Podcast Section

Audio: Interview With Zone 9 Bloggers Soleyana S. Gebremichael & Endalk Chala

Soleyana S. Gebremichael and Endalk Chala of Zone 9 bloggers at CPJ's 25th International Press Freedom Awards ceremony in New York City on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015. (Photo credit: Jeffrey Phipps/Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, November 27th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Zone 9 bloggers Soleyana S. Gebremichael and Endalk Chala were in New York City recently to accept the 2015 International Press Freedom Awards on behalf of their colleagues in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian bloggers were recognized with the prestigious media award last Tuesday along with other journalists from Malaysia, Paraguay and Syria.

Below is an audio excerpt from an interview that Soleyana and Endalk gave to Tadias Magazine during the award ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City on November 24th:

Ethiopia’s Zone 9 Bloggers Honored with International Press Freedom Awards

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Audio: Filmmaker Mel Tewahade on His ‘Point Four’ Documentary

Mel Tewahade, producer of the Point Four documentary series, pictured at Oklahoma State University's Point Four Room. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur Mel Tewahade was in Washington, D.C. this week for a private screening of his documentary series, Point Four.

The U.S. government program Point Four, which was eventually replaced by the current United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was a foreign policy initiative launched during the era of President Truman. Mel points out that in the 1950′s and 60′s the program helped establish Ethiopia’s first agricultural high school in Jimma, known as the Jimma Agricultural and Technical School (JATS), and later the Harar and Debre Brehan Teacher Training Institutes as well as the Alemaya Agricultural College (now Haramaya University).

Point Four also assisted in setting up the Ethiopian Highway Authority and Malaria Control Agency. USAID still funds many programs there, including projects related to population control, tuberculosis prevention, family planning, reproductive health, newborn care, water sanitation, primary education, teacher training, scholarship for young girls, and strengthening good governance.

In the following interview with Tadias conducted over the phone on Monday morning Mel, who resides in Denver, Colorado, discusses the screening of his Point Four documentary.

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Ethiopia Seeks Help to Survive Drought

FILE - An unidentified government official sits on sacks of wheat donated by the U.S. at a food distribution point near Jijiga, eastern Ethiopia, Dec. 1, 2009. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Drought has ruined this year’s harvest for many Ethiopian farmers. In a country where 85 percent of the people are farmers, millions are in need of aid.

The government has purchased nearly 1 million metric tons of wheat at a cost of about $280 million to get through the next three to four months.

Government spokesman Getachew Redda said the government is in control of the crisis, but is also focused on measures that will reduce the impact of future droughts.

“From a strategic point of view,” Redda said, “the government will continue to further enhance its efforts to develop underground water resources and develop irrigation mechanisms which do not have to depend on the varieties of weather.”

Experts believe the reduction in rainfall is due to the El Nino weather phenomenon. While cycles of drought are expected every 10 to 12 years, the frequency of droughts and erratic rainfalls is expected to increase because of global climate change.

Wagayehu Bekele, climate director at Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency, said getting better information to farmers so they can adjust their schedules is a priority.

“Farmers have traditional wisdom,” Bekele said. “They know when to sow, they know when to harvest, when to cultivate. But the problem now is that traditional wisdom is not working anymore. The problem is, even if the rain starts early, they don’t start sowing or planting. Why? They say it’s not the normal time to plant.”

Modernizing traditional practices is part of a short-term solution. Wagayehu thinks that focusing on sustainable ways of farming is just as important.

Agriculture makes up almost half of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product. The lack of rain has severely affected the lowlands and livestock.

Araya Asfaw, director of the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network, said not enough information about the effect of climate change on Africa is available.

“The model for Africa is not as good because we don’t have enough data, meteorological data, to predict what will happen,” Asfaw said. “We need to have more meteorological stations all over the place.”

Drought and hunger have been sensitive topics in Ethiopia since the infamous famine in the early 1980s that killed over 400,000 people. The government says that the current drought has not killed anyone yet, but that about 8 million people need assistance. The United Nations estimates that number will nearly double in the coming months.

How Bad is the Drought in Ethiopia? (IRIN NEWS)
Ethiopia Starts Distribution of Food & Cooking Oil to People in Drought Hit Areas (AP)
Thirty years of talking about famine in Ethiopia – why’s nothing changed? (BBC)
Drought Takes Terrible Toll in Ethiopia (BBC News)
Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine (The Economist)
Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times Editorial)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

How Bad is the Drought in Ethiopia?

Satellite meteorological data for Ethiopia in the above set of maps and graphics from FEWS NET shows that localised areas in eastern and northern parts of the country are as dry as they have been for 30 years. (IRIN)


November 19th, 2015

Alarm bells are ringing for a food emergency in Ethiopia. The UN says 15 million people will need help over the coming months. The government, wary of stigma and therefore hesitant to ask for help, has nevertheless said more than eight million Ethiopians need food assistance. Extra imports to stem the crisis are already pegged at more than a million tonnes of grain, beyond the government’s means. Inevitably, comment and media coverage compare the current situation with 1984 – the year Ethiopia’s notorious famine hit the headlines. Reports suggest this is the worst drought in 30 years. One declares it a “code red” drought. So how bad actually is it?

The country of close to 100 million people is huge, spread over an area of more than a million square kilometres that ranges from semi-desert to swamp to mountain ranges and fertile farmland. The weather systems and agricultural patterns are diverse and complex. Even within the higher-altitude areas of the country, the most densely populated, the typical rainy seasons vary and crops are grown at different times of the year. This year, the weather has been prone to even greater variation due to the global climate phenomenon El Niño, last seen in 1997-1998.

The weather is only one part of the equation in whether people go hungry. Politics, economics, the availability of seeds and fertiliser, conflict, trade and labour markets, population pressure, social habits, and a host of other factors matter too.

Read more at IRIN NEWS »

Ethiopia Starts Distribution of Food & Cooking Oil to People in Drought Hit Areas (AP)
Thirty years of talking about famine in Ethiopia – why’s nothing changed? (BBC)
Drought Takes Terrible Toll in Ethiopia (BBC News)
Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine (The Economist)
Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times Editorial)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Zone9 Blogger Zelalem Kibret Prevented From Leaving Ethiopia to Accept Award

Zelalem Kibret was one of the six Zone9 bloggers who were released in July 2015 after being held for 15 months. He has been banned from traveling to France to accept the 2015 RSF Press Freedom Prize. (RSF)


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is worried about a travel ban imposed on the blogger Zelalem Kibret, which prevented him from flying to France to receive this year’s RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category on behalf of the Zone9 blogger collective.

As Zelalem Kibret was about to set off for Paris on 16 November, the Ethiopian authorities confiscated his passport and prevented him from boarding his plane. Immigration officials said he could not leave Ethiopia because he and other Zone9 members had previously been arrested.

RSF has repeatedly tried to obtain more information about the travel ban from the Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa and Paris, but without success.

“We are surprised and disturbed by the travel ban imposed on Zelalem Kibret,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.

“No restriction was placed on his movements when he was released in July, and the rest of the collective was cleared of all terrorism charges in October. We do not understand why his passport has been confiscated and we urge the relevant authorities to quickly restore his rights.”

When Kibret complied with instructions to go to the police the next day, he was told that an investigation was under way and that his passport would not be returned until it was completed.

Read more »

Zone 9 Bloggers Recognized With International Press Freedom Awards
International Press Freedom Awards Goes to Zone 9 Bloggers from Ethiopia

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Watch: Ethiopian Uber Driver Attacked by Passenger Who Mistook Him for a Muslim

Samson Woldemichael, an Uber driver from Ethiopia, was attacked by a passenger in North Carolina on Sunday, apparently because the attacker thought Samson was a Muslim, reports WBTV. (Video: WBTV News)

The Grio

North Carolina Uber driver from Ethiopia was attacked by a passenger on Sunday morning when the passenger claimed the driver was Muslim.

“He asked me if I was a Muslim. I said I was not a Muslim,” said the victim, Samson Woldemichael. “I was driving and he hit me while I was driving.”

Woldemichael explained that the drive itself had been peaceful but that when they arrived at the drop-off point, the passenger became belligerent.

He said he’s gonna shoot me right in the face. He’s gonna strangle me,” Woldemichael told WBTV. “I asked him why. He was calling me too many bad word names… insulting me. He told me I was a Muslim.”

“I told him in the first place I was not a Muslim. It’s not right to generalize people and do that,” he said.

After the passenger threatened to kill him, Woldemichael asked the passenger to leave the car, but the man refused. Woldemichael then began to drive around.

Watch: Ethiopian Uber driver attacked by passenger who mistook him for a Muslim (WBTV 3 News)
WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Read more at The Grio »

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Ethiopian Airlines to Fly All-Female Operated Flight on Addis-Bangkok Route

Ethiopian Airlines will operate an all-women crew flight on November 19, 2015 from Addis to Bangkok. (ET)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian Airlines says it will fly an all-female operated flight to Asia this week to publicize its diverse workforce, which the company states is made up of 30% women employees.

The airline’s flight scheduled for November 19th on the Addis Ababa – Bangkok route “is aimed at crystalizing Ethiopian corporate conviction of ‘Women Empowerment for a Sustainable Growth’ and it is the first of its kind in Ethiopian 70 years of service,” the press release said.

“This historical flight will be operated by an all-female crew led by female flight deck, crew members and senior female executives onboard that flight.”

The on-ground flight preparations will also be conducted by an all-female crew including in “Cabin Operations, Airport Operations, Ramp Operations, On-board Logistics, Aviation Safety & Security, Ticket Offices, Catering, and Global Call Center” as well as those working as “Flight Dispatcher, Load Controller, and Air Traffic Controllers.”

Read more at ethiopianairlines.com »

Zimbabwe’s Airlines Starts All-Female Operated Flight

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Selam Bekele, an Oakland Afrofuturist

Selam Bekele, an Ethiopian painter, musician, filmmaker and Afrofuturist. (Video by Benjamin Michel/KQED)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, November 16th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Last year we highlighted Ethiopian multimedia artist and experimental filmmaker Selam Bekele who was awarded a creative grant by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to create a collection of work that deals with belonging and migration for the East African Diaspora in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For the project Selam — who had recently graduated from the University of California in Davis with degrees in Visual Communications and Film Production — made her first short film entitled Prince of Nowhere, based on her personal reflections about the exiled life and death of Prince Alemayehu Tewodros, the son of Emperor Tewodros who was taken to England after the death of his father.

Since then the artist, who now lives in Brooklyn, has exhibited her work in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

“Now I am working on a whole new series incorporating many Ethiopian folktales and concepts,” Selam tells Tadias.

Her new body of work, which was featured on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Art Beat program last week, is called “Afrofuturism.”

“Bekele described Afrofuturism, a growing artistic movement, as a mix of science fiction and social justice,” PBS notes. “The movement uses elements of fantasy and magical realism to examine narratives from the African Diaspora and construct stories of the future.”

“I’m seeking to break through definition and break through time.. to find stories that go beyond that and speak to the human spirit,” Selam told PBS.

“Afrofuturism is especially prevalent in the Bay Area, and I think that it’s a response to lack of place and lack of belonging for the Black community,” Selam said. “I think what I’m trying to do creatively is to create platforms of home and remove the stigma of not necessarily being in one place in one time, and not necessarily having one place to call home.”

Watch: Selam Bekele, an Oakland Afrofuturist | KQED Arts

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This is no ordinary year in Ethiopia, The Drought is a ‘Code Red’

Evidence of the severity of this year’s drought is the unusual presence of camel carcasses, which are normally an extremely hardy animal well-suited to this environment. (Photo: Kyle Degraw)

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Author: John Graham, Save the Children’s Ethiopia Country Director

This is no ordinary year in Ethiopia; this is a ‘code red’ and it needs to be treated like one

On the dusty plains outside Erer in Ethiopia’s east, the rotting carcasses of cows, goats, donkeys and camels bake under the hot African sun, fodder for hungry vultures and stealthy hyenas.

Until recently 40-year-old Jama and his family called these lands home, and had done for generations.

But about a month ago Jama, his wife, mother and their 10 children made the difficult choice to sell their possessions and abandon these lands and their pastoral life. They were forced out when all but 10 of their 450 goats and cattle died from the drought.

Now they live in a small shack in one of the newly-minted informal settlements in town and rely on support from the government and Save the Children to survive.

“This is the worst drought in my life, my father’s life, even my grandfather’s life,” Jama said. “No one can remember anything like this before, we weren’t prepared for it.”

Livestock are the lifeblood of these arid low-lands, their milk providing a vital source of nutrition, while the animals themselves are a commodity for trade. Here wealth is defined by the number of cows and goats one owns rather than money.

So far this year, hundreds of thousands of livestock have perished from the drought in Ethiopia according to local government officials, with many more expected to die before year’s end.

Jama and his family couldn’t have seen this coming. At the beginning of 2015 rainfall forecasts showed a relatively normal year ahead. It was only in May after the smaller Belg rains failed that an El Nino weather pattern was declared, which is now predicted to be the strongest on record.

This failure of the Belg meant the planting season was limited, and when the typically strong Kiremt rains between July and September were poor too, in some areas for the first time since 1984, the alarm bells well and truly sounded.

As a result, the rate of severe malnutrition is increasing rapidly, particularly among children, with more than 350,000 children expecting to need life-saving therapeutic treatment this year alone.

By January the United Nations (UN) have predicted that 15 million Ethiopians will need food aid.

Such is the magnitude of this emergency, the Ethiopian government has revised up its emergency funding appeal from US$237m in August to US$600m to the end of 2015.

Time is running out to procure enough food to meet these needs, let alone actually putting hand in pocket and paying for it.

And this is before fully measuring the humanitarian impact of the poor Kiremt rains – the worst in 30 years for much of the Ethiopian highlands, which produce 90 percent of the nation’s crops.

In these fertile lands, which stretch north from just outside Addis Ababa and cover an area roughly the size of New Zealand, farmers are staring at empty fields instead of harvesting crops like teff, wheat, barley and sorghum.

Ethiopia’s global request for help couldn’t come at a worse time, as other large scale humanitarian crises unfold in places like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Nepal and South Sudan. But we cannot turn our backs on Ethiopia – we must learn from the region’s history books.

You need only look back to the Horn of Africa drought in 2011, which affected 13 million people and saw more than 250,000 die from hunger in Somalia.

Back then the early warning signs began to emerge a full year before, yet the international community took till the peak of the crisis to act at scale.

But it was too late, much of the damage had been done.

In the years that followed this scandalous failure of the international system, a range of preventative measures were put in place to ensure history did not repeat, including the implementation of large-scale drought resilience programs and strong policy commitments from donor countries.

But here we are again. This drought is now forecast to be the strongest in Ethiopia in 30 years, yet funding commitments from international donors are worryingly low.

The Ethiopian government has responded resoundingly, unlocking US$192 million in funding and showing real leadership. They expect to be able to handle most of the impact of the emergency themselves.

Aid agencies are helping too. Save the Children is on the ground in 101 out of 142 of the worst-affected districts providing support including food, water, medicine and nutrition supplements for children suffering from malnutrition.

The international community must heed the warning and act urgently.

This is no ordinary year in Ethiopia; this is a ‘code red’ and it needs to be treated like one.

Ethiopia Starts Distribution of Food & Cooking Oil to People in Drought Hit Areas (AP)
Thirty years of talking about famine in Ethiopia – why’s nothing changed? (BBC)
Drought Takes Terrible Toll in Ethiopia (BBC News)
Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine (The Economist)
Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times Editorial)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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Over 9,000 Ethiopians Waiting for Years in Gondar and Addis Ababa to Move to Israel

Israel has granted permission to over 9000 members of the last remaining Bete Israel community in Ethiopia to migrate to the Jewish State. (Photo: Ethiopians arriving in Israel in 2008/Photograph via Haaretz)



Updated: 11/16/2015

The cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved an Interior Ministry proposal to resume aliya from Ethiopia, which was suspended in 2013.

Around 9,000 people have been waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar transit camps for the past several years in the hopes of making their way to the Jewish state. However, Jerusalem closed its doors in 2013 following a ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport at which officials declared the “end” of Ethiopian aliya.

The fate of the prospective immigrants has been a matter of some debate, with Ethiopian-Israeli activists protesting what they saw as the breaking up of families.

Read more at JPost.com »

Israel okays immigration for last group of Ethiopian Falash Mura (Reuters)
Israel Set to Greenlight Final Aliyah of Ethiopia’s Falashmura Community (Haaretz)

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Ethiopia Starts Distribution of Food & Cooking Oil to People in Drought Hit Areas

The government in Ethiopia has begun supplying emergency food assistance to drought affected populations in the northern and northeastern regions of the country, the Associated Press reports. (Photo: BBC video still)



ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia’s government has started distributing rations of wheat and cooking oil to people facing hunger in the northern and northeastern parts of the country.

The government is now supplying 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of wheat and a half liter (1.3 gallons) of cooking oil per adult in the areas hit by drought conditions, Mitiku Kassa, secretary of the Ethiopian Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee, told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate Wednesday.

More than 8 million people require urgent food assistance and the Ethiopian government says there is enough food aid to feed them through December. The government recently appealed to the international community for $596 million in food assistance.

The food insecurity is fueled by the failure of Ethiopia’s spring rains that resulted in poor crop yields.

The U.N. says the scale of the developing emergency exceeds resources available so far.

Read more »

Thirty years of talking about famine in Ethiopia – why’s nothing changed? (BBC)
Drought Takes Terrible Toll in Ethiopia (BBC News)
Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine (The Economist)
Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times Editorial)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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When Will Ethiopia Lose Its Famine Image?

This week’s BBC report has been described as “sensational” by the Ethiopian Embassy in London, but the UN says Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in decades impacting more than fifteen million people. (BBC)


By Amelia Butterly

“There will not be famine of any sort, let alone anything remotely like the magnitude of that of 1984,” says the Ethiopian Embassy in London.

For people aged over 30, that sentence, coming from Ethiopian officials, holds a special kind of meaning.

Because those people saw the TV reports in the 1980s showing thousands of children and adults starving to death.

Now, three decades on, the United Nations is warning that 15 million Ethiopians will need food aid by 2016.

This week’s BBC report has been described as “sensational” by the Ethiopian Embassy.

In it, one man who lived through the famines of the 1980s says he expects the same thing will happen to Ethiopia again in the coming months.

Read more at BBC News »

Drought Takes Terrible Toll in Ethiopia (BBC News)
Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine (The Economist)
Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times Editorial)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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Ethiopia’s Diaspora Remittances Growing

A new World Bank data shows remittances to Ethiopia from its Diaspora has increased in the past couple of years and expected to grow by over 50 per cent in the next three years. (Getty Images)


The World Bank says remittance flows to Kenya and Ethiopia from the diaspora has significantly increased compared to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Central Bank of Kenya says the 12-month cumulative inflows from the diaspora to August increased by more than 9 % to 1.5 million dollars, from the 1 million dollars it recorded in the same period last year.

The National Bank of Ethiopia says the official receipt of remittances hit one and half billion dollars about 88 % jump over its value in the previous year.

Global remittances sent home from some 250 million migrants are projected to grow by about one percent to $ 588 billion.

Read more »

Kenya and Ethiopia Buck the Trend for Africa’s Drop in Inflows

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Ethiopia Tries to Avert Another Famine

The government says that 8.2m people (around 8% of Ethiopia’s population) have been affected by drought.

The Economist

Nov 2nd 2015

NORTH WOLLO — JUMPING a fence of prickly pears, Gumat Hussain, a local chief in the driest district of North Wollo, Ethiopia’s most drought-prone province, walks gloomily through his sorghum. “The crops have not produced grain. They are useless even for the animals,” he sighs. “My oxen and goats will soon die. Our people will wait only for the government to respond.”

In many lowland parts of North Wollo, a day’s drive north of Addis Ababa, the capital, the annual midsummer rains lasted for under a week. This was because of a particularly strong El Niño effect, which this year made swathes of Africa drier than usual, along with a longer-term drying of Ethiopia’s climate, especially in the north and east. Now it is harvest time and the tall, green crops belie their fruitlessness.

Ethiopian officials say that this failed harvest is as bad as the catastrophic droughts that befell Ethiopia in 1965-66, 1972-73 and 1984-85, killing more than 1m people in all. But a sophisticated food-security system means that poor Ethiopians these days can cope much better with drought than before.

“Many, many people died in the past. But we now have early-warning systems and programmes to mobilise grain from areas of surplus to areas of scarcity,” says Mohammed Yasin, head of Disaster Prevention and Food Security in North Wollo, a province whose name was once synonymous with famine. “We will avoid this problem without evacuating areas.”

Read more at The Economist »

Worrying aid shortages as malnutrition hits record high in Ethiopia (Reuters)
El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (NY Times)
Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought (The New York Times)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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Photos: Addis Ababa’s Skate Community

Addis Ababa's growing skateboarding scene is documented by photographer Daniel Reiter. (Courtesy photo)

Okay Africa

In January, Berlin-based photographer Daniel Reiter fell in love with the growing skate community in Addis Ababa. It was there that he teamed up with the grassroots youth skateboard movement known as Ethiopia Skate. Soon, Reiter found himself documenting the city’s skatelife and collecting skateboards and streetwear for donations.

Reiter’s pictures–over thirty of which were featured in his debut art exhibition this month in Vienna–encapsulate the hopes and dreams of young skaters in Addis Ababa. Now, with a crowdfunding campaign recently launched and a trip back to Ethiopia on the horizon, the photographer looks to take his Ethiopiaskate series worldwide.

Okayafrica caught up with Reiter to learn more about his work photographing Addis Ababa’s skate community and the wider impact of skateboarding in Ethiopia.

Read Okayafrica’s Q&A with photographer Daniel Reiter at Okayafrica.com »

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How Marcus Samuelsson Prepared for the New York City Marathon

Marcus Samuelsson shares what he’s gleaned from training with Nike+ Run Club coach Knox Robinson for this weekend’s New York run. (Credit: Regina Kokoszka)

The New York Times


This Sunday, some 50,000 international runners will cross the finish line at the New York City Marathon. Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised New Yorker who has cooked for everyone from Cindy Crawford to Barack Obama, plans to be one of them. For the past two months, the Michelin-starred chef has been training with Nike+ Run Club coach Knox Robinson, running the 6.1-mile Central Park loop. He uses the northernmost tip of the park as home base — just a quick sprint from his lauded restaurant Red Rooster and closer yet to the $3 million Harlem townhouse he shares with his model-slash-philanthropist wife, Maya Haile.

“Here’s some real history,” Samuelsson, 45, told Robinson on a sunny afternoon earlier this week, gesturing towards two towers looming above Malcolm X Boulevard. “The Central Park Five lived right there in the late ’80s. And now, when I run in here and see families — that’s progress. It’s not just some la la.”

Robinson laughed. “I came in here, I was just trying to talk about running and make sure his shoes were tied the right way, and he just goes off. We kind of have a vibe of our own —”

Read more at The New York Times »

Photos: Advanced Screening of CNN’s “Parts Unknown: Ethiopia” with Marcus Samuelsson
Advanced Screening of “Parts Unknown: Ethiopia” with Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus & Maya Samuelsson Join Chef Bourdain’s Ethiopia Feature on CNN

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UN Raises Eyebrows in Electing Ethiopia to Its Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly elected 18 States including Ethiopia to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2016. (Photo: During the vote on October 28, 2015/UN)



A number of countries criticized by rights groups for serious human rights abuses against their citizens were elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, weeks after a Saudi Arabian representative was elected head of a key human rights panel amid international outcry.

Eighteen countries—Belgium, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela—were elected by the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday for three-year terms on the council, which begin on January 1, 2016. The Human Rights Council is “responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing the situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them,” the U.N. said in a statement released Wednesday.

U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based group that monitors the U.N, said it considers only nine of the 21 countries that were candidates for election to the council as eligible, based on their human rights record. A number of the countries elected, including Burundi, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates, have authoritarian regimes. Human rights records of other elected countries include violence against women, human trafficking and limits on freedom of expression and assembly, U.N. Watch said in a report published ahead of the elections on Wednesday.

Read more at Newsweek.com »

General Assembly elects 18 members to UN Human Rights Council (UN News)

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The Stunning Sites That Made Ethiopia ‘The World’s Best Tourist Destination’

Ethiopia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. (Photographs via CNN)


By Sophie Eastaugh

Ethiopia has been named as the world’s best destination for tourists in 2015 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. What makes the country unique?

The country is home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Semien National Park. Massive erosions over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks , deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 meters.

Read more and see the photos at CNN.com »

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The International Fashion Industry Starts to Look Towards Ethiopia for Inspiration

Mahlet Afework is one designer that has successfully incorporated Ethiopian fabrics into her designs. (CNN)


By Pete Kowalczyk

Chencha, Ethiopia — At first glance, Chencha, Ethiopia — an isolated hamlet of bamboo houses situated 300 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa — doesn’t look like it’s the center of anything. It certainly doesn’t look like a major player on the world’s fashion stage. But then, looks can be deceiving.

The town is home to the Dorze people — an ancient community of weaving specialists whose designs have reached catwalks as far afield as New York and Tokyo.

When Tsehynesh Tara, a weaver who originally hails from Chencha, sees pictures of her fabrics on the backs of supermodels, she gets giddy.

“When I first saw the photos I was so excited. I said: ‘Did I really make that? Did I make that fabric!?’” she recalls.

Tara is one of several weavers employed by Addis-based fashion designer Mahlet Afework. The 27-year-old designer employs female weavers from Ethiopia’s rural areas. In return, weavers teach her about the history of her country and the meaning behind its fabrics.

“Every season I try to tell these stories with my collections — I try to learn more about Ethiopia and its beautiful culture,” says Afework.

“It’s where we come from, it’s in our blood.”

Mahlet Afework started her career as a model and rap artist before shifting to fashion. Self-taught via Google and YouTube videos, she’s gone on to collaborate with cult UK designer Markus Lupfer and has exhibited at London college of fashion. In a TED talk last year she told a global audience that Ethiopian fashion is not just about paying homage to its ancestors — it can actually lift women out of poverty. “In Ethiopia we have more than 500 underemployed female weavers in each village. We have a responsibility to give them a job — and then show their work to the world.”

Read more at CNN.com »

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CNN on Islam’s Early Days in Ethiopia

The tiny village of Negash in Northern Ethiopia is home to the country's first Muslim community and one of the most important sites in Islam. Currently the town is being considered for UNESCO World Heritage status.


By Colin Hancock and Daisy Carrington,

Tigray, Ethiopia - Ethiopia is often overlooked as a top destination for spiritual pilgrimage. This is an unfortunate oversight.

The country is not just the cradle of civilization, it has played a significant role in the formation of many of the world’s top religions. It is not only the location of the biblical kingdom of Sheba, it is currently believed by some to house the Ark of the Covenant. Scroll through the gallery above for a list of the country’s top religious sites.

Other religions can trace their origins to Ethiopia. Watch the video below to uncover some of Islam’s earliest artifacts.

Read more and watch the video at CNN.com »

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Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought

Carcasses of cattle litter the landscape in northeastern Ethiopia. (Photo Credit: Jacey Fortin for The NY Times)

The New York Times


MIESO, Ethiopia — Every day, Yasin Mohammed Aliye stakes out a spot on his small farm to chew khat leaves, a stimulant, and guard against intruders.

The khat, he explains, helps to dull the hunger.

“We got just one day of rain each month during the rainy season,” Mr. Yasin said, referring to the days from July through September. “It should have been raining every other day. Now my harvest has failed.”

The green hills and full fields around here belie an alarming fact: This is the worst drought Ethiopia has experienced in more than a decade.

The stream bordering Mr. Yasin’s farm has run dry, and the trenches he dug to irrigate his land never filled. He has sown seeds three times this year, each time anticipating rains that never came. His corn and sorghum stalks are stunted and will yield no harvest. He has sold four of his eight cows at a steep discount in order to buy corn at nearly double last year’s market prices.

Mr. Yasin, 50, now regularly skips meals. He worries that the animals he has left to sell will not be enough to sustain his family until the next harvest season. If all else fails, he will move west, where the rains have been more reliable.

Read more at The New York Times »

El Niño Strikes Ethiopia (The New York Times Editorial)
Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests (AP)
Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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Julie Mehretu on Helping to Make the Powerful Ethiopian Film Difret (Vogue)

Julie Mehretu. (Photo: Mark Hanauer / Corbis Outline)

Vogue Magazine


A number of internationally acclaimed visual artists these days are deeply engaged with social issues. Julie Mehretu, who was born in Ethiopia and lives in New York City, is one of them. She was so struck by the true story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian victim of the ancient and cruel tradition of marriage-by-abduction that she sold a major painting to finance and produce Difret, a powerful and moving film based on the girl’s experience. Mehretu, who is currently working to make the issue of abduction a U.S. foreign policy priority, spoke with Vogue.com about helping to make the film, which premieres in New York City on October 23.

Read the Q&A at Vogue.com »

Julie Mehretu: An Abstract Artist Absorbing Multiple Identities (NBC News)
Julie Mehretu Awarded 2015 Medal of Arts by U.S. State Department
American Artist Lecture: Julie Mehretu at Tate Modern in London
Julie Mehretu on Africa’s Emerging Presence in Contemporary Art

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Ethiopia’s Government Makes International Appeal for Food Aid After Poor Harvests

The government in Ethiopia is asking for food assistance to help feed over eight million people, which the United Nations says are in need of immediate help due to severe drought. (Image: Video still/Black Gold)

Associated Press


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s government is calling for international assistance to help feed 8.2 million people after erratic rains devastated crop yields.

Climate shocks are common in Ethiopia and often cause poor or failed harvests that lead to acute food shortages.

The government has allocated $192 million for food and other aid and is appealing for $596 million in assistance from the international community for the remainder of 2015, said Mitiku Kassa, secretary of the Ethiopian Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee.

More than 300,000 children are in need of specialized nutritious food and a projected 48,000 more children under 5 are suffering from severe malnutrition, according to a government assessment conducted in September.

The situation is “incredibly serious,” said John Aylieff, an official in Ethiopia with the U.N.’s World Food Program, who said Ethiopia needs the international community to help remedy the worst effects of El Nino conditions.

The conflict in South Sudan is also exacerbating the food insecurity situation, said Dennis Weller, the USAID mission director in Ethiopia. Since the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December 2013, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees have fled to Ethiopia and are living alongside local communities.

“We are seeing malnutrition rates go up in some of the host communities. We are looking at ways of reducing the stress levels to the host communities in Ethiopia by providing supplementary feeding that could bring the malnutrition levels down,” he said.

Ethiopian drought threatens growth as cattle die, crops fail (Bloomberg)
Drought Hits Millions in Ethiopia (Radio France International)
Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN (AFP)
Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine: Is it Drought or Authoritarianism? (The Huffington Post)

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Zewede Retta: Author, Diplomat Dies at 81

Amb. Zewde Retta (center) with his son Gabriel at a Book Signing event in Atlanta. (Photo: zewderetta.com)

Ethiopia Observer

By Arefayné Fantahun

Outstanding Ethiopia historian, journalist and diplomat Zewede Retta passed away yesterday in London at the age of 81, Ethiopia Observer has learnt. Zewde who was considered a great historian of modern Ethiopia, and a political commentator was on vacation in the United Kingdom. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, after he fell down on the street in London. He died at the hospital.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Italy and Tunisia, wrote important books on the life and times of Haile Selassie and the question of Eritrea.

Born in Addis Ababa, Young Zewde went to French Lycée Guebre-Mariam, where he completed his primary and secondary education. According to his biography in Amazon, he began his professional career at the Ministry of Information in 1952 and became the youngest news correspondent for Ethiopian radio as well as press correspondent to the Emperor’s palace. “He then spent four years at the school of journalism in Paris where he graduated in 1959. Soon after he became editor in chief for the newspaper The Voice of Ethiopia and for Menen magazine,” the bio reads.

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s he held numerous positions including deputy information minister, chief director of the Ethiopian news agency and President of the Pan African News Agency.

Read more at ethiopiaobserver.com »

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In Ethiopia Only 1.7% Have Internet Access

Ethiopia has less than 2% Internet penetration rate and ranks as one of the least connected countries in the world, a Fortune magazine report says based on data from Internet Live Stats. (Photograph: Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — In Ethiopia only 1.7% of the country’s 96 million people have access to the Internet according to a Fortune magazine report that quotes data from Internet Live Stats showing eight of the world’s least connected countries are located in Africa.

In addition to Ethiopia, the American Business Magazine also highlights neighboring Eritrea as having the worst Internet penetration rate in the world with only 0.91% of its residents having digital access.

Other countries with less than 2% Internet availability include Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Niger, Guinea and Congo.

On the positive side Fortune says: “Last week, Google announced that it would be bringing Google Link — fiber optic cables to enhance the reliability and speed of internet connections — to Ghana after a successful pilot in Uganda. The program is designed to improve Internet access across Africa, a service that is needed on that continent more than any other.”

Read more at Fortune.com »

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New Metro Keeps Ethiopia on Growth Track

The new urban rail service in Ethiopia's capital was inaugurated on September 20th, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)


A novelty for many in Ethiopia’s capital, a new trainline stretching nearly 20 miles in Addis Ababa. The country was already achieving growth of eight percent. With a new metro that can carry up to 60,000 passengers a day that could soon be even higher. (Reuters)

Addis Ababa launches modern urban rail service (BBC News)
Modernizing Ethiopia Opens $475-Million, China-Built Urban Rail (Bloomberg)
China in driving seat as Ethiopian capital gets new tramway (AFP)

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Business and Bureaucracy: Ethiopia Entrepreneurs Overcome Hurdles

Ethiopia's first online restaurant delivery service, Deliver Addis, must contend with major hurdles that would stall many entrepreneurs in more developed nations (AFP Photo/Christina Goldbaum)


By Karim Lebhour

Addis Ababa – The large open plan office with staff behind sleek computers looks like any newly-started modern business.

But Ethiopia’s first online restaurant delivery service, Deliver Addis, must contend with major hurdles that would stall many entrepreneurs in more developed nations.

Setting up any business is a challenge, but in Ethiopia, those range from daily operating headaches such as on-off Internet — stalling the highly time-sensitive orders on which it depends — to even more fundamental business challenges.

As the country’s banking and payments systems are still in their infancy, electronic payments are impossible, thus creating a huge hurdle for growth.

“The Internet goes out a couple of times a week — when that happens, there is not much we can do but rely on phone lines to take orders,” said Feleg Tsegaye, manager of Deliver Addis.

But he also believes the Horn of Africa nation — the second most populous on the continent — offers enormous opportunities.

Tsegaye was born and brought up in the United States but moved to Ethiopia, the homeland of his parents, hoping to tap into a still largely untapped but swiftly growing market he believes is one of the most promising on the continent.

“The IT sector is still in its infancy — typically in these markets there is a way to transfer money very quickly and very easily, but here that doesn’t exist quite yet,” he added.

Read more »

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In Oakland, Ethiopian Refugee Begged to Return Home Before Fatal Police Encounter

At a candlelight vigil for Yonas Alehegne, an Ethiopian immigrant who was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer in August, in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, September 13, 2015. (Photo: Sarah Rice/SF Chronicle)

San Francisco Chronicle

By Rachel Swan

A man shot and killed by an Oakland police officer in August left behind only a small pile of luggage and a few family photographs, one of which had a phone number scrawled on the back.

The number belonged to the 30-year-old man’s mother, Genet Alemu, who sells injera bread to support a family of seven in Ethiopia. She last heard from her son, Yonas Alehegne, several months before his death.


Police are seen at the scene of a police involved shooting at MacArthur Boulevard and Van Buren Avenue in Oakland, Ca. on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The incident left the involved police officer in the hospital and the suspect dead at the scene. Man shot dead by Oakland cop had violent past. An officer was injured and a suspect was shot by police in Oakland on Thursday morning. Oakland cop shoots suspect dead after chain attack.

“I feel like I’m dead,” Alemu said from her village in Dire Dawa, where she lives in a house that her other son, Habtamu, describes as “almost a tent.” Alemu was reached by phone Sept. 12 — the day of the Ethiopian new year. Dawn had broken and a rooster crowed insistently in the background.

Remembering “Yonas,” Alemu wailed.

“He was my first son,” she said, speaking through an interpreter in Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia. “He came to the U.S. to help us.”

Whatever dreams and ambitions Alehegne had when he arrived in the United States in 2012 were soon replaced by distress and desperation.

Read more at San Francisco Chronicle »

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New York Warmly Welcomes Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves to gathered worshipers as he leaves St. Patrick's Cathedral after presiding over an evening prayer service, in New York, September 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

September 24, 2015

Three days into his historic first visit to the United States, Pope Francis shifted his attention from the nation’s political capital to its economic heart.

Francis left Washington, D.C., Thursday afternoon and flew to New York City where the 78-year-old pontiff was met with huge cheering crowds as he continued his jam-packed itinerary.

Thursday evening, he led an evening prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan.

On Friday, Francis is scheduled to address world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, then join in a multi-faith service at the National September 11 Memorial where the World Trade Center once stood.

He’ll visit a Catholic elementary school in the heavily Hispanic and black neighborhood of East Harlem. In the evening, he’ll celebrate a Mass at Madison Square Garden before an estimated 20,000 worshipers – and will sit on a chair primarily built by day laborers.

The pope plans to leave Saturday morning for two days in Philadelphia, his final U.S. stop for the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families. On Sunday, he will celebrate an outdoor Mass, which is expected to draw nearly 2 million people.

In New York, Francis is expected to focus on climate change, migration and immigration in his U.N. address. The organization on Friday starts a three-day summit to adopt new goals aimed at ending poverty and inequality and combating climate change.

Pope Francis waves to huge crowds gathered in Manhattan as his motorcade drives along Fifth Avenue in New York, Sept. 24, 2015. (C. Presutti / VOA)

Embracing the people

Earlier in the day, when the motorcade stopped at the cathedral where throngs cheered and yelled greetings at the pontiff. He shook hands with people, and met with assembled New York brass as he made his way into the vast and grand cathedral that recently underwent a $177-million renovation.

His flight departed Thursday afternoon from Washington’s nearby Joint Base Andrews and landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in the late afternoon.

Pope Francis engages well wishes as he kisses a child after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Sept. 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

He spoke with gathered schoolchildren after getting off the plane, and they gave him a book of prayers written by students. He gave each child a pat on the head, and laughed when they handed him a bobblehead version of himself.

The 78-year-old pontiff continues a jam-packed itinerary in New York.

Francis incorporated themes of ending poverty, inequality, giving, combating climate change and sacrifice into his speech Thursday to Congress, the first ever by a U.S. pope.

Rich nations have a moral obligation to aid the vulnerable, Francis suggested in discussing “the creation and distribution of wealth.”

“The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements” of an inclusive, sustainable economy, he continued.

Environmental focus

Referencing his recent encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” Francis called for “a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ … and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

As for coping with the worst refugee crisis since World War II, Francis urged compassion, not hostility.

“We must not be taken aback by [migrants’] numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation – to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal,” he told Congress.

After the speech, Francis went onto the Capitol balcony to address thousands gathered below. Speaking in Spanish, he said, “I’m so grateful for your presence. The most important ones here, children, I’ll ask God to bless them.”

Standing next to him, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief, overcome with emotion.

Francis concluded his remarks in English, saying, “Thank you very much and God bless America.” The crowd erupted in boisterous cheers.

After leaving the Capitol, Francis spoke to roughly 400 people at St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Washington, addressing parishioners, people served by Catholic Charities and choirs from two local high schools.

He called for charity and compassion toward the homeless and the least fortunate. And he said there is no social or moral justification for a lack of housing for the people.

VOA’s Carolyn Presutti contributed to this report from New York.

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11 Questions With Aberash Bekele (Time)

Aberash Bekele, the subject of Difret, talks to Time magazine about her life as a child bride who killed her would-be husband. (Photo: Erik Tanner for TIME)

Time Magazine

By Belinda Luscombe

The subject of Angelina Jolie’s new movie talks about her life as a child bride who killed her would-be husband

In 1997, when you were 14, you killed a man. Can you explain why?

I was abducted, and I was trying to go home. I shot not at him but to keep him away.

Why had he abducted you?

Read the full interview at Time.com »

‘Difret’ Heads To U.S. Theaters In Time For Awards Season

DIFRET release trailer from Tambay A Obenson on Vimeo.

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Rice Warns China to Quit Cyber Spying

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks about the U.S.-China relationship at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2015. (AFP)

VOA News

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice warned China on Monday that Beijing-sponsored cyber espionage is a major stumbling block to U.S.-China relations, saying that such spying must stop.

Rice spoke in Washington, three days ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Analysts say this Friday’s meetings between Xi and President Barack Obama are expected to be blunt, focusing in large part on cyber spying, the global economy and China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

“This isn’t a mild irritation,” Rice said of numerous incidents linking Beijing to large-scale cyber theft. “It’s an economic and a national security concern” that places “enormous strain on our bilateral relationship.”

She told her audience at George Washington University that espionage targeting personal and corporate information “for the economic gain of businesses undermines our long-term economic cooperation.”

She also said Obama will use the meeting to address U.S. concerns on Beijing’s human rights record, and will insist on maintaining navigation and commerce through crowded sea lanes in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Rice’s comments on cyber security echo those of the president, who last week told U.S. business leaders that China’s theft of trade secrets is an “act of aggression that we must stop.”

U.S. officials have suggested imposing sanctions on China, and the president said Washington is preparing “a number of measures” aimed at showing Beijing that “this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset.”

Ahead of the Chinese leader’s arrival in Washington, he is holding meetings with U.S. and Chinese technology executives in the West Coast city of Seattle.

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Attitude About Child Marriage Slowly Changing in Ethiopia

Children participate in a running event that's part of an awareness campaign to change attitudes and prevent child marriages, in Gondor, Ethiopia, September 2015. (M. van der Wolfe / VOA)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

September 21, 2015

GONDOR, ETHIOPIA — Thousands of girls in the Horn of Africa are forced to marry although they are underage. The local government in Gondor, Ethiopia, and UNICEF are organizing large awareness campaigns to change the attitude of rural communities.

Sixteen-year-old Hibste Abebayehu, from the town of Gondor, was about to be married to a 28-year-old man when she was just 13. Last year, her parents tried again to marry her to another man.

Hibist said her parents did not even tell her about the marriage, but her friends overheard the arrangements and informed her.

She said when she heard, she immediately reported it to the school principal and to the lead teacher of the girls’ club. They spoke to the police. After they negotiated with her parents, they managed to cancel the marriage arrangements.

Sixteen-year-old Hibste Abebayehu has battled against being married to older men since she was just 13, and she is continuing her education, in Gondor, Ethiopia, Septmber 2015. (M. van der Wolfe / VOA)

Awareness interventions

The girls club that Hibste joined in school is a place where information is provided to girls about child marriage through awareness interventions. Especially for rural communities, child marriage is the social norm. The local government says that raising awareness and changing the attitude of the community is the biggest challenge.

The police, religious leaders and development partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund are involved in trying to change the mindset about child marriage and eliminate all forms of child marriage by 2025.

UNICEF program worker Zemzem Shikur said child marriage has several consequences for the girl’s life.

“The first one is, easily they are forced to drop out from school, which shapes their destiny to be a housewife or to be in a very vulnerable situation,” said Shikur. “The other one is the health consequence. They do not get treatment easily, and they may not have information on where to get services.”

One in five girls in Ethiopia are married before the age of 18. In Gondor, a northern region, almost half of the underage girls are married, even though the legal age is set at 18.

Changing attitudes

Hibste feels lucky to have been rescued. She said many of her friends already are married. She said the thinking in the community is to marry off children at a very early age, since they do not see why girls should get an education or how they can become somebody.

One of the awareness campaigns in Gondor features an afternoon of musical performances on the main square. The event attracts large crowds and the message appears to get through to the audience of mostly boys. They say they agree girls should not get married before the age of 18.

Solomon Assefa is one of them. He said girls first need to be physically ready to get married, and that they then have to be educated so they can work toward what they want to become.

Hibste is now in 8th grade. She hopes her parents will allow her to attend university if she keeps receiving good grades.

Fourteen-year-old Abebe Ayele was less fortunate. She lives in a village an hour outside Gondor, was forced into a marriage last year and now has a six-month-old baby. She said it is difficult to deal with the new attitude from her peers.

She said everyone was gossiping about her when she was pregnant and it gave her psychological problems.

Abebe has registered for school again, but is not sure she can attend, as she does not have the funds to look after herself and her baby.

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Kerry Says US to Boost Migrant Quota

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, prior to a meeting with a group of refugees fleeing Syria, at Villa Borsig, in Berlin, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo)

VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration will increase the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States to 100,000 annually in 2017, as Europe grapples with its largest influx of migrants since the end of World War II.

Speaking Sunday in Berlin, Kerry called the U.S. decision a “step in keeping with America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope.”

Under the new plan, the U.S. limit on refugee visas — currently capped at 70,000 annually — would jump to 85,000 in fiscal 2016 and then rise to 100,000 the following year.

Kerry also said Washington would explore ways to boost the limit beyond the 100,000 ceiling in future years.

Kerry did not say how many of the additional refugees would be from Syria but pledged that the U.S. was ready to help.

EU meeting

The announcement comes ahead of an emergency summit meeting planned for Tuesday of European Union leaders to address the flood of refugees that has overwhelmed the region.

Earlier Sunday, Austria said 11,000 migrants crossed into the country from Hungary in the 24-hour period that ended at midnight Saturday, and was expecting another 7,000 migrants Sunday at the main Nickelsdorf crossing, east of Vienna.

Most of the migrants had made the grueling journey across the Balkans into western Europe, with Croatia saying 21,000 had entered its territory in the past four days.

Hungarian and Serbian interior ministers also jointly reopened the Horgos-Roszke 1 crossing, which had been closed since last Monday, which led thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to try to find other routes to western and northern Europe, where most want to start a new life.

Most flooded into Croatia, which within days announced that it could not cope with the flow and began to redirect the migrants back toward Hungary or toward Slovenia.

Meanwhile, Austrian ministry officials were meeting with charity organizations Sunday to try to find temporary shelter for the new arrivals, many coming from countries unable or unwilling to cope with a desperate human tide fleeing war and poverty.

Razor-wire border fence

After lashing out against Croatian officials, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is now trading barbs with his Romanian counterpart over a razor-wire border fence that Hungary is building between the two countries to keep out migrants.

Hungary’s erection of fences is deeply straining its ties with neighboring countries, who feel the problem of the huge flow of migrants is being unfairly pushed onto them. After completing a fence along the border with Serbia, Hungary is now building fences along its borders with Croatia and Romania.

Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu on Saturday called the border closure an “autistic and unacceptable act” that violated the spirit of the European Union.

On Sunday, Szijjarto said, “We would expect more modesty from a foreign minister whose prime minister is currently facing trial.” That was a reference to corruption charges filed recently against Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

A migrant man reacts as he is surrounded by Slovenian police at the Slovenia-Croatia border crossing in Rigonce, Slovenia, Sept. 19, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Szijjarto added: “We are a state that is more than 1,000 years old that throughout its history has had to defend not only itself, but Europe as well many times. That’s the way it’s going to be now, whether the Romanian foreign minister likes it or not.”

In Germany, police are investigating an asylum-seeker on suspicion that he fought for the Islamic State group in Syria, newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported Sunday.

The suspect is a Syrian national and lives in an asylum-seeker shelter in the northeast region of Brandenburg, the newspaper reported, quoting security sources.

Alleged accusations

The man was secretly filmed with a mobile telephone, allegedly telling other migrants in the center that he had fought for the Islamic State group and killed people.

The video led to the probe.

Migrants pull a boy through a train window at the station in Tovarnik, Croatia, Sept. 20, 2015. (Reuters)

Investigators are now trying to determine if the Syrian was indeed a member of the Islami State group, the newspaper reported.

A spokeswoman for federal police declined to confirm or deny the report.

Despite the case, federal police do not believe that Islamists are infiltrating Germany through the influx of refugees.

Elsewhere, thousands of migrants arrived Sunday morning in the Macedonian village of Gevgelija, on their way to Serbia.

They made their way to a temporary camp near the railway station, and some were able to board a train to take them onwards in their journey with the end goal of western Europe.

The bulk of the migrants are fleeing the war in Syria, with the European Union receiving almost a quarter of a million asylum requests in the three months to June.

Germany alone expects up to 1 million asylum-seekers this year, but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the European Union should in the future take a finite number of migrants, while sending the rest back to a safe country in their home regions.

Rift among EU members

The continent’s biggest migratory flow since the end of World War II has dug a deep rift between western and eastern EU members over how to distribute the migrants.

The crisis has raised questions over the fate of the Schengen agreement allowing borderless travel across most countries within the 28-nation bloc, with several of them imposing border controls.

Migrant whose boat stalled at sea while crossing from Turkey to Greece swim to approach the shore of the island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP photo)

Meanwhile, 26 migrants were feared missing Sunday off the Greek island of Lesbos, one of the Greek islands that has seen a heavy influx of refugees from war-torn Syria via Turkey.

More than 2,600 people have died among the nearly half a million who have braved perilous trips across the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year.

Altogether, Greece has seen more than 300,000 refugees and migrants enter the country this year, most of them passing through to other European countries.

Material for this report came from AFP, Reuters and AP.

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French Industry Give Ethiopian Film Boost

(Image: © Yared Zekele | Scene from 'Lamb')

France 24


Ethiopian movie gets a boost from French film industry

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Ethiopia’s first success at the Cannes Film Festival tells a simple tale, but the film’s director has set his sights on the world stage thanks to support from the French film industry.

Having successfully premiered “Lamb” in the director’s home city of Addis Ababa earlier this month, the filmmakers have turned their attention to their next important release: in France on September 30.

Earlier this year, “Lamb” became the first Ethiopian film selected for the Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of a young boy, Ephraim, who is sent by his father to live with his extended family far from home. Ephraim’s only friend is a lamb called Chuni, but his uncle wants to slaughter it for a forthcoming religious festival, setting the clock ticking for this unlikely cinematic pairing.

From the earliest days of scriptwriting to the final days of post-production, this thoroughly Ethiopian cinematic rendition has overcome numerous challenges – thanks to the French film industry.

“When I first read ‘Lamb’ it was obvious to me there was an audience for such a film in France,” said Ghanaian producer Ama Ampadu, who lives in Paris and studied in France. “French audiences have developed a taste for African cinema through the works of African directors like Abderrahmane Sissako, director of ‘Timbuktu’. And when you delve into how these films came about, you will find a French component – it could be the financing, the crew, the world sales agent [or the] producers.”

“It’s not a commercial film, which I like,” said 33-year-old filmgoer Daniel Meles after the Addis Ababa premiere. “For my generation, it’s the first film to take us into the countryside, beyond Addis Ababa.”

Read more at France 24 »

Lamb Review: Sheer Brilliance Knits Together First Ethiopian Film at Cannes (The Guardian)

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Ethiopia Successful in Preventing Al-Shabab’s Attacks

A general view shows part of the capital Addis Ababa at night, Ethiopia, May 17, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

September 18, 2015

ADDIS ABABA — Over the past five years, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and the self-declared republic of Somaliland have all been attacked by Somalia-based Al-Shabab militants.

Ethiopia, which invaded Somalia in 2006 to fight Al-Shabab, has since evaded a large-scale attack.

According to Tewolde Mulugeta of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country’s secret to preventing attacks is public involvement.

“We know what lack of peace means, so the importance is well understood by our people,” he said. “They don’t want anybody to distract that. Whenever they are going to come across any anti-peace element, any anti-peace force, terrorist force, they are going to expose them, they are going to fight them head on.”

While it isn’t clear how many prospective attacks Ethiopian security forces have prevented, one bomb did exploded inside a central Addis Ababa house in 2013. Police believe the attackers were preparing it for a large football match taking place that day.

Strong security forces

Although Ethiopia’s military is considered among the strongest in the region, independent security expert Sunday Okello says Ethiopian security forces are strong because Al-Shabab is just one of several threats to the country.

“Ethiopia knows its threats to security, and you can’t sleep and kind of forget that there is a threat coming from Eritrea, that there is a threat coming from Somalia, there is a threat coming from maybe South Sudan,” he said. “And from that effect, Ethiopia has managed to build its security network very strongly.”

Ethiopian forces continue to fight al-Shabab in Somalia, working in conjunction with African Union troops. The AU troops have made significant gains but the militant group remains one of the biggest security threats to the East African region.

Read the full article at VOA News »

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Ethiopia Fireworks Usher in 2008, But Rising Commodity Prices Damp Festivities

Oromo traditional dance during celebrations in Ethiopia. (Photo: Anadolu Agency + DIPLOMAT.SO)

Anadolu Agency & Diplomat News Network

Addis Ababa , Ethiopia – Ethiopians marked the New Year “ENKUTATASH” on Saturday with traditional celebrations, although skyrocketing commodity prices put a damper on festivities.

Ethiopia’s unique calendar is comprised of 12 30-day months and a thirteenth month consisting of only five days, which become six every four years — as is the case this Ethiopian leap year.

The first of Meskerem — the first month in the Ethiopian calendar — fell on Saturday, September 12.

In capital Addis Ababa, fireworks lit the midnight sky Friday night, even though, according to prominent theologian Daniel Kibret, “counting down to 00:00 hours doesn’t tally with the Ethiopian system of counting days”.

According to Kibret, the day — under the traditional system of counting time — technically begins at 6 a.m.

Dr. Zerihun, another scholar in the field, told Anadolu Agency that Ethiopia “maintains the ancient Julian Calendar, which corresponds with the Egyptian Coptic calendar”.

“Calendars outside Ethiopia and Egypt underwent two revisions,” he explained. “In the second revision, Pope Gregory added eight years to it.”

“Until 530AD, the same Julian Calendar system was used,” he added.


This year’s New Year celebrations, however, were accompanied by soaring commodity prices.

According to Ethiopia’s official statistics agency, the inflation rate — particularly for food — rose to 14.7 percent in August from 13.9 percent in July.

Many of those who visited Shola Gebeya, one of the busiest New Year markets, said food prices — especially prices for meat — had increased markedly compared to the same period last year.

Read more »

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US Spotlights Women Ethiopian Prisoners

Blen Mesfin, Meron Alemayehu, and Nigist Wondifraw of Ethiopia are among twenty women political prisoners from around the world who are being profiled by the State Department throughout September 2015. (USG)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, September 6th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, launched a one-month campaign last week called #FreeThe20 that will highlight 20 women from around the world who are political prisoners, including three female members of Ethiopia’s Semayawi (Blue) Party: Blen Mesfin, Meron Alemayehu, and Nigist Wondifraw.

According to the campaign, which will last through September 2015, the Ethiopian trio will be the focus of attention on day 4-6 this week.

“Blen Mesfin, Meron Alemayehu, and Nigist Wondifraw were among a number of opposition party members and others arrested and charged with inciting violence during anti-Islamic State in Libya (ISIL) demonstrations in Addis Ababa in April 2015, which were organized by the government of Ethiopia following the killing of 26 Ethiopians by ISIL,” states the campaign’s website humanrights.gov.

During a Q&A session with the press following her announcement of the campaign last Tuesday, a reporter asked Ambassador Power regarding the women from Ethiopia: “You’ve got three from Ethiopia on here,” the journalist said. “I’m curious – the President, our President, was just in Ethiopia, where he made some comments praising its democracy. I’m just wondering if you see a discord there?”

In her response Ambassador Power said: “As President Obama said on his trip to Ethiopia, the full potential of Ethiopia will not be unleashed and unlocked until journalists are able to report on what’s going in the country freely and opposition – credible opposition candidates are able to participate in elections.”

Humanrights.gov adds: “Blen, Meron, and Nigist are leading members of Ethiopia’s Blue Party, which advocates peacefully for democratic principles and has faced numerous obstacles in exercising freedom of association and assembly both in the build-up to May 24 parliamentary elections, and thereafter. All three were arrested in Addis Ababa in the days following the April 22 protests and charged with inciting violence at the rally. They remain behind bars to this day.”

#FreeThe20 Women Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Concern Campaign

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Jeb Bush Says He Helped Save Ethiopian Jews, But Here’s What Really Happened

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, is a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Photo: Brian Cahn/ZUMA)

Mother Jones Magazine

By Stephanie Mencimer

His campaign claims he convinced the Reagan administration to join a major airlift operation called Operation Moses. Not exactly.

Did Jeb Bush help launch a covert mission to airlift thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s, saving them from starvation?

He says he did. Twice in the past week his campaign has posted blog posts on its website making this claim in order to tout Bush’s record on Israel and to show his foreign policy chops. One reads:

In the 1980′s thousands of members of the Jewish community had fled their homeland due to famine for a refugee camp in Sudan. Jeb, hearing of the conditions in the camp and the persecution these Jews were suffering, suggested to Reagan-Bush officials that the United States had a duty to support a massive airlift. The resulting effort, Operation Moses, made history when Israeli planes, with American support, brought these Jews to the homeland of the Jewish people, the State of Israel.

But Bush’s campaign boast is false. Bush, then 31 years old and a fledgling developer in Miami, had nothing to do with with Operation Moses, the secret operation that rescued nearly 8,000 Jews in Africa. And he played no role in triggering the rescue effort by prodding the Reagan-Bush administration to take action. However, he—and several other Americans—did play a bit part in a subsequent effort to rescue about 900 Ethiopian Jews left behind when Operation Moses was halted abruptly in early 1985.

Here’s what happened:

Read more »

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The Weeknd Interview: Abel Says Grew Up Listening to Aster Aweke & Mulatu Astatke

Abel Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known by his stage name The Weeknd, is an Ethiopian-Canadian R&B singer, songwriter and record producer. (PHOTO BY: LAMAR TAYLOR)


BY Anupa Mistry

AUGUST 31, 2015

All of the lights are off in the Weeknd’s apartment. It’s 49 floors up, high above the long shadows of Toronto’s financial district, and the clouds outside make everything in this sparse and tidy condo look monochrome. There is a white leather sectional stationed on a white rug so plush it would be disrespectful not to take your shoes off before walking on it. Platinum records for his 2012 mixtape collection Trilogy hang on the walls. A massive window reveals Lake Ontario, which has been a blueish boon to winter-weary city folk all summer; on this evening in late August, it’s grey, a precursor to the grim season ahead.

Abel Tesfaye strolls into the room and sits down at a long, dark, smoked-glass dining table. He’s in house clothes: a black Miami Heat mesh short-sleeve with fitted black jersey-blend pants and white house slippers. A child of immigrants who was raised in the bustling, brown suburb of Scarborough, he wears a filigreed Ethiopian cross around his neck—it’s the kind of token that stays hidden beneath clothing, but never comes off. His hair, the subject of so much curiosity and so many memes simply because he does whatever he wants with it, is there on his head as it should be. Mugs of green tea are set down on a folded paper towel, in lieu of coasters. Tesfaye smiles easy and often and is comfortable locking eyes, except when challenged to speak at length on his music. Then, he furrows his brow and speaks in clichés; his eyes swerve to the left; he stares at the iPhone set between us that is recording his thoughts; or he picks at an invisible blemish on the crook of his left arm. Otherwise, he asks questions. He seems eager to please, if not a bit nervous. When we say goodbye, Tesfaye’s last words are: “Write good things about me!” This is not the Weeknd I expected…

Pitchfork: You retweeted a recent Pitchfork piece about how your East African roots are reflected in your music, what did you think of it?

AT: It’s the first time any writer has really dove into that part of me and my music, but it’s always been there. That’s how I was raised. My mother, my grandmother, my uncles would play Ethiopian artists like Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke all the time in the house. They would drink coffee, eat popcorn, and listen to the music. It’s such beautiful music, but I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I left that head space. That’s why I feel like my singing is not conventional. I mean, if you look at technique, I’m not a technical singer; I know I get bashed by R&B heads 24/7. I’m not here to do Luther Vandross runs. I can’t do what Jennifer Hudson does. But the feeling in my music and in my voice is very Ethiopian and very African and much more powerful than anything, technically. There are songs like “Gone” where I don’t even know what I’m saying—I let my voice do all the talking. I’ll probably do an album like that one day where it’s not lyrics at all, just melodies and great production. Maybe the next one, I don’t know. That’s the Ethiopian side of me. I didn’t know what [the musicians] were saying when I was younger: Just because you speak it doesn’t mean you really understand what they’re saying. Ethiopian poetry is a different language. I can speak and understand [Amharic], but I can’t understand their poetry. When my mother would translate—it’s the most beautiful thing ever. I’ve never been back home to Ethiopia, but when I do go I’m going to make it very special.

Read the full interview at Pitchfork.com »

The Unstoppable Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd): Rebel with Harmony
The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) to Guest Star in TV’s Hottest Hip-Hop Drama ‘Empire’
Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World? (NY Times)
Inspired by Michael Jackson, The Weeknd Goes from Rebellious Songwriter to Chorus Lover
The reclusive artist talks ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ (Radio.com)

With dark tales of sex and drugs, is the Weeknd the next face of R&B? (The Guardian)

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‘Hungry Ethiopians’ Headline is Back Again

US President Barack Obama (top left) visits the Faffa Food factory, producing low-cost and high-protein foods, in Addis Ababa, on July 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)


Sharp rise in hungry Ethiopians needing aid: UN

Addis Ababa – The number of hungry Ethiopians needing food aid has risen sharply this year to 4.5 million due to poor rains and the El Nino weather phenomenon, the UN has said.

With rains poorer than predicted, “food insecurity increased and malnutrition rose as a result,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The number needing food aid has now risen to 4.5 million people, OCHA said, in what is a 55 percent increase on the 2.9 million projected to require food assistance during the year.

“The absence of rains means that the crops don’t grow, the grass doesn’t grow and people can’t feed their animals,” said David Del Conte, OCHA chief in Ethiopia.

Hardest-hit areas are Ethiopia’s eastern Afar and southern Somali regions, while pastures and water resources are also unusually low in central and eastern Oromo region, and northern Tigray and Amhara districts.

The US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warned of “many emaciated livestock” in its latest report.

Read more »

Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges (Reuters)
The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine Is Not Drought, It Is Authoritarianism (Huffington Post)

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40 Years Later, Haile Selasse Still Debated

(Getty Images)


By Michel Arseneault

On 27 August 1975 a French reporter phoned the Ethiopian imperial palace, which had been overrun by Marxist army officers the previous year. Haile Selassie I came to the phone. On a poor line, speaking good French, the “king of kings” sounded calm and composed, not suspecting he had only a few more hours to live.

“I am well as before,” said the 83-year-old man some revered as a god. “The soldiers are gone. I am well and so are my people.”

Forty years later, his death remains shrouded in mystery – and the subject of debate. Official sources spoke the following day of his “respiratory failure” but many believe the “lion of the tribe of Judah” was assassinated by revolutionaries determined to overthrow a centuries-old monarchy.

His imperial majesty, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, was a leading figure in both African and world history in the 20th century.

Under his stewardship Ethiopia remained an independent country, the only one in Africa to never have been colonised even though it was occupied by fascist Italy – an invasion he condemned before the League of Nations in an historic speech in 1936.

Convinced that countries must cooperate to solve international problems, the emperor championed the cause of multilateralism.

Ethiopia was a founding member of both the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), whose headquarters were established in Addis when it was created in 1963.

Read more at Radio France International (RFI) English »

From The Guardian Archive, 24 August 1974 Ethiopia’s Fallen Aristocrats

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NPR Interview With Professor Bekele Gerba

Bekele Gerba visited Washington, D.C., to bring his concerns about Ethiopia to the State Department. The photo was taken when he came to NPR for a radio interview. (Mahafreen H. Mistry/NPR)

Bekele Gerba visited Washington, D.C., to bring his concerns about Ethiopia to the State Department. The photo was taken when he came to NPR Radio interview With Professor Bekele Gerba


By Michele Kelemen

Listen to the Story

Just a few months ago, Bekele Gerba was languishing in a high security Ethiopian jail, hearing the cries of fellow prisoners being beaten and tortured. Now, the 54-year-old foreign language professor is in Washington, D.C., for meetings at the State Department. His message: The Obama administration should pay more attention to the heavy-handed way its ally, Ethiopia, treats political opponents — and should help Ethiopians who are losing their ability to earn a living.

Gerba is a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, a political party that represents one of the country’s largest ethnic groups. With estimated numbers of about 30 million, the Oromo make up about a third of Ethiopia’s population.

In 2011, Gerba was arrested after meeting with Amnesty International researchers and sent to prison on what he calls trumped up terrorism charges, often used in Ethiopia against political dissidents. In court he made remarks that have been widely circulated in Ethiopia and beyond: “I am honored to learn that my non-violent struggles and humble sacrifices for the democratic and human rights of the Oromo people, to whom I was born without a wish on my part but due to the will of the Almighty, have been considered a crime and to be unjustly convicted.”

Gerba was released from jail this spring in advance of President Obama’s July visit to Ethiopia. A soft spoken man, who seemed exhausted by his prison ordeal and his numerous appearances at U.S. universities and think tanks, Gerba tells NPR that Obama’s trip sent all the wrong messages.

“He [Obama] shouldn’t have shown any solidarity with that kind of government, which is repressive, very much authoritarian and very much disliked by its own people,” Gerba says.

Since Ethiopia’s ruling party and its allies control all of parliament, his party doesn’t have a voice, he says. What’s more, he says, his people are being pushed off their land by international investors.

“The greatest land grabbers are now the Indians and Chinese …. there are Saudi Arabians as well,” he says, adding that many families are being evicted and losing their livelihoods.

Gerba says those who do get jobs are paid a dollar a day, which he describes as a form of slavery. He is urging the U.S. to use its aid to Ethiopia as leverage to push the government to give workers more rights and allow people to form labor unions.

Read more at NPR.org »

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DC: Vigil Held for Emebet Kebede

Hundreds gather at Southern Ave. in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015 to remember Emebet Kebede, the woman killed in a hit-and-run Friday night while walking to the Metro. (Ben Rice/ WJLA).



LANHAM, Md. — Hundreds gathered Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil to remember the life of Emebet Kebede.

Kebede was walking across Southern Avenue heading toward the Metro Friday evening when she was struck by a car and killed.

The incident occurred in front of the United Medical Center.

Police say the vehicle that hit Kebede was a late model black Chevy Tahoe

Physician assistant Emebet Kebede killed in hit-and-run outside of D.C. hospital (Washington Post)

The Metropolitan Police Department is asking anyone with information about this case to call the police at (202) 727-9099. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411.

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Friends and Family Remember DC Hit and Run Victim Emebet Kebede — WJLA TV

56-year-old Physician assistant Emebet Kebede was killed in a hit-and-run outside of a Washington, D.C. hospital where she worked last Friday, August 21st, 2015. (Photo: WJLA TV/ABC 7)



Lanham, Md. — Dozens of friends and family gathered in Lanham Sunday evening to mourn the sudden loss of Emebet Kebede.

“I don’t know what to say… I lost my partner of 31-years… my wife my best half a wonderful person,” said Kabede’s husband, Habte Michael.

Now her family wants to see justice served.

Police say Kebede was struck and killed Friday evening, by a hit and run driver.

Kebede’s relatives say she had just crossed Southern Avenue and was headed toward the metro when she was hit.

The accident happened right in front of United Medical Center.

Police released a photo of a person of interest in the case. They say they vehicle that hit Kebede was a late model black Chevy Tahoe.

Anyone with information is asked to call D.C. Police.

Video: Friends and family remember hit and run victim Emebet Kebede

Suspect Sought in DC Hit and Run Death of Physician Assistant Emebet Kebede


By WTOP Staff

WASHINGTON — The Metropolitan Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the perpetrator in the hit and run fatality of a 56-year-old Lanham woman who was walking on the street Friday in Southeast Washington.

Police say the woman, identified as Emebet Kebede, was struck by a newer model black Chevrolet Tahoe at approximately 6:10 p.m. Friday on the 1300 block of Southern Avenue, SE. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to The Washington Post, Kebede worked as a physician’s assistant at the United Medical Center, which is located in the block where she was killed.

Police are looking for his man in connection with a Friday hit-and-run in Southeast D.C. (Metropolitan Police)

The crash remains under investigation. The Metropolitan Police Department is asking anyone with information about this case to call the police at (202) 727-9099. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411.

Physician assistant Emebet Kebede killed in hit-and-run outside of D.C. hospital (Washington Post)

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Ethiopia: Need for Food Aid Surges

Number of Ethiopians needing food aid surges to 4.5 million after failed rains. (Ethiopia Google Map)


By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA — The number of Ethiopians who will need food aid by the end of this year has surged by more than 1.5 million from earlier estimates due to failed rains, United Nations agencies said on Monday.

Ethiopia needs an extra $230 million from donors to secure aid for a total of 4.5 million people now projected to require assistance this year, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement.

The country of 96 million people is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but failed rains have devastating consequences for food supplies.

“The belg rains were much worse than the National Meteorology Agency predicted at the beginning of the year. Food insecurity increased and malnutrition rose as a result,” said David Del Conte, UNOCHA’s acting head of office in Ethiopia, referring to the short, seasonal rainy season that stretched from February to April.

Areas normally producing surplus food in the Horn of Africa country’s central Oromia region were also affected by shortages, the statement said, adding lack of water had decreased livestock production and caused livestock deaths in other pastoralist areas.

Meteorologists have warned that the El Nino weather phenomenon, marked by a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is now well established and continues to strengthen. Models indicate that sea-surface temperature anomalies in the central Pacific Ocean are set to climb to the highest in 19 years.

The El Nino can lead to scorching weather across Asia and east Africa but heavy rains and floods in South America.

The United Nations cautioned that the anomaly could further affect Ethiopia’s “kiremt” rains that stretch from June to September.

“A failed belg followed by a poor kiremt season means that challenges could continue into next year,” said John Aylieff, WFP’s Ethiopia representative.

The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine Is Not Drought, It Is Authoritarianism (Huffington Post)

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From The Guardian Archive, 24 August 1974 Ethiopia’s Fallen Aristocrats

Addis Ababa, December 1974: Ethiopia’s Derg leaders, who deposed emperor Haile Selassie in September 1974. (Photograph: J. M. Blin/AFP/Getty Images)

The Guardian

By David Ottaway

Monday 24 August 2015

Addis Ababa, August 23, 1974
They are crowded into three long army barracks, sleeping on simple army cots, their heads shaven as if they are condemned men, their food brought to them three times daily by wives already dressed in black for mourning.

These were once the high and mighty of Ethiopia – princes, imperial courtiers, provincial nobility, aristocratic landlords, blue-blooded ministers, and much decorated generals. They ruled entire provinces, owned enormous estates, and commanded private armies and could boast of belonging to royal families tracing their ancestry 2,000 years to the founding of the Ethiopian monarchy.

Today they are the humbled captives of young and unknown military officers, members of a mysterious Armed Forces Committee that has set out to bring revolution to this ancient mountain kingdom of feudal lords and a once all-powerful Emperor.

Officially these prisoners of the revolution number only around 150, but it is said the total number of those arrested is about 350.

The fallen aristocrats are being kept in rundown buildings near the city centre that serve as the Fourth Army Division’s headquarters. Three times a day the road outside the compound is the scene of traffic jams as families come with food and messages (the army will not feed the prisoners).

Their crimes, according to the military, include corruption, abuse of power, maladministration and misappropriation of State funds and lands, a cover-up of the disastrous drought afflicting the country, and, above all, obstruction of badly-needed reforms.

Their fate is uncertain. Theoretically, the prisoners are awaiting the outcome of an investigation by a 15-man committee of inquiry into the alleged misdeeds of the old regime, a process expected to take two years.

But relatives of the prisoners feel they have become hostages of the military committee and that they will be the first to die if any attempt is made by Emperor Haile Selassie to overthrow the reform movement.

Students protest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 17, 1974, against the military committee that seized political power last week. (Photograph: AP)

Read more at The Guardian »

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Can Engineering Education Lift Ethiopia?

The University of Michigan's College of Engineering created this multimedia story about the rise of middle class and the role engineering education plays in the development of Ethiopia. (Photo via umich.edu)

University of Michigan

Making a Middle Class: Can Engineering Education Lift Ethiopia? 

By Brad Whitehouse & Marcin Szczepanski

Netsanet Hailu, a young woman in her 20s, shuts her laptop where she is working on differential equations. As a master’s student in biomedical engineering at one of Ethiopia’s oldest and best universities, Netsanet hopes to one day design and engineer medical devices that save human lives.

“You have a brain that works. If you cannot use it to do better, to do something for the society, for yourself, then why do you have it?” she asks.

Netsanet says she thinks of her family as rather poor – which reflects the good fortune of her upbringing. Her father, Hailu Gurmu, sees it differently.

“I consider myself middle class,” he says.

Hailu did not grow up in this house, with its indoor plumbing and four-wheel drive Toyota pickup in the courtyard. He was born on the other side of this vast city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And he was not so close to his family then. Like his wife, he was given up for adoption.

The family’s rise has mirrored the rise of the city and nation. The country is still transforming, and Netsanet the engineering student is a product of its economic and academic explosion.

Today, Ethiopia, located in East Africa and just above the equator, has an expanding middle class and the fastest growing millionaire class in Africa. According to a 2013 report by the consulting firm New World Wealth, the nation had the most rapidly surging GDP in Africa – with 93 percent growth from 2004 to 2009. And its projected expansion for the 2014-15 fiscal year is another 11.4 percent. That said, it’s still in the early stages of a turnaround. It ranks 174th out of 187 countries on the United Nation’s human development index.

Click here to read more and see the multimedia presentaion »

How Real is the Ethiopia Rising Narrative (The Huffington Post)

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7 Quick Facts About Ethiopia’s Population

A young Ethiopian woman. The number of women is equal to that of men at birth in the country, data shows. (Photo: Rod Waddington/Flickr)

Mail & Guardian Africa

18 AUG 2015

ACCORDING to projections released Tuesday by the United States’ Population Reference Bureau in Washington, Africa will claim three of the world’s 10 most populous countries in the world in 2050.

That, we know. It is also not a surprise that the largest of the three will be Nigeria, which will be will be just 1 million people shy of the USA’s size. Ethiopia, currently with 99 million people according to one United Nations model, will also enter the list of the world’s 10 most populous countries, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

It is just one of some forecasts about the country’s population. While a lot of reporting is done about Nigeria’s population, Ethiopia’s gets less attention. What are we missing?

1- According to the UN projections, Ethiopia is one of nine countries that will account for half of the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. In 2050, it will have 188 million citizens, and would be the fifth most populous country, ahead of Tanzania, the US, Indonesia and Uganda, and just behind India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the DR Congo.

2- In 2100, Ethiopia is projected to have some 243 million people, and would be the ninth most populous nation in the world, and fourth largest by population in Africa after Nigeria, DRC and Tanzania. What is interesting about this is that while today Ethiopia is the second largest African country with a population of 99 million, DRC is fourth with 77 million and Tanzania has 53 million today, placing it sixth – so they will be overtaking Ethiopia.

3- The country has a sex ratio of 100 males to the same number of 100 females, amongst its projected 2015 population of 99.3 million, outstripped only by Nigeria’s projected 182 million people. The West African country however does not manage to keep things equal as well—it has 104 males for every 100 females.

4- Four in every 10 Ethiopians (41.4%) are aged under 14 years, but just 5.2% are aged over 60 years. The majority of the population (53.3%) are under 60 years. But going forward an interesting thing will happen: in 2050 just 25% of Ethiopians will be aged under 14, and in 2100 this will fall to 16.2%, as more Ethiopians move into the working age, setting it up for a major demographic dividend, and more economic growth.

5- Indeed, Ethiopia’s life expectancy at birth was 48.1 years just 20 years ago, now it stands at 63.1 years. In 2050 it will be 74.5 years, and 81.3 in 2100, as investments in health pay off handsomely, with some 7.2% of Ethiopians clocking over 80 years by 2100. Infant mortality, at 114 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995, has now been halved to 50, and will fall further to 20 by 2050.

6- The number of children who make it past their fifth birthday is regarded as a key indicator of a country’s development. In 1995, Ethiopia had 190 deaths for every 1,000 births. That is now at 74 deaths, which is still on the higher side, but in 2050 it will be at 25.5 deaths, and fall to 13 at the end of the century.

7- Currently, an Ethiopian woman has an average 4.59 children in her lifetime, a fall from 7.18 children in 1980. But this is falling further—in 2050 she will have 2.28 children on average, and just 1.79 children in 2100—comparable with European fertility rates.

Ethiopia Among 10 Countries That Will Have the World’s Biggest Populations By 2050 (Bloomberg)

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Genzebe Dibaba Ready for Beijing Games

Genzebe Dibaba shatters world record in the 1500 meters women race at the IAAF track-and field’s elite Diamond League Herculis meeting at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco, July 17, 2015. (Photo Courtesy: iaaf.org)



Born into athletics royalty in Ethiopia, middle distance runner Genzebe Dibaba is poised to win more glory for her illustrious family at the world championships in Beijing after years of indoor supremacy.

The younger sister of three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Ejegayehu Dibaba, who won the 10,000m silver at the 2004 Athens Games, Genzebe stormed to a 1,500 meters world record at Monaco last month, eclipsing a 22-year-old mark that many thought might stand forever.

The dazzling run added to her four indoor world records, having set new marks in the 1,500m, 3,000m and two-mile events in an astonishing 15-day tour of Europe last year before adding the 5,000m in February.

Already boasting two world indoor titles, the Laureus sportswoman of the year would seem a certainty to finally clinch a long-awaited outdoor title, having long failed to meet expectations without a roof above her head.

Dibaba won her first world indoor title in 2012, with victory in the 1,500 at Istanbul, but has had more humble results outdoors and finished eighth in the final at the 2013 world championships.

“I wanted to train more for the outdoor season than the indoor season, so I changed my training totally,” Dibaba, 24, said prior to her record-setting win at Monaco. “I already have natural speed which I don’t need to work on, so in training I’ve been working more on my endurance. Now I think I can run faster outdoors than I previously thought I was capable of.”

Read more at Reuters »

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Ethiopia Stowaway Gets to Sweden in Airliner’s Hold — BBC

An Ethiopian airliner - the stowaway reportedly had an airport staff badge. (BBC News)

BBC News

An Ethiopian man hoping to get asylum in Sweden has been found in the hold of an airliner after a flight from Addis Ababa to Stockholm.

He was handed over to Swedish police after a medical check at Arlanda airport. His health is said to be good.
The hold of the Ethiopian Airlines jet would have got very cold during the long flight. There was a stopover in Rome, but he is believed to have come all the way from Addis Ababa.

Such cases are rare, officials say.

According to Radio Sweden, the man is an Ethiopian, born in 1991, and intends to seek asylum in Sweden. The plane landed at 06:53 local time (04:53 GMT).

“When the staff were going to unload the baggage, they found the man. He was in good shape, but we made him see a nurse,” said Henrik Klefve, spokesman for airport operator Swedavia.

Swedish police officer Anders Faerdigs said “he says he works at the airport in Addis Ababa and he had a badge with him.

“That’s how he had been able to move freely around the airport, reach the plane and get in the cargo hold.”

Read more at BBC News »

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The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) to Guest Star in TV’s Hottest Hip-Hop Drama ‘Empire’

The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), right, appears as a guest star in the hit U.S. TV series, Empire, when the show returns for a second season on the Fox network on September, 23rd 2015. (Photograph: Vogue)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, August 14th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Vogue Magazine’s September issue features the stars of Empire — Fox network’s TV hip-hop drama — along with the series creator Lee Daniels and Ethiopian-Canadian musician The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) who is said to be a guest star in the second season this Fall.

The Weeknd who has been dubbed the “next face of R&B” continues to dominate the Artist 100, Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop Billboard charts while the world awaits his newest album, Beauty Behind the Madness, scheduled to be released on August 28th.

The second season of Empire starts on September 23rd. “Part of what makes the show so much fun to watch is that it is a brilliant mash-up — part Sopranos, part Glee, part Dynasty — bursting with allusions to the last 50 years of popular culture: Berry Gordy, Good Times/The Jeffersons, American Idol, the Jacksons, GoodFellas, Rihanna and Chris Brown, just to name a lot,” Vogue says. “At the same time, Empire does not shy away from sociopolitical issues. But the show also rattles the chandeliers because it isn’t afraid to let rip with all of those dark, delicious tropes of Greek tragedy and eighties nighttime soaps—power, greed, betrayal, lust, hate, shame—all of it poured into the fresh container of urban black upward mobility. A hip-hop King Lear, as it were.”

The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), far right, joins the cast of “Empire” in this high-fashion spread for Vogue magazine. (photograph by Mario Testino).

Read more at Vogue “Why We’re All Glued to Empire: Behind the Scenes of TV’s Runaway Hit”

The Unstoppable Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd): Rebel with Harmony

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Ethiopia Jails 18 Muslims Over Alleged Terror, Supporters Say Trial Was Unfair

(AP Photo)

Associated Press

Published August 03, 2015

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – A court in Ethiopia has handed jail terms ranging from seven to 22 years against 18 Muslims who were convicted on terror charges, including allegedly attempting to establish a religious government.

The sentencing on Monday attracted outcry from Muslim activists who opposed the trial.

Four of the suspects were sentenced to 22 years in prison, while the rest were given shorter jail terms.

Dimtsachin Yisema, a group lobbying for the release of Muslim detainees, said the sentences were “unjust” and called the Federal High Court a “kangaroo court.”

The convicts, who were tried under Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism law, include Muslim leaders and activists who were arrested in July 2012 following six months of public protests in Addis Ababa and other towns over alleged government interference in religious affairs.

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To This Ethiopian American Singer, ‘Home is Always in Flux’

Meklit Hadero performing at Artisphere in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 2014. (Courtesy Malik photo)

Public Radio International

To This Ethiopian American Singer, ‘Home is Always in Flux’


Like a lot of immigrants in the United States, Meklit Hadero’s family arrived to a place unknown, with a single connection drawing them. For Hadero, that place was Iowa, where her dad knew a professor.

It was the early ‘80s, and Ethiopia was still feeling the aftermath of the 1974 revolution.

“There was a lot of kindness and community,” says Hadero, a singer and songwriter now based in San Francisco. “We were adjusting to living in this country. At the same time it was very challenging. There weren’t many immigrants at all, let alone immigrants from East Africa or Ethiopia.”

In fact, she remembers, there was one other Ethiopian family in town. “They heard through the grapevine that we had moved there and people said, ‘Oh, they live in that apartment complex.’ And they knocked on every door until they found us and we’re still friends today.”

Her parents were physicians who had to redo their residencies in the US in order to work. It took a long time. Five years. And the jobs they got brought the Hadero family to Brooklyn.

She returned to Ethiopia when she was 21 with her mom, carrying with her a body of stories, those highs and lows her family had talked about for years regarding life back in Ethiopia. Hadero says when she got to Ethiopia, she started to “see the holes” in her parents’ memories.

“I started to see the people who were maybe only hinted at filled into whole three-dimensional personalities,” she says. She also remembers her mom shifting between what she called “home” or “back home,” toggling between Ethiopia and the United States.

“Home is always in flux,” Hadero says.

Those journeys, and discovering more about Ethiopian music, have influenced Hadero’s music and can be heard in “We are Alive,” her latest album. It includes “I Like Your Afro,” Hadero’s modern twist on a traditional Amharic-language Ethiopian love song called “Kemekem,” which means “the perfect Afro.”

“This is a very flirtatious love song, where the lyrics say, ‘Oh, my dear, with the perfect Afro, you live at the top of the hill, I live at the bottom of the hill, just roll on down and meet me there.’”

She calls it her version of a “countryside song that, at the core of it, is something that people all over the world can connect with.”

She also sees how people don’t always know how to classify her. “When I play my music for the world music, they say, ‘Well, this is too jazz.’ When I play it for the jazz people, they say, ‘Well, this is kind of pop.’ And when I play it for the pop people they say, ‘What is this?’”

Learn more about the artist at www.meklitmusic.com.

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UN Demands Andargachew Tsige Release

Yemi Hailemariam campaigns in London to demand the immediate release of her partner, British citizen Andargachew Tsege, who has been held in Ethiopia since June 2014. (Photograph: Alamy)

The Guardian

By Mark Townsend

The UN has demanded the immediate release of a Briton held on death row in Ethiopia for more than a year, an intervention that campaigners say exposes Britain’s poor diplomacy towards the case.

Experts from the UN Human Rights Council have advised Ethiopia to pay Andargachew Tsige “adequate compensation” before sending him home to London, an abrupt hardening of its position on the case at a time when Britain pursues a softly, softly approach with no tangible reward.

Internal Foreign Office emails, disclosed for the first time, reveal that even before Tsige was kidnapped and jailed in an unknown location in June 2014, British officials had voiced fears at “the real risk of torture if [Tsige is] returned to Ethiopia”, along with “fair trial concerns”.

An eight-page judgment from the UNHRC’s working group on arbitrary detention handed to Ethiopia suggests such fears have been realised, saying that there is “reliable evidence on a possible situation of physical abuse and mistreatment which could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Tsige, 60, a father of three from London, and known to friends as Andy, was arrested in Yemen’s main airport while in transit and forcibly removed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

He is prominent in Ethiopian politics, having been leader of opposition party Ginbot 7, which has called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. The government has accused him of being a terrorist and in 2009 he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has refused to demand his urgent release, preferring to push for consular access, a request rejected by Ethiopia. Tsige’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their children, has spoken to him just once by telephone since his abduction.

Read more at The Guardian »

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US and Cuba to Reopen Embassies

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, left, announced today the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to reopen embassies in each other's capitals in Washington and Havana later this month. (AP)

VOA News

By Luis Ramirez

July 01, 2015

WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama said Wednesday the United States and Cuba have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and plan to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana later this month, in the latest move to end years of hostility between the two countries.

Obama said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana this summer to raise the U.S. flag over the first American embassy in over five decades.

The U.S. trade embargo and Cuba’s human rights record are among the issues still blocking normalizing relations broken following Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Speaking in Vienna, where he was attending nuclear talks with Iran, Kerry didn’t give a precise date for opening the embassy, but he called the announcement of normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba “long overdue.”

“The United States and Cuba continue to have sharp differences over democracy, human rights and related issues,” Kerry said. But the two countries have identified areas for cooperation, including law enforcement, emergency response, environmental protection and migration, he added.

Earlier Wednesday, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana delivered a letter from the White House to Cuba about restoring embassies in the countries’ respective capitals.

U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis arrived at the Cuban Foreign Ministry in Havana Wednesday morning to hand-deliver the message.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Vienna, Austria, for Iran nuclear discussions, spoke to President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. and Cuba had agreed to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals, July 1, 2015.

In his own response, Cuban President Raul Castro said he is “pleased” to confirm his country will resume diplomatic ties with the United States, writing to Obama that Cuba is doing so because it is “encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful relations and cooperation between our people and governments.”

However, a separate statement from the Havana government said reopening embassies is just the first step in “a long and complex process toward normalization of bilateral ties.” It then demanded an end to the U.S. embargo, the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, a halt to U.S. radio and TV broadcasts aimed at the island, and other grievances.

Castro’s letter and the government statement were read on state television Wednesday morning. Obama’s announcement was also broadcast on state television.

December announcement

Restoration of official ties is the latest step in the process since Presidents Obama and Castro announced in December the two countries were renewing diplomatic relations.

The leaders held face-to-face talks at April’s Summit of the Americas in Panama.

In May, the United States removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move seen as crucial to restoring diplomatic ties.​

Speaking through an interpreter Tuesday at the White House, visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff welcomed warming relations and its impact on the rest of Latin America.

“It is really about putting an end to the last lingering vestiges of the Cold War, and it ultimately elevates the relations between the U.S. and the entire region,” Rousseff said.

“May I acknowledge the importance of that gesture to all of Latin America and to world peace at large. It is an important example of relations to be followed,” she added.

Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana Jeffrey DeLaurentis, left, delivers a letter, from U.S President Barack Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro regarding restoration of diplomatic relations, to Cuba’s interim Foreign Minister Marceli. (Photo: Reuters)

Geoff Thale, director of programs for the Washington Office on Latin America, said Wednesday, “This announcement is a positive step for the United States and the hemisphere. It’s a long overdue policy change, and opens up the prospects for practical collaboration while allowing us to discuss our differences in a serious way.”

“Though Congress still needs to remove the embargo on trade and travel to Cuba, this announcement is historic and the result of President Obama’s deeper process of updating U.S. policy towards Cuba for the 21st century,” Thale said.

Restoration of services (Click here to see White House Cuba Fact Sheet)

Commercial air and ferry service between the two countries have been, or are being, restored and communications restrictions have been eased, although U.S. citizens can only travel to Cuba under limited guidelines.

However, obstacles remain, including a decades-long U.S. trade embargo of Cuba that only Congress can remove.

Just last week, Washington released its annual human rights report, which cited Cuba for violating basic freedoms in 2014, including the arbitrary arrest of dissidents and limiting access to uncensored, independent information.

Fernando Rodriguez, left, uses his cellphone to take a selfie as workers from Eastern Shores Flagpoles raise a flagpole at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington in preparation for re-opening of embassies in Havana and Washington, June 10, 2015. (AP Photo)

Reopening embassies

Latin America analyst Mark Jones of Rice University said he thinks reopening embassies will help both countries grapple with such issues.

“What the establishment of formal diplomatic relations and an embassy will do is allow the countries to begin addressing this host of issues that face both countries — be it human rights violations in Cuba and issues regarding compensation for U.S. citizens and also issues related to fugitives from U.S. justice who are residing presently in Cuba and doing something about that for people who have been accused of capital crimes, murder for instance, in the United States and have fled to Cuba,” Jones said.

“Cuba is likely to be less and less a safe haven for those individuals in the years to come,” he added.

However, Jones said he does not necessarily expect warming ties to change Cuba’s one-party Communist system.

He said other Westerners have been visiting the Caribbean island nation for decades with no change in the governmental system.

The United States Interests Section diplomatic mission is seen in Havana, Cuba. (AP photo)

Embassies criticized

In a statement, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, denounced the move to reopen an embassy as emboldening the Castro regime “to continue its attacks against the Cuban people.”

Ros-Lehtinen said opening the embassy “will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”

However, Ted Henken, Cuba analyst at Baruch College in New York, said the anti-regime policies Ros-Lehtinen supports have done nothing to improve the human rights of the Cuban people.

“Her strategy, the one that she favors, has failed. She’s on the wrong side of this issue,” Henken said.

“Having diplomatic relations with Cuba doesn’t mean we approve of the Cuban government nor do we approve of their treatment of the Cuban people. I think we’ll have a better chance of having some kind of influence in Cuba with a relationship that’s engaging, empowering [rather] than one that is isolating and impoverishing the government and the people,” he said.

US influence

​Henken said changing policy toward Cuba is about American interests and influence, not about regime change.

“This is not a silver bullet – it’s not a concession to the [Cuban] dictatorship. It’s a concession to the U.S. people – it’s a concession to pragmatism and to common sense,” he said.

Henken said normal ties can foster cooperation on matters such as the environment, drug interdiction, refugees and family reunions.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. turns his camera on reporters after a news conference in Havana, Cuba, June 27, 2015. (AP Photo)

Growing pressure

Henken added that with improved relations, the Cuban government will no longer be able to use U.S. hostility as a scapegoat for suppressing the Cuban people and it will be under growing pressure to meet their demands.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, echoed the sentiment, saying in a statement Wednesday: “It’s long past time for U.S. policy toward Cuba to be associated with something other than five decades of failure.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of resuming diplomatic relations ‎with Cuba, in furthering our own national interests, benefiting our relations in the region, and encouraging a positive future for the Cuban people. I am confident that this move will lead to increased travel and contact between U.S. citizens and everyday Cubans, to the benefit of both,” Flake said.

Some information for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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Ethiopia: Focus on Zone9′s Abel Wabela

Abel Wabela. (Drawing by Melody Sundberg)

Global Voices Online

In April 2014, nine bloggers and journalists were arrested in Ethiopia. Several of these men and women had worked with Zone9, a collective blog that covered social and political issues in Ethiopia and promoted human rights and government accountability. Four of them were Global Voices authors. In July, they were charged under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. They have been behind bars ever since and their trial has only recently begun.

This marks the sixth post in our series – “They Have Names” – that seeks to highlight the individual bloggers who are currently in jail. We wish to humanize them, to tell their particular and peculiar stories. This week, Swedish blogger and artist Melody Sundberg writes about Abel Wabela, a member of Zone9 and the manager of Global Voices’ Amharic site.

I have never been to Ethiopia, but I have followed the never-ending trials of the bloggers closely through social media and conversations. A name often mentioned is that of Abel Wabela, a 28-year-old blogger, author and translator for Global Voices. During the first three months of the bloggers’ detention in Maekelawi*, Abel refused to sign a prepared confession paper in which he, together with the other bloggers, were incriminated. For this, Abel underwent extreme torture. According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Project (EHRP), he was beaten by a person using a stick, and his feet were whipped by someone using a computer plug cable. He was forced to lay on the floor while interrogators stomped on his back, neck and face. Since then, he has had to use a hearing aid as a result of worsened hearing impairment.

According to Endalk Chala, co-founder of the blogging group, Abel had suffered poor treatment even before his arrest. One day, three weeks before the arrest, Abel was beaten as he was walking home from work. Several people appeared and beat him so severely that he lost his consciousness, and they took his cell phone and laptop. He feared beating was a threat, intended to make him stop blogging. But Abel continued his work.

Abel Wabela. (Photo courtesy of family)

I wanted to know more about Abel, so I asked some of those close to him to describe their friend. Endalk Chala describes Abel as the most kindhearted and wonderful soul. Abel is a man of knowledge and a great conversationalist, and he believes in open and honest discussions. Jomanex Kasaye describes Abel as being straight forward and knowing what he stands for. At the same time, he is very humble. Abel is always hungry for more knowledge. He likes to spend his time in discussions with historians, university lecturers and authors. His faith is important to him. He loves attending in church. He often visited prisoners, having the country and its people in his heart. He always thinks of others rather than himself.

Read more at Global Voices Online »

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Seven Passengers on Inaugural Flight From Ethiopia Claim Asylum in Dublin

(Photo: Ethiopian Airlines)

Irish Independent

June 26, 2015

A Garda spokeswoman this morning confirmed that it was five adults and two children that claimed asylum.
“We are working with Ethiopian Airlines to ensure proper processes are in place for people coming into the country,” she said.

The new service from Addis Ababa stops in Dublin en route to Los Angeles and the maiden flight took place on Saturday.

It is understood that the passengers disembarked and made their way to Dublin Airport’s immigration gates where they claimed asylum.

They reportedly arrived at the desk without ID or travel documentation.

A spokeswoman for Ethiopian Airlines this morning insisted that all passengers on the flight had full legal documents when they boarded in Addis Ababa but said that the airline does not comment on individual cases.

“Ethiopian Airlines has been operating for over 40 years in Europe and Dublin is its 11th City.
“We only carry passengers with full legal documents and appropriate visas. We also carry out extra checks when in doubt and take guidance from appropriate immigration teams of the destination country we operate to, if needed,” she said.

An event to mark the airline’s first flight through Dublin had been taking place at the Departures gate a DAA spokeswoman said.

Read more at Irish Independent »

Photos: Ethiopian Airlines Inaugurates Flight Connecting Addis, LA, Dublin

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Court Health Ruling Seals Obama Legacy

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 25, 2015, in Washington, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his health care law. (AP photo)

VOA News

By Luis Ramirez

WHITE HOUSE — For President Barack Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold his signature health care law represents a victory for him and his legacy.

Signing a national health care law that would guarantee coverage for all Americans was a cornerstone of Obama’s bid for the presidency seven years ago. Now the Supreme Court’s ruling means that law has survived yet another challenge.

How the president reacted when he heard the news

President Barack Obama celebrates the Supreme Court ruling on Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in the Outer Oval Office. June 25, 2015. (Photo by Pete Souza)

“This was a good day for America,” the president remarked, celebrating the court’s upholding of the law – known unofficially as “Obamacare” – in a statement in the White House Rose Garden shortly after the ruling was announced.

“Today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” he said.

With many Americans who were previously excluded from health plans because of pre-existing conditions now covered, the president said he believes there can be no doubt the law is working, and described it as part of the fabric of America that can not be undone.

The president sought to counter any remaining opposition from those who see the law as a government overreach and warn of future skyrocketing health care costs, saying the law does not represent a government takeover of health care in the country.

Obama on Thursday offered to work with Republicans to further improve health care, as House Speaker John Boehner warned he would continue efforts to do everything possible to – “put the American people back in charge of their own health care, “and not the federal government.”

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Icon and Rule-Breaker Asnaketch Worku

Asnaketch Worku. (Photo from the film Asni)

BBC News

The Fifth Floor, a weekly programme of the BBC World Service, features Icon and rule-breaker Asnaketch Worku and why the singer and actress who mesmerised 50s and 60s Ethiopia is still loved today.

Listen to the program here:

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Blue Party Leader Killed in Debre Markos

A 29-year-old Blue Party candidate, Samuel Awoke, who is said to have challenged last month's election results in his region, was clubbed and stabbed to death in Debre Markos, Bloomberg News reports.

Bloomberg News

By William Davison

An Ethiopian parliamentary candidate for the opposition Blue Party died after being assaulted in Debre Markos, a town in the country’s northwest, the group said.

Two people attacked Samuel Awoke, 29, with a club and knife as he returned home alone from a night out with friends, spokesman Yonatan Tesfaye said by phone Tuesday from the capital, Addis Ababa.

“We are trying to figure out who are the killers and the reasons,” he said, citing suspicions it was politically motivated. Ethiopian Communications Minister Redwan Hussien said in a text message that a suspect has been apprehended and the attack may have stemmed from a legal dispute.

Samuel reported previous death threats and a beating during campaigning for the polls that were held May 24, Yonatan said. The lawyer had been active in challenging election procedures and results in the Amhara region town, 295 kilometers (183 miles) northwest of the capital, he said.

Read more »

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Bashir Defies Court Order, Leaves S. Africa

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, second from right, stands with other African leaders during a photo op at the AU summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015. (AP photo)

VOA News

By James Butty and Chris Hannas

Last updated on: June 15, 2015

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir flew home from South Africa Monday, defying a Pretoria court order to remain in the country until it decided whether he should be arrested on war crimes and genocide charges.

Bashir had been in Johannesburg for an African Union summit, but the International Criminal Court sought to compel his arrest while he was there. The ICC has charged him with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for sending the army and backing Arab militias to put down an armed uprising in the Darfur conflict in 2003, but Mr. Bashir has long resisted the court’s authority.

Sudan’s official news agency said Bashir would hold a news conference at the Khartoum airport when he arrives there Monday night.

Before Bashir left South Africa, both the United Nations and the United States called for his arrest.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “The authority of the ICC must be respected and its decision implemented.”

Earlier Monday, Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told VOA that the president “is not a criminal” and attended the summit after getting assurances from South African President Zuma.

“We have very good relations with the government of South Africa,” Osman said. “We know that they are not going to arrest the president and nothing will happen.”

ICC criticism

Osman also criticized the ICC, which has active cases involving Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Ivory Coast.

“The ICC is a court practically directed toward punishment of the African leaders. A lot of crimes have been now committed around the world and these countries have gotten an immunity,” Osman said, specifically citing Israel and the United States.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA that for the United States, having Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attend the AU summit was a “controversy.” But she added that it did not seem controversial to many of the Africans at the meeting.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit in Johannesburg, Thomas-Greenfield said United States has supported efforts of the ICC, which issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest. She added that the United States has encouraged African countries and other nations that are signatores to the ICC to turn him over for prosecution.

Late Sunday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that while the U.S. is not a part of the International Criminal Court, it strongly supports efforts to hold accountable the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes.

“In light of the atrocities in Darfur, we call on the government of South Africa to support the international community’s efforts to provide justice for the victims of these heinous crimes,” Kirby said in a statement.

Caroline James, a lawyer from the Southern Africa Litigation Center that petitioned for the courts to force Bashir’s arrest, said many of the ICC’s cases came from requests by the nations involved.

“The other thing that is important to note is that although you can argue that the ICC is targeting African leaders, you can also argue that it is taking special efforts to ensure that African victims of human rights violations are given access to justice,” James said. “Because all of the situations in Africa that the ICC is investigating involve crimes committed against African citizens.”

The United Nations says fighting in the impoverished Darfur region has killed 300,000 people and created more than 2 million refugees. Most of the victims were civilians.

ICC President Sidiki Kaba said South Africa, which “has always contributed to the strengthening of the Court,” should “spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants.”

AU group photo

Despite calls for his arrest, Bashir took part in a group photo with other African leaders at the summit in Johannesburg on Sunday.

In a message posted on Twitter, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party said it was calling upon the government to challenge the order against Bashir. It says immunity was granted to all participants of the summit as part of the international norms for countries hosting such gatherings.

Bashir was sworn in earlier this month for another five-year presidential term.

He promised to fight corruption, improve the economy and bring relations with the West back to what he calls their “natural state.”

He also vowed to bring peace to three separate regions where armed groups are fighting to topple his government — Blue Nile, Darfur and Kordofan. The president repeated his offer of total amnesty to any armed rebel who joins peace talks.

Bashir has ruled Sudan for 25 years. The country has not only been battered by armed rebellion, but by international sanctions and the loss of oil revenue when South Sudan gained independence.

Bid by Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to Avoid Arrest is Tested in South Africa (NY Times)

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U.S. House Approves AGOA Extension

(Image courtesy: AAFA)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, June 12th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted in favor of approving a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Lawmakers from both parties supported the legislation during a vote held on Thursday, June 11th, but the Senate still needs to pass the House Bill before President Obama can sign it into law.

“Yesterday was truly a landmark day,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass, the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, in a statement. “Nearly 400 members of the House of Representatives voted to support extending AGOA.” She added: “This incredible bipartisan vote was the result of years of work.”

The campaign to extend the bill was led by a “combination of AGOA stakeholders that included African governments, the African Union, the African Diplomatic Corps, members of the U.S. and African private sectors, members of the African and U.S. civil society, countless members of the Diaspora as well as the Obama Administration — all of whom spoke to members of Congress about the significance of AGOA and its critical role in strengthening commercial and economic relations between the United States and the nations of Africa,” Bass said.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act was first approved in 2000 and is a trade program allowing eligible Sub-Saharan African countries to export duty free goods to the United States.

Interview with Dr. Gezahegne Bekele: AGOA Renewal in 2015

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In Ethiopia, Fight Against Child Labor Continues (Video)

(Image: Screenshot from VOA video)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

June 12, 2015

ADDIS ABABA — As countries observe World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, many children in developing countries below the age of 18 have to work to help their families or just to take care of themselves.

In Ethiopia many children are helping their parents on the land or roaming the streets trying to sell goods or shining shoes.

Alula Pankhurst, who has done years of research on the subject, said it’s culturally accepted for Ethiopian children to support their families. Pankhurst said this differs from kids who have to do worse forms of labor.

“Children get pushed into working due to the poverty in the household. But also when the household faces a shock with the death of family member, particularly the breadwinner,” he said.

A center on the outskirts of Addis Ababa was set up by the local organization Forum on Sustainable Child Empowerment. It takes in under-aged girls who have had to prostitute themselves for a living.

In Ethiopia’s capital city, they are less visible than the shoe shiners and more vulnerable than those children who are working to support their families.

Belaynesh, 17, came from a rural village and became a domestic worker in the capital city. But she decided to leave her job as a maid because her employer treated her badly.

“As a housemaid I didn’t like my job. Back then I had friends who were in the business of prostitution and they told me of the high income,” she explained. “So I quit my job and joined them.”

The Forum on Sustainable Child Empowerment makes sure the girls are taken care of and receive an education. They are also taught skills. Endalelgn, 18, just received her certificate, and now works in a barbershop – despite earning only a third of what she earned on the street. Endalelgn said she will never go back.

“There may be a lot of money involved in what we did but it was not healthy. Now we earn little money but life is good now. I do not want to return to what I did in the past,” she said.

Several Ethiopian organizations, though, said that working on rights issues is limited due to the country’s 2009 Civil Societies law, which makes it more difficult to improve conditions for those children caught up in child labor.

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New Data on Who Most Travels to Ethiopia

The survey shows that the bulk of international travellers (including Ethiopian diaspora) to Ethiopia are from the United States followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa and Kenya respectively. (M&G)

Mail & Guardian Africa

MORE than 96 million people are counted as Ethiopian, accounting for 1.3% of the total world population and making the country the 13th most-populated globally.

The country is also as diverse as it is populated, home to cross-cultural civilisations from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, giving it a rich heritage and enticing visitors from all over the world.

To further explore visitor behaviour into and within the country, hotel booking website Jovago recently surveyed Ethiopia’s travellers. Some of the findings are fascinating.

Read more »

Archaeologists Uncover Stunning Aksumite & Roman Artefacts in Ethiopia (The Guardian)

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As FIFA Scandal Unfolds Obama Urges Integrity in Soccer

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of the G-7 Summit in the Bavarian town of Kruen, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

June 08, 2015

President Barack Obama weighed in on the deepening corruption scandal involving world soccer’s governing body Monday, saying it was essential that the sport’s integrity be ensured.

U.S. prosecutors last month unveiled indictments that painted a picture of endemic corruption and bribery among some officials at FIFA, the Swiss-based organization that runs soccer tournaments around the world. That includes the quadrennial World Cup, by many accounts the most-watched sporting event in the world.

Speaking at a news conference in Germany, where he attended a meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, Obama offered his first public comments on the ongoing investigation and the problems afflicting FIFA.

People in Europe and elsewhere want FIFA to operate with “integrity, transparency and accountability,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question.

It’s important, he said, “to keep in mind that although football, soccer … is a game, but it’s also a massive business, a source of incredible national pride and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity.”

“The United States … we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner,” he said.

The indictments unsealed on May 27 in New York targeted 14 soccer executives and sport marketing officials, and revealed guilty pleas by four other executives.

Seismic changes

The charges rocked the soccer world and ultimately pushed FIFA’s chief, Sepp Blatter, to resign after he initially defied calls to leave. Blatter has not been charged. His resignation likely won’t take effect until at least December, the earliest date for a new FIFA election, according to Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee.

The indictments also detailed the process for the awarding of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

To gain the rights to host the tournament, the indictments allege, South Africa’s soccer federation allegedly funneled $10 million in bribes to Jack Warner, the former head of the regional soccer organization for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Warner was arrested at a hotel in Switzerland and released on bail. He has denied the charges.

The news has stoked speculation that the FIFA decisions awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, could also be reviewed.

In a report last week, Reuters, citing an unnamed U.S. law enforcement official, said the FBI’s investigation includes scrutiny of how the organization awarded those tournaments.

Swiss prosecutors have also said they were investigating the 2018 and 2022 bids. The decision on Qatar, a tiny desert country with no domestic tradition of soccer, was particularly criticized by soccer officials in Western countries.

A Swiss newspaper reported Scala as saying that Russia and Qatar could lose the right to host the tournaments if evidence is found of corruption in the bidding process.

“If evidence exists that Qatar and Russia received the [World Cup] awards only thanks to bribes, then the awards could be annulled,” he was quoted by Sonntagszeitung in a report published Sunday.

African Union Chair Dlamini-Zuma Implicated in Fifa World Cup Bribe Scandal (Mail & Guardian)
Fifa Corruption: Documents Show South Africa’s World Cup Bribe Payments (BBC News)
Gedion Zelalem to play for U.S. at FIFA Under-20 World Cup (Fox Soccer)

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Archaeologists Uncover Stunning Aksumite & Roman Artefacts in Ethiopia

The artefacts were discovered by a British archaeology team in Northern Ethiopia. (Photo: Graeme Laidlaw)

The Guardian

Dazzling jewels from an Ethiopian grave reveal 2,000-year-old link to Rome

Spectacular 2,000-year-old treasures from the Roman empire and the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled parts of north-east Africa for several centuries before 940AD, have been discovered by British archaeologists in northern Ethiopia.

Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, headed a major six-week excavation of the ancient city of Aksum where her team of 11 uncovered graves with “extraordinary” artefacts dating from the first and second centuries. They offer evidence that the Romans were trading there hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

Schofield told the Observer: “Every day we had shed-loads of treasure coming out of all the graves. I was blown away: I’d been confident we’d find something, but not on this scale.”

Read more at The Guardian »

Study: Ethiopian Fossils Indicate New Forerunner of Humans (AP)

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Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia

(Photos courtesy: Mandela Washington Fellowship)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Below are the names and biographies of the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

The fourteen fellows from Ethiopia, all under the age of 35, are part of 500 other promising young leaders from across Africa who are selected to attend top U.S. universities over the summer for a six-week academic and leadership institute in one of three areas: business and entrepreneurship; civic leadership; or public management.

According to YALI: “Immediately following the academic institutes, Mandela Washington Fellows convene in Washington, D.C. for a Summit. During the Summit, participants interact with President Barack Obama and other prominent U.S. government, business, and civic leaders. 100 Fellows will remain in the United States for an additional six to eight weeks after their academic institute and Summit to participate in internships in the public, private and non-profit sectors with organizations throughout the United States.”

Here are this year’s fellows from Ethiopia:

Helen Abelle Melesse

Helen Abelle has over five years’ experience in various fields of the legal sector. Currently, she is a researcher and trainer in the Southern Nations Nationalities and People Regional State Justice Organs Professionals Training and Legal Research Centre, where she focuses on conducting research and training on current legal, social, and human rights issues. Helen obtained a Master’s degree in Human Rights from Addis Ababa University, managed to get some of her research published, and is a volunteer for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and Ethiopian Human Rights Council. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work in the development of human rights protection and good governance in her community.

Abdela Alite

Abdela Alite has over seven years of experience in different departments of South Omo zone health department, first in drug supply and distribution expert for about a year, then as a quality control process coordinator for another two years. Currently he is head of the department, coordinating about 33 health centers, 247 health posts and one general hospital. He also volunteers in fund-raising activities for helpless children to continue education, as part of a local organization called Male Development Organization. Abdela holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Arbaminch. Upon completion of the Fellowship, Abdela wants to continue working on the education of maternal and child death and also on combating communicable diseases.

Hana Bekele Ayele

Hana has over 7 years’ experience in the area of disability, particularly in leadership positions and the teaching of basic computer skills for blind persons. At present, she is working as general manager in the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network, where she gives due attention to strengthening collaboration and creating a united voice among disability-based organizations. She volunteers in associations for women with disabilities, is board vice-chair and a member of the general assembly enabling her to give advice, design projects, and reflect the issues of persons with disabilities at different stages. She has certificate in Basic Computer Skills, a diploma in teaching English, and graduated from the Addis Ababa University with a first in sociology. After completing the Fellowship, she plans to share her experience with the disability community, and facilitate ways where persons with disabilities can access equal opportunities and participate in every sphere of society.

Hilina Berhanu Degefa

Hilina Berhanu Degefa has four years’ experience as a women’s rights advocate. She has been working in the area of human rights for women with a particular focus on grassroots advocacy, gender-based violence, and empowerment of women in educational institutions. She is co-founder of the Yellow Movement AAU and Women for Change in Ethiopia as well as youth-led organizations that promote women’s rights. She is responsible for having managed campaigns and run online activism in support of women’s rights, serves as the president of Women for Change in Ethiopia, and is also involved in the Sanitation for Education project. Hilina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Addis Ababa University, School of Law. Upon completion of the fellowship she plans to work on youth mentorship and expand the Sanitation for Education project by setting up sanitary booths and selling or giving sanitary pads for free all across Ethiopia.

Dagnachew Bogale Wakene (Dag)

Dag has been working for over nine years as an advocate, educator, and research consultant with a focus on disability rights and inclusive development. He holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and a Master’s of Philosophy majoring in Rehabilitation and Development Studies from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is currently the Africa Regional Coordinator at Disability Rights Promotion International, a project run by York University, Canada to establish a monitoring system that addresses disability discrimination globally. He’s also co-founder of ThisAbility Consulting, an initiative which aims to bridge existing gaps of participatory disability research in Africa. A childhood polio-survivor, Dag embraces an outstanding blend of lived experience and professional excellence in his fields of expertise. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he will continue his robust contributions to efforts of creating an inclusive society in Ethiopia and the continent.

Maji Hailemariam Debena

Maji is a social work and mental health professional with over five years’ experience working with different academic and research institutions. Her major areas of interest include mental health, poverty, migration, food security, and gender. As an educator and researcher, she is working with Hawassa University in Ethiopia and currently pursuing her PhD in Mental Health Epidemiology. Her doctoral dissertation combines an intervention and research on understanding barriers to equitable access to mental health care. In her undergraduate, she majored in Philosophy with a minor specialization in Sociology. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work. Her long-term career plans include initiating a regional research and training collaboration involving five East African countries. Upon return, she aspires to invest on equipping the next generation of social activists in Ethiopia.

Yordanos Jembere Dessalegn

Yordanos has over seven years’ experience working with coffee farmers’ cooperatives in different positions, particularly the export department. She established her own coffee exporting company, Coffee Culture Coffee Export PLC, where she is the manager. Yordanos also serves as a chairperson of women organized to support each other to address socio-economic problems. She volunteers at Give Hope Ethiopia, a charity helping orphaned and vulnerable children, youth, and women in Ethiopia to which 10% of her company’s revenue goes. She has long-term plans to be one of the top coffee exporters, with her own coffee farm and processing plant producing traceable and quality coffee, creating more jobs for others, mainly women. After the completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Yordanos plans to apply the knowledge and skills obtained from the opportunities she gains to improve her business and enhance the community she serves.

Meron Kassahun Asfaw

Meron Asfaw is an architect, lecturer, and researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) of Addis Ababa University. She is currently involved in research related to sustainable rural housing initiatives, Sustainable Rural Dwelling Unit (SRDU). In collaboration with her colleagues, she spearheaded the SRDU research and has been closely involved in it for the past four years as an author and point person for the management of documentation, publication, and design as well as construction tasks. She strongly believes that real change in rural areas will come when modern science and traditional knowledge learn from each other. Upon completing the Fellowship she plans to continue working on sustainable building practices that will enhance the livelihoods of farmers, particularly in Ethiopia but even more importantly across the African continent.

Dawud Mohammed Ali

Dawud has over six years’ experience in teaching, research, international relations, and community service. He is currently a lecturer and researcher at Samara University of Ethiopia, where he also serves as an executive director for the international and public relation affairs directorate of the university. He has been serving in different senior leadership positions of the university for many years and is the founder and president of a NGO called the Afar Development and Scholarship Fund which is dedicated to the advancement of education and development affairs in Afar state of Ethiopia. Dawud holds a Master’s degree in business administration from Andhra University in India, where he focused on international business and leadership aspects of management. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Dawud plans to continue serving his University and to work in promoting development and education to eradicate poverty focusing on activism for youth education and empowerment.

Balayneh Nekatibeb Begna

Balayneh holds Master’s degree in Development Studies from Addis Ababa University. For over 10 years, he has designed and managed a number of agricultural growth and economic development programs and projects with NGOs, donor agencies and the Ethiopian Government. He is currently working in Ethiopia as capacity development advisor to the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development of Canada. He volunteers as a board member for KMG Ethiopia, a community-based organization that helps thousands of rural women, girls, and marginalized communities to emancipate themselves from violence and discrimination. His experiences, beyond developing his skills and capacities in development management, have enlightened him to learn about business opportunities that can hugely benefit smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and beyond. He believes that the Mandela Washington Fellowship will help him acquire the skills, networks, and resources he needs to establish a socially viable, prototype Agribusiness Centre in Ethiopia on his return.

Israel Tibebu Taye

Israel Taye is young pan-African lawyer from Ethiopia, passionate about African renaissance, youth empowerment, sustainable development, and human rights. He aspires to fast-track youth participation in continental and international development initiatives and has over three years’ experience in various fields in the public management sector, in human rights in particular. Currently, he serves as a legal assistant for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under the African Union’s youth volunteer program. In this capacity, he focuses on issues relating to extractive industries and environmental rights, as well as other human rights violations in Africa. Israel holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and volunteers for community initiatives aimed at youth empowerment through life-skills development and career guidance. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to engage in youth empowerment and development forums both nationally and within the African Union system.

Marta Tsehay Sewasew

Marta Tsehay Sewasew has six years’ experience and involvement in several developmental programs on girl’s education, women economic empowerment, youth leadership, adolescent and youth reproductive health, and orphan and vulnerable children support projects. Currently, Marta is working for the Development Fund of Norway in Ethiopia as a program coordinator on the Girls Education and Youth Participation program, where she focuses on program design and development, management, monitoring, and evaluation. Further, Marta initiated a program called Mobile for Students Reproductive Health (M4SRH) for University students, which uses mobile technology to convey reproductive health messages. She also played an important role in the preparation of a national life-skills manual for students in Ethiopia. Marta has a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She plans to continue her effort on scaling up girl’s education and the M4SRH initiative on completion of Fellowship.

Ethiopia Wondimu Robi (Ethiopi)

Ethiopi has over three years’ experience in various fields in the real estate sector and works passionately towards introducing green buildings to Ethiopia, and developing a culture of sustainability within the real estate sector. Currently, she is the principal founding member and general manager of Olympus Real Estate P.L.C, a green company committed to developing eco-friendly homes. Ethiopia holds a Master of Science degree in Real Estate Management from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden where she focused on rapid urbanization and housing shortage in Africa while reflecting on the opportunities within the problem facing her country. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work in her real estate company with a focus on building green, and establishing a positive influence on her fellow professionals in the industry into becoming more environmentally consciously, ensuring a better future for all.

Hermella Wondimu Woldehana (Hermi)

Hermi has spent five years working with rural communities in Ethiopia focused on the provision of clean water and promotion of hygiene and sanitation. She is currently the general manager of Drop Of Water, the NGO she co-founded as a university student, and believes it is the honor and moral obligation of all university students to stand for the betterment of their community. Demonstrating the power of grass root volunteerism, Drop Of Water has provided clean water access to tens of thousands of rural communities in Ethiopia. Hermi has a degree in civil engineering from Mekelle University, and has completed training certifications on emergency water and sanitation and water safety plans. Through people working together, she believes the water crisis can be ended, and upon completion of the Fellowship plans to continue her work with volunteers with a focus on community leadership and fundraising.

Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

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Dangerous Myths Lure Ethiopian Migrants

An overcrowded detention centre in Sana’a, Yemen holds Ethiopian migrants making their way to Saudi Arabia seeking work opportunities (Photo by Anna Surinyach/MSF)

The Seattle Globalist

By Goorish Wibneh

Seattle has become one of the preferred destinations for Ethiopian immigrants. Some estimates say there are as many as ten thousand Ethiopians living in the Seattle area.

Talking to one of us Ethiopian Americans here in Seattle you might never realize how big the worldwide Ethiopian diaspora is or what people go through to find a new home.

“I see and hear stories of people coming here as refugees, through the [Diversity Visa Lottery],” Said Haile Kiros, an Ethiopian immigrant who’s lived in Seattle for about a year. “They find what they expected is different from the reality here… they decide to take their own lives.”

He says he’s heard many such sad stories.

“Some have sold their houses [to come to the U.S.], some are living with a lot of stress here, others have big problems with the language.”

The stress induced by culture shock is not to be underestimated. Even something as simple as maintaining eye contact while speaking — which is normal here but comes off as confrontational for many culturally inhibited Ethiopians — can complicate simple communication.

So with all these troubles, you might wonder why those with the resources to leave Ethiopia don’t invest in their home country instead.

According to one account told to an Al Jazeera reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopians look outside of their country for opportunities because “our families can’t give us money while we’re here. They only help when there’s a plan to leave, because they’re more certain that eventually [we’ll be able to] send the money back.”

Read more at The Seattle Globalist »

Adega 911: New Website Launched to Assist Ethiopian Migrants in Danger
Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis

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British TV Peers into Hamar Family Life

Stars of The Tribe include (centre) Kerri Bodo and husband Ayke Muko. (Photograph: Channel4)

Daily Mail


Channel Four has turned its cameras on an Ethiopian tribal family for its latest fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The Tribe follows the everyday lives of a rambunctious family of Hamar people in the south of the country.

The show uses fixed-rig cameras and tiny microphones installed in four huts and communal space belonging to the family of Ayke Muko, the outspoken patriarch and grandfather.

British viewers have recently been invited to eavesdrop on the lives of soldiers, midwives and teachers, but never before on a family quite like this.

Read more and watch video at Daily Mail »

‘Fly-on-wall’ TV show captures family life, Ethiopian style (The Guardian)

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Daily Life in Ethiopia – In Pictures

A girl is seen in a bakery. (Photo by Siegfried Modola)

The Guardian

Reuters photographer Siegfried Modola looks at life inside the capital Addis Ababa and the city of Harar. The East African nation, brimming with churches and mosques, coffee shops and markets, is home to nearly 100 million people.

Boys ride horses used to carry visitors for short rides. (Photo by Siegfried Modola)

People walk through a spice and vegetable market. (Photo by Siegfried Modola)

A waiter stands in a coffee shop. (Photo by Siegfried Modola)

See more photo at The Guardian »

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As Expected Ruling Party Claims Big Win in Early Ethiopia Election Results

As expected the ruling party in Ethiopia, EPRDF, is claiming big win in last Sunday's election. (AP Photograph)

VOA News

BY Marthe van der Wolf

Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Wins Big in Early Election Results

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Ethiopia’s ruling party won Sunday’s election with an overwhelming majority, according to preliminary results released by the country’s electoral commission.

The electoral board says the ruling EPRDF party and its allies have won all the parliamentary seats decided so far – 442 out of 547.

The Ethiopian Political Revolutionary Democratic Front won all of the seats in the capital city, Addis Ababa.

Final tally pending

Opposition parties only won a single parliamentary seat in the 2010 elections. It is not yet clear if they won more seats this time around, according to Merga Bekana of the electoral board.

“Regarding the remaining results, we have to wait. According to our timetable we have time to gather, to collect and then publish it according to our schedule. But I cannot actually tell you actually how many remaining seats will be occupied by opposition or ruling party,” said Merga.

Final results are expected on June 22.

Leaders of the two largest opposition parties, Blue Party and Medrek, could not be immediately reached to comment on the preliminary results. Both have accused the government of harassing and intimidating their supporters before and during the elections.

African Union observers judged the elections as calm, peaceful and credible but significantly, did not use the terms “free and fair.”

‘Continued restrictions’ concerning

The U.S. State Department commended Ethiopia for holding peaceful elections, but also said it is deeply concerned by “continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and view.”

Ethiopia’s National Electoral Board said an equal platform was created for all political parties, and the government has denied accusations of obstructing the opposition in any manner.

Merga said opposition parties should accept the reality, and said their accusations are baseless.

The new parliament will convene in October, and EPRDF already has said that if the party wins again, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn likely will be appointed to serve another five years in office.

The EPRDF has been in power since ousting the regime of former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. The preliminary results came out one day before Ethiopia officially celebrates the downfall of the former regime.

Statement From US State Dept on Ethiopia May 24th Elections (Press Release)
AU Observers Avoid Words ‘Free & Fair’ In Ethiopia Election Assessment (VOA)
African Observers Say Ethiopia Poll Credible, Opposition Cries Foul (Reuters)
No Suspense in Ethiopia Election Results (Photos)
Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Is Expected to Keep Grip on Power (NY Times)
Ethiopia Election Met With Silence From Ordinary Voters (VOA News)
Ethiopia’s Election: ‘Africa’s Largest Exercise of Political Theatre’ (The Guardian)
With Limited Independent Press, Ethiopians Left Voting in the Dark (CPJ)
Opponents Question Ethiopia’s Democracy (VOA)
Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

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In Ethiopia, ‘Are You a Journalist?’ Is a Loaded Question

A woman leaves after casting her vote at a polling station, as Ethiopia's national election kicks off in capital Addis Ababa, May 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

By Anita Powell

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Are you a journalist?” the young man asks me as we board the elevator.

In Ethiopia, this is a loaded question. It earned me an extra 45-minute wait at airport immigration as officials thumbed through my passport, pawed through my luggage and asked me what my intentions were.

Several international human rights groups have documented the systematic repression of Ethiopian journalists who were openly critical of the ruling party. About a dozen journalists and bloggers are in Ethiopian prison, accused of terrorism. Many more have fled into exile and are covering this year’s election from afar.

“Yes,” I sigh.

“I’m not happy with this election,” he blurts out. “There is no democracy in Ethiopia.”

Bold, I think admiringly. This is new – when I was assigned to Ethiopia eight years ago, in the aftermath of the government’s violent reaction to an opposition gains in the 2005 election, those sentiments were rarely spoken aloud – and certainly not to random journalists.

Is he trying to bait me? I wonder.

“Oh?” I say, cautiously. “Yes, I’ve heard people say that.”

I get off at my floor, rattled.

People take part in a Blue Party election rally in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, May 21, 2015. (Photo Reuters)

On the campaign trail, the nation’s newest opposition party winds its way through Addis Ababa. Crowds emerge to watch the procession.

“Please, I am journalist from America,” I say in Amharic at every stop, waving at my camera theatrically. “Do you have opinion on the election please? Will you give interview?”

No one volunteers. One man covers his face when he sees me filming the street. The guy next to him takes his phone out and points it in my direction. I remove my sunglasses and stare at him.

Opposition members say they’re confident of getting support at the polling booth. Blue Party spokesman Yonatan Tesfaye even predicts the various opposition parties will grab as many as 100 parliamentary seats, out of more than 500. This would indeed be a triumph: in 2010, the opposition won just a single seat.

One opposition candidate, Yidinakachaw Addis, tells me he was arrested while trying to take food to his imprisoned friends, also opposition supporters.

“I know it’s very difficult to participate in politics, especially in our country,” he says. “I know, even I will be in prison one day. So I am happy, even if I will join my friends in prison, I will be happy for that. I think I did something best for my country.”

Later, the internet has failed in my hotel room, sending me frantically down to the lobby to try to transmit a TV story on the opposition campaign.

Another young man on the elevator. I gesture to my laptop, explain in Amharic, “There is no internet in my house.” (I don’t know the word for hotel room.)

“It’s the government,” he responds, to my surprise. “There’s an election coming and they want to stop the internet.”

Overcome, I show him a snippet of my story. “If you don’t follow them and if you don’t join them and if you don’t do what they need, you can’t do what you need,” says Abdurahim Jemal Araya, a self-described political refugee living in South Africa. “And you need to follow them, each and every thing they are telling you, because there is no democracy at all in our country.”

The young man nods.

“That is my feeling too,” he says grimly.

A woman casts her vote at a polling station, as Ethiopia’s national election kicks off in capital Addis Ababa, May 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Election day starts before dawn. People line up at a typical Addis Ababa polling station. It is calm, orderly, polite. I go from station to station, and at all but one of them my election badge allows me easy access.

“What are you doing here?” asks a burly dude in a leather jacket at that one station.

I’m tempted to tell him I’m on vacation, and just thought it might be fun to, you know, drop by a polling station at 6 a.m. with a video camera. But more burly dudes come over. They tell me to wait, order me to point my camera at the ground.

Finally an election official comes out and scrutinizes my badge.

After a long wait, he tells me, “It’s okay, you are allowed.”

“I know,” I say tartly.

I have little trouble finding ruling party voters. They are, after all, the majority. But I approach voter after voter in an attempt to get a variety of views. Several actually run away from me.

The next day, I meet someone who knows one of the nine jailed bloggers and journalists. He asks not to be identified for fear of reprisal. He says he fears that talking to me so soon after the election could make things worse for the group.

I grill the poor man. “Is it possible,” I ask, “that any one of the nine could have links to actual groups trying to overthrow the Ethiopian government?” That’s the ostensible reason for their imprisonment. Could his friend, who he swears is innocent, have been accidentally pulled in over her head?

He shakes his head and notes that the prosecution hasn’t presented any evidence of terrorism.

“I think it’s a fear of the future rather than a crime of their past that they were arrested for,” he says, explaining that the longtime ruling EPRDF party fears reprisals if they ever lose power.

There’s no obvious sign of this repression he’s talking about. As we sit and talk in a cafe, we both look nervously at a succession of lone men who fill up the tables near us, studying their phones.

I later drop in to see a local business owner, who tells me that three of his workers called in to say they were too afraid to come to work. They refused, he says, to say more.

We talk about rampant rumors that the ruling party has won 100 percent of the vote this time, and I stress that only official results count.

He raises an eyebrow at me, as if to say, “Really?”

A boy sits outside a polling station, as Ethiopia’s national election kicks off in capital Addis Ababa, May 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

As journalists, we are limited to the attributed, the concrete, the verifiable, and the achievable. And so, my stories from this election show orderly polling stations, happy voters, and government supporters.

They also include mild endorsement from the only foreign observer mission, the African Union, which said the election was peaceful and credible, although they not use the words “free and fair.”

But my stories on this election are largely missing a silent, and silenced, group. I have no idea how big this group really is, as many won’t speak to me once the video camera or voice recorder come out.

Those who told me they didn’t bother to vote insisted that information was off the record. The blogger-journalist group tried to vote, the friend says, as they have not been convicted of anything and therefore are still eligible. But prison authorities told them there was no nearby polling station.

Opposition campaigner Ephraim Sahle Selassie says he believes that free expression is unstoppable, with the growth of technology and social media.

But for now, in Ethiopia, free expression is just a dream for the future.

WATCH: Anita Powell’s video report on Ethiopian election

As Expected Ruling Party Claims Big Win in Early Ethiopia Election Results (VOA)
Statement From US State Dept on Ethiopia May 24th Elections (Press Release)
AU Observers Avoid Words ‘Free & Fair’ In Ethiopia Election Assessment (VOA)
African Observers Say Ethiopia Poll Credible, Opposition Cries Foul (Reuters)
No Suspense in Ethiopia Election Results (Photos)
Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Is Expected to Keep Grip on Power (NY Times)
Ethiopia Election Met With Silence From Ordinary Voters (VOA News)
Ethiopia’s Election: ‘Africa’s Largest Exercise of Political Theatre’ (The Guardian)
With Limited Independent Press, Ethiopians Left Voting in the Dark (CPJ)
Opponents Question Ethiopia’s Democracy (VOA)
Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

AU Observers Avoid Words ‘Free & Fair’ In Ethiopia Election Assessment

African Union observers have declared Ethiopia's recent election "Calm, peaceful and credible," but they stayed away from using the words 'Free and Fair" to describe the national poll held on May 24, 2015. (VOA)

VOA News

By Anita Powell

AU Observers: Ethiopian Poll Was ‘Calm, Peaceful and Credible’

ADDIS ABABA— Calm, peaceful and credible: Those are three of the key words the African Union election observer mission used to describe Ethiopia’s national election, which is widely expected to produce yet another landslide for the nation’s longtime ruling party.

But “free and fair,” two critical adjectives, were missing from the assessment by the only foreign election observer mission present as tens of millions of Ethiopians voted Sunday.

“The AU Election Observers’ Mission concludes that the parliamentary elections were calm, peaceful and credible as it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls,” said mission head Hifikepunye Pohamba, a former Namibian president.

Pohamba said the mission did not hear any reports of major violence or problems on election day. But he said observers saw ruling party allies openly urging voters inside the polling station and some stations opened before the stipulated 6 a.m. start time. He added the dark canvas ballot boxes in many stations were insufficiently transparent.

When VOA asked if the election was fair, free and transparent, AU observer Chika Charles Aniekwe did not answer directly. “We want you be guided by our pronouncement. We do not want to pronounce on what we have not seen. So our judgement on the election is that it was peaceful, it was calm and credible. So we do not want to delve into all we have not pronounced,” said Aniekwe.

Preliminary results due soon

This is the first vote since the 2012 death of Meles Zenawi, who had led the nation since 1991, first as president, then as prime minister. Meles’ successor, former academic Hailemariam Desalegn, is widely expected to stay in charge as head of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Meles encountered an electoral roadblock in 2005, when an swell of support for the opposition overflowed into street protests. Government security forces opened fire on opposition supporters who accused officials of vote-rigging.

A public inquiry determined that 200 people were killed. Tens of thousands of opposition leaders and supporters were jailed.

The ruling party then won all but a single seat in parliament in the 2010 polls, though European Union observers criticized the ruling party for creating an unfair playing field for the opposition.

Before this election, the opposition accused the government of hindering their campaigns through arrests, harassment, intimidation and unequal access to funding. The government has denied the allegations.

AU observer chief Pohamba urged calm. “The AU Electoral Mission encourages political parties, candidates, their supporters and the electorate to maintain the prevailing atmosphere of peace that characterized pre-election and election day and urges for the use of the legal channels of complaints and appeals should there be any post-electoral disputes,” he said.

Ethiopia’s election board says it will soon release preliminary results. Final results are due June 22.

African Observers Say Ethiopia Poll Credible, Opposition Cries Foul (Reuters)
No Suspense in Ethiopia Election Results (Photos)
Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Is Expected to Keep Grip on Power (NY Times)
Ethiopia Election Met With Silence From Ordinary Voters (VOA News)
Ethiopia’s Election: ‘Africa’s Largest Exercise of Political Theatre’ (The Guardian)
With Limited Independent Press, Ethiopians Left Voting in the Dark (CPJ)
Opponents Question Ethiopia’s Democracy (VOA)
Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

The Plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel (BBC)

Israelis from the Ethiopian community protest in Haifa. (AFP/Getty Images)

BBC News

By Prof Yossi Mekelberg

The story of the immigration and absorption of Ethiopian Jews in Israel epitomises the best and the worst of Israeli society.

True to its Zionist dream of being a haven for Jews, the Jewish state embarked on risky and expensive rescue operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

These brought tens of thousands of Jews from remote parts of Ethiopia, who had suffered from religious persecution, famine and civil wars.

Yet, when they arrived in Israel, these distinctive people faced appalling discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships in Ethiopia and during their journey to Israel.

Moreover, this was exacerbated by a mixture of bureaucratic insensitivity and incompetence.

The uncharacteristic violence, seen recently during demonstrations by members of the Ethiopian community in Israel, was a direct result of years of accumulated frustration against the state and especially the police.

The unprovoked beating up by policemen of Demas Fekadeh, an Ethiopian Israeli soldier in uniform, could well serve as a much necessary wake-up call for Israeli society to change, quickly and radically, its treatment of the 130,000 Israeli citizens and their descendants who immigrated from Ethiopia.

Read more at BBC News »

As Ethiopian-Israeli Protests Continue, Where Do Women Fit In?
Netanyahu, President Rivlin Show Strong Support to Ethiopian Jews in Israel
Ethiopian-Israelis Demand Ministerial Committees to Help Community
A Message from Tebeka – Legal Aid & Advocacy for Ethiopian Israelis (Press Release)
Soldier Becomes Unlikely Face of Ethiopian-Israeli Discontent (Video)
Ethiopian-Israeli Protest in Tel Aviv Turns Unusually Violent (Raw Video)
Israel’s Ethiopians Protest in Jerusalem (The Associated Press)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Saving Coffee From Extinction

(Photo: Jenny Williams/RBG Kew)

BBC News

By Julian Siddle and Vibeke Venema

Two billion cups of coffee are drunk around the world every day and 25 million families rely on growing coffee for a living. Over the past 15 years, consumption of the drink has risen by 43% – but researchers are warning that the world’s most popular coffee, Arabica, is under threat…

“If we don’t do anything now and over the next 20 years, by end of the century, wild Arabica in Ethiopia could be extinct – that’s in the worst-case scenario,” says Dr Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew, who led the project.

The report made headlines around the world and spurred the industry into action. Since then, the team from Kew and their partners in Ethiopia have covered 25,000km in Ethiopia, visiting coffee producing areas to compare their predictions with what is happening in reality. “It’s important to see what’s happening on the ground, observing what influence climate change is having on coffee now, and talking to farmers. They can tell us what has happened, sometimes taking us back many decades, with several generations of farmers involved,” says Davis.

Read more at BBC News »

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With Limited Independent Press, Ethiopians Left Voting in the Dark

The author of the following article, Simegnish "Lily" Mengesha, is an Ethiopian journalist and media consultant who is currently a Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in DC. (Image: BBC video)


By Simegnish “Lily” Mengesha

On Sunday Ethiopians go to the polls in the country’s fifth general election since the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power more than 20 years ago. Citizens are expected to choose the right party to lead them for the next five years. To do so, they need to have a clear understanding of their country’s political, social, and economic situation. They need to know which parties have the candidates and policies best suited to their own hopes and aspirations. But in a country with limited independent media, many Ethiopians struggle to find the information needed to help them make informed decisions.

A number of human right reports showed 2014 as the most dangerous year for the Ethiopian press, with government attacks on the media starting a year before the election. It appeared that government forces were purposely clearing the media out of the way. Seventeen journalists are currently in prison, most of them facing terrorism charges, and more than 30 have been forced into exile, according to CPJ research. This makes Ethiopia the second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, after Eritrea.

Five independent magazines and one weekly newspaper were charged last year with publishing false information, inciting violence, and undermining public confidence in the government, according to CPJ research. The charges highlighted the narrowed media space, and led to the closure of several more outlets out of fear that they may face the same fate.

Ethiopia is the fourth most censored country in the world, according to CPJ. Besides state-run publications, only a handful of privately owned publications remain in the country and, according to a couple of Ethiopian journalists I spoke to, they operate under heavy self-censorship. Because of financial constraints caused by the paper and printing costs, nearly all independent publications circulate only in the capital, Addis Ababa. This leaves the majority of the population dependent on the state-run TV and radio stations.

Based on my own experiences, and that of fellow journalists in Ethiopia, who asked not to be named out of security concerns, journalists work in fear of the government’s reaction to what they say and write. They make sure no word they put down on paper and no word they speak will buy them a ticket to the prisons where their friends are held. Covering the election makes journalists feel even more unsafe. It exposes them to such levels of harassment that they even fear moving around the city alone, I was told.

Digital media is a new platform in Ethiopia. While Internet penetration remains under 2 per cent, according to Freedom House figures, the number of social media users has been growing rapidly. However, the arrest of the Zone 9 bloggers for their social media activity one year ago, served as a warning among the online community not to openly criticize the government, I was told.

Fear dominates not only journalists but also any citizen who is unhappy with the government and wishes to criticize its policies. After the 2005 election, which was comparatively open but, according to reports, ended with violence and killings, the government appears to have little tolerance for criticism. And, in the 2010 election five years later, that fear appeared to linger, with little reporting on anyone saying they planned to vote for the opposition. This will be a challenge for local and international journalists covering the election this weekend. It will not be easy to find anyone willing to admit publicly that they voted against the ruling party.

The African Union (AU) will be the only international body monitoring the election, according to reports. Its purpose is to observe, collect and analyze data from the lead-up to the election to the post-election period. In a statement, the AU said its observation will be in line with AU policy and other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that its observers will remain independent and objective.

However, according to journalists I spoke to, the sole presence of the AU does not make Ethiopia’s press feel protected. Most said they believe the AU or ambassadors will reflect only what the ruling party wants them to say. Others said they do not think they will be able to get fair and balanced comments, even from independent bodies.

The press plays an important role in the electoral process. It provides a platform for political parties and candidates to present their manifestos. The press also allows citizens to express their opinions and needs, so that they can be a part of any democratic process. When such a platform is denied, citizens are left out of the process. This is not democracy.

This is the malady from which Ethiopia suffers. People are deprived of any explanation of their country’s situation; their government expects them to feed only on what they are given through state media. This makes citizens into mere spectators to the “development” about which the government proudly preaches, instead of making them an integral part of the process.

Opponents Question Ethiopia’s Democracy (VOA)
Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia (Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Imperiling the Right to Vote in Ethiopia — RFK Human Rights Analysis

(Photo: BBC News)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Press Release — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Washington, D.C. — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights) released today a briefing paper documenting a range of human rights violations that have taken place in the context of Ethiopia’s upcoming parliamentary election, scheduled for May 24, and calls upon African Union (AU) election observers to both implement and follow a human rights based approach to their monitoring efforts. The briefing paper outlines severe restrictions to civic space – including the systematic suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association – in the lead up to the election that amount to a violation of the right to vote and the right to participate in government for all Ethiopians.

“The criminalization of dissent in Ethiopia is readily apparent,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of RFK Human Rights. “Regardless of the ultimate results on polling day, the electoral period has been severely compromised by a persistent crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, and opposition supporters who have dared to express views critical of the Ethiopian government.”

In the lead up to the election, the Ethiopian government routinely used the 2012 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (“Anti-terrorism law”) to prosecute human rights defenders, independent journalists and bloggers, and opposition supporters in violation of their right to freedom of expression, which effectively prevented the free flow of information to Ethiopian voters. Also in recent months, a series of crackdowns on the peaceful demonstrations of opposition supporters and civic activists have resulted in widespread violations of the right to freedom of assembly. Since its enactment in 2009, the Charities and Societies Proclamation (“CSO law”) has violated the right to freedom of association and decimated the ability of independent civil society in Ethiopia to carry out its legitimate work, including voter education activities, human rights reporting, and political advocacy, each of which are critical to ensure free debate.

“The rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association are fundamental to any democracy and critical to ensuring the meaningful fulfillment of the right to vote under international law,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “As the region and the world look to Ethiopia in the coming days and weeks, it is critical that the AU election observers document the undeniable link between the repression of civic space and Ethiopia’s international human rights obligation to respect the rights to vote and participate in government.”

The AU will be the only international body to monitor the May 24 election. The long-term observers arrived on April 19 and a larger delegation of observers landed in the capital Addis-Ababa on May 17. The AU election observers have a mandate to observe, collect, and analyze data in the lead up to the election, in line with AU and other international instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to technical requirements for elections, the AU observers must also take into account binding international law, which includes the right to vote and the right to participate in government.

Click here to read the full report »

Is Ethiopia About to Get More Than One Opposition MP? (BBC)
No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

2015 Ethiopia Election Preview (BBC)

The ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has been in power for a quarter of a century, is likely to win Sunday's elections. (Getty Images)

BBC News

The current parliament in Ethiopia has only one opposition representative. Could this all change when up to 36 million voters head for the polls this Sunday?

These will be the first elections since the death of the long-term Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012. His Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been in power for almost a quarter of a century, and faces no reasonable prospect of defeat.

Who is participating in the polls?

There are 57 political groups which have registered for the election. Many of them are organised along ethnic lines.

Apart from the EPRDF, some of the main contenders include the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum; a coalition popularly known as Medrek (the Forum); Unity For Democracy And Justice; and the Semayawi (Blue) Party, which was established in 2012, and has earned itself a reputation for organizing protest rallies and which draws support from young people.

Why have these elections caused controversy in the US?

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. (Getty Images)

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman has praised Ethiopia as a democracy, prompting outrage among human rights organisations.

Speaking during a press briefing in Addis Ababa in April, Ms Sherman said: “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible and open and inclusive in ways that Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy. Every time there is an election it gets better and better.”

In a joint letter, various groups, including Amnesty International USA, said that through her statement the US endorsed ”a government that systematically suppresses the fundamental rights of its citizens. Political pluralism and the ability of Ethiopians to freely express themselves, associate, and participate in peaceful assembly is far more restricted today than ten years ago under the same government.”

What happened in previous elections?

In 2005, 174 opposition politicians won seats in the 547-seat parliament, but many did not take them up after pronouncing the vote rigged.

In the 2010 polls, Girma Seifu, of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was the sole opponent to win, while the ruling EPRDF garnered 99.6% of all parliamentary seats. An independent candidate was also elected.

What do opposition parties say about these polls?
The fractured opposition groups have accused the government of harassing their members and carrying out illegal detentions ahead of the elections.

One politician, Yonathan Tesfaye, spokesman for the Blue Party, told journalists that some party members had been beaten, especially in the southern region.

Which outsiders are monitoring the polls?

The African Union has sent election monitors, but the European Union won’t be sending observers. The EU said it hasn’t been invited.

Read more at BBC News »

No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia (Aljazeera America)
Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever (VOA News)
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo: Cool Sighting at Walia in San Jose

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, pose for a photo with Walia restaurant staff in San Jose, California on Friday, May 15th, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, May 20th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — You may remember our highlight of Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO of Facebook, who was spotted enjoying a hearty Ethiopian dinner at Walia restaurant in San Jose, California last June. Zuckerberg, who had waited ten minutes to be seated, also took his time to pose for a photo with the Walia staff.

Last week Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City and his wife, Chirlane McCray, followed suit and posed for a photo in front of Walia’s now famous Red, Green and Yellow side-wall.

“A visit to the restaurant by such personalities is a testament to the popularity of Ethiopian food in the U.S.” The owner said. “Walia is blessed by attracting the Mayor of America’s big city and financial center of the world.”

You can learn more about Walia restaurant at www.waliaethiopian.com.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Ethiopian PM Faces His First Election Ever

Hailemariam Desalegn is seen during a visit to Khartoum, Sudan, March 23, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who assumed power in 2012 after the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has never had to participate in an election before.

He took over the office and the leadership of the ruling party, the EPRDF, after the death of Zenawi, who ruled the East African nation for 21 years.

Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Getachew Redda had already worked closely with Hailemariam when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. He described Ethiopia’s leader as dedicated and committed.

“The first achievement that Hailemariam has is as leader of EPRDF,” he said. “He presided over an organization, which many thought would be in crisis following the death of an important [figure] such as Meles Zenawi. So that by itself is an important achievement on his right.”

Ethiopia will be voting Sunday, May 24. It is widely expected that the ruling party — the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democracy Front — will win for the fifth consecutive time and that Hailemariam will continue in his current position.

Parliament member Girma Seifu of opposition party UDJ, Unity for Democracy and Justice, experienced both Meles and the current prime minister.

He said he was optimistic when Hailemariam assumed office.

“The very good reason that makes me optimist was his civil nature, because he was not in the fight with the Derg regime,” Girma said. “Rather he was a civil employee in the Derg regime. So that he has no negative attitude or any other revenge mentality.”

Meles came to power in 1991 after being part of the guerilla movement that overthrew the former Derg regime, a military junta led by Mengistu Hailemariam.

Desalegn was not part of the struggle. He trained as an engineer and worked as a university dean and administrator of the Southern Regions in Ethiopia before becoming a special adviser to Meles and then foreign minister in 2010.

He also comes from a small Southern ethnic group, the Wolayta. He is openly Protestant in a party with a communist background and in a country where most citizens are Orthodox or Muslim.

Despite his different background, opposition leader Girma said Hailemariam did not meet his expectations:

“In all matters, he didn’t make any change in the Ethiopian democratic process,” Girma said. “So he failed us.”

During pre-election weeks in Ethiopia, there are no large posters with the prime minister’s face around the capital city, Addis Ababa.

Political analyst Hallelujah Lulie of the Institute for Security Studies says that while Meles essentially led the government on his own, a collective leadership was put in place after Hailemariam was inaugurated in 2012.

Therefore he believes it is too early to clearly define what kind of leader the current prime minister is.

“Now I see Hailemariam as a person who is just finishing and serving another person’s term,” he said. “So if Hailemariam comes out, I think we should judge his legacy, his competence and accomplishments after the formation of the new government, after the election. Now I think his major priority, I believe, at this specific point is continuity.”

Ethiopia’s government policy is focused on an agricultural-led economic transformation aimed at lifting the country to middle-income status by 2025.

Special adviser Getachew said no major changes should be expected if the EPRDF rules for another five years. He said the current policies are working.

Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa after Nigeria. It is the seat of the African Union and is often applauded for its economic performance and military intervention against the militant group al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia.

At the same time, almost 30 percent of its citizens live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Program. And international organizations frequently criticize the government for repressing critical voices.

No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections (VOA)
As Ethiopia Votes, What’s ‘Free and Fair’ Got to Do With It? — The Washington Post
Wendy Sherman Says Editorial on US-Ethiopia ‘Mischaracterized My Remarks’ (The Washington Post)
The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

As Ethiopian-Israeli Protests Continue, Where Do Women Fit In?

(Getty Images)

The Forward

By Sarah Breger

On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv to protest police brutality and discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Two weeks ago, protests by Israel’s Ethiopian minority against police brutality and discrimination in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv drew international attention.

While the protests were sparked by a video of an Ethiopian soldier in uniform being attacked by police officers, the demonstrations also signify the frustrations of the 135,000-Ethiopian Jews currently living in Israel toward the pervasive discrimination and continuing segregation from Israeli society. Since then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the formation of a ministerial committee to investigate issues concerning Ethiopian Israelis.

The Sisterhood spoke with Dorit Roer-Strier, a professor at Hebrew University’s School of Social Work, about the current protests and specific barriers Ethiopian women face.

Read more at Forward.com »

Netanyahu, President Rivlin Show Strong Support to Ethiopian Jews in Israel
Ethiopian-Israelis Demand Ministerial Committees to Help Community
A Message from Tebeka – Legal Aid & Advocacy for Ethiopian Israelis (Press Release)
Soldier Becomes Unlikely Face of Ethiopian-Israeli Discontent (Video)
Ethiopian-Israeli Protest in Tel Aviv Turns Unusually Violent (Raw Video)
Israel’s Ethiopians Protest in Jerusalem (The Associated Press)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Eritirean Diplomat Defects to Ethiopia

Mohammed Idris, an Eritrean diplomat in Addis Ababa for the past five years, has defected to Ethiopia.



ADDIS ABABA — An Eritrean diplomat from the Red Sea state’s mission to the African Union is seeking asylum in Ethiopia, state-run media said, citing rights abuses at home.

Mohammed Idris, a member of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), had served with Eritrea’s diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa for the past five years, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) said in a report.

“A people that for a long time fought for justice and freedom are now being subjected to injustice,” Mohammed told the outlet on Tuesday. “This forced me to take this decision.”

Rights groups and critics accuse Eritrea of rights abuses, including imposing indefinite military service with poor pay. Many of those fleeing the country, which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war, say they are escaping conscription.

Eritrean officials could not immediately be reached to comment on the case of Idris. But the government in Asmara routinely denies charges of rights abuses and has in the past blamed lengthy military service on an unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia.

Read more at Reuters.com »

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Cop Who Beat Ethio-Israeli Soldier Fired

As Ethiopian Israeli activists are set to return to Tel Aviv, police chief says officer who attacked soldier may be indicted. (Times of IsraeL)

Times of IsraeL


Police officer caught on video beating Ethiopian-born soldier Damas Pakada will be fired and may face criminal charges, police chief Yohanan Danino announced Wednesday.

The news came as police geared up for fresh protests against police brutality in Tel Aviv planned for next week, after a previous protest sparked by a video of Pakada’s beating turned into a violent melee earlier this month.

Danino said the officer was fired following a dismissal hearing on Tuesday. “[The officer] made many claims, and there was a thorough discussion on this matter, which included the legal counsel, the department of discipline, the attorney general and the head of human resources,” he said during a conference in a northern Israeli college.

“After listening to everyone, I decided to fire him from the police force.”

The beating of Pakada was among the catalysts for Ethiopian-Israeli protests against police brutality and racism that turned violent in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this month. Activists have repeatedly called for the officer’s dismissal.

The police chief added that the officer’s layoff was independent of the criminal investigation he is currently facing.

“If [the police investigation unit] decides there is sufficient evidence, he will be indicted and will receive his punishment,” he said.

Read more and watch video at timesofisrael.com »

Ethiopian-Israelis Want Police Officer Who Beat Soldier To Go On Trial
Ethiopian-Israelis Demand Ministerial Committees to Help Community
A Message from Tebeka – Legal Aid & Advocacy for Ethiopian Israelis (Press Release)
Soldier Becomes Unlikely Face of Ethiopian-Israeli Discontent (Video)
Ethiopian-Israeli Protest in Tel Aviv Turns Unusually Violent (Raw Video)
Israel’s Ethiopians Protest in Jerusalem (The Associated Press)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Egypt: Ethiopians Rescued From Libya

Ethiopians holding an Egyptian national flag walk down from a plane at the Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Egypt, on May 7, 2015. (Photo: Xinhuanet)

Mail & Guardian Africa

Egypt’s Sisi Continues to Woo Addis Ababa, Says Ethiopians ‘rescued’ from Libya

Unlike his predecessors, the Egyptian leader has courted sub-Saharan Africa rather vigorously.

EGYPT’S president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said his country “rescued” 27 Ethiopians from war-torn Libya.

It was not immediately clear how the Ethiopians were rescued, but Sisi’s office said the group flown in on an Egyptian plane was “liberated by Egyptian and Libyan security services”.

“All efforts were made to bring the Ethiopians to Egypt safely… Egyptian services participated in this effort to protect, rescue and secure our Ethiopian brothers,” Sisi told reporters at Cairo airport.

Clearly, though, there was more to the rescue of the Ethiopians than a rescue.

Their release comes weeks after a purported video released by the Islamic State jihadist group showed the executions of some 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.

Sisi said Egypt was “pained by the gruesome beheading of innocent Ethiopians in Libya” and that the rescued Ethiopians were living in dire conditions in the war-strewn country.

“What is happening in Libya is a matter that concerns us and we tell the whole world that Libya should return to be a safe and stable country for its people and even to its visitors,” Sisi said.

Libya has plunged into chaos since the toppling of long-time autocrat Moamer Kadhafi, with rival militias fighting for the control of country’s oilfields and territories.

The killing of Ethiopians came weeks after the jihadists posted a similar video showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one of them Egyptians, on a beach in Libya.

Read more mgafrica.com »

Photos: New York Ethiopians Hold Vigil in Times Square for Victims of ISIL Violence (Tadias)
In Pictures: Washington, D.C Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims in Libya (Tadias)
Vigil Held in Nashville for Ethiopian Christians Killed by ISIS (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
In Atlanta Suburb of Clarkston, Georgia Christians, Muslims Honor ISIS Victims (WABE Radio)
Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

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A Stop at Tsion: Harlem’s Food Scene

Tsion Cafe in Harlem reflects the owner's Ethiopian Israeli background. (Photograph: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Liben Eabisa

Published: Thursday, May 7th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The thriving dining scene in Harlem will be in full display this month as local restaurateurs launch the first ever Harlem EatUp Festival in May highlighting the uptown neighborhood’s eclectic food taste along with music, art and cultural celebrations. So far celebrity chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson, Joseph “JJ” Johnson, Melba Wilson, and Frank Pellegrino Jr., have announced that they will take part in the festivities scheduled to take place from May 14th to May 17th.

As the food festival approaches, we made a stop at Tsion Cafe, one of Harlem’s newest establishments that serves Ethiopian and Israeli cuisine, and hosts spoken word sessions, book talks and art shows.

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

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US Air Force Says Looking for Alleged Deserter in Ethiopia for Questioning

Staff Sgt. Tefera Melaku Workneh is wanted for questioning by the U.S. Air Force. (Photo: OSI)

Air Force Times

By Jeff Schogol, Staff writer

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is looking for an alleged deserter whose last known location is in Ethiopia.

Staff Sgt. Tefera Melaku Workneh is wanted for questioning, according to an April post on OSI’s Facebook page. He is assigned to the 60th Comptroller Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California.

Workneh is described as standing 70 inches tall and weighing 149 pounds. He is originally from Ethiopia, where he was believed to be as of March 31.

According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a member of the armed forces is guilty of desertion if he:

  • “Without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently.
  • “Quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or

  • “Without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States.”

    Investigators have no information about Workneh’s current whereabouts, OSI spokeswoman Linda Card said.

    “My understanding is that Airman Workneh is from Ethiopia and that is his last known location,” Card said in an email to Air Force Times. “Where in Ethiopia, we don’t know. And what he’s doing there other than it’s his home, we don’t know.”

    Card also said she has not heard any information indicating that Workneh has gone missing or been kidnapped.

    “Nobody knows where he is or what he’s doing until we get some leads and find him,” she said.

    OSI asks that anyone with information about Workneh’s current whereabouts call 707-424-6904.

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  • Girma Yifrashewa’s Blend of European Piano and Ethiopian Music

    Ethiopian composer & pianist Girma Yifrashewa live at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland on July 30th, 2014. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

    The Washington Post

    By Michael J. West

    “There is no place in Ethiopia where Girma could do this!” an immigrant from Addis Ababa explained during Sunday night’s intermission at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. “People there don’t pay attenton to classical music. It’s all cultural, traditional music.” Pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa, then, is as unique in his homeland as he is in the United States: a man who has studied the European piano repertoire and has applied its devices to Ethiopian traditional music. At the club, he showcased both traditions in one of this year’s most mesmerizing concerts.

    Yifrashewa made headway in the States with the release of 2014’s “Love & Peace,” featuring five original compositions for solo piano. (NPR named one piece, “Sememen,” its song of the year for classical and jazz.) But with the exception of the opener, a somber new piece dedicated to the recent Ethiopian victims of the Islamic State, his first set on Sunday was all repertory. His choices, though, were very revealing: heavy on Chopin (who wrote three of the seven selections), with his static harmony and dense latticework, and nearly all waltzes, including Tchaikovsky’s “Autumn” and Liszt’s “Consolation No. 3,” as well as his own composition.

    This formed important context; waltz time (3/4 and 6/8) is very important in Ethiopian music, and Chopin, as became clear in the second half, is a major influence on Yifrashewa’s composing. They were also beautiful performances in their own right, Yifrashewa employing a tenderness of tone and light rhythmic touch that added heft to his more emphatic attack on pieces by Chopin and Schumann.

    Read more at The Washington Post »

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    ‘Straight Talk’ on South Africa Xenophobia

    Photo from South Africa. (Twitter)

    VOA News

    By Paul Sisco

    Xenophobia is defined as the unreasoned fear or hatred of foreigners. And that’s the name being given to a recent outbreak of violence against foreigners in South Africa – blamed for at least seven deaths and the departure of hundreds of mostly African immigrants. Paul Sisco has more from the most recent edition of VOA’s Straight Talk Africa.

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    Decision to Prosecute Baltimore Police Officers Sparks Celebrations (Video)

    Maryland State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announces charges against Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, May 1, 2015. (Photo: V. Macchi / VOA)

    VOA News

    Updated: May 02, 2015

    The decision to bring charges against six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray set off jubilant reactions across the city Friday, in stark contrast to Monday’s violence.

    Maryland state prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the officers would face charges ranging from second-degree murder to assault and manslaughter in Gray’s death.

    A large crowd in a festive mood marched through downtown early in the evening, passing lines of police officers at intersections and other officers on horseback. Armored National Guardsmen and police in riot gear waited some distance away.

    The line of mostly young, racially diverse marchers stretched for several blocks, making the demonstration one of Baltimore’s largest since Gray’s death. It moved quickly, punctuated by shouted chants and the honking horns of passing motorists’ vehicles.

    The procession began at Baltimore’s harbor and at one point passed the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues, where Monday’s violent protest largely took place. By dusk, the crowd had grown to more than 1,000 people. One marcher called the mood “joyous.”

    WATCH: Celebration Erupts in Baltimore After Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death

    Marchers eventually gathered at City Hall. As a 10 p.m. curfew approached, the mood was still jubilant.

    However, Baltimore police arrested a group of protesters who remained in a plaza near City Hall after the curfew took effect. Scuffles occurred, but the situation remained largely peaceful.

    The protesters who defied the curfew complained there was no longer a need for the curfew following the charges against the police officers were announced.

    Some observers said the police took a more aggressive posture Friday night with demonstrators than they had earlier in the week before the charges were announced.

    Elsewhere, hundreds of people rallied in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday afternoon in support of the Baltimore protesters, as well as in defense of protesters who were charged in a demonstration by the organization Black Lives Matter in December.

    In Chicago, parents took children to a demonstration to teach them how to them to react to police officers.

    In other cities, traditional May Day demonstrations were expected to be rededicated to support Black Lives Matter. May Day has traditionally been a day when the labor movement demonstrated for workers’ rights.

    More protests were expected Friday night.

    ‘Ecstatic’ about the charges

    Residents of the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland react to the State’s Attorney’s announcement ruling Freddie Gray’s death a homicide, May 1, 2015. (Photo: C. Simkins / VOA)

    Earlier in the day in Baltimore, at the location of Monday’s worst rioting, there were also horns honking and people in the streets cheering.

    Among those cheering was Keona, one of the citizens who videotaped Gray’s arrest. She said she was very pleased with the decision to charge the police officers.

    WATCH: Keona talks to VOA’s Victoria Macchi:

    “I am shocked that they were charged, but I am happy they were charged,” James Crump, 46, a medical technician, told the Associated Press. “People are happy and celebrating, and it’s not even New Year’s Eve.”

    Ciara Ford of Baltimore told AP she was surprised by the decision to prosecute the police suspects.

    “I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I hope this can restore some peace.”

    Ted Sutton, a community activist, was surprised by how quickly the decision to prosecute was made.

    “She took the time to critique the evidence,” he told AP, referring to the prosecutor. “To have each person charged with what they actually did, to have it come out this quick … this is something else.”

    However, not all Baltimore residents were satisfied with the charges.

    Renee Mikins, a Baltimore resident, told VOA that the charges should have been more severe. She said the charges were a “whitewashing” and that the officers should have been charged with first- and second-degree murder.

    VOA’s Chris Simkins and Victoria Macchi contributed to this report from Baltimore. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.

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    Meskerem DC Closes After 30 Years

    Meskerem was located at 2434 18th Street in Washington, D,C. since the mid-1980s. (Photo: Urban Turf)

    Tadias Magazine
    By Tadias Staff

    Published: Thursday, April 30th, 2015

    New York (TADIAS) — Meskerem, one of the first Ethiopian restaurants to open in the United States, has closed. The historic restaurant had been in operation for three decades in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

    According to the real estate company Redfin, the building that housed the long-running Ethiopian eatery was sold on April 16th for $1.7 million.

    The Washington Post’s Tim Carman notes: “The establishment had been holding down the same address on 18th Street NW since the mid-1980s (some say 1985, others say 1986) when its owners were among the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants who fled after a Marxist military junta overthrew the emperor in 1974. The East African newcomers quickly established a foothold in Adams Morgan, which was the unofficial Little Ethiopia long before savvy Ninth Street restaurateurs lobbied for the name in 2005.”

    The former Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C. (Photo: DC Urban Turf)

    Meskerem’s three floors interior was decorated with traditional Ethiopian symbols throughout the restaurant. (Photo: MRIS 2014)

    Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C. (Photograph: Brian Oh)

    Requiem for an Adams Morgan original: Meskerem has called it quits after 30 years. (The Washington Post)

    Meskerem’s closing signals the end of an era for Ethiopian dining (The Washington Post)

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    Ethiopia Drafts New Human Trafficking Law

    File photo of Ethiopian Migrants in Yemen, near the Saudi border. (Photograph courtesy BBC News)

    Associated Press


    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia is drafting a new law to stiffen punishments for human trafficking in an attempt to stem a wave of dangerous migrations to Europe, the Ministry of Justice said.

    Ethiopian officials said they are working through their embassies in Khartoum, Sudan, and in Cairo to bring migrants back home. The Ethiopian ambassador in Egypt, Mohammed Dirir, said more than 190 Ethiopian migrants in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi have so far registered to return home.

    “We are also working with local authorities to secure the release of 40 Ethiopian migrants that are currently in a prison called Koyfiya around Benghazi (Libya),” Dirir told state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

    Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom, told Parliament last week that most smugglers of Ethiopian migrants are Ethiopians. He said the smugglers have established networks in different migration routes.

    The Ministry said human smuggling is increasing alarmingly despite measure taken previously by the government against people involved in trafficking people.

    “The main reason for this is measures taken against individuals that are involved in human smuggling have not been severe enough,” Minister of Justice Getachew Ambaye told Fana. “We have established that smugglers are responsible for the current rise of migrants from the country.”

    Ethiopia’s current laws stipulate prison terms ranging from five to 20 years for crimes related to human smuggling and a maximum fine of $2,500.

    “These law provisions don’t go in line with the level of crime that is being committed by the smugglers so we are drafting a new law that will have severe terms,” Getachew said.

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    Vigil Held in Nashville for ISIS Victims

    The vigil was held on Sunday, April 26th, 2015 at the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. (WSMV)

    WSMV-TV Nashville

    By Cody Engdahl

    NASHVILLE, TN — Hundreds showed up at a vigil along the Cumberland River on Sunday to stand up for the Ethiopian Christians who were executed by ISIS radicals because they would not convert to Islam.

    Middle Tennessee has a large population of people of Ethiopian descent, many of whom still have family in Africa and in the Middle East, so for them, the threat is very real.

    “ISIS is the cruelest, the worst group that the humankind has ever seen,” said Tewodros Tashu, who grew up in Ethiopia.

    Tashu said he remembers a time when people loved each other as neighbors.

    “When I was a little boy, we never had any distinction between Muslims and Christians. We grew up together without any differences, but right now, what’s going on is division,” he said.

    Dary Hamz, who also grew up in Ethiopia, said the news of the killings was shocking to him.

    “As a Muslim, it’s totally against what we believe,” he said.

    Protesters said they hope that standing together here shows we can get past our differences.

    “The only way this will stop, in my opinion, is if the people from all sides come together without going to the extremes,” Tashu said.

    This was just one of many vigils held around the world. Ethiopia held three official days of mourning for the victims.

    Read more and watch video at WSMV.com »

    Photos: New York Ethiopians Hold Vigil in Times Square for Victims of ISIL Violence (Tadias)
    In Pictures: Washington, D.C Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims in Libya (Tadias)
    Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
    In Atlanta Suburb of Clarkston, Georgia Christians, Muslims Honor ISIS Victims (WABE Radio)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
    Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
    Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
    Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
    Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
    Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
    Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
    Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
    Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
    Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
    Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
    ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
    ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Skateboarding New Hobby for Addis’ Young

    Skating has become a way to escape trouble on the streets of the Ethiopian capital for many of Addis Ababa's young. (Photo: By Zacharias Abubeker/AFP)

    ABC Australia

    Swerving around potholes and speeding through chaotic traffic makes skateboarding the crowded streets of Ethiopia’s capital a risky game.

    Yet growing numbers of fans are taking up this once unknown sport in Addis Ababa and attracting the support of skateboarders worldwide.

    In the bustling market district of Shiro Meda, gangs of children rattle down the hills, flipping boards painted in the colours of Ethiopia – green, yellow and red – as they show off the latest tricks they have learnt.

    It is a tough area, and skateboarding offers moments of fun and escape for the young people living here.

    “There’s nothing for the kids in the neighbourhood, nothing to inspire them,” said Israel Dejene, founder of a local skateboarding group, who said he was inspired by watching children slide down the pavements with bits of plastic fixed to the bottom of their shoes for fun.

    “These skate sessions are the only positive thing they can do,” added Israel, who named his “Megabiskate” project after the Ethiopian word “megabi”, meaning someone who “gives life to others”.

    The group aims to use the sport to help the children, as “a tool to engage the kids, to develop self-esteem, confidence and an alternative lifestyle to the troubles” on the streets.

    “Skateboarding creates a positive community, it teaches them to teach each other tricks and promotes a good self-image,” added the dreadlocked Rastafarian musician, who discovered the sport during a visit to Sweden, where he was fascinated by “this board that seemed attached to the feet in the air”.

    The project has won international admirers: American professional skateboarders Tony Hawk and Nyjah Huston visited in February bringing with them dozens of boards.

    Their visit was excitedly reported on social media, putting the spotlight on Ethiopia’s small but growing community of skateboarders and inspiring still more to join.

    Read more »

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    Denver Ethiopians Mourn IS Killings in Libya

    Congregants of St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Denver, Colorado held a vigil for the more than 30 Ethiopian Christians who were shot and beheaded by Islamic State militants on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

    The Denver Post

    By Bruce Finley

    The beheading and shooting of 30 Ethiopian migrants by Islamic State fighters last week in Libya is tormenting metro Denver’s 30,000-strong Ethiopian-American community.

    Some say they couldn’t eat or sleep after watching horrific videos.

    On Saturday night, more than 500 gathered at St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church to mourn. They held candles, sang, wept and prayed before photos of the victims.

    “It is incomprehensible for our minds to understand how any human being could do such a thing to another. We stand together to mourn our brethren and pray for peace,” community spokesman Neb Asfaw said. “The terrorists will not break our spirit. We stand together with our faith strengthened by the courage our brothers showed.”

    Sefne Eshete Worku prays with fellow congregants at St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church honoring the 30 Ethiopian Christians were killed by ISIL in Libya on Saturday, April 25, 2015. (The Denver Post)

    A 29-minute video circulated last Sunday by the Islamic State showed dozens of militants holding separate groups of migrants captive in Libya. Islamic State operatives described the captives as “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church.” They were lined up and shot in a desert. A dozen were filmed as militants marched them along a beach before beheading them. Images of bloody severed heads appeared on Internet videos. Some videos now have been removed from websites.

    Read more at The Denver Post »

    Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims to be Held in NY & Photos From DC (Tadias)
    Vigil Held in Nashville for Ethiopian Christians Killed by ISIS (WSMV-TV Nashville)
    In Atlanta Suburb of Clarkston, Georgia Christians, Muslims Honor ISIS Victims (WABE Radio)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
    Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
    Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
    Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
    Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
    Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
    Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
    Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
    Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
    Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
    Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
    ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
    ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    In Atlanta Suburb of Clarkston, Georgia Christians, Muslims Honor ISIS Victims

    Hundreds came out to honor Ethiopians killed by ISIS in Libya on Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 in In Atlanta suburb of Clarkston, Georgia. (Photo: Alison Guillory)

    WABE Atlanta Radio

    Alison Guillory

    Thursday night, the Ethiopian community held a candlelight vigil in Clarkston, Georgia. The event was in remembrance of Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS in Libya over the weekend.

    Safi Ahmed is Muslim. He’s speaking to the crowd of 200 to 300 people gathered for the vigil. You don’t have to understand Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, to hear the passion in his voice.

    Afterwards, he loosely translated his words.

    “I was mentioning the way they [were] killed,” he said. “I also mentioned Libya and also, finally, I mentioned South Africa.”

    Ahmed is talking about recent violence toward immigrants in South Africa which resulted in several deaths. That bothers a lot of people here — as much as the Libya killings.

    But they’re also bothered by the stereotype that Christians and Muslims can’t live harmoniously.

    Abdella Ahmed is also Muslim. He says ISIS, or the self-named “Islamic State,” has hijacked his faith.

    “Islam is not about killing,” he says. “It’s about loving, and in Ethiopia for centuries, 3,000 years before, we’ve been living together side by side with our Christian brothers and sisters.”

    Solomon Gizaw agrees. He’s a Christian, and he chairs the board of the Ethiopian Community Association in Atlanta. Gizaw says in Ethiopians of different faiths do more than just tolerate each other.

    “For instance, if somebody’s going to give his daughter in marriage for another person, and he happens to be a Muslim, he prepares a special dish for Christians coming to that feast,” he says. “And vice-versa.”

    That kind of mutual respect seems to exist in Clarkston, a small city in DeKalb County where refugees from all over the world have resettled.

    “If Clarkston can do it, where you have so many different Muslim faiths, from 10 different countries, and you have Ethiopians that have Muslims and Christians, and all these other faiths and here we are able to co-exist in one square mile,” says Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. “That gives me a little bit of hope for the future.”

    Despite religious differences, Clarkston’s Ethiopian community is embracing each other as one big family during this time of grief.

    Click here to listen to broadcast version of this story »

    Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims to be Held in NY & Photos From DC (Tadias)
    Vigil Held in Nashville for Ethiopian Christians Killed by ISIS (WSMV-TV Nashville)
    Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
    Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
    Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
    Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
    Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
    Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
    Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
    Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
    Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
    Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
    Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
    ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
    ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

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    As Injera Goes Global, Teff Gets Expensive

    Injera being made at Mama Fresh, Ethiopia’s large-scale producer of teff products. (Photo: James Jeffrey)

    Aljazeera America

    By James Jeffrey

    Six days a week, an Ethiopian Airlines flight departs for Washington, D.C., with a fresh batch of 3,000 injera on board…Outside Ethiopian diaspora communities — and Ethiopian restaurants — teff remained largely anonymous for decades. But growing appetites for traditional crops and nutritious foods mean customers ranging from families to hipsters in New York and London are now seeking their fix too. The crop is now grown in about 25 U.S. states, but Ethiopians claim you can’t beat teff grown in its homeland for flavor and quality.

    Previously heralded so-called superfoods, however, such as Andean quinoa, have illustrated hidden consequences for locals when their indigenous staples find eager customers in more affluent countries. Even before the growth in international demand, poor Ethiopians were struggling to afford increasingly expensive teff.

    “A piece of injera used to cost about 50 santeem ($0.02), but now it’s nearly four Ethiopian birr ($0.19),” said Nathaniel, the manager of a hotel in the eastern Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. It’s estimated that 29 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

    Nathaniel said that the tables on the hotel terrace lacked lunch patrons because people can’t afford to eat out and that many locals, faced with low incomes and high food prices, skip breakfast each day and eat only a midmorning snack followed by an injera-based meal later in the afternoon

    Read more at America.Aljazeera.com »

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    The Gatekeepers of Ethiopia’s Forests

    (Photo: ©Raïsa Mirz)

    Africa Geographic Magazine

    By Lori Robinson

    24 April 2015

    In the highlands of Ethiopia, American scientist Meg Lowman is working with local forest ecologist Alemayehu Wassie to protect ancient church forests.

    As in many developing countries, much of Ethiopia’s original forests have been cleared for subsistence agriculture and for harvesting timber and firewood, diminishing northern Ethiopia’s forest cover from 45% of its territory in the early 20th century to less than 5 percent today.

    A large portion of the remaining forests is concentrated in the northern part of the country, especially in the Lake Tana area. There, bright-green patches of trees surround 3,500 Orthodox Tewahido Churches – a consequence of the Church’s belief in maintaining a woodland home for all God’s creatures around the place of worship.

    The forests are said to be necklaces around the church, and the tree canopy is believed to prevent prayers from being lost to the sky. According to the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, an estimated five to ten percent of wild lands across the globe are currently held by religious organisations.

    Ranging in size from five acres to more than 1,000, some of Ethiopia’s church forests are more than 1,500 years old. All are remnants of the country’s Afromontane forests, are cooler and more humid than the surrounding lowlands, and many have fresh water springs. These church forests have become the centerpiece in the struggle to conserve what remains of northern Ethiopia’s biodiversity.

    “They are native seed banks for the future of that landscape,” says Dr. Wassie.

    Read more and see photos at magazine.africageographic.com »

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    Zone 9 Bloggers Mark One Year in Prison

    The founding members of Zone9 blogging collective. This photo was taken right after they had participated in digital security training in Ethiopia in December, 2012. (Credit: Endalk.chala)


    By Kerry Paterson/CPJ Africa Research Associate

    It will be one year this weekend since six bloggers were arrested in Addis Ababa, just days after the group announced on Facebook that their Zone 9 blog would resume publishing after seven months of inactivity. As the anniversary of the arrests approaches on Saturday, Soleyana S. Gebremichale, one of the Zone 9 founders who was charged in absentia, told me the situation was not hopeless.

    “International advocacy is important not only to pressure the Ethiopian government but also to show solidarity for people in prison,” Soleyana, who is currently based in Washington, D.C., said. “The words and support that we show them are their strength in prison.”

    The six Zone 9 bloggers, arrested along with three journalists not connected to the blog, were held in detention until mid-July when a court in Addis Ababa charged all those being held, and Soleyana, with terrorism. Working with human rights organizations and participating in an email encryption training session were among the activities that led to the charges, according to reports. Their charge sheet, translated into English from Amharic, can be found here in full.

    The Zone 9 bloggers–Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Berhane, Natnail Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kibret, and Abel Wabella–and three journalists–Edom Kassaye, Tesfalem Waldyes, and Asmamaw Hailegeorgis–have now spent a full year in prison.

    Among them is a lawyer and lecturer, an economist, and an IT specialist. One of them is a data expert in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, another is an engineer for Ethiopian Airlines. They are writers, advocates, and activists, but the Zone 9 bloggers are not terrorists.

    According to reports, these young professionals from a range of backgrounds were united by a desire for a more just, transparent, and democratic Ethiopia. The Zone 9 bloggers used their blog, which is still running, as a platform to write about social justice, democracy, and human rights. They spoke out about censorship and challenged corruption.

    “Zone 9 existed because we had a hope that we could contribute for the public discourse,” Soleyana told me.

    The trial has been adjourned 26 times, most recently on April 8, according to a site that tracks its progress. The proceedings are scheduled to resume on May 26.

    Read more at cpj.org »

    Ethiopian bloggers on trial in case seen as crackdown on free expression (Washington Post)
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    Crackdown on Media & Opposition Costs Ethiopia Development Aid Money
    As Election Nears, Increased Focus on the State of Media in Ethiopia

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths

    Relatives of the victims attended a rally at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

    The New York Times

    By Jacey Fortin

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — In a downtrodden neighborhood called Cherkos, not far from the headquarters of the African Union, an olive-green tent stands as a tangible symbol of this nation’s grief.

    Two bereft families have gathered under its shade to mourn the loss of Eyasu Yikunoamlak and Balcha Belete, Ethiopian migrants who were killed in Libya by militants claiming to represent the Islamic State.

    “Eyasu was a good person who just wanted to make money to help our mother, who is very sick,” said the victim’s brother, Seyoum Yikunoamlak, as women in black scarves wailed around him. “He was a follower of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and that is why they slaughtered him.”

    Mr. Seyoum said he had helped his brother pay $4,400 to a smuggler for an illegal journey to Italy. But on Sunday, a video surfaced online revealing that his brother was among about 30 people who appeared to have been shot or beheaded by masked militants in Libya. The Ethiopian government is trying to determine how many were Ethiopian citizens.

    The killings are the latest warning to Ethiopians seeking passage to foreign countries for economic opportunity.

    People trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea risk drowning en route, as happened just days ago when a boat carrying hundreds capsized off the Libyan coast.

    Ethiopians traveling to the Middle East for work have faced mistreatment, mass deportations or, as in Yemen, outbreaks of war.

    Immigrants to South Africa have endured a surge of xenophobic attacks this month.

    Read more at The New York Times »

    Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims to be Held in NY & Photos From DC (Tadias)
    Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
    Ethiopian Mass Protest Against IS Killings (BBC News)
    Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
    Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
    Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
    Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
    Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
    Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
    Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
    Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
    Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
    ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
    ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Ethiopian Mass Protest Against IS Killings

    Police fired rounds of tear gas at some towards the end of a demonstration in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, AFP reports. (Photo: Reuters)

    BBC News

    22 April 2015

    Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have attended a rally in the capital, Addis Ababa, condemning the murders of Ethiopians by Islamic State militants.

    More than 20 migrant workers – most thought to be Ethiopian Christians – were killed by the Libyan branch of IS.

    It released videos on Sunday of some of the men being beheaded and others shot.

    Ethiopia’s prime minister warned the protesters about the dangers of illegal immigration and described the killings as “Satanic”.

    IS and other jihadist groups are active in many towns in Libya, which has been torn by civil conflict since last year – and has been unstable since long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

    Read more at BBC News »

    Protest Held in Ethiopia Over Killings by Islamic Extremists (AP)

    Relatives and friends mourn for the Ethiopians who were held captive in Libya and killed by the Islamic State group, in the poor Cherkos neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP)

    Associated Press


    ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Hundreds of Ethiopians in Addis Ababa on Tuesday protested the killings of dozens of Ethiopian Christians by Islamic extremists in Libya as parliament weighed a response to the killings.

    The killings have roiled this predominantly Christian country in East Africa. Hundreds of protesters departed from the homes of two of the victims and tried to reach Meskel Square, the Ethiopian capital’s main gathering place, but police blocked them. They also tried to go to the Parliament but were blocked again.

    Most of the dozens of Ethiopians shot or beheaded by the extremists linked to the so-called Islamic State were migrants. Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told lawmakers that the government will take “all necessary action” to protect citizens and will start repatriating those who wish to come home. He said most of the human traffickers of Ethiopian migrants are themselves Ethiopians.

    Some here believe many other Ethiopians are still being held captive in Libya, which has recently become a major transit point for Africans hoping to use a boat to reach Europe — a dangerous journey in which increasingly many migrants are killed at sea.

    After the Islamic State video showing the Ethiopian victims was released on Sunday, some here recognized the faces of two men who left an Addis Ababa slum two months ago hoping to reach Europe.

    Relatives and friends who spoke during a wake for the men, Eyasu Yikunoamlak and Balcha Belete, said they are believed to have traveled via Sudan and then Libya, where they fell into the hands of the militants who slaughtered them.

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

    Although Ethiopian lawmakers on Tuesday were debating a possible response to the killings, it remains unclear if military action is an option.
    Candlelight Vigil for Ethiopian ISIL Victims to be Held in NY & Photos From DC (Tadias)
    Denver’s Ethiopian Community Mourns Countrymen Killed by Islamic State (The Denver Post)
    Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
    Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
    Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
    Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
    Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
    Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
    Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
    Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
    Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
    Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
    Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
    ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
    ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.