bent to the ground, ribs jutting out from a too-small body wasting away from starvation. A few feet behind her, a vulture waits, avid and focused, for her to die. When this photograph, taken in southern Sudan in 1993 by the late photojournalist Kevin Carter, was published, the outcry from the public was immediate and visceral. Questions of ethics, and inquiries on how to help, flooded the New York Times. The Pulitzer prize-winning photo riveted the world and directed attention to the devastating famine in the country.

As controversial as the picture was, as problematic as it may have been for Carter to shoot it while the young girl sat, helpless prey to a vulture, the image sparked worldwide interest in the famine. People noticed and, suddenly, people cared.

Now, three years after independence, South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, is expected to declare that it is once again in a state of famine. The crisis has been caused by conflict between government forces and various opposition groups. Four million people are facing emergency levels of food shortages. One and a half million have been displaced and 50,000 children are at risk of death from malnutrition.

The situation has been called the most rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis today, but without an image startling enough to make the headlines, it has remained invisible. The world’s gaze is being directed elsewhere, towards the devastating news emerging daily from Gaza and the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

South Sudan is not the only African nation in crisis. There is also the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The three cases share one striking similarity: not enough attention is being paid to what’s going on. In trying to explain why, journalists blame the lack of bureau offices outside key cities in a few countries. Some point to news outlets’ financial struggles, and the shrinking number of journalists conducting immersive stories. Time is too short, money too tight, people too few.

Read more at The Guardian »

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Houston Chronicle Editorial: Ethiopia Needs to Do Better

Houston Chronicle

Editorial

July 28, 2014

As they ready for two days of wheeling and dealing with a high-ranking Ethiopian delegation at a local hotel, Houston business and elected leaders today need to look beyond a foreign market opportunity and first ask hard questions about Ethiopia’s recent crackdown on nine journalists, as well as the country’s unsuccessful move this spring to make homosexuality a “non-pardonable” crime.

Ethiopia is the second largest jailer of journalists in Africa, behind its neighbor on the Horn, Eritrea. This month it upped the tally by formally indicting nine editors, freelancers and bloggers with trumped up charges of inciting violence and terrorism. The world’s preeminent advocacy organization for journalists and press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the government’s action a move to “suppress political dissent and intimidate journalists.” This group of nine and other award-winning writers in Ethiopian prisons are young professionals using social media to level basic criticism at the government, according to published reports.

CPJ is not alone in its outrage. Secretary of State John Kerry recently urged the Ethiopian government to quit using anti-terrorism laws as a way to “curb the free exchange of ideas.”

Ethiopia received $580 million in U.S. foreign aid in 2012. No matter what good it does with that money – and the government has improved many facets of the infrastructure – Ethiopia’s reputation is one that denies civil liberties to its people and is questionable at best in any ranking on human rights. This is a self-proclaimed democratic government and it should be held to a higher standard than places like China and Saudi Arabia.

Read more »

Related:
Ethiopia, Other African Governments Make Their Pitch in Houston

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U.S.-Africa Summit 2014: Beyond the Usual Cheap Shots – Facts, Ideas & Suggestions

(Image courtesy: The White House)

By Jessica Pugliese, Andrew Westbury and Amadou Sy | Brookings

Editor’s Note: The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit blog series is a collection of posts discussing efforts to strengthen ties between the United States and Africa ahead of the first continent-wide summit. On August 4, Brookings will host “The Game Has Changed: The New Landscape for Innovation and Business in Africa,” at which these themes and more will be explored by prominent experts. Click here to register for the event.

Last year while visiting Cape Town in South Africa, President Obama announced plans for the first continent-wide U.S. African Leaders Summit, scheduled for August 4-6, 2014. The summit provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to open a new chapter in U.S-Africa relations, moving from interaction on the bilateral level to a continent-wide engagement. President Obama has previously been criticized for not reaching the same level of engagement with Africa as Presidents Bush and Clinton, but his second term has coincided with an effort to ramp up U.S.-Africa relations. In June 2012, Obama launched the White House strategy “toward” sub-Saharan Africa, and the president’s budget for 2015 shows his support for the region. The U.S.-Africa summit, however, now affords the United States an unprecedented opportunity to build a strategy “together” with Africa.

Recently, the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) has reviewed the components—the organization, frame and communications strategies—of three longstanding Africa summits in order to inform the designers of the U.S. version. In this comparison, AGI chose China, the European Union (EU) and Japan; some of Africa’s other key trade and investment partners. Leading up to the summit in August, the Africa Growth Initiative will also compare the position of the United States and these partners in terms of trade, foreign direct investment and other engagement with African countries. Obtaining a maximum level of foreign policy action and results from a two-day summit with nearly all of the African heads of state in attendance is an enormous undertaking. However, the other summits have had plenty of time to work out the kinks. Thus, they provide excellent examples of a successful summit for the U.S. organizers. In this first installment, AGI examines and highlights the features of those summits that could strengthen the U.S.-Africa partnership: frequency, sustainability, inclusivity, transparency and accountability.

Important Summit Design Features and Recommendations

The United States is playing catch-up in terms of using a continent-wide leaders’ summit to frame its strategy with Africa.[1] Japan, China and the European Union have all maintained long-running Africa summits. Japan’s Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) started in 1993 and has met every five years since. China’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the EU-Africa summit both started in 2000. FOCAC has met every three years since, while the EU-Africa summit has taken place three times since the first gathering (figure 1). Other countries have held similar summits, including India, Brazil, South Korea, South America and Turkey. While the United States deserves credit for its yearly Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade ministerial, which alternates between United States and an AGOA eligible country in Africa, it covers fewer themes than the EU-Africa, FOCAC and TICAD summits. For the first U.S.-Africa Summit, Senior Director of African Affairs at the White House Grant Harris recently announced that the theme will be “Investing in Africa’s Future.”

Read more »

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Will Ethiopia’s New Sovereign Credit Rating Increase Foreign Investment?

International Monetary Fund (IMF) graph illustrating Ethiopia's Foreign Direct Investment. (Source: IMF)

Brookings Institution Blog

By Temesgen Deressa and Amadou Sy

July 2, 2014

Last month, Moody’s Investors Service assigned a debut sovereign rating of B1 to the government of Ethiopia. A B1 rating is equivalent to a B rating in Fitch Ratings’ scale, which is the agency that rates most African sovereigns. The rating puts Ethiopia on par with Rwanda but a notch below countries such as Kenya, Ghana and Zambia, all rated B+ by Fitch. Oil exporters such as Angola and Nigeria are rated better at BB-.

Moody’s Investors Service rating of B1 for Ethiopia is based on four main key drivers: (1) the country’s small economy and low per capita income, balanced by a track record of strong economic growth over the past decade; (2) weak institutional setups in comparison with B-rated countries; (3) moderate fiscal strength, with debt burden and related financing costs remaining low given a largely concessional funding base balanced by its increasing reliance on non-concessional financing; and (4) moderate susceptibility to event risk, which balances credit strength and credit constraints.

Read more at brookings.edu.

Related:
Ethiopia receives credit ratings needed for Eurobond issue (Reuters)

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The Struggle for a Free Press in Africa

Zone9 bloggers arrested on April 25th in Addis Ababa. (Photographs from Global Voices Online/by Endalk)

Aljazeera America

By Mohamed Keita

In Africa, the past few months have offered troubling optics of journalists on trial for the practice of independent journalism: Peter Greste in a cage in a prisoner’s white jumpsuit in Egypt, Bheki Makhubu in leg irons in Swaziland and Tesfalem Waldyes in handcuffs in Ethiopia. The arrests and prosecutions of journalists not only chill others from digging deeper into stories, but there are also other, more indirect and insidious forms of censorship that obfuscate inconvenient truths that we should know.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, criticized prison sentences against several journalists jailed in Egypt after they reported on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities consider a terrorist organization.

“It is not a crime to criticize the authorities or to interview people who hold unpopular views,” said Pillay, echoing the “journalism is not a crime” slogan of the global campaign to free three Al Jazeera journalists held in Egypt.

As troubling as these arrests have been, they represent a larger trend in Africa of criminalizing the practice of independent journalism in the broadest sense, including blogging and social media.

Read more at america.aljazeera.com.

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Doublethink in Punditry (Opinion)

(Image: Pundit Roundtable/WILLisms.com)

The New York Times

By Paul Krugman

A belated reaction to Mark Thoma’s comments on Barry Ritholtz [What's the Penalty for Pundits Who Get It Wrong?] and the issue of pundit accountability. Mark writes:

I would separate those who are honestly wrong from those who take a misleading position (or one they know is wrong) for political purposes. There should be consequences in both cases, those who are honestly wrong again and again should come to be ignored, but those who intend to mislead and deceive should face much higher penalties.

That’s clearly right — but the division between the honestly wrong-headed and the politically motivated is not, I think, as clear-cut as all that. I don’t think there are all that many self-consciously cynical hacks, who privately admit to themselves that what they’re saying is all wrong but do it anyway to serve their masters. Much more common are people who rationalize — who know who they’re working for, but mostly manage to convince themselves that they’re engaged in honest intellectual inquiry.

Read more at NYT.

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Ethiopia’s Condom Dilemma (Opinion)

(Image courtesy DKT Ethiopia)

The New York Times
OP-ED

By JAMES JEFFREY

June 19, 2014

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — I was confused the first time I saw a giant billboard in Addis Ababa advertising Members Only and stressing how “membership has its pleasures,” accompanied by a stark silhouette of a leggy female figure. It reminded me of advertisements in New York for so-called gentlemen’s clubs — not the sort of places you tend to find in Ethiopia’s capital, where levels of disposable income and where that money goes differ markedly.

Members Only turned out to be the latest condom brand released by DKT Ethiopia, an American nonprofit that since 1989 has sold Ethiopia’s most popular brands. DKT’s condoms are usually sold well below market cost, heavily subsidized, as part of the effort to tackle problems like H.I.V. and to improve family planning for the country of about 95 million. Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, projected by the World Bank to grow to 145 million by 2050.

Condom use in Ethiopia has proved effective in helping stem the spread of H.I.V. Currently, the adult prevalence of infection is relatively low, about 2.4 percent, although that still represents a large number of people with H.I.V.

Although gross domestic product growth has averaged 10 percent a year since 2007, World Bank data from 2011 indicated that nearly 30 percent of Ethiopians still lived in poverty, subsisting on less than $2 a day. Rapid economic growth and grinding poverty exist side by side in Ethiopia, complicating the issue of how best to supply condoms.

DKT is counting on that growing economy as it experiments with a move from a largely subsidized model to a commercially self-sustainable one. It has chosen not to subsidize the Members Only brand in an attempt to get a clear picture of what consumers might be willing to pay for condoms.

Read more at NYT.

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Why Writing Africa Off is a Mistake (CNN)

Africa rising. (Image: Afro Future magazine)

By Amina Mohammed and Hadeel Ibrahim, Special to CNN

June 4th, 2014

Editor’s note: Amina Mohammed is a special adviser to the U.N. Secretary General on Post-2015 Development Planning. Hadeel Ibrahim is the founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which supports leadership and governance issues in Africa. They are working to convene a discussion on this theme on the margins of the 69th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in. The views expressed are their own.

May 25 marked Africa Day, an opportunity to celebrate the continent’s potential and its new-found economic dynamism. And yet, despite a record of growth rates consistently outperforming that of other emerging economies, huge natural resources endowments, an expanding middle class and an energetic, youthful workforce, Africa is consistently written off. Why?

The unconscionable kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls was just one of a string of recent attacks by extremists in Nigeria. But while our hearts go out to the girls and their families, and those killed by recent bombings, these tragic stories must not be allowed to completely overshadow the progress and potential that Africa has demonstrated in recent years. For while violence typically seizes headlines, the continent’s rapidly growing population and consumer base is providing an alternative, oft-overlooked narrative – one of an attractive market for regional and global companies.

In the last decade alone, growth has been broad-based, not just in commodities, but also in telecommunications, banking, construction, retail and real estate. Such opportunities have not gone unnoticed in the developed world, and an increasing number of investment funds are looking to Africa for high returns.

Read more.

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Opinion: How Obama’s So-Called Foreign Policy Critics Ignore Context & Facts

President Barack Obama greets U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (C) and Gen. Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, during a surprise visit to Kabul May 25. (AFP)

PoliticusUSA

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Ross Douthat says of the man who ended two long wars, killed America’s most relentless enemy – you know, the guy behind the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 – and who, perhaps, most significantly, did not start any new wars, “if Obama’s presidency ended today I have no idea what major foreign policy achievements his defenders could reasonably cite.” For Douthat, “the absence of an Iraq-scale fiasco is not identical to success.”

For many of us, the fact that Barack Obama is not George W. Bush, is indeed a success. Douthat, like every conservative, chary of naming Bush, says, “history shouldn’t grade this president on a curve set by Donald Rumsfeld,” which is a ridiculous comparison since Rumsfeld was not president, or even vice president. But Douthat cannot even bring himself to name Bush, but rather, calls him Obama’s “predecessor.”

As ever, Douthat adopts a reasonable tone, trying to set himself apart from the extremists whose voices we are accustomed to hearing at Fox News:

“Failure is a relative term, to be sure. His predecessor’s invasion of Iraq still looms as the largest American blunder of the post-Vietnam era. None of Obama’s difficulties have rivaled that debacle. And many of the sweeping conservative critiques of his foreign policy — that Obama has weakened America’s position in the world, that he’s too chary about using military force — lack perspective on how much damage the Iraq war did to American interests, and how many current problems can be traced back to errors made in 2003.”

There is a big “but” coming, of course, but now Douthat has put himself in the position of not simply deriding Obama’s efforts because he’s Obama, of not sounding like all Obama’s other critics. In this, he is like a male, print-version of Megyn Kelly, and one wearing (presumably) more clothes.

Read more.

Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

VOA News

May 25, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama has left Afghanistan after a 4-hour surprise visit to see American troops during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Speaking late Sunday at Bagram Airfield, the president told troops he is thankful for their service. He called them “real heroes.” He also pledged to bring a “responsible end” to America’s longest war. He promised to announce “fairly shortly” how many U.S. troops will remain in the country after the current combat mission is concluded at end of this year.

Memorial Day is a time when Americans honor the country’s war dead.

Obama said they are completing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by decimating al-Qaida leaders in the tribal regions, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and protecting lives back home by preventing attacks from the region.

He also said he hopes a U.S.-Afghan security agreement will be signed once a new Afghan president is sworn in.

Before leaving Afghanistan, Obama called President Hamid Karzai to praise the progress being made by security forces and the successful first round of presidential elections, and to express support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process with the Taliban. The call lasted 15 to 20 minutes according to a senior administration official.

Read more at VOA News.

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Ethiopia: It Is Very Simple – Respect the Constitution (Addis Standard Editorial)

Zone Nine bloggers in Addis Ababa, all arrested on April 25. (Photograph credit: By Endalk/Global Voices)

Addis Standard

EDITORIAL

Addis Ababa – Once again Ethiopia is in the headlines. It is not for its dazzling double digit economic growth, nor for its once familiar tale of famine and poverty that it tries so hard to leave behind, or not even for two consecutive mega state visits by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang; but for its inexplicable and heavy-handed onslaught against three independent journalists and a group of six bloggers, who were detained from their homes on Friday April 25th and Saturday April 26th by plain-clothed security personnel. As the nauseating ritual of Ethiopian politics repeatedly proved itself in the past, this time too, the detainees are not ordinary youngsters.

They include prominent journalist Tesfalem Wadyes, who was freelancing for the weekly English Fortune and this magazine, journalist Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, senior editor at an influential Amharic weekly magazine Addis Guday, and journalist Edom Kassaye, a freelancer and an active member of the Ethiopian Environmental Journalists Association (EEJA) and a close associate of Zone9 bloggers, who make up the other six. They are: Zelalem Kibret, a lecturer at Ambo University, Atnaf Berhane, IT professional, Natnail Feleke, an employee of the Construction and Business Bank, Mahlet Fantahun, Data expert, Befekadu Hailu, an employee of St. Mary’s University College, and Abel Wabella, an engineer at Ethiopian Airlines. They came together to blog under the motto: “we blog because we care.”

Read more at AllAfrica.com.


—-
Related:
Scholars at Risk ‘Gravely Concerned’ About University Lecturers Arrested in Ethiopia
UN human rights chief condemns crackdown on journalists in Ethiopia (UN News Center)
Global Voices Calls for the Release of Nine Journalists in Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Jailed Zone Nine Bloggers Spark Ethiopia Trend on Social Media (BBC)
Ethiopian Government Charges Journalists With Inciting Public Violence (VOA News)
Nine journalists and bloggers arrested in Ethiopia ahead of Kerry visit (The Guardian)
Six Members of Zone Nine Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia (TADIAS)

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President Obama’s Africa Policy: Just Right or Not Enough?

(AP photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Sunday, May 4th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — A year ago, as President Obama worked to solidify his foreign policy team for his second term, a timely question was raised by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Is “President Obama’s Africa Policy Just Right or Not Enough?”

“No one, not even President Obama himself, is likely to say that his administration’s policies towards Africa is ‘just right,’” answered Richard Joseph, the John Evans Professor of international history and politics at Northwestern University and a member of the Board of Directors of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “So the first response to today’s question is easy, not enough.”

“Now how do we determine what is enough?” he added. “There [are] four factors to consider, each of which is an evolution. First, the global system. Secondly, America today as reflected in contentious Washington politics, which you are very familiar, the evolution of Barack Obama himself, his vision for the presidency and his legacy. And then third, what is happening in the very diverse 49 states in Sub-Saharan Africa, a continent in which 3 of 5 states in North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia and Libya) are undergoing a complex and uncertain transitions.” (Not to mention that presently 11 of the top 20 best performing economies in the world are located in the region).

Fifteen months later — notwithstanding China’s rapidly growing influence in the continent — it’s still worth asking: “What do the current trends in Africa imply for American economic and national security? And will President Obama need to alter current American policy toward Africa?”

During his trip to Ethiopia last week U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was pointedly asked by a reporter if he was “serious” or just “paying lip service” to issues of human rights and jailed journalists in Ethiopia. “So these things are repeating very much from the times of Eskinder Nega and others to our young brothers,” the reporter said. “So is it lip service, or are you seriously concerned about the arrests? Because these guys are social activists using the social media, they were advocating freedom, democracy, and participation as a citizen. So we really demand a genuine answer from you.”

Kerry responded: “Well, when I stand up in public, and I say something, I try to be serious about it, and I think the fact that I’m doing that is serious. And when I raised him by name in my comments today, I am raising a very legitimate concern. We are concerned about any imprisoned journalist here or anywhere else. And we raise this issue elsewhere. And we believe that it’s very important that the full measure of the constitution be implemented and that we shouldn’t use the Anti-Terrorism Proclamations as mechanisms to be able to curb the free exchange of ideas. And in my meetings with all public officials, I will always press the interests of the political space being opened up and being honored. And so we have previously called for the release of these individuals, and that is the policy of our government, and it’s a serious policy.”

In a recent article entitled In choosing Security Over Democracy in Ethiopia, US Will Get Neither (published on Aljazeera), Hassen Hussein points out that Kerry “came to a country rocked by mounting student protests against the government and vicious military crackdowns that left scores dead and wounded, as well as the troubling imprisonment of dissident journalists and bloggers. To his credit, Kerry raised concerns about the tightening of press freedom in Ethiopia. “I made clear to Ethiopian officials that they need to create greater opportunities for citizens to be able to engage with their fellow citizens and with their government by opening up more space for civil society,” Kerry told reporters in Addis Ababa.”

Hassen succinctly puts it: “Washington has shied away from seriously engaging Ethiopian authorities on the need for genuine democratization. Without the latter, the country’s extended prosperity is in danger. “To support economic growth for the long term, the free marketplace of ideas matters just as much as free markets,” Kerry noted in his remarks. But he failed to underscore how rising instability could erode Ethiopia’s standing as a linchpin to the otherwise volatile Horn of Africa region’s stability and damage its newly minted image as an emerging economic powerhouse.”

Related:
Al Jazeera: In choosing Security Over Democracy in Ethiopia, US Will Get Neither
Full Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry’s Comments to the Press in Ethiopia
President Obama’s Africa Policy: Just Right or Not Enough? (Audio: The Chicago Council)
Kerry Urges Press Freedoms for Ethiopia (AFP)

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Al Jazeera: In choosing Security Over Democracy in Ethiopia, US Will Get Neither

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) participates in a meeting with Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Ethiopia (2nd R), Kenya (3rd R) and Uganda (R) in Addis Ababa on May 1st, 2014. (Photograph: Reuters)

Al Jazeera America

By Hassen Hussein

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Thursday in the first leg of his three-nation trip to Africa “to encourage democratic development.” He came to a country rocked by mounting student protests against the government and vicious military crackdowns that left scores dead and wounded, as well as the troubling imprisonment of dissident journalists and bloggers.

To his credit, Kerry raised concerns about the tightening of press freedom in Ethiopia. “I made clear to Ethiopian officials that they need to create greater opportunities for citizens to be able to engage with their fellow citizens and with their government by opening up more space for civil society,” Kerry told reporters in Addis Ababa.

However, his discussions with Ethiopia’s leaders were overshadowed by South Sudan’s implosion — with continuing fragility in next-door Somalia, and souring Egypt-Ethiopia relations stirred by Ethiopia’s construction of the Great Renaissance Dam over the Nile, in the background.

This focus was unfortunate but hardly surprising. For over two decades, despite fleeting statements expressing “concern,” Washington has shied away from seriously engaging Ethiopian authorities on the need for genuine democratization. Without the latter, the country’s extended prosperity is in danger. “To support economic growth for the long term, the free marketplace of ideas matters just as much as free markets,” Kerry noted in his remarks. But he failed to underscore how rising instability could erode Ethiopia’s standing as a linchpin to the otherwise volatile Horn of Africa region’s stability and damage its newly minted image as an emerging economic powerhouse.

Read more at Al Jazeera.

Related:
Full Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry’s Comments to the Press in Ethiopia

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Haimy Assefa: Meb Keflezighi is American, and So Am I

Editor's note: The author, Haimy Assefa, is a CNN news assistant in New York City covering breaking news in the Northeast region. (Photograph: Meb Keflezighi at the 2014 Boston Marathon/Getty Images)

CNN

By Haimy Assefa

April 22nd, 2014

I was born in Ethiopia, raised in Oklahoma and Colorado, and ended up in Brooklyn, New York.

Coming to America from Ethiopia, a place where black and white were only colors that had little to do with race, I had to learn English, and also the language of identity.

In America, I was black.

So when some online commenters questioned whether Boston Marathon winner and Eritrean-American Meb Keflezighi is truly “American,” it reminded me of my own experience as an immigrant who became a naturalized American citizen and embraced a new identity.

Read the full article at CNN.com.



Related:
Meb Keflezighi Becomes First American Male to Win Boston Marathon Since 1983
Buzunesh Deba & Mare Dibaba Take Second and Third Place at 2014 Boston Marathon

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Ethiopia: Where Conscience is Constantly On Trial

Currently 29 Muslim leaders are on trial in Ethiopia charged under its anti-terrorism law. (Getty Images)

Al Jazeera

By Awol K. Allo

A high profile trial against protest leaders – intellectuals, activists and elected members of “The Ethiopian Muslim Arbitration Committee” – is shaking the Ethiopian political landscape. The government argues that the accused harbour “extreme” Islamic ideologies. It accuses them of conspiracy with terrorist groups to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia.

The accused have professed their innocence and denied the charges. In the courtroom, they present the prosecution’s case as the continuation of repression by legal means, which resembles the totalitarian perversion of truth and justice of Stalinist and Apartheid regimes.

Read more.

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Opinion: The Flaw in Bill Gates’ Approach to Ending Global Poverty

Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2008. (Photograph: WEF)

The Seattle Times

By William Easterly

SOMEHOW — probably my own fault — I have wound up on Bill Gates’ list of the world’s most misguided economists. Gates singled me out by name in his annual 2014 letter to his foundation as an “aid critic” spreading harmful myths about ineffective aid programs.

I actually admire Gates for his generosity and advocacy for the fight against global poverty through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. We just disagree about how to end poverty throughout the world.

Gates believes poverty will end by identifying technical solutions. My research shows that the first step is not identifying technical solutions, but ensuring poor people’s rights.

Gates concentrates his foundation’s efforts on finding the right fixes to the problems of the world’s poor, such as bed nets to prevent malarial mosquito bites or drought-tolerant varieties of corn to prevent famine. Along with official aid donors, such as USAID and the World Bank, the foundation works together with local, generally autocratic, governments on these technical solutions.

Read more at The Seattle Times.

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Opinion: World According to Putin

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. (Outsidethebeltway.com)

CNN
By Alexander J. Motyl

Editor’s note: Alexander J. Motyl is professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark. He was associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University from 1992 through 1998. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet Union, Motyl is the author of six academic books and several novels, including “The Jew Who Was Ukrainian,” “My Orchidia” and “Sweet Snow.” He writes a weekly blog on “Ukraine’s Orange Blues” for World Affairs Journal.

Putin’s breathtaking lies about Russia

(CNN) — Vladimir Putin’s gala address before Russian parliamentarians and officials Tuesday surprised no one when he announced Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The interesting part was his distorted view of Russian history, and his proclamation that a bizarre kind of simultaneously aggrieved and aggressive hyper-nationalism is now Russia’s official ideology.

In discussing Ukraine, however, Putin seemed to go out of his way to suggest he had no aggressive intentions and was not planning to divide the rest of the country.

Listening to Putin, one could easily forget that Russia is and for many centuries has been the largest country in the world and that it acquired its territories by imperialist expansion often accompanied by genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Read more at CNN.



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Is Harlem ‘Good’ Now? By Marcus Samuelsson

The following piece by Marcus Samuelsson reflects the changes in modern Harlem. (NYT Sunday Review)

The New York Times

By Marcus Samuelsson

WHEN I was walking to work one day last summer, I noticed that Crab Man Mike was gone from his usual post at 125th Street and Fifth Avenue. Mike has been cooking shellfish in his special pot on the streets of Harlem for 23 years. Concerned, I began asking the other street vendors where he went. Johnny Portland, one of the Jamaican guys who also sets up some days at 125th and Fifth, told me Crab Mike had moved.

I found him a few blocks farther uptown — 132nd Street and Seventh Avenue, where he had set up his pot in front of Doug E.’s Fresh Chicken and Waffles. He was serving up shellfish to his neighbors and friends. When I asked him why he switched locations, he told me it was because he could no longer recognize his customers at 125th and Fifth. There were too many crowds, too many new faces and businesses. He may have made more sales there, but on this quieter corner he felt more comfortable. The people he served here were people he had known for years. He knew their families, their troubles, their joys.

Read more at The New York Times.

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In Search of Family Ties’ By Laura Kebede

Laura Kebede met many members of her family for the first time when she traveled to her father's homeland in Ethiopia in January. (RTD)

Richmond Times-Dispatch

BY LAURA KEBEDE

I once convinced a Tunisian guard I was Tunisian to avoid a foreigner’s fee at a museum. All it took was sunglasses to hide my hazel eyes and a Tunisian friend to, eh, explain that I was deaf.

In Cambodia, I put my brown arm up to a dark-skinned girl’s arm when she obsessed over my friends’ lighter skin because she believed white American skin was ideal. When she noticed our similar skin tones, it put her more at ease — that is until she discovered my unusual poufy hair.

So going to Ethiopia, my father’s home, should be easy, I told myself in January before I embarked on a three-week father-daughter trip. I’m quick to find common ground no matter where I am, and these people are half my heritage.

Accordingly, half of everyone I interacted with assumed I spoke Amharic, the official language, or Tigrinya, my father’s language. The other half could tell a mile away that I was American. It must have been my marvel-glazed eyes.

All I had imagined about Ethiopia was coming to life, and I’d been imagining for a long time: the mountains, the food, the ancient rock-hewn churches and, of course, the coffee — Ethiopia’s gift to the world.

I also often wondered about my father’s only sister and her nine children. I had only overheard her and my father talk in the familiar tones of Tigrinya some nights when she happened to travel from their rural birthplace of Adeba to somewhere with a phone.

Read more.

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An Appeal to Ethiopians Worldwide: Supporting the Ethiopian Red Cross Society

(Photo: International Organization for Migration (IOM))

Tadias Magazine
Op-Ed

By Lily Gebru

Published: Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Washington, D.C. — More than a million migrant workers from several Asian and African countries, including over 115,000 Ethiopians, have been expelled from Saudi Arabia as part of the recent immigration crackdown targeting illegal foreign laborers in the kingdom. The forced deportation, which was designed to get more Saudis into jobs and reduce the high unemployment rate in the country was triggered after a tightening of labor regulations in March and the expiration of an amnesty period on November 4th.

Human Rights Watch points out that half of the entire workforce in Saudi Arabia — nearly nine million migrants — fill manual, clerical, and service jobs. Many suffer abuse and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions.

The security clampdown was followed by clashes in the capital Riyadh, in which three Ethiopians were reportedly killed and several others were inhumanely treated by police and vigilante groups, sparking outrage in Ethiopian communities across the world. Grueling reports of abuse and persecution were inescapably shared on social media. And various protests outside Saudi embassies have been held while candlelight vigils continue in many countries.

According to Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, the Ethiopian government has worked “around the clock [in] crisis management” mode trying to bring citizens back. To date 115,465 Ethiopians – 72,780 men, 37,092 women and 5,593 children – have returned from Saudi Arabia.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is supporting Ethiopia in dealing with the unexpected influx of returnees, has expressed concern about the physical and mental condition of the returnees, describing them as being “traumatized, anxious and seriously sick.”

In an effort to oblige in the resettlement of fellow countrymen and women, the Diaspora community in Washington, D.C. and metropolitan area has coordinated with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS). Ethiopians worldwide are encouraged to show solidarity in these hard times by donating directly to the Ethiopian Red Cross.

Below is the official letter form the Ethiopian Red Cross Society on how to donate and help Ethiopian returnees resettle at home.



About the Author:
Lily Gebru is a board member of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center (HAPDC). She works for George Washington University, School of Public Health & Health Services in Washington, D.C.

Related:
Roundtable Discussion on Ethiopian Migrants in the Middle East

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Taking Eskinder Nega & Reeyot Alemu’s Case to African Court on Human Rights

(Photos courtesy Pen America and The International Women's Media Foundation )

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: December 1st, 2013

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

The above quote, which is often attributed to George Orwell (née Eric Arthur Blair) — one of the most influential journalists of the 20th century — rings true of 21st century politics in Ethiopia where some individuals who are keen to write dissenting news articles are accused of “clandestine terrorism” and punished with decade-long prison terms.

Just ask Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu, who are languishing at Kaliti prion for bringing forth hard-hitting questions that the authorities would rather sweep under the carpet. Eskinder Nega is serving an 18-year sentence for publishing a piece in 2011 that raised the question: Could an Arab Spring-like movement take place in Ethiopia?

“This is the eighth time in his 20-year career that he has been imprisoned simply for doing his job,” notes a new crowd-sourcing campaign attempting to raise funds to cover the legal expenses required to take their case to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. “If Eskinder’s conviction is not quashed, his seven year old son will be an adult before he is released.”

Reeyot Alemu, a former teacher, was likewise sentenced to five years in prison after writing articles focusing on minority rights and the mismanagement of government funded projects including a hydroelectric dam. While in prison she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has not received adequate care. Her family members including her sister and fiancé have also been restricted from visiting her. Reeyot was awarded the prestigious World Press Freedom Award in 2013 in recognition of her work and struggle.

Although the African Court on Human & Peoples’ Rights officially began its operation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2006 it has since been moved to Arusha, Tanzania. Twenty-six African countries have ratified the protocol of the court, but Ethiopia is not one of those listed. Only five countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, and Tanzania) have to date made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Even if a decision made on Eskinder and Reeyot’s case in this court may be non-binding, it nonetheless can shed a crucial spotlight on the status of press freedom in Ethiopia.

Belwo is the IndieVoices crowdfunding campaign.



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The Ethiopian Migrant Crisis in Saudi Arabia: Taking Accountability

(Photo: Reuters)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Monday, November 18th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — If it was up to the Ethiopian migrants — who last week were savagely attacked, beaten, robbed and killed amid a mob of violence targeting foreigners — the Saudis would have been stripped of their seat on the UN Human Rights Council. It makes a mockery of the international organization that Saudi Arabia was elected to the position the same week that thousands of non-Saudi nationals were being hunted and several murdered in the streets of Riyadh. It’s a shame that Saudi Arabia, now a member of the world’s highest rights monitoring body, gets to make human rights decisions at the global level despite the fact that to date it has refused to let U.N. investigators visit to check alleged abuses. The New York-based Human Rights Watch describes the oil rich kingdom as an enemy of minority rights and political freedom.

The Saudis, however, are not the only ones to blame for the continuing plight of Ethiopian citizens inside their territory. It’s unfortunate that the Ethiopian government also failed to take advantage of the amnesty period to properly register and account for its nationals as Pakistan has done. Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Naeem Khan told Arab News that more than 700,000 of his country’s citizens have been legalized by Saudi Arabia ahead of the November 4th deadline to avoid forced deportation. “The embassy has created 80 different focal points all over the Kingdom to help illegal workers register” Ambassader Khan reported. What effort did the Ethiopian embassy make to register its citizens and provide access to legality or else repatriate Ethiopians before the amnesty expired? Even now, the Saudi government has stated that it will continue to receive adjustment applications from migrants as long as fines are paid given that they missed the amnesty deadline. Do representatives of the Ethiopian government in Saudi Arabia have plans to assist detained migrants given this leeway? If Pakistan can get 700,000 of their nationals registered there is no reason why Ethiopia can’t do the same for a much smaller migrant worker population.

The matter is complicated by the fact that in most Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, having an official sponsor is a legal requirement. According to Gulf News: “nearly a million migrants — Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis among them — took advantage of the amnesty to leave when they failed to guarantee a sponsor. If Ethiopia chooses to repatriate all non-legal migrants it must do so in a timely manner, as those detained are facing risky and life-threatening conditions.

On the ground, this is a time of intense difficulty for many Ethiopians and their families. We are encouraged by the collective efforts of Ethiopians worldwide to bring about global awareness, as well as government efforts to open an investigation into the deaths of three Ethiopians and repatriation of a few hundred so far. However, tweets and press releases may not be enough. We urge a united public engagement among Ethiopians both at home and abroad to close this sad chapter in Ethiopia’s modern history. We watched the videos and photos depicting unimaginable human cruelty, but we cannot imagine what it must have been like for those stranded after the amnesty expired and who found themselves being chased by armed gangs. And how about their relatives who watched in horror from afar?

We call on the members of the United Nations to urge Saudia Arabia to adhere by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights especially now that they are a UN Human Rights Council member. We also call upon the Ethiopian embassy in Saudi Arabia to take up collective responsibility to work to register its citizens and assist them — as other nations have for their people — in adjusting their status, or voluntarily repatriating them in a timely manner so that they don’t continue to languish in detention.

Related:
NYC Ethiopians Make Presence Felt at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations (TADIAS)
Ethiopians demonstrate outside Saudi embassy in London (BBC News)
Tadias Interview With Rima Kalush: Migrant-Rights Org Seeks Long Term Solutions
Ethiopians Continue Peaceful Protests Against Migrant Abuse in Saudi Arabia (TADIAS)
Photos: Ethiopians Hold Protest Outside Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. (TADIAS)
Ethiopians: #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to Stop Crackdown (Global Voices)
First group of Ethiopians from Saudi arrive in Addis (ERTA)
23,000 Ethiopians ‘Surrender’ in Saudi After Clamp Down (BBC)
Three Ethiopians Killed in Saudi Arabia Visa Crackdown (AFP)
Ethiopian Domestic Help Abuse Headlines From the Middle East (TADIAS)
Changing Ethiopia’s Media Image: The Case of People-Trafficking (TADIAS)
Video: Ethiopian migrants tell of torture and rape in Yemen (BBC)
Video: Inside Yemen’s ‘torture camps’ (BBC News)
BBC Uncovers Untold People-Trafficking, Torture of Ethiopians in Yemen (TADIAS)
Meskerem Assefa Advocates for Ethiopian Women in the Middle East (TADIAS)
In Memory of Alem Dechassa: Reporting & Mapping Domestic Migrant Worker Abuse
Photos: Vigil for Alem Dechassa Outside Lebanon Embassy in D.C.
The Plight of Ethiopian Women in the Middle East: Q & A With Rahel Zegeye

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Kenya’s Ruto and His Ethiopian Host’s Chilling Messages on Media Freedom

Kenya's Deputy President (above) and his Ethiopian counterpart have new labels for skeptical journalists who do not follow their lines: “clandestine terrorist”, and “Media assassins”. (REBECCA NDUKU/DPPS )

Daily Nation Kenya

By Macharia Gaitho

I learnt last week that Ethiopia has amongst the most liberal and progressive media laws in Africa. Its constitution guarantees freedom of media alongside all the other basic civil and political rights.

Ethiopia, we were told by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Makonnen, has no journalists in jail contrary to Western propaganda.

If there were any journalists who had ended up on the wrong side of the law, they were tried and jailed, not because of anything they wrote, published or broadcast, but because they were “clandestine terrorists”.

The Deputy Premier told delegates at the African Media Leadership Forum in Addis Ababa last Friday that with the terrorist threat, national security remained of paramount importance. Journalists or anyone else who crossed the line, he assured a stunned audience, would continue to suffer the severest penalties.

Listening keenly as the Ethiopian leader spoke was his Kenyan counterpart, Deputy President William Ruto, who had been drafted in late in the day to deliver the keynote address after President Uhuru Kenyatta decided to snub the meeting despite advance confirmation.

Mr Makonnen had introduced to the audience a new term in the lexicon, “clandestine terrorist”, and that was after Mr Ruto in the keynote address before him had come up with his own gem: “Media assassins”.

The two leaders had kept the audience waiting for quite a while before making their entrance into the conference hall.

One can only imagine that they were rehearsing a coordinated tag-team counter-attack to the media freedom issues in their respective countries that had dominated the first day of the forum.

Repression of the media is commonplace in Ethiopia. The forum organised by the Nairobi-based African Media Initiative took place against the backdrop of a boycott campaign over the choice of venue.

At least seven Ethiopian journalists are serving lengthy jail terms under terrorism laws. Dozens have fled into exile or opted to pursue safer occupations in a country that stands atop the ranks of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

The Ethiopian Government, as seen in the opening remarks from Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the first day, remains unapologetic. It is terrorists it throws into the dungeons, not journalists.

Kenya, by contrast, has always been a media paradise. Despite occasional excesses and clampdowns, free-wheeling culture and traditions anchored by liberal constitution regime have allowed a free media to blossom.

Mr Ruto seemed to have come to Addis Ababa to disabuse all such notions, and impress his Ethiopian hosts in the midst of a raging debate over Kenya’s tough new anti-media laws.

A speech that bore all the hallmarks of President Kenyatta’s most hardline strategists, was heard in stunned silence as the audience tried to digest a message that seemed to hark back to the era of the Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi one-party dictatorships.

The speech sought to lend an intellectual sheen to repression, arguing that campaigns for media freedom and freedom of expression that formed the theme of the conference were, in fact, foreign, Western, imperialistic “narratives”.

Remember the old tirades against “agents of foreign masters” beloved of Kenyatta 1 and Moi that always signalled the launch of any crackdown against dissenting voices?

That was what Mr Ruto brought to Addis. His message was that anyone agitating against repressive media laws and against curbs on freedom of expression, speech, association, assembly and other guarantees in the Bill of Rights was not a patriotic and loyal Kenya, East African and African; but a tool and agent of imperial and neo-colonial powers.

It was a frightening message, to put it mildly. Mr Ruto found time in his address to make the pro-forma assurances that the freedom of media in Kenya is guaranteed and there is no chance of reversal to repression.

But his cardinal message was heard. We are all agents of foreign interests, and therefore fair game to be treated as traitorous, treasonous, saboteurs.

With that mindset, the announcement that the media laws will not get President Kenyatta’s assent is not very reassuring.

Related:
Africans Tweet on Ethiopian Press Freedom at African Media Leaders Forum (Storify)
At African Media Leaders Forum in Addis, Press Freedom Isn’t Top Concern (VOA News)
Addis Hosts African Media Leaders Forum (ERTA)
Africans Must Speak Up for Journalist Jailed in Ethiopia (The Guardian Africa Network)
2 Ethio-Mihdar journalists arrested for reporting on Corruption (CPJ)
Africa’s Journalists Honor Jailed Ethiopian Editor Woubshet Taye (CNN Photos)
The Challenges of Independent Media In Ethiopia: Tadias Interview With Ron Singer

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An Open Letter to John Kerry: Tell Ethiopia to Release Eskinder Nega

Secretary of State John Kerry pictured in Ethiopia on May 26, 2013 with this year's Boston Marathon winner Lelisa Desisa at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. (AP)

EFF

BY RAINEY REITMAN

September 4, 2013

Dear Secretary of State John Kerry,

This month marks the second anniversary of Eskinder Nega’s imprisonment. When you visited Ethiopia in May, Eskinder Nega had already been imprisoned – and thus silenced – for over a year. It’s time for the United States to use its considerable influence to vigorously and directly advocate Nega’s freedom and, in the process, to promote free expression and independent journalism throughout Ethiopia.

Now is a crucial moment for the Secretary to speak out. Over the weekend, Ethiopian security forces in Addis Ababa brutally suppressed a demonstration calling for political reforms and the release of jailed journalists and dissidents.

Eskinder Nega is an internationally recognized Ethiopian reporter-turned-blogger. His award-winning journalism on political issues in Ethiopia – and his refusal to stop publishing or flee the country – has made him the target of persecution by the Ethiopian government for many years. Nega was arrested in September 2011 and then convicted under a new, extremely broad anti-terrorism law in Ethiopia. Nega’s so-called crime was writing articles and speaking publicly on topics such as the Arab Spring and Ethiopia’s poor record on press freedom. For that, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

In July, the New York Times published a letter from Eskinder Nega in prison, who explained that Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law “has been used as a pretext to detain journalists who criticize the government.” He elaborated on the actions that landed him in prison on charges of terrorism:

Read more.

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Helina Teklu: 15-year-old In Need of $40,000 For Kidney Transplant (OP-ED)

Helina Teklu, 15, is diagnosed with end stage kidney disease. (Image credit: Screen shot from EBS Video)

Tadias Magazine
OP-ED

By Meron Abebe

Published: Sunday, August 18, 2013

Washington, DC – Like many girls her age around the world 15-year-old Helina Teklu has big dreams for her future. The teen, who is a tenth-grader and an “A” student, hopes to become a doctor one day in Axum, Ethiopia, where she was born and raised. At the moment, however, Helina is more focused on staying alive. She is suffering from kidney failure, and her doctors have determined that she can only be assisted with specialized medical care abroad. Her family cannot afford to pay for treatment.

I came across Helina’s touching story through a recent video that is circulating among Ethiopians on social media. Her condition epitomizes the long road ahead to improving the dire shortages of health professionals and up-to-date medical facilities in Ethiopia. Helina Teklu is the exact citizen Ethiopia needs today — someone with the ambition to be educated so she can be useful to her community and country.

For Helina’s working class parents (both teachers) the knowledge that their daughter may die soon aware that she could have been saved, is more than they can handle on their own. Her care outside the country, if made possible, is expected to cost upwards of $40,000 for the transplant operation and other related healthcare services. That’s why I am getting involved reaching out to readers with a strong belief that we can make a difference if we can pull our minds and resources together to give Helina the second chance she so deserves.

From a personal standpoint, Helina’s will to survive by itself is inspiring enough for me to act, but her goal is likewise beneficial for all of us. At least, it’s clear to me that her aspirations are not just a lofty child-like dream, but one that has been her life’s journey until abruptly interrupted by this illness. After all, she was a stellar student who is admired by her friends, teachers and neighbors.

You can watch the video here. Let’s give Helina a hand.

Meron Abebe is the founder of the non-profit organization Thankful Soul. She lives in Washington,D.C.

If You Want to Help:
You can contact Helina’s parents directly in Ethiopia:
Teklu Hagos (0914766051) and Mantegbosh Fissha (0921886921)

Funds can be sent to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia
Account number 1000022462133.

In the U.S.: Wells Fargo, Recipient Abeba Yehdego
For transfer or an Electronic deposit:
Routing # (102000076) and Account # ( 1250106620)
Wire : Routing # (121000248) and Account # (1250106620)
Walk-in: Routing # (516306502) and Account # (1250106620)

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Tom Campbell: America Would Be Wrong to Favor Egypt in Water Rift

The following is an opinion piece on the Nile issue by former U.S. congressman Tom Campbell, who is currently dean of the School of Law at Chapman University in Orange, California. (Photo credit: AP)

Orange County Register

By TOM CAMPBELL

Egypt’s sense of nationhood is tied up in control of the Nile. So is energy self sufficiency for Ethiopia. The clash between these two realities can have deadly consequences. America will be tempted to intervene – on the wrong side.

The issue is a major dam proposed by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile River, the source of over 80 percent of the water that eventually enters the Nile River system. The Blue Nile starts in Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and flows through tall, narrow chasms to the Sudan border. Within Sudan, the Blue Nile meets the White Nile in Khartoum, and from there flows into Egypt.

Ethiopia’s hydroelectric dam is worth $4.2 billion and would be Africa’s largest. It would also challenge colonial-era water agreements, including the 1929 and 1959 Nile Water Treaties, which have given Egypt and Sudan most rights to Nile water.

For many years, all the Nile’s water has been divided between Sudan and Egypt; any other country that dared to touch the Nile was met with stern threats from Egypt and its protectors: first England, then America. When Ethiopia sought World Bank financing for this dam more than 20 years ago, the U.S. leaned on the bank to say no. Egypt was at peace with Israel at America’s request, and Egypt demanded America’s help with the Nile question (and $2 billion a year) in return. The calculus was clear: Ethiopia brought us nothing, Egypt, under Mubarak, brought peace with Israel. So we did Egypt’s bidding with the World Bank.

The last several years, however, have brought Ethiopia into a partnership with the U.S. in attacking al-Qaida and similar groups in Somalia. Meantime, Egypt deposed longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, and we were not enthusiastic about his replacement, Mohamed Morsi. Trying to stir up nationalist sentiment, Morsi focused on Ethiopia’s announcement that it would start to divert the Blue Nile so dam construction could begin. He said, “We will defend each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary,” and summoned leaders of the Islamic parties to discuss Egypt’s likely responses. Infamously, a leader of one of those parties, not knowing the meeting was being broadcast, said on live television that the “real enemies” were America and Israel. Talk included a military strike.

Morsi is gone. Secretary of State John Kerry has embraced the new military government. The danger is that the U.S., in its effort to prop up the Egyptian military successors to Morsi, will try to give them a victory over the dam issue.

When has the U.S. managed to play the internal politics of another country with any success? It is so much more likely that, if we go down this route, we will alienate our ally in the fight against extremism in Somalia, and do nothing to appease the widely held belief in Egypt, voiced at that televised meeting, that somehow all wrongs are due to America. We’ll choose the wrong side – once again.

Why do we need to take sides at all? We can’t stop Ethiopia by cutting off its financing: Ethiopia has come up with the funding for this project from the sale of bonds, and loans from China. The dam, once finished, will produce tremendous amounts of electricity that can be sold to neighboring countries to retire the bonds.

And if the new Egyptian regime wants to show it is at least as nationalistic as the deposed Morsi government, and threatens to bomb the dam, will we be proud to be associated with that?

If we do take sides, the dam is the right thing to do for environmental and humanitarian reasons. Ethiopia will become a net energy exporter in a part of the world chronically lacking in electricity. The stored water can alleviate the droughts that occur every seven years, filling world newspapers with horrifying pictures of starvation in Sudan and Ethiopia. Once the reservoir is filled, the flow of the Nile won’t be diminished. The time to fill the reservoir can be during the wet seasons, and spread out over many years.

There are many ways for America to signal its support of the new regime in Egypt. Shutting down Ethiopia’s dam, or looking the other way while Egypt does so, is not one of them.

Related:
Tadias Interview: Tom Campbell Urges Ethiopia to Take Nile Issue to International Court

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Moving Beyond Obama: Empowering Ethiopians to Influence US Foreign Policy

(Photograph by © Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this year we announced a call for OP-Ed submissions from our readers focusing on the Diaspora’s role in helping to shape better U.S. policy towards Africa. Are there lessons that Ethiopian Americans can learn from other Diaspora communities in the United States on how to empower ourselves to influence U.S.-Africa relations?

The series that we plan to publish later this Fall will shed light on the above-mentioned question and elevate the discourse to bring about real change. At a minimum, we aim to launch a discussion regarding the future of U.S.-Africa relations both with American officials (elected and appointed) and representatives of other African Diaspora communities.

It is fair to note that the administration is already engaged with various African Diaspora communities in multiple ways. And we encourage members of the Obama administration, particularly those from the East African community including Ethiopian Americans, to take part in the conversation not only to share their insights regarding existing policies but also to listen to new proposals from our audience.

It is yet to be seen if the Ethiopian Diaspora could rise beyond the level of individual efforts and voices representing political self-interests.

Noting the valid complaints regarding some of the current U.S. policy stands towards Africa, what is the role of the Diaspora outside our right to freedom of expression to criticize what we believe to be setbacks?

We warmly welcome your submissions. We especially encourage contributions by journalists, academics, diplomats, foreign affairs experts and students. Articles need not solely be concerned with politics. We are sure that there is a wide range of untapped aspects of Diaspora engagement that is waiting to be explored, including people-to-people, business-to-business, investment, education, health, science, technology, arts, culture and historical topics.

You can contact us at articles@tadias.com.

Related:
Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on Obama’s Africa Trip
Obama Africa Trip Highlights Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania (TADIAS)

Watch: President Obama delivers the central speech of his three nation Africa tour (VOA News)


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Eskinder Nega: Letter From Ethiopia’s Gulag (The New York Times)

The author of the following letter, Eskinder Nega, is the recipient of the 2012 PEN America's Freedom to Write Award. (Photo: His wife Serkalem Fasil at the PEN award gala in NYC on May 1st, 2012/Tadias file)

The New York Times

By Eskinder Nega

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — I AM jailed, with around 200 other inmates, in a wide hall that looks like a warehouse. For all of us, there are only three toilets. Most of the inmates sleep on the floor, which has never been swept. About 1,000 prisoners share the small open space here at Kaliti Prison. One can guess our fate if a communicable disease breaks out.

I’ve never conspired to overthrow the government; all I did was report on the Arab Spring and suggest that something similar might happen in Ethiopia if the authoritarian regime didn’t reform. The state’s main evidence against me was a YouTube video of me, saying this at a public meeting. I also dared to question the government’s ludicrous claim that jailed journalists were terrorists.

Read more at The New York Times.

Related:
EU urges Ethiopia to release journalists, revise terror law (Reuters)
EU Delegation Denied Access to Imprisoned Journalists in Ethiopia (TADIAS)

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Changing Ethiopia’s Media Image: The Case of People-Trafficking

Ethiopian Migrants in Yemen, near the Saudi border, waiting to return home. (Photo courtesy BBC News)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Monday, July 22, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – In its World News TV program broadcast globally this past weekend, BBC exposed the continuing plight of thousands of Ethiopian migrants attempting to reach Saudi Arabia in search of jobs. That is if they can survive the unimaginable cruelty imposed upon them by criminal gangs. As reported from Yemen, the exploitation that awaits many along their journey includes kidnapping, torture and rape.

Back in May, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, speaking as the current Chairman of the African Union, emphasized the need for Africans to work with a view to change the image of the continent as portrayed by the international media. But when it comes to negative publicity about Ethiopia, who is better positioned than the Prime Minister himself to lead that change?

The Ethiopian tragedy in the Middle East has festered unmonitored by Ethiopian authorities for several decades and it can only be solved with a concerted effort at the highest levels of government. At this point it is a moral obligation and human rights issue for Ethiopians everywhere.

The image crisis will not go away without changing the facts on the ground. It goes without mentioning the still flourishing business in Ethiopia of trafficking young, poor, uneducated women for domestic work in the region.

Changing Africa’s image abroad must begin at home and we urge Prime Minister Hailemariam to take leadership in ending the agony of Ethiopian citizens in the Middle-East.

Related:
Update: Ethiopia Halts Issuing Work Visas to Saudi Arabia (Sudan Tribune)
Video: Ethiopian migrants tell of torture and rape in Yemen (BBC)
Video: Inside Yemen’s ‘torture camps’ (BBC News)
Meskerem Assefa Advocates for Ethiopian Women in the Middle East (TADIAS)
Interactive Timeline: Ethiopian Domestic Help Abuse Headlines From the Middle East (TADIAS)

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Ethiopia: Discussing Ethnic Politics in Social Media

(Images Aljazeera English/YouTube)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: July 11, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Aljazeera’s recent airing of a segment entitled Oromos Seek Justice in Ethiopia: Why is the Largest Ethnic Group Also one of the Most Persecuted? is receiving quite a bit of attention and circulation on several websites and on social media among the Ethiopian Diaspora. The episode, which featured a panel including Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo rights advocate; Fido Ebba, Foreign Affairs Representative of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF); and Mohammed Ademo, a journalist and editor of OPride.com, was by no means a balanced representation of the Oromo ethnic group. Nor did it encompass the diversity of views of Oromos in Ethiopia and the Diaspora. However, the reaction to the panel discussion and the panelists is just as worrisome.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, whether we like it or not, we have entered an unchartered territory when it comes to regulating how we receive, process and deliver information. The speed with which we are informed or mis-informed is unprecedented.

In the Ethiopian Diaspora, it seems that it has become fashionable for talking heads to pontificate, categorize, label, and re-write history at will, for an entire ethnic population, to fit their immediate agenda, and without much regard for mutual tolerance of our differences in ideologies or opinions.

We are reminded of Rwanda in the 90′s, even before Twitter and Facebook, when hard-lined propagandists played a crucial role in driving the country to genocide using primarily only radio and print media to spread false news and encourage hate and violence. From early April to mid-July in 1994, within a matter of 3 months, between 500,000 and one million people were wiped out in what is now described as the biggest ethnic genocide in recent memory. It’s widely accepted that the mayhem was mostly fueled by media propaganda.

Ethiopia is a nation with over eighty million people. It is one of the most diverse cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious populations in the world. Like many other countries around the globe, the country’s problems are also as vast as its population. The solutions must come from all of us being mindful of encouraging tolerance and mutual respect. Using social media to discuss ethnic politics has its drawbacks as it has its benefits, and it’s time to recognize our individual and collective responsibilities to not disseminate one-sided, unthoughtful rhetoric.

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The Difference Between Haile and Liberia’s George Weah (The Africa Report)

Ethiopia's Track legend Haile Gebrselassie plans to run for the presidency of Ethiopia. But will his sporting fame be enough to administer the fate and future of a nation and its people? (The Africa Report)

The Africa Report

By Konye Obaji Ori

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and multiple world 10,000 metre champion says he wants to “reach more people” through politics.

Liberia’s George Weah is the only other former athlete in Africa who has attempted, and failed, to transfer fame gained on the sports field into a political calling of his nation’s highest office.

Europe and America have had their fair share of athletes that have made the transition from the world of sports to the world of politics.
But whether Gebrselassie’s fame will be enough to sway Ethiopians could depend on how he enters politics, unlike Weah who went straight for the presidential seat right from the onset.

Like Weah, Gebrselassie is highly decorated globally. He set over 26 world records in 5,000 meters and marathon races.

But unlike Weah, Gebrselassie plans to run for a seat in parliament as an independent candidate in 2015. Ethiopia counts just one opposition member, an independent, in parliament.

The next presidential election, being only two months away, in September, Gebrselassie believes it is probably “too soon,” to target the office of the president of Ethiopia.

“The big mistake would be to stay out of politics and miss the chance to do something to help.

“We are here in our country, Ethiopia. And as long as we live here, we should play our part. We have to sort (out) any problems we have,” the icon told Associated Press news agency.

Gebrselassie has seemingly studied the terrain and has adopted a more strategic approach to his presidential ambitions than Weah appeared to have done in 2005.

While Weah was running for Liberia’s presidency against subsequent winner President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, Gebrselassie was setting up a group called the Elders Council.

Read the full article at The Africa Report.

Related:
Haile Gebrselassie to Run for Parliament (AP)

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UPDATE: Will Ethiopia’s ‘Grand’ New Dam Steal Nile Waters From Egypt? (CSM)

Africa's largest hydropower project, a new 6,000-megawatt dam on the Blue Nile, has sparked a row between Egypt and Ethiopia. But it could increase the overall water flow in the Nile. (Photo: AP)

CS Monitor

By William Davison

GUBA, ETHIOPIA – Egypt is newly worried about a huge Ethiopian dam now under construction on the Nile’s main tributary – a concern that reflects arid Egypt’s overwhelming reliance on the world’s longest river.

Egypt and the Nile are bound together: The Nile, called “God’s gift to Egypt,” helped the nation become one of the first agricultural civilizations, and it still supports most farming there.

But Ethiopia – the source of almost 86 percent of the water flowing to Egypt – is equally adamant that it has been denied a fair share of the river by agreements between Sudan and Egypt in the 1950s that divided the river between them.

Ethiopia two years ago started building what will be Africa’s largest dam on the Blue Nile. It is a clear indication, despite anger from Egypt, that upstream Nile countries will no longer simply accept what they feel are inequitable water-sharing deals.

Read more at CSM.

Related:
Egypt Should Welcome Ethiopia’s Nile Dam (Bloomberg Editorial)
Maaza Mengiste Says “The Nile Belongs to Ethiopia Too” (The Guardian)
Hydropolitics Between Ethiopia and Egypt: A Historical Timeline (TADIAS)
Visualizing Nile Data – Access to Electricity vs Fresh Water (TADIAS)

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Maaza Mengiste Says “The Nile Belongs to Ethiopia Too”

Maaza Mengiste is a writer based in New York City. (Photo credit: Miriam Berkley)

The Guardian

By Maaza Mengiste

Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia have grown at an alarming rate since Addis Ababa announced its plans to construct the Grand Renaissance dam across part of the Nile. The project will divert the flow of the river and give Ethiopia greater access.

Egypt claims the dam could lower the river’s level in a country that is mainly desert, and reduce cultivated farmland. President Mohamed Morsi has called the river “God’s gift to Egypt”, and the country’s politicians claim the reduced water flow could prove catastrophic. An Ethiopian government spokesman, Getachew Reda, says none of Egypt’s worries are scientifically based, and that “some of them border on … fortune-telling”.

As the debate continues, I am reminded of an encounter between my mother and an Egyptian man one afternoon in New York. My mother was visiting from Addis Ababa and we decided to go to a pizzeria. One customer, an Egyptian, recognised us as Ethiopians. After brief introductions, he made a passing comment about the age-old conflict between our countries over the Nile. My mother calmly stated there was no conflict: the Nile was ours. The man was not amused. What followed degenerated into verbal sparring that ricocheted between “historic right”, ancient civilisations and colonial-era treaties. Finally, my mother, frustrated, claimed full ownership of the river – and he did the same. It wouldn’t have ended if the pizza hadn’t arrived.

Read more at The Guardian.

Related:
Egypt, Ethiopia Square Off Over New Nile River Dam (VOA News)
Egypt and Ethiopia Vow to Defuse Blue Nile Dam Row (BBC News)
Hydropolitics Between Ethiopia and Egypt: A Historical Timeline (TADIAS)
Visualizing Nile Data – Access to Electricity vs Fresh Water (TADIAS)

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In the AU’s Host City Addis Ababa, an Oppressive Reality in Plain Sight

Reeyot Alemu, winner the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. (Photo: Getty Images)

Africa Review

Op-Ed | By MOHAMED KEITA

The African Union has been celebrating 50 years in Addis Ababa against a backdrop of developing infrastructure, a perfect postcard of Africa’s booming economic growth. Yet, on the outskirts of the city, hidden from the view of passing visitors, is a symbol of Ethiopia’s oppressive reality: a prison filled with people who should not be there– leading Ethiopian dissidents and journalists.

For the African Union, this should be a shameful blemish, but it should also be an opportunity to recognise freedom, equality and justice for all as the basis, not consequence, of peace, stability and economic development for the next 50 years.

After all, it was in Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963 when African leaders inscribed in the OAU charter that “freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples.”

The leaders also inserted the doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of states. As a result, the OAU was silent as hundreds, if not thousands were murdered and imprisoned in a prison adjacent its offices in Addis Ababa during the days of the Red Terror under the rule of Soviet-backed dictator Mengistu Hailemariam (the new, Chinese-built extension of the African Union headquarters now sits on top of the erstwhile grounds of the prison).

With the advent of the African Union, came a new 21st century vision of democracy and development reflected in the AU’s consistent sanctions against coup leaders, for instance.

Yet, for all of the AU’s efforts to promote good governance (i.e. through the African Peer Review Mechanism), its own host country has steadily moved in the opposition direction since the ruling party nearly lost its grip on power in the contested 2005 elections.

Today, Ethiopia’s rulers self-style after China’s Communist Party, balking at ideals of democracy and press freedom as Western impositions, even though these values are enshrined in their own constitution.

Defied condemnation

They trumpet economic growth, restrict the press and the internet, and conflate peaceful acts of dissent with terrorism or anti-state activities. Gripped by the fear of a domestic popular uprising in the early months of the Arab Spring in 2011, authorities imprisoned dozens of opponents, both perceived and real, including leading journalists like Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye.

The government has defied condemnation from the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on their imprisonment and sentencing to harsh prison terms on fabricated charges of involvement in “terrorism.”

Ethiopia’s behaviour hardly reflects the values of the African Union, and show that the benefits of the progress in infrastructure and economic growth, as seen in Addis Ababa, or Kigali, have been exclusive to those unquestioning their rulers. There should be cause for concern.

The Africa Progress Panel noted that the benefits of growth have yet to trickle down to the poor and that in some cases, inequality is even on the rise, threatening the gains already made. Ethiopia for instance has made strides towards the Millennium Development Goals, especially in health and education, but remains dependent on Western aid for food and Chinese investments to develop its infrastructure.

The country also ranks in the bottom of various indexes measuring governance, transparency, rule of law and ease of doing business. By comparison, Kenya, with all its problems, surpasses Ethiopia in the dynamism of its private sector, including the press, or the quality of its telecom infrastructure which facilitates the flow of information, spurring trade, and the open dispensation of competing ideas necessary for innovation.

A measure of optimism

Notwithstanding, optimism permeates the air in Addis Ababa, and can be found in the most unlikely of places: Kaliti prison where journalist Eskinder Nega has called his home away from home five days after writing the following on September 9, 2011, five days before his arrest: “It’s easy to complain about the things we do not have. No freedom. Raging inflation. Rising unemployment. Rampant corruption. A delusional ruling party. An uncertain year ahead of us. And the list could go on.”

“But consider the exciting prospects: [2012] could be the year when we, too, like the majority of our fellow Africans, will have a government by the people, for the people…. The gist of the matter is that there are ample reasons to hope.”

The Ethiopian government would have the world believe that Eskinder is a dangerous man bent on inciting violent revolution, but his thoughtful critiques of the government articulated a hopeful vision of the future in line with the aspirations of not only Ethiopians, but also the African Union.

For Africa Progress Panel Chair Kofi Annan, broad-based or inclusive growth (i.e. lifting millions out of poverty) “will take bold leadership, and it means building up proper governance, solidifying democracy, embracing transparency and accountability, and strengthening governance, institutions and the rule of law.”

The African Union should therefore more forcefully condemn regressions in governance and political freedoms, and the exclusion of critical voices in civil society and the media. It can begin with its host country, Ethiopia.

Mohamed Keita is Africa Advocacy Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (www.cpj.org), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide since 1981.

Related:
African Union leaders mark 50th anniversary in Ethiopia (BBC)
The African Union Turns 50: Voices From Ethiopia (TADIAS)
The OAU: Fifty years on (BBC News)
African Union Celebrates 50th Year (AP)
Watch: AU anniversary video spotlight (Economist)
Yadesa Bojia Reflects on African Union Flag on 50th Anniversary (TADIAS)

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PM Hailemariam Asked About Reeyot Alemu In France24 Interview

Reeyot Alemu, winner the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – In a wide-ranging interview with France24 this week, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn energetically fielded a number of questions in his role as the current chairman of the African Union about the continent’s troubled spots, including the situation in Mali, the elections in Kenya, the prospect of peace in Somalia, and the border issue with Eritrea. But when the topic changed to domestic matters and the imprisoned journalist Reeyot Alemu, winner of the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, so did the tone of the Prime Minister.

“For us our due process of law is, you know, according to the international standard and practice and we will continue on this way whether whoever says it,” he said. “What matters is the peace, security and democracy in the country, rather than what somebody says.”

Reeyot, who is now 32-year-old, was arrested in June 2011 inside a high-school class room where she worked as an English teacher. She was wanted for her opposing views in her part-time job as a columnist for the then Amharic weekly Feteh. She is currently serving a five year sentence in Kality prison. UNESCO said last week that she was recommended for the prestigious award by an independent international jury of media professionals in recognition of her “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.”

“The whole important thing in this issue is that rule of law is one of the pillars of democratic process in the country,” the PM told the French television station, without mentioning Reeyot by name. “So we have responsibility also not only to have, you know, any kind of issues in the country, but to secure our people from any kind of terrorist actions.”

Hailemariam added: “In this regard, I think what’s important is that we are following all the international standard including the UN charter for human rights and democracy, which we have signed and ratified in my country. So I think it is according to the international, universal declarations that we are operating in the country.”

“Do you think there is room for improvement?” the reporter for France24 asked. “Do you agree that things could be better in this regard that there should be more vibrant press and a more vibrant opposition to make Ethiopia a real and full democracy?”

“I think there is no doubt about it,” the PM said. “Not only in Ethiopia, even in much more civilized democratic nations like France you have always something to improve. So how can we say there is no need of improvement in a fledgling democracy and a democracy of only fifteen years of age.”

The PM argued that establishing a culture of democracy takes time. “Therefore, we have a fledgling democracy, we have to learn lots of things, there are a number of rooms for improvement, including, the press, media and all kind of things,” he said. “We are learning from the international practices and my government is open to learn and improve things at home.”

The UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded annually during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, which will take place this year in Costa Rica. The UNESCO jury highlighted Reeyot’s critical writing published in several independent Ethiopian newspapers on various political and social issues focusing on poverty and gender equality.

We urge Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to do the right thing for Ethiopia and exercise his authority under the constitution to pardon Reeyot Alemu.

Watch: PM Hailemariam Desalegn interview with France24


Related:
Reeyot Alemu Wins the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize (RTT)
Reeyot Alemu: Ethiopia’s Jailed Truth Teller (The Daily Beast)
Eskinder Nega: An Ai Wei Wei Story in Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera)
UN Finds Detention of Eskinder Nega Arbitrary (United Nations)

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Eskinder Nega: An Ai Wei Wei Story in Ethiopia

File photos of Eskinder Nega with his son Nafkot and his wife Serkalem Fasil. (Photographs courtesy www.Freeeskindernega.com)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – In the early 1990′s when Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega was a young man living in the suburb of Washington, D.C., which is home to one of the largest populations of Ethiopian-Americans in the United States, he dreamt of one day opening an independent newspaper company in his native country. Unfortunately, two decades later Eskinder, now 45 years old, is languishing behind bars, locked away for 18 Years at Kality prison nearby where he was born and raised in Addis Ababa separated from his wife, 8-years-old son, profession, and branded as a terrorist.

Eskinder, who has been in and out of jail eight times since he returned to Ethiopia almost twenty years ago, stands convicted of attempting to subvert the country’s constitution, which in principle affords its 80 million plus citizens all of the universally accepted due process guarantees and human rights — including that “no one can be deprived of his liberty for exercising his freedom of expression or being a critic of the government.”

Last year around this time there was a glimmer of hope among Eskinder’s compatriots at home and in the Diaspora rightly encouraged by the news that PEN America had awarded him its prestigious “Freedom to Write” prize. Tadias Magazine had the opportunity to attend and cover the ceremony on May 1st, 2012 at the literary organization’s annual gala dinner held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. We interviewed a number of people on camera including Eskinder’s wife, Serkalem Fasil — herself a former journalist who gave birth to their son Nafkot in 2005 during her own stint as a political prisoner — who accepted the award on her husband’s behalf, as well as her former cellmate the renowned Ethiopian opposition leader and former prisoner of conscience Birtukan Mideksa, who is currently in exile and a Harvard fellow in the United States. Both Serkalem and Birtukan’s spirits were buoyed by PEN’s success stories of advocating on behalf of those that are selected to be honored. Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees, who were in prison at the time of their nomination, were subsequently released.

“International human rights law does not prohibit prosecution of members of terrorist organizations or those who support cooperate and assist terrorism by any means,” Ethiopian authorities wrote to members of the European Parliament in February who had urged Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn back in December to consider the release of the imprisoned journalist. “Rather, it prohibits any form of discrimination and impunity of prosecution.”

Since the Pen Award, however, impunity and unchecked power by a single party is what appears to be preventing officials from resolving the matter once and for all. Instead the ruling party agents have turned to a strategy of Chinese-style campaign, disturbingly similar to the attack against Ai Wei Wei — the contemporary artist and outspoken critic of the Chinese government. Eskinder’s personal story mirrors Ai Wei Wei’s in more ways than one. Both individuals had studied in America in their youth and returned to their birth countries to work. Both Ai Wei Wei and Eskinder turned to blogging as a means of expression, both were incarcerated for refusing to stop writing and asserting their right to self-expression. And both men had firmly decided to stay in their native country to continue their work despite the fact that unjust harassment was looming over them and they knew they were putting their lives at stake.

While Ai Wei Wei has received overwhelming international support from art institutions and human rights organizations, Eskinder’s story hasn’t reached the critical spotlight needed to win his rightful release.

The labeling of Eskinder as a ‘terrorist’ is designed to deflect criticism and to intimidate international agencies into covering their eyes and ears regarding domestic human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, local officials are busy exploiting the flow of financial assistance from the same donor countries that are eager to hunt real terrorists residing in the populous Horn of Africa region.

The Ethiopian authorities, of course, don’t see anything wrong with the fact that the Federal Police seem to be habitually confusing a “pen” for a deadly weapon. Today, Ethiopia is listed among the top ten most censored countries in the world. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that compiles the annual data, says the nation is one of only two African countries along with Eritrea that still holds the distinction.

In the last decade Ethiopia has shown an impressive potential for economic progress as well, but also mimicking China in downplaying respect for human rights. Without specifically mentioning Eskinder Nega, there has been a development of late in the Ethiopian parliament that is apparently aimed at fixing the general issue concerning freedom of expression in the country. But let us cross our fingers that this time it’s not part of the fly-by-night and feel-good charm offensive intended to cloud the festering problem.

On the world stage, it is also encouraging to see the finding by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Eskinder’s ongoing detention as a violation of international law. The panel of five independent experts from four continents held earlier this month reported that the government violated Eskinder’s rights to free expression and due process. The UN body called for Eskinder’s immediate release following sustained lobbying efforts by his international pro bono lawyers and support by his friends in exile, including Birtukan Mideksa, who recently wrote a well received Op-Ed piece on Al Jazeera English highlighting her anguish over the muzzling of progressive Ethiopian voices.

As fellow journalists it too is our desire to bring this hard-fought momentum one step closer to the finishing line. We lend our voice in urging all freedom loving citizens of the globe to stand with Ethiopians in demanding the unconditional release of our colleague, the award-winning journalist, publisher and blogger Eskinder Nega.
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Related:
UN Finds Detention of Eskinder Nega Arbitrary and Calls for Immediate Release (Freedom Now)
Prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia by Birtukan Mideksa (Al Jazeera)
Letter from Ethiopia: Regarding The Case Against Eskinder Nega
Video & Photos: Eskinder Nega Honored With Prestigious PEN Award

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Photos From Bangkok: Thailand’s Only Ethiopian Restaurant

Below is a slideshow of photos highlighting Bangkok's only Ethiopian restaurant submitted to Tadias by Abebe Hailu, a reader from San Jose, California who recently visited the eatery in Thailand.

Tadias Magazine
Reader Submission

Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013

Food as Ambassador

Perhaps the best ambassador a nation can offer to the people of other countries is its food. No protocol, no bowing, no high-sounding words are needed, just good and honest taste. To know what a nation savors on its tables is to gain great insight regarding the heart and soul of the people of that country.

So, imagine my surprise when some Australian and Sudanese colleagues from the United Nations outpost joined me to go to a delightful little Ethiopian restaurant in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. I’m sure they were trying to be kind since I am of Ethiopian heritage. Well, they were far more than kind. I wound up eating some of the best Ethiopian cuisine I have experienced outside of the motherland.

World Class Partners

As I said, the restaurant is small: seven tables. A very cozy and quaint place — the pleasing art, the great fixture accents, and the strong colors make it warm and inviting. The service is especially friendly and gracious. The restaurant is owned by two Ethiopians – Ambese who came to Bangkok via Virginia, U.S.A. and Taye Berhanu, who came to Bangkok directly from Ethiopia. Taye who served us is probably in his mid-twenties and very gracious and polite.

Ambese and Taye have brought their strong sense of Ethiopian etiquette and hospitality to this Asian capital where they serve the local members of the various African communities. Among them are
individuals from Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Of course, other foreigners previously exposed to Ethiopian cuisine, are welcome guests at Ethiopia Restaurant as well when they get a hankering for Bozena Shiro, Awaze Tibes, or some other Ethiopian delicacy.

Menu from the Motherland

The menu at Ethiopia Restaurant could bring tears to the eyes (in more ways than one) to an Ethiopian starving for a taste from the motherland. That evening we began with the special Kittfo Ethiopian Beef Tartar. It was exquisite beef, very lean and finally chopped. It was served with mitmita, a spiced chili powder. What makes it so special is another spice that is especially prepared for Kittfo and made up of organic spices imported from Ethiopia. Since the beef and spice are served as is, or raw, it’s a perfect test for the skill of the kitchen. Ethiopia Restaurant passed with flying colors.

Bozeno Shiro was our next dish. A stew made primarily of ground chickpeas or broad beans, it is prepared with minced onions and garlic. Depending on regional variations, ginger, chopped tomatoes, and chili peppers can be thrown into the sauce. The chickpeas, along with cubes of lean beef, are simmered in a berbere sauce, which could best be characterized as an African barbecue sauce made up of cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom pods, and allspice, among other ingredients. The delightful dish was cooked and served on traditional Ethiopian clay dishes.

Awaze Tibes followed and I do believe it is the best I have ever had, with all apologies to cooks in the Ethiopian motherland. The dish consists of small cuts of lamb that have been marinated in herbs from the vast Ethiopian spice cabinet. It is then cooked with tomatoes, garlic, berbere sauce, and onion. The way it was served was fantastic.

An Exquisite Ethiopian Ending

Ambese and Taye ended our Ethiopian feast with the coffee ceremony. My heart was touched at how Taye carefully followed all the traditions necessary to keep the practice alive. He obviously cares deeply about Ethiopian tradition and that included the burning of traditional frankincense over a tiny charcoal stove as he prepared the brew. Of course, he prepared the coffee in the traditional Jabena pot, with its spherical base, long neck, and pouring spout, its long handle connecting to the base and the neck. The rich coffee was poured into cups of a kind you would find in any good Ethiopian coffee shop.

Needless to say, I left Ethiopia Restaurant feeling a little bit homesick. On the other hand, it was delightful to have discovered a place, however small, so deeply connected to Ethiopia and its foods and traditions. The sprawling Asian capital of Bangkok is known for its diversity; it’s nice to know that the diversity includes Ethiopia. Through Ethiopia Restaurant, Ethiopia is offering its wonderful food as an ambassador to the peoples of Asia.

Here are photos from Bangkok’s only Ethiopian Restaurant:



If You Go
ETHIOPIA RESTAURANT
1/22 SUKHUMVIT SOI 3 (NANA NUEA) SUKHUMVIT RODE
KLONGTOEY NUEA, WATTANA
BANGKOK, 10110 THAILAND

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Ethiopia’s Two Sides of Development: Successes and Pitfalls

Here are two recent articles offering views of the successes and pitfalls of foreign investment in Ethiopia.

VOA News

Martha van der Wolf

March 15, 2013

ADDIS ABABA — The United Nations Development Program has released its 2013 Human Development Index. Despite recent economic growth, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of the index.

Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, unveiled by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on Friday.

The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world.

Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index.

However, Samuel Bwalya, an economic advisor for UNDP, says that not only the ranking is important.

“I think what matters in the index is how you’re moving, your own human development progress within the country, so you’re moving from 0.275 to 0.378, that movement is what matters,” said Bwalya. “It means that your country is making progress in human development. Now the ranking depends on how other countries are also faring.”

This year’s Human Development Report focuses on the major gains made since 2000 in most countries in the global South.

UNDP believes sub-Saharan Africa can achieve higher levels of human development if it deepens its engagement with other regions of the South.

But those countries must overcome many challenges, such as low life expectancy, high levels of inequality and the growing threat for environmental disasters that could halt or reverse the recent gains in human development.

Bwalya says that government policies are central to human development in Ethiopia:

“The most important is to continuously commit to two policy arenas: the economic program in the country is robust and the government should have continuous commitment to development,” he explained. “The second is that it should continue the social protection program that has been so important in reducing poverty.”

While the Human Development Report and Index celebrate improvements across the developing world, a hard fact remains – 24 out of the 25 lowest ranked countries are on the African continent.
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Related:
Why Are We Funding Abuse in Ethiopia? (The New York Review of Books)

By Helen Epstein

In 2010, the Ethiopian government began moving thousands of people out of the rural villages where they had lived for centuries to other areas several hours’ walk away. The Ethiopian government calls this program the “Commune Center Development Plan and Livelihood Strategy” and claims it is designed to bring scattered rural populations closer to schools, health clinics, roads, and other public services. But the Commune Center program has been marked by a string of human rights abuses linked to government attempts to clear huge tracts of land for foreign investors. According to testimony collected by Human Rights Watch and other groups over the past two years, the relocations have involved beatings, imprisonment, torture, rape, and even murder. In many of the new “villages” the program has created, the promised services do not exist. Deprived of the farms, rivers, and forests that once provided their livelihoods, many people fear starvation, and thousands have fled to refugee camps in Kenya and South Sudan.

Such mistreatment by the government is nothing new in Ethiopia, an essentially one-party state of roughly 90 million people, in which virtually all human rights activity and independent media is banned. But what makes this case particularly outrageous is that the Ethiopian government may be using World Bank money—some of which comes from US taxpayers—to finance it. If so, this violates the Bank’s own rules concerning the protection of indigenous peoples and involuntary resettlement. In response to complaints from human rights groups, the Bank’s internal watchdog recently conducted its own review of the Commune Center program—commonly known as villagization in Ethiopia—which confirmed the human rights allegations and recommended that the Bank carry out a full investigation of its activities in Ethiopia.

Read more at The New York Review of Books.

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