Opinion Section

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.
—-
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.
—-
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.

Ethiopia Presents Human Rights Action Plan | U.S. Failing Muslims in Ethiopia

(Image credit: Voice of America)

VOA News

Marthe Van Der Wolf

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia has unveiled its first Human Rights Action Plan, with the goal of ensuring human rights in the East African country. Activists have long complained about the Ethiopian government’s record of quashing political dissent and freedom of expression.

The Ethiopian government presented a draft Human Rights Action Plan on Thursday to discuss with stakeholders such as the United Nations, civil societies and development partners.

Musa Gassama, the regional representative of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the plan does not introduce new laws for Ethiopia.

“What is new is to bring all these laws that we talk about, putting them together and analyzing them and seeing what actions could be taken to make sure that these laws are bringing benefit to the people,” he said.

The plan includes nearly 60 recommendations to cover gaps in sectors such as education, health and culture.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Justice Berhan Hailu explained that gaps have also been identified in the justice sector.

“We need a lot of proclamations and also guidelines for the protection of the rights of the people, for the accused persons, for the persons in prison and so on,” Hailu said. “For example, we have mentioned in the document the importance of a guideline on the use of force by the police.”

International organizations such as Human Rights Watch criticized Ethiopia’s election to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2012. The country has one of the world’s highest numbers of journalists in jail, while leaders of peaceful Muslim demonstrations have been arrested and many opposition leaders are prison on charges of terrorism.

In addition, Ethiopia has not signed several international human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Minister Berhan said Ethiopia is making progress when it comes to ensuring human rights, despite the criticism:

“Those who don’t want to realize or to recognize this kind of progress might say that there is no good performance in human rights in Ethiopia, but we are doing our level best and the people of Ethiopia are now benefiting a lot, but we have gaps now,” he said. “In order to fill the gaps we have to work hard; we have to plan it, like the kind of plan that we have presented today.”

The Human Rights Action Plan will be sent to parliament for adoption this week, and is scheduled to be implemented over the next three years.

Related:
From Expediency to Consistency Ethiopia’s Anti-Apartheid Movement? (Counter Punch)

Read more news at VOA.

Letter from Ethiopia: Regarding The Case Against Eskinder Nega

Former journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, left, with Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega’s wife, at last year's PEN America annual gala dinner in New York on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012. (Tadias Magazine file)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Friday, February 1, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Fairness, justice, forgiveness, equality before the law, and deference for the sanctity of life and human dignity are not foreign concepts to the diverse nationalities, cultures and religions that make up the modern Ethiopian mosaic, but it is not encouraging to see the legal language justifying the continued imprisonment of a number of Ethiopian journalists on the grounds that the nation’s current administration of justice meets international standards.

In a recent paper entitled Information on the Allegations Concerning the Arbitrary Detention of Mr. Eskinder Nega, Ethiopian legal experts wrote a 19-page response to the 16 members of the European Parliament who urged Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn back in December to consider the release of the imprisoned journalist Eskinder Nega. In the document, shared with Tadias, Ethiopian officials explain to the European MPs that their actions are anchored in international law.

“The trial process of Mr. Eskinder Nega demonstrates that due process guarantees were ensured in keeping with domestic legislations and international standards as enshrined in the ICCPR and other relevant human rights instruments to which Ethiopia is a party,” the document said. “International human rights law does not prohibit prosecution of members of terrorist organisations or those who support cooperate and assist terrorism by any means. Rather, it prohibits any form of discrimination and impunity of prosecution.”

This is open to interpretation, however, and it is apparently constitutional to brand citizens as terrorists for their critical views and subject them to arbitrary arrest and detention. It is illegal for writers, journalists, columnists, bloggers, and others with opposing perspectives to share unapproved observations with any audience if it touches upon subjects decrying abuses of power and corruption.

“The Constitution of Ethiopia strictly prohibits deprivation of rights or liberty without due process of law except on such grounds and in accordance with clearly established law,” the text continued. “This has been witnessed during the trial process of Mr. Eskinder Nega.”

The legal brief includes a twenty-six point argument covering topics including background of the case and pretrial detention, the charge brought against the defendant, the trial, observance of the right to legal counsel, as well as the accused’s right to visitations, and the appeals process in which Eskinder was actively involved.

In its opening paragraph the brief also highlights the individual freedoms and rights enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. “No one can be deprived of his liberty for exercising his freedom of expression or being a critique of the Government,” it declared.

“Ethiopia is a country governed by of rule of law. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.”

Then why are Reeyot Alemu, Eskinder Nega, Wubishet Taye and others languishing in jail separated from their families and friends? Why are they not able to practice journalism?

The brief also argues that in Eskinder’s case he was charged for conspiring to cause violence in collaboration with an illegal organization, noting that “Mr. Eskinder Nega was found guilty by court of law for involvement in a conspiracy to commit a crime of terrorism as an accomplice with a clandestine and terrorist organization named Ginbot 7 which has publically declared its intention to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Ethiopia through assassination of government officials, destroying public property, destabilizing peace and constitutional order of Ethiopia.”

“The Federal Prosecutor, after meticulously investigating Mr. Eskinder Nega’s participation in terrorism and ensuring the presence of ample evidence, requested the Federal First Instance Court in Addis Ababa for an arrest and search warrant.”

The document added: “Cognizant of its responsibility not to arrest, search or seize a person’s property contrary to the law, police arrested the defendant, searched and seized the relevant property of evidentiary significance after securing arrest and search warrant from the Federal First Instance Court. His house was searched and relevant evidences found were seized by court warrant issued by the Federal Court in accordance with article 26 (3) of the Constitution and article 19 of the Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The defendant promptly brought before a court of law within 48 hours in accordance with article 14(3)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 19 and 20(1) of the FDRE Constitution and tried without undue delay.”

The legal brief makes no mention of Ethiopia’s tradition of pardoning prisoners, most recently approved by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before he passed away on August 20th, 2012, which freed over 1,900 inmates including two Swedish journalists — reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson — who were jailed for assisting members of the outlawed rebel group the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

As always, we remain hopeful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Ethiopian journalists still incarcerated. And once more, we call upon PM Hailemariam Desalegn who was recently elected as the new chairman of the African Union to lead the AU by example by helping to remove his country from the list of Africa’s top jailers of journalists — a distinction Ethiopia currently shares along with Eritrea as the only two African countries spotlighted as the world’s top ten leading press offenders.

Related:
MEPs urge Ethiopia to release journalist (The Guardian)
Letter from 16 Members of the European Parliament (Press Release)
Ethiopia pardons two jailed Swedish journalists (Reuters)
Country List of Top 10 ‘Jailers of Journalists’ (CPJ)

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Editorial: Our Role in Shaping U.S.-Africa Policy in Obama’s Second Term

President Obama gave his second inauguration address on Monday, January 21, 2013. (Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – As we extend our best wishes to President Barack Obama for a successful second term in office, we also urge the White House to pay more attention to the diverse voices in our community and to engage the Diaspora as the U.S. formulates better policies towards Africa in the next four years. After all, as citizens, we are voters and taxpayers, and therefore stakeholders in what the United States does in Africa.

Influencing U.S. foreign policy also requires a culture of respectful political discourse among ourselves, which has not been the hallmark of the Diaspora during Obama’s first term, particularly by Ethiopian pundits in the United States.

In one of the many memorable lines delivered at his second Inaugural Address this week, President Obama said: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.”

It is a message that political leaders, activists and scholars in our community should take to heart if they are to be effective moving forward in communicating on behalf of a wider constituency and in shaping future U.S.-Africa and U.S-Ethiopia relations.

Related:
Obama Stresses Unity in Second Inaugural Speech (VOA News)

Video: Sights and Sounds from the 2013 Inauguration (NBC)

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Ethiopia: ’1000 Places to See Before You Die’

Lalibela is one of the stops in Ethiopia during an upcoming tour led by Patricia Schultz, author of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die." (Photo: Flickr)

Author leads trip to ancient hot spots
Los Angeles Times

By Mary Forgione

Patricia Schultz redefined the concept of bucket lists when her book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die hit stores in 2003 and was updated in 2011. It was and continues to be a hit, with a dizzying checklist of the popular and the exotic travel spots.

Now Schultz, who produced a Travel Channel show based on the book, leads a trip to Ethiopia in the spring that visits many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as the capital, Addis Ababa.

Read more at LA Times.

Related:
Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela – UNESCO World Heritage Site



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Post-Susan Rice Debacle: What is the Diaspora’s Role in Shaping U.S.-Africa Relations?

(Photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Now that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the only candidate with the most intimate Africa knowledge and experience, is no longer being considered for the top job at the State Department, we can begin to focus our attention on how to actually improve the Diaspora’s role as participants of the conversations that help craft future policies affecting U.S.-Africa and U.S.-Ethiopia relations.

In 2013, Tadias magazine will be hosting a series of special discussions on the topic with OP-ED articles from our readers. 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 this issue that is waiting to be explored, including people-to-people, business-to-business, investment, education, health, science, technology, arts, culture, music, movies, books and history themes.

Please contact us at info@tadias.com if you would like to participate in the discussion.

Related:
UPDATE: The Horn of Africa Debate About Susan Rice

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Stronger America Needs Stronger Ethiopia

Emperor Haile Selassie Chatting with President Franklin Roosevelt. (Photo: Corbis Images)

Addis Fortune via AllAfrica.com
OPINION

BY MIKIAS MERHATSIDK

On his return voyage from the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the then United States president, Franklin Roosevelt, held a successive one hour port-side chat with three kings. Aboard the heavy cruiser, USS Quincy, docked off the Great Bitter Lake of the Egyptian coast, the President discussed with King Farouk of Egypt, King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the king of kings, Emperor Haileselassie of Ethiopia. This was the first face to face encounter between the leaders of Ethiopia and the United States.

Subsequently, the Emperor was able to meet with four US presidents in his six official visits to the United States, making him the leader with the highest number of official visits to Washington in the 20th century.

Of course, the Ethio-American relation goes way back to the time of Emperor Menelik and President Theodore Roosevelt. The United States was one of the pioneer countries to send a mission to Addis Abeba, after the victory of Adwa. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has seen highs and lows.

Read more at AllAfrica.com.

Another Statue Controversy in Ethiopia? Unconfirmed Reports Fuel Online Buzz

In the following article for Global Voices, a lecturer at Arba Minch University, writes about the online Ethiopian community reaction to the recent unconfirmed reports circulating on the web that iconic statues of Abune Petros, shown above, and Emperor Menelik II might be destroyed because of the construction of an Addis Ababa rail tunnel. (Photo: Abune Petros Square in Addis Ababa. The imposing monument is dedicated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Bishop who was executed by the Italian occupation forces on July 29th, 1936 in front of a large crowd at the edge of this very square/Creative Commons)

Global Voices

It was in 1896 that Ethiopian forces led by Emperor Menelik II had defeated an Italian army with better contemporary military technology at the Battle of Adwa. Subsequently, the victorious Emperor had brought in a range of technologies including railway to transform his country. For his triumph at Adwa and for his endeavor to change Ethiopia in his own ways, a statue in his honor was erected at the center of Addis Ababa called Arada.

Almost forty years later, in 1935, the Italians launched a new but a prearranged military campaign endorsed by their then belligerent leaders. The Italians managed to have a brief military occupation of Ethiopia but faced a staunch resistance from Ethiopians.

Pope Abune Petros, who was among the first Popes of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was the leading figure of the resistance in Ethiopia. The Italians never liked what he was doing as a patriot and tried to stop him. He was forced to appear before General Rodolfo Graziani to submit and declare the Ethiopian patriots as bandits. He refused to comply with their demand and condemned the aggressors instead. He asked Ethiopians to struggle for their freedom. Finally, the Italians executed him in public. As it was done with Emperor Menelik II, a statue of Abune Petros was built at the center of Addis Ababa as reminiscent of his unwavering stand for his country.

However, unconfirmed reports are circulating online that the two iconic statues found on an historical thoroughfare might get wrecked due to an Addid Ababa rail tunnel construction project. The reports have not been received well by some netizens.

Read more at Global Voices Online.

Tadias Magazine Endorses President Barack Obama for Re-election

We endorse President Barack Obama for re-election. (Photograph by © Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Sunday, November 4th, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As Ethiopian Americans prepare to cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election on Tuesday, regardless of the choice of candidate, we urge our readers who have not voted early to vote on November 6th and to exercise their citizenship right to participate in the democratic process.

Four years ago when we backed Barack Obama for President, we were motivated not only by the historic nature of the 2008 election, but also by the enthusiastic, grassroots activism that his candidacy had generated in our community. Although we cannot agree with every decision that the Obama administration has made in the last four years, both domestic and foreign, there can be no doubt that the Ethiopian Diaspora’s contribution to the American tapestry has received more national attention in the same period than at any previous time in history, both through appointments to key administration positions as well as honoring innovators and high achieving professionals.

President Obama could do better to articulate and encourage the culture of free press, government transparency and accountability in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa. However, it is ultimately our responsibility as citizens to make our voices heard. Regardless of who wins this election, we hope that political activists in our community tone down the non-constructive criticism that prevents all of us from responsibly engaging in the democratic system.

Broadly speaking President Obama’s accomplishments have been impressive, including the passage of the most sweeping health care reforms since 1965, preventing another “Great Depression” and saving the American automobile industry from demise. The economy that was on a doomsday downward spiral when he took office in 2009 has rebounded to a positive territory with the latest jobs report showing “persistent economic growth.”

Most importantly we believe President Obama has remained true to the spirit of his historic 2008 campaign to be a leader of the people, by the people for the people. It goes without saying that President Obama has earned our vote. We urge Ethiopian Americans to support his re-election!
—-
Video: Watch President Obama makes his Case in Ohio

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Update:
President Obama Wins Second Term

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Protesters Show Bad Taste at Meles Memorial in Harlem | In Defense of Susan Rice

Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was remembered at a memorial service held at the legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Saturday, October 27, 2012. In the following article posted on his blog, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, who attended the ceremony, strongly condemned what a he called "disrespectful remarks usually by anonymous individuals" on certain Ethiopian websites, and a protest in bad taste by "a very small group," directed at the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Elizabeth Rice, for paying a personal tribute to the late Ethiopian PM. (Photo: Getty Images)

By David Shinn

Together with three other former U.S. ambassadors to Ethiopia, I attended the memorial service for Meles Zenawi on 27 October 2012 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem section of New York. Among the persons who made remarks were Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

I was saddened by some of the vituperative and just plain disrespectful remarks (usually by anonymous individuals) that subsequently appeared on Ethiopian websites in response to the remarks of Ambassador Rice. While I was not invited to make remarks, I have no doubt that whatever I might have said would also have been harshly criticized by these same individuals. Like Ambassador Rice, I have disagreed both as a representative of the U.S. government and as a private individual with some of the policies of Prime Minister Meles. But in spite of these disagreements, I always respected Meles as a person and the office that he held.

The event at the Abyssinian Baptist Church was a memorial to a deceased person; it was not a political rally. It was the wrong time and place to express such hostility. But lest the readers of the hostile blog postings think this was a major protest rally, let me make one point crystal clear. I walked from my hotel in Harlem to the Church on Saturday morning and passed across the street from all SIX protesters at fifteen minutes before nine, when the service began. At the conclusion of the service I returned to my hotel at about noon. The number of protestors had grown to between ten and twelve. Perhaps there were several more present when the service was underway and they decided to leave before noon. But this was a very small group of protestors.

As for the remarks made by Ambassador Rice, I urge that you read them yourself and make up your own mind. Click here to access them.

In the 12 hours after this posting as Hurricane Sandy hits the Mid-Atlantic and New England region, some 1,700 persons have read this item and 12 of you responded. Some of the replies agreed with me; others did not. Since none of the responses contained truly offensive language, I posted all 12 without editorial change. (I will not post responses that contain offensive language. I also congratulate those of you who have the courage to include your name.)

The memorials to Meles are over. New Ethiopian leaders are in place. I deeply hope the new team will open the political process in Ethiopia. At a minimum, it deserves in my humble opinion as an outside observer a chance to demonstrate how it can serve the people of Ethiopia.

Read more at davidshinn.blogspot.com.

Related:
Meles Zenawi Remembered in Harlem, New York (All Africa)
Photo Journal From Addis Ababa: Nation Bids Farewell to Meles

Editorial: Regarding PM Hailemariam’s VOA Interview

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, pictured at the 67th United Nations General Assembly meeting on Friday, September 28, 2012, spoke to VOA's Peter Heinlein in New York a day ahead of his UN speech. (Photo: UN/Marco Castro)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: October 1st, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In his first interview with Voice of America since he was sworn into office, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn suggested that he will be doubling down on the government’s controversial policy of jailing journalists and opposition leaders.

In a wide-ranging 30-minute discussion with Peter Heinlein conducted in New York, where the PM was attending the U.N.’s General Assembly meeting last week, Hailemariam defended the continued imprisonment of several journalists, including Eskinder Nega, on the basis of national security, repeating the state’s claims that the journalist had been living a “double life,” or as he called it, “wearing two hats.”

“Our national security interest cannot be compromised by somebody having two hats. We have to tell them they can have only one hat which is legal and the legal way of doing things, be it in journalism or opposition discourse, but if they opt to have two mixed functions, we are clear to differentiate the two,” he said.

It is disingenuous to silence critique by journalists and opposition members while maintaining that the nation exercises a “multi-party system.” The PM’s comments remind us of a poster by the provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei responding to a similar accusation by the Chinese Communist Party authorities who called him a dissident artist. Weiwei retorted back: “I call them a dissident government.”

We urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his position on freedom of the press and to ensure that if Ethiopia is indeed to become a functioning multi-party system then the voice of the opposition, including criticism from journalists, is upheld.

Related:
Ethiopia’s New PM Says Policies Will Remain Constant (VOA News)
Editorial: New PM Should Seize Missed Opportunities of Past 20 Years (TADIAS)
Hailemariam Desalegn Sworn in as PM (AP)

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video: Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn Addresses the 2012 UN General Assembly

Editorial: New PM Should Seize Missed Opportunities of Past 20 Years

Ethiopia’s new prime minister was sworn into office on Friday, September 21, 2012. Hailemariam Desalegn is a former deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister under the late PM Meles Zenawi. (Photo credit: World Economic Forum on Africa )

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Saturday, September 22, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As Ethiopians welcome a new era of political leadership with the swearing in of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 47, who took office on Friday, we urge opposition members, for the sake of the country, to show goodwill towards the new leader.

We also remind the new Prime Minister that the respect and trust of the public is for him to earn. Hailemariam comes into office at a precarious period for the country where the time requires for wise leadership and collective responsibility. The new PM may be the chair of the majority party, but as prime minister he is ultimately the leader of all Ethiopians. And, as such, should be open, from day one, to entertain not only the concerns of his supporters but also those of his critics.

Although Hailemariam must eventfully rise to the occasion, we are mindful that he is embarking on a job that was suddenly entrusted to him and he deserves time and benefit of the doubt to prove himself.

If the new Prime Minister is bold enough, he could possibly carve a legacy of his own worth remembering by future generations. There is a very short window of opportunity for him not only to continue and promote the historic economic achievements of his predecessor, but also to seize upon the missed opportunities of the past twenty years in advancing human rights, government transparency, free press, and other democratic principles that are the building blocks of a fair and open society.

Even though we are encouraged, for example, by the recent release of the two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, we remain disappointed that several of our Ethiopian journalist colleagues, including Eskinder Nega, remain in prison awaiting justice. And we hope it bothers the conscience of the new Prime Minister that Ethiopia is considered one of the biggest jailers of journalists in Africa.

Moving forward, positive measures of genuine national reconciliation could inspire confidence, both at home and abroad, in helping to build a nation that is governed communally with the consent of all Ethiopian citizens. The tasks are challenging and we encourage PM Hailemariam to lead Ethiopia into a new era of respect for human rights as we continue the country’s strong economic progress.

Related:
Hailemariam Desalegn Sworn in as PM (AP)

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Ethiopia: Why the Secret & Confusion Regarding Meles Zenawi’s Absence?

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, pictured above at the World Economic Forum in Addis Ababa in May 2012, has not been seen in public for more than 40 days. An Ethiopian official has told the BBC that he is in "a good condition" and "recuperating," but gave no new details. (Photo: WEF)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Since the Ethiopian Ministry of Information had announced weeks ago that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been prescribed “sick leave” the public has not been informed of much else. Today BBC Focus on Africa Program reported that it had been told by government spokesman, Bereket Simon, that the PM was “in a good condition and recuperating,” but that “it was ‘not useful’ to provide more details.”

As the news embargo continues, so does the speculation of whether the PM is alive or not. Without access to free media and government transparency in the country, the public is enduring endless rumors and counter rumors emanating from competing political interest groups.

What is known for certain is that Meles Zenawi has been incapacitated from carrying out his official duties for more than a month, and he may or he may not return to office. But at this point the issue is neither about a single individual or a single party, nor even about political differences. It is disconcerting that 40 days after the head of the nation’s government vanished from public view, Ethiopians still have no answers as to how long he will remain absent. Why do officials find it acceptable to continue to keep the public in perpetual darkness?

If the country is governed by its constitution, the current secrecy makes no sense. Most importantly, if it is not known when the Prime Minister will be able to resume his duties, an official announcement must be made as to who will replace the disabled PM and under what legal authority? What comes next should not be handled behind closed doors. The government is obligated to answer these questions: Where is PM Meles Zenawi? What is the nature of his illness? When should the public expect him back at work? And who will assume responsibility for leading the nation in the event that he is incapacitated? The public deserves to know.

Related:
Listen: VOA Amharic – Legal Scholar on the PM’s Absence & Succession Plan (Audio)


Ethiopians Still Looking for Answers on Meles (CPJ)
What Happens If Meles Zenawi Can No Longer Govern? (VOA)
Where is Meles Zenawi? Ethiopians Don’t Know (CPJ)
Ethiopia’s Missing PM: What’s The Truth About Meles Zenawi’s Health? (TADIAS)
Ethiopia Bans Newspaper After Stories On Meles Illness (Bloomberg News)
Media group: Ethiopia Curbs Reports on PM’s Health (CBS News)
The Zenawi Paradox: An Ethiopian Leader’s Good and Terrible Legacy (The Atlantic Magazine)

Ethiopia’s Missing PM: What’s The Truth About Meles Zenawi’s Health?

Although Ethiopian officials claim that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is on "sick leave," receiving medical attention at an undisclosed hospital outside of Ethiopia, rumors continue to grow about his condition and who may replace him. (Photo: AFP)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The official secrecy shrouding the state of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health, and whether or not he is able to resume work, is contributing to the frenzy of speculation not only about his medical condition, but also about the future direction of the country.

The endless stream of unconfirmed reports are the result of a failure by the office of the spokesperson of the Ethiopian government and lack of free press in the country. So far, the public has been vaguely informed that the Prime Minister is taking “sick leave” but will remain in power while he deals with an unspecified illness.

The question, however, is no longer about one person. It’s rather about the seat of power that he occupies. It is still not clear why it took Ethiopian authorities five days to hold a press conference on the PM’s unexplained absence, and that international news agencies broke the news before any official statements were made. Even after the press conference, the Ethiopian public learned very little about the actual cause of Meles’ disappearance nor how long he is to be away from office.

Where is PM Meles Zenawi? What is the nature of his illness? Who are his doctors? How long will he remain on sick leave? How do we know he is even alive?

In these uncertain times, the continuing dearth of accurate information is dangerous. Ethiopians can not afford to gamble the future of the country with rumors and counter rumors. It is high time for the ruling party to level with the Ethiopian people and be forthcoming about the exact status of the country’s leader.
—-
Related:
What Happens If Meles Zenawi Can No Longer Govern? (VOA)
Mystery of the sick and missing PM (AFP)
Ethiopian weekly blocked for reporting on Meles’ health (CPJ)
Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi ‘in hospital’ (BBC)
Fears are Growing for the Health of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (The Telegraph)
Ethiopia’s Deputy PM Says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Is Ill (VOA News)
Ethiopia Says Meles Is Ill Amid African Union Summit Absence (Bloomberg)
Ethiopia Leader’s Absence Raises Health Questions (ABC News)

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Conviction of Eskinder Nega

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, has released the following comment regarding the conviction Wednesday in Ethiopia of journalist Eskinder Nega - pictured above. (Photo : CPJ)

Opinion:

By Patrick Leahy, United States Senator for Vermont

“The Ethiopian Government’s use of vague anti-terrorism laws to silence the press has been widely and rightly condemned. The conviction of Eskinder Nega and other journalists, who are accused of nothing more than the peaceful exercise of rights clearly recognized under international law, is the work of a regime that fears the democratic aspirations of its own people. Over the years, United States administrations have provided Prime Minister Meles a veneer of legitimacy due to our shared interest in countering real terrorist threats, but he has exploited the relationship for his own political ends. It is time to put the values and principles that distinguish us from terrorists, above aid to a government that misuses its institutions to silence its critics.”
# # # # #

Opinion

The Conviction of Eskinder Nega: Press Freedom Advocates Condemn ‘Politicized Trial’

June 27, 2012

The undersigned organizations strongly condemned the conviction of blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega on terrorism charges earlier today.

The conviction represents the criminalization of peaceful dissent in Ethiopia and is a clear violation of the rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Nega was found guilty of “participation in a terrorist organization” and “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act” and is facing life in prison.

Nega is the fifth journalist in Ethiopia to be jailed for terrorism-related crimes in the past six months. In April, he was awarded the prestigious 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honours writers that have been persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Eskinder Nega has long been a thorn in the side of the Ethiopian government. He was jailed along with his wife and fellow journalist Serkalem Fasil for 17 months in the aftermath of Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 elections. Their son was born in prison. Their publishing house was closed and Nega has since been banned from journalism, but continued to write for online media and speak critically about the ruling party in Ethiopia.

Nega has been in jail since September 2011. He was arrested shortly after he criticized the government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to jail opposition figures and other journalists, including Woubshet Taye of the now-closed Awramba Times, Reyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper, and Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who were arrested while reporting on rebel activity in the Ogaden region. Schibbye, Persson, Alemu and Taye all received years-long prison sentences at the end of 2011 and in early 2012.

Signatories

Amnesty International

Committee to Free Eskinder Nega

Committee to Protect Journalists

Freedom Now

Human Rights Watch

International Press Institute

Media Legal Defence Initiative

The National Press Club

PEN American Center

WAN-IFRA

Ethiopia Shows That Congress Is Right to Be Worried About UN Control of the Internet

The recent telecommunications law in Ethiopia that restricts the use of Internet-based voice and video communications is continuing to generate online discussion. The following article is written by Steve DelBianco, Executive Director at NetChoice.

Opinion
By Steve DelBianco

Today a key committee in the US Congress approved a resolution opposing United Nations “control over the Internet.” While some in the Internet community have dismissed the bipartisan effort as mere political grandstanding, recent actions by some UN Member States show that lawmakers have good reason to be worried.

Last month, UN voting member Ethiopia made it a crime — punishable by 15 years in prison — to make calls over the Internet. The Ethiopian government cited national security concerns, but also made it clear that it wants to protect the revenues of the state-owned telecom monopoly. (those guys really hate it when people use free Internet calling services like Skype and Google Talk)

The news out of Ethiopia is just the latest indication that many UN members don’t think too highly of the free and open Internet, or of its multi-stakeholder governance model. Aside from the Ethiopian law, we’ve heard a drumbeat of news about governments seeking to regulate and tax the Internet through the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

So while some Internet insiders snicker at Congress and its nonbinding resolution, I give props to those lawmakers for having the courage and savvy to focus on this issue.

Over and over again in recent months, United Nations supporters — including ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure — have publicly scoffed at the notion that the WCIT and the renegotiation of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) treaty will lead to UN control of the Internet.

But the words and actions of ITU member states, not to mention the text of the proposals they are offering in advance of WCIT, reveal that governments and multi-governmental bodies openly covet a bigger role in Internet governance.

One of the key areas for debate at WCIT will be how developing country telecom monopolies can regain the revenue they lose when their citizens use free internet calling services. With the news out of Ethiopia, we’ve seen how at least one ITU member proposes to solve that problem.

It’s frightening to consider applying wire-line telecom regulations and tariffs to international Internet traffic. Those regulations have the potential to dramatically impact traffic flows, censor content, and raise access costs for precisely the same populations that stand to benefit most from a free and open Internet.

In fact, states like Ethiopia should embrace the broad economic upside of letting their businesses and citizens take advantage of convenient and inexpensive Internet communications. That could mean less revenue for a state-owned telecom monopoly, but to maximize GDP you want to encourage Gross Domestic Product — not Government-Directed Profits.
Now, these tariffs and regulations become even more insidious when you consider the byzantine ITU and UN policymaking process, as I described here.

The name of the game in big multi-governmental bodies is coalition building, or what we used to call “horse trading”. In the one nation/one vote world, the only way for powerful countries like China to get anything done is to buy allies by offering to support issues like economic aid and — you guessed it — telecom tariffs.

So picture a world where some portion of Internet oversight resides with the UN, ITU, or some new multinational body. Now imagine how easy it will be for China to scratch Ethiopia’s back on something like telecom tariffs, in exchange for a vote favoring Internet censorship. Not only is this possible, it’s precisely what countries like China and Russia want to see happen.

Before we embrace the rule of ‘one nation/one vote’ to govern the Internet, let’s understand how many of those governments will vote once the UN makes the rules. And they’re not being all that secretive about it — Vladimir Putin wants to vest the UN with “International control of the Internet.”

In the International environment, the United States is an easy target and nonbinding Congressional resolutions are causally dismissed. But wherever in the world you live, it’s worth hearing Washington’s alarm and knowing that the threat is real.
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To learn more, visit the blog maintained by Steve DelBianco here.

Related:
Crack Down on Skype Raising Eyebrows

Tikur Retold: ‘Why I am in Awe of Teddy Afro’s Music Video’

Teddy Afro’s new music video Tikur Sew has generated varied reaction on the Internet forums and elsewhere. Below is an opinion piece inspired by the video. The author, Teddy Fikre, is Founder and Editor of Browncondor.com.

Opinion
By Teddy Fikre

The next revolution was sang by Teddy Afro and directed by Tamirat Mekonen; this weekend, 65 of our people wrote a revolution on the back of Busboys and Poet napkins.

Black. It is a color often disabused. It is a hue seldom given credit. For too long, black has been seen as a curse. Even by her own people, black has been a color of death and a the perfection of misery. Black has been given a bad rap, instead of being treated as royalty, black has been abused as the color of disease. This pernicious disease of the mind; we live in a world where black is prostituted as the essence of debauchery while other colors are praised as the hue of God’s perfection. But black is the mother of all colors and the children of all hues, without black there can be no white, black is what you get when you fuse the colors of the rainbow. Black is perfect. Black is me.

It is for this reason that I am in awe of Teddy Afro’s “Tikur Sew” music video. Most don’t understand it yet, but what Teddy Afro is singing about is not merely a retelling of Adwa, Teddy Afro is chanting the melody of a black revolution. Never in my lifetime did I think I would witness a sea of Ethiopians in a soccer stadium—30,000 strong—singing “Tikur Sew” and being proud to say “I am black”. Yet, one song by Teddy Afro and a corresponding video by Tamirat Mekonen has revolutionized black and now we stand in awe and love our blackness. This is the happiest moment of my life because black has been raised from poverty to prosperity. Teddy Afro repainted the canvass of the world with tikur and managed to burn into the psyche of Ethiopians and black people as a whole the true beauty of black.

Nearly 60 years ago, Thurgood Marshall changed the glide path of humanity when he had the audacity to challenge the mendacity of “Seperate but Equal”. The most powerful means he turned to when he challenged this pernicious law was a study his team conducted of the evils of racism. They turned to black children less than 10 years old and gave them two dolls. One doll was white and the other was black; all the black children immediately gravitated to the white dolls while they abused the black dolls. The depravity of bigotry was engrained in the minds of these black children that the color black represented all the ills of the world while white was the personification of good. The irony of all ironies was that these children were fed into their spirits the negative light of black by their very own parents. When I say that racism only exists because it is espoused and propagated by black folk I don’t say it out of hyperbole—the biggest obstacles in the way of black folk are black folk themselves. The Klu Klux Klan has nothing on rappers like Soulja Boy and gangster rappers when it comes to destroying black hope.

Now you know why Teddy Afro’s Tikur Sew is all powerful. Teddy Afro has become our Thurgood Marshall, he is dispelling the idea that black is evil from the mind of our children. I hope in due time we will stop wearing black to funerals and only wear black to our celebrations. In due time, we will stop referring to dark skinned Ethiopians as “koolies” and accept them as the closest thing to the color of God. In due time, we will not be repulsed as a people when the winner of Miss Ethiopia is from Gambella and accept her as the truest sense of Ethiopianism. This is a revolution my friends, one fired without a single bullet and started with eskista instead of dead bodies piling up in Bole and beyond.

It was for this reason that I organized “I am Tikur” event at Busboys and Poets this weekend. I had a vision of retelling Tikur and showing to the world that black is beautiful and that we should be proud to say we are black. Even though I got endless emails and text messages saying “I am not black, we are special”, for the most part the vast majority of the responses I received were positive. My people, children of Ethiopia old and young alike, started to change their Facebook status updates with “I am Tikur” and made the “I am Tikur” poster their profile pictures. Endless tweets were sent with #IamTikur and by the time the event at Busboys and Poets launched, a sea of our people and others who love our mother Ethiopia came out to celebrate our blackness and oneness with the African Diaspora and African-Americans.

Read more at browncondor.com.

Related:
Teddy Afro’s Tikur Sew Music Video Launched (Ezega)
Tamirat Mekonen: The Person Behind Teddy Afro’s Music Video ‘Tikur Sew’ (TADIAS)

Could Africa be World’s Next Manufacturing Hub?

Chinese shoe maker Huajian has built a factory outside Adis Ababa, Ethiopia, employing some 550 local and Chinese workers. (CNN)

Opinion:
By Hinh T. Dinh, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Hinh T. Dinh currently serves as a Lead Economist in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank in Washington DC. He is the lead author of the “Light Manufacturing in Africa – Targeted Policies to Enhance Private Investment and Create Jobs” World Bank report.

Washington D.C. (CNN) — With domestic labor costs rising, many Asian manufacturing producers are now looking to relocate their factories in other regions of the world. Could Africa replace Asia and/or China as the world’s next manufacturing hub?

To be sure, Africa has a number of manufacturing advantages that it has yet to realize. Besides low labor costs and abundant resources, these include duty-free and quota-free access to U.S. and EU markets for light manufactures under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and the Cotonou Agreement.

Is this enough to offset Sub-Saharan Africa’s generally low labor productivity relative to that of its Asian competitors?

Read more at CNN.

The ‘African Century’ Can Be Real: We Can be Food-Secure Within a Generation

President Barack Obama sits with Ghana's President John Atta Mills, right, and President Yayi Boni of Benin during a luncheon on Food Security at the G-8 Summit at Camp David, MD., on Saturday, May 19, 2012. (AP /Charles Dharapak)

The Wall Street Journal

By MIKE MACK

The continent can be food-secure within a generation. That’s a boon for business and humanity alike.

Camp David has been the home to many historic moments, from triumphs in Middle East diplomacy to steely Cold War planning. The scene I witnessed there on Saturday—when African leaders from Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania stood side-by-side with G-8 leaders—deserves to be celebrated as another landmark: the global recognition that Africa has the potential to be transformed through agricultural development.

Over the last decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were not in Asia, but in Africa, where the middle class is expected to grow to 100 million by 2015 from 60 million today. As African incomes rise and cities grow, an emerging urban consumer class is demanding a better diet, with more protein and greater variety. Will Africa be able to provide it? Most Africans still live on less than $2 a day, and famines in the Horn of Africa and grinding poverty in other African countries remain a focus of international concern. But there is now the realistic hope that Africa can start feeding itself and become an export powerhouse equal to its size. Brazil has won headlines around the world with its explosive farm exports, with total crop values more than quadrupling in recent years. Africa’s potential is arguably greater: The total amount of arable land in Africa is more than three times that of Brazil.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Members of Congress Urge Meles to End Media Repression

Journalist Abebe Gelaw protests during Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's appearance at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC on Friday, May 18, 2012. (Click here to watch the video).

By Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator

Two members of the U.S. Congress, a Republican and a Democrat, have publicly voiced indignation at Ethiopia’s persecution of journalists under the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, with both declaring that stability and security are enhanced by press freedom.

Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, published a statement Monday in the Congressional Record, the official daily journal of the U.S Congress, following the Camp David G8 Summit last weekend during which President Barack Obama convened four African leaders, including Meles of Ethiopia, for talks on food security in Africa.

In a letter to Obama, CPJ urged the president to engage Meles on ending Ethiopian censorship practices–such as suppressing independent reporting and denying media access to sensitive areas–that undermine international responses to food crises.

“I want to take this opportunity to address the necessity for the United States to help foster stable and democratic nations as partners as we build multilateral coalitions to tackle global issues,” Begich said in his statement. Ethiopia is a key partner of the United States in counterterrorism and regional stability and a major recipient of U.S. humanitarian assistance. Recalling Obama’s 2011 commitment to a G8 declaration on democracy, Begich declared that “as the events in North Africa and the Middle East have shown, supporting reliable autocrats who are helpful on matters of security and economics at the expense of human dignity, basic democratic rights, and access to economic opportunity is more perilous than ever to long-term U.S. national security interests.”

Begich called for the end of the persecution of independent journalists and dissidents rounded up in Ethiopia in the wake of the Arab Spring. “To foster the benefits of a diverse citizenry, the many political prisoners and journalists should be released,” he said. The senator urged colleagues in the U.S. Congress to join him in helping the citizens and government of the Horn of Africa country achieve a national consensus on the value of the free flow of information and make press freedom, as outlined in Ethiopia’s constitution, a reality. “Such are hallmarks of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and they provide a return of accountability and transparency to both American taxpayers and Ethiopian citizens,” he added.

On Friday, Rep. Edward Royce sent a public letter to Meles in which he expressed “deep concern with the Republic of Ethiopia’s disregard for press freedom.” Royce, a California Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on terrorism, said “national security must not cripple press freedom.” Expressing concern over the prosecution of 11 journalists on terror charges, Royce said that “the judicial process clearly fails to meet international standards,” citing as an example the government’s use of national public media to pressure the courts.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Ethiopian expats gathered near Camp David to protest the country’s slide into authoritarianism, according to news reports. Washington is home to one of the largest Ethiopian diaspora communities in the world, a population that includes three Ethiopian journalists charged in absentia with terrorism in relation to their work, according to CPJ research. A fourth journalist, now languishing in a prison in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was educated in the Washington area before returning to Ethiopia and launching one of the country’s first independent newspapers. The former editor of another independent Ethiopian paper also lives in Washington after fleeing his homeland in the face of government intimidation.
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Mohamed Keita is advocacy coordinator for CPJ’s Africa Program. He regularly gives interviews in French and English to international news media on press freedom issues in Africa and has participated in several panels. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ.

Related:
Alexandria News Outlet Loosens Shackles of Censorship for Ethiopians (The Alexandria Times)

Charlayne Hunter-Gault Reflects on Journalists Serkalem Fasil & Eskinder Nega

Charlayne Hunter-Gault (pictured above with Serkalem Fasil at PEN America’s annual gala dinner in New York on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012) is the author of "To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement," published by Roaring Brook Press and the New York Times Co. She was a foreign correspondent for NPR and PBS. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Opinion
By: Charlayne Hunter-Gault | The Root

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crying onstage in front of a crowd is not my thing, but a few days ago, as I stood next to Serkalem Fasil, I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was a bittersweet moment because Fasil had just received the prestigious PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award on behalf of her husband, Eskinder Nega.

He faces life in prison on charges of terrorism and incitement to violent revolt after writing an article discussing the implications of the Arab Spring uprising for democracy in Ethiopia. And Nega is not alone in being on the receiving end of an ongoing government crackdown on independent journalists in Ethiopia, many of whom are also being silenced by arrests and imprisonment. Many have fled the country to keep hope (and themselves) alive.

As the emcee for the evening, I was scheduled to make brief remarks and close the evening, but instead I was moved to ask the indulgence of the audience of some 500 writers, editors and publishers. Then I poured out my heart, so full, since this was the first time I had seen Fasil since 2007, when I visited her in Kality Prison, just outside of Addis Ababa.

Kality is where she and her husband, Nega, were then serving time for what the government called terrorism but which was, in fact, an instance in which independent journalists were doing their job reporting the news as honestly as they could. In this case they were reporting on the government’s crackdown on opposition parties in the 2005 parliamentary election in which some 200 opposition supporters were killed, followed by mass arrests of journalists and others not aligned with the government…

As a mother, I was keen to know about their son. Fasil told me through an interpreter that today he is strong. I asked his name, and she told me with the kind of smile that brings more moisture back to my eyes, “His name is Nafkot, which means ‘longing.’ ”

It is time for me to return to Ethiopia and try to see the prime minister, to plead yet again for the journalists’ freedom and for their right to free expression. And maybe, just maybe, in the interim, when Prime Minister Zenawi attends a G-8 Summit Food Security at Camp David on May 19, American officials can weigh in, too, on the importance not only of strategic partnerships but also of freedom of speech in a democracy.

Read the full article at The Root.

Video: PEN America Honors Eskinder Nega

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WEF Africa 2012: Ethiopia Coming Into the Light on the World Stage

Bekele Geleta (right) is secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and a co-chair of this year's World Economic Forum on Africa meeting currently underway in Ethiopia. (Photo: WEF)

Opinion
By Bekele Geleta

Published: 10 May 2012

When I was a young boy growing up in a rural village in western Ethiopia, famine gripped my country. In 1984, when I became the secretary-general of the Ethiopian Red Cross, we faced the worst famine our country had ever seen. So much so that our staff and volunteers had to increase support to reach over one million starving people.

Today, as I am preparing to co-chair the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, parts of the continent, such as the Horn of Africa and the countries of the Sahel, are again facing potentially catastrophic food crises. We need to ask why.

During the 2007-2008 global food crisis, the system failed because no one predicted it: possibly because 2008 was, in reality, a record year for food production. Then, in late 2010, the Kenya Red Cross flagged a looming food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Not many listened. In 2011, the World Food Programme and the International Food Policy Research Institute confirmed that Africa was again spiralling into the cycle of drought, high food prices and famine. In June of that year the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation moved and famine was once again declared. But the international community did not respond quickly enough. There was an apparent lack of action – some believe that funds had already been committed elsewhere; some laid blame on a lack of media focus and many cited the complex layers of socio-political factors that are rarely considered or discussed openly. For example, a lack of food reserves were part of the problem – Tanzania and Ethiopia barred the export of maize.

Ethiopia, like many African countries, has an economy which is largely based on agriculture, representing around 40 percent of GDP and the livelihoods of 77 percent of the population, thus the lives of many are dependent on rainfall. Our lands can be arid and we often face food shortages when the harvests fail. Small-scale farmers are often the hardest hit and the safety nets to protect them are still limited. More broadly, across Africa, the key issue of access to finance has not been addressed – 80 percent of the population in the agricultural sector is not served by the private capital market and so depends on official development assistance. Policies to ensure equal opportunities for global trade are non-existent and commodity trading is creating price instability and food shortages despite record production levels.

The point, of course, is that food security in Africa needs a long-term strategy and a multi-sector approach. By building strong communities we create strong economies and ultimately, contribute to political stability. By creating sustainable livelihoods in agriculture and other sectors we can create sustainable economies and the reverse is equally true.

It is my hope that the World Economic Forum on Africa will provide an important opportunity for governments and key decision-makers to think creatively, and engage with and form partnerships with the African business, corporate and humanitarian sector. Greater investment in seeds, tools and the latest farming and irrigation technology would do a great deal more in the long-run than sporadic injections of emergency funding when the crops fail. We need to break the seemingly endless cycle of hunger, suffering and dependence across the continent by encouraging greater investment in our infrastructure, schools, healthcare, agricultural sectors and small businesses. The days of quick fixes are over and we all need to pull together for the sake of future generations.

Potential investors at the World Economic Forum on Africa should be especially mindful that investment in good, solid infrastructure can greatly accelerate national prosperity, provide a boost to civil society, and push forward reforms across the continent. Indeed, this year’s historical gathering of global leaders and captains of industry should not just be viewed as an opportunity for the private sector and for individuals to make gains, but to also look at the role they can play in the development of people and communities. Everyone gains from prosperous, healthy and self-reliant populations.

Ethiopia is a good example. Slowly but surely it is starting to be viewed through a different lens. The promotion of our country as a land of promise and opportunity rather than one of misfortune and suffering will encourage much-needed investment, and inspire Ethiopia’s youth to throw off the shackles of the past and stride confidently into global business and political arenas. As one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in Africa, with a nationwide healthcare system that is cited as a model for emulation, our goal now should be to help lift our own people out of poverty and support development across Africa.

This is an exciting chapter in my life’s story and as I take part in this historic meeting in the country of my birth I believe more than ever in Africa’s potential to shape its own transformation.
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Source: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Africa’s Transformation on Display at World Economic Forum (VOA)


Elsie Kanza, Director for Africa World Economic Forum, and Mekonnen Haddis, Chief Advisor of the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, at World Economic Forum on Africa pre-meeting press conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 7th, 2012. (Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum)

Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa

May 10th, 2012

The pace of change across Africa may be about to accelerate, driven by advances in technology that are just breaking onto the scene. The World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa provides a peek at the coming transformation.

Africa’s big guns attended the forum. Seven heads of state were at the top of a long list of luminaries such as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

But the big ideas were coming from relative unknowns, names like Ory Okolloh, Bright Simons and Omobola Johnson, who were featured speakers at a session on Africa’s innovators.

Young developers driving change

Okolloh, policy manager for Google South Africa, explained what Google is doing with a group she called “young developers.”

“We have set up something called Google Tech User Groups in more than 30 countries like DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast]. Establishing a footprint, and giving these developers who are doing what they were doing anyway, but without the resources, without some of the skills around how to improve an application for instance, or to better improve a user interface [or] how to get an app to market,” said Okolloh.

Bright Simons is president of Mpedigree Network in Ghana. Concerned about the deaths of 2,000 people a day from fake medical products, his firm came up with a way to help consumers know that the medicines they buy are genuine.

“We’ve been trying in about six countries in Africa to create a mechanism where manufacturers and distributors of medicine can implant a unique ID, identification tags on each pack of medicine, so when the consumer buys the medicine, that comes with a free text message or a free MMS, using a cameraphone to verify instantly whether the particular medicine they are holding is likely to kill them or save their lives,” said Simons.

Major wave of innovation on horizon

Omobola Johnson is Nigeria’s minister of communications technology. She said her government is working with the tech giants to allow people with good ideas the chance to do great things.

“It’s the responsibility of us as policy makers to look at, ‘How do we create that environment that allows those innovators to thrive and succeed?’ Google is working with us, creating islands of sanity where people can think, and taking ideas into reality and commercialization,” she said.

Okolloh said the online world is helping to break down social barriers that have prevented some Africans from achieving success.

“It frees people from waiting for someone to make things happen for them, which has been a big challenge for young people especially. And, that’s why they’re gravitating to technology so much,” she said. “It’s the one space where you don’t have to come from the right family, or the right tribe, or have the right connection to make it. And it’s an area old people don’t understand, so they can’t dominate it.”

Okolloh admits that, as a woman, she also loves technology because it neutralizes gender stereotypes.

“I’m not sure I’d be as successful as I am as a woman in a profession other than in technology. Because it tends to be a bit neutral. If you have the tools, if you can code, it’s a lot more sort of merit, and recognizes talent.”

These innovators say that in as little as five years, a combination of fresh ideas and demographic imperatives will begin to revolutionize Africa. As several participants at the economic forum noted, half of the continent’s population is under 30, and they are demanding change.
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Related
Ethiopia’s Meles Blames African Corruption on Foreign Investors (VOA)

Editorial: Ethiopia Honors Dr. Catherine Hamlin with Honorary Citizenship

Australian-born Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who is known for her work with childbirth injury patients, has lived in Ethiopia for over 50 years. (Photo credit: Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Sunday, April 29, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopia’s recent conferring of an honorary citizenship on Dr. Catherine Hamlin, founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, is a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable woman who has spent a better part of her life in the service of her adopted home. According to The Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), Prime Minister Meles Zenawi vested the honorary citizenship at a ceremony held at his office in Addis Ababa on Thursday, April 26th. Meles announced: “Dr. Hamlin was awarded the citizenship for serving the fistula patients for more than five decades by establishing a fistula hospital in the country.”

“When we first arrived we were rather taken with the country because we saw our eucalyptus trees,” Dr. Hamlin, had told Tadias Magazine a few years ago in an interview recounting her memories of arriving in Ethiopia in 1959. The Australian native initially traveled there on a three-year government contract to establish a midwifery school at the Princess Tsehay Hospital. “I felt very much at home straight away because the scenery seemed very familiar to us,” she said. “We got a really warm welcome so we didn’t really have culture shock.”

Until her journey to Ethiopia, Dr. Hamlin, a gynecologist, had never met a fistula patient. “We had read in our textbooks about obstetric fistula but had never seen one,” she admitted. After arriving in Ethiopia with her husband Dr. Reginald Hamlin – a New Zealander who was also an obstetrician and gynecologist – she was warned by a colleague “the fistula patients will break your heart.”

Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that affects one out of every 12 women in Africa and approximately three million women worldwide. In developing nations where access to hospitals in remote areas are difficult to find, young women suffer from obstructive labor which can otherwise be successfully alleviated with adequate medical support. Unassisted labor in such conditions may lead to bladder, vaginal, and rectum injuries that incapacitate and stigmatize these women. Most patients are ousted from their homes and isolated from their communities.

Dr. Hamlin described the professional environment in the country as one where they “worked in a hospital with other physicians who were trained in Beirut and London.” However, as the only two gynecologists on staff they found it difficult to get away even for a weekend. For the first 10 years of their work with the hospital Reginald and Catherine Hamlin took weekend breaks at alternate times so as to have at least one gynecologist on call at all times, barely managing to take a month off each year to travel to the coast in Kenya. It is during their time at Princess Tsehai hospital that they first encountered fistula patients.

Since surgeries to cure fistula were not considered life-saving, few operating tables and beds were available for such patients at Princess Tsehai Hospital. Fistula patients were also not welcome and were despised by other patients and it wasn’t long before Reginald and Catherine decided to build a hospital designed to help these women, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to seek treatment.

Speaking of her late husband, Hamlin noted, “When he saw the first fistula patient he was really overwhelmed. He devoted his whole life to raising money to help these women. He was a compassionate man and if he took on anything he would take it in with his whole heart and soul. He worked day and night to build the hospital.” The dream was realized in 1974 and soon the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital received 1 to 10 fistula patients at its doorstep on a daily basis. Women who heard about the possibility of being cured traveled to the Capital from distant villages across the country. Today the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is a state-of-the-art, full-service medical facility entirely dedicated to caring for women with childbirth injuries.

Asked what her greatest satisfaction has been in this endeavor, Dr. Hamlin responded “It is in knowing that I am working somewhere where God has placed me to work. And I think that we gained more by living [here] and working with these women than we lost by leaving our own countries.” She fondly speaks of her late husband and his infinite compassion for his patients and his attachment to the country. “He loved the whole of Ethiopian society and when he was dying in England it was his final wish to return and be buried in Ethiopia,” she stated.

Dr. Hamlin equally enthused about her ‘home away from home’, emphasizing the joy she feels in seeing a happy, cured patient and her continued enjoyment of the landscape of Ethiopia and its people. Amidst her busy life she had found time in the “early hours of dawn” to write down the story of her life in her book The Hospital by the River, which was a bestseller in Australia. Her humble personality is evident as she replies to our inquiries about her past nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by saying she didn’t know about it. Indeed along with being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 she has also been awarded the Haile Selassie Humanitarian Prize in 1971, the Gold Medal of Merit by Pope John Paul in 1987, and an Honorary Gold Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 1989. In 2003 she was nominated as an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and she was the co-winner of the 2009 Right Livelihood Award.

At the ceremony last week, she said: “Although I was not born in Ethiopia, I love the country very much.”

We welcome Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s induction as a fellow Ethiopian!

Ethiopia’s Women: Maid in Ethiopia – The Economist

Volunteers with Justice for Alem - a grassroots advocacy group for Ethiopian Domestic Workers - hold a candlelight vigil outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 7th, 2012. (Photo credit: Hewi Images)

The Economist

Apr 24th 2012, 15:12

IN LATE February 2012, Alem Dechasa, an Ethiopian maid working in Lebanon, was video-taped being beaten and dragged into a car. On March 14th, she committed suicide. Her story has drawn attention once again to the plight of migrant workers in the Middle East. But Ms Alem’s fate has also highlighted a more unpleasant side of Ethiopia’s impressive growth story.

Ethiopia’s economy is based on small-scale agriculture. More than 85% of the country’s 80m people live in the countryside. Most have limited or no access to such basics as clean drinking water, health-care facilities and education. Helen Gebresillassie, a lawyer who teaches at Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare in New York and a former legal advisor to the Forum on Street Children in Ethiopia, an NGO, says that high inflation and market inefficiencies keep most farming household incomes so low that everyone must work, including children. When children are sent to school, parents worry about their daughters’ safety getting there. More often boys get to study while girls are expected to do housework or get married.

With little education, young women in rural Ethiopia struggle to compete in the labour market. The only realistic employment opportunity for most of them is more of the same domestic work they have done their whole lives.

Ms Alem’s case is not uncommon, explains Ms Gebresillassie. Traffickers specifically target uneducated and poor young women from rural areas in order to lure them to big cities in Ethiopia and the Middle East, she continues. That combined with the cultural expectation that children must help support their entire family means that young women are easy prey for traffickers’ with their empty promises of higher income and a better life.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister organisation, forecasts real GDP growth of 8% for Ethiopia in the fiscal year 2011/2012, mostly due to hikes in agricultural prices. That eclipses the OECD’s predictions of less than 2% GDP growth for the same period. That bodes well for the country’s future, but Ethiopia’s government will need to ensure that growth rates are sustainable by cultivating one of the country’s most valuable resources—its women.

Source: The Economist Online.

Related:
In Pictures: Weeks Later, Alem’s Death Reverberates in the Ethiopian Community (TADIAS)

Ethiopian & Lebanese Reactions to the Death of Alem: Memorialized Discussion Between Two Activists

This piece (published in The Huffington Post) is a memorialized discussion between two activists -- one Ethiopian and one Lebanese -- brought together by the recent suicide of Alem Dechesa-Desisa. Kumera Genet is an Ethiopian American from Austin, while Khaled Beydoun is an attorney from Detroit, Michigan -- home of the United States most concentrated Lebanese American community. Both reside, and live, in Washington, D.C. -- which boasts the nation's most populous Ethiopian community. (Photo: Alem Dechassa - family photograph from The Guardian video)

The Huffington Post

By Kumera Genet and Khaled A. Beydoun

Alem was a 33-year-old Ethiopian domestic worker in Lebanon, who committed suicide on March 14. A video showing her employer, Ali Mahfouz, brutally beating her outside of Beirut’s [Ethiopian] Consulate, went viral on March 9 — five days before her death.

Below are Genet’s and Beydoun’s immediate responses to the video and Alem’s death, and a discussion about how these events impacted their respective worlds as Ethiopian and Lebanese Americans.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Video: An Impossible Decision and a Lonely Death (The Guardian)


Related:
Update: When Suicide is the Only Escape (Al Jazeera English)
Lebanon’s ways are sponsoring suicide (The Daily Star)
UN urges Lebanon to investigate Ethiopian maid’s death (BBC)

Housemaid’s Suicide Rattles Lebanon’s Conscience (Reuters via Chicago Tribune)


The recent videotaped abuse and death of an Ethiopian woman (mother of two Alem Dechassa, 33) has rattled Lebanon’s conscience. Photo by Jamal Saidi, REUTERS / April 4, 2012.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Tragic tales of domestic worker abuse in Lebanon are common, but a film showing an Ethiopian maid dragged along a street in Beirut just days before she was found hanged from her bed sheets has rattled Lebanon’s conscience.

The domestic worker industry in Lebanon is vast – foreign maids account for more than five percent of the population – and the sector is plagued by archaic labor laws, inhumane practices and dire wages.

Read more.

Ethiopians in Lebanon Protest their Consulate’s Apathy, Callousness (The Daily Star)

By Justin Salhani

BEIRUT: A crowd of Ethiopians gathered outside the Ethiopian Consulate in Badaro Sunday afternoon to protest its neglect of their community in Lebanon.

Following a Sunday church service nearby, a few dozen women and one man walked to the consulate and demonstrated outside.

The assembled expressed their frustration with consular officials’ perceived callousness, saying that when Ethiopians contact their consulate in Lebanon via telephone they are often ignored or hung up on.

“We are living here,” said a woman named Berti, adding that “the [consulate] should help us, but they only want money.”

Another woman, named Sarah, told The Daily Star that many Ethiopians travel to Lebanon illegally through Sudan. She said that if such an Ethiopian encounters trouble in Lebanon, the consulate will absolve itself of responsibility and refuse assistance, but if the same person should want to renew her passport, the consulate would help in the interest of making a profit.

The Ethiopian Consulate was unavailable for comment.

Read more AT The Daily Star.

Ali Mahfouz Charged with Contributing to the Death of Alem Dechasa


In this YouTube video grab taken from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International, Ali Mahfouz, right, speaks to LBCI reporters. The video became public on March 8, 2012.
(LBCI)

The Daily Star

March 23, 2012

BEIRUT: Beirut’s general prosecutor has charged Ali Mahfouz with contributing to and causing the suicide of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, the Ethiopian domestic worker who committed suicide after a widely publicized beating outsider her consulate.

A judicial source told The Daily Star that Mahfouz was charged Thursday, adding that he is not currently in custody.

Read more at the The Daily Star.

Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon says I have learned a ‘big lesson’ (The Daily Star)


Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon, Asaminew Debelie Bonssa, said he has learned from the abuse and death of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, but he believes the problems of Ethiopian domestic workers in the country would best be solved by legalizing their labor. (Read more at The Daily Star)

By Annie Slemrod

March 24, 2012 01:51 AM

Speaking to The Daily Star from the office from where he heard Dechasa-Desisa’s screams over a month ago, Bonssa maintained Friday that the type of violence she was subjected to is uncommon at the consulate.

In an incident outside the consulate that was caught on film and publicized by a local television station two weeks later, Dechasa-Desisa was dragged and forced into a car by a man, later identified as Ali Mahfouz. Bonssa said an intervention by consular officials was not included in the clip, and that she was immediately taken by police to Pyschiatrique de la Croix Hospital, known as Deir al-Salib. Doctors told him she hanged herself there on March 14, using strips of her bed sheets. Read more.

Related:
Ethiopia Seeks Full Investigation Into Alem Dechassa’s Death (The Guardian)


Lebanon is the most popular destination for Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East but reports of abuse against Ethiopian domestic workers have grown worse as it grows in frequency. (Read more at the The Daily Maverick, South Africa)

The Guardian

By Rachel Stevenson

Beirut – Ethiopia is lobbying Lebanon to investigate fully the death of an Ethiopian housemaid who killed herself after being beaten on the street in Beirut.

Video footage of Alem Dechasa being attacked outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut was broadcast on Lebanese television two weeks ago, causing outrage in the country about the mistreatment of the thousands of migrant workers in the country.

Read more at the Guardian.

Related:
Ethiopians in Toronto Hold Vigil for Alem Dechassa (Sway Magazine)
In Memory of Alem Dechassa: Reporting & Mapping Domestic Migrant Worker Abuse (TADIAS)
Lebanon cannot be ‘civilised’ while domestic workers are abused (The Guardian)
Petition to Stop the Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon (Change.org)
Photos: Vigil for Alem Dechassa Outside Lebanon Embassy in D.C. (TADIAS)
Ethiopia Sues Lebanese Man Over Beating of Domestic Worker (The Daily Star)
Ethiopian Abused in Lebanon Said to Have Committed Suicide (The New York Times)
In Lebanon Abuse Video of Ethiopian Domestic Worker Surfaces (TADIAS)

Below is a slideshow from the vigil for Alem Dechassa in Washington D.C. on March 15, 2012.

WordPress plugin


Alem Dechasa’s Choice: An Impossible Decision and a Lonely Death

Alem Dechassa left Ethiopia in January to work in Lebanon, where she apparently killed herself last month following her videotaped abuse outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut. Her journey started in Burayu, a poor settlement near Addis Ababa. (Family photo from The Guardian video)

The Guardian

Lemesa Ejeta sniffed and cleared his throat but could not stop a tear from slipping down his cheek. His four-year-old daughter, Yabesira, had just run out of their mud-and-straw house to play, and it was as if he felt he could at last let go.

He struggled to describe the last time he saw his partner, Alem Dechasa Desisa, the 33-year-old mother of Yabesira and Tesfaye, 12. Alem left Ethiopia in January to work as a maid in Lebanon; she apparently hanged herself in a hospital room after she was beaten on a street in Beirut, allegedly by a man linked to the recruiting agency that took her there.

Alem’s journey to a lonely death started in this one-room hut in Burayu, a bereft settlement outside Addis Ababa where mothers like her and fathers like Lemesa face a Herculean struggle to survive each day.

Alem was one of many women who defied an Ethiopian government ban to work as housemaids in Lebanon, hoping to make life better for their children. It was a heartbreaking choice to have to make.

Read more at The Guardian.

Video: The Guardian report from Burayu, Ethiopia


Related:
Update: When Suicide is the Only Escape (Al Jazeera English)
Lebanon’s ways are sponsoring suicide (The Daily Star)
UN urges Lebanon to investigate Ethiopian maid’s death (BBC)

Housemaid’s Suicide Rattles Lebanon’s Conscience (Reuters via Chicago Tribune)


The recent videotaped abuse and death of an Ethiopian woman (mother of two Alem Dechassa, 33) has rattled Lebanon’s conscience. Photo by Jamal Saidi, REUTERS / April 4, 2012.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Tragic tales of domestic worker abuse in Lebanon are common, but a film showing an Ethiopian maid dragged along a street in Beirut just days before she was found hanged from her bed sheets has rattled Lebanon’s conscience.

The domestic worker industry in Lebanon is vast – foreign maids account for more than five percent of the population – and the sector is plagued by archaic labor laws, inhumane practices and dire wages.

Read more.

Ethiopians in Lebanon Protest their Consulate’s Apathy, Callousness (The Daily Star)

By Justin Salhani

BEIRUT: A crowd of Ethiopians gathered outside the Ethiopian Consulate in Badaro Sunday afternoon to protest its neglect of their community in Lebanon.

Following a Sunday church service nearby, a few dozen women and one man walked to the consulate and demonstrated outside.

The assembled expressed their frustration with consular officials’ perceived callousness, saying that when Ethiopians contact their consulate in Lebanon via telephone they are often ignored or hung up on.

“We are living here,” said a woman named Berti, adding that “the [consulate] should help us, but they only want money.”

Another woman, named Sarah, told The Daily Star that many Ethiopians travel to Lebanon illegally through Sudan. She said that if such an Ethiopian encounters trouble in Lebanon, the consulate will absolve itself of responsibility and refuse assistance, but if the same person should want to renew her passport, the consulate would help in the interest of making a profit.

The Ethiopian Consulate was unavailable for comment.

Read more AT The Daily Star.

Ali Mahfouz Charged with Contributing to the Death of Alem Dechasa


In this YouTube video grab taken from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International, Ali Mahfouz, right, speaks to LBCI reporters. The video became public on March 8, 2012.
(LBCI)

The Daily Star

March 23, 2012

BEIRUT: Beirut’s general prosecutor has charged Ali Mahfouz with contributing to and causing the suicide of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, the Ethiopian domestic worker who committed suicide after a widely publicized beating outsider her consulate.

A judicial source told The Daily Star that Mahfouz was charged Thursday, adding that he is not currently in custody.

Read more at the The Daily Star.

Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon says I have learned a ‘big lesson’ (The Daily Star)


Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon, Asaminew Debelie Bonssa, said he has learned from the abuse and death of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, but he believes the problems of Ethiopian domestic workers in the country would best be solved by legalizing their labor. (Read more at The Daily Star)

By Annie Slemrod

March 24, 2012 01:51 AM

Speaking to The Daily Star from the office from where he heard Dechasa-Desisa’s screams over a month ago, Bonssa maintained Friday that the type of violence she was subjected to is uncommon at the consulate.

In an incident outside the consulate that was caught on film and publicized by a local television station two weeks later, Dechasa-Desisa was dragged and forced into a car by a man, later identified as Ali Mahfouz. Bonssa said an intervention by consular officials was not included in the clip, and that she was immediately taken by police to Pyschiatrique de la Croix Hospital, known as Deir al-Salib. Doctors told him she hanged herself there on March 14, using strips of her bed sheets. Read more.

Related:
Ethiopia Seeks Full Investigation Into Alem Dechassa’s Death (The Guardian)


Lebanon is the most popular destination for Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East but reports of abuse against Ethiopian domestic workers have grown worse as it grows in frequency. (Read more at the The Daily Maverick, South Africa)

The Guardian

By Rachel Stevenson

Beirut – Ethiopia is lobbying Lebanon to investigate fully the death of an Ethiopian housemaid who killed herself after being beaten on the street in Beirut.

Video footage of Alem Dechasa being attacked outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut was broadcast on Lebanese television two weeks ago, causing outrage in the country about the mistreatment of the thousands of migrant workers in the country.

Read more at the Guardian.

Related:
Ethiopians in Toronto Hold Vigil for Alem Dechassa (Sway Magazine)
In Memory of Alem Dechassa: Reporting & Mapping Domestic Migrant Worker Abuse (TADIAS)
Lebanon cannot be ‘civilised’ while domestic workers are abused (The Guardian)
Petition to Stop the Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon (Change.org)
Photos: Vigil for Alem Dechassa Outside Lebanon Embassy in D.C. (TADIAS)
Ethiopia Sues Lebanese Man Over Beating of Domestic Worker (The Daily Star)
Ethiopian Abused in Lebanon Said to Have Committed Suicide (The New York Times)
In Lebanon Abuse Video of Ethiopian Domestic Worker Surfaces (TADIAS)

Below is a slideshow from the vigil for Alem Dechassa in Washington D.C. on March 15, 2012.

WordPress plugin


Blogger Fights Terror Charges as Ethiopian Leader Praised

Journalist Eskinder Nega on trial for terrorism in Ethiopia has denied the charges and told the court that he is a prisoner of conscience. (Photo credit: Lennart Kjörling)

Latest: Blogger Fights Terror Charges as Ethiopian Leader Praised (CPJ)
——-

Court Hears From Journalist Eskinder Nega (VOA)

By Peter Heinlein

A dissident Ethiopian journalist on trial for terrorism has categorically denied the charges and warned the court that history would judge its verdict.

A three-judge panel listened Wednesday as journalist Eskinder Nega described himself as a prisoner of conscience and rejected accusations that he had conspired to overthrow the government through violence.

Eskinder is one of 24 defendants, including opposition politicians and several exiled journalists, charged with supporting Ginbot Seven, a political party the government has labelled a terrorist group. Lawyers say they could face the death penalty if convicted.

In a 20-minute presentation, Eskinder challenged the prosecution’s case. He admitted writing and speaking about whether an Arab Spring-like movement might take root in Ethiopia, and calling for peaceful protests, but denied advocating violence or unconstitutional change.

Prominent opposition politician and co-defendant Andualem Aragie told the court earlier in the week that the government case was based on lies. The chief defense witness, former Ethiopian president Negasso Gidada, testified that the defendants had been working within the law in advocating for political change.

The prosecution had earlier presented scratchy, nearly inaudible recordings of telephone conversations and other comments as evidence that the defendants were plotting terrorist acts.

Human rights and press freedom groups have criticized Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, saying it violates the country’s constitution and inhibits political freedom.

Shortly before his arrest, Eskinder had written an online column blasting the law as an attempt to stifle dissent.

His wife Serkalem Fasil, who was jailed with him after the disputed 2005 elections, told VOA Wednesday Eskinder had been pleased with his defense but discouraged at having to battle against being labelled a terrorist.

She says Eskinder is angry at being accused of being a member of the Ginbot Seven party.
She said, “He’s a journalist, not a member of a political party.”

Eskinder and Andualem were among 130 journalists and opposition political activists convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison following the 2005 elections. They were later pardoned.

They were re-arrested along with six others last September, soon after the 2009 anti-terrorism law became operational. Another 18 defendants identified as supporters of the Ginbot Seven party were charged in absentia. Most of them are political exiles in the United States.

Related:
Standing with Ethiopia’s Tenacious Blogger, Eskinder Nega

Call for the Registry of Adwa as UNESCO World Heritage Site

This year marks the 116th year anniversary of Adwa and historian Ayele Bekerie offers a call for the registry of the Battle of Adwa as World Heritage. (Photo: Mountains of Adwa by Ayele Bekerie)

Tadias Magazine
History | Opinion

By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

ayele_author.jpg

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ethiopia was brought to the world’s attention in 1896 when an African country with no industry of weaponry and with mostly bare-footed soldiers, defeated Italy, a modern European country, at the battle of Adwa. The 116th Year anniversary of the victory is being celebrated on March 1st in Ethiopia. This year I am fortunate enough to celebrate the victory in Adwa by attending the fifth annual conference on the history and meaning of the Battle of Adwa. It is also celebrated throughout the world, for Adwa stands for human dignity, freedom and independence. As such its significance is universal and its story should be told repeatedly. Its narrative ought to be embraced by young and old, men and women. The Battle Adwa should be listed as a World Heritage.

To Teshale Tibebu, “the Battle of Adwa was the largest battle between European imperialism and African resistance.” According to Donald Levine, “the Battle of Adwa qualifies as a historic event which represented the first time since the beginning of European imperial expansion that a nonwhite nation had defeated a European power.” The historic event has brought or signaled the beginning of the end of colonial world order, and a movement to an anti-colonial world order.

It was a victory of an African army in the true sense of the word. The Battle was planned and executed by African generals and intelligence officers led by Emperor Menelik II, who was born, brought up, and educated in Ethiopia. It was a brilliant and indigenous strategy that put a check to the colonial aims and objectives, which were originally conceived and agreed upon at the Berlin Conference of 1885. European strategy to carve Africa into external and exclusive spheres of influence was halted by Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Betul at the Battle of Adwa. The Europeans had no choice but to recognize this African (not European) power.

Universality of the Victory at the Battle of Adwa

The African world celebrated and embraced this historic victory. In the preface to the book An Introduction to African Civilizations With Main Currents in Ethiopian History, Huggins and Jackson write: “In Ethiopia, the military genius of Menelik II was in the best tradition of Piankhi, the great ruler of ancient Egypt and Nubia or ancient Ethiopia, who drove out the Italians in 1896 and maintained the liberties of that ancient free empire of Black men.” Huggins and Jackson analyzed the victory not only in terms of its significance to the postcolonial African world, but also in terms of its linkage to the tradition of ancient African glories and victories.

Emperor Menelik II used his “magic wand” to draw all, the diverse and voluntary patriots from virtually the entire parts of the country, into a battlefield called Adwa. And in less than six hours, the enemy is decisively defeated. The overconfident and never to be defeated European army fell under the great military strategy of an African army. The strategy was what the Ethiopians call afena, an Ethiopian version of blitzkrieg that encircles the enemy and cuts its head. Italians failed to match the British and the French in establishing a colonial empire in Africa. In fact, by their humiliating defeat, the Italians made the British and the French colonizers jittery. The colonial subjects became reenergized to resist the colonial empire builders.

Adwa and Ethiopia’s Nationhood

Adwa irreversibly broadened the true boundaries of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. People of the south and the north and the east and the west fought and defeated the Italian army. In the process, a new Ethiopia is born.

Adwa shows what can be achieved when united forces work for a common goal. Adwa brought the best out of so many forces that were accustomed to waging battles against each other. Forces of destruction and division ceased their endless squabbles and redirect their united campaign against the common enemy. They chose to redefine themselves as one and unequivocally expressed their rejection of colonialism. They came together in search of freedom or the preservation and expansion of the freedom at hand. In other words, Adwa offers the most dramatic instance of trans-ethnic cooperation.

Leadership

Emperor Menelik II could have kept the momentum by reforming his government and by allowing the many forces to continue participating in the making of a modern and good for all state. Emperor Menelik II, however, chose to return back to the status quo, a status of exploitative relationship between the few who controlled the land and the vast majority of the agrarian farmers. It took another almost eighty years to dismantle the yoke of feudalism from the backs of the vast majority of the Ethiopian farmers.

As far as Emperor Menelik’s challenge to and reversal of colonialism in Ethiopia is concerned, his accomplishment was historic and an indisputable fact. It is precisely this brilliant and decisive victory against the European colonial army that has inspired the colonized and the oppressed throughout the world to forge ahead and fight against their colonial masters.

Menelik’s rapprochement, on the other hand, with the three colonial powers in the region may have saved his monarchial power, but the policy ended up hurting the whole region. The seeds of division sown by the colonizers, in part, continue to wreck the region apart.

Realizing the need to completely remove all the colonizers as an effective and lasting way to bring peace and prosperity in the region, the grandson of the Emperor, Lij Iyassu attempted to carve anti-colonial policy. He began to send arms to freedom fighters in Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. He entered into a treaty of peace and cooperation with the Austrians, the Germans and the Turks against the British, Italians and the French. Unfortunately, the rule of Lij Iyassu was short-lived. The tri-partite powers colluded with the then Tafari Makonnen to successfully remove him from power.

Adwa symbolizes the aspirations and hopes of all oppressed people. Adwa catapulted Pan-Africanism into the realm of the possible by reigniting the imaginations of Africans in their quest for freedom throughout the world. Adwa foreshadowed the outcome of the anti-colonial struggle in Africa and elsewhere. Adwa is about cultural resistance; it is about reaffirmation of African ways. Adwa was possible not simply because of brilliant and courageous leadership, but also because of the people’s willingness to defend their motherland, regardless of ethnic, linguistic and religious differences.

Call for the Registry of the Battle of Adwa as World Heritage

A World Heritage Site is a site of ‘cultural and/or natural significance.’ It is also a site so exceptional, according to UNESCO, as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. The 1896 final Battle of Adwa and the successive preceding battles at sites, such as Mekelle between Ethiopia and Italy qualify, we argue, as a World Heritage Site. The victory achieved at the Battle of Adwa set the stage for international relations among nations on the basis of mutuality, reciprocity and transparency. Decolonization in Africa began with a victory against Italian colonial aggression in the Horn of Africa.

The Battle of Adwa was a global historic event, for it was a battle heroically and victoriously fought against colonialism and for freedom. It was a battle that stopped the colonial aggressions of Europeans in Africa. It was a battle that taught an unforgettable lesson to Europeans. They were reminded that they may co-exist or work with Africans, Asians or the Americans, but they cannot dominate them or exploit their resources indefinitely. Domination gives rise to resistance and the Battle of Adwa made it clear that domination or aggression can be decisively be defeated.

The mountains of Adwa, the mountains of Abi Adi Worq Amba and the hills of Mekelle ought to be marked as natural historic sites and, therefore, together with the battlefield, they should be protected, conserved and promoted in the context of its historic importance and ecological tourism.

Background on UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

At present, 900 sites are on World Heritage list. Only 9% of the World Heritage sites are in Africa, while 50% of them are in Europe and North America. While Ethiopia succeeded to have only 9 World Heritage sites, Italy has registered so far 43 sites! In Africa, the Battlefields of South Africa have registered as a World Heritage. Several Battles are registered throughout the world and throughout history and it is time that the Battle of Adwa is included in the list.

Adwa was a story of common purpose and common destiny. The principles established on the battlefield of Adwa must be understood and embraced for Africa to remain centered in its own histories, cultures and socioeconomic development. We should always remember that Adwa was won for Africans. Adwa indeed is an African model of victory and resistance. As Levine puts it: “Adwa remains the most outstanding symbol of the ‘mysterious magnetism’ that holds Ethiopia together.”

It is our contention that the Battle of Adwa was a battle that paved the way for a world of justice, mutual respect and co-existence. The Battle of Adwa was a battle for human dignity and therefore its story should be universally recognized and be told again and again. Registering the Battle will ensure the dynamic dispersion of its narrative in all the discourses of the world.

The lessons of the Battle of Adwa ought to be inculcated in the minds of young people so that they would be able to appreciate humanity as one without hierarchy. The Battle of Adwa reminds the young people that no force is powerful enough to impose its will against another people. Ethiopians, despite their disadvantage in modern weaponry, decisively defeated the Italian Army at the Battle of Adwa.

The Battle of Adwa and its cluster, as a great source of timeless inspiration for freedom and independence, should be registered as a World Heritage. This is because that event fulfills the following criterion: the Battle of Adwa is “an important interchange of human values.” Adwa enshrines freedom to everyone.

This piece is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: abekerie@gmail.com.

About the Author:
Ayele Bekerie is an Associate Professor at the Department of History and Cultural Studies at Mekelle University. He was an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. Bekerie is a contributing author in the acclaimed book, “One House: The Battle of Adwa 1896 -100 Years.” He is also the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” — among many other published works.

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Ethiopia: What’s Missing in African Union’s New Building?

The new towering complex that opened in Addis Ababa on January 28, 2012 overlooks a vast conference centre where African heads of state will meet for years to come.

Tadias Magazine
History | Editorial

Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The forecourt of the recently inaugurated African Union building in Addis Ababa – a $200m complex funded by China as a gift to the AU – features a beautiful statue of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, one of the founders of the OAU. It is fitting that Dr. Nkrumah is honored for the role he played in African liberation struggles and the Pan African movement. It is also equally deserving and historically accurate to extend the recognition to other leaders who were involved in the formation of the organization.

On May 25, 1963, less than 22 years after Ethiopia fought and retained her independence from military occupation and annexation into the colony of Italian East Africa, several Heads of State from 32 newly independent African countries gathered in Addis Ababa. The meeting brought together various factions from across the continent that held differing views on how to achieve union among the emerging, decolonized African countries – an issue that also preoccupied the continent’s press and academics at the time.

(Photograph: The statue of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in Addis Ababa. Photo credit: us-africarelations updates)

One such promiment group, “The Casablanca bloc,” led by President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, argued for the federation of all African states. A second group of countries called “The “Monrovian bloc”, led by Léopold Senghor of Senegal, preferred a more gradual economic cooperation. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia offered a diplomatic solution and brokered the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now renamed the African Union (AU). The assembly settled its headquarters in Addis Ababa and entrusted Haile Selassie with the very first of its rotating chairmanships. Gamal Abdul Nassar of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana served as subsequent OAU leaders.

Today, however, we should not only remember the founders of the AU, but also embrace our modern day heros like Nelson Mandela who continue to give us renewed hope that ‘African union’ can be more than a name on a brick tower. By acknowledging our past legacy and embracing current inspiring leaders we can begin to set our sights on a new morning in Africa.

Related:
A Chinese gift, an Ethiopian omission and a screaming Shame (The Africa Report)
Ethiopians give lacklustre welcome to Kwame Nkrumah statue (The Independent)
AU’s lavish new home hit by statue row (Reuters)
Ethiopia’s Conundrum : A statue for Nkrumah or Selassie? (The Africa Report)
African Union opens Chinese-funded HQ in Ethiopia (BBC)

Video: President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana Unveils Nkrumah’s Statue In Addis Ababa

Illegal PDF of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Memoir

The recent online distribution of the unauthorized, scanned copy of Mengistu Haile Mariam's book is receiving strong criticism. (Photo: From the book cover)

Tadias Magazine
Opinion
Professor Donald N. Levine

Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The leaders in the EPRP organization who authorized the scanning and posting of the book published by Tsehai Publishers on debteraw.com committed an act that was illegal, unethical, and imprudent. To my mind, that marks it as “un-Ethiopian.”

As I have come to know Ethiopians in many traditions and walks of life, at first hand and through the reports of numerous scholars, I find them essentially law-respecting, ethical, and prudent human beings. Whether it is in observing the laws enacted by an Oromo gumi gayo assembly, a Sidamo town meeting, or Tigrayan court of justice, Ethiopians traditionally express a strong sense of devotion to validly formulated laws and judicial pronouncements. (This trait captured me memorably when, after the new Constitution of 1955 was published, janitors could be seen in the Department of Justice leaning on their brooms and studying it closely!)

Again, whatever religious belief system they follow – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or the worship of Waaq – Ethiopians exhibit a keen sense of respect for moral standards. What is more, I have found Ethiopians of many classes and ethnic groups to be mature in cautioning against impulsive and socially destructive behaviors. Indeed, what I have glossed as the culture of Wax and Gold reflects a wish to avoid saying things that will illicit negative reactions from those with whom they associate.

The brazen act of the debteraw.com website in scanning and posting the text of Tiglatchn by Mengistu Haile Mariam is patently illegal and so repeats the very behavior that they condemn. On this point, a number of attorneys have assured me that such action stands in clear violation of international and national copyright laws. Although the responsible party claims justification by virtue of a “Son of Sam Law” which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes by selling their stories, Colonel Mengistu, however, has not been paid for this book. The publisher not only gave him no money for the manuscript but stands to incur a loss in producing this publication.

It is, moreover, unethical, since it violates commonly shared ethical standards by virtue of responding to a displeasing act with an effort to destroy the perpetrator.

Finally, it is doubly imprudent. On the one hand, illegally posting this manuscript in digital form only serves to increase exponentially the distribution of what this website has condemned as a “book of lies.” Indeed, the point should be emphasized that such a wide distribution will likely strengthen the credibility and endurance of Mengistu’s claims rather than their condemnation. What is more, it aborts the opportunity that publication provides for serious critical scrutiny of a book that patently contains a great number of unsustainable claims. This action might also discourage the Press from publishing a memoir of the EPRP.

On the other hand, the attack on Tsehai Publishers reinforces a tendency among Ethiopians to vilify and defame one another when they disagree. As I have argued for decades, this tendency stands to impede the formation of productive public discourse and to reinforce cycles of violent conflict.

The victim of this triply unscrupulous revenge, Tsehai publisher Elias Wondimu, is a truly heroic Ethiopian, who has invested a huge amount of his life in producing a harvest of publications that can help Ethiopians understand themselves and appreciate their rich traditions and complex society. I can think of no more appropriate response by all Ethiopians, including enlightened EPRP members, than to proceed forthwith to tsehaipublishers.com and order three books. It would be no less appropriate to send a contribution to the Press for the legal defense fund, which they will need to resolve the legal aspect of this unfortunate affair.

About the Author:
Donald N. Levine served as the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education.

Related:
Q & A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers (TADIAS)
Ethiopia: Copyrights and CopyCrimes – By Alemayehu G Mariam (Ethio Media)
In defense of Tsehai Publishers – By Fikre Tolossa (Ethiopian Review)

The Madonna of the Sea by Maaza Mengiste

The story tells one young Ethiopian's odyssey through Libya while trying to get to Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Italy. Lampedusa is the entry point for thousands of migrants from East Africa and other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Dagmawi Yimer's story serves as an example of what is continuing to happen and getting progressively worse. (Photo courtesy of Maaza Mengiste)

ESSAYS & MEMOIR | Granta

BY MAAZA MENGISTE

There is a Madonna at the bottom of the crystalline waters off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, standing guard near a gap where two rocks curve in an unfinished embrace. Dead leaves and fish float above her like drifting feathers, shimmering in the swatch of sunlight that drapes across the mossy cement foundation where she rests. She is alone except for the child she holds, a hand protectively across his chest. She is called Madonna di Porto Salvo and she is the protector of the island, the saint that watches over all those who cross her turquoise waters and comforts those who do not make it to land.

The island of Lampedusa was once known as a quiet holiday getaway, the place to go for tranquil rest on a lovely beach. Geographically, Lampedusa is closer to Tunisia (113 kilometres) than it is to Sicily (205 kilometres) and it is 295 kilometres from Tripoli. Since the early 1980s, migrants from Africa and the Middle East have used the island as an entry point to Europe, paying hundreds ofShe is called Madonna di Porto Salvo [. . . ] the saint that watches over all those who cross her turquoise waters and comforts those who do not make it to land. dollars to make the dangerous journey on fragile, overcrowded boats. The numbers have steadily increased over the last decades, and the onset of the Arab Spring has brought an overwhelming spike in those figures. The day I arrived on Lampedusa to learn more about its history with migration, there was a ceremony to commemorate migrants who had drowned trying to reach the island. Italian Coast Guard divers secured a wooden cross and a bouquet of flowers at the feet of the Madonna di Porto Salvo, their breaths bubbling through the Mediterranean Sea like shards of glass. Soon after the ceremony was finished, I learned that by chance, there was a boat arriving that day from Libya; their slow, perilous approach detected by the Coast Guard.

A few hours later, I stood at the edge of the coastline, watching as the boat full of men, women and children arrived. Around me were journalists and photographers, members of the Italian Red Cross and other humanitarian aid organizations. There were also residents of the island grimly observing this latest spectacle. They stared, resentment tinged with disinterest, at these dark-skinned foreigners stepping gingerly, shakily, on to Italian soil. It was hard for me to watch with the same detachment. I looked for Ethiopian and Eritrean faces instead, waving at all those who waved at me, trying to smile as some form of encouragement before they were whisked away to begin the tortuous task of establishing their right to be in the place they risked everything – including their lives – to reach. It was difficult to imagine what they would face, but nearly impossible to comprehend the many roads they had taken to arrive at this point. I thought of my friend in Rome, Dagmawi Yimer, who tells his story freely, but cannot seem to speak it without a subdued voice, as if the terror has left a permanent scar.

Read more.

Below is a YouTube version of his documentary, part in Italian, part in Amharic.

Watch:

Related:
Q & A With Maaza Mengiste (TADIAS)

Echoes of U.S. Racism in Israel

No Blacks, No Jews: Racist property covenants like those reportedly used to keep Ethiopians out of homes in Israel were once commonly used to keep American blacks and Jews from owning property. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Jewish Daily Forward
By Leonard Fein

Issue of February 03, 2012

An easy case followed by a harder case: At the beginning January, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that it had encountered in the town of Kiryat Malachi what used to be called here in the United States a “restrictive covenant.” Such a covenant is a legal device that enables the seller (or renter) of real estate to forbid the sale or sublease of the property in question to persons of a designated race. You want make sure no African Americans (or Jews, for that matter) move in to your neighborhood? Get all your neighbors to sign a covenant that they won’t sell to African Americans — or, as in the Israeli case at hand, to Ethiopian Jews.

When the United States Supreme Court dealt with this matter in its American incarnation in 1948, in the case of Shelley v. Kraemer, it creatively decided that buyers and sellers could stipulate whatever they chose, but that agreements to exclude a racial group — in this instance, “people of the Negro or Mongoloid Race” — from real estate transactions were not enforceable in a court of law, were in fact unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. (Twenty years later, the Fair Housing Act extended the protection to religion, sex and national origin.)

I well remember that in my own family, the prospective purchase of our modest first house in Baltimore was encumbered by a restrictive covenant, and it was only the then still recent Supreme Court decision that had rendered the covenant meaningless and enabled us, in conscience, to sign the requisite document.

So now we come back to the current Kiryat Malachi case. I presume that the agreement (which was kept secret by its signers) not to rent or sell to Ethiopian Jews is, as in the United States, unenforceable as a matter of law. (Although I’d be reassured to learn that officially.) So we are left merely with the vile bigotry of a number of people who surely should know better.

Read more.

Related:
Special Screening of Ethiopian-Israeli Film ’400 Miles to Freedom’ (TADIAS)

Standing with Ethiopia’s Tenacious Blogger, Eskinder Nega

Journalist Eskinder Nega who has been jailed since September 14, 2011 in Ethiopia faces terrorism charges, and if convicted could face the death sentence. (Photo credit: Lennart Kjörling)

Source: CPJ

By Jason McLure/Guest blogger

(The author was Bloomberg News correspondent in Ethiopia from 2007 to 2010)

It would be hard to find a better symbol of media repression in Africa than Eskinder Nega. The veteran Ethiopian journalist and dissident blogger has been detained at least seven times by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government over the past two decades, and was put back in jail on September 14, 2011, after he published a column calling for the government to respect freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to end torture in prisons.

Eskinder now faces terrorism charges, and if convicted could face the death sentence. He’s not alone: Ethiopia currently has seven journalists behind bars. More journalists have fled Ethiopia over the past decade than any other country in the world, according to CPJ.

Eskinder could easily have joined them. In February 2011, he was briefly detained by federal police and warned to stop writing critical stories about Ethiopia’s authoritarian regime. The message was clear: it’s time to leave. Eskinder spent part of his childhood in the Washington D.C. area, and could have returned to the U.S.

He didn’t. Instead he continued to publish online columns demanding an end to corruption and political repression and calling for the security forces not to shoot unarmed demonstrators (as they did in 2005) in the event the Arab Spring spread to Ethiopia. That’s landed him back in jail–where he could remain for years in the event he avoids a death sentence.

Since then a group of journalists, authors and rights activists have organized a petition calling for the release of Eskinder and other journalists unjustly detained by Ethiopia’s government. Among the signatories are the heads of the U.S. National Press Club, the Open Society Foundations, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The petitioners also include Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist jailed by the Iranian government for four months in 2009; three former BBC correspondents in Ethiopia; development economist William Easterly; the Christian Science Monitor’s Marshall Ingwerson and others.

The campaign also included a letter published in The New York Review of Books, contacts with the U.S. State Department, press releases, and media interviews. Still, making an impact is difficult. Eskinder was just one of 179 journalists jailed worldwide as of December 1, 2011, according to CPJ data. In addition, Ethiopia is viewed as a strategic partner for the West in combating terrorism and instability in East Africa, making Western governments less likely to press Zenawi on human rights abuses.

People have asked me why we should try to help someone who could have saved himself by fleeing the country. It’s a good question. I suspect that even if he were to be released tomorrow, Eskinder would stay in Ethiopia and continue writing and publishing online–at the risk of being thrown back in jail.

After all, this is a reporter whose wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil, gave birth while they were both in jail following the 2005 elections. When they were released in 2007, Serkalem and Eskinder were banned from reopening their newspapers. To survive, they rented their house in central Addis Ababa to a team of Chinese telecom workers and moved to a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

Like many good journalists, Eskinder is stubborn to a fault. Standing for free speech in Ethiopia can seem a Sisyphean task, but if Eskinder is principled enough to risk more years in jail – and possibly the death sentence – it’s our obligation to stand with him.

Related:
Swedish Journalists Jailed in Ethiopia on Terror Charges to Seek Pardon

Election 2012: Room for Debate – Were We Wrong About Obama?

Election 2012: "Four years ago, Barack Obama sailed to victory thanks in large part to the support of college students. Has President Obama lost his zealous young supporters? And, if so, what can he do to win them back?" - NYT (Cover image: Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

NYT: Room for Debate

By Sara Haile-Mariam

Barack Obama was never supposed to be president, and the young people who supported him were warned that his election was impossible. On his urging, they organized, collectively tipped the scales in Iowa, made reliably red states winnable and ultimately elected Barack Obama as the 44th president.

Candidate Obama promised a transformative presidency. Despite his election, young people remain shut out of the process with their criticism negated as naïve and counterproductive.

They are a generation who rejected conventional wisdom to support him in the face of unemployment and student debt, climate change and unrealized notions of equality, only to watch his administration strive for what’s “possible” within a broken system. While they serve as beneficiaries of many of his policies, and prefer him to his Republican challengers, the sense of defiance fundamental to the Obama campaign has been lost and with it, the excitement once generated by Obama himself.

For this generation — my generation — it’s not enough to win the future when the present is unsustainable.

Candidate Obama’s vision relied on the premise that while government cannot solve all of our problems, it should be able to help. Our disillusionment is grounded in the terrifying realization that today’s politicking makes government ill-equipped to do even that. It’s exacerbated by the discomforting suspicion that maybe we were wrong about Obama.

President Obama must become the leader we’re nostalgic for, one who was candid in his convictions and enlisted us to disrupt the status quo even when faced with likely defeat. His consistent aversion to conflict — to vocal and passionate persistence — suggests that he’s abandoned what once made him different.

President Obama’s very presence in office undermines the assessment that some things just can’t be done. His administration needs to embrace the same level of audacity that he campaigned on in 2008.

Sara Haile-Mariam, a recent graduate of New York University, is a former communications associate at the Center for American Progress’s youth division Campus Progress and a 2008 Surrogate for the New York Obama campaign. She is on Twitter.

Join NYT’s Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates on twitter.com/roomfordebate.
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Talking Politics with Reporter Fanna Haile-Selassie

Fanna is a reporter for WSIL-TV, an ABC Network affiliate serving southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southeast Missouri. She joined WSIL from Rochester, Minnesota, where she worked as the political, crime, and courts reporter at KTTC for more than three years. Fanna has been honored several times for her work by the Minnesota Associated Press and the Minnesota Society of Professional journalists. She studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri.

Watch: Talking Politics with Fanna Haile-Selassie (WSIL News 3, ABC)

The Battle of Adwa 115 Years Later

Above: The battle of Adwa, depicted in this painting, was an African victory that put a check to the colonial aims and objectives against the continent, which were originally conceived and agreed upon at the Berlin Conference of 1885.

Opinion/History
Adwa Rhymes with Pan-Africanism and Addistu Ethiopia
By Ayele Bekerie, PhD
ayele_author.jpg

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mekelle, Ethiopia – As much as ancient Ethiopia inspired the development of Pan-Africanist movements and organizations throughout the African world, contemporary Ethiopia’s history has also its symbolic significance with respect to the establishment of the African Union. Pan-Africanism refers to intellectual movements dedicated to a complete liberation of the people of Africa and the African Diaspora from all forms of colonialism. They have been movements of self-definition, political and cultural emancipations. I am arguing that the movements, in part, were inspired by the historic and permanent victory at the Battle of Adwa one hundred and fifteen years ago.

Ethiopia was brought to the African world’s attention in 1896 when Ethiopia, an African country, defeated Italy, a European country, at the battle of Adwa. According to Donald Levine, “the Battle of Adwa qualifies as a historic event which represented the first time since the beginning of European imperial expansion that a non-white nation had defeated a European power.”

It was a victory of an African army in the true sense of the word. The Battle was planned and executed by African generals and spies led by Emperor Menelik II, who was born, brought up, and educated in Ethiopia. It was a brilliant and indigenous strategy that put a check to the colonial aims and objectives, which were originally conceived and agreed upon at the Berlin Conference of 1885. European strategy to carve Africa into external and exclusive spheres of influence was halted by Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Betul at the Battle of Adwa. The Europeans had no choice but to recognize this African (not European) power.

The African World celebrated and embraced this historic victory. In the preface to the book An Introduction to African Civilizations With Main Currents in Ethiopian History, Huggins and Jackson write: “In Ethiopia, the military genius of Menelik II was in the best tradition of Piankhi, the great ruler of ancient Egypt and Nubia or ancient Ethiopia, who drove out the Italians in 1896 and maintained the liberties of that ancient free empire of Black men.” Huggins and Jackson analyzed the victory not only in terms of its significance to the postcolonial African world, but also in terms of its linkage to the tradition of ancient African glories and victories.

Emperor Menelik II used his “magic wand” to draw all, the diverse and voluntary patriots from virtually the entire parts of the country, into a battlefield called Adwa. And in less than six hours, the enemy is decisively defeated. The overconfident and never to be defeated European army fell under the great military strategy of an African army. The strategy was what the Ethiopians call afena, an Ethiopian version of blitzkrieg that encircles the enemy and cuts its head. Italians failed to match the British and the French in establishing a colonial empire in Africa. In fact, by their humiliating defeat, the Italians made the British and the French colonizers jittery. The colonial subjects became reenergized to resist the colonial empire builders.

Adwa irreversibly broadened the true boundaries of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. People of the south and the north and the east and the west fought and defeated the Italian army. In the process, a new Ethiopia is born.

Adwa shows what can be achieved when united forces work for a common goal. Adwa brought the best out of so many forces that were accustomed to waging battles against each other. Forces of destruction and division ceased their endless squabbles and redirect their united campaign against the common enemy. They chose to redefine themselves as one and unequivocally expressed their rejection of colonialism. They came together in search of freedom or the preservation and expansion of the freedom at hand.

Emperor Menelik II could have kept the momentum by reforming his government and by allowing the many forces to continue participating in the making of a modern and good for all state. Emperor Menelik II, however, chose to return back to the status quo, a status of exploitative relationship between the few who controlled the land and the vast majority of the agrarian farmers. It took another almost eighty years to dismantle the yoke of feudalism from the backs of the vast majority of the Ethiopian farmers.

As long as Emperor Menelik’s challenge to and reversal of colonialism in Ethiopia is concerned, his accomplishment was historic and an indisputable fact. It is precisely this brilliant and decisive victory against the European colonial army that has inspired the colonized and the oppressed through out the world to forge ahead and fight against their colonial masters.

Menelik’s rapprochement, on the other hand, with the three colonial powers in the region may have saved his monarchial power, but the policy ended up hurting the whole region. The seeds of division sown by the colonizers, in part, continue to wreck the region apart.

Realizing the need to completely remove all the colonizers as an effective and lasting way to bring peace and prosperity in the region, the grandson of the Emperor, Lij Iyassu attempted to carve anti-colonial policy. He began to send arms to freedom fighters in Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. He entered into a treaty of peace and cooperation with the Austrians, the Germans and the Turks against the British, Italians and the French. Unfortunately, the rule of Lij Iyassu was short-lived. The tri-partite powers colluded with the then Tafari Makonnen to successfully remove him from power.

Adwa symbolizes the aspirations and hopes of all oppressed people. Adwa catapulted Pan-Africanism into the realm of the possible by reigniting the imaginations of Africans in their quest for freedom throughout the world. Adwa foreshadowed the outcome of the anti-colonial struggle in Africa and elsewhere. Adwa is about cultural resistance; it is about reaffirmation of African ways. Adwa was possible not simply because of brilliant and courageous leadership, but also because of the people’s willingness to defend their motherland, regardless of ethnic, linguistic and religious differences.

Adwa was a story of common purpose and common destiny. The principles established on the battlefield of Adwa must be understood and embraced for Africa to remain centered in its own histories, cultures and socioeconomic development. We should always remember that Adwa was won for Africans. Adwa indeed is an African model of victory and resistance.

Publisher’s Note:
This piece is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: abekerie@gmail.com.

About the Author:
Ayele Bekerie is an Associate Professor at the Department of History and Cultural Studies at Mekelle University. He was an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. Bekerie is a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “One House: The Battle of Adwa 1896 -100 Years.” He is also the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” — among many other published works.

Gadhafi’s Mercenarie​s And The Plight of African Refugees

Above: Suspected mercenaries are held by anti-government protesters in the eastern Libya.

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Since protests erupted two weeks ago in Libya, demanding an end to Muammar el-Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, the government has employed unimaginable lethal force, including fighter jets, to quell the revolt. The Libyan people have shown remarkable fortitude by continuing to stand up against the violent crackdown.

As members of the Libyan army are switching sides in support of the growing opposition movement, Gadhafi who is known to have relied on foreign fighters and bodyguards to prop up his power has once again turned to mercenaries in order to save his crumbling regime.

The hired guns are largely from other African nations, and their presence has created a backlash and unsafe conditions for refugees and residents of African descent – most of whom migrated to Libya in search of safe haven from economic and political disenfranchisement in their own countries. In an interview aired on Deutsche Welle radio last week, Ethiopian residents in Tripoli appealed for help saying that they have now become targets of mob attacks in the capital and various other towns in Libya. According to the interviewees, those who work as domestic helpers (mostly women) may be safe under the protection of their employers, but the rest are exposed to vigilante justice. And as of today, no one has come to their rescue. (Update: Via AllAfrica.com on March 3, 2011 – Ethiopia Says Will Evacuate Citizens Stranded in Libya).

New York Times cites IOM statistics that document more than 1.5 million migrant workers in Libya, most of whom worked in construction businesses and arrived from Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Thailand. Although better off workers from China and Bosnia are managing to leave Libyan ports, migrant workers from poorer nations have found themselves stranded and with fewer options. The case is more alarming for African migrant workers and refugees, some of whom say are unable to leave their houses for fear of retaliation in the streets.

According to the advocacy group CSW, “refugees report that in detention centres, the government is attempting to recruit African prisoners as mercenaries, and prison guards who object are allegedly being killed. Homes where large numbers of refugees have gathered are being attacked, and they are subject to threatening phone calls and physical assault with knives and stones as angry Libyans mistake them for mercenaries.”

On Saturday night, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to launch an international war crimes investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” carried out by Gadhafi’s forces, and imposed an international travel ban on high-ranking Libyan officials who are believed to have played a role in the violence against civilians.

President Obama has stated that Gadhafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule” and asked him step down immediately. The U.S. also froze Libyan government assets worth billions of dollars, and may do the same with the assets of officials who participated in the violent crackdown.

We also hope international organizations adequately address the safety of foreign migrant workers in Libyan towns and cities, and provide safe passage out of the country if necessary.

The latest from Libya
Rebels in Libya Win Battle but Fail to Loosen Qaddafi’s Grip (NYT)

Video: UN steps up pressure on Gaddafi (euronews)

Video: Uprising spreads further across Libya (euronews)

Related:
Libyan mercenaries: captured Africans deny charges (AP)
In Libyan Port, Stranded Migrants Watch Hope Depart (NYT)

Rebecca Emiru: Send Me to Kenya!

Above: Rebecca Emiru explains why you should vote for her
so she takes part in an entrepreneurship program in Kenya.

Opinion
By, Rebecca Emiru

Monday, January 31, 2011

You should vote for me because I will use this opportunity to begin making a difference. I hope to use this program as a stepping stone to a career in entrepreneurship and development in East Africa. I am currently a senior Political Science major at Amherst College. My experiences working with and leading groups on my campus, volunteering abroad, and interning with various organizations- including the United Nations- all led to my interest in social entrepreneurship as an alternative to the current development paradigm.

A social entrepreneur is someone whose returns benefit not just themselves but the community of which they are a part. By extension, social entrepreneurship is an approach to business ventures whose returns are not necessarily monetary and whose benefits are extended beyond the involved individual to the group in which they live. Social entrepreneurship represents a way of actively tackling social problems at the local level rather than waiting for government policies to do the trick. It represents a very necessary fusion of a practical, business approach with an ideological approach that addresses structural societal problems.

Essentially, the social entrepreneur has to have a clear understanding of how markets contribute to poverty alleviation. Markets are the primary means through which rural communities relate to urban centers and global markets and rural communities in turn are defined by their distance from cities and in their ability to transport their agricultural goods to markets where these can be sold. For instance, in Ethiopia, the largest producer of coffee in Africa, markets are essential to rural coffee farmers to sell their crops but also to keep abreast of the developments of the coffee market. Any attempt at rural poverty alleviation must address this fundamental feature of rural communities. Thus, facilitating access to markets can alleviate rural poverty in two ways. First, through the improvement of infrastructure such as roads and communication, rural actors can have better access to markets and information regarding their goods. Second, structures can be built that improve the position of rural actors within the market to bargain and act autonomously. To return to the example of Ethiopia, the establishment of the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange by Eleni Gebremedhin gave coffee farmers accurate information about the global coffee market so that they could make more informed decisions.

If we can capitalize on the connection between markets and poverty alleviation through social entrepreneurship, then we can strengthen Africa’s role in the 21st century significantly. Regardless of how much money aid donors pledge to send or how many loans the World Bank and IMF decides to lend or how many well-meaning activists Western countries dispatch, the fate of Africa lies in the hands of its inhabitants. There are two possible outcomes. On the one hand, Africa may continue to serve as a source of raw materials and markets for the global economy, serving as an object to be spoken of and rather than spoken to. On the other hand, Africans can change this negative trajectory by addressing the health pandemics, demanding more representative government, and adapting economic and political models to its own needs. This change can only come about if the masses of people will it to, coupled with responsive and responsible leadership. Although often cited as a repository of bad leadership, the continent also has a history of innovation. Politically, the African Socialism of Julius Nyrere, the pan Africanism of Kwame Nkrumah and the “people’s power” philosophy of the African National Congress and the United Democratic Front in South Africa demonstrate that Africa is a source of ground-breaking custom-built solutions. This role can be expanded in the 21st century as Africa continues to occupy this position. For instance, the active participation of developing countries in the global dialogue regarding climate change has expanded the focus from conservation and reduction of emissions to include sustainable development and the harm done to less-developed nations by industrialized nations in the developed world.

I want to be part of the Innovation Institute because it rejects the traditional donor-recipient relationship between the developed and developing world. Instead, the program emphasizes the fact that participants are there to learn rather than to give, which enables a two-way exchange between the community and program participants, like me. By making the needs and choices of the local community paramount, ThinkImpact is facilitating people’s empowerment, which is more long-lasting than any shipment of supplies.

Click here to vote.

Post via Tsehainy.com.

Scientist at Work: A Fossil Hunt in Ethiopia

Above: A view of Mush River near Addis Ababa, with its dark
fossil-bearing shales. Photograph by Bonnie F Jacobs via NYT.

The New York Times
By BONNIE F. JACOBS

Posted: December 29, 2010, 4:55 pm

Bonnie F. Jacobs, a paleobotanist at Southern Methodist University, writes from Ethiopia, where she is studying fossils of ancient plant and animal life. The current field season in the Mush Valley of Ethiopia is financed by a grant to Ellen Currano of Miami University, Ohio, from the National Geographic Society Committee on Research and Exploration.

Monday, Dec. 27

This winter’s field season in Ethiopia is my tenth since I began working there, and despite my experience I am filled with anticipation. Our project is a relatively new one — studying rocks and fossils from an important period of history, 22 million years ago — and the location, Mush Valley, is also somewhat new to our team (last year was our first collecting trip here).

Mush Valley is only about 160 kilometers northeast of the modern capital city, Addis Ababa, but it feels as though it could be a thousand miles away. Very little of city life intrudes into the villages of Upper and Lower Mush.

What really takes me away from it all are the rocks and fossils exposed by and alongside the Mush River. They provide us an exciting opportunity to document life, climate, landscape and atmosphere 22 million years ago. As we excavate blocks of fine-grained sediment — primarily shale — looking for clues to the past, the pivotal role played by that ancient time period is always on our mind.

Why is it important to know about the Ethiopian Plateau 22 million years ago? The Mush Valley preserves plants and animals from a time soon after a land connection was established between Afro-Arabia and Eurasia — a land connection that marked the end of Africa’s island status and that was used by animals to migrate between the two previously separated land masses. By looking at the fossil record from that period of time — before the Red Sea was formed — we can gain a clearer view of which species survived this great migration and which did not.

Read more at NYT.

Latest related post from NYT:
January 4, 2011: Evidence of Mammals and Legumes, 22 Million Years Old

Ethiopian, Israeli, New Yorker: Preserving The Jewish Heritage

Above: Beejhy Barhany, founder and director of BINA, and Bizu
Riki Mullu, founder of Chassida-Shmella. (Bizu photo via UJF.org)

Tadias Magazine
By Dana Rapoport

Published: Monday, December 20, 2010

New York (Tadias) – “My journey is nothing special,” said Beejhy Barhany at the Hue-Man Bookstore, on 125th street in Harlem. “It’s the every-Israeli, ordinary path.”

In many ways she was right. The curly-haired young Ethiopian woman with a pearl knitted sweater and a ton of charisma, Barhany, 34, pursued a common route for a young Israeli: graduation, military service, backpacking in South America, and finally – New York.

Barhany, founder and director of BINA, Beta Israel of North America, an Ethiopian-Jewish organization in New York, is driven by the same curiosity and entrepreneurial instinct that brought some 25,000 Israelis as immigrants to the city. But going three decades back, Barhany and approximately 500 Ethiopian Jews living in New York, share a saga of traveling that is everything but ordinary.

“We left everything behind — land, property, cattle — when my relatives in Israel wrote to us in a letter: “Now is the time to come,” she recalled of that middle-of-the night in 1980, when the three-year journey began from the northern province of Tigray, Ethiopia. Barhany was four-years–old.

The term for Ethiopian Jews in Amharic is Falasha, a term of derision as outsiders or foreigners. They call themselves Beta Israel, ”The House of Israel.”

For over 2,500 years the Beta Israel community observed Orthodox Judaism, but for hundreds of years, the Ethiopian Jewry was unknown or disregarded by the rest of the Jewish world.

The regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, and persecution by different tribes in Ethiopia, prompted the Israeli government, with no diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, to facilitate the rescue of thousands of Beta Israel.

Barhany and the group of people from her village walked for two months, until they arrived in Sudan. Three years later, they were given the green light to leave, by car, from Khartoum to Kenya, from Kenya to Uganda, then to Italy and finally – to Israel.

With a huge support and millions of Jewish American dollars, in 1991 a secret negotiation with the Ethiopian government was made, and within 36 hours, with 34 jumbo jets, “Operation Solomon” brought a total of 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

One of those young children who landed in Israel that year is Angosh Goshu (Dorit). After six years in Brooklyn, her memory of the emotional arrival in Israel seemed even more contrasted. “We saw toilets, bathrooms and things like that, things we never saw before,” she said during an interview in a busy, fluorescent-lit Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

For the thirty thousand agriculturally trained, Amharic speaking Ethiopian immigrants, Israel, in the midst of the high-tech boom, was a very different landscape.

After she completed her Army service, like Barhany, Gogshu too, found herself emigrating for the second time in her life. This time, to New York.

She lives with her brother Neo, on Church Avenue and is studying to be a nurse. Between her job and her studies she helps Bizu Riki Mullu, founder of Chassida Shmella, to foster a community and promote Ethiopian culture and tradition.

There’s another advantage to life in New York. “In Israel we are different, we stand out more than we do here,“ Barhany said. “It might be easier for a non-Ethiopian to find a job there, than it is for Ethiopians… here it can be easier, no one will categorize you.”

A recent Israeli study found that, roughly 20 years after they came to Israel, unemployment in the Ethiopian community is more than double than in the whole Jewish population in Israel. Forty percent of Ethiopians are jobless or are not looking for one. It also found that only sixteen percent of Ethiopian Israelis are high-school graduates.

Like many of their peers in their early twenties, they decided to come to New York. Unlike most, however, they founded, or helped to start two non-profits: BINA and Chassida Shmella.

Chassida Shmella is the word stork in Hebrew and Amharic. It echoes an old tradition, of asking the storks as they migrate from Europe, (over Israel) to Africa: “Stork, stork, how is our beloved Jerusalem?”

These two organizations help Ethiopians network in the big city as well as help them to preserve their tradition.


Above: The renowned Ethiopian-Israeli BETA Dance Troupe was one of the highlights at the 2010 Sigd
festival in New York hosted by Chassida Shmella, The Ethiopian Jewish Community of North America,
and the 92nd Street Y Resource Center for Jewish Diversity.

The community has grown in the last five years but these organizations still struggle for support. Their community is too small to receive funding from larger organizations, and they are having trouble growing, because they lack support for education, for Jews and non-Jews about Ethiopia’s Jewish heritage.

Shabbat Dinners with Ethiopian food, Annual Ethiopian Film Festival and other cultural programs by BINA and Chassida Shmella are much needed. It’s crucial not only to strengthen the sense of community, but also to overcome ignorance from American Jews and even Israeli New Yorkers.

“Ninety Nine percent of people did not believe that I was Jewish,” said Goshu, 28, wearing a silver Star-of-David pendant. “And then, there were the Israelis, who asked ‘What, are you Ethiopian? What are you doing here? Were you unhappy in Israel?’” She replied with the same question. “Why are you here? Were you unhappy there?”

American Jewish foundations, which were key players in the Ethiopian Jews’ exodus, replied to Barhany’s request: “Isn’t it enough we brought them to Israel?”

During the Sigd holiday festival in the Upper East Side 92Y in September, Mullu, dressed in a traditionally-embroidered white dress, said they still need a lot of help.

“We are reaching out for everybody, every organization, every individual to be involved, to help us grow this organization, to help a younger generation be a part of the Jewish nation.”

Reaching out to everyone has worked. Barhany said that more than thirty percent of the Ethiopian-American community supports and participates in the community’s events. With fewer resources but a lot of enthusiasm, their help is crucial for these organizations’ growth.

After ten years in New York, Barhany is no longer a stranger, but she’s not ready to announce the end of her journey just yet.

“I call myself the wandering Jew,” she said.

Like the storks, she will keep traveling. Israel, and Ethiopia are her next stops, but not the last.


About the Author:
Dana Rapoport is a journalist based in New York. She worked as a foreign news editor for Israel’s largest broadcast news channel, Channel2, before attending the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Rapoport also holds a BA in History and Theatre from Tel Aviv University. She hopes to keep covering the Ethiopian community here, and in Israel.

The Revolution of Relevance (By Mehret Mandefro and Peter Levin)

Above: Mehret Mandefro is a White House Fellow, and Peter
Levin is Senior Advisor in the U.S. Depart of Veterans Affairs

Opinion:
Huffingtonpost.com
By Mehret Mandefro and Peter Levin
Posted: October 22, 2010 05:23 PM

The Boston-based website patientslikeme.com has created a large community that works together “to enable people to share information that can improve the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases.” To make this happen, they have “created a platform for collecting and sharing real world, outcome-based patient data and are establishing data-sharing partnerships with doctors, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, research organizations, and non-profits.” The beauty in their design lies in the fact that the goals they have outlined are easily customized to anyone’s personal experience of battling a life-changing disease.

Of course, there’s nothing new about advocates who build communities that set goals, solve problems and help achieve better stakeholder outcomes. A for-profit company focused on relief of disease-born suffering is laudable, but not exactly original. What is abrupt and new is the rapid growth and abundance of recently created virtual groups, and how amazingly durable they seem to be. It is no exaggeration to claim that the Internet has transformed the commons from tragic and depleted to vibrant and inexhaustible. “On line” strangers cross domestic class and international boundaries to freely choose their priorities, interests, and new friends.

So begins the Revolution of Relevance.

Read more.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. government or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Hazards Of Doing Good: “Famine and Foreigners” In Ethiopia

Above: A new book by Peter Gill argues that Ethiopia’s cycle of
famine is made worse by successive failures of leadership-WSJ

The Wall Street Journal
Book Review
By WILLIAM EASTERLY
SEPTEMBER 7, 2010

If it were possible to sum up in one sentence Ethiopia’s struggles with famine over the past quarter-century, I’d suggest this: It’s not the rains, it’s the rulers. As Peter Gill makes clear in “Famines and Foreigners,” his well-turned account of the country’s miseries since the 1984-85 famine and the Live Aid concert meant to relieve it, drought has not been as devastating to Ethiopians as their own autocratic governments.

Ethiopia is a classic example of Amartya Sen’s dictum that famines don’t occur in democracies, only under tyrannies. The “foreigners” in Mr. Gill’s story either didn’t know about this sad fact of life or chose to ignore it. In any case, the celebrities and humanitarians who rushed to the aid of starving Ethiopians in the mid-1980s unwittingly supported the very people most responsible for those grim days. The Derg, the brutal Marxist junta running Ethiopia at the time, contributed to the 1984 famine by forcing farmers to sell crops to the state at low prices. Many farmers instead consumed much of what they grew. The tradition of Ethiopians in areas with surplus food selling it to those in famine-stricken areas was thus disrupted…”

Fast-forward to the present: Although Stalinist Marxism is done, not much else has changed. The former Tigrayan rebels, led by Meles Zenawi, now rule Ethiopia. The country’s agriculture remains in what Mr. Gill calls “a state of almost permanent crisis.” A famine in the south in 2000 escaped much international notice while the government was busy prosecuting a war against neighboring Eritrea. In 2008, the Ethiopian army conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in the south, attempting to put down a rebellion in its Somali region amid a food crisis there. Human Rights Watch accused Mr. Meles’s forces of “demonstration killings,” torture, torching villages—in sum, “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Read more.

MLK’s Dream: An Ethiopian Perspective

Above: 47 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his
famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, DC.

Opinion
By Tewodros Abebe

Published: Monday, August 30, 2010

Although I was familiar with the name Martin Luther King, Jr. during my teenage years in Ethiopia, I never had a full understanding of either the man’s fascinating story or the level of his greatness. That understanding came to me during my undergraduate years at an American college.

As a young student who had always been interested in the art of writing, I decided to take as many literature courses as I possibly could. One such course, among many, focused on styles of composition. The textbook designated for that particular course contained several pieces to illustrate different writing styles and genres. I enjoyed reading every single essay in that book, but one piece stood out: Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK). My Dear Fellow Clergymen . . . that fascinating document began. I still remember the stunning effect Dr. King’s 1963 letter had on me as I read it for the first time. It was an eye-opening document that put before me the suffering, humiliation, and struggle that African-Americans had to endure in order to attain justice, equality, and civil rights. I never knew!

The eloquence of the letter and its sobering content were simply captivating. I read it again and again, as if Dr. King was speaking to me directly:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.

Yes, I felt the letter was addressed to me and, at the same time, to every individual in every part of the world. I never anticipated that I would identify with Dr. King’s message so closely with such intensity. The letter prompted me to recall the chronic political turmoil and persecutions in my own country and in many African nations. It provoked me to ponder on the grimness of life for African children and the unspeakable human rights violations that governments commit against their own people. Nevertheless, I tried to maintain an optimistic outlook as Dr. King did in the closing remarks of his extraordinary letter:

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Again, Dr. King’s closing remarks, I felt, should serve as cautionary words to a world that chose to focus on differences than the fundamental similarities of the human race.

The letter that introduced me to Dr. King’s writings inspired me to read more about him and his brilliant leadership of the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, the speech that transformed American society, which was delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., remains my favorite: I Have a Dream. The speech, I realize, has been the subject of numerous books, articles, and documentaries. It is simply one of the most fascinating, thoughtful, and emotionally stirring speeches of modern times. I would not be surprised if it is one of the most quoted speeches in the world. As Dr. King’s Birmingham letter, I Have a Dream also has a universal appeal that speaks truth to all people of every nationality. Every time I watch the video of the speech or read its text, I feel something so profound that is very difficult to articulate. I Have a Dream, indeed, is a highly inspiring speech that gives tremendous hope to all people who are languishing under the brutal rules of wicked oppressors and ruthless dictators.

As we observe the forty-seventh anniversary of Dr. King’s historical speech, may all of us be mindful of the human understanding and connection that Martin Luther King, Jr. strived to nurture throughout his life. Like all great speeches, the powerful message that he successfully transmitted through I Have a Dream is applicable today, and to all people. Let us recognize the fact that, with faith and determination, people around the world, to use Dr. King’s own words, “will be able to transform the jangling discords” of their nations “into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Martin Luther King had a phenomenal dream. Let’s work on ours collectively.

Video: Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Source: Art-Topia

Maids in Ethiopia: A Sign of Elitism?

Above: What I did not know as a child but know now as an
adult is that maids and those who they take care of live in
two social strata. (Commentary from the host of BC Radio)

OPINION
By Teddy Fikre

Posted here: Saturday, August 14, 2010

Growing up in Ethiopia, we used to have maids that helped around the house. For the most part, the maids were considered part of the family. Although my mother attended to my needs and that of my siblings, the maids nonetheless were a ubiquitous presence inside our house. Whether they were helping to clean up, make injera and wot, or other tasks around the house, they were present in our lives on a daily basis. As a child, I never really took the time to be introspective or to question why these strangers were all the sudden part of our family. All I knew is that I would eventually befriend the maids and would become part of the memories of Ethiopia that I left behind.

In retrospect, when looking back at it, I wonder if having a maid put my family as part of the haves in Ethiopia. What I did not know as a child but know now as an adult is that maids and those who they take care of live in two social strata. Maids were a part of the working poor, mostly women who came to Addis from the country side to find an opportunity much the same way migrant workers from Mexico travel to the United States to escape the clutches of poverty in the homes they left behind. So I find myself grappling with one inescapable question, did the employment with my family present an opportunity for our maids or did we somehow take part in the exploitation of Ethiopians who were desperate for a prospect at a new life.

Grant it, exploitation is a jarring word. Not one family I know in Ethiopia forced any of their maids to stay against their will. The maids were given shelter and food, and paid for their services. Compared from the places most of the maids came from, most were living a relatively better life. Yet, the idea of an Ethiopian being a maid for another Ethiopian is something which is hard for me to accept. Maybe it is because the social inequities of class and wealth are that much more evident when you see one Ethiopian serving another. After all, I never really think too much about it when I see Mexican maids in America or janitors coming by my office on a daily basis to clean up after the office workers. Somehow, when I see Ethiopians serving other Ethiopians, it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. To be honest, I don’t fancy myself as one that wants to be served by others to begin with, but it hits home when that person is from my own country. I guess it is the same reason we are more shocked when we see a homeless Ethiopian yet we are not quite as phased when we see homeless people everyday in DC.

This same level of discomfort follows me to this day. When I see Ethiopians working at a hotel and offer to take carry my luggage or Ethiopian limo drivers chauffeuring other Ethiopians, it smacks of elitism to me to be served by my own community. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I came from being part of the relative haves in Ethiopia to being a part of the working class, from having maids in Ethiopia to watching my father work multiple jobs that I understand the sacrifices that people take to find a better path in life. So is it in fact elitist to have an Ethiopian maid in Ethiopia? I am not sure what the answer to that is, I guess that is a value judgment for each one of us to make. Hopefully, my conscience won’t get in my way the next time I am eating at an Ethiopian restaurant and realize that it is an Ethiopian woman who is making the wot in the kitchen.

Source: Browncondor.com (BC Radio)
Live TV : Ustream

By the same author:
The Ethiopian Flag: Stop putting political symbols on it

Ethiopian Youth Lobby Senators to Pass Law Protecting Girls

The kids on the hallways of Rayburn US Congress Bldg where they handed 11,000 letters to Senators lobbying for the support of H.R. 2103. - (Photo by Saba Fassil - July 15, 2010)

Tadias Magazine
OP-ED
By Saba Fassil

Published: Thursday, July 29, 2010

WASHINGTON (TADIAS) — Two weeks ago, about 20 young people from the Ethiopian Community Center in D.C., along with their peers from other communities, descended on the U.S. Senate, where they delivered over 11,000 letters urging lawmakers to pass “The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act.”

The bill, if passed, will authorize President Obama to provide assistance, including through multilateral, non-governmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent child marriage in developing countries and to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women.

According to USAID, the marriage of girls under 18 is a common practice in many developing countries, including Ethiopia, and in some regions it is a deeply-rooted tradition. USAID research shows that “the practice can produce large families, poverty, medical complications due to early childbearing, increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, high rates of divorce, and interruption of education.” There are already an estimated 60 million girls worldwide who are child brides; without serious action to end this harmful tradition 100 million more girls are expected to be forced into marriage in the next decade.

The lobbying effort, which was coordinated by Plan USA – part of Plan International, a world-wide non-profit organization with country offices in 48 developing countries including Ethiopia – used letters written by volunteers from each of the 50 states asking the Senators for their support to pass the law so that no girl ever has to be forced into marriage, at ages as young as seven!

Helina, a student at Cardozo Senior High School in Washington, D.C., is one of the leaders of the youth delegation. She was born in Ethiopia where half of all girls are married by age 14 in the northern Amhara region. “Child marriage is terrible,” says Helina. “Kids should be able to stay in school and get an education, and not be forced into marriage. We need to do something about it. We have to make sure people are aware of this situation.”

Sixteen-year-old Shayna, a D.C. student at School Without Walls says, “It is important for girls my age or younger to go through their childhood experience in a positive way so they can grow and become strong young women, and know what it is they want for themselves and get proper education, develop friendships and connections with others. Ultimately having strong and beautiful young women in this world will make this world a better place.”

Mamadou,12, is a boy trying to stand up for girls, something you don’t usually see on the school playground. But he wants to help stop the practice of child marriage, a tradition that stands to affect 100 million more girls in the coming decade. “It just basically messes up your whole life. Just imagine yourself as a young child wanting to be a doctor. But then you get married at a young age, do you really think that those dreams are still alive?”

Nardos, a young Ethiopian-American girl, was brimming with excitement to be walking into Senate offices, gladly attending a Congressional hearing about child marriage and speaking to Senate aides.


The kids gather to lobby congress on July 15, 2010. Courtesy Photo.

Hopefully this youth-led effort will help push the Senate, in its final marathon before adjourning for the year, to pass this important act, and help millions and millions of girls worldwide have the chance to be just girls, not wives.

These young global citizens are participants of “Because I am a Girl” – Plan International’s campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.

Saba Fassil is a graduate of the George Washington University, where she earned a B.S. in Economics.

Related:
Tesfaye Girma Deboch: Friends Seek Closure in WSU PhD Student’s Drowning Case

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Liya Kebede: Protests Aren’t What We Should Remember About The G8

Above: Supermodel, actress, and maternal health advocate,
Liya Kebede applauds the G8 for its $5 billion commitment to
maternal health. Photo: Liya at the Usher Fragrance Launch.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New York (Tadias) – In an article posted on The Huffington Post, Supermodel and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede highlights a topic that failed to garner media attention amid news of protests and arrests during the recent G8 summit in Canada.

“Something important was overlooked — critical progress towards saving mothers’ lives. During this meeting of the world’s top leaders, mothers were finally at the top of the agenda. Almost every death resulting from childbirth is preventable yet politicians have historically shown little will to save these women’s lives. Last weekend, the G8 leaders proved otherwise with a $5 billion commitment to maternal health. Not only is this great news for women across the globe, but essential for the health of their children and the future economic development of their communities,” writes Kebede, who serves as the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador.

“In Ethiopia — where I was born — most women still give birth alone. Medical facilities are often too far away, overcrowded or under-equipped to help them. Across Africa, dedicated health workers like the doctors at the Durame Hospital in Ethiopia struggle to serve too many with too little. The nurses, midwives and doctors at these hospitals are superheroes — they work tirelessly to save lives every day — but they cannot do it alone. With funding from the G8 and G20 countries, we can support these hospitals and set up clinics to serve isolated communities. For many women and children, especially those with health complications, this would mean the difference between life and death.” Read more.

Related:
Liya Kebede Makes TIME 100 List

Video: Supermodel Liya Kebede talks maternal health on Riz Khan – 11 Oct 2007

Toward creating an Ethiopian Israeli Peace Corps

Above: Israeli navy soldiers walk towards a prayer ceremony
held on the Ethiopian Jews’ Sigd holiday on a hill overlooking
Jerusalem. About 80,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel – (AP)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, July 9, 2010

New York (Tadias) – We recently received an update from Howard Lenhoff, Professor Emeritus at the University of California and former President of American Association for Ethiopian Jews. He had previously published an article on Tadias entitled Out of Ethiopia, Educated in Israel, and Back to Africa to Assist Rwanda.

The Professor wanted to inform us that he has written another piece on the subject, which is posted on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s website.

“You will soon receive an ope-ed from the JTA regarding the establishment of an Afro-Israeli Peace Corps of Ethiopian Jews,” Lenhoff, who is the author of Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes, said in an email message. “It is a very positive, pragmatic, and doable. Please read it, and publish it in your newspaper.”

Below is the article.

Toward creating an Ethiopian Israeli Peace Corps
By Howard Lenhoff · July 7, 2010

In Africa and Israel, several exciting programs are now operating that show that untapped resources in Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community could be turned into one of Israel’s great assets.

As an activist on behalf of Israel and Ethiopian Jews since 1974, I propose that Israel build a sizable cadre of Ethiopian Jewish Israelis and train them for Peace Corps-type service in poverty-stricken African nations to help them develop schools, farms, irrigation systems, and paramedical and communication facilities.

This model of an Afro-Israeli Peace Corps can be useful for other democracies that also are trying to assimilate large numbers of African immigrants.

Out of Africa and educated in Israel, these Ethiopian Israelis could be employed by Israel or by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to help others in Africa.

This is already happening at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a JDC site on 143 acres on the outskirts of the capital Kigali. Some 250 Rwandan orphans are enrolled as live-in students at Agahozo Shalom, which has plans to add 250 more orphans from the devastating wars of recent years. Some of those training local Rwandans to work with the orphans are Ethiopian Israeli graduates of the Yemin Orde youth village in Israel.

Why should an Afro-Israeli Peace Corps consist primarily of Ethiopian Israelis? Experiences at the Rwanda school and at similar aid programs in Africa show that African people relate especially well to others of African background whose families have shared similar trials.

This would hardly be the first foray for Israel into conducting Peace Corps-type work in Africa. Between 1958 and 1973, the Israeli government sent physicians, engineers, and irrigation and agricultural experts to a number of African countries. Today, Israel has resumed helping some African countries.

With a broadly based effort to recruit and train Ethiopian Jews for service across the African continent, Israel can restore its pre-1973 programs in Africa with a new creative humanitarian dimension. At the same time, significant benefits would be provided to Israel’s growing Ethiopian Jewish community, too many of whom are unemployed and whose families live below the national poverty level.

As we know from the U.S. Peace Corps program, returning volunteers employ their skills and experiences beneficially at home. A long list of American leaders in the fields of education, business, politics, diplomacy, the arts, literature and medicine started their careers with service in the U.S. Peace Corps.

Once they return to Israel, Ethiopian graduates of the program would be more likely to get better jobs, decreasing the community’s poverty level and perhaps increasing the respect of other Israelis for their fellow Ethiopian citizens. The program also could generate much good will internationally for Israel.

Any naysayers who might claim that an insufficient number of Ethiopian Israelis are up to the task would be wrong. Ethiopian Jews in Israel have become rabbis, lawyers, musicians, fashion models, nurses, movie producers, journalists and computer programmers. An educational program in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi has helped Ethiopian Israelis there achieve higher rates of high school graduation than the general Israeli population in that community. There should be no concern about Israel finding sufficient qualified Ethiopian Jews to staff an Afro-Israeli peace corps.

Furthermore, recruiting Ethiopian Jews for service in Africa can be a potent motivating factor in further improving educational achievement in their own community in Israel.

An Afro-Israeli Peace Corps obviously will be no panacea to solve all the problems of the Ethiopian Israelis; other major efforts are needed. Without a broad-based effort to address the problems of that community, the heroic airlifts of the Ethiopian Jews via Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991 may continue to be marred by social ills.

But a Peace Corps-type program could help provide a way for Ethiopian Israelis to gain valuable training and work experience, and elevate their socioeconomic status within Israel. Rabbi Irving Greenberg, past president of the Jewish Life Network, and Nathan Shapiro, past president of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, have endorsed this idea.

Just as the Peace Corps was a major win-win domestically and internationally for America, this initiative could bring similar benefits to Israel and to any country wishing to join the fight against world poverty.
—-

About the Author:
Howard Lenhoff, Professor Emeritus at University of California, was the President of American Association for Ethiopian Jews (1978-1982). Professor Lenhoff can be reached at hlenhoff@uci.edu or 662-801-6406.

Birth pangs of democracy (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Above: Students at Addis Ababa University say it helps to be
a member of Ethiopia’s ruling party to gain college admission.
(Photo: Harold Jackson / Inquirer Staff )

The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Harold Jackson
Opinion Columnist

Posted on Sun, Apr. 11, 2010

Ethiopia is like a rose – oh, so beautiful, but beware its thorns.

I found that out while accompanying a Healing the Children medical missions team that was there in March, performing pediatric surgeries and other services, mainly at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa.

Talking to a variety of people, from university students to entrepreneurs to government officials, provided insight beyond the rather ubiquitous tranquillity of the typical Addis Ababa street.

I learned that the Ethiopian government is benevolent and repressive and that we in America should pay more attention to one of the oldest independent countries in the world. Read more.

Related:
A team of U.S. doctors and nurses discovers the unexpected on a mission to Ethiopia

A team of U.S. doctors and nurses discovers the unexpected on a mission to Ethiopia

Above: This mission was a joint venture between Healing the
Children and Gemini Health Care Group, founded by Dr. Ebba K.
Ebba of Alabama.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Harold Jackson
Opinion Columnist

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Eight-year-old boys, when they are not in school, should be outdoors with their friends, playing ball, finding treasure in what grown-ups throw away, shouting in glee because that’s what little boys do.

But not 8-year-old Zemen Toshome. For more than six years, Zemen has lived at Tikur Anbesa (Black Lion) Hospital in Addis Ababa. He goes outside only briefly on the hospital grounds. He can’t shout because of his medical condition.

Zemen has laryngeal papillomatosis, a disease in which tumors grow inside the larynx, vocal cords, or respiratory tract. The disease occurs when the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transferred from a mother to her child at birth. The tumors can grow quickly and cause difficulty in breathing, which if not corrected can lead to death. Read more.

Related:
Video: Interview With Dr. Ebba K. Ebba

The Recent String of High-Profile Violent Crimes Involving Ethiopian Immigrants (Video)

Above: The latest known violent crime involving an Ethiopian
immigrant took place in Florida over the weekend, following
last year’s brazen attempted bank robbery in Maryland.

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Our community is not used to making headlines, such as the recent string of high-profile violent crimes involving young Ethiopian immigrants, which should be a concern to all of us.

Following this new wave of mayhem, a man identified by police as 24-year-old Kidane Mengesha was arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbings of two women in South Beach, Florida on Saturday.

According to WSVN-TV Channel 7, Mengesha, who immigrated from Ethiopia three years ago, approached Leigh-Ann Martinez, 21, and Belkin Gutierrez, 20, shortly after 9 pm where they had just finished dinner with friends at the popular restaurant TGI Friday’s and were walking towards their car. “He was trying to engage them in a conversation. They repeatedly told him, ‘Please leave us alone,’” Miami Beach Police detective Juan Sanchez said.

Mengesha first assaulted Martinez, who hit back, and a fight broke-out. Gutierrez joined in support of her friend, at which point the man pulled out a knife. Mengesha stabbed Gutierrez five times, in the head, torso and arm, and Martinez was stabbed once in the leg, according to press reports. “It was a big cut — a really big cut. I freaked out and passed out on the sidewalk,” Martinez said.

The disturbing news comes only days after a court in Maryland sentenced Josef Tadele, 24, to four years in prison for his role in a plot to kidnap the family of a bank manager. His co-defendant Yohannes Surafel, 25, who has also been convicted, faces a possible sentence of 75 years. A third suspect, Baruk Ayalneh, is believed to have left the United States.

According to prosecutors, the Maryland trio were acting out a scene from the movie “Bandits” – starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton- in which they hold bank managers hostage the night before they rob their banks.

Meanwhile in Florida, the victims, who fortunately survived the attack, are being treated in local hospitals. And Mengesha, who has no prior criminal record, is being held on $50,000 bond.

We hope these are isolated incidents, and not symptoms of a looming problem for the larger community.

WATCH: 2 Sentenced in Bank Mgr. Kidnapping

Assumptions and Interpretations of Ethiopian History (Part II)

Figure 3: Hatse Bazin’s Stela at Aksum (Photo: Ayele Bekerie)

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie
ayele_author.jpg

Published: Monday, March 15, 2010

Click here to read part one of this article.

Who are the authors of the external paradigm?

New York (Tadias)- Sergew (1972) represents the Ethiopian scholars who look at the Ethiopian history from outside in, one of the most ardent proponents of the external origin of Ethiopian history and civilization is Edward Ullendorff. In the preface to his book The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People, Ullendorff (1960) wrote:

This book is principally concerned with historic Abyssinia and the cultural manifestations of its Semitized inhabitants – not with all the peoples and regions now within the political boundaries of the Ethiopian Empire.

The constituent elements of the external paradigm are thus “historic Abyssinia” and “Semitized inhabitants.” Regarding the name Abyssinia, Martin Bernal (1987), in his book Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, Vol 1, wrote: “It should be made clear that the name ‘Abyssynia’ was used precisely to avoid ‘Ethiopia,’ with its indelible association with Blackness. The first American edition of Samuel Johnson’s translation of the 17th-century travels of Father Lobo in Ethiopia and his novel Rasselas, published in Philadelphia in 1768, was entitled The History of Rasselas, prince of Abissinia: An Asiatic Tale! Baron Cuvier equated Ethiopian with Negro, but categorized the Abyssinians – as Arabian colonies – as Caucasians.”

On the question of “Semitized inhabitants, Bernal (1987) appears to agree with Ullendorff. Bernal stated, “The dominant Ethiopian languages are Semitic.” I must add, however, Bernal now claims the origin of what is generally accepted as Afro-Asiatic or “Semitic” languages is Ethiopia. The possible diffusion of the Afro-Asiatic languages from Ethiopia to the Near East since Late Paleolithic times have also been emphasized by Grover Hudson (1977; 1978). This claim by itself is a major challenge to the South Arabian or external paradigm. Ullendorff’s claim that “the Semitized inhabitants of historic Ethiopia” had South Arabian origin has become difficult to sustain. It is, however, exemplary to look into the writings of Ullendorff in order to bring to light the process of linking the Ethiopian history to an external paradigm.

According to Ullendorff, “no student of Ethiopia can afford to neglect the connection between that country and South Arabia. Among those who have recognized this vital link are Eugen Mitwoch, while leo Reinsch is the undisputed master of the Semitic connection with the Hamitic (Kushitic) languages of Ethiopia.” Hamitic/Semitic divide, of course, was nothing but a means to keep the Ethiopian people divided.

His divisiveness even became clearer in the following statement: “The Abyssinians proper, the carriers of the historical civilization of Semitized Ethiopia, live in the central and northern highlands. From the mountain of Eritrea in the north to the Awash valley in the south we find this clearly distinguishable Abyssinian type who for many centuries has maintained his identity against the influx of Negroid peoples of the Nile Valley, the equatorial lakes, or the Indian Ocean littoral.” What is surprising is this outdated argument of physical anthropology that remained unchallenged until very recently. It is also unfortunate that a significant portion of the Ethiopian elite would buy such erroneous assertion.

The outline of Ethiopian history constructed by Ullendorff begins with “South Arabia and Aksum.” And the outline has been duplicated and replicated by a significant number of Ethiopian historians. For instance, Sergew used similar “external” approach in his otherwise very important book entitled Ancient and medieval Ethiopian History to 1270. Sergew (1972) wrote, “Ethiopia is separated from Southern Arabia by the Red Sea. As is well known, the inhabitants of South Arabia are of Semitic stock, which most probably came from Mesopotamia long before our era and settled in this region. … For demographic and economic reasons, the people of South Arabia started to migrate to Ethiopia. It is hard to fix the date of these migrations, but it can be said that the first immigration took place before 1000 B.C.11 Sergew essentially echoed the proposition advanced by Ethiopianits, such as E. Littmann (1913), D. Nielson (1927), J Doresse (1957), H.V. Wissman (1953), C. Conti Rossini (1928), M. Hoffner (1960), A. Caquot and J. Leclant (1955), A. Jamme (1962), and Ullendorff (1960).12 The Ethiopianists almost categorically laid down the external or South Arabian paradigmatical foundation for Ethiopian history.

Challenges of the External Paradigm from Without

In Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity, Stuart Munro-Hay (1991) writes: “The precise nature of the contacts between the two areas [South Arabia and Ethiopia], their range in commercial, linguistic or cultural terms, and their chronology, is still a major question, and discussion of this fascinating problem continues.”13 What is notable in Munro-Hay’s interpretation is the very labeling of the Aksumite civilization as an African civilization. Its impact may be equivalent to Placid Temples’ Bantu Philosophy. At a time when Africans are labeled people without history and philosophy, the Belgian missionary in the Congo inadvertently overturned the Hegelian reduction of the so-called Bantu. Temples elevated the Bantu (African) by wanting to observe him in the context of reason and logic, that is, philosophy.

By the same token, Aksum: An African Civilisation dares to place or locate Aksum in Africa. That by itself is a clear shift of paradigm, from external to internal. It is an attempt to see Ethiopians as agents of their history. It is an attempt to question the validity of the south Arabian origin of the Ethiopian history and civilization.

Jacqueline Pirenne’s proposal has also convincingly challenged the validity of the external paradigm as the source of Ethiopian history. Pirenne suggests that the influence is in reverse, i.e., the Ethiopians influenced the civilization of the South Arabians. She reached her ‘ingenious’ conclusion after “weighing up the evidence from all sides, particularly aspects of material culture and linguistic/paleographic information.” Pirenne is essentially confirming the proposal made by scholars such as DuBois and Drusilla Dungee Houston, two African American vindicationist historians, who, in the early 1900s, wrote arguing that South Arabia was a part of ancient Ethiopia.

Another landmark in the refutation of the South Arabian paradigm comes from the Italian archaeologist, Rodolofo Fattovitch, who linked the pre-Aksumite culture to Nubia, “especially to Kerma influences, and later on to Meroe.” After more than three decades of extensive research and publications, Fattovitch in 1996 made the following conclusion: “The present evidence does not support the hypothesis of migration from Arabia to Africa in late prehistoric times. On the contrary, it suggests that Afro-Arabian cultures developed in both regions as a consequence of a strong and continuous interaction among the local populations.” Recent archaeological evidence from Asmara region also appeared to support the conclusion reached by Fattovitch. “Archaeologists from Asmara University and University of Florida, based on preliminary excavations in the vicinity of the Asmara, seemed to have found an agricultural settlement dated to be 3,000 years old.”

Challenges of the External Paradigm from Within

Among the Ethiopian scholars, Hailu Habtu (1987) presents a very strong case against the external paradigm. As far as Hailu is concerned, “the formulation of Ethiopian and other African historiography by European scholars at times suffers from Afro-phobia and Eurocentrism.” Hailu utilizes linguistic and historical linguistics evidence to challenge the external paradigm. Most importantly, Hailu suggested a new approach in the reading of the Ethiopian past by declaring the absence of “Semito/Hamitic dichotomy in Ethiopian tradition.” Hailu cites the works of Murtonen (1967) to question any significant linguistic connection between Ge’ez and the languages of South Arabia. According to Murtonen, “Ancient South Arabic is more closely related to northern Arabic and north-west Semitic rather than Ethiopic.” He also cites Ethiopian sources, such as Kibra Nagast or the Glory of Kings and Anqatsa Haimanot or the Gate of Faith.

Another Ethiopian historian who challenged the external paradigm is Teshale Tibebu. Teshale (1992) poignantly summarizes the argument as follows: “That Ethiopians are Semitic, and not Negroid; civilized, and not barbaric; are all images of orientalist semiticism in Western Social Science. Ethiopia is considered as the southwestern end of the Semitic world in Africa. The Ethiopian is explained in superlative terms because the ‘Negro’ is considered sub-human. That the heavy cloud of racism had been deeply embedded in the triplicate4 intellectual division among Social Sciences, orientalism, and anthropology – corresponding to Whites, ‘orientals’ (who included, Semitic people, who in turn included Ethiopians), and Negro and native American ‘savages,’ respectively – is common knowledge nowadays. … Ethiopians have always been treated as superior to the Negro but inferior to the White in Ethiopianist Studies because of the racist nature of the classification of the intellectual disciplines. It is quite revealing to see that more is written on Ethiopia in the Journal of Semitic Studies than in the Journal of African History.”

Perhaps the most persistent critique of the external paradigm was the great Ethiopian Ge’ez scholar, Aleqa Asras Yenesaw. Aleqa Asras categorically rejected the external paradigm as follows:

The notion that a Semitic fringe from South Arabia brought the writing system to Ethiopia is a myth.

1. South Arabia as a source of Ethiopian civilization is a political invention;

2. South Arabia was Ethiopian emperors inscribed a part of Ethiopia and the inscriptions in South Arabia.

3. There is no such thing as Sabaen script; it was a political invention designed to undermine Ethiopia’s place in world history.

Paleontological Evidence Places the Origin in Africa

Of course, Ethiopia in terms of place and time emerged much earlier than the name itself. The formation of a geographical feature called the Rift Valley predates in millions of years the word Ethiopia. It was in the Rift Valley of northeast Africa, thanks to the openings and cracks, that paleontologists have been able to unearth the earliest human-like species. At least 5 million years of human evolution has taken place before the naming of Ethiopia. Dinqnesh, Italdu, Garhi, ramidus or afarensis are names assigned within the last thirty years, even if they predate Ethiopia by a much longer time periods.

Ethiopia’s beginning, in paleontological terms, was in what we now know as southern Ethiopia. The Afar region is primal, for it is the cradle of human beings. The people of this region may have experimented with the oldest stone technology to develop our initial knowledge about plants and animals. They may have also experimented with languages and cultures so as to create groups and communities. They may have also been the first to map varying residential sites by moving from one locality to another.

In other words, the history of human beings begins in Africa, more specifically in the Rift Valley regions of northeast and southern Africa. As a result, African history is central to the early development of human beings. As the oldest continent on earth, it has been particularly valuable in the study of life. To many, Africa has made one of the most important, if not the most important contributions: the emergence of the earliest human ancestors about five million years ago. Evidence has shown that all present humans originated in Africa before migrating to other parts of the world. Paleontology is providing an incredible array of information on human origin. Furthermore, gene mapping and blood test are useful methods in the understanding of human beginnings in Africa.


Figure 4: Paleontological Site at Melka Kunture, central Ethiopia (Photo by
Ayele Bekerie)

Ethiopia has become one of the most important sites in the world in the unearthing and understanding of our earliest ancestors. Among the earliest human-like species found in Ethiopia are: Aridepithecus ramidus (4.4 – 4.5 myo), Australopithecus afarensis also known as Dinqnesh (3.18 myo), and Australopithecus garhi (2.5 – 2.9 myo). A. ramidus (an Afar word for root) is one of the earliest hominid species found in Aramis, Afar region by a team including Tim White and Berhane Asfaw. A. afarensis is widely considered to be the basal stalk from which other hominids evolved. Dinqnesh was found in Hadar, Afar region by Donald Johanson and his team in 1974. In addition, the oldest stone tools or the earliest stone technology, which is dated 2.5 million years old, was found in the Afar region by an Ethiopian paleontologist, Seleshi Semaw and his team in 1998.

Furthermore, Ethiopia has also provided us with a concrete fossil evidence for the emergence of modern human species, Homo sapiens, about 160, 000 years ago, again from the Afar region of Ethiopia. The fossil evidence supports the DNA evidence that traced our common ancestor to a 200,000-year-old African woman.23 “Geneticists traced her identity by analyzing DNA passed exclusively from mother to daughter in the mitochondria, energy-producing organelles in the cell.”24 Likewise, scientists from Stanford University and the University of Arizona have conducted a study to find the genetic trail leading to the earliest African man or Adam. According to this Y chromosome study, the earliest male ancestors of the modern human species include some Ethiopians, whose descendants populated the entire world.

According to Berhane Asfaw, an Ethiopian paleontologist, Edaltu, the probable immediate ancestor of anatomically modern humans and the 160,000-year-old fossilized hominid crania from Herto, Middle awash, Ethiopia, “fill the gap and provide crucial evidence on the location, timing and contextual circumstances of the emergence of Homo sapiens in Africa.”

In other words, as Lapiso Dilebo puts it, “Ethiopia is the primordial home of primal human beings and that ancient Ethiopian civilization ipso facto and by recent archaeological findings precedes chronologically and causally all civilizations of the ancients, especially that of Egyptian and Greco-Roman civilizations.”

I am also devoting more space to the paleontological aspect of Ethiopian history to show the way toward a paradigm shift in the reading of the Ethiopian past. It is very clear that humanity has gone through a set of dynamic evolutionary processes in Africa. What we now know as Ethiopia is central to part of an evolutionary transformation, which is attested by the presence of more than 87 linguistic groups that eventually emerged in it.

I think it will be fascinating to look into the historical convergence and divergence of all these linguistic/cultural groups, of course, from inside out.

Towards the People-Centered History of Ethiopia

A people-centered Ethiopian history will have at least the following foundations of material cultures. I would like to identify them as pastoral, inset and teff civilizations. Distinct communities and ways of lives have been established and perpetuated on the bases of these three civilizations in three major ecological zones. Moreover, we observe the emergence of national traditions and identity through the interactions of these civilizations.

Pastoral civilizations tend to concentrate in the lowlands or dry or semi dry lands of Ethiopia. The civilization is also conducive to coexist with the traditions and practices of both inset and teff civilizations. The inset civilization covers a wide region in the south and southwest, in an area known as woina dega or an ecological zone between the lowland and the highlands of Ethiopia. It is a tradition that is deeply rooted among the peoples of Wolaita, Gurage Betoch, Keffa and numerous other nationalities of the south. Teff civilization is the civilization encompassing central and northern Ethiopia that is the mountainous region of Ethiopia. It is important to note that I use the term civilization to denote the social, economic and cultural institutions that are established and sustained by the people. Pastoral, inset and teff are primary occupations of the people, but the essence of their lives is not entirely dominated by them.


Figure 5: Bete Giorgis Church at Lalibela, northern Ethiopia
(Photo by Ayele Bekerie)

What are the main characteristics of these civilizations? The civilizations are home grown and deeply rooted. In other words, the people have succeeded in mastering ways of life that can be passed on from generations to generations. Furthermore, the civilizations are allowed to flourish in a pluralistic environment. In other words, they are civilizations that embrace or tolerate multilingual and multi-religious expressions. In all the three cases, we witness the presence of monotheistic or indigenous religious traditions, multiple linguistic expressions and patterns of social structures and functions under the umbrellas of these civilizations.

It is my contention that such inward approach may help us to fully understand, for instance the Gada age-grade system of the Oromos. The Gada system is regarded as one of the most egalitarian democratic system invented by the Oromos. The system allows the entire community to fully participate in its own affairs. All age groups have roles to play, events to chronicle and responsibilities to assume. I just can’t imagine how we can achieve modernity, or for that matter post-modernity in governance and development, without seriously considering such a relevant practice.

The inset civilization tends to allow its male members to venture to other professions far from home. A case in point would be the Gurages and the Dorzes. The Gurages are active in trading and business through out the country. The Dorzes are the weavers and cloth makers from homegrown resources for the larger population. Inset does not take a lot of space. A well-fertilized acreage at the back of the residential home may have enough inset plants, which are capable of meeting the carbohydrate needs of the entire household throughout the year.

Teff is part of the plow culture of the highlands. Just like inset, teff culture is unique to Ethiopia. No traces of teff or inset cultures are found in South Arabia. It is indeed in these significant material cultures that we begin collecting data in order to construct the long and diverse history of Ethiopia.
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Slideshow: Photos used in this article

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Publisher’s Note: We hope this article will spark a healthy discussion on the subject. The piece is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: ab67@cornell.edu.

About the Author:
Ayele Bekerie is an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University. He is the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” Bekerie is also the creator of the African Writing System web site and a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “ONE HOUSE: The Battle of Adwa 1896-100 Years.” Bekerie’s most recent published work includes “The Idea of Ethiopia: Ancient Roots, Modern African Diaspora Thoughts,” in Power and Nationalism in Modern Africa, published by Carolina Academic Press in 2008 and “The Ancient African Past and Africana Studies” in the Journal of Black Studies in 2007.

Assumptions and Interpretations of Ethiopian History (Part I)

Figure 1: A Close view of a stela from Tiya, central Ethiopia. The carvings on the stela symbolize the Inset (False Banana) Civilization. (Photo by Ayele Bekerie)

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie
ayele_author.jpg

Published: Monday, March 8, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The purpose of this essay is to interrogate assumptions in the reading of our past and to suggest new approaches in the construction of Ethiopian history.

I contend that the long history and its resultant diversity have not been taken into consideration to document and interpret a history of Ethiopia. In fact, what we regard as a history of Ethiopia is mostly a history of northern Ethiopia and their links to the Arabian Peninsula. This is because historical narratives have been shaped by external paradigms. The assumptions and interpretive schemes used to construct Ethiopian history are extracted from experiences and traditions other than our own. Almost all history texts begin from the premises that the history and civilization of Ethiopia have had an external origin. It is also my contention that the centrality of the external paradigms in the interpretations of Ethiopian history has created a hierarchy of national identity (the civilized north vs. the pre-historic south) and culture (written vs. oral traditions) among the polity.

The history of northern Ethiopia is regarded by several writers as “superior” to the history of the rest of Ethiopia. The history of the north, not only has been constructed to have a non-African orientation, but also the historical values of its two major institutions: the monarchy and the church are allowed to dominate. I argue that a history that is constructed on the basis of external paradigms is divisive, neglects the South, too monarcho-tewahedo centric, and privileges the North. Furthermore, the external based history cannot even guarantee the unity among the northerners. What are these external paradigms? Who are there authors? Why did they remain so prevalent in our construction of Ethiopian history? What prevents from pursuing an Ethiopia-centered (people-centered) interpretations and construction of Ethiopian history?

It took a revolution to fundamentally change our assumptions and interpretations. Languages, religions and cultures are no longer presented in hierarchical forms. There are no superior or inferior religious or linguistic traditions within the country. This is not to suggest that equity in diversity has been achieved in the country. But it is safe to say that the country is moving towards plurality and unity in diversity.

In this paper, I will also attempt to address these and related questions with the intent of searching and developing internal paradigms rooted in the observed and narrated traditions of the diverse and yet remarkably intertwined communities of cultures and languages in the place we call Ethiopia.

One of the most persistent and most pervasive themes in the Ethiopian history and historiography until very recently was the theme of “the South Arabian or the South Semitic origin of the major part of the Ethiopian civilization and culture, including its writing system, its religion, its languages, agricultural practices and dynasties.” According to this external paradigm, the history of the Ethiopian people begins with the arrival and settlements of the “culturally superior” people from South Arabia, the Greater Middle East, including Jerusalem, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lebanon. These ‘Semitic’ people supposedly brought with them to the highlands of Ethiopia their languages and, most importantly, their writing system and agricultural practices, such as terracing and ploughing. The external paradigms are still pervasive and, despite the facts to the contrary, they continue to distort the Ethiopian history.

In fact, the South Arabian origin of Ethiopian history and civilization is so pervasive, almost all accountings of Ethiopia are prefaced or began their introductory chapters by highlighting the external factors. It is as if Ethiopia is fathered and mothered or at worst adopted by guardians who came from elsewhere. It is a strategy that places Ethiopia in a permanent state of dependency, from its emergence to the present.

As I argued before, what is the logic of beginning a history of a people or a country from an external source? It is my contention that a history of a people that begins with an external source is quite problematic. It would not be the history of the Ethiopian people, but the history of south Arabians in Ethiopia. Since history narrates or records the material and cultures of all peoples, it is important that we seek conceptions, construction and narration of the Ethiopian history from the inside.

Ever since its conception by the “father” of Ethiopian Studies, Hiob Ludolf (1624-1704CE) of Germany, in the 17th and 18th centuries of our era, the external paradigms became a kind of scholarly tradition among both the Ethiopianists and the Ethiopian scholars. Very few scholars have raised questions regarding the external origin of the Ethiopian polity. Before I explore this assertion further, let me provide some background information on the history of the term Ethiopia.

What is Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is a term by far the most thoroughly referenced and widely recognized both in the ancient and the contemporary world. It is a term associated with people, place, religions and cultures unarguably from the continent of Africa, and to some extent Asia. In fact, at one time, Ethiopia was almost synonymous with continental Africa. Only Ancient Libya and Ancient Egypt were known or recognized as much as Ethiopia in Africa. It is a term deeply explored by both ancient and contemporary writers, theologians, historians, philosophers and poets. Ethiopia is known since antiquity and, as a result, has been a source of legends and mythologies. All the great books of antiquity made probing references to Ethiopia. The term, etymologically speaking, has its origin in multiple sources.


Figure 2: Stelae Park at Tiya, central Ethiopia. Statues of Inset Culture. (Photo by Ayele Bekerie)

Ethiopians insist that the term originated from the word Ethiopis, who was one of the earlier kings of Ethiopia. Ethiopians also point out that the term is a combination of Eth and Yop, terms attributed to a king of Ethiopia who resided by the source of the Blue Nile. There are also others who link the term with incense, thereby tracing it to the land of incense.

Given these suppositions that are primarily presented based on oral traditions, it is incumbent upon us to dig deeper into our past, in order to come to terms with our Ethiopian identity. It is interesting to note that the ancient historians had a better understanding of the Ethiopian past and wrote profusely, from Homer to Herodotus, from Siculus to Origen.

According to Snowden, “Aeschylus is the first Greek to locate Ethiopians definitely in Africa.” ‘Io, according to the prophecy of Prometheus, was to visit a distant country, and a black people, who lived by the waters of the sun, where the Ethiopian river flowed, and was to go to the cataract where the Nile sent forth its stream from the mountains.”

Snowden identifies Xenophanes as the first to apply to Ethiopian physical characteristics that include flat-nosed black-faced features. “Fifth-century dramatists wrote plays involving Ethiopian myths, made references to Ethiopians, and included intriguing geographical details such as snows in the Upper Nile which fed the waters of the Nile.”
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Slideshow: Photos used in this article

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Publisher’s Note: Part two of this article will be published on Monday, March 15, 2010. It will explore the following points: Who are the authors of the external paradigm?; Challenges of the External Paradigm from Without; Challenges of the External Paradigm from Within; Paleontological Evidence Places the Origin in Africa; and Towards the People-Centered History of Ethiopia. This piece is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: ab67@cornell.edu

About the Author:
Ayele Bekerie, is an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University. He is the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” Bekerie is also the creator of the African Writing System web site and a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “ONE HOUSE: The Battle of Adwa 1896-100 Years.” Bekerie’s most recent published work includes “The Idea of Ethiopia: Ancient Roots, Modern African Diaspora Thoughts,” in Power and Nationalism in Modern Africa, published by Carolina Academic Press in 2008 and “The Ancient African Past and Africana Studies” in the Journal of Black Studies in 2007.

Teff luck: What Has Piracy Got To Do With The Price of Injera?

Above: The media never resists stories of sea attacks, but
there is another type of piracy that hardly gets attention:
the looming intellectual property warfare in Africa.

Publisher’s Note: This week we have feature opinion piece on
piracy, patenting, and intellectual property in the developing
world by contributing writer Nemo Semret.

Nemo Semret, who is based in New York City, is an individual
who is concerned about the expanding scope of intellectual
property among many other things.

Tadias Magazine
By Nemo Semret

Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A few months ago, three Somalis pirates were at the center of world news as they haplessly tried to extort money from an American ship in the Indian Ocean. Three guys coming out of an anarchic isolated part of the world, risked their lives at sea. Two were killed and one now faces the death penalty in the US. Around the same time, three Swedes were found guilty of piracy — as in facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet. In the widely publicized case of The Pirate Bay, a Bittorrent index service, three techies with the digital world at their fingertips, thumbed their noses at the law and faced, at worst, some time in the notoriously comfortable jails of Sweden.

The obvious analogy and contrast between these two stories is of course an easy target of ironic comment: piracy, old/new, physical/digital, poor/rich. But it also got me thinking about longer term connections. Indeed, which of those two events is more important symbolically for the future political economy of Africa? Which has more to do with the price of injera or ugali?

Armed men attacking ships at sea was a curious manifestation of the 18th century popping up in the 21st century. Western media and comedians in particular reacted to it as they would to a woolly mammoth buried in the permafrost of Siberia for 10,000 years suddenly thawing and starting to ramble around, Jurrassic Park-style. A pirate story is hard to resist, pirates captivate the imagination of kids, they make western adults feel smug about their own “more civilized” society where such things disappeared 200 years ago, but they also have a kind of radical chic, there’s a certain coolness to their image as rebels standing up to “the man”. They are many interesting things, but there’s also a less exotic reality: those pirates are increasing the cost of shipping anything through that part of the Indian Ocean, which in turn affects the cost of everything from food to energy in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and even further inland, endangering the livelihood of millions of people in the region. Like drug traffickers, in reality they harm not only the world at large but mostly their own people. Unfortunately there’s nothing new about that. In fact, the story of Somali pirates over the last few years fits with the well-worn gloom and doom scenarios of Africa in the 21st century: failed states, increased marginalization, the danger of slipping into a modern dark ages, etc. you know the story.

But how about those Swedish Internet pirates? What do they have to do with Africa, where copyrights and patents have never been respected, and where there isn’t enough bandwidth for it to matter on the global scale anyway? A lot actually. It has got to do with something huge that is quietly reshaping the world: the ever expanding scope of intellectual property. Ok, just in case that was not emphasized enough, this is the thing we’re talking about: the expanding scope of intellectual property. The digitization of entertainment and the difficulties that industry faces from file-sharing are merely the tip of the iceberg. By now it’s old news that, thanks to technology, things that were previously easier to limit and control are now easy to copy and share. But also and more importantly, many things which previously were “free” are now going to get entangled in webs of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and so on. And now we are entering the phase where this will profoundly affect the lives of all of humanity, not just the world of computers and information.

Digital coffee – a trip down memory lane

Years ago (”Digital Coffee”, Nov. 1999), I tried to make the link between coffee and intellectual property, using a comparison of buying $1 of Starbucks stock versus $1 of coffee on the commodity markets. So let’s see where we are today with that hypothetical $1. As illustrated in the chart, invested in SBUX stock in 1993, it grew to $6 by 1999, and would be worth $15 in 2009. While the poor dollar invested in coffee itself, which had reached $1.30 in 1999, would continue to inch up, reaching $1.75 by 2009. The conclusion that, if you consider the chain of value that leads to a cup of coffee, “at the end of the chain it’s $100 a pound, while on the commodity markets it’s $1 a pound, and the grower probably gets $0.10″, has been exacerbated. The coffee farmer, despite doing the most difficult part, gets a shrinking share of the total value. Most of the value in the final product of coffee is really information; it’s in the distribution, and marketing of the coffee experience. That “information goods” part of coffee, which is intellectual property even if it’s not rocket science, is worth more and more while the physical commodity is worth relatively less and less. (That doesn’t happen with oil because there’s a finite supply). And it’s a huge market as I pointed out then, coffee is second only to oil among the world’s commodities in total value. Therefore the producers needed to figure out ways of get in on the information goods game.

Fortunately, awareness of this reality has increased dramatically in recent years. For example, a movie called “Black Gold ” brought some attention to the plight of coffee farmers in the global economy. The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office engaged it in earnest, staked a claim in the digital coffee realm by trademarking some of the Ethiopian coffee names. Starbucks correctly identified this move as encroaching on their territory (the “information goods” side of coffee) and this caused a huge battle which was widely covered. With the help of organizations like Oxfam, the EIPO managed to move the battle to the court of public opinion. Thus Starbucks an extremely successful western corporation of whose brand “social responsibility” is a core part, whose customers are the very stereotype of the bleeding heart liberal, found itself in the position of the big bad exploiter of poor third world farmers. It was a strategy worthy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: if you are a smaller, move the battle to a territory where your enemy’s superior firepower is worthless. Game over. Starbucks capitulated, and EIPO got not only the trademarks, but a promise from Starbucks to help the country in more ways than before. My hat goes off to EIPO and Oxfam for this.

Would you rather collect rent or charity?

But coffee is only one example. A dutch company called “Soil & Crop Improvement BV” is patenting a method of processing of teff flour. The invention results in a gluten-free flour, which helps people with Celiac disease. Celiac is a common genetic disorder, affecting people all over the world. For example in the United States, more than 2 million people have the disease. The disease makes the victim unable to eat gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley, which covers a pretty large fraction of the typical western diet. Thus gluten-free food has a huge market. Sounds like there might be a lot of money to be made from Teff!

So let’s see what this patented invention consists of. As far as I can tell, it has two main ideas. First, you wait a few weeks after harvest before grinding the teff, so that the “the amount of undigested sugars in the starch” is lower than it would if the grain was ground immediately. Second, you pass it through a sieve, so only the small grains go through. Pretty simple stuff. Which of course is good! Saving lives is great, and simple solutions that save lives are the best. Except the whole patenting thing… You see, there’s this thing called “prior art”. In the many centuries since Teff has been the staple in Ethiopia, surely someone had the idea of waiting a few weeks before grinding it and taking the finer grain! But those ideas now belong to a dutch company, because the Netherlands has the intellectual property infrastructure that Ethiopia doesn’t. The winner is determined not necessarily by an actual innovation but by things like having patent offices, and membership in the World Traded Organization. So if this works out and it turns out that 100 million Celiac disease sufferers will switch to a Teff-based diet, the bulk of the profits will flow to the dutch company, not the Ethiopian teff farmer. Sound familiar? SBUX redux. Except in this case it might even go further. It’s not “just” a marketing and distribution advantage which gives a larger slice of the total value, the patent owner can actually bloc the farmer entirely out of that market!

Now there’s nothing particularly evil about Soil & Crop nor is there about Starbucks. In fact, for what it’s worth, they both seem to try to be “socially responsible” corporations. But there’s a big difference between charity and obligation. Suppose you own a house and a tenant came to you and said: “let me take your house and in exchange, each month that I earn more than I spend, I promise to share some the excess to help your kids go to school, and buy you some gifts” You’d say: “Wow, thanks you are very generous Mr. Potential Tenant. But no thanks, here’s a lease, just sign here and pay me the rent.” Right? In other words, you would prefer to have a profitable business relationship with them, rather than accept their charity. So why, when it comes to multi-billion dollar markets for living products that are indigenous, why should it be considered OK that companies can own the brand, the patents, and all the associated information goods value, thus controlling 90% of the final value, while tossing the original owners a few crumbs of charity? Why is enough for them to make the profits and “give back” on a discretionary basis? Shouldn’t they pay rent instead of give charity? So perhaps the “digital coffee” conclusion didn’t go far enough. Now commodities are not just becoming information i.e. controlled by branding and marketing, they are becoming intellectual property, through copyrights and patents too. But who owns this property and who should own it?

Even the birds and the bees

This question affects more than just the potential export markets. The owners of the intellectual property can actually come and extract money even from people who were doing the same thing they’ve been doing before the patent ever existed! For example, in a famous case, some farmers in Canada are forbidden from growing crops that they use to grow — rapeseed (canola) — because they might accidentally mix patented seeds into their crops. Even if they don’t want to use the new seeds and try to avoid it, because birds and bees (and wind among other things) will accidentally mix seeds over large distances, the farmers will infringe on these patents that belong to Monsanto and have to stop…. even though they are only doing the same thing they did before the patent. They have effectively been check-mated out of their own traditional business.

You might think that could never happen in Africa right? The very idea of enforcing a patent against a farmer in rural Africa seems laughable. But think ahead. Intellectual property is a key condition to participating in World Trade Organization and the international community in general. Even China is being forced to do something about copyrights to please the WTO. Not being part of WTO is a huge handicap, and Ethiopia is trying hard to get in, like any country that wants to be part of the world economy. So at some point, it’s quite possible that Ethiopians could find themselves in the position of having to choose between accepting the established intellectual property system under which they are screwed, or rejecting the system at enormous costs i.e. going the pirate route.

Which brings us back to our Swedish pirates. Putting aside their guilt or innocence, they exist because a huge number of people feel locked out of the “information goods” and these people create an enormous black market for copyrighted movies, music, and software. And bittorrent, the protocol their service facilitates, just happens to be the most efficient current form of file sharing, so they are current poster children, the latest incarnation of Napster, in the on-going saga of intellectual property on the Internet. But it’s not just pirates. The world of property in information is a dangerously unstable one even among the big players. A long time ago, a researcher from IBM explained the world of corporate patents to me as follows. Patents are like nuclear weapons, they don’t want to use them but they have to have them because their opponents have them. They hold them as deterrents, they sign patent “treaties” where they agree not to sue each other and cross-license patents to each other. But sometimes they actually use these “nuclear weapons” i.e. they sue: vast sums of money are extorted, untold hours of effort are expended in futile wars, and companies are driven out of business, etc.

So if things like coffee and teff are going to become information goods, then what kind of world are we heading into? If you extrapolate from other areas where intellectual property dominates, namely software, digital entertainment, and pharmaceuticals, the current trends do not bode well for the vast majority of humanity. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, much faster than what has occurred with physical commodities over the last couple of centuries. Those who are locked out of the web of intellectual property ownership will be like non-nuclear powers in a nuclear world, except the super-powers won’t be a stable pair, it will be a multi-polar unstable world, with constant threats and actual disastrous fallouts… and of course pirates! Imagine a world of patented food, and the inevitable black market like narcotics today but much much bigger.

But are we really heading toward this dystopian future of bio-patent wielding powerhouses dominating the world, alternately fighting each other and enslaving the rest? Well of course not necessarily. Fortunately, some farsighted people are already on the case some scientists are calling for a bio-patent ban for example. One of them in fact is an Ethiopian. These are scientists, so of course they are not against scientific advancements and their practical use; they are protesting some forms of ownership. Maybe there will be open-source bio-technology and pharmaceuticals, that are as successful and significant as open source software, and all the key processes and ideas of future life will be freely or fairly available to the whole world. But maybe not. What if that open-source nirvana fails to occur? Banning bio-patents may not be the right answer anyway. Until the right balance emerges in this “informationalization” of everything, all sides have to arm themselves to the teeth for intellectual property warfare lest they be marginalized and reduced to piracy. We are probably already in the early stages of a mad scramble, just like the scramble for African raw materials during the industrial revolution/colonial era. Now it’s not grabbing land with timber and gold but about claiming as much as possible of the DNA of plants and animals, patenting potentially lucrative variations of traditional processes… In the case of Ethiopia for example, it’s not just coffee and teff, it’s also (to take random example, I’m sure there are many more) flaxseed, an important source of Omega-3 acids. Hey has anyone filed a patent for a process to create a convenient form of Telba?

The Ethiopian dream: come to America then go back home

The following piece is by Tesfaye Negussie, an Ethiopian American journalist. He writes how the desire to emigrate to America is common in the Ethiopian psyche along with an equally strong desire to return home.

Worldfocus
By Tesfaye Negussie

January 22, 2010

It was an elaborate scam: a beautiful bride, a dashing groom, a smiling best man and bridesmaids draped in matching gowns.

The photo was taken to bamboozle American immigration officials. Apparently, the bride was already living in America, and the groom, living in Ethiopia, just wanted to further his education in the U.S. So, he paid her a couple thousand dollars to marry him.

I’ve been told that some Ethiopian men living in America return to Ethiopia for a few weeks just to find a wife and bring her back to the U.S., even though they barely know each other. The man gets a young pretty woman who shares his culture, and the woman gets to come to America.

This is similar to what I used to hear of the young teenage women who lived in rural parts of Ethiopia. They would be married off to wealthy landowners who could afford to pay big dowries to the girl’s parents.

Still others come to America through diversity visa lotteries — a program that gives visas to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The Ethiopian dream is just like the American dream — but with a twist. Ethiopians come to the U.S. to make a living yet often return to Ethiopia to retire.

The dream also casts its fairy dust on Ethiopian pop culture. Ethiopian TV, films and music often depict the experiences of Ethiopian-American immigrants.

Men’s Affairs is a comedic film that follows the antics of a poor Ethiopian carpenter who lies that he lives in America and is just visiting Ethiopia, so that he can get the girl that he desires. For my Father is a drama about a girl who breaks up with her boyfriend to marry a rich man from the U.S.

Ethiopians in America remit about $1.2 billion per year to their families back home. This amount is second only to the total that Ethiopia receives from exports. For the most part, Ethiopians go abroad to make a better life for themselves and give back to their families in Ethiopia, but most dream of returning again.

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, which has an estimated 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent — the highest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. As a teenager, I remember learning that Ethiopians owned many of the big nightclubs in the city. As soon as they made enough money, they sold their clubs, and returned to Ethiopia to rejoin their families and invest in their country.

My parents and many of their Ethiopian friends who live in America have lived in the U.S. for about three decades. But they still talk about how they will return to Ethiopia once they retire.

There is a sense of pride that links most Ethiopians to their country. We feel the joy of being with family and a yearning to stay close to our rich history and culture.

We also have a tacit amour-propre, as children of an ancient civilization and the vanquishers of the menacing evil of colonization. Moreover, we are the gatekeepers to an array of ethnicities, languages and religions that have coexisted for centuries.

And even though Ethiopia is now poor, most Ethiopian emigrants dream of the day they will return. Many of them will visit several times before permanently returning — coming back to a country that changes in the blink of an eye.

Ethiopia is the fourth fastest growing economy in the world, according to The Economist. Even though so much has changed, the love is the same, and it feels like they never left.

Many Ethiopian-Americans born in America will stay and raise kids here. We, unlike our parents, have grown with American culture and taken it as our own. But our pride for Ethiopia burns strong. Many of us speak broken Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, Gurage — or the language of whatever region our parents are from. We will dress in green, yellow and red patterns. Or wear shirts with pictures of Halie Selassie, as to say, “I am Ethiopian.”

Because the Italians, Jamaicans, Mexicans, Chinese and others who settled in America share a similar journey as the Ethiopians, the Ethiopian-American story is the American story.

So, that is also my story.


Tesfaye Negussie and his grandmother.

My grandmother, who lived with us in America for 10 years, is now back in Ethiopia.

I visited her for several days in Addis Ababa. Since she is very old, it may have been my last time seeing her.

The day I was leaving, I had a terrible stomach ache from something I ate. My grandmother pulled out the one thing she knew would cure me: an old dingy plastic bottle filled with holy water.

It was refreshing as she poured the cool water on my aching belly and head. As she recited prayers under her breath, I remembered those days that I would go to her room to wake her up for breakfast, when she would already be awake thumbing her rosary beads.

And when my sister and I would return from school, she’d hand us huge chunks of ambasha bread that she had prayed over. And we’d have to finish it. Even though our stomachs were full from whatever junk we had picked up at the ice cream truck, we obediently finished every crumb.

Afterward, we would sometimes take Grandma for a walk because she had been inside all day, and this was her only chance to spend some alone time with her grandchildren before Mom and Dad came home.

The water gradually warmed on my skin, and I felt the touch of my grandmother’s fragile hand on my forehead as she prayed. And then my stomach didn’t hurt anymore.

It was good to be home.


For more Worldfocus coverage of Ethiopia, visit the extended coverage page: Ethiopia Past and Present.

U.S. Worries About Food Aid Politics in Ethiopia

Above: Nearly 13 million people in Ethiopia are dependent on
food aid and the United States is one of its biggest donors.
(Sven Torfinn Photography)

VOA Editorial
Concern Over Aid To Ethiopia
18 November 2009
The Following Is An Editorial Reflecting the Views of the United States Government
The United States is committed to helping people in need all over the world, and it takes this mission very seriously. With billions of dollars spent on humanitarian, economic and other forms of assistance every year, the U.S. wants to be sure that the aid is properly and effectively distributed. So it is that U.S. officials are concerned about recent reports that the Ethiopian government may be politicizing humanitarian assistance ahead of next year’s national elections. Read more.

What’s ‘Fat Man in Ethiopia’ Got to Do With Philipino Politics?

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Today we came across an article entitled The fat man in Ethiopia written by Korina Sanchez for The Freeman Newspaper in the Philippines and posted on The Philippine STAR, a leading news portal for the Filipino global community. Ms. Sanchez was decrying the misappropriation of a road user’s tax fund and the extravagant life of one Dodi Puno, an ex-Executive Director of the Road Board in the Philippines. She concluded that Mr. Puno had a trait that other Filipinos share called the “fat man in Ethiopia” effect.

“How can you own all of these luxurious items while working in government, and not expect people to ask questions? How can a fat man in Ethiopia go unnoticed?” writes Ms. Sanchez. Needless to say, her analogy is faulty and disparaging. Such careless statements belittle the long and otherwise positive historical relations between the Filipino and Ethiopian communities. We encourage Ms. Sanchez to pick a more sensible and appropriate title for her article.

Is Sex Important to a Relationship?

Above: Tseday Aberra is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.
She has a private practice in California. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Dr. Tseday Aberra

Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Angeles (Tadias) – Nature has decided that men are more susceptible to sex than women. Women are blessed with taming their sexual appetites far efficiently than men. So when you ask women why they marry, they tell you it is for the affection and companionship. Men also tell you for companionship, but it is primarily for the availability of sex. Affection and companionship in a marriage includes sex for men. But I’m not so sure it is so for women.

People say marriage is difficult. Wrong. I say a husband and a wife make it difficult. Marriage is difficult for anyone who fails to understand what it means to be in one, and what it takes to make it fulfilling. It takes commitment and work, indeed, but it is certainly not difficult. At least it does not have to be.

Marriage requires understanding. It is an agreement based on an understanding between a husband and a wife. It is an entity that is created in order to give them meaning that otherwise does not exist. This meaning is completely subjective since its foundation is based on the unique agreement created by the two in the marriage. It requires both to participate and contribute willingly and completely. Otherwise, it would not exist in fulfilling form.

No one can definitely tell you what marriage is and what it is suppose to mean other than what I have just told you. You make of it what you want. The difficulty that comes with this freedom is knowing the limitations of what you can make of it. You cannot make it yours nor can he make it his. It belongs to you both. Once it is created, it has its own life and its purpose is to give you meaning. To create it, however, both of you are required to provide certain instruments that will keep it alive and fulfilling. These instruments are not negotiable. Among all of them, the most important is sex.

When a husband and wife decide to settle down, after having picked a mate of their choosing, what they do to keep each other depends on how committed they are to fulfilling the agreement. Their commitment in contributing the necessary instruments in giving life to the marriage and maintaining its viability is most crucial.

Times have changed. The 21st century has leveled the playing field so that the only thing a husband and a wife require from each other is companionship. The one element that will not be equalized, however, is a husband’s need to go to his wife for sex. Therefore, a husband comes into a marriage, having lost all his bargaining power, with a promise of one thing and one thing only: sexual companionship. A wife who is committed to her marriage ought to know the position of her husband. She ought to know his predicament. Being in a powerful position, a wife ought to know her husband is at her complete mercy. She also ought to know how she uses her power determines the vitality of the marriage.

If by some chance, a wife does not care to her husband’s needs enough and often, he will have a hard time acknowledging whether there is a relationship tailored to meet his benefits. Now remember, a husband comes into a marriage willingly, and should also be willing to give all that he has. He has volunteered to commit and participate. And in return, he expects sex. When I say all that the husband has to give, it encompasses all the instruments he contributes to create and maintain the marriage. A husband will not hold back whatever is needed to make his marriage a place of sanctity.

A wife comes into this marriage expecting affection and companionship. However, she has to come with a special instrument in particular. Yes, there are other instruments that she has to bring also, but…on a serious note…, she has to bring one thing…the IT…and the willingness to use IT and make IT available. Without going into detail what a husband brings as instruments to create and maintain a marriage because they are not as important as what the wife brings specifically, the instrument that a wife brings is by far the most essential piece of the marriage. The IT is sacred and essential. If you toy with IT, you will lose the marriage. If you hold on to IT, you will lose the marriage. If you ration IT, you will lose the marriage. Guaranteed!

Having already lost his bargaining power, a husband comes into the marriage knowing and hating to be in a position where he has to rely completely on his wife for sex. When she rations sex, a husband learns that his dear wife is conniving, selfish, mean, but most of all, untrustworthy. He realizes that his wife holds all the cards of intimacy and that she can always put him back in his place. Not as a man but as a husband, he sadly realizes that he cannot rely on her. His trust is broken.

Very often a wife forgets that her vindictive behavior leaves a scar on her husband that she cannot remedy at a later time. After a fight, there is a whole lot of “forgiving” that takes place by both, but very little of “forgetting” by the husband especially. What your husband would not forget is that one of the most crucial instruments that is required to create and maintain a fulfilling marriage is actually negotiable, and that it depends on the whimsy of a wife that he just found out to be conniving, selfish, and mean.

Let me tell you, dear wife, once such a doubt creeps into your husband, not only would you lose him, but definitely you would lose your marriage. Take it from me, there is no therapy in this world that will bring back the marriage.

Next time, before you decide to hold on to sex because you had a point to make, think a moment and realize what is REALLY at stake.

—————-
About the Author:
Dr. Tseday Aberra is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist. She has a private practice in the greater Los Angeles area and also works for the California Department of Corrections. She holds M.S. in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling and A Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology. She is recognized as an expert by California Superior Courts and gives seminars nationwide on marriage, relationships, and friendship. She has made a guest appearance on Court TV.

US Food Aid Contributing to Africa’s Hunger?

Above: A quarter century after the 1984 famine, which left
millions of Ethiopians destitute, familiar faces still linger as
the country remains dependent on food aid. (Sven Torfinn )

ABC News
By DANA HUGHES
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct. 29, 2009
Drought-stricken Ethiopia is pleading for food aid again to stave off starvation, but some critics are complaining that the policies of the country’s most generous donor, the United States, is exacerbating the cycle of starvation. A hungry Ethiopia gets 70 percent of its aid from the U.S., but according to a new report by the aid organization Oxfam International, that help comes at a cost. U.S. law requires that food aid money be spent on food grown in the U.S., at least half of it must be packed in the U.S. and most of it must be transported in U.S. ships. The Oxfam report, “Band Aids and Beyond,” claims that is far more expensive and time consuming than buying food in the region. Read More.

Video: Famine eclipses Ethiopia’s beauty and rich history (Worldfocus)

The Huffington Post:
25th anniversary of Ethiopia famine – Has anything changed since?
My colleague Marc Cohen, a senior researcher at Oxfam America, reflects on the 25th anniversary since the devastating famine of 1984 in Ethiopia. He was in the country a few months ago: Twenty-five years ago, Michael Buerk’s dramatic BBC footage from Korem, in northern Ethiopia, brought a devastating famine to the world’s attention. Tens of thousands of people had sought refuge from war and drought in the town. Every 20 minutes, a camp resident died from hunger and related diseases. Buerk called Korem “the closest thing to hell on earth.” Read the whole story: The Huffington Post.

Video: The 1984 Ethiopian famine (BBC)

Related from Tadias archives: We are the World

Above: To raise money for the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia,
45 popular singers collaborated to record the charity single
“We Are the World”, co-written by Michael Jackson and
Lionel Richie. They included Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder,
Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers,
Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and
many more. (Photo: United Support of Artists for Africa)

The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff
Published: Monday, June 28, 2009
New York (Tadias) – The painfully wrenching images of hungry children, which invaded living rooms around the world in the mid 80′s, prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to organize the 1985 Live Aid concert and ‘raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia’. The multi-nation event, which showcased some of the biggest names in the music industry, included Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the project’s signature song “We Are the World” along with Lionel Richie. The song was recorded on the night of January 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards. Read more.

Video: We Are The World

25th anniversary of Ethiopia famine – Has anything changed since?

Above: A quarter century after the painfully wrenching images of hungry children invaded living rooms around the world, familiar faces still linger as millions of Ethiopians remain dependent on food aid. (Sven Torfinn Photography)

The Huffington Post:

My colleague Marc Cohen, a senior researcher at Oxfam America, reflects on the 25th anniversary since the devastating famine of 1984 in Ethiopia. He was in the country a few months ago: Twenty-five years ago, Michael Buerk’s dramatic BBC footage from Korem, in northern Ethiopia, brought a devastating famine to the world’s attention. Tens of thousands of people had sought refuge from war and drought in the town. Every 20 minutes, a camp resident died from hunger and related diseases. Buerk called Korem “the closest thing to hell on earth.”

Read the story at The Huffington Post.

Video: The 1984 Ethiopian famine (BBC)


Related:
The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia.

Watch:

Ethiopia’s Dam Problem – Debating Gilgel Gibe

Above: The Gibe III dam is under construction on the Omo
River, approximately 300km southwest of Addis Ababa. It is the
third in a series of cascading hydroelectric projects in the region.
(Source: BBC)

Opinion: Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam: a balanced assessment
LA Times

A project its size will have negative consequences, but Ethiopians
should be better off once the hydroelectric dam is up and running.

By Seleshi Bekele and Jonathan Lautze
June 4, 2009

The Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam under construction in Ethiopia is no small piece of infrastructure. It holds the potential to fundamentally alter flow patterns in the Omo River watershed and will cost about $2 billion to build. It will indeed have impacts — both positive and negative — on the environment and people living in the watershed.

Yet, do these facts make the project inherently bad? Does the fact that the investment is big and costly doom it to failure? In her May 14 Times Op-Ed article, Lori Pottinger uses such thinking to argue that the African Development Bank and U.S. government should not finance the dam’s construction and instead look for alternatives to address Ethiopia’s water and environmental needs.

Read more.

Big dam, bigger problems
By Lori Pottinger
May 14, 2009

Right now, the Obama administration is participating in its first annual meeting of the African Development Bank, which is mandated to fund critical infrastructure for poor African nations. On the agenda is financing one of the biggest projects ever considered by the bank, the $2.1-billion Gilgel Gibe III dam in Ethiopia. Read more.

Nazret.com: Ethiopia – Friends of Gibe Full steam ahead

Leftist environmental wackos are hard at work to stop Ethiopia from developing and nazret is re-running the following article to reinforce its strong support of the construction of Gilgel Gibe III. Today another leftist writes in the Los Angeles Times trying to stop Ethiopia from this project. Don’t let foreigners dictate what Ethiopia can and can’t do. It is with the utmost humility that I ask our readers and experts in this field to submit articles to the international media and also contact African Development Bank in support of Gilgel Gibe. We must win the media war waged by the so-called environmentalists who quite honestly don’t give a squat about Ethiopia. As Ato Semon beautifully crafted in the article below Full steam ahead. Read the piece at Nazret.com.

What do you say?

Democratic Governance in Africa: Ghana as a Beacon of Hope and Success

Above: John Atta Mills was inaugurated 3rd President of
Ghana (4th Republic) on 7 January 2009 after a cliff-hanger
election victory.

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Elections in Africa are often preceded or followed by violence. On December 2007, over 300 people were killed and thousands were internally displaced in Kenya following the belated announcement of election results, which were rejected by the opposition parties and their constituencies. Even though the violence subsided, its root cause has not been addressed. Kenya may draw a lesson or two from the thriving democratic culture of Ghana. For that matter, Ghana is setting an example with regard to peaceful, transparent, and efficient system of democratic elections.

One of the great Ghanaian novelists Ayi kwei Armah in the February 2009 edition of New Africa, writes: “Violence and bloodletting are now regular features of the electoral process in Africa. The sequence of news-making events, from constitution-changing maneuvers of incumbent presidents to dodgy vote-counting followed by riots and massacres, has become so predictable that the electoral cycle now resembles a religious ritual climaxing in the sacrifice of human lives.” The lengthening list of states where elections have degenerated into death dances, according to Ayi Kwei Armah, includes Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Ethiopia (my addition), and Zimbabwe.

“The electoral process in Africa today is increasingly violent because it has turned into a desperate fight between ambitious elites in an impoverished population for control over scarce resources.” For instance, after the recent bloody elections, in Kenya and Zimbabwe, the violence subsided or temporarily halted as a result of external diplomatic intervention, which resulted in power-sharing agreements between the ruling and opposition parties.

To Armah, “Power-sharing, without addressing the issue of resource scarcity, without expanding the local economy by developing value-added industries and jobs, proposes to allocate the small percentage of local wealth left to the ruling elite, not to one strong party, but to two or three. Instead of 20 ministers, power sharing proposes 40. Instead of one president, power-sharing proposes a president and two or more vice-presidents.”

What needs to be done in order to advance democratic governance in Africa? It seems to me Ghana; to be precise the Fourth Republic of Ghana is showing the way. Ghana is often hailed as a model for political and economic reform. It is a model because Ghana has conducted fair, free, efficient and transparent elections uninterruptedly since 1996 with full participations of political parties and the vast majority of its citizens. Ghana’s exemplary electoral achievements were a product of visionary leadership, independent and active civic movements and organizations, strong and progressive traditional institutions, particularly at local and regional levels, absolutely independent electoral commission, free media and, most importantly, an awakened citizenry. As one observer puts it, “Ghana is a changed place and the people can no longer be taken for a ride by any politician.”

Of course, Ghana has had some glorifying and troubling moments since its independence in 1957. 1957, in fact, marked the historic transition of the continental Africa from colonialism to independence. Kwame Nkrumah, who contributed immensely to the idea and practice of African unity, led Ghana’s independence. He was a consummate Pan-Africanist, who advanced the cause of Africa globally through his books and speeches. He played a key role in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 with its headquarter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Nkrumah pioneered the continent’s collective expression and renewed positive image in the international arena. These were the glorifying moments in Ghana’s history in the context of Pan-African movements.

On the other hand, Ghana has had some troubling moments. It has gone through a one-party state, a non-party state, a military rule, before it settled for multi-party state. In 1960, Ghana rejected the constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as head of state and declared itself a republic with a president as a head of state. In 1964, President Kwame Nkrumah imposed a one-party state, supposedly with 99.91 percent of the votes with his Convention People’s Party (CPP) as the sole legal party in the country. Two years later, he was overthrown in a coup d’etat. Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings’ rise to power was accompanied by executions of eight senior officers, including three former heads of state.

“And the current 1992 constitution – written during his time as head of state – also contains a clause which prevents anyone being charged for executions which took place under military regimes.” As the former president John Kufuor observes, Ghana had a chequered history and it has taken them a while to come back to the original aspirations, aspirations for prosperous, peaceful, united and democratic Ghana. The 1992 constitution established the fourth republic of Ghana.

It is true that, as Professor Ali Mazrui likes to say, the founding father of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah started as a democrat and left office, by force, as an authoritarian ruler. Jerry Rawlings, on the other and, started as a military strongman and left office, by peacefully transferring power to an opposition party leader, as a democrat. The December 2008 presidential election winner, President John Atta Mills, is a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which was founded by Rawlings in 1992.

The December 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana were remarkable for many reasons. Even though the presidential election was “the closest election ever conducted and the most keenly contested elections in the history of Ghana, it was carried out without violence, in a free, fair and transparent manner as testified by both domestic and international observers.

According to Kenya’s Daily Nation, the December 2008 presidential election of Ghana is “ a triumph for Africa.” An observe from Zimbabwe dubbed the election process “impressive.” A Nigerian journalist admiringly writes: “I doff my cap to Ghanaians for doing what my countrymen have been unable to do – organize a transparently credible election.” He further writes, “I hope that a day will come in Nigeria when an opposition party will defeat the ruling party and they respect the wish of the people enough to quit the place without tying to cause mayhem by falsifying the election results.”

Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, the head of the African Union observer mission, praised the election as a “consolidation of democracy” and “a good example to Africa.”

Two rounds of presidential elections, first round and runoff were conducted on December 7 and December 28, 2008. In the first round the candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo from the ruling party, New Patriotic Party (NPP) won the election by 49.13 percent, 0.87 percent shy of to win the election out right. On December 28, 2008, a runoff election was conducted and the candidate John Atta Mills from the opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) won the election and the presidency by 50.23 percent. According to Ghana’s constitution, a candidate has to get “more than 50 percent of the total number of votes cast at the election.” As President Johan Atta Mills succinctly puts it, “Ghana’s democracy has been tested to the utmost limit and thanks to the steadfastness of the good people of Ghana, sovereign will has prevailed.”

One of the reasons for the successful outcome of the December 2008 elections is the Electoral Commission of Ghana. It is a commission established by the constitutional order to independently execute the electoral process, such as voter registrations, establishing voting districts, polling stations, vote counts, certifications and reporting of voting results. The Electoral Commission has seven permanent members with administrative and regulatory powers. It is totally independent in the performance of its functions. Its task is to deliver transparent, free and incontrovertible election as a contribution to good governance.

In Ghana, voting results are tabulated and reported, in the presence of various stakeholders including opposition party representatives and invited international observers, at the polling stations.

The Electoral Commission of Ghana considered the period between the casting of votes and declaration of results as very critical in the process. The results are publicly announced immediately, in less than 48 hours.

In the 2008 election, the voter turnout was 69.52 percent. The voter turnout in 2004 was 80 percent. The low turnout in 2008 was not for lack of interest in the process, it was, in fact, a result of voters from certain district deciding to withhold their votes as an expression of their dissatisfaction with the ruling party, NPP. Valid votes in 2008 were 97.60 percent of votes cast and invalid votes were 2.40 percent.

Another reason for Ghana’s election success is the media. The media, which is an integral part of the democratic governance, played, as a whole, a commendable role. “The media in Ghana is fully independent, although like most countries in the world where democracy has flourished there are media houses that lean towards one ideology or political party, generally the rest forma team which is independent of the government. They criticize the government without fear of intimidation from anyone, not even the government itself.” For instance, the media covered the election extensively but professionally without inflaming passions.

“The military is independent of the government. In the last elections, the military made its position clear that it would not interfere in the affairs of the state and that it would allow laws of the land to take their natural course. This made it clear to the government that unlike other African countries, the government could not rely on the military to steal the mandate of the people.”

The traditional rulers and their constituencies acted responsibly. Traditional leaders, such as Asanthene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and Omanhene Daasbere Oti Boateng encouraged their constituencies to vote and to vote wisely. They have also shown the importance of integrating modernity to tradition. Democratic governance thrives when local traditions and institutions are taken seriously. The Electoral Commission consults with traditional authorities, who “as the custodians of the lands which make up the territory of Ghana, are the sources of information used by the commission to determine the boundaries of the electoral districts.”

The major drawback of the December 2008 election was the decline of women members of parliament. In 2008 only 20 women won seats in the 230-member house, down from 25 in the elections in 2004. Given the entrenched nature of male-dominance in modern political systems, it might be necessary to propose and implement affirmative action laws on female representation in parliament. In this regard Ghana may learn a lesson from Rwanda where 48.8 percent of its parliamentarians are women.

The real test of Ghana’s democracy is perhaps critically linked to the recently discovered oil in the western region of the country. The oil and its revenue management may strengthen or weaken the democratic governance. The democratic culture would thrive if the oil funds were used to build schools; health centers transportation systems accessible to all Ghanaians. On the other hand, the oil would undermine democracy if the managers of the revenue follow corrupt practices. I would hope that Ghana would adopt a model like the Norwegian model with regard to the establishment of oil funds and their distributions.

According to Baffour Ankomah, Ghana has an important lesson for Africa. “Ghana came close to violence after the second round, but African wisdom prevailed because the Ghanaians knew when to stop back from the precipice. Instead of lashing out at each other, people began to talk peace when it mattered most, the churches, opinion leaders, chiefs and queens, the Council of elders, NGOs, all weighed in to talk in unison about peace. It is something other African countries would do well to emulate if the continent is to do away with violent elections of recent years.”

Ghana is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democratic nation-state. Liberty and democracy, guided by the people-centered constitution, define and empower the citizenry. In the last twelve years, political power has been transferred from the ruling party to the opposition party peacefully through elections that have been characterized by local and international observers as peaceful, transparent, fair and efficient. Ghana indeed is a beacon of hope and success in Africa. African countries such as Kenya ought to learn from Ghana’s democratic experience.

—–
Publisher’s Note: This article – which was delivered by the author as a keynote address at the 52nd Ghana’s Independence Day Banquet at Cornell university on April 11, 2009 – is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: ab67@cornell.edu

About the Author:
ayele_author.jpg
Ayele Bekerie, an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University, is the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” (The Red Sea Press, 1997). Bekerie’s papers have been published in scholarly journals, such as ANKH: Journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations, Journal of the Horn of Africa, Journal of Black Studies, the International Journal of Africana Studies, and the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies. Bekerie is also the creator of the African Writing System web site and a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “ONE HOUSE: The Battle of Adwa 1896-100 Years.” Bekerie’s most recent published work includes “The Idea of Ethiopia: Ancient Roots, Modern African Diaspora Thoughts,” in Power and Nationalism in Modern Africa, published by Carolina Academic Press in 2008 and “The Ancient African Past and Africana Studies” in the Journal of Black Studies in 2007. Bekerie appears frequently on the Amharic Service of Voice of America and Radio Germany. He is a regular contributor to Tadias Magazine and other Ethiopian American electronic publications. His current book project is on the “Idea of Ethiopia.”

Tadias Responds to Sudan Tribune’s Incorrect Article

Open Letter to Sudan Tribune
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2009

To the Editor,

This is in response to Abera Hailu’s article on your publication entitled “Ethiopia’s Diaspora Media and Copyright Violation“.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Hailu’s article violates a basic tenet of journalism. It is standard practice in our industry that a journalist contacts the subject of a story, and inquires with the subject as to the veracity of the content before publishing it. Tadias was not contacted by Abera Hailu (or any other staff of Sudan Tribune), and we wish he would have done so. Had we been contacted by the writer, here is what we would have told him:

“The concern for the well-being of Ethiopian journalists, whether in the Diaspora or at home, is a valid one. We are all too aware of the unauthorized use of our own original content by numerous newspapers and websites in Ethiopia. In one instance, a publication even went as far as changing the name of the original contributing author on one of our articles before re-posting it on its website. This constitutes the definition of copyright violation.

However, posting news feeds while citing their original source is not copyright violation. We direct your attention to numerous world media organizations who derive their daily news from outside sources. Tadias does not publish outside articles in their entirety without the consent and permission of the original author or publication. In addition, we do not post cited news articles in their entirety. When we cite news articles we post brief newsfeeds and include a “read more” link, which takes our readers directly to the original online source.

Tadias is a media organization that publishes both original content and distributes news from other outlets while properly citing the original sources. Our original content features news, events, personality profiles and historical commentaries, and the magazine aims to show Ethiopian Americans not merely as one distinct immigrant group in the U.S., but also as vibrant members and contributors of the American tapestry. We find your comments baseless, incorrect, and irresponsible journalism at best.”

Sincerely,

Tadias Magazine

Former US Ambassador to Ethiopia Highlights Tadias on His Blog

Above: US Ambassador David Shinn giving a talk on US Policy
in the Horn of Africa at the 2009 OSA mid-year conference in
Washington D.C, Howard University. Credit: American
Chronicle.

Source: The official blog of Ambassador David Shinn

The Ambassador writes: Donald N. Levine, Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Chicago, recently mentioned me in his article The Obama Presidency & Ethiopia: Time for Fresh Thought, New Departures in Tadias Magazine. According to its website, Tadias (which means ‘hi,’ ‘what’s up?’ or ‘how are you?’) is ‘the leading lifestyle and business publication devoted exclusively to the Ethiopian-American community in the United States.’ Having recently celebrated its sixth year of publication, Tadias “is also a medium of communication for those who have academic, business, professional or personal interest in the Ethiopian-American community.” Read more.

From File: The Obama Presidency & Ethiopia

President Barack Obama (center) and Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi (top right) at the Group of 20 summit
meeting in London.

Tadias Magazine
Time for Fresh Thought
By Donald N. Levine
Published: Monday, March 23, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Throughout 2008 I published articles on links between Ethiopia’s needs and the promises of an Obama presidency. Now that President Obama is in office, what might we project? What, that is, might it mean to reconsider U.S. relations with Ethiopia in ways that align them with the orientations of an Obama presidency?

Eyeing policies the Obama administration has already implemented and earlier statements suggests at least half a dozen aims: 1) employ state-of-the art technologies to advance human welfare; 2) develop energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and in other ways conserve natural environments; 3) link upgraded education and health services with a strengthened economy; 4) avoid sharp polarities of pronouncement and of conduct; 5) curtail terrorist tactics, but in smart ways; and 6) restore moral direction for a market economy and public service from the citizenry. In what follows I explore implications of those principles and priorities for U.S. relations with Ethiopia. Read more.

Reporter’s Notebook: Global Integrity Report on Ethiopia

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, March 26, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The lead reporter’s notebook in the latest Global Integrity Report is penned by Abebe Gellaw, the first Ethiopian-born journalist to be awarded the coveted Stanford University’s Knight Fellowships for international journalists.

The assessments made by the Global Integrity Report, published by the U.S. based organization that monitors corruption and governance throughout the world, is often used by the World Bank, IMF, the EU and donor governments. Read the report at globalintegrity.org.

Cover Image: Parliamentarians vote to elect a new President of Ethiopia 09 October 2007, in Addis Ababa. (Getty Images).

About Abebe Gellaw:

Courtesy of abugidainfo.com.

The 2008-09 International Knight Fellows are:

Federica Bianchi, editor and reporter, L’Espresso, Rome, Italy; international relations, focusing on the effect of China’s rise on U.S. ties with developing nations.

Dionne Bunsha, senior assistant editor, Frontline Magazine, Mumbai, India; the impact of globalization on India’s environment, and the potential for sustainable growth.

Chanda Chisala, president and editor, Zambia Online, Lusaka, Zambia; the impact of the Internet on the future of African journalism, and the philosophy of human rights.

Pedro Doria, technology columnist and writer, O Estado de São Paulo, Brazil (Knight Latin American Fellow); democracy and its pressures around the world.

Abebe Gellaw, editor-in-chief, Addis Voice/Addisvoice.com (London), Ethiopia (Yahoo! International Fellow); creating a vibrant and sustainable media organization.

Joel Gutierrez, news director, Televicentro de Nicaragua/Canal 2, Managua, Nicaragua (Knight Latin American Fellow); lessons of Ireland and similar emerging countries for Latin American developing nations.

Natalia Koulinka, news editor, Radio Station Unistar 99.5, Minsk, Belarus (Lyle and Corrine Nelson International Fellow); news journalism and models of broadcasting by non-governmental radio in a post-Soviet regime.

Watson Meng, chief editor and manager, Boxun News (Durham, N.C.), China; the impact of online citizen journalism in China and beyond.

Isra’ al Rubei’i, reporter, National Public Radio, Baghdad; freedom of the press in post-conflict societies and the development of media in emerging democracies.

The Obama Presidency & Ethiopia: Time for Fresh Thought

Time for Fresh Thought, New Departures?
By Donald N. Levine

Published: Monday, March 23, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Throughout 2008 I published articles on links between Ethiopia’s needs and the promises of an Obama presidency. Now that President Obama is in office, what might we project? What, that is, might it mean to reconsider U.S. relations with Ethiopia in ways that align them with the orientations of an Obama presidency?

Eyeing policies the Obama administration has already implemented and earlier statements suggests at least half a dozen aims: 1) employ state-of-the art technologies to advance human welfare; 2) develop energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and in other ways conserve natural environments; 3) link upgraded education and health services with a strengthened economy; 4) avoid sharp polarities of pronouncement and of conduct; 5) curtail terrorist tactics, but in smart ways; and 6) restore moral direction for a market economy and public service from the citizenry. In what follows I explore implications of those principles and priorities for U.S. relations with Ethiopia.

Leapfrogging over industrial society technologies
America’s vast aid program to Ethiopia encompasses commitments of a billion dollars in FY 2008. This assistance goes to about a dozen areas: food aid linked to rural works ($301.6 million); agricultural
development ($4.6m); maternal-child and reproductive health ($31.6m); malaria control ($20m); water and sanitation ($2.3); basic education ($15m); democratic capacity-building in legislative, judicial, and civil society branches ($2.7m); security sector reform ($1.5m); trade and enterprise expansion ($6.3m); ecotourism and habitat protection ($1.5m); programs to combat HIV/AIDS ($349m); and humanitarian emergency assistance, including early warning systems ($291.5m).

Management of this program constitutes a daunting challenge that has been met by a devoted crew of American aid professionals. They have accomplished an enormous amount in many areas, work that rarely gets the kind of recognition in Ethiopia or in the United States it deserves. Even so, much of their mission remains defined in terms of conventional visions and methods.

It is a truism in development thinking that Latecomers have special advantages over Earlybirds, in that they have an opportunity to bypass errors and traumas of the countries that modernized first and to exploit ideas and inventions not available when the latter transformed. One need not be Trotsky to appreciate the insights contained in his Law of Uneven and Combined Development. Hitherto this dynamic has meant applying what advanced technologies are already in place for having worked well in American and other modernized systems.

Suppose that aid work were animated by a vision of reaching out for technologies that are just beyond prevailing practices. Suppose that a hard look at the unintended consequences and negative byproducts of current approaches were combined with imaginative forays into new possibilities. Suppose, for example, that Ethiopia acquired an Information Technology Park that started right off with 21st-century hardware and software, rather than hand-me-downs from outmoded systems. Suppose that medical records in Ethiopia were rationalized in ways that U.S. hospitals have yet to achieve. Suppose that educational reforms were based on teaching methods created from the emerging neuroscience of learning. Why not try?

Promoting energy independence, resource management, and environmental restoration
President Obama mentioned energy independence as the highest priority of his administration. In Ethiopia, leapfrogging over costly, wasteful, and environmentally harmful practices of the industrial age can be realized right now through green technologies. The U.S. is at the edge of efforts to rethink its ways of procuring energy, efforts necessitated by a combination of security, environmental, and economic exigencies. Available new technologies, with other innovations in tow, would create stunning socioeconomic results in Ethiopia.

By taking advantage of recent discoveries and inventions, USAID could help Ethiopia lead the movement towards the emerging clean tech, carbon-free age. Such initiatives might include Low-cost Organic Roads, 30-40% cheaper than asphalt with up to 85% less maintenance; more efficient Municipal Waste Management, through digesters, gasifiers, and plasma systems–top sources for biofuel and bioenergy; low-cost, quickly implemented micro-wind and solar parabolic systems–ideal for distributed energy production; improved hydroelectric turbine technology for dams, rivers, and geothermal systems; mini-gasification for animal and agricultural waste; and Power Playgrounds, which use playtime energy to create power and to pump purified water for villages.

The move to green technologies, already pursued actively by the Ethiopian government, preserves the environment as well as boosts the economy. It helps save trees from the survival-driven practice of converting them to charcoal and can energize a reforestation process. It could fortify a growing environmental awareness in Ethiopia, which hopes to avoid mistakes like environmentally destructive dams like those in Egypt and China–but has already suffered the destruction of beautiful Lake Koka. What is more, low-cost organic roads could attract new ecotourism and generate additional revenues.

Linking health, education, and economy
The Obama administration has already taken action in two areas prominent in the campaign statements: health and education. It clothes these initiatives not only in a rhetoric of social justice but also in a discourse about equipping new generations of Americans to be competitive in the global economy.

In the Ethiopian setting, other issues get triggered when improvements in health and education are supported by USAID programs. Improving the quantity and quality of education for girls may be a core item in this complex. It is not just that educating females will add a large number of qualified persons to the work force. By keeping girls in school, it spares them the degradation and health impairment of early marriage. It keeps them from becoming part of the growing army of prostitutes who contribute heavily to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It leads to smaller families, a crucial response to Ethiopia’s dilemma of increasing population at the expense of realistic capacities to feed them.

The Obama emphasis also leads to the idea of restoring the effective program of deploying Peace Corps Volunteers as secondary school and college teachers. During the Kennedy years, American teachers imparted quality instruction in mathematics, physics, biology, geography, and English. On the last desideratum I cite words of one accomplished beneficiary: “Ethiopians need to use English language from an early age as I did growing up in a poor rural school in Arsi. This will make Ethiopia globally competitive. This will also produce good students for the rapidly growing universities and possibly reverse the damage of requiring them to learn local mother tongues only and so denying them the opportunity to learn in Amharic and thus participate effectively in the national economy and politics. This view is based on my conversations with my ancestors who speak both Amharic and Oromiffa with equal fluency and are teaching their children Amharic and Oromiffa, and encouraging them to learn English at an early age as I did growing up.”

Open communication without confrontational gestures
Building on shifts in security thinking of the last year or so, the Obama administration rejects attempts to impose the American political-economic system on other countries in a domineering way. In keeping with the President’s own predilection for dialogue in place of combat, a stance followed by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the U.S. Government has sought more to listen to what leaders and citizens of other countries are saying and what their own deepest needs and aspirations are, not with the idea of accepting all they say but in order to take their statements seriously into account. We are ready to extend a hand, his inaugural affirmed, if the oligarchs of the world unclench their fists.

This position requires an approach to dealing with problematic features of the EPRDF regime that is more nuanced than moralizing statements from members of Congress. U.S. officials need to recognize the deep roots of Ethiopia’s aversion to being subordinated to any outside power. A millennial history as “Ethiopia, proud and free” reaches to the core of Ethiopian identity, and why she was for so long looked up to as a symbol of freedom during the long struggles for African independence. Among the most appreciated attributes of Emperor Haile Selassie were his determination and skill in balancing the aid from other countries so that no single nation could secure a quasi-colonial monopoly of influence. Even the worst ruler in Ethiopian history, Mengistu Haile Mariam, showed this pride when, reacting to a Newsweek report of his effort to imitate the Red Terror of Soviet Communism, he snorted: “We don’t need to copy what the Russians did. We can invent a Terror of our own!” How could a self-respecting regime in Ethiopia not take umbrage at critiques from officials of the powerful U.S. Government? – especially when her halting but averred efforts to democratize stand in contrast to other, more repressive African governments who remain unrebuked.

At the same time, an Obama-style rhetoric represents American concerns for human rights and freedom of press as expressions not of a partisan outlook but of what have become globally accepted standards. That could remind us all of how important has been Ethiopia’s wish to be treated in accord with those standards. After all, it was the failure of the League of Nations to live up to those standards that made Ethiopia an icon for the principle of collective security. Indeed, it was the Ethiopian Government’s wish to abide by those standards that induced her to decree an end to the Slave Trade as in 1923, and to follow that with an imperial proclamation outlawing slavery in 1942.

To the extent that Ethiopia’s government can reject allegations that those standards have been violated, America’s should listen to those claims and evaluate the evidence impartially. This in turn requires verification through the work of professional agencies monitoring such issues. The expressed commitment of Ethiopian authorities to their constitution and to the rule of law should be respected and fortified. That is why I have advocated a more energized approach to helping Ethiopians in their determination to build capacities for a more effective judiciary and other institutions of democratic
governance.

This might well include more public information about the significant contributions already made by USAID in the areas of legislation and institution building, justice and human rights, and conflict mitigation. And the fact that the Obama administration has taken steps to require agencies to open up more sources of information might inspire Ethiopians to move toward greater transparency and clarity, lack of which, I have argued, contributed to a half century of missed opportunities in Ethiopia.

Countering terrorism through Smart Power
The bitter lessons from Iraq should have been more widely anticipated before the U.S. launched its hapless adventure there, as then State Senator Obama and many others warned. Those lessons were apparently not held in mind when the U.S. supported Ethiopia’s incursion into Somalia. From Obama’s early warnings and subsequent statements, three points are conspicuous.

Thinking of terrorist criminals as war combatants sets the stage for counterproductive martial actions. Except for identified posts of key terrorist agents, aerial attacks on presumed terrorist lairs tend to backfire. Counterterrorist interventions need to follow, not drive, diplomatic and developmental approaches. Insofar as the Ethiopian Government pursues a scorched-earth policy in the Ogaden region and wanton attacks on presumed OLF- and OPDM-sympathizers, it may be drawing encouragement from bad examples that the U.S. wrongly provided.

Relatedly, unilateralism needs to yield to multilateral diplomacy. To collaborate effectively with other countries having interests in the region enhances, not weakens, U.S. objectives. Acting Assistant Secretary for Africa Phillip Carter already manifested this in statements made on return from an international gathering on the Somali crisis in Brussels. Developing the point at House Subcommittee hearings on March 12, former Ambassador David Shinn observed how essential it is to work with the countries in the region and with traditional donor countries, including members of the European Union, Norway, Canada, Australia, and Japan; with China and Russia; with India, Turkey, and Brazil; and with the United Nations and a number of international agencies. He further agreed with Secretary Carter’s observation that primary responsibility for solving political and economic problems in Northeast Africa lies with Africans themselves.

Finally, a fresh articulation of America’s purposes abroad may counter the widespread belief that U.S. programs in Ethiopia are driven solely from her value as an ally in the global “war” on terrorism. Facts like the quantity of pre-Qaeda Aid delivered and the current array of humane programs like maternal and child health care, legal training for judges, and human rights education among police and the courts have little traction once such perceptions gain currency. It is not the least of the reforms of President Barack Obama and his colleagues to have put terrorist tactics in their place as a social ill that must be addressed, to relate to moderate citizens in all regions who yearn for peace and civility, and to have proclaimed an era of optimism and hope to replace one of fear and dread. I hope that the ugly bunkers now girding the U.S. fortress embassy in Addis Ababa will be demolished in the spirit of this new perspective, and that Ethiopia’s parliament might similarly be moved by a spirit of openness to expand the space for freedom of press and for the work of advocacy groups and charitable organizations.

Restoring moral direction for a market economy and public service from a citizenry
The Obama approach to political economy exhibits a return to ideas of the classic theorist of commercial society, Adam Smith, who lauded social virtues and advocated the use of government to regulate markets and finance public works. Such views dominated American ideology from the late 19th century through the New Deal, which valued the creation of governmental resources to regulate commerce and provide public initiatives to promote social welfare. David Ciepley’s Liberalism in the Shadow of Totalitarianism shows that the rise of totalitarianisms in Eurasia in the 1930s began to turn American opinion leaders against such interventions. Even so, strong government remained alive and well during the presidencies of Eisenhower through Carter. And then, Paul Krugman goes on to relate (in The Conscience of a Liberal), radical rejection of government as a bulwark of social welfare began under President Reagan and continued non-stop into the present.

The casualties of the Cold War, especially in its last two decades, included the eclipse of the middle road. This resulted in a polarization of ideologies, such that the collapse of Soviet communism was hailed widely as a vindication of unregulated free-market capitalism. Applying this view to the developing countries of Africa makes no sense. As many social scientists have explained for a long time–including the late Talcott Parsons already in 1960–in the developing countries, government needs to play a proactive role. At the same time, one of its functions must be to provide a nurturing environment for a vast field of local initiatives–supporting small loans, local roads, local radio communications, and the like.

Beyond valorizing a significant role for governments, the Obama perspective returns us to community service and civic virtues. The well-governed modern society includes a cultivation of the virtues of a modern work ethic–punctuality, integrity, self-discipline, professionalism–and of voluntary efforts to assist others in need and contribute to communal projects. The Obama and Biden families publicized these civic virtues just before inauguration by honoring the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service–as envisioned in its legislation fathered by then Senator Harris Wofford (who, incidentally, was the first director of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia under President Kennedy).

Traditions of the diverse peoples of Ethiopia include customs of communal service and civic engagement, as noted in my talk “The Promise of Ethiopia.” In the course of modernization and nation-building, these customs have begun to erode and have not been replaced by modern moral visions. The Obama vision may inspire Ethiopian leaders–in religious, in schools, in government, and in civic organizations–to temper the mindless drives toward material consumption and narrow self-interest imitated from modernized societies with new forms of conscience and civic virtue. If something on that order happens, the name Ethiopia may come to symbolize once again–as it did for ancient Greeks, the writers of the Old and New Testaments, and of the Islamic Sira– a land of people who manifest exceptional justice, righteousness, and virtue.

About the Author:
Donald N. Levine is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture (1965), Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society (1974), Visions of the Sociological Tradition (1995) and Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning(2007). Professor Levine’s research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education.

The Colors of Ethiopians: Where Are You From?

Above: Tigist Selam received her Bachelors in International
Relations from San Francisco State University and her Masters
from Goldsmiths University of London. She works and lives in
New York.

Tadias Magazine
Opinion
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New York (Tadias) – “Where are you from?” I am so over it. I am tired of explaining myself over and over again. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore the question? Let them assume?

And once I tell them where I’m from I get responses like: “Oh, really?” “Interesting.” “That’s different. I would have never guessed.” And the list goes on. Now, what can I say to that?

No, not really how the heck am I interesting when you don’t even know me…different from who?”

Killis, Killis, Killis!” That’s what cheeky children would yell in the rural areas of Ethiopia, pointing their finger at me with great laughter. All I do is smile, too shy to respond in my broken Amharic. When I am introduced to other Ethiopians, the majority are uncertain whether they should speak to me in English or in Amharic. I introduce myself as Tigist and it confuses them more.

“Oh, are you Ethiopian?” they ask with a surprise look. Often it is assumed that I am of a different race and people sometimes talk to me in languages I don’t understand.

Once in London a five year old Ethiopian boy, Yohannes, asked me in his posh British accent:

“Tigist, are you black or are you white?”

“I am grey”, I answered.

I am Ethiopian and German. I was born in the United States. I grew up in Nigeria, Argentina and Germany. When I was sixteen I moved to the United States and later on to the United Kingdom. At the moment I am back in the United States, unsure of where I am going next. But no matter where I go, I always get the same question:

Where are you from?
Where did your parents meet?
Where are they living now?
What languages do you speak?
Where did you grow up?

Basically, I have to give them my life story before I can even ask them a question. Usually it’s just out of genuine curiosity, and in those instances I’m willing to share my story. Sometimes it’s even fun to let them guess where I’m from. Depending on where I am at that very moment, I get the most bizarre answers. I have heard everything but Asian as a guess.

No one has ever reckoned I would be Ethiopian and German. Sometimes I just agree to whatever they say and see how far I can take it. Other times, they are just shocked and look at me saying, “But you look like…” As if I don’t know what I look like.

There is seriously nothing that can shock me anymore. I’ve heard it all before, and take it with humor. I try to use my ambiguity to my advantage. I constantly walk in and out of cultures, capable of fooling, perhaps anyone, at least for a while. It’s not always funny though. There are times when I get real ignorant questions such as:

“Has Ethiopia been colonized by Germans?” or even “Is Ethiopia in Africa?”

Most of my friends refer to me as “My Ethiopian-German friend.”

Once people get to know me, however, they get over the fact that I am Ethiopian and German. But still, they find it really amusing when I have to explain myself to others.

What Obama’s Presidency means to my daughter from Ethiopia

BY Jill Vexler

Updated: January 25, 2008

New York (Tadias) – About six months ago, my then seven year old daughter, Tibarek, awakened early one morning and called out to me. “Jilly, I had a dream. Joe Biden won! And that means that if he wins, Obama will win, too. So, you don’t have to worry!” I told her that her dream was wonderful and I hoped she was right. “Kids just know these things. Adults just have to listen to us sometimes.”

My prescient daughter was right and on Nov. 5th, I awakened her to say, “OBAMA WON!” “Stop kidding me!” she responded with a smile. “You’re sure?” And we, like the vast majority of Americans and the world, started our day with a profound smile.

I’m still digesting Obama’s victory and what it means to me. Each time I hear someone on TV, I think “Oh, that’s what it means.” Optimism. Potential. The fruits of hard work. The core of what America means to the world. My elation that a man of high intelligence, calm and caring has won is reinforced by the flood of emails from friends around the world who are SO excited with us – the friend in Amsterdam who was invited to FIVE parties to watch the results, the friend in Tel Aviv who sees a new day in the Middle East, my “sister” in Mexico City who is crying with emotions for future generations.

There’s also a profoundly personal joy in Obama’s victory that I haven’t fully articulated, but it goes something like this: Because I am Tibarek’s mom, I feel an extra connection to the joy of the African American and African communities here and all over the world that a black man is the new leader of America. I am overjoyed that Tibarek has been in the US during this formidable time, when women leaders are the norm, Spanish is the language she hears and is picking up, and black faces are those of our leaders. She’s living a life in which news that “Uncle Bruce and Uncle Mitch are getting married!” is met with “I thought they already were.” Her visual vocabulary is vast with fluid definitions of who’s who and who can be what. Rabbis and Episcopal priests are women. Her elementary school teachers are Chinese American, African and Caribbean American, white, Latina, scarf-wearing Muslims. Her generation sees diversity as the norm while ours saw “white men” as the norm. She voted with me for Hillary for Senator and Obama for President; we canvassed for Obama in Pennsylvania; we talk about policy and fairness. I love it that she will see little girls who look like her living in the White House. I am proud to have participated in activities which show her in the importance of being involved.


Tibarek checking in at a polling station


Campaigning in Scranton, Pennsylvania

And herein, I feel an almost secret connection, perhaps my own little invention, of closeness to the man and his family. Obama’s white anthropologist mother brought him up in a world where different cultures, looks, languages, religions and nationalities were daily fair. This was formative. His deeply ingrained values are reflected in his ease with cultures, from his approach to foreign policy to his take on domestic diversity. Each time Obama talks about world cultures, diversity in America, intercultural understanding, his comfort with true multiculturalism exudes. Problems are not swept away but are approached under a larger umbrella of respect for the human experience and the need to understand multiple perspectives. With this in the forefront, Obama and his team bring new energy and intellect to find creative solutions. What a glorious contrast with the Republicans for whom an understanding of multiple perspectives was seen as unpatriotic.

I am Tibarek’s white anthropologist mother who also lives in the world where a huge embrace of “other” is the norm. Two years ago, Tibarek’s Ethiopian mother entrusted me to take her beyond the family’s limited resources, expand her world, grow and blossom. I promised her I would and am taking this amazing person along for every possible opportunity that comes our way or that we can create. I hope I am giving Tibarek the tools for living in a hugely diverse world, enjoying differences and learning from them. I want her to know and be comfortable with her many identities: African, Ethiopian, American, Texas, from a bi-racial Jewish family with Episcopalian god-parents and friends and family from every point on the globe. And I hope she, like Obama, will take the ball and run with it as she makes positive contributions to the world she will encounter.

From knocking on doors in Pennsylvania, I figure she’ll soon be knocking on another door on Pennsylvania Avenue, this time for a play date.


Scranton, Pennsylvania

Cover Image: Jill Vexler, a New York City based anthropologist,
who specializes in curating exhibitions about cultural identity
and social history, with Tibarek, her seven year old adopted
daughter from Ethiopia, outside the polling station in Greenwich
Village, NYC
.

Want to learn an Ethiopian language? New Blog to help you reclaim your mother tongue

BY chitra Aiyar

January 23, 2009

If you are interested in participating, email a few sentences about why you want to participate to the email provided at the bottom by February 1, 2009. Subject line – “mother tongue blog”

What it is?
A community blog consisting of participants committed to learning, relearning, mastering, claiming, reclaiming their mother tongues, whatever language it may be. Participants commit to spending at least 15 minutes a day towards their goal and posting weekly to the group about their process – both the struggles and successes. The blog provides both community and accountability for what can often be a daunting journey. The blog will launch on february 21, 2009 – international mother language day – and will continue for one year. The blog will be accessible only to participants, not the broader public. At the end of one year, we are hoping to use the blog as the basis for an anthology about reclaiming one’s mother tongue and at the very least, offer a guarantee that all participants will make progress towards reclaiming their mother tongues.

Background
For a long time, I’ve been hunting for a good book on learning language as an adult and never found one that met my specific needs. I decided that I should put together an anthology, specifically about learning one’s mother tongue which I think is a different process from just learning a foreign language. And since I do best when I learn in community I am starting this blog that will be filled with participants learning different languages but probably facing similar struggles. I believe very strongly that hearing each others stories and processes may be the push that we need to reclaim our mother tongues. I am hopeful that this blog can help people work through whatever mental and emotional blocks they might have about learning language and offer solidarity in the struggle.

Logistics
If you want to participate, please email a quick summary about who you are and why you are interested in participating by february 1, 2009 to chitra.aiyar@gmail.com subject line “mother tongue blog”. All participants will receive further information about how the blog will function. Once the blog starts, it will only be open and accessible to registered participants

How is mother tongue defined?
Self-defined, it could be the language your mother or father speaks or the language that your grandparents speak or any language that you feel that you should speak. “mother tongues” are distinct from “foreign languages” which don’t carry the weight of ancestral roots or shame or exile…

Who can participate?
Anyone! The more diverse a group the better – please recruit your friends and family. And it would be wonderful to have participants not based in the US.

Do I have to have a certain level of proficiency in the language?
No, beginners and great conversationalists are both welcome. We want anyone who feels that they want to improve their skills, regardless of where their starting point is.

How will the blog help me to learn a language?
We’re not going to be providing specific instruction in specific languages although individuals who are learning the same language can connect and some tips and strategies may be relevant to different languages. The main purpose is to have a collective place to document the process of learning – the struggles and success – and to have some accountability after the initial excitement fades.

What is the connection between this blog and a future anthology?
I am hoping that the blog can serve as the basis for a future anthology – participants can write essays based on their experiences over a year and this can be interspersed with individual blog posts. Of course, no writings will be used for the anthology unless the author is willing – you can participate in the blog and not have anything published in the anthology.

I am a private person and scared of blogs
Me too! Access to the blog will be limited to participants and all participants will be encourage to use usernames if they are uncomfortable with revealing who they are.

One year is a long time – What if I am not ready to make that commitment?
Then this might not be the time for you to participate. We’re not necessarily looking for fast or advanced learners or people who have the luxury to study for hours a day, but we are looking for thoughtful individuals willing to commit to a daily practice of 15 minutes over a one-year period and willing to share their process with others.

Any other questions?
Email chitra.aiyar@gmail.com

Ethiopia – How Tadias Magazine covered the Obama Phenomenon

Above Photo: Richard A. Lipski (WaPo)

How Tadias Magazine covered the Obama Phenomenon
in the Ethiopian American Community

February 4th, 2008
Interview with an Ethiopian American Obama volunteer

We contacted a volunteer for Senator Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign and sent our questions via email. Here is our interview with Adey Fisseha, law student here in New York and Harlem resident. Read More.

February 5th, 2008
Hot Shots: Election Photo Journal

We hit the Obama campaign rallies in the city this weekend in search of hot shots. We were not disappointed. When we arrived at the “Women for Obama” rally at Columbus Circle, there was a surprise waiting for us. Guess who was on the stage? Sara Haile-Mariam, an Ethiopian American, was addressing the crowd. We also attended the rally at MTV studios in Times Square. Read More.

February 4th, 2008
Tadias endorses Obama (Editorial)

This year Ethiopian Americans will participate in one of the most exciting and consequential elections in decades. Both candidates would make dynamic presidents. And, if elected, will make history. We have no difficulty in selecting which one of two will eventually become a more powerful historical figure. We strongly endorse Senator Barack Obama. Read more.

February 27, 2008
OP-ED: Why I’m supporting Obama (Tadias)

We first met Zelela Menker (above) while covering an Obama rally here in New York on Feb 2, 2008. She had stopped by to take part in the “Women for Obama” rally at Columbus Circle. Zelela was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in Critical Social Thought. The concentration of her academic studies has been Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy. In the following opinion piece, Zelela Menker discusses her thoughts on Senator Obama. Read More.

March 26, 2008
Opinion: Honesty Starts with Me (Tadias)

Watching Barack Obama’s historic speech about race and it’s omnipresence in the lives of all Americans had a profound impact on me. I was inspired by his honesty and his blunt assessment of our collective and individual deeds that perpetuates the divides within communities all across this nation and throughout the world. It was this powerful moment that led me to some introspection into my actions and how I perpetuate the intangible, yet real, walls that separates neighbor from neighbor, co-worker from co-worker–and in some instances–friend from friend. Read More.

June 4, 2008
Ethiopian Americans React to Obama’s Victory (Tadias)

Ethiopian Americans across the country welcomed Barack Obama’s claim of the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, most of them contacted by Tadias noting the historical significance of the first African American candidate to lead either major party for the White House. Read More.

July 3, 2008
Opinion: Ethiopia’s Joshua Generation (Tadias)

During the most trying times, when hope is a glimmer that seems too distant to be tangible, it is our children that serve as our bridge to hope. We—Ethiopian-Americans—immigrated to the United States for this very purpose. As the generation who benefited from the toil of our parents, we often don’t fully appreciate the tremendous sacrifices our parents have made so that we could attain the American dream. Not only should we never forget the sacrifices of our parents, we should extend every effort ourselves so that the our future generations can ascend higher. This will be our legacy as a people; this will be our legacy as Ethiopian-Americans. Read More.

July 30, 2008
Obama Team Hires Selam Mulugeta (Tadias)

The presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama has hired Selam Mulugeta, an Ethiopian American, who formerly served as a Congressional Staffer and Special Assistant to Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), founder and Chair of the Congressional Ethiopia and Ethiopian American Caucus.
Read More.

August 6, 2008
Obama Reaches Out to Ethiopian American Voters

In a letter sent to the Democratic support group Ethiopians for Obama (E4O), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee reached out to Ethiopian American voters and acknowledged their growing support for his campaign. Read More.

August 8, 2008
Ethiopian Americans May Swing the Vote in Virginia

The U.S. State of Virginia, which is home to one of the largest Ethiopian American communities in the country, hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in four decades, but some say it might turn blue come November. Read More.

August 18, 2008
Obama and Ethiopia: From Gloom to Leadership (Tadias)

What a season! In Ethiopia and in the United States, we hear similar laments: inflation brings miseries; rich/poor gap widens; sick people lack care; environments worsen; human rights burn; energy grows scarce; media cave in; schools are inadequate. And we face baneful consequences of invading another country in an ill-conceived quest to stamp out perceived security threats. It’s enough to make you feel gloomy. Read More.

September 16, 2008
Conversations with an Ethiopian-American Obama Organizing Fellow (Tadias)

We recently spoke with Washington, D.C. resident Kedist Geremaw, a health care administrator and one of the 3,600 individuals who were selected and trained as an Obama Organizing Fellow this summer. Read More.

October 21, 2008
Five Reasons for Ethiopian-Americans to Support Obama

Even if this is the most important American presidential election in the last half-century, why should Ethiopians burn with special interest in it? Considering what’s at stake for Ethiopian immigrants and their home country, the question warrants a fresh look. Let’s see how five central Obama commitments play out for Ethiopians in the U.S. and in ye-beyt agar (at home): 1) economic relief; 2) medical care; 3) energy development; 4) respect for law; and 5) dialogue with opponents. Read More.

A Doctor’s Memoir: Ethiopia’s Troubled Health Care System

Editor’s Note:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian-born Sosena Kebede (pictured above left) served as an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Hanover Regional Medical Center until April 2006. She spent her childhood in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Botswana before settling in the United States in 1988. She holds a B.S. from Duke University, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina. Dr. Sosena spent five weeks volunteering at Tikur Anbessa (Black Lion) Hospital in Addis Ababa in the spring of 2006. The following is an excerpt of her memoir (first published on Tadias Magazine in 2007) that details her personal experience at one of the largest health care facilities in Ethiopia.

We hope Dr. Sosena’s observations will spark a healthy debate on the subject and hopefully the discussion will focus on finding solutions . As always, we warmly welcome your comments.

A Doctor’s Memoir
By Sosena Kebede

May 3, 2006

So I woke up at 8:45am after going to bed at 11:00pm last night and I reported to duty at Tikur Anbessa Hospital (hereto referred to as TAH).

The hospital is run down, there is barely enough lighting to see your way in the hallways, the wards reek of a mixture of antiseptics, body odors, and whatever else. Medical equipments are scarce, outdated and in some cases out of commission.

sosena2.png
Above: There is barely enough lighting to see your way in the hallways.
Photography by Sosena Kebede

The Out patient Clinic (OPD) is mainly run by resident physicians. Consultants usually see subspecialty patients and are available for consultations. Patient rights including a right to privacy or modesty is barely existent. Patients are examined in a semi-office type room with one stretcher in the room. There is no gown, no privacy in that small room. Patients have to undress in the full view of the doctor and the nurse as well as who ever else may be around at the time in that small room. (Oh, the cell phone of the doctors rings at times in the middle of exams and the doctor interrupts the exam while the patient is lying half naked and talks on the phone. Later on, I found out that the cell phone is used as a pager equivalent in this hospital so to be fair most calls seem to be work related). What topped my experience today was when the examining physician at one time literally pinched an older woman’s pendulous left breast by the nipple and raised the whole breast up in the air like a tent while listening to her heart! I was mortified, and I so badly wanted to slap his hand off of her.

sosena3.png
Above: The Out patient Clinic (OPD). Photography by Sosena Kebede.

Because not all patients can be seen by a consultant some complicated cases are seen by residents alone which made me feel uncomfortable to say the least. Today, one of the residents came to ask the cardiologist’s opinion on how to manage an elderly gentleman who apparently is in third degree heart block intermittently (A heart conduction abnormality that can be fatal). There is no pacer (a pacer, as the name implies, is a device used to” pace” the heart when its intrinsic ability to pace its own rhythm fails) and the gentleman declined admission for monitoring purposes citing financial reasons. It turned out that he couldn’t afford any medications either. Decision was made to send him out and have him come back in three weeks!! Wow. I felt helpless; as I am sure these physicians have million times over. I gave the old man some money for medications. He kissed my hands and I walked out chocked up, knowing that he is one of many, and one couldn’t possibly help all… I saw the physicians exchange glances as I walked out. Perhaps they were amused by what they perceived to be a naïve gesture on my part. Perhaps, they thought here is another American trying to be a hero.

Clearly the volume and the acuity of care is way above what these exhausted and frustrated physicians can handle. The system seems to be crumbling and I wondered how they make it day to day, patients and physicians alike.

At the end of a long day, I stood looking outside the window on 8th floor while waiting for my ride to go home. I saw a beautiful landscape of Addis. A spectacular chain of mountains cradle rows of shacks and rusty tin roofs. The high rises that pop their heads above the shacks don’t hide the story of this city. This city holds some of the wretched of this world.

8th-floor-offices.jpg
Above: 8th floor offices. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

May 4, 2006

I attended grand rounds today and was once again impressed by the quality and clarity of presentation and the professional attitudes of the residents and even more impressed by how bright they are as demonstrated by their wide differential diagnoses. I sat at the back of the conference room proud to call them my people. I don’t think my residents in America with all the information excess at their fingertips and a lot of spoon feeding could generate as much differential and show such insight into disease processes as these residents.

In the department of Internal medicine, there is one lap top and LCD projector that is kept in the main office but the residents use overhead slides for their presentations. The screen for projection is torn at the corner and is held by a wide masking tape and creates an indentation on some of the hand written words that project on its surface. I struggled to read their hand written presentation but I preferred to listen to them anyway, so it didn’t matter.

Diagnostic modalities such as CTs and echos are hard to come by. The hospital does not have an MR. The single CT scanner the hospital has, I am told is broken and has been so for the last 12 months! Patients who require CTs will have to go to private clinics to get them done. With a prohibitive cost for these diagnostic procedures most patients who need them can’t get them.

The physicians here work under some of the most emotionally devastating circumstances, with very little reward and no job satisfaction whatsoever. I found out that every physician now works at a private clinic to supplement their income at the government hospital. This includes the resident physicians as well.

There is no heart hard enough and a mind so callus that it can’t feel pain, outrage, disbelief, and despair at what I am seeing in Ethiopia.

Out of the many sad cases here are a couple that I will probably never forget. We saw a 20 some year old male who came to the cardiology clinic for follow-up of his cyanotic heart disease. He was born with “a hole in his heart” and because of this defect the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mix and gives patients such as this one “cyanosis”( bluish hue to their coloring), which is one of the hallmarks of low oxygen in the blood. During this visit, the patient is told to continue taking his medications (which will not fix the problem!) and “try and pursue his chance to go abroad to get definitive treatment”. The only way to cure this type of defect is by surgical method and that is not available in Ethiopia. Of course this young man, who is a college student can’t go abroad and he will die here. I wondered what he is studying and how long he will stay alive. Ethiopia’s life expectancy is about 43 years of age, I don’t think he will make it that far.

An 18 year old girl who looks not a day older than 13 (she is severely malnourished) came with her dad for follow-up of her shortness of breath and trouble lying flat. During physical exam her heart looked like it’d pop out between her left sided rib spaces and you barely have to put your stethoscope on her chest to hear the loud booming murmur (a heart murmur is a sound made as blood rushes out of the heart chambers via its valves and can be a sign of heart valve problems). She had distended neck veins and is breathing heavy. This girl has a very sick heart, and you didn’t need to be a doctor to see that. I saw her echo live and the cardiologist, (who is clearly very bright and in my opinion second to none) pointed out the girl’s massively stretched heart chambers and the severe valve leakages. She is clearly a surgical case but he pointed out because of her malnourishment he didn’t think that ENAHPA (Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, a group of Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian health professionals from North America that are expected to come mid May to do cardiac surgeries) will consider her to be a good surgical candidate. The girl’s father who accompanied her has sad eyes and didn’t say a word and seems to have no clue as to what is going on with his daughter. The little girl spoke in whispers I could barely hear, and she kept her eyes down cast and continuously wrung her fingers that were folded on her lap. The name and the body frame may change but this case and the whole scenario was déjà vu all over again for me.

There is a frighteningly minimal amount of conversation that goes on between patients/their families and these doctors. The patients and their families who at times travel several kilometers to make it to this hospital are so mishandled starting at the hospital gate all the way to the clinics. Part of this ill-treatment that I perceive (the Amharic word “Mengelatat” I think fits the bill better than any other English term I can come up with) I believe may stem from a general lack-luster “customer service” practice in our culture. Also, my experience has been that harsh words are freely hurled by people in “authority” to people who are perceived to be either inferiors or subordinates in some ways without fear of repercussions. A hospital guard who carries a gun is at liberty to scold a family member of a patient at the hospital gate; as would an older man in car to a female pedestrian, an adult to a child or a physician to a patient, just to name a few. Added to that, the frustrations that come from working under such difficult conditions may make people appear to be heartless. Regardless, it is a sad state of affairs.

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Above: B8. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

Today, I felt overwhelmed by all I saw. After work I met with a friend of mine at a café (there is a miracle right there, my good old southern friend from Wilmington North Carolina, now sitting across the table from me in the country of my origin!) and I broke down and cried about this whole package of life in Ethiopia. He cried with me.

May 8, 2006

The residents essentially manage most of the patients. While I rounded on hematology patients with one of the Hematologist, I was impressed by these residents as they discussed the management of leukemias, multiple myelomas etc. They know the chemotherapeutic agent dosages, all the side-effects. They administer and monitor treatment after consultation with the sub specialist. Infectious diseases are plentiful in kind and number in Ethiopia. I had to acquaint myself anew with some of the tropical diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Schistosomaisis etc, which I was once taught in the US as topics of historical significance in the western world.

Before rounds I was listening to a bunch of residents discuss a case of pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) and its managements. They know what they are talking about and the camaraderie and team play exhibited seems to be far superior to what I have seen in America. I was also very happy to overhear that they do most of the medical procedures and although limited, do have access to ultrasound guided thoracentesis,(a method by which fluid from the lungs is drained using ultrasound guidance). Most of these guys (unfortunately with the exception of two females they are all guys) seem to be highly motivated, after having arrived at this stage of their lives after much trials and tribulations. (Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule). They work under such suboptimal conditions, with very limited support system, and meager educational resources. Their motivation to learn makes me wonder if I will ever want to teach in
America again.

May 10, 2006

I had a very full day today-long rounds and lectures to the residents. What a pleasure though.

I have had some opportunities to mingle with people and form friends in the hospital and outside of it. The recurring theme among physicians and non-physicians is that people in Ethiopia are increasingly being made to abandon intellectual/ academic pursuits for entrepreneurships in order to survive. (There is nothing wrong with entrepreneurship or business if done honestly, but it should not be the only means of existence in a modern society). One young professional couple shared with me how some of their close friends who have only high school education have gone into “business” and are living large, whereas people like them who have invested a significant number of years in education are left to struggle to make ends meet. Their expertise for knowledge transfer and their contribution to pulling Ethiopians out of the dark ages of ignorance seems to be overlooked. The way I see it, Ethiopian intellectuals are given very little incentive to make this country their home.

While discussing this topic with one individual I heard very disturbing news about a parliamentary discussion that was televised recently. Apparently, the prime minister of Ethiopia was discussing with members of the parliament on how Ethiopia can improve its Chat business in the international market. Chat is a marijuana like substance that is grown in Ethiopia and has an addictive and mind altering properties. This recreational drug is now creating a huge problem among the youth and adults alike and is blamed for a significant number of road fatalities especially among long distance truck drivers who drive while under the influence. Everyone can list many bad public policies, but this one defies explanation and borders on insanity.

May 11, 2006

I saw an elderly male carrying an emaciated adolescent kid and walking up the steep hill via the Radio Fana road going to TAH today. Beside him, also was a middle aged guy carrying a plastic bag. I saw them trudging up that steep hill in silence, obviously exhausted from a long journey, and quite clearly unable to afford a taxi fare to bring a sick child to the hospital. I wondered how long they traveled today and where they came from. I wondered what illness the child had and what other “mengelatat” (harassment) awaits them starting at the TAH gate. I wondered when they will eventually be able to see a physician. I also wondered if that child was going to walk out of TAH alive…

I see many elderly and sick people climbing the stairs at TAH all the way up to the 8th floor because the only one functioning elevator (that sometimes fails to function) is reserved for those who are severely sick such as those who require stretchers. I helped carry a heavy bag for a lady walking up the stairs this afternoon. She was very happy to share the burden and was talking to me in between halting breaths until one of the ladies who works in house keeping on 5th floor addressed me as “doctor”. At that point, the lady I was climbing the stairs with took the plastic bag I was helping carry from my hands, thanked me profusely and went her way, without even giving me a chance to say that it was no big deal.

I also see rows of people sitting on the benches and on the floors of the hospital waiting for their turns to see a doctor. Some look like they need to be in ICU immediately. Not that the medical ICU which has 4 beds and the most rudimentary cardiac monitors and not much else, will avail much of anything, but at least they will be in a bed of some sort. From what I gathered there are only two mechanical ventilators in the ICU; there are two “crash carts” (carts that hold emergency medications and defibrillators in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest)-one in the ICU the other in the OPD area. Emergency medications are not always available, therefore medical emergencies in general have a predictable dismal outcome.

During lunch break today a very soft spoken and pleasant laboratory technician was talking about how tuition for her daughter has increased by 50% and she and her husband don’t know how they are going to be able to keep their only child in the same school. Everywhere I turn I hear “sekoka” (woes). Sometimes it is almost impossible to comprehend this level of social devastation in one country. The poor have clearly grown poorer over the past decade or two, and the minority of “middle class” are frantically struggling not to join others into the quick sand of poverty. There is wide spread sense of hopelessness and dejection in people of all ages, and gender. People are preoccupied with trying to figure out how they can make it from one day to another.

I talk about misery sitting in an upscale café/bookstore, eating grilled veggie sandwich, drinking green tea, and working on my lap top. I have my palm pilot and cell phone on the table, both very much operational and invaluable even here in Ethiopia. On the bottom floor of this beautiful contemporary café called Lime Tree café is a snazzy day spa called “Boston Day Spa, Where luxury and Glamour Meet”. I am very comfortable. When I am done writing this piece I will walk across the street of Bole, where rows of internet cafes, pastry shops, high end boutiques and shiny high rises are lined up. I might as well be in America. I will eventually walk into a two storey beautiful house where the maids will wait on me. Now that is much better than I have it in America. This is what I call the “artificial” life of Addis Ababa. This is a life that only a very small minority of Ethiopians live.

Many things annoy me even infuriate me, but none like people who measure developmental advances of the country using these “artificial” methods. Rome was not built in a day, and nor will Ethiopia be. I am not against road constructions and the erection of high rises. I am not necessarily against the SUV driving, designer clothing wearing, Sheraton Hotel partying, Europe vacationing crowds. I am however against those who use this minute fraction of the reality in Ethiopia to measure “development”. I am against complacency and indifference to the pressing issues of basic human needs food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and safety to all the people of Ethiopia.

May 12th 2006

There were four successive bomb blasts in Addis today. One was close to TAH and it occurred while I was giving a lecture on Sub acute Bacterial Endocarditis to the medical students. Everyone looked pretty unmoved by the whole thing and outside the building it was business as usual. People on the street either talked about something entirely different, or they casually made comments about how they believe the government itself is responsible for these blasts. Two of the four blasts happened in a taxi and a bus (I could very well have been in one of those taxis), and a total of four people died with over 20 injured, some very seriously. Waiting for a taxi to go home right after the blast I saw a group of people sitting at a café near Ambassador Hotel having a good old time. The thought that came to mind was that Ethiopians have become accustomed to death and dying of all forms including terrorist killings that they carry on their lives pretty much how the Israelis and the Palestinians must carry on. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse…!!

May 15, 2006

I keep fairly busy at TAH, and I am enjoying getting to know people a little bit better everyday. One of the physicians asked me today why I wanted to come to Ethiopia to work. This is a well seasoned physician that has served in the institution for a long time and I think he wanted to know if I knew what I would be getting myself into. I know that Ethiopia’s problems are complex and individual efforts may be miniscule but if there is enough of us I believe the scale will eventually tip. The scale may not tip in my life time but I am willing to leave my “negligible” contribution on the offering plate.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all that is wrong around here, but in my simplistic personal view, there is still a lot of untapped sources. These sources are easy to miss because they are not big and they don’t leave visible dents on the surface of our problems, and they certainly don’t make the headlines. Most of these sources are also not measured in monetary in kind, and thus may appear not to be that valuable. I am thinking of the power of compassion that moves us to own the pain and suffering of others and make it our own. I am thinking of daily acts of simple kindness at individual levels. I am thinking of touching other human beings, both literally and figuratively. During rounds I made sure I laid my hands on each patient and addressed them by their names. I also always asked the patients and their families if they had any questions before we left their bedside. I made it my business to communicate to them by words, attitudes and actions that their issues concern me and they matter to me. Two days ago, the father of a 15 year girl with leukemia shook my hand and said to me in Oromiffa (was translated to me by one of the residents who speaks the language) that for them to” be touched by a doctor is like medicine itself ‘.

I will always remember what someone said to me: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. If the students and the residents I worked with this month will remember only this piece of advice my time with them has been worth it.

Talking of simple kind acts, today’s was a special one. I was leaving TAH when a woman asked me where the “cherer kifle” (radiation room) was. Of course I didn’t know where it was but since she and a young man are bringing a very sick elderly woman who could barely walk, (she was moaning and looked like she was about to collapse), I offered to investigate for them. Once I found out it was on 2nd floor, they asked if the “lift” (elevator) will automatically stop on the floor, apparently it was their first time to take an elevator. I took the elevator with them and walked them to radiation oncology and gave their chart to the nurse and inquired for them when they will be seen. There are no wheel chairs, no hospital staff that help triage these sickly patients. The radiation/oncology area it turned out was quite a walk and I kept looking behind me at the sick woman and the man supporting her and said words of encouragement such as “Ayezwot desrsenale” (loosely translated: hang in there, we are almost there”). After we arrived in the radiation room the elderly lady sat on the bench she took my hand and kissed it (for the second time in 10 days, and it brought tears to my eyes. Such deep gratitude, for such a small act…) and said some of the most beautiful merekat (blessings) to me. The one that stood out the most was “Enkifat enkwan ayemtash” (“may you not even stumble”). I loved hearing that. I bowed my head several times, in acknowledgement, Ethiopian style, and said my Amens to all the blessings. It touched me so much, that it surprised me. In a land where verbal cursing is not uncommon it is good to hear a torrent of blessing for a change.

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Above: With one of my favorite patients. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

June 16, 2006

I was rushing out through the OPD gate to meet someone for lunch when I run into one of the residents I know. We talked about what it is like to work and live in Ethiopia as a physician. My conversations with the same physician although not entirely based on a new theme gave me a reinforcement of what most intellectuals/professionals in this country are feeling. He told me that his salary rated among the highest but for a family of seven (five kids and a wife) it will be sufficient for two weeks only. Like many others he is also supplementing his income with a second job in the form of a private clinic work. He recounted that once upon a time, he too had great aspirations and dreams to bring about a change in the society. He told me after several episodes of banging his head against a brick wall he has decided to lead a quite life and support his family. This physician, who is soft spoken and accomplished, like many others has contributed a lot to that institution and to the country at large. How many peoples’ dreams and visions have died, I wondered.

I am reminded of the Biblical verse that says “a small yeast will leaven up an entire dough”. This is true of good as well as bad influence (“leaven”). I do believe, that though we might not see this happen in our generation, if we are determined we can be the leaven, the catalyst, to bring about a paradigm shift in this country. We can be the catalysts who will initiate the process of change from the cycles of poverty to self sufficiency.

I was very fortunate and truly feel honored to have met so many people that have done so much and have the potential to do so much more in Ethiopia. Some are tired, others are tiring out. That is why we need reinforcements to be deployed to them. With all the apprehensions that I feel at times, I can’t wait till I go back to Ethiopia. One of my self assigned missions now is to recruit as many as are willing to be part of that reinforcement.

Hot Blog: Tadias Endorses Obama

At an Obama rally at Columbus Circle, New York City. Sat, Feb 2, 2008. (Tadias Magazine photo)

Tadias Editorial
Editorial

Published: February 4th, 2008

New York (Tadias) – This year Ethiopian Americans will participate in one of the most exciting and consequential elections in decades. Both candidates would make dynamic presidents. And, if elected, will make history. We have no difficulty in selecting which one of two will eventually become a more powerful historical figure. We strongly endorse Senator Barack Obama.

The senator from Illinois distinguishes himself by appealing to basic human decency. He transcends false divisions rooted on race, language, gender, region and religion. His public service record in Chicago, his time as a civil rights lawyer, his years as constitutional law professor, and his Senate experience all prove that Obama is a seasoned candidate who can bring about much needed change in American politics. Senator Obama has demonstrated passion and dedication on issues that are important to Ethiopian Americans, such as immigration, education and health care.

Senator Obama is a son of an immigrant. His father was born and raised in Kenya. Obama’s father travelled to the United States on a scholarship to pursue his education at the University of Hawaii. It was there where Obama’s parents met. Obama’s father eventually went to Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. and later returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982. Obama travelled with his mother from Hawaii to Indonesia and lived in both California and New York before working in low-income communities in Chicago, Illinois.

A Columbia and Harvard alum who graduated as President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, his credentials can match or surpass any other American president. But Obama’s asset is his vision, his courage, and his integrity. His words touch every heart – the MTV generation rallies for him as much as do those who lived in the Kennedy era. Last night’s Superbowl Champs, NY Giants, have decided to skip the traditional festivities in Disneyland, officially endorse Barack Obama and plan to attend Obama’s speech today in New Jersey. He is leading across borders echoing MLK’s words: “Unity is the great need of the hour.”

There is a bit of each and every one of us in Obama. His story is our story. We believe that an Obama presidency will instantly reverse the public relations damage done by the current administration and defuse anti-American passion around the world. We encourage Ethiopian Americans to vote for Senator Barack Obama.

It is only appropriate to close this endorsement with Obama’s own words as he addressed the people of South Carolina who gave him a historical landslide victory:

“And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we’ve carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:

“Yes. We. Can.”
—–
Related:
Ethiopian Americans May Swing the Vote in Virginia (TADIAS)

Hot Blog: Obama and Ethiopia: From Gloom to Leadership

Opinion
By Donald N. Levine
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Published: Monday, August 18, 2008

New York (Tadias) – What a season! In Ethiopia and in the United States, we hear similar laments: inflation brings miseries; rich/poor gap widens; sick people lack care; environments worsen; human rights burn; energy grows scarce; media cave in; schools are inadequate. And we face baneful consequences of invading another country in an ill-conceived quest to stamp out perceived security threats. It’s enough to make you feel gloomy.

So whence the mood of buoyancy, fresh determination, breakthrough ideas, and enlarged visions in the U.S.? It’s through a leader who works to bring folks together to address crippling problems in a forthright, competent, and consensual manner. Not a power-mongering demagogue, Barack Obama projected a vision when he told his followers: “This election victory is not about me. It’s about you!” It is about seeing how much good can come from harnessing the free proactive power of millions. In the words of Common Cause president Bob Edgar, “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.”

Barack Obama’s power stems also from identifying with figures who inspired us in dire times–Franklin Roosevelt, for calming a torrent of paralyzing fear; John F. Kennedy, for fostering idealism while facing down threats; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for incandescent dreams; even Ronald Reagan who, despite regressive economic policies, raised a dispirited public’s morale.

Ethiopians, too, recall many who brought inspiration in times of peril: Emperor Yohannes who fell fighting against invaders; Emperor Haile Selassie who stood tall at the League of Nations; and, among many who opposed Italian Fascism, heroes like Lorenzo Taezaz, Abuna Petros, and Mulugeta Buli. They remember Kifle Wodajo, who promoted democracy under a regime unschooled in its ways. They admire innovators, such as General Siye Abraha, who renounced ethnic chauvinism for multiethnic inclusiveness; Elias Wondimu, who built a publishing program of high standards and an institute for nonviolent solutions; Judge Bertukan Midekesa, who survived a horrendous prison with great forward-looking spirit; and Pastor Daniel Gebreselassie, who helped many thousands of prisoners and resolve Ethiopia’s political paralysis.

Barack Obama draws on his appeal to an empowered citizenry and his stock of inspiring figures to energize an audacious search for fresh solutions to current dilemmas. I’ll name but three.

Transforming energy use
In stunning contrast to a regime that denies global warming, reduces environmental protections, dismisses science, and favors expanded use of oil, Barack Obama vigorously promotes conservation, respect for science, and search for alternative energy sources. His bold new energy plans include ways to slash oil consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions 80%, create five million green energy jobs, and expand renewable energy sources.

Transforming foreign policy
Invading Iraq, Americans now believe, was a disaster on every count: politics; ethics; economics; security. That invasion stemmed from a mindset that reduces international issues to a divide between good guys and evil guys, eager to use force against the latter. Already when campaigning in January 2000, Bush proclaimed: “When I was coming up, it was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.” Obama’s early rejection of the Iraqi war option as leading inexorably to “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences” reflects a mindset committed to analyzing what makes the U.S. truly secure. This includes promoting an international context in which we say, “to those yearning faces beyond our shores: ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future.’”

Reconfiguring political energy
The Bush administration has shown its blatant disregard of American citizens in so many ways. These include ignoring danger signals and providing pitiful relief for the Katrina disaster; squandering an opportunity to mobilize Americans for public service after 9/11 by asking Americans only to go shopping; and undermining democratic institutions by abrogating provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In sharp contrast, Barack Obama’s fidelity to the Constitution was shown abundantly in his years of teaching Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, and his commitment to reversing the politicization of the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice. Obama plans to expand opportunities for Americans to engage in national and community service and the Peace Corps, and to engage retiring Americans in service on a large scale. He has a stunning track record of listening to the voice of citizens, and understands that in democracy the press needs to censure government, rather than the government to censoring the press.

The Appeal to Ethiopians
Ethiopian Americans tell me they find the Obama candidacy worth supporting for one or more of three different reasons. Like other Americans, Ethiopian Americans find hope in a wide range of his policy proposals, like the sample listed above (and others; see barackobama.com). They also see how the directions Obama promises for the U.S. may offer a model for Ethiopia. And many hope that an Obama administration might reorient American policy toward Ethiopia and the Horn in more constructive directions.

Forward-looking Ethiopians, including many in the Ethiopian Government, see promise in adapting advanced green energy technologies and thereby enabling Ethiopia to leap-frog the stage of industrialization that the West and East Asian countries have undergone. For the U.S. and other donor nations, this implies a shift from stopgap relief mentality and old-scale types of capital investment to technologies that harness solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, compact water turbines, and better waste management.

Forward-looking Ethiopians, including many in the Ethiopian Government, see the pitfalls of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and even more so the consequences of the scorched earth policy in the Ogaden. They prefer the sort of policy that Germame Neway pursued, working to integrate Ogaden inhabitants into the Ethiopian nation by offering them abundant life-enhancing services.

For the U.S., an Obama approach would avoid the shortcomings of basing African engagements so much on a trigger-happy counter-terrorist disposition, a change that former Ambassador David Shinn and former Chargé d’Affaires Vicki Huddleston have advocated.

Finally, Obama’s commitment to mobilizing citizens for public service and respecting human rights has conspicuous relevance to changing Ethiopia. It would imply support for empowering “the bottom of the pyramid.”

Regarding U.S. policies, it might expectably lead to more effective support for Ethiopians who want to promote a free press, including local radio that gives voice to people, and capacity-building for the advancement of nonviolent solutions and protection of human rights.”

Ethiopians can experience the same turn-around, in ye-bet agar as well as in ye-wutch agar, that Obama’s campaign for change promises. Awo Inchilallen!

For now, what better way than to join forces with Ethiopians for Obama? Or even join with neighbors from the larger Horn of Africa to set up a new support group: why not SEEDS [Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia]-Americans for Obama?”

—-
About the Author:
Donald N. Levine served as the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education. He is a colleague of Senator Barack Obama from their teaching days at the University of Chicago.

Cover image: From a photo booth with Obama wearing a traditional Ethiopian shawl at D.C. Soccer Tournament 2008 (Tadias)

Man Held in Obama Assassination Threat

Man held in Fla. for threatening Obama’s life (MSNBC)

Suspect held without bail Thursday after a brief court hearing

AP

Thursday, August 7, 2008

MIAMI – A man who authorities said was keeping weapons and military-style gear in his hotel room and car appeared in court Thursday on charges he threatened to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Read More.

Meditations – The Dream Deferred: Re-conceptualizing Class and Politics in America

Tadias OP-ED

By Zelela Menker

Published: Monday, July 21, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Patrick Brennan is a 33 year old White male from Kansas City, Missouri. Although he grew up in the Midwest he currently lives in New York City and has developed a strong affinity for diversity. Patrick moved to New York approximately three years ago because, “[he] was tired of being around people who shared the same views and wanted to really be exposed to diverse people and cultures”. Ironically, however, Patrick does not have any significant interactions with the “diverse people” that initially attracted him to the city. In fact, the extents of his cross-cultural engagements are mostly limited to business transactions, and the daily hellos and goodbyes exchanged with his door man who he suspects to be Polish.

At first glance, Patrick’s overpriced and beautifully decorated loft is impressive; his life appears to be void of the tensions associated with every day life. Nevertheless, the truth is there is more than what meets the eye. Patrick’s lifestyle is in fact symptomatic of some of the same deprivations that plague the lives of the poor and the working poor throughout America. Patrick’s workdays are long, he wakes up at 5 A.M. in order to commute work, he suffers from stress and feels overworked, he rarely has time for family and friends, when he eats he has a majority of his meals away from home, and he has not been able to get the exercise he needs.

The irony in Patrick’s “deprivation” of course is that it has not been caused by a shortage of social and material resources, but rather his desire to attain more. He informs me that although he is financially fit to retire he chooses to work and that he is extremely proud of his accomplishments. As a successful trader at a top financial firm Patrick states, “it is has been hard to find time for the things that matter most”. He elaborates how he has had to consistently sacrifice personal relationships, hobbies, and even his health to achieve financial success stating, “I have come a long way …I have had to sacrifice a lot …but my choices have paid off”.

The belief that one’s social and economic status is consistent with one’s personal drive and hard work has been a dominant ideology in contemporary American society. Thus, inequalities in education, income, and healthcare are often perceived to result from individual victories and failures. Concurrently, political arguments and decisions pertaining to social and distributive justice have been formulated in relation to ideals of individualism, equal opportunity, and free choice.

In the United States, advocates of free choice have synonymously been considered to be true lovers of justice. Historically, a majority of Americans revere and are intoxicated with the promise of freedom—and I like Patrick Brenan am no exception. However, I also believe that there is a particular fundamental problem in developing understandings of poverty from the premise of “to each his due”: in matters of survival, life and death, there is no fixed line that distinguishes between coercion and free choice.

In my opinion developing political based arguments and understandings of wealth and poverty from individualistic ideals are extremely flawed and problematic. Within the romantic ideals of individualism, equal opportunity, and free choice co-exist an assortment of problems regarding public conceptions of hard work and free will. Inequalities cannot be understood merely within the context of personal desert and merit because individual choices are made within the context of dynamic and complex relationships.

Taking an individualistic perspective to understanding the vast disparities that exist in the United States today is inaccurate and incomplete because it does not consider the restrictions that social structures and political institutions place on the lives of the poor. I would argue that for a majority of people in the United States, life opportunities and “deviant lifestyle choices” are pushed upon individuals as a result of social, political, and economic circumstances. Within the context of poverty, the lack of adequate employment, safe housing, education, and access to health care all take a negative toll on the capacity of individuals to make free choices if and/or when they are able to act at all.

Currently the face of poverty in America continues to be portrayed to mirror problematic stereotypes of the social welfare queen and Juan Does. However, a closer analysis of class structures in the United States suggest otherwise. Despite popular notions, it’s important to note that an estimated two-thirds of the poor in the United States are White. This misrepresentation highlights an important issue that is often times entirely overlooked if not insufficiently explored.

While minorities are disproportionately negatively impacted by poverty, “The Poor” is not a homogenous or static group; it is not a class that has inherently been raced, sexed and (hyper)sexualized, it does not share a distinctive set of characteristics, and the individuals that make up this group have not somehow inherited and internalized dysfunctional values that have claimed and marked their future generations for suffering. The individuals currently accessing the limited social welfare programs in America are not aspiring free riders, but rather encompass many hardworking individuals and families coming from diverse backgrounds struggling to survive in a nation with a political system that is highly defective because it depends on preserving gross inequalities in the distribution and play of economic and political power. Capitalism being the foundation if not at the core of the American Dream has played an integral role in shaping social and political structures. The problem with this is that the success of the western political capitalist culture in the United States, and the validation of that American Dream, both heavily depend on the continued exploitation of marginalized groups.

It is important to remember that flawed public policies are not informed by a fixed or divinely inspired doctrine, but rather have been formulated and negotiated within the context of our misguided perceptions and representations of social, political, and economic realities. In order to change current living conditions it will not merely require that we critically assess and reassess flawed socio-economic infrastructures and amend labor laws, but also that we take look at ourselves to change our visions and aspirations of and for America. Some of the revolutionaries of the Civil Rights movement stated that justice can never be secured as long as American society ceases to exist – and I agree. This is not to say that there is something inherently wrong with America or Americans, but rather to highlight that for most America is not merely a dream deferred, but a nation desperately waiting and in need of collectively being re-considered, re-conceptualized, and re-imagined.

A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

—-
About the Author: Zelela Menker was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to the United States to attend Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, MA where she majored in Critical Social Thought (CST). She lives and works in New York City.

By the same author: OP-ED: Why I’m supporting Obama (Tadias)

Commentary: Obama Cover Has Bite, Benefits

Obama Cover Has Bite, Benefits (Cagle Post)

by Clarence Page
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I winced. I’m sure that’s what the New Yorker’s esteemed editor David Remnick expected me to do when I saw the Barack and Michelle Obama caricature cover that everybody’s talking about.

Every so often the quiet little liberal-leaning literary and cultural magazine presents a cover that is intended like a high-class editorial cartoon to startle us. Back in 1993, for example, during a time of high tensions between blacks and Jews, cartoonist Art Spiegelman raised hackles from some and heartfelt praise from others with a cover that depicted a black woman kissing an Orthodox Jewish man.

The controversial Obama cover by artist Barry Blitt is just as startling as that earlier cover, but not nearly as clear in its meaning. If a casual observer didn’t know that the New Yorker was a liberal literary and cultural magazine, they might easily believe Blitt’s drawing was trying to promote the right-wing smears that it intended to lampoon.

It shows Obama in the Oval Office dressed in Arabic robes. He is exchanging a congratulatory fist bump with his wife Michelle, who is dressed like a 1960s-style militant with a huge Afro, combat boots, camouflage pants, assault rifle and a bandolier of bullets. Osama bin Laden looks on placidly from a picture frame over the presidential fireplace in which an American flag burns like a yule log.

Editor Remnick told the New York Times that, “The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are.”

He compared Blitt’s drawing to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert who lampoons the worldview of conservative talk show hosts like Fox News… READ MORE

Opinion: Ethiopia’s Joshua Generation

Above: Kids with Yichalal sign at the current soccer
tournament in D.C. North America’s largest African soccer
tournament is underway. Photo/TF

Opinion: Ethiopia’s Joshua Generation

By Teddy Fikre

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2008

Washington, DC (Tadias) – During the most trying times, when hope is a glimmer that seems too distant to be tangible, it is our children that serve as our bridge to hope. We—Ethiopian-Americans—immigrated to the United States for this very purpose. As the generation who benefited from the toil of our parents, we often don’t fully appreciate the tremendous sacrifices our parents have made so that we could attain the American dream. Not only should we never forget the sacrifices of our parents, we should extend every effort ourselves so that the our future generations can ascend higher. This will be our legacy as a people; this will be our legacy as Ethiopian-Americans.

Individually, we have some of the brightest minds; we have attended some of the finest universities and amassed a wealth of intellectual capital. However, if we do not come together and work for the common good, we will continue to be lone men and women on an island. Solidarity—one that transcends gender, ethnicity and religion—should be the clarion call for all Ethiopians. There are untold hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in the United States ; yet, our inability to coalesce and work together for the common good from coast to coast in America has prevented us from building a coalition for the betterment of all. Whether it is socially, economically, or politically, our inability to unite is a detriment for us; more importantly, it can be a detriment for our children and generations yet to be born.

I was reminded of this paradigm when Ethiopians for Obama deployed to Lideta Mariam and Kidus Gabriel Church to register Ethiopian-Americans to vote. Once the registration drive was completed at Lideta Mariam, I headed over to the Kidus Gabriel Church for the second registration drive. After the registration table was set up inside the church, I noticed how many Ethiopian children were there. One particular girl, 4 year – old , Hanna, came over and asked me what I was doing. Here was a child–barely old enough to count to 10– asking me what a registration was. After I explained what we were doing, she said “I want to help” and proceeded to bring over more of her friends. Another amazing girl, 7 year old Merekat and 5 year old Leah, came over to the table. They asked me what they could do to help, and I told them I needed people to come over and register to vote.

In one of the most amazing scenes I have ever witnessed, each one of these girls started pulling random men and women by the hands and bringing them to the table to register as the church was letting out!! It was touching; there they were–Hanna, Merekat, and Leah, the Joshua generation—leading men and women by the hand to register. All told, these amazing girls helped register five Ethiopian-Americans and sign up 10 volunteers. The lessons we could learn from these children is beyond words ; sometimes age does not add wisdom but pessimism. If we observe our children, we will see in their spirits the true soul of God. A spirit that does not ask about ethnicity, religion, or any other intangible barrier that serves to separate one from another instead of working for the common good.

We are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we should be reaching out to every single man and woman to encourage them to take their rightful place among the ranks of citizenship by registering to vote. Engagement in the American political process is not just our privilege – it is our right. The time is now and the moment is ours to make a difference is this our United States of America . Barack Obama isn’t just asking us to believe in his ability to change Washington ; he’s asking us to believe in our own ability to do so. The time really is now and the moment really is ours – ahun kalohne, meche naw emihonew?

Let us all follow our Joshua Generation, heed this call to action and respond with a resounding “Yechalal .

—-
Please join Ethiopians for Obama: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ethiopiansforobama/

Opinion: Honesty Starts with Me

Unity Starts with Honesty, Honesty Starts with Me (Opinion)
By Teddy Fikre
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Watching Barack Obama’s historic speech about race and it’s omnipresence in the lives of all Americans had a profound impact on me. I was inspired by his honesty and his blunt assessment of our collective and individual deeds that perpetuates the divides within communities all across this nation and throughout the world. It was this powerful moment that led me to some introspection into my actions and how I perpetuate the intangible, yet real, walls that separates neighbor from neighbor, co-worker from co-worker–and in some instances–friend from friend.

I was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to America at the age of seven. Though I always kept my Ethiopian identity, I also grew up as an American. The experiences that construct my life narrative are those of being an Ethiopian who grew up in the United States from an African-American perspective. This duality of roles has given me the ability to view the gap that divides the African Diaspora by straddling that very chasm. I am a member of a proud black Fraternity–Omega Psi Phi. Yet the memories of Addis Ababa –memories of my neighborhood, school, and my grandmother in Ethiopia –keep me tethered to my Ethiopian identity. Sometimes I feel blessed because I have a connection to many cultures; at other times, I feel as though I walk an invisible line–vacillating between my Ethiopian culture and my African-American culture.

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Above: Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island (right) posed for a
photo with Teddy Fikre during a rally at American University in Washington,
DC, on January 28th, 2008.

It is this binary life–this distinction between two “cultures”–that challenges the notion that I have transcended the divide between the African-American culture and my Ethiopian culture. I often get asked by my African-American friends why it that Ethiopians don’t embrace non-Ethiopians. At the same time, I see in the African-American community a hesitation to fully accept Ethiopians and those that have emigrated from Africa . If we are honest with ourselves, the divides between Africans and African-Americans are real. There are those few in both cultures who either view African-Americans as deserving of their plight or view Ethiopians–and Africans as a whole–as free-loaders who benefit in America at the cost of African-Americans. There are those on both sides who denigrate and deride others simply because they were not born in the right country or are not of the same ethnicity.

The racial divide that Barack Obama spoke about is not constrained by the quarters of black and white Americans; it is an undercurrent that exists within people of the same color and, in some cases, of the same country. It reaches out beyond black and white, extending the reaches of division on the microscopic basis of dark and light, African and African-American. Moreover, this very virus of division infects countries in every corner of the world. The division between Serbs and Croats, Hutus and Tutsis, Aborigines and Aussies, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, Pakistani and Indian to name a few reveals a world where communities who have similarities are often rife with soft-apartheid on the basis of ethnicity, complexion, or religion.

I assumed that my experience walking the line between my Ethiopian and African-American identities had cauterized this discordant mindset. I figured that I was enlightened, that I transcended the ethnic divides simply because I have many friends of many cultures–Ethiopians, African-Americans, whites, Latino, Asian and those from countries from every continent. However, this weekend, I planned a trip to Pennsylvania to galvanize the Ethiopian community and to volunteer for the Barack Obama campaign. I reached out to the Ethiopian community to make the trip up to Philadelphia to register voters. Concurrently, I reached out to my fraternity brothers to volunteer and do additional work once the outreach to the Ethiopian community was accomplished.

While I did not realize it at the time, my honest effort to galvanize voters to register perpetuated–subconsciously–the very divides which I thought I transcended. Why is it that I segregated the two efforts? Why is it that I sent out one email to the Ethiopian supporters while sending out another email to my fraternity brothers? At the time, my aim was to have the most impact by focusing varying constituencies to various efforts. I failed to see that my well-intentioned plans served to further the very divide which I sought to narrow. This contradiction did not crystallize until I arrived in Philadelphia and entered the beautiful Ethiopian church of Kidus Ammanuel (St. Emmanuel). I listened to the moving words of Abba Danachew and felt connected to the congregation that welcomed me into their church as one of their own. However, the most moving part of my experience occurred after the sermon, when one of the church elders stood up to congratulate a Jamaican couple who baptized their child in that very church. He went on to tell them that he was brimming with pride that they chose Kidus Ammanuel as their church and that they are a part of a family that will always welcome them–a church that will always be there for them. The congregation clapped effusively; I paused to ponder my own failings.

It was at that moment that my fraternity brother called me, and I told him to come meet me in the church to help me register voters. Instantly, I realized that I, at times, stand just as guilty of the myopic thinking that I repudiate. To one degree or another, we are all guilty of the practices that keep us divided; the very victims of discrimination can often be the perpetrators of it. The hatred that has taken centuries to fester claims as victims those who preach it and those who are its target. Discrimination does not reside in the narrow confines black and white, it permeates all societies–the impacts of which are felt trans-racially and trans-ethnically.

I love my Ethiopian heritage, I love my African-American experience, and I love my American journey; however, my own journey towards true inclusion and unity is far from achieved. That is the power of Barack Obama’s message, that in our own ways we all have our failings which contribute to the divides that exists between our communities. Nonetheless, these failings do not define us–we are not static–and we can grow beyond the walls that have defined our experiences to attain the true meaning of unity; to achieve the essence of E Pluribus Unum–out of many one.

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About the Author: Teddy Fikre is a business consultant. He resides in Virgina. Teddy was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and immigrated to America at the age of 7. He is a volunteer and a member of Ethiopian Americans for Barack Obama. Teddy believes that Barack Obama is the one candidate who can move us past the political rancor of the past 20 years and deliver a broad and diverse coalition that can tackle the tough issues that face all Americans in the 21st century. (The photo below shows Teddy Fikre at the Barack Obama Headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 15th, 2008).
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OP-ED: Why I’m supporting Obama

Tadias OP-ED
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Publisher’s Note: We first met Zelela Menker (above) while covering an Obama rally here in New York on Feb 2, 2008. She had stopped by to take part in the “Women for Obama” rally at Columbus Circle. Zelela was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in Critical Social Thought. The concentration of her academic studies has been Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy.

In the following opinion piece, Zelela Menker discusses her thoughts on Senator Obama.

False Binaries: Talk vs. Action, Style vs. Substance, Inexperience vs. Experience

By Zelela Menker

New York (Tadias) – Let us not undermine Senator Obama’s candidature and appeal by pigeonholing him as an inspirational speaker. We as voters are well aware that it will take more than a cheerleader, or a life coach to address the various social, political, and economic issues we are currently facing. Senator Obama’s advantage in this race should not be merely attributed to his choice and delivery of powerful and moving words, but more importantly the wisdom that resonates in his speeches and in his proposed policies.

One of Senator Obama’s greatest strengths has been his humility. In his acknowledgement that change is a process, that it will neither happen over night, nor will it suddenly surface “on day one” because Americans elect an African American, a Woman, or any one individual as president. The president we elect does not constitute change, but rather, at best will represent our broadest of ideals as a nation. The policy making process is highly complex, imbalanced, and there are no quick fix solutions to our problems. The success of our economy, the quality of our healthcare, and the efficacy of our education system can only improve to the extent that citizens, political parties, and interest groups are willing and able to meaningfully engage and collaborate in what has become an increasingly charged and partisan climate.

Senator Obama’s superior leadership has not only been reflected through his ability to change the minds and hearts of ordinary citizens, but also in his proven track record in government. During his twelve years of legislative experience, Barack Obama has written 890 bills and co-sponsored another 1096. It is worth mentioning that by the end of his first year in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama had authored 152 bills, co-sponsored another 427, and successfully passed over 4 bills on highly controversial and partisan issues such as immigration, government ethics, nuclear weapons, and healthcare reform.

Unfortunately, Senator Obama’s impressive track record in politics has received little public attention, while his opponent has ironically been granted the status of political icon for a noble, yet unsuccessful, attempt at national healthcare reform. It is important to remember that Senator Clinton’s initiative for national healthcare reform failed not because the issue lacked overwhelming support from the general public, but because of the Clinton administration’s flawed strategy that it would not settle for anything less than Universal Healthcare.

This approach not only proved to be ineffective in addressing the issue at hand, but was extremely detrimental to the Democratic Party’s standing in government. The administration’s inflexibility on the issue was used by the Republican Party to portray President Clinton and Democrats at large as untrustworthy purveyors of a big and out-of-control government. Ultimately this not only hurt the administration’s image, but opened the door for more undemocratic social, political, and economic outcomes by enabling Republicans to sweep into Congress in the 1994 elections.


Above: From Right – Zelela Menker, Sara Haile-Mariam, and Tseday Alehegn.
(Columbus Circle, New York City, Sat, Feb 2, 2008. Photo by Liben Eabisa).

I support Senator Obama because he takes into account an important lesson Senator Clinton appears to have missed from her past failures in government. Change requires more than personal passion, drive, and commitment: it requires a leadership that is aware of the limits of individual power and has a solid understanding of the political realities and constraints of the current legislative process.

It is my strong belief that if we are serious about improving our healthcare system, our economy, or this country’s standing in the global community, we have to elect the candidate that not only inspires us through his words, but has time and again demonstrated he possesses the insight, judgement, and leadership skills necessary to “sign, seal, and deliver” our aspirations of a better and stronger society.

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About the Author: Zelela Menker was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to the United States to attend Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, MA where she majored in Critical Social Thought (CST). The concentration of her academic studies has been Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy. She views herself to be the product of the boundless time, compassion, love, and dedication of her parents, her sister, Sara, her Professors in the CST department at MHC, and numerous other intelligent, sensitive, authentic souls that have crossed her path. The following words of wisdom from a dear friend have touched her life forever: “When life takes you to the edge you only have two options. You jump and land on solid ground, or you’ll learn to fly.”

By the same author: Meditations – The Dream Deferred: Re-conceptualizing Class and Politics in America (Tadias)