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In an Open Letter Ethiopia Blasts Biden’s Failing East Africa Foreign Policy

In an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blasted America's obviously failing East Africa foreign policy. The letter shared on social media comes on the same day as Biden's Executive Order issued on Friday, September 17th concerning the domestic political conflict in Ethiopia. You can read both documents below. (Photo via Twitter)

Press Release

By Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

September 17, 2021

An Open Letter to President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this open letter to you, it comes at a time when innocent civilians including women, children and other vulnerable groups in the Afar and Amhara regions have been violently displaced, their livelihoods disrupted, their family members killed, and their properties as well as service giving institutions destroyed intentionally by TPLF.

This letter comes at a time when our children in the Tigray region are being used as cannon fodder by remnants of an organization recently designated as ‘terrorist’ by our House of People’s Representatives. Children of a post-war generation that have held high hopes in the possibility that their lives would be distinctly different from that of their parents, whose lives have been marred by the terror of war with the DERG regime and a cross border conflict with Eritrea in the late 1990s instigated by the TPLF.

As the rest of their peers in the country pursue their studies and lives, our children of Tigray have been held hostage by a terrorist organization that attacked the State on November 3, 2020 exposing them to various vulnerabilities. While the use of children as soldiers and participation in active combat is a violation of international law, the terrorist organization TPLF has proceeded unabated in waging its aggression through the use of children and other civilians. The cries of women and children in the Amhara and Afar regions that are displaced and suffering at the hands of TPLF’s enduring ruthlessness continues under the deafening silence of the international community.

Unfortunately, while the entire world has turned its eyes onto Ethiopia and the Government for all the wrong reasons, it has failed to openly and sternly reprimand the terrorist group in the same manner it has been chastising my Government. The many efforts the Ethiopian Government has undertaken to stabilize the region and address humanitarian needs amidst a hostile environment created by the TPLF have been continuously misrepresented. The mounting and undue pressure on a developing African country, with limitless potential for prosperity, has been building up over the past months. This unwarranted pressure, characterized by double standards, has been rooted in an orchestrated distortion of events and facts on the ground as it pertains to Ethiopia’s rule of law operations in the Tigray region. As a long-time friend, strategic ally and partner in security, the United States’ recent policy against my country comes not only as a surprise to our proud nation, but evidently surpasses humanitarian concerns.

For almost three decades, Ethiopians in all corners have been subjected to pervasive human rights, civil and political rights violations under TPLF’s regime. Various identities under the Ethiopian flag were exploited by a small clique that appropriated power to benefit its small circle at the expense of millions, including the impoverished of the Tigray region. The suppression of political dissent, egregious human rights violations, displacements, suffocation of democratic rights and capture of State machinery and institutions for the aggrandizement of a small group that ran a country of millions with no accountability for 27 years has been met with little to no resistance by various Western nations, including the US.

The period 2015-2018 that marked Ethiopia’s awakening where the TPLF was deposed from power in a popular uprising, is telling of the stance that millions throughout this great country took against a criminal enterprise that subjugated Ethiopians to oppression and stripped citizens of agency. TPLF’s track record of pitting one ethnic group against the other for its own political survival did not end in 2018 when my administration took over the helms of power. It rather mutated and intensified in form, putting on the robe of victimhood, while financing elements of instability throughout the country.

Now, the destructive criminal clique, adept at propaganda and spinning international human rights and democracy machinations to its favor, cries wolf while it leaves no stone unturned in its mission to destroy a nation of more than a 3000-year history. Although this hallucination will not come to pass, history will record that the orchestrated turbulent period Ethiopia is going through at the moment is being justified by some Western policy makers and global institutions under the guise of humanitarian assistance and advancing democracy.

In a demonstration of my people’s aspiration to democratize and unprecedented in Ethiopia’s modern history, close to 40million of my country folk went out to vote on June 21, 2021 in this country’s first attempt at a free and fair election. In spite of the many challenges and shortcomings the 6th National Election may have been faced with, the resolute determination of the Ethiopian people for the democratic process was displayed in their commitment to a peaceful electoral period. Against the backdrop of previous electoral periods in which the choice of the people was snatched through rigged processes by the former regime, the 2021 elections came on the heels of the democratic reforms processes we embarked upon three years ago. The significance of our 2021 elections is in its peaceful conclusion, demonstrating Ethiopia’s new trajectory amidst the global warnings that the elections would be violent.

With the Ethiopian people having spoken and affirmed their faith in Prosperity Party to lead them through the next five years in a landslide victory, my Party and administration with this responsibility at hand, are ever more determined to unleash the potential for equitable development these lands are blessed with. We are even more resolute in granting our people the dignity, security and development they deserve within the means we have and without succumbing to various competing interests and pressures. And we will do this by confronting the threats to democracy and stability posed by any belligerent criminal enterprise.

While threats to national, regional and global security continue to be a key component of US interests in many parts of the world, it remains unanswered why your administration has not taken a strong position against the TPLF – the very organization the US Homeland Security categorized as qualifying as Tier 3 terrorist organization for their violent activities in the 1980s.

In the same manner that your predecessors led the global ‘war on terror’, my administration supported by the millions of Ethiopians thirsty and hungry for their right to peace, development and prosperity, are also leading our national ‘war on terror’ against a destructive criminal enterprise, which poses a threat to both national and Horn region stability. Ethiopia has remained the US’s staunch ally in fighting the terrorism threat of Al Shabab in the Horn. It is our expectation that the US would stand by Ethiopia as a similar terrorist organization with hostility towards the region threatens to destabilize the Horn.

Mr. President,

The American people that have supported the US government’s global interventions under the pretext of democratization would be hard-pressed to know that a small impoverished but culturally, historically and naturally rich nation in East Africa embarked on its own democratization path three years ago. However, the American people and the rest of the Western world are being misguided by the reports, narratives and data distortions of global entities many believe were driven to help impoverished countries like mine, yet have in the past months portrayed victims as oppressors and oppressors as victims through partisan narratives and bankrolled networks. History always smiles upon those who have stood for truth. And so, I am certain that truth will shine upon this proud nation Ethiopia!

Many Ethiopians and Africans looked with optimism at your ascent to the Presidency earlier this year. This optimism has been rooted in the belief that a new dispensation for Africa – US relations will materialize in 2021, and that your Presidency would usher in respect for the sovereignty of African nations and nurture partnerships based on mutual growth and in depth reading of context.

African nations that have broken free from the shackles of colonialism starting from the 1950s have continued to resist the chains of neocolonialism that is manifesting itself in various overt and covert ways. Despite escaping the yokes of colonialism, Ethiopia now struggles with its mutation. As a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization for African Unity (now African Union), Ethiopia remains a proud nation that through its sons, daughters and kinship with other African nations, is determined to meet our current challenges with the resilient and indomitable spirit that defines this great nation.

Developing nations, like Ethiopia, have been expectant that a new course in the US’s foreign policy will be charted, departing from the influence of individuals that have entrenched themselves into the politics of other nations. A foreign policy that can extricate itself from decisions made based on key policymakers and policy influencer’s friendships with belligerent terrorist groups like the TPLF and the narrative distortions of lobby groups. We have seen the consequences and aftermaths of hurried and rash decisions made by various US administrations that have left many global populations in more desolate conditions than the intervention attempted to rectify.

It is essential to point out here that Ethiopia will not succumb to consequences of pressure engineered by disgruntled individuals for whom consolidating power is more important than the well-being of millions. Our identity as Ethiopians and our identity as Africans will not let this come to pass. The humiliation our ancestors have faced throughout the continent for centuries will not be resuscitated in these lands upon which the green, gold and red colors of independence have inspired many to successfully struggle for their freedom!

God bless Ethiopia and its people!

September 17, 2021

Related:

Press Release

The White House

Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate related to the Executive Order on Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons With Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021

Dear Madam Speaker: (Dear Madam President:)

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby report that I have issued an Executive Order addressing the situation in and in relation to northern Ethiopia, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region. The widespread humanitarian crisis precipitated by the violent conflict in northern Ethiopia has left millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance and has placed an entire region on the brink of famine.

I have declared a national emergency to deal with the threat posed by this crisis and authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for or complicit in, or who have directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Ethiopia, or that have the purpose or effect of extending or expanding the crisis in northern Ethiopia or obstructing a ceasefire or a peace process; corruption or serious human rights violations; blocking the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian supplies; targeting civilians; planning, directing, or committing attacks against United Nations, African Union, or associated personnel; or actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ethiopia or its territorial integrity.

I am enclosing a copy of the Executive Order I have issued.

Sincerely,

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

—-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The White House

September 17, 2021

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on the Executive Order Regarding the Crisis in Ethiopia

The ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia is a tragedy causing immense human suffering and threatens the unity of the Ethiopian state. Nearly one million people are living in famine-like conditions, and millions more face acute food insecurity as a direct consequence of the violence. Humanitarian workers have been blocked, harassed, and killed. I am appalled by the reports of mass murder, rape, and other sexual violence to terrorize civilian populations.

The United States is determined to push for a peaceful resolution of this conflict, and we will provide full support to those leading mediation efforts, including the African Union High Representative for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo. We fully agree with United Nations and African Union leaders: there is no military solution to this crisis.

I join leaders from across Africa and around the world in urging the parties to the conflict to halt their military campaigns respect human rights, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and come to the negotiating table without preconditions. Eritrean forces must withdraw from Ethiopia. A different path is possible but leaders must make the choice to pursue it.

My Administration will continue to press for a negotiated ceasefire, an end to abuses of innocent civilians, and humanitarian access to those in need. The Executive Order I signed today establishes a new sanctions regime that will allow us to target those responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict in Ethiopia, obstructing humanitarian access, or preventing a ceasefire. It provides the Department of the Treasury with the necessary authority to hold accountable those in the Government of Ethiopia, Government of Eritrea, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and Amhara regional government, among others, that continue to pursue conflict over negotiations to the detriment of the Ethiopian people.

The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia and to strengthening the historic ties between our countries.

These sanctions are not directed at the people of Ethiopia or Eritrea, but rather the individuals and entities perpetrating the violence and driving a humanitarian disaster We provide Ethiopia with more humanitarian and development assistance than does any other country – benefitting all of its regions. We will continue to work with our partners to address basic needs of at-risk populations in Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa.

—-

The White House

Background Press Call By Senior Administration Officials on Ethiopia

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021

PRESS BRIEFINGS
Via Teleconference
(September 16, 2021)

12:02 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Thanks, and greetings to everyone. I would like to welcome you all to an on-background call to discuss Ethiopia.

Today we are joined by [senior administration officials]. This call is on background, and therefore, at this point, our speakers should be referred to as “senior administration officials.” The call contents and the materials we will send later this evening will be embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Again, we have not yet sent any materials, but we anticipate sending them this evening to those of you who have participated on the call and agreed to the ground rules. And they will be embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.

And with that, over to our first speaker.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thank you. And good afternoon, everyone. We really appreciate this opportunity to update you on a major administration announcement tomorrow regarding Ethiopia.

And, first, let me say that the Biden-Harris Administration is determined to press for an end to the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in northern Ethiopia. This expanding conflict is causing immense human suffering and threatening the unity of the Ethiopian state as well as regional stability.

This crisis has already sparked one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises in the world. Over 5 million people require humanitarian assistance, and up to 900,000 are already living in famine conditions in the Tigray region alone, more than anywhere else in the world today.

Less than 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies, however, have reached the Tigray region over the past month due to obstruction of aid access. Let me repeat that: less than 10 percent of needed supplies.

The United Nations Secretary-General and African Union leaders have stated clearly: There is no military solution to this political crisis. And we agree.

For far too long, the parties to this conflict have ignored international calls to initiate discussions to achieve a negotiated ceasefire, and the human rights and humanitarian situations have worsened. In a moment, [senior administration official] will give you a brief update on our engagement with the parties.

But let me get to the announcement. Tomorrow, we will announce that President Biden has approved a new executive order establishing a sanctions regime to increase pressure on the parties fueling this conflict to sit down at the negotiating table and, in the case of Eritrea, withdraw forces.

This action provides the Department of Treasury, working in coordination with the Department of State, the necessary authority to impose sanctions against those in the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and the Amhara regional government if they continue to pursue military conflict over meaningful negotiations to the detriment of the Ethiopian people.

Unless the parties take concrete steps to resolve the crisis, the administration is prepared to take aggressive action under this new executive order to impose targeted sanctions against a wide range of individuals or entities.

But a different path is possible. If the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF take meaningful steps to enter into talks for a negotiated ceasefire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access, the United States is ready to help mobilize assistance for Ethiopia to recover and revitalize its economy.

And I think some people may ask: Well, what are the steps we’re asking the parties to take? Very concretely and clearly, steps towards a negotiated ceasefire could include accepting African Union-led mediation efforts, designating a negotiations team, agreeing to negotiations without preconditions, and accepting an invitation to initial talks.

Steps toward humanitarian access could include authorizing daily convoys of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies to travel overland to reach at-risk populations; reducing delays for humanitarian convoys; and restoring basic services such as electricity, telecommunications, and financial services.

But I also want to be clear: These sanctions authorities are not directed at the people of Ethiopia or Eritrea. The new sanctions program is deliberately calibrated to mitigate any undue harm to those already suffering from this conflict.

In fact, Treasury will issue accompanying general licenses tomorrow to provide clear exemptions for any development, humanitarian, and other assistance efforts, as well as critical commercial activity in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The United States provides Ethiopia with more humanitarian assistance than does any other country, and we will continue to help those in Ethiopia who need our assistance. The executive order should not affect the continued provision of humanitarian and other assistance to address basic needs throughout Ethiopia.

So, with that, let me turn it over to [senior administration official] for his comments, and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. And good afternoon to everybody.

As my colleague’s comments make clear, this decision — the President’s approval of this executive order was not a decision that the Biden-Harris administration or any of us in the Biden-Harris administration took lightly.

But we’ve telegraphed for months that the parties need to change course. They need to change course for the sake of Ethiopia, for the sake of Ethiopian people. And we’ve given them every chance to move toward a negotiated ceasefire to stop the human rights violations, to end the fighting to allow humanitarian deliveries.

You know, [redacted] spent an extended time in Addis, talking directly with the Prime Minister, with other senior officials, sharing our analysis of the dangers of the current approach and the implications for Ethiopia and the region. You know, [redacted] engaged the Eritreans, including President Isaias Afwerki, on the need for the Eritrean troops to withdraw. And we’ve detected no signs of any serious move by any of the parties to end the fighting.

What really strikes me after traveling to other African capitals, to the Gulf, through conversations and virtual meetings that I’ve had with Europeans and other friends, is how much our analysis — our shared analysis of the situation overlaps. Ethiopia’s neighbors and Ethiopia’s friends further away agree that there is a grave and growing risk to the stability of Ethiopia — a country of more than 110 million people — and that the current trajectory can lead to the disintegration of the state, which would be disastrous for Ethiopia, for the region, and beyond.

So there’s a widespread consensus — outside of Ethiopia, at least — that there is no military solution to this conflict. There’s widespread support for U.N. Secretary-General Guterres’s August call to, quote, “immediately end hostilities without preconditions and seize the opportunity to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.”

Unfortunately, right now, all signs seem to be pointing to dangerous escalation and expansion of the humanitarian crisis. We’re really worried that the end of the rainy season that’s upon us is going to mark an escalation of the military conflict.

Prime Minister Abiy seems determined to pursue a military approach. My guess is it’s probably in hopes that, by his October 4th swearing-in — before the new parliament that was elected in the recent elections — that he can claim some kind of military victory or military strength.

The mass mobilization that he’s provoked of the Ethiopian citizens essentially opens up a Pandora’s box in such a diverse country with so many political grievances and differences.

Eritrean troops have expanded their presence, dug down in western Tigray. For its part, the TPLF has been forging alliances with disaffected groups elsewhere in Ethiopia, which puts more of the country at risk of widespread civil conflict. The TPLF presumably has a keen interest in denying Prime Minister Abiy the ability to report to the new parliament in October that he has scored some kind of military win.

So the polarization inside Ethiopia deepens; the grievances grow.

We just can’t sit idly by. It must be clear that there are consequences for perpetuating this conflict and for denying lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

You know, in previewing this decision with Ethiopian officials and others, I’ve made the point clear — the data I mentioned earlier — which is the Biden administration believes that there is a different path. [Redacted] prepared to travel to the region to make the case and use the tools in our toolbox to encourage a different approach. I’ve spoken with former Nigerian President Obasanjo several times — as recently as yesterday, most recently — who’s been named AU envoy for the Horn, to assure him of our support for his mission. The time to pivot to a negotiated ceasefire and a way for military escalation is now.

With that, [senior administration official], back to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you so much. And I think we are now going to open the floor to questions, correct?

MODERATOR: Yep. We can open it up.

Q (Audio muted) — the United Nations on this next week. Also, what makes you think that sanctions can really make a difference?

And finally, I just have a plea to make this call on the record because, you know, this is an issue that we’d like to get in the news, but I don’t understand why it’s on background.

Thank you.

MODEARTOR: Sorry, Michele, I think we did not hear the first part of your question, if you don’t mind repeating it.

Q Sure. It’s whether or not there’s going to be any action at the United Nations General Assembly next week — any particular outreach or meetings that you’re expecting.

And then secondly, what makes you think sanctions will make a difference?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can start on that. Michele, hi. I am going up to going up to New York along, of course, with other officials. Secretary Blinken will be there. Of course, President — President Biden will be there. And there’ll be a lot of bilateral discussions on this. But there’s not going to be any kind of, sort of, side event on Ethiopia at this time. It’s going to be more folded into bilateral discussions that we’re having with various people, rather than any kind of separate session — group (inaudible) on Ethiopia.

You probably saw that, for the G7, there was quite a — there was quite a coordinated effort of the G7 countries to make sure that there was a focus on Ethiopia and the humanitarian crisis at the time. And I think that you’ll see that type of discussion, again, among the — among the leaders next week.

Michele, you know the U.N. — you know the U.N. General Assembly atmosphere as well as I do from being up there. And my expectation is that whatever the official agenda is at the General Assembly next week, this will be a key discussion in the corridors, on the margins, in the various bilateral meetings because it is, right now, one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in the world.

On your second question: You know, we have been engaging the parties to this conflict intently for months. And we have — you know, we have been signaling to them that there are consequences, first and foremost, to Ethiopia itself, to Ethiopia’s stability — but to the bilateral relationship of taking what is clearly a destructive approach to settling political grievances inside the country.

And I just don’t think that we can ignore the fact that all the encouragement that we and the international community and their neighbors of Ethiopia have been giving the parties — to move from a military approach to a political approach — that has been ignored. We can’t simply sit by and pretend that what we’ve had so far has been working. It hasn’t. The situation has gotten worse over the last few months.
I would hope that they would see this as an opportunity that — the tool is being unveiled tomorrow — that we have this new sanctions program, but we aren’t designating anyone or any entity under it, even though there’s broad authority to do so, in hopes that this can — that this will provide additional incentives for moving away from the military approach to a political approach.

They should be doing this anyway for the sake of Ethiopia, but now this is an additional incentive.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That’s right. And just to add: Yes, while we definitely — I second everything my colleague said. We expect significant discussion on Ethiopia at UNGA next week. And I think, you know, now is the time because we have been engaging for months on this, and yet the situation has only deteriorated.

So, you know, the statements of concern from a wide range of international actors have not achieved the results we need. And now we believe it is necessary to raise the costs to parties continuing to prosecute the war.

Q Oh, hi there. Thanks for taking the question. I just wanted a little bit more detail on the nuts and bolts of the sanctions regime that’s going to be announced tomorrow. How will this work in relation to the sanctions you already announced back in May by the Secretary of State? What kind of figures are going to be coming into view this time — military, political, others? Are you going to name names?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, Declan. So how this is different: What was announced previously were the Global Magnitsky sanctions, and we have already designated the Eritrean commander with that sanctions package.

But this — the EO that will be announced tomorrow is a broader scope, allowing us to sanction individuals and entities from conflict parties and others fueling the conflict.

As I mentioned at the top, we have not yet and we will not yet mention names tomorrow. We are just announcing that the President has agreed to — has signed off on this authority, allowing Treasury and the State Department to look at those who are continuing fueling the conflict if the conditions that I’ve laid out are not been — have not been met.

But, you know, this regime — the EO that will come out is broader, faster, more flexible, and more directly tied to our specific push for ceasefire talks.

And, [senior administration official], I don’t know if you have anything to add to that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not really, but, you know, it’s worth noting — I mentioned the former President — former Nigerian President Obasanjo has been named the AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, looking at Ethiopia.

There’s a real opportunity now. He’s going to be going out to Addis — it might be today or tomorrow. He’s on his way. So, there’s a real opportunity now for the government, for the other parties to show a seriousness on the political negotiations that they haven’t done so far with working with Obasanjo.

So I would hope that this flexible, comprehensive tool that my colleague describes doesn’t have to actually be used.

Q Thanks for doing the call and for taking my question. I just wanted to see if you could get a bit more specific about the destructive behavior you’re trying to change on behalf of the Ethiopian government. You know, is it fair to say that it’s government policy to deny the humanitarian access and aid?

What is the — you know, you mentioned a bit that you had been coordinating with Prime Minister Abiy. I wonder, you know, do you feel that there’s a level of honesty in those interactions, or are they basically denying any of this is taking place? Anything you could give in terms of the specific behaviors that you’re hoping this might change. Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, just one fact: There has been no fuel and no medicines delivered to Tigray since August 16th. As my colleague said in her opening remarks, there’s only been about 10 percent of the overall supplies into Tigray since the June withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Tigray on June 28th.

It’s not fighting that’s preventing the movement of fuel and medicine into Tigray; it’s government decisions, government harassment, local harassment that have prevented the type of supplies going in.

You know, there’s — my colleague and I and our AID — the heroic colleagues at AID could give you a lot of details of how long and how much effort it’s taken to get any kind of shipments in. There were 150 trucks that reached Tigray from September 4th to 7th, but that’s only a drop in the bucket of what’s actually needed. There needs to be 100 trucks of food going into Tigray every day. And it’s simply not happening because of the bureaucratic obstacles that are being put in place.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That’s right. And just to add: You know, it’s — as I mentioned, we are not calling just on the Ethiopian government — right? — to take action. We’re calling on the Ethiopian government and the TPLF and any other parties — Amhara Special Forces, Eritreans — to take concrete steps to end both the humanitarian and human rights situ- — crisis, and specifically for the Ethiopian government and the TPLF to initiate discussions to achieve a negotiated ceasefire.

And again, those steps could include accepting the AU-led mediation efforts, but, you know, agreeing to negotiations without preconditions or accepting an invitation to initial proximity talks. But in order to pave the way for that negotiated ceasefire, both sides must take definitive steps to halt the ongoing offensive.

You know, we — in terms of the international community and the U.N. and steps taken there: You know, just this week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights presented at the Human Rights Council on Monday. And those com- — in those comments, they pressed for and mentioned the continued severe human rights violations by all parties, especially the sexual violence — in the reports that we’re hearing on that.

But, you know, again, this is — this action is targeted at all parties, including TPLF.

Q Hi. Thank you for doing this. I was wondering if you could explain a bit more on why you are not imposing sanctions now. If, as you say, the current strategy of statements and warning that you would take action isn’t working, why not go ahead and take action and impose sanctions now? If you could explain that, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the reason why — and I think [senior administration official] also mentioned this as well — is because we do believe a different path is possible. This is not a decision that this administration has taken lightly.

And our preference, quite frankly, is to not to use this tool. We would prefer that the parties to the conflict work with the international community to advance discussions toward a negotiated ceasefire. We want to see a prosperous, peaceful, united Ethiopia, as well as the region in the Horn of Africa. But this ongoing protracted conflict is risking — puts all of that at risk.

So, we are communicating to the parties that a different path is possible if they take meaningful steps now to initiate discussions to achieve that ceasefire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access.

Q Thank you. Three quick questions. One, is it safe to say — you had said “Eritrean and Ethiopian government individuals” at the top, I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong. Is it safe to say that these potential sanctions will target government officials, as well as Tigrayans?

Secondly, is there a timeline that you’re going to lay out for how long you’re willing to wait until there are meaningful discussions — you know, two weeks, a month, three months?

And then finally, just on the Human Rights Watch report, which accuses the Eritreans and Tigrayans of war crimes — I’m just wondering if you have a comment on that, and will you agree with that description?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, as [senior administration official] said, and I think as I said, this tool allows us to impose sanctions on entities, on individuals — government and non-government alike — of those who are hindering the humanitarian access, those who are preventing the negotiated ceasefire, those who are blocking a shift to political process.

So, you know, you’ve got Ethiopian officials and non-officials; Eritrean officials and entities; TPLF; Amhara regional forces. It’s flexible enough that those who are taking the actions that so concern us, that so alarm us, and that put Ethiopia’s stability at risk can be sanctioned.

In terms of the — in terms of the timeline, there’s — as I said, President Obasanjo starts his negotiations this weekend. Prime Minister Abiy goes before the parliament for his new term on the beginning of October. There are opportunities, in these coming weeks, to signal a different approach than the one that has been taken over the past almost year now, unfortunately.

So, there’s no specific timeline that we have in mind, but it’s not indefinite. Unless the parties take concrete steps toward resolving the conflict and lifting the humanitarian blockade, the administration will take aggressive action, under this executive order, to impose sanctions against a broad range of individuals or entities.

I don’t think any of us — any of us were surprised to see the Human Rights Watch talking about war crimes committed by the by the Eritreans, by TPLF against the Eritrean refugees who had resident in Northern Tigray for a very, very, very, very long time. It’s another example of what — of a horrifying situation.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That’s right. Thanks. And just to add, so we are looking at weeks, not months. We don’t want to see this crisis continue to protract out even further.

And as I mentioned, yes, this EO does authorize sanctions against all parties if changes are not made.

Regarding the Human Rights Watch report: Obviously, we are very concerned about these reports, and we’re reviewing them.
Obviously, we condemn all human rights abuses in the strongest terms. And we have spoken out strongly in the past against reports of abuses by both governments and TPLF-aligned forces against Eritrean refugees.

I mean, bottom line: This must stop.

This is precisely why we need to increase our push for a ceasefire and to end the abuses.

Q Hi, thank you for this. A couple of questions. Clarifying that — you said, tomorrow, the Treasury Department’s OFAC will issue a general license allowing all humanitarian work to continue. Is that needed because there’s a chance that some of these entities down the road, that would be sanctioned if there’s no improvement, are like military units or something like that?

And you did mention that in all of your contacts regionally and with Europe, there’s a lot of overlap in your thinking in terms of the analysis of how dire the situation is. Is there any prospect of the European Union offering its own sanctions? U.N. sanctions? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll take the second –I’ll take the second one first, if I may.

We have been in touch this week previewing with friends and partners in Europe and elsewhere what we’re talking about right now. And again, the overlap of our analysis of just how bad the situation is and the risk that the situation is going to get worse in the coming weeks is widely shared.

There’s still different views on what we should do about that. Everyone recognizes that our collective actions, messages, et cetera, up until now have not really changed the calculations of the party — of the parties on the ground. So, I think there’s an understanding of why the U.S. is moving — is moving in this direction.

The EU has been a very close partner with us in coordinating our positions towards the — Eritrea and the TPLF, the Amhara regional forces, and the Ethiopian government.

But as all of you know, for European sanctions to be approved, you’ve got 27 member states you’ve got to convince. So, I wouldn’t — I would not expect the EU to be able to move as quickly as we can move as a single government.

But we are in touch with them. And, certainly, the European External Action Service people, the Special — the EU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, believes that we do need additional tools to try to bring the parties to the table.

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. Yeah, sorry, I was having problems muting.

And I’ll take the first part of your question regarding the general licenses. So, the general licenses that will be issued by Treasury will authorize the continued flow of food, medicine, including COVID-19-related assistance, medical devices, as well as enabling international organizations, aid organizations, and nonprofits to provide humanitarian and other critical support to the region regardless of sanctions.

And just to follow up on what [senior administration official] was saying about our allies and partners, we’ve, you know, previewed these actions, and we hope that allies and partners will take similar actions.

We expect this to be some of the discussion among senior officials at the U.N. General Assembly next week. And we have seen an increasing number of international actors speaking out for an end to military escalation and initiation of ceasefire talks regarding Tigray.

Thank you.

Q Hello, can you hear me?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

Q Oh, okay. Thank you.

I was wondering, you mentioned you spoke with the Horn of Africa — the former President of Nigeria, Mr. Obasanjo. I was wondering if you consulted with any other African national presidents.

And also, regarding the sanction, is this in response to Ethiopia and Turkey? Recently, the Prime Minister was in — met with President Erdoğan of Turkey last month. So is this a response to that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks for the question. [Redacted] went to Goma a few weeks ago to see President Tshisekedi in his role as Chair of the African Union to talk about Ethiopia, given his responsibility this year as Chair of the African Union. And again, the overlap in our analysis was significant.

And [redacted] explained to him that the United States was prepared to take additional steps, to use additional tools in order to try to persuade all of the parties to move in a different direction along the lines that [senior administration official] and I have been just describing today.

[Redacted] also went to Addis and saw the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki. It’s been several weeks since [redacted] saw Moussa Faki, but, in [redacted]’s last trip to Addis, [redacted] also saw the AU Political Peace and Security Commissioner, Ambassador Bankole, to make sure that the African Union understood our analysis, understood our strategy and our approach, and understood that we would be taking additional steps if there wasn’t some progress on the ground toward the negotiated ceasefire, political process, and lifting humanitarian access.

So, yes, we have been keeping in very close touch with the African Union and have encouraged the African Union — to the Peace and Security Council, as well as bilaterally — to press the parties to this conflict on what all these African leaders have told us privately, which is there is no military solution to the conflict; they need to move toward a negotiated ceasefire and political process.

You know, we noted in the media the reports of Prime Minister Abiy’s visits not only to Turkey, where he saw President Erdoğan, but also elsewhere in Africa. And again, we’ve encouraged all those that talk to Prime Minister Abiy to talk to him about the about the risks to Ethiopia’s stability of the current trajectory.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. And let me just add, I think, to the portion of your question regarding the visit to Erdoğan: You know, we have — the United States has imposed defense trade restrictions for exports to Ethiopia amid the ongoing conflict and reported human rights abuses. And we urge other countries to implement similar measures to stop the flow of weapons to any parties to the conflict and to reinforce the futility of ongoing military operations and, again, to promote the push for a negotiated ceasefire.

But I think it’s also significant that, in terms of engaging other leaders on the continent, we are also seeing a larger number of African academics, civil society organizations, and leaders, including in Ethiopia itself, speaking out against the abuses and calling for cessation of hostilities and peace talks.

And this includes a significant letter from a coalition of civil society groups in Ethiopia last week. And we are encouraged by these voices who are speaking out and want to be supportive of African-led efforts as much as possible.

Thank you.

Q Hi, thanks for doing this. And kudos to [senior administration official] for how much you’ve been doing in the Horn of Africa. Just kind of following the conflict in Ethiopia, there was a timeframe of three weeks that was given by the Prime Minister. Then it became “after the elections, things would change.” And now there seems to be a new deadline of October 3rd, even though he’s (inaudible) essentially said that the governments would not negotiate with terrorist groups as the TPLF — that was designated by parliament.

So, there seems to be a pattern of postponing a possible end to this conflict. So, my question for you is: What makes you optimistic that this new announcement coming out tomorrow will have a different outcome, given that previous heavy-handed announcements only made the Ethiopian government kind of double down on their stance and their rhetoric?

And then just secondly, on the same: Have you been in touch with the TPLF? And have they agreed to have negotiations?

And then lastly, there have been stories of Iranian drones being used in Ethiopia. Does that complicate your work in terms of trying to bring these two factions together while Ethiopia is having sanctionable actions (inaudible)?

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. If I expressed optimism, I perhaps made a mistake. What I feel is that we need to try new tools because the existing tools that we’ve been deploying — whether it’s us or other countries, other interested parties — have been using haven’t changed the calculation so far.

Look, the prime minister just won an election. His party just won an election. The prime minister is going to be sworn in for another term before a new parliament that’s going to be consisting of his allies. One would hope that the prime minister is going to start putting — with the election behind him, will start putting the interests of the Ethiopian people first and foremost — and that the interests of the Ethiopian people would suggest that the current strategy is not a winning strategy.

As you as you rightly pointed out, he has given lots of timelines and reasons for delay, but now he’s going to be heading a new Cabinet before a new parliament with a electoral mandate that’s behind him.

So, this is the time, we believe, for him to start thinking about the overall needs of Ethiopia and the risk that the current approach puts to Ethiopia’s stability.

And then the other parties need to also be responding in kind — thinking about the Ethiopian people, the state of Ethiopia, rather than their own military or political grievances.

When [redacted] saw the Prime Minister when [redacted] had this extended trip to Addis recently, of course, [redacted] talked about that having increased use of weaponry is not the way that’s going to stabilize Ethiopia, that’s going to address the grievances that Ethiopians have, that’s going to lead to the type of prosperity that he himself says is his goal for Ethiopia.

So, [redacted] talked about the futility of advanced weapon systems and of reliance on an exclusively military approach to what are some legitimate political grievances in the country.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. And just to add: Right — you know, I think you’ve laid it out very, very well. We are — we’re not optimistic about the situation on the ground. And that’s why the President authorized this executive order in order to ramp up the pressure.

But we are optimistic about the growing move by regional leaders, by the AU Envoy Obasanjo to press for a mediated solution. And we hope that we can marshal support for these efforts.

And I think, to the last part of your question, I’ll just refer to my previous answer and reemphasize: You know, again, we are urging countries to stop the flow of weapons to any parties to the conflict and promote the push for a negotiated ceasefire.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: I very much want to thank everyone — our participants, especially, for their thoughtful questions. I know we had many and many queued up, and we tried to get to as many as possible.

I would also very much like to thank our speakers. They’ve given us a very generous amount of time given their busy schedules.

As a final reminder, this call and materials that we’ll send later this evening will be embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. I can’t yet give you a time on when we’ll send the materials out, but we’ll definitely try to get them out to you this evening.

And that concludes our call. Thank you so much, everyone and goodbye.

12:43 P.M. EDT

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Q&A With Filmmaker Jessica Beshir: ‘Faya Dayi’ Screens at AFI in Silver Spring, Maryland

Next month on October 01, 2021 Jessica Beshir will participate in a Q&A session with the audience following the screening of her documentary 'Faya Dayi' by the American Film Institute at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Photo via Linkedin)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 16th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — One of the marks of a successful movie is the lively conversations and reactions it generates among its audience as Filmmaker Jessica Beshir’s Sundance-premiered Ethiopian film Faya Dayi continues to do on social media and other forums.

Next month Jessica Beshir will participate in a Q&A with the public following the screening of her documentary by the American Film Institute at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“A film ten years in the making, Faya Dayi was conceived by director Jessica Beshir as an act of reconnecting with the Ethiopian homeland she left at the age of sixteen, when her family fled to Mexico to escape the chaos and oppression of the Mengistu and Derg political regimes,” the announcement notes. “Later, in 2011, during one of her return trips to Ethiopia, Beshir began collecting observations and impressions of the country by shooting footage that told the stories of several Ethiopians and the social, religious, and economic forces influencing their lives.”

The press release adds: “Among those forces was the ascendency of khat [ጫት ch'at] as a national cash crop. A plant with hallucinatory properties that has been traditionally harvested and chewed for ritualistic purposes, khat was, in Beshir’s youth, one of many lucrative crops bolstering the Ethiopian economy. But in the intervening years, climate change, along with other factors, had forced farmers to grow khat to the near exclusion of all other plants, and its excessive presence in the country increased recreational khat usage among the younger generations. Climate change had also dried up lakes, while economic necessity and political tumult had forced people living in rural areas to look for new prospects overseas or in the capital city of Addis Ababa.”

In explaining her experience of cinema while growing up in Ethiopia and what led her to become a filmmaker Jessica recalls that she was raised in a military camp located adjacent to a Russian military base in Harar. “In the Russian camp, there was an open-air movie theater,” she rememberers. “Us kids dug a hole under the barbed wire and snuck through it to the movie theater.”

She continues: “We’d go there every night to watch Russian films—mostly war films that were meant to elevate the morale of the Russian soldiers stationed in Ethiopia. One of our friends was trained by the Russians to project the films. He would change the reels of the films in the back of a Land Rover, and his leverage with the other kids was that if you were nice, he would show you how he changed the reels. Before that, it never occurred to me that movies were actually made by people. Seeing something of the magic of how movies are constructed, and experiencing the communal aspect of moviegoing, made me feel less alone and transported me during a time of war and trauma. I gravitated to filmmaking in large part because of that.”

Jessica shares that after returning to Ethiopia from many years in exile it was not her original intention to make a film about ጫት ch’at. “I returned to reconnect to my family, especially my grandmother, who was getting very old. And in reconnecting with family and friends, I noticed that everything in the country now revolved around khat, which had always been around but not in such an all-encompassing way. What had changed was that all of the country’s social and economic life centered on this drug, and I wanted to ask why this was and why so many people were medicating themselves.”

Blow is the rest of the interview with Jessica Beshir courtesy of the American Film Institute and AFI Silver Theatre. Faya Dayi will open at AFI on Friday, October 01, 2021. Organizes note that proof of vaccination –or– negative Covid PCR test is required for entry. You can learn more and purchase tickets here


Faya Dayi. (Courtesy photo)

Interview With Filmmaker Jessica Beshir about ‘Faya Dayi’

What do you remember about your childhood and early adolescence in Ethiopia, and how did those memories inform the conception of Faya dayi?

I remember everything that happened up to the time I was sixteen and my family left Ethiopia. My generation reached adulthood a lot sooner than we otherwise would have because we grew up during a cold war. My father was director of a military hospital—war was ever-present, and that couldn’t help but shape our outlook.

In returning to the country many years later, I didn’t set out to make a documentary on khat. I returned to reconnect to my family, especially my grandmother, who was getting very old. And in reconnecting with family and friends, I noticed that everything in the country now revolved around khat, which had always been around but not in such an all-encompassing way. What had changed was that all of the country’s social and economic life centered on this drug, and I wanted to ask why this was and why so many people were medicating themselves.

What was clear was that the country was in a state of decay. There was new infrastructure in Harar and other cities, but mostly the country was falling apart due to the misrule of an oppressive governmental regime. And that regime had also limited freedom of speech, which led to people’s retreat into private worlds. Even after this regime faced protests and was ultimately unseated from power, there was a huge disillusionment when substantial change did not come about.

So, there was a desire for khat, due to its ability to foster a state of insularity, but then many factors influenced the rise of khat as a cash crop. Climate change altered which crops the farmers were able to cultivate, and inflation made it impossible for the farmers to cultivate coffee and other crops. Before, khat was relegated to the Harar region, but now its development had spread to the rest of the country, so my filming concentrated on the farms and land in Harar, around the area where I had grown up. I felt it was important to be very specific—there are more than eighty ethnic groups and languages in Ethiopia. The specific Oromo identity in Harar—I’d never seen that reflected on film, and I wanted to transmit the people’s intonation of language, their cadences. This was crucial to the overall tapestry of the film.

To what extent did you predetermine or spontaneously arrive at the film’s sounds and images?

When I began shooting, I had a specific intention for what I wanted—one that would allow for multiple possibilities that could reveal themselves in the editing room. And I was excited to discover those possibilities, those forms. For example, I knew I wanted to convey a sense of interiority, but through evocation rather than through a direct telling. I also wanted the locations I shot to speak through images. One was the labyrinthine space of this close walled city, Jugol; another was comprised of the vast farms. I wanted the vastness of the farms to correspond to the vastness among the experiences I shot, with different people having different experiences within the same geographical space. I thought, If voices were to emerge from these farms, what would these voices say?

In conversations with my editors, I conveyed that the film’s form should be alive, that it should have its own mode of expression. At times this form didn’t always make rational sense, but it was transmitting something—something more elliptical, perhaps. This elliptical mode was probably influenced by the oral tradition of storytelling with which I grew up. Oral tradition is about the journey and all the things you see and experience before you arrive at a narrative destination. I wanted the structure of the film to be like an octopus, where one story strand was like a tentacle, and if something occurred in that strand it would reverberate throughout the entire body of the film.

Faya dayi took ten years to make. How did that decade-long process start, and what were some of the major milestones along the road toward completing the project?

The first thing I wanted to do upon my return to Ethiopia was to spend time on the farms. My grandmother is not a farmer—she lives far away from where I filmed—but there was a certain kinship there because I was listening to her language, the Oromo language. I met most of the farmers by spending time with them at a café that was owned by a friend. That’s how I started talking with them and learning about the khat farms. I also befriended the children of these farmers, and over the years of shooting I saw and recorded the way these children became political and participated in the peaceful protests, in 2014–15, against the government. That was an invigorating leap in the filming process, in seeing these kids come of age and getting involved in what was occurring throughout the country. A major moment in the shoot was seeing the drying up of the lakes. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t take it. I was heading down in a van to Haramaya, and I asked the driver if we could stop to take a picture of this sacred lake, and when we did, it wasn’t there—grass had grown over it, cows were herding there, it was gone. There was always new information I was obtaining and through which I learned about the changes that were unfolding throughout the country.

Another one was interviewing a university professor who did his PhD on khat studies, who had spent his whole life with and around this plant. He doesn’t appear in the film, but one thing he said stuck with me, that once in a while a visiting professor from the West would teach at the university for a few months and then a while later would publish a study on khat. All of a sudden, he had to read about khat from out there. What I picked up from that was: Where’s our voice in this? I wanted to do justice to the story of the people who live here, their stories and their dignity. Khat came from a religious, ritualistic practice of imams, just like peyote for the shamans. It’s not just a plant for kids who want to get high.

What research in the areas of politics, sociology, religion, and myth informed the production of Faya dayi?

A lot of the time I spent during my return to Ethiopia involved research. My friend’s grandfather, who lived in the labyrinthine city, was the one who first spoke with me about khat’s roots in the Sufi tradition. And not just in a religious sense but also in a social sense—it was what united people coming back home from work to have lunch, since they would chew khat and then go on with their day. It provided a boost of energy for people like farmers, who performed physical labor. It was a means to an end, but now it’s become the end itself, especially for the youth.

From my friend and her grandfather, I met several Sufi imams. These imams who you see in the film, I spent a lot of time learning from them about Azurkherlaini, about whom Ethiopians have their own individual perceptions. That myth is so alive in the people’s imagination and thought process, it’s alive in the recitation and prayer of the imams. I wanted to somehow visualize the various conceptions of Azurkherlaini, and, to get to that interiority, I wanted to represent the people’s reality on the ground as opposed to casting some weird guy who looks like Azurkherlaini.

How did you achieve the film’s distinctive black-and-white cinematography?

I knew I was going to shoot in black and white, but at times I questioned myself about that, because khat is a green leaf and obviously that wouldn’t come through in black and white. But in the end, I decided to go with black and white because so many elements of the film refer to light and darkness. For example, the fable of Azurkherlaini talks about “the black” and the darkness of night—there were all of these dichotomies in that myth that could be evoked through black and white. Plus, the nature of khat and the trade of it, and many of the film’s stories, contain the sides that black-and-white photography evokes. I wanted to focus on the interiority of the people in the film instead of the potential sensationalism of the subject of khat, and so the dreaminess of the cinematography evokes the people’s frustration, dread, loneliness, impotence, resignation, and so on. •

If You Go:

For showtime and dates please visit AFI Silver Theatre.

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UPDATE: In Ethiopia TPLF Looted American Aid Stores, U.S. Official Says

The top American aid official in Ethiopia accused [TPLF] of taking food supplies...The remarks by Sean Jones [the head of USAID in Ethiopia] reflected a notable shift in tone from senior American officials after months of withering criticism... Mr. Jones stressed his good relations with Ethiopian officials, called its government “one of our finest and most important partners,” and likened any tensions to a marital dispute. “Sometimes, like in a good marriage, we have to say what we are feeling at that moment,” he said. (NYT)

The New York Times

Ethiopian Rebels Looted American Aid Stores, U.S. Official Says

NAIROBI, Kenya — Fighters from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have looted food stores holding U.S. government aid as Ethiopia’s civil war spreads into new areas and hunger rises across the country, America’s top aid official there has charged.

Tigrayan fighters leading a military assault on the neighboring Amhara region have destroyed villages and emptied aid stores, Sean Jones, the head of USAID in Ethiopia, told Ethiopian state television in an interview that aired Tuesday night.

“In recent weeks, some of our warehouses have been looted and emptied by advancing T.P.L.F. troops, especially in Amhara,” said Mr. Jones, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. “I do believe T.P.L.F. has been very opportunistic.”

A spokesman for the T.P.L.F. denied the charge and blamed any looting on local groups and individuals in Amhara.

The remarks by Mr. Jones reflected a notable shift in tone from senior American officials after months of withering criticism of the behavior of Ethiopian forces and their allies inside Tigray, where a war that erupted in November has been accompanied by accusations of atrocities against civilians.

U.N. and other foreign officials have accused Ethiopian authorities of blocking vital supplies of food aid for Tigray at a time when American officials say that 900,000 Tigrayans face the prospect of a devastating famine in the coming months.

Samantha Power, who leads the USAID, last month accused the Ethiopian government of obstructing access to Tigray and said that humanitarian assistance to the northern region was “woefully insufficient.”

Ethiopian critics responded angrily to Ms. Power’s comments, accusing her of “weaponizing aid” and “supporting terrorism.”

But the interview by her subordinate in Ethiopia this week conveyed a more conciliatory tone, one that suggested the Americans were reaching out to the Ethiopians, hoping to defuse the animosity.

While acknowledging “some strain and some stress” with the United States, Mr. Jones stressed his good relations with Ethiopian officials, called its government “one of our finest and most important partners,” and likened any tensions to a marital dispute.

“Sometimes, like in a good marriage, we have to say what we are feeling at that moment,” he said.

Those remarks drew an angry response from the T.P.L.F….On Twitter, the main T.P.L.F. spokesman, Getachew Reda, lashed out at the American characterization of his fighters as opportunists, and blamed any looting in Amhara on local forces.

“While we cannot vouch for every unacceptable behavior of off-grid fighters in such matters, we have evidence that such looting is mainly orchestrated by local individuals & groups,” Mr. Reda wrote.

Amid the bickering, the war in Tigray is spreading and humanitarian needs are soaring.

The Ethiopian government says it needs help for 500,000 people in the Amhara and Afar regions, where fighting spread in July after Tigrayan fighters recaptured most of Tigray from government forces.

Read the full article at nytimes.com »

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The New Yorker: Chester Higgins’s Life in Pictures

“Morning Chores, Ethiopia,” 1992. (Photo by Chester Higgins)

The New Yorker

By Jordan Coley

All along the way, his eye is trained on moments of calm, locating an inherent grace, style, and sublime beauty in the Black everyday.

Hanging in the fourth-floor study of the renowned photojournalist Chester Higgins’s Fort Greene brownstone is a bunch of large dead leaves, fastened to a line in front of a well-stocked bookcase. Higgins grew the leaves in his window boxes, he told me, and he’s been making photographs of them for some time now. It’s a way, he said, to examine how “the spirit” manifests in all natural things.


“Ocean Spray, Accra, Ghana,” 1973.

The spirit—a transportive, deeply human, ineffable quality that graces all memorable art work—is what the seventy-four-year-old photographer has spent his entire career trying to capture in pictures. He glimpses it in the cracking veins of old foliage, but also among the countless people he’s photographed across the decades: Muhammad Ali casting a mischievous sideward glance on the set of a television show; Aretha Franklin performing at the Apollo, her brow embroidered with sweat; a young Black boy, revelling in the spray of a fire hydrant.


“Aretha Franklin at the Apollo, Harlem, New York,” 1971. “Muhammad Ali, New York City,” 1972.


A group of Black men and women in church one man carrying a fan with the photo of Martin Luther King Jr. on it. “New Brockton Church Pew, Springfield Baptist Church,” 1973.

When Higgins began making photographs for magazines and newspapers, in the late nineteen-sixties, he was one of a handful of Black photographers working in mainstream media. Much of the work produced in his thirty-nine years as a staff photographer at the Times was a concerted attempt to incorporate Black America into the world’s consciousness. “When I arrived at The New York Times in 1975, I felt the media was immune to any real comprehension of the world I knew well,” he wrote at the time of his retirement from the paper, in 2014. “I wanted to share the history and traditions of the people I grew up with.”

Read the full article and see more photos at newyorker.com »

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Ethiopia to Create Local Rival to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp

The decision comes after the government accused Facebook of deleting accounts ‘disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia’. (AP photo)

Aljazeera

Ethiopia has begun developing its own social media platform to rival Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, though it does not plan to block the global services, the state communications security agency said…

The government wants its local platform to “replace” Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom, the director general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, said on Monday.

Shumete accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.

International human rights groups have criticised the Ethiopian government for unexplained shutdowns to social media services including Facebook and WhatsApp in the past year. The government has not commented on those shutdowns.

Facebook’s Africa spokesperson, Kezia Anim-Addo, declined to comment on Ethiopia’s plans and did not respond immediately to a query about Shumete’s accusations.

But in June, days before national elections, Facebook said it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users which it linked to individuals associated with INSA, which is responsible for monitoring telecommunications and the internet.

Twitter declined to comment. Zoom did not immediately reply to a comment request.

Shumete declined to specify a timeline, budget and other details, but told Reuters news agency: “The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear … Why do you think China is using WeChat?”

He said Ethiopia had the local expertise to develop the platforms and would not hire outsiders to help.

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UPDATE: Ethiopia Plans National Dialog in Bid to Defuse Tensions

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. (Getty Images)

Bloomberg

By Fasika Tadesse and Samuel Gebre

Ethiopia will begin holding a national dialog in September to address grievances that have undermined stability in the Horn of Africa nation, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said.

A roadmap for the talks will be announced this month and a structure will then be put in place to facilitate them, Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokeswoman, told reporters in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Friday. The discussions form part of a reform process the government embarked upon three years ago, she said, without saying who will participate.

Federal troops and militia’s have been battling dissidents from the northern Tigray region since November, fighting that’s displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more facing hunger. Ethnic rivalries have also degenerated into violence in several other areas, and Abiy is facing calls to grant regional authorities greater autonomy.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Ethiopia’s government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which controls Tigray, to end hostilities and enter into talks.

“It is time for all parties to recognize that there is no military solution and it is vital to preserve the unity and stability of Ethiopia which is critical to the region and beyond,” Guterres said, adding that his special envoy Martin Griffith met TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael to discuss the conflict.

The U.S. is also trying to broker peace, with President Joe Biden’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman making his third trip to the region to discuss how to kick-start talks. Samantha Powers, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, visited the country earlier this month.

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Meet Ethiopia’s MJ: Inspired by the King of Pop

A choreographer, singer and dancer, 29-year-old Sancho Gebre was born in Wolaita, Sodo, where he developed an interest in music choreography at a young age. Sancho’s dalliance with Michael Jackson started at home where he spent lots of time watching his videos during his study time without his parents’ knowledge. (The Standard)

The Standard

The late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, inspired artistes worldwide with his unique dance and stage persona. His chart-busting Thriller album has been hailed as his finest production in terms of the sheer work and talent that went into its making.

Among the MJ wannabes are his Spanish look-alike Sergio Cortes, a stunning replica of the fallen star, who was once hailed as his reincarnation, and Congolese singer Stino Mubi of Viva la Musica band.

Ethiopia has not been left behind in this craze, with musician Sancho Gebre adding to the collection of performing artistes who draw their influence from the king.

A choreographer, singer and dancer, 29-year-old Sancho was born in Wolaita, Sodo, where he developed an interest in music choreography at a young age. Sancho’s dalliance with Michael Jackson started at home where he spent lots of time watching his videos during his study time without his parents’ knowledge.

It took up a lot of his study time, but he was determined to learn the tricks that the late King of Pop employed in his videos and to make something out of it.

Like most traditional Ethiopian families, Sancho’s parents wanted him to study and pursue a ‘proper’ career. But when they realised he was hell-bent on making a career in music they supported him.


Sancho Gebre (Courtesy)

Costly affair ‘becoming MJ’

And it was a costly affair walking in the shadow of the King of Pop. For one, to impersonate him successfully, he needed to get the costumes right, which was expensive. Then he had to perfect the famous moonwalk and on top of different dance styles, he innovated in his experimentation.

Sancho’s big break came in the 2009 Ethiopian Idol show. The show, which was aired on Ethiopian National TV, ran from 2009 to 2011. It was originally held in nine regions before it moved to the capital, Addis Ababa. He competed in eight toughly-contested seasons before finally emerging winner in the Single Modern Dance category.

But he was not home and dry yet. His next big challenge was recording his own music since he needed to get out of the shadow of the king and become his own man. To do this he had to travel 300 kilometres from his home in Areka, Wolaita Zone to the capital, Addis.

In Addis, he met famed music producer Kamuzu Kassa and his brother Gildo, who helped mould his career. At the time he was still doing a lot of choreography in the music videos of other artistes, but Kamuzu and Gildo encouraged him to go to the studio to record his own music.


Sancho Gebre. (Courtesy)

Moonwalking

His debut was the 2016 hit single, Ande, which borrowed heavily from MJ’s ‘moonwalk’ dance routines. The choreography of Ande earned Sancho a solid following. His follow-up release, Atasayugn, solidified his arrival on the Addis music scene. Three other singles Tanamo, Leba and Fiyona would follow shortly.

He genre, which he describes as ‘Afrobeats’, is extremely popular on the Ethiopian club scene, borrowing from dancehall and a sampling of Ethiopian traditional music, but done in a hip and modern style.

As a choreographer Sancho is extremely experimental pushing the boundaries of what we conceive as modern dance. His strength draws from the diversity he employs in choreographing his videos.

Sancho is currently finalising work on his album.

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Watch: Emmy Nominee Mehret Mandefro (‘American Masters’ Producer) on ‘How it Feels to Be Free’

Emmy nominee Mehret Mandefro ('American Masters' producer) on 'How it Feels to Be Free' for legendary Black women. She discusses the 'groundbreaking' careers of Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, Pam Grier, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone with Gold Derby editor Daniel Montgomery. (Gold Derby)

Gold Derby

Emmy nominee Mehret Mandefro (‘American Masters’ producer) on ‘How it Feels to Be Free’ for legendary Black women [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

All of us know a great deal about their music and the culture and the fashion and the films. But I didn’t realize how really groundbreaking they were in terms of their careers,” explains Dr. Mehret Mandefro, who is Emmy-nominated for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series for the “American Masters” documentary “How it Feels to Be Free”; she produced it along with Michael Kantor, Lacey Schwartz Delgado, Elliott Halpern, Elizabeth Trojian, Julie Sacks and Grammy winner Alicia Keys. Based on the book of the same name by Ruth Feldstein, the film chronicles the art and activism of Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Pam Grier, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson.

Watch [the] exclusive video interview with Mandefro:

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In DC, Helen Show Hosts Empower the Community Weekend 2021

Hosted by the Helen Show Empower the Community Weekend (ECW) is a one-day family centered event that brings together the largest East African community in the Washington DC area. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: August 11th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — The annual Empower the Community Weekend hosted by Helen Mesfin of the Helen Show on EBS TV takes place this weekend at the Washington Convention Center.

According to organizers the event this year will be in hybrid format including both online presentations and in-person gathering.

“We have majority of our attendees joining us virtually on our conference platform Hopin and also limited number of people with vendors attending in person at the Walter E Washington Convention Center,” Helen said, noting that people will need to register on their website in order to participate.

The announcement adds: “Empower the Community Weekend (ECW) is a one-day family centered event that brings together the largest East African community in the Washington DC area. The event focuses on helping people to thrive and to live a productive life by providing resources and empowering information. The event is filled with Exhibitors showcasing their products and services, Career Pavilion with hiring events & recruiting resources, Kids and Youth Pavilion with fun filled activities, games, college prep and internship resources, and a networking mixer.”

Topics for the 2021 main stage panel discussion include Civic Engagement, Business & Leadership as well as Young Trailblazers.


(Image courtesy of Empower CW)

Organizers note that the conference also features workshops in various timely subjects including “Minding Your Mental Health; Small Business Surviving & Thriving Post COVID; Minding Your Money-Building Wealth; Preparing for College- What You Should Know; Exploring Identity As First Generation Immigrant Children; Resiliency & Parenting Children with Special Needs.”

If You Attend:

Empower the Community Weekend 2021
AUGUST 14th, 2021
Walter E Washington Convention Center
VIRTUAL REGISTRATION & LIMITED IN-PERSON SEATING
Registration Here
More info at: www.empowercw.com

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White House Nominates Biniam Gebre as Chief of Federal Procurement Policy

Biniam Gebre, Nominee for Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget (Photographer: Official portrait of Biniam Gebre by Sammy Mayo, Jr.--HUD)

Fed Scoop

The Biden administration has nominated Biniam Gebre as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy within the Office of Management and Budget.

If confirmed by the Senate, he will rejoin government from Accenture, where he is a senior managing director and head of management consulting for Accenture Federal Services.

The OFPP sets overall policy direction for governmentwide procurement procedures and is focused on promoting efficiency and effectiveness. Previously, it was led by Michael Wooten, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump and confirmed to the role in 2019.

Gebre has previously also worked at consulting firms Mckinsey & Co. and Oliver Wyman. He served in the Obama administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where his work focused on access to credit for low-income families, FHA’s financial health, and revamping public housing.

The White House

Press Release

Biniam Gebre, Nominee for Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget

Biniam Gebre is a Senior Managing Director at Accenture and Head of Management Consulting for Accenture Federal Services. He has spent the past two decades helping dozens of organizations within both the public sector and private sector address management, operational, and technology issues ranging from agriculture to banking to artificial intelligence. He served in the Obama-Biden administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he focused on access to credit for low-income families, FHA’s financial health, and revitalizing public housing properties.

Gebre came to the United States as a refugee at the age of nine and grew up in public housing and on government assistance. He graduated with Highest Honors from Williams College, where he earned a B.A. in Chemistry and was a Goldwater Scholar. He also earned an M.B.A in Finance and Economics from Northwestern University. Gebre sits on the Board of Pathfinder International.

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Listen: Family, Ethiopian Roots Inspire Seattle Youth Poet Laureate’s New Book

Bitaniya Giday is finishing her tenure at Seattle Youth Poet Laureate and publishing a book of her poetry. In the following audio Bitaniya speaks with KNKX Morning Edition about her new book and the inspiration for her poetry, and she reads one of her poems. (SEATTLE ARTS & LECTURES)

KNKX

Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate has just published her first book of poetry. “Motherland” is Bitaniya Giday’s exploration of Blackness, womanhood and family history as an Ethiopian-American youth.

You might be familiar with Giday from her appearance in KNKX’s Take the Mic youth voices series, and she was part of our virtual town hall event. She was also featured in this interview with Seattle Arts & Lectures.

Giday, who is finishing her one-year term as youth poet laureate, spoke with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about her new book and what inspires her work. Listen to the interview and hear Giday read one of her poems.

Read more and listen to the audio at knkx.org »

Related:

Seattle Arts & Lectures names Bitaniya Giday as the next Youth Poet Laureate

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Marcus Samuelsson Sets The Record Straight About American Cuisine

The Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised chef says the concept of American cuisine focused almost entirely on European dishes for a "long time." But that's never been the whole story. The chef said, "We know as a diverse, layered nation that there's been a huge contribution by African-Americans to the American food experience." (Mashed)

Mashed

Chef Marcus Samuelsson celebrates a wide array of culinary traditions that comprise what we call American cuisine. Fortunately for us, that means American cuisine is more than just burgers and apple pie. The judge of “Chopped” and host of the culinary travel show “No Passport Required” is known for touring the country to explore how immigrant communities have influenced and helped create the cuisine we know and love (via PBS). We asked the restaurateur and cookbook author during an exclusive interview with Mashed to debunk myths about American cuisine.

Samuelsson explained the concept of American cuisine focused almost entirely on European dishes for a “long time.” But that’s never been the whole story. The chef said, “We know as a diverse, layered nation that there’s been a huge contribution by African-Americans to the American food experience.” Chefs like Samuelsson know innovation is key to the foundation of American cuisine because as he said, “There’s always a blend between immigrants and their traditions and indigenous people adding on and adding on.” Food must evolve because “as generations we evolve,” he furthered. 

In his shows, restaurants, and cookbooks, Samuelsson explores “about four cuisines in America” that are a direct link to the African-American experience. American food is a modern umbrella term, which the Red Rooster owner said brings all these heritage flavors together “whether it’s barbecue, Southern food, Lowcountry, and Korean cooking.” The major influence of African-American techniques, ingredients, and flavors are the elements that the Season 2 “Top Chef Masters” winner wanted to highlight in his most recent cookbook, “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” (via Eater). Samuelsson learned cooking is more than following a recipe. “I don’t think my grandmother ever shared a pure recipe with me,” Samuelsson said. “Well, ritual has been around much longer than just traditional recipes … it’s also very much word of mouth.” The chef isn’t alone, Eater reports “no-recipe recipes” are making a big comeback. 

The Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised chef said “every time I cook, I think about my family,” and it should be no coincidence, “especially when it’s something Ethiopian or Swedish.” Samuelsson translates those rituals to his restaurants, but it can be found in the partners he works with in New York, Miami, Bermuda, Sweden, Canada, and elsewhere. ”Nurturing rituals is key and it’s kind of the core of what makes that extended family,” he said. “Whether it’s the cooks that you work with or the restaurants you go and support.” It’s no surprise Samuelsson is a leader in American cuisine, where consistent evolution that is nothing short of inspirational.

Read more »

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Video: The Other Side of the Ethiopia Story the Western Media Bubble Doesn’t Cover

As is usually the case with most wars in geostrategic areas of the world, there's far more to the story than is being told and a whole lot of misleading information from the mainstream [western] press. In the following video BreakThrough News make sense of what's happening in Ethiopia's Tigray region and how we got here. (BTN)

BreakThrough News

Crisis In Ethiopia: What the Media Isn’t Telling You About the War In Tigray

Ethiopia has been in the headlines in recent months as the TPLF, a Tigrayan rebel group that ruled the country for three decades, violently seized the northern Ethiopian state of Tigray from the government. As of this recording, the Ethiopian government had declared a ceasefire. However, the TPLF has continued fighting to expand its control over Tigray’s border areas and threatening to push the war into neighboring countries.

The Western media has largely cheered on the TPLF and demonized the Ethiopian government and its allies, with allegations of ethnic cleansing, intentional famine and even genocide. The US has gone so far as to place sanctions on the Ethiopian government, a longtime US ally. But, as is usually the case with most wars in geostrategic areas of the world, there’s far more to the story than is being told and a whole lot of misleading information from the mainstream press.

To help us make sense of what’s happening and how we got here, Rania Khalek was joined by Eugene Puryear, a journalist for Breakthrough News and host of The Punch Out.

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NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day: Lake Tana and the Ethiopian Highlands

NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day for July 12, 2021: Lake Tana and the Ethiopian Highlands. The rugged volcanic terrain creates a temperate climate in a mostly dry place. (Photo: Appears in the Astronaut photography Collection)

NASA Earth Observatory

While in orbit over central Sudan, an astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph featuring Lake Tana and the Ethiopian Highlands. The oblique angle and shadows help emphasize the rugged terrain of the Ethiopian Plateau, while Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, appears mirror-like due to sunglint. The low-lying, tectonically active East African Rift Valley is bounded by the eastern edge of the Ethiopian Highlands.

The Semien (or Simien) Mountains tower over the plateau. With a peak rising 4,533 meters (14,926 feet) above sea level, Ras Dashen is the highest point in Ethiopia. Much of the Ethiopian Highlands are part of a large igneous province—a region with a significant accumulation of large lava rocks. The Semien Range was formed due to volcanic activity about 31 million years ago.

Although the highlands are surrounded by deserts, their elevation results in a temperate climate with ample rainfall. Lake Tana and its tributaries support an important fishing industry, in addition to agriculture in the surrounding wetlands. The lake also feeds the Blue Nile, which runs through northern Ethiopia and southern Sudan and delivers water to many communities. The river flows out of the south side of Lake Tana, through lower canyon areas south of the lake, and then east to ultimately join the White Nile in Sudan.

Astronaut photograph ISS061-E-113632 was acquired on January 3, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 50 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Sara Schmidt, GeoControl Systems, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.

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Ethiopia: Land of Independent Cultural Origins – Ancient, Diverse, and Proud

Ethiopians are fiercely proud of the fact that they were never colonized, having repelled foreign invaders to remain independent while the rest of Africa was carved up by European powers. Ethiopians' spirit of independence is expressed in many unique ways: use different clocks and their own calendar. It was the first African state admitted to the League of Nations and United Nations, and the capital Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the African Union. (Photo: Adwa Victory celebration in Addis on March 2, 2021/VCG)

AFP

Africa’s second-largest nation by population, with 110 million people from dozens of ethnic groups, Ethiopia, is among the world’s oldest countries and has dominated the Horn of Africa for centuries.

Here are five things to know about Ethiopia, where results issued Saturday showed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ruling party winning a landslide victory in a June election.

Millennnia old

Like the Greeks and Romans, the Axumites in what is modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, were regarded in the first century AD as one of the world’s great early civilizations.

Powerful and prosperous, this kingdom traded with Europe and Asia, and conquered lands in Africa and Arabia. The Axumites adopted Christianity in the early fourth century, before most of Europe, and devised their own alphabet.

Centuries on, this ancient script is still recited by Orthodox priests in stone-hewn churches and hilltop monasteries, while Axum, many Ethiopians believe, is the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Ethiopia’s natural history, meanwhile, stretches back much, much further.

The fossilized remains of Lucy, an ancient ancestor of modern humans who roamed the Earth 3.2 million years ago, were discovered in Ethiopia, along with other early hominid bones and some of the oldest-known stone tools.

Fiercely independent

Ethiopians are fiercely proud of the fact that they were never colonized, having repelled foreign invaders to remain independent while the rest of Africa was carved up by European powers.

From the late 13th century until 1974 – some 700 years – Ethiopia was ruled by a royal dynasty that considered itself directly descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

The last emperor, Haile Selassie, was overthrown by the communist Derg regime. A defining figure in modernizing Ethiopia, Haile Selassie was also believed to be a messiah by Rastafarians in faraway Jamaica.

An Italian invasion was rebuffed in the late 1800s, and Mussolini’s forces briefly occupied the country beginning in 1936, but were expelled five years later by Ethiopian forces.

Ethiopians’ spirit of independence is expressed in many unique ways. They use different clocks, with sunrise marking the start of a new day, and refer to their own calendar, which has 13 months and is seven years behind the Western one.

It was the first independent African state admitted to the League of Nations and United Nations, and the capital Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the African Union.

Diverse and faithful

Ethiopia is divided into 10 states along ethnic and linguistic lines. They vary greatly in territory and population, though each enjoys a level of self-rule from Addis Ababa.

The Oromos are the largest ethnic group, and include among their number the prime minister. Amharas are the second largest, while other sizeable minorities include the Somalis and Tigrayans.

The Sidama people overwhelmingly backed the creation of Ethiopia’s newest region in a referendum in 2019, spurring bids for autonomy from other groups particularly in the multi-ethnic southern part of the country.

Ethiopia remains mainly Christian, while about one-third of the country is Muslim, with regions in particular near Djibouti and Somalia predominantly following Sunni Islam.

A small Jewish community exists in Ethiopia, though most were brought to Israel in the 1980s and early 1990s, sometimes by extraordinary means. The covert mission “Operation Solomon” airlifted some 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel over 36 hours in 1991.

Rising economy

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, with industry and services driving its expansion, but faces considerable hurdles including huge debt payments. It hopes to reach lower-middle income status by 2025.

Most of the population is engaged in agriculture and about a quarter of Ethiopians live in poverty. Hunger remains a constant threat in a country no stranger to famine.

In recent years the government has moved to liberalize the economy, vowing to open state-run industries to foreign investment, including Ethiopian Airlines, the largest carrier in Africa.

Ethiopia is landlocked, having lost its gateway to the Red Sea when Eritrea gained independence in 1993.

Regional clout

Ethiopia is blessed with a major tributary of the Nile, on which it has constructed an enormous $4.6 billion dam it sees as crucial for alleviating poverty, electrifying rural homes, and improving the lives of millions.

But the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is fiercely opposed by Sudan and Egypt, two countries downstream who argue the mega-project threatens to cut off their own supplies of life-supporting Nile waters.

The war in Tigray, in Ethiopia’s north, saw Eritrean troops cross the border to join the fray, while Sudanese and Ethiopian forces have clashed over a strip of fertile farmland along the border claimed by both countries.

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ETHIOPIA ELECTION UPDATE: Prosperity Wins Landslide Victory

A mother carries her baby on her back as she casts her vote in the general election at a polling center near Entoto Park on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The ruling Prosperity Party was declared on Saturday, July 10, 2021 the winner of last month's national election in a landslide, assuring a second term for PM Abiy Ahmed. (AP)

The Associated Press

Ethiopia’s ruling party wins national election in landslide

ADDIS ABABA (AP) — Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party on Saturday was declared the winner of last month’s national election in a landslide, assuring a second five-year term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The National Election Board of Ethiopia said the ruling party won 410 seats out of 436 contested in the federal parliament, which will see dozens of other seats remain vacant after one-fifth of constituencies didn’t vote due to unrest or logistical reasons. Ethiopia’s new government is expected to be formed in October.

The vote was a major test for Abiy, who came to power in 2018 after the former prime minister resigned amid widespread protests. Abiy oversaw dramatic political reforms that led in part to a Nobel Peace Prize the following year, but critics say he is backtracking on political and media freedoms. Abiy also has drawn massive international criticism for his handling of the conflict in the Tigray region has that left thousands of people dead.

June’s vote, which had been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and logistical issues, was largely peaceful but opposition parties decried harassment and intimidation. No voting was held in the Tigray region.

Abiy has hailed the election as the nation’s first attempt at a free and fair vote, but the United States has called it “significantly flawed,” citing the detention of some opposition figures and insecurity in parts of Africa’s second most populous country.

The leader of the main opposition Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party, Birhanu Nega, lost while opposition parties won just 11 seats. The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party has filed 207 complaints with the electoral body over the vote.

Popular opposition parties in the Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia’s federal states, boycotted the election. The ruling party ran alone in several dozen constituencies.

The head of the electoral board, Birtukan Mideksa, said during Saturday’s announcement that the vote was held at a time when Ethiopia was experiencing challenges, “but this voting process has guaranteed that people will be governed through their votes.”

She added: “I want to confirm that we have managed to conduct a credible election.”

Voter turnout was just over 90% among the more than 37 million people who had been registered to vote.


People look at electoral results posted on the wall outside a polling station in the capital Addis Ababa a day after the country voted in a general election. (AP Photo)


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed casts his vote in the general election, in his home town of Beshasha, in the Oromia region. Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party was declared on Saturday, July 10, 2021 the winner of last month’s national election in a landslide, assuring a second term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

The Prosperity Party was formed after the dismantling of Ethiopia’s former ruling coalition, which had been dominated by Tigray politicians. Disagreements over that decision signaled the first tensions between Abiy and Tigray leaders that finally led to the conflict in the region in November.

Though Abiy hinted in 2018 that Ethiopia will limit a prime minister’s terms to two, it is not clear whether he will act on that.

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U.N. Security Council Backs African Union Bid to Broker Ethiopia Dam Deal

The "negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, adding that the African Union “is the most appropriate venue to address this dispute.” (Reuters)

Reuters

U.N. Security Council backs AU bid to broker Ethiopia dam deal

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Security Council members on Thursday backed African Union mediation efforts between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in a dispute over the operation of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, urging the parties to resume talks.

Egypt and Sudan both called on the U.N. Security Council to help resolve the dispute after Ethiopia earlier this week began filling the reservoir behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for a second year. Ethiopia is opposed to any Security Council involvement.

“A balanced and equitable solution to the filling and operation of the GERD can be reached with political commitment from all parties,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the council.

“This begins with the resumption of productive substantive negotiations. Those negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union, and should recommence with urgency,” she said, adding that the African Union “is the most appropriate venue to address this dispute.”

Many council diplomats were wary of involving the body in the dispute – beyond holding the meeting on Thursday – as they are concerned it could set a precedent that could allow other countries to seek Security Council help with water disputes.

Ethiopia says the dam is crucial to its economic development and to provide power. But Egypt views it as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, also downstream, has expressed concern about the dam’s safety and impact on its own dams and water stations.

Tunisia has proposed a draft Security Council resolution that would call for a binding agreement between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the operation of the giant dam within six months. It was not clear if or when it could be put to a vote.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called on the Security Council to adopt the resolution.

“We do not expect the council to formulate solutions to the outstanding legal and technical issues, nor do we request that the council impose the terms of a settlement,” he said. “This resolution is political in nature and its purpose … is to re-launch negotiations.”

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi also urged the council to act by calling for a resumption of negotiations and on Ethiopia to abstain from any unilateral measures.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, said an agreement on the operation of the $5 billion dam is “within reach” and he described it as regrettable that Egypt and Sudan pushed for the Security Council meeting.

“We urge our Egyptian and Sudanese brothers and sisters to understand that the resolution to the Nile issue will not come from the Security Council. It can only come from good faith negotiations,” he told the council.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia suggested the countries meet while in New York to try to resolve some issues.

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643 Ethiopian Peacekeepers Receive Prestigious UN Medals for Service

86 women were among the 643 peacekeepers recently honored with the prestigious United Nations Medal for their service in South Sudan. (Photo by Mach Samuel/UNMISS)

UNITED NATIONS

643 ETHIOPIAN PEACEKEEPERS RECEIVE UNITED NATIONS MEDALS FOR THEIR SERVICE IN SOUTH SUDAN

“I have left my two young sons at home and have been serving as a Blue Helmet with UNMISS for almost two years,” says Major Wondimagegn Araya, a peacekeeper from Ethiopia who is deployed to conflict-ridden Jonglei in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Prior to becoming a United Nations peacekeeper, Major Araya has served in different military units as part of his country’s army for 20 years.

In his current role, he often spends days and nights in remote areas trying to overcome near-impassable road conditions to reach villages where local communities need protection or humanitarian aid.

Yesterday, Major Araya, along with 642 of his brave colleagues, including 86 women, received the prestigious UN medal honouring their service to the cause of peace in a colourful ceremony attended by senior UNMISS officials and state dignitaries.

For Major Araya, it was a day to remember. “The conditions we serve in as peacekeepers are harsh; we are often in the forefront of armed hostilities, but we try and fulfil our mandate to protect civilians with happiness. This UN medal acknowledges the hardships we go through but, more significantly, it is a reminder that peace and security always necessitate sacrifice,” he states poignantly.

Since their initial deployment to UNMISS, Ethiopian peacekeepers have contributed immeasurably to the mission’s mandate by reducing intercommunal conflict; preventing revenge attacks due to cattle rustling; building community trust and confidence; and ensuring safe, speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance to people who need it the most.

“It hasn’t been an easy deployment for all of you in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area—the terrain is tough, weather conditions arduous and it is a hotspot for conflict, all of which has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Main Ullah Chowdhury, Deputy Force Commander, UNMISS, while commending awardees at the medal ceremony.

“However, for the past 18 months you have been the lynchpin for the mission to achieve its mandated tasks here.”

As geographical neighbours with longstanding cordial relations, Ethiopia has also been at the forefront of the ongoing political engagement by international and regional stakeholders for a sustainable peace across South Sudan.

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UPDATE: Ethiopia Declares Cease-Fire in Tigray

In a statement, Ethiopia said it was pausing hostilities to prevent disruptions to the farming season and to allow the distribution of humanitarian aid. (Africa News)

Africa News

Ethiopia declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Tigray on Monday, as rebels claimed retaking the regional capital of Mekelle.

In a statement, Addis Ababa said it was pausing hostilities to prevent disruptions to the farming season and to allow the distribution of humanitarian aid.

The United Nations has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the situation in the country.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres considered these events “extremely worrying”. “They demonstrate, once again, that there is no military solution to the crisis,” he said, saying he was “confident that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place.

The United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday called for an emergency public meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tigray, diplomatic sources said, adding that it could be held Friday.

Mekelle fell to the federal army on November 28, three weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive after the region’s forces attacked and killed federal troops.

Despite the victory proclaimed after the fall of Mekelle, the fighting never stopped between the pro-Tigray Peoples Liberation Front forces – and the federal Ethiopian army.

The rebels launched an offensive last week, just as much of the rest of the country was holding highly anticipated national elections, the results of which have not yet been announced.

Music and fireworks

On Monday, these rebels “took control of the city, I saw them myself, they entered,” a member of the interim regional administration, set up by Addis Ababa after the removal of the TPLF authorities, told AFP.

An AFP reporter confirmed that the troops had arrived in trucks and cars.

Their entry triggered scenes of jubilation, with soldiers firing into the air in celebration, and residents coming out into the street waving the Tigrayan flag.

“The city is celebrating, everyone is out dancing,” confirmed the interim administration member.

“Everyone is excited, there is music in the streets. Everyone has their flags out and the music is playing. I don’t know how they got them, but everyone has fireworks,” detailed one resident, reached by AFP.

Faced with the rebel advance, officials from the regional interim administration left the town on Monday, according to the administration official.

Witnesses reported that soldiers and federal police were also fleeing Mekele, some looting banks and commandeering private vehicles.

Read more »

FED. GOV ACCEPTS INTERIM ADMIN’S CALL FOR UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE

Addis Standard

Addis Abeba, June 28, 2021 – Reports of the take over of Mekelle city by forces formerly loyal to the TPLF which have since renamed themselves as Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) were coming out of Mekelle this afternoon. Addis Standard learned from residents of Mekelle that the city roads are overwhelmed by celebrating residents as the city was taken over by TDF.

Hours after the reports, local media reported that Chief Executive of Tigray’s Interim Administration, Abraham Belay (PhD) announced that his administration has asked the federal government for a ceasefire agreement to provide a timely political solution to the plight of Tigray farmers. Abraham explained the need for a ceasefire ahead of the summer farming season, a better delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need and seeking a political and timely solution.

In a nine-point request to the federal government, the interim administration noted that it made the proposal last week, following intensive discussion with regional leaders, Tigrayan intellectuals, businessmen and religious leaders. He pointed out that some in the fighting force out there are currently seeking a way to peace and it was important to give these forces a chance.

Earlier today tensions were at their peak in Mekelle city as the local television, Tigray Tv ceases its transmission today in the afternoon. A staff from the local TV who wanted to stay anonymous also confirmed to Addis Standard the termination of the TV transmission and said that the employees were told to leave the station. Another resident of Mekelle told Addis Standard that residents are hastily evacuating the roads to their houses and businesses including shops, hotels and banks were closed at the moment.

Residents also told Addis Standard the troops loaded in trucks were seen being rounded up in parts of the city. Later in the evening, residents told Addis Standard that the city is rocked by people chanting. Addis Standard also spoke to Etenesh Nigusie, an official in the Interim administration, who was limited only to state that ‘the city is calm’. Further efforts to reach other Interim administration officials were unsuccessful.

This comes days after reports of flare ups in the region over the past days featuring an airstrike that claimed the lives of civilians. The spokesman of the ENDF said that the only combatants, not civilians, were struck in the airstrike. It is also remembered that the EU and the US condemned the attacks while also reiterating calls for an immediate ceasefire in the region and unhindered humanitarian access.

The request of the interim administration was followed by a declaration of a ceasefire by the federal government. In a statement released late afternoon, the Prime minister’s office said “It is believed that there are forces within the scattered rebel forces who are willing for a peaceful resolution,” adding “The government has accepted the interim administration’s proposal.”

The statement concluded by explaining that the investigation against the leaders of TPLF would proceed, while declaring “ The government has announced an unconditional ceasefire that will last until the end of the farming season effective as of June 28, 2021.” Federal and regional institutions were instructed to follow suit, reminding that measures will be taken on those who try to use this opportunity for ill purposes. AS

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UPDATE: Ethiopia Conducted Election in a ‘Credible’ Manner, AU Observers Say

“Overall the election [was] conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner,” former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the mission of 100 observers, told a news conference in Addis Ababa as authorities continued counting ballots. (Photo: A staff from Ethiopia's Election Board confirms casted ballots at a polling station in Addis Ababa, June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Maheder Haileselassie Tadese)

Reuters

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s parliamentary polls, held on Monday, were conducted in a “credible” manner, the African Union’s election observer mission said on Wednesday.

“Overall the election and election day processes were conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner,” former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the mission of 100 observers, told a news conference in Addis Ababa as authorities continued counting ballots.

The election in the country of 109 million people has been billed by the government as the first free vote in the country’s history. But it has been marred by an opposition boycott, war and reports of irregularities in some areas.

Authorities were unable to hold elections in four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions on Monday, though polling took place a day late in one of those regions, Sidama, on Tuesday, according to the elections board.

The board was expected to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

Related:

ETHIOPIA ELECTION UPDATE: As Voters Head to the Polls, Spotlight on Birtukan Mideksa

Video: Debating the Ethiopia Election (France 24)

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U.S. Arrests Ethiopian Man for Fraudulently Obtaining Citizenship

According to the indictment, which was unsealed following the arrest, Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, 65, of Snellville, Georgia [east of Atlanta] served as a civilian interrogator at a makeshift prison in Dilla, Ethiopia, during a period in the late 1970s known as the Red Terror, [which he failed to disclose] (DOJ)

Press Release

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Naturalized U.S. Citizen from Ethiopia Arrested on Charge of Fraudulently Obtaining Citizenship

Indictment Alleges Lies During the Naturalization Process, Including Failure to Disclose Participation in Persecution During the Ethiopian Red Terror

A Georgia man has been arrested on criminal charges related to allegations that he lied to obtain U.S. citizenship.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed following the arrest, Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, 65, of Snellville, served as a civilian interrogator at a makeshift prison in Dilla, Ethiopia, during a period in the late 1970s known as the Red Terror. At the prison, Abebe ordered and participated in the severe physical abuse and interrogation of prisoners held on the basis of their political beliefs. The indictment alleges that Abebe unlawfully procured U.S. citizenship, to which he was not entitled, by concealing his involvement in the Red Terror when he falsely claimed that he had not persecuted anyone because of their political opinions and had never committed a crime for which he had not been arrested.

“Human rights violators have no home in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “No matter how much time has passed, the Department of Justice will find and prosecute individuals who committed atrocities in their home countries and covered them up to gain entry to the United States.”

“The laws of the United States are designed to provide refuge for the victims of human rights violation and to exclude those who commit them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia. “The defendant’s alleged lies through his immigration and naturalization process subverted this system. We commend our law enforcement partners at the Department of Homeland Security and the dedicated team at the Department of Justice who work tirelessly to assure that individuals such as the defendant do not have a safe haven in our communities.”

“Abebe’s lies and horrible past deeds have thankfully come back to haunt him,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Now he will be held accountable. Thanks to some great work from the agents and officers involved in this case as well as our law enforcement partners, justice will be served.”

Abebe is charged with two counts of unlawful procurement of naturalization. The maximum sentence for each count is 10 years in prison. If convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. A conviction would also result in automatic revocation of Abebe’s U.S. citizenship.

Homeland Security Investigations’ Atlanta Field Office is investigating the case, and coordination was provided by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009, the HRVWCC furthers the government’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.

Trial Attorneys Jamie Perry and Patrick Jasperse of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Morris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case, with assistance from HRSP Senior Historian Dr. Christopher Hayden.

Members of the public who have information about former human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tips.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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ETHIOPIA ELECTION UPDATE: As Voters Head to the Polls, Spotlight on Birtukan Mideksa

A former political prisoner who went into exile in the US, Birtukan Mideksa is now centre-stage in Ethiopia as she oversees the country's first parliamentary election since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 on a pledge to end decades of authoritarian rule. - BBC (Getty Images)

Updated: June 21st, 2021

  • Birtukan Mideksa: Ethiopia’s electoral board chairperson
  • Ethiopians pray for peaceful vote ahead of key election
  • Ethiopians to vote in what government bills as first free election
  • How Monday’s vote will shape Ethiopia’s place in Horn of Africa
  • Ethiopia elections: The misinformation circulating online
  • Ethiopia’s historic election overshadowed by a cascade of crises and conflict

    Birtukan Mideksa: Ethiopia’s electoral board chairperson


    Birtukan Mideksa (right). Voter education programmes have been held to reduce the risk of spoiled ballots (AFP)

    Recommending Ms Birtukan, 47, to the all-important post of chairperson of the electoral board, the new premier described her as someone who would “never surrender, even to the government”.

    Many agreed with that sentiment as she had built a reputation for being brave and independent-minded as a lawyer, judge and politician.

    Ms Birtukan contested the 2001 parliamentary election as an independent, but lost to the candidate of the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), conceding that her defeat was due to her “limited popularity” rather than rigging.

    She then became a judge, catching the attention of the public a year later when she resisted political interference in the judiciary by ordering the release of former Defence Minister Siye Abraha. His arrest on corruption charges was seen as an attempt to neutralise a formidable rival of then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

    “Siyes’ case is the visible one. But they [Ms Birtukan and other judges] all tried to challenge the system invisibly for a while,” said a friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Restless for change, Ms Birtukan moved back into politics, playing a key role in the formation of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) to present a united front against the EPRDF in the 2005 parliamentary election, which was widely seen as the most fiercely contested poll in Ethiopia’s history, with the opposition claiming that it had been robbed of victory.

    As a senior CUD official, Ms Birtukan was an obvious target for the security forces, and she was among thousands of people detained in the crackdown that followed the election. Almost 200 people were shot by police.

    Prosecuted by a friend

    An underground network that the CUD had built was crushed, but from prison, its leaders – including Ms Birtukan – rebuilt it, calling it the Kinjit International Council (KIC), to mobilise support for the campaign for democracy.

    “They usually discussed and took decisions on the way to court,” said a friend of Ms Birtukan, who preferred to remain anonymous.


    More than 37 million people have registered to vote, officials say. (AFP)

    In 2006, Ms Birtukan was among a large number of detainees – including current Ethiopian Human Rights Commission chairman Daniel Bekele – who were charged with various offences, including treason.

    To their shock, one of the prosecutors turned out to be Shimels Kemal – a friend of Ms Birtukan and a housemate of Mr Daniel – who asked the judge to sentence them to death.

    “The scene was so dramatic,” a colleague, who knew them, recalled in an interview with BBC Amharic.

    “Shimels doesn’t let things go easily. He mixes politics with personal. He felt betrayed when his friends chose another line of ideology.”

    The judge rejected the prosecutor’s request, and imposed a life sentence instead.

    Forced to leave her little daughter in the care of her elderly mother, Ms Birtukan began serving her sentence at the notorious Kaliti prison, where she acted as a peacemaker between rival CUD factions after major differences emerged within their ranks.

    “She didn’t solve the problem but they then rebuilt an underground network from scratch, successfully,” said Ms Birtukan’s friend.

    In jail, she was one of the prisoners who entered into talks with a panel of elders who brokered a deal between them and the government.

    This led to her release in 2007 after 18 months in jail, with Ms Birtukan being among those who signed a document regretting “mistakes” and asking Prime Minister Meles for a pardon.

    The decision caused controversy in opposition circles, and she tried to play down the significance of the document in a speech she gave during a visit abroad.

    Then-police chief Wokneh Gebeyehu – now the executive secretary of the regional body Igad – ordered her to apologise, accusing her of breaching the conditions of her pardon.

    Ms Birtukan refused, and during the Christmas period in 2008, she was sent back to prison to serve the rest of her life sentence.

    In an article published in Ethiopia’s Addis Neger newspaper shortly before her re-arrest, she wrote: “Maybe this is my last word,” and in a significant comment amid the controversy over her decision to seek a pardon, she wrote: “I signed on that document. This is a fact that I can’t change, even if I want to.”

    Her new prison conditions were harsher, and she was kept in solitary confinement for two months, when she was denied the right to even see her daughter.

    Exile in the US

    This increased public sympathy for her, with Amnesty International calling her a prisoner of conscience and South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper describing her as Ethiopia’s most famous political prisoner.

    In October 2010, Ms Birtukan was again freed after negotiating another pardon.


    Birtukan Mideksa’s release in 2010 was a huge relief to her family and friends. (AFP)

    Following her release, she and her daughter went into exile in the US, where she studied at the Harvard Kennedy School and later worked for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US agency which says it supports democracy around the world.

    She returned to Ethiopia after Mr Abiy took power, promising to end years of repression.

    But the euphoria around her appointment has to some extent faded.

    After repeated delays, the poll is now taking place on Monday, although some major opposition parties are boycotting it, saying conditions for a free and fair poll do not exist.

    Among Ms Birtukan’s critics is Professor Merera Gudina, who has known her for 21 years. He heads the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which is boycotting the election.

    “We had not seen illegal polling stations or an inability to register a candidate at their constituency during the previous elections,” he said.

    With the OFC and another party boycotting the poll in Oromia, war in the northern Tigray region and a postponement in parts of the Somali region, “the election is mainly in Amhara region and in [the capital] Addis Ababa”, he added.

    But for Addis Ababa University academic Mesenbet Assefa, Ms Birtukan has done a good job.

    “The problems are not the making of the [election] board or the government. Political parties have the responsibility of doing what democracy requires – a disciplined discourse – not using arms to topple the government.”

    Ms Birtukan herself has sought to manage expectations over the elections. In a letter to the US Senate in May, she warned “shortfalls are inevitable given factors such as… a nascent democratic culture and an increasingly charged political and security environment”.

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  • For Juneteenth in New York City, Helina Metaferia’s Mural Celebrates Black Women

    Helina Metaferia, Headdress 21 (2021). (Courtesy of the artist)

    Artnet News

    10 New Murals Will Pop Up Across New York This Summer Thanks to a New Professional Development Initiative for Black Artists

    The first piece will be unveiled in Brooklyn this weekend in celebration of Juneteenth.

    This weekend, on Juneteenth, a new mural celebrating the labor of Black women activists will be unveiled in Brooklyn.

    The work of Harlem- and Brooklyn-based artist and activist Helina Metaferia, the mural depicts a fellow young creator, Wildcat Ebony Brown, atop a picture of a plinth; collaged throughout the scene are archival photos of civil rights-era protests and pictures culled from old Ethiopian and Kenyan travel magazines. A small text reads, “Where would democracy be without Black women?” It will be located at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Fort Greene.

    The idea, Metaferia told Artnet News, is to “amplify the people in my life that are doing amazing work yet are often chastised in the media. [It’s about] reclaiming that image and offering another perspective on these activists in a way they can essentially get their power back.”

    The piece will be revealed this weekend amid a flurry of other events scheduled for Juneteenth Jubilee 2021, a free outdoor event co-sponsored by arts organizations The Blacksmiths and the Wide Awakes that Metaferia—a member of the latter group—helped organize.

    Metaferia’s mural is the first of 10 public artworks set to appear across New York’s five boroughs this summer through Not a Monolith, a new professional development initiative for Black artists organized by ArtBridge, an initiative that works to transform New York City’s many miles of construction fencing and scaffolding into a venue for art.

    Read the full article at news.artnet.com »

    Related:

    ART TALK: Helina Metaferia’s Solo Debut with Addis Fine Art at 2021 Frieze NYC

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    The Guardian: Looted Artefacts Withdrawn From UK Auction After Ethiopia’s Appeal

    The Ethiopian embassy called the decision an important move toward its goal of having all Maqdala artefacts returned from British institutions. “Maqdala is really important in terms of the shared history between the UK and Ethiopia, so today is a big day. A small step,” a spokesperson from the Ethiopian embassy said. (Photo: An Ethiopian Coptic bible taken during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868/ Busby auctioneers and valuers)

    The Guardian

    Ethiopian government asked auction house to ‘stop cycle of dispossession’

    Two artefacts that were taken during colonial-era looting by British forces in Ethiopia have been withdrawn from auction after the Ethiopian government appealed to an auction house selling them to “stop the cycle of dispossession”.

    Busby auctioneers in Bridport, Dorset, has withdrawn a leather-bound Coptic bible and a set of horn beakers from a sale on 17 June after the Ethiopian embassy in London discovered the items – which were taken during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868 – and wrote to the auction house.

    In the letter, the embassy said the return of the items would help bring to a close a “painful chapter” of the nation’s history, and said the two lots – valued at about £700 – were a small but “important part of that story”.

    “In the government’s view the auctioning of these items is, at best, unethical and, at worst, the continuation of a cycle of dispossession perpetrated by those who would seek to benefit from the spoils of war,” the letter said.

    Busby confirmed that after discussions with the Ethiopian government and the seller, the two items had been withdrawn. “The matter has been resolved with the vendor and the Ethiopian embassy in London,” a spokesperson said.

    The Guardian understands that there are now negotiations between the Ethiopian embassy and the private seller of the items to secure their return to the country they were taken from more than 150 years ago.

    The Ethiopian government has been appealing for the return of items taken in 1868 for decades.

    In 2007, it unsuccessfully asked for the return of hundreds of artefacts – including manuscripts, royal regalia and jewellery – being held by British institutions that were taken from Maqdala, the mountain capital of Emperor Tewodros II in what was then known as Abyssinia.

    In 2018, before an exhibition of items from Maqdala, the Victoria and Albert Museum said some items could be returned to Ethiopia on long-term loan. The embassy said more than 20 private collectors had returned Maqdala items following restitution requests.

    Related:

    Is UK Ready to Return Ethiopia’s Looted Treasures? Museum Talking to Embassy

    The Battle Over Ethiopia’s Meqdela Treasures Heats Up

    Ethiopians Urge Britain to Return Remains of Prince Alemayehu After 150 Years

    150 Years After His Death Ethiopia Commemorates Life of Tewodros II

    UK Museum Wants to Loan Ethiopia Looted Ethiopian Treasures. Why Not Return It?

    A Photo Journal Retracing the Last March of Emperor Tewodros to Meqdela

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    ART TALK: The Whitney Museum of American Art Presents The World Premiere of Julie Mehretu’s Palimpsest

    Julie Mehretu. (Checkerboard Film Foundation)

    Press Release

    The Whitney Museum Presents The World Premiere of Julie Mehretu: Palimpsest

    Julie Mehretu: Palimpsest, a new feature documentary by Checkerboard, follows the artist as she prepares for a mid-career survey, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art (until August 8, 2021), co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The artist offers commentary on her work, process, and chronology of her career, from graduate work at RISD to current expansive, multi-layered canvases.

    The screening will be introduced by the Whitney’s Rujeko Hockley, co-curator of the exhibition, and Checkerboard Film Foundation’s President, Edgar Howard.

    Watch: Checkerboard Film Foundation presents “Julie Mehretu: Mid-Career Survey”

    Checkerboard Film Foundation is a non-profit educational institution established in 1979 to document artists who are making unique and important contributions to the American arts. Checkerboard has produced over 70 films on influential painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, and writers.

    If You Attend:

    Advance registration is required to the free screening. Registrants will receive an individual link via email to access the premiere screening on June 17 at 8PM. The film will be available for registrants to stream on demand from June 18-20.

    June 17, 2021
    This Whitney event is free, registration required.
    REGISTER

    Related:

    ART TALK: Julie Mehretu – A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. in NYC

    ART TALK: Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In

    Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey at LA County Museum of Art

    Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

    Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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    Ethiopia’s Prime Minister: Next Week’s Election Will be Peaceful

    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends his last campaign event ahead of Ethiopia's parliamentary and regional elections scheduled for June 21, in Jimma, Ethiopia, June 16, 2021. (Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

    Reuters

    JIMMA, Ethiopia – Ethiopia will show a sceptical world that it can successfully hold a peaceful election next week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters at his first – and last – campaign rally on Wednesday.

    The June 21 vote is the first time Abiy, 44, will face voters at the ballot box in Africa’s second most populous nation. He tweeted this week that the election “will be the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections”. read more


    PM Abiy Ahmed campaigning in Jimma on June 16, 2021. (Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

    “The whole world is saying we will fight but we will show them differently,” Abiy told a packed stadium in the western city of Jimma. “The forces that saved Ethiopia from collapsing will turn the Horn of Africa into Africa’s power hub.”

    Just over a fifth of parliamentary constituencies are not voting due to logistical problems, low-level violence or due to the war in the northern region of Tigray.

    “I will vote for Abiy because he is creating many jobs, building schools and roads,” said Hawi Aba Jihad, 21, a motorised three-wheel taxi driver at the rally.


    Supporters of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attend his last campaign event ahead of Ethiopia’s parliamentary and regional elections scheduled for June 21, in Jimma, Ethiopia, June 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)


    Supporters of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attend his last campaign event ahead of Ethiopia’s parliamentary and regional elections scheduled for June 21, in Jimma, Ethiopia, June 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)

    But many parties in Oromiya, the nation’s most populous region and the site of Wednesday’s rally, are boycotting the polls, alleging government intimidation.

    Regional spokesman Getachew Balcha referred queries to the police commissioner, Ararsa Merdasa, who did not respond to questions on those accusations.

    NEW FREEDOMS ROLLBACK?

    Abiy rode a wave of optimism to become prime minister with a message of unity and reform after years of bloody anti-government demonstrations forced his predecessor to resign.

    His appointment sparked hopes that one of the continent’s most repressive governments would speed up democratic and economic reforms.

    Within months of taking office in 2018, Abiy freed more than 40,000 political prisoners, said Fisseha Tekle of Amnesty International. He unbanned political parties and signed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea, winning the Nobel peace prize for ending more than two decades of conflict.

    He also began opening the sclerotic state-run economy to outside investors, starting with telecoms. read more

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    In Pictures: Update on US Military School Graduate Bishane Whitmore

    This month Bishane Whitmore who is currently a Speechwriter for the United States Air Force in Arlington, Virginia, received his PhD in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Montgomery, Alabama. (Courtesy photo)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: Monday, June 15th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — This is graduation season and you may remember our interview with Lieutenant Colonel Bishane Whitmore when he graduated with a Masters of Military Art and Science (MMAS) from the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, five years ago. Among those who attended the ceremony was his then 96-year-old grandfather, retired Ethiopian General Tilahun Bishane, who had graduated from the same military school 46 years earlier as one of the institution’s first international students from Ethiopia.

    This month Bishane, who is currently a Speechwriter for the United States Air Force in Arlington, Virginia, received his PhD in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Montgomery, Alabama.

    According to its Linkedin page: “The Air Forces Advanced Studies Group develops strategists for the United States and its allies. SAASS is a degree granting institution, with qualified graduates receiving an MPhil in Military Strategy. Select graduates can receive the AU PhD in Military Strategy by completing additional training and research requirements, which is also administered through SAASS. SAASS is a school at Air University on Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery, AL.”

    In addition to pursuing his doctorate degree since his graduation from CGSC in 2016 Bishane had served as the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron Commander as well as the Director Of Operations/ RQ-4 Pilot at Beale U.S. Air Force Base in California.

    Below are photos from his recent graduation that took place on June 9th, 2021 courtesy of his family, which note that his Doctoral Regalia was presented to him by his sister.


    Bishane Whitmore’s graduation ceremony at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Montgomery, Alabama, June 9th, 2021. (Courtesy photo)


    Bishane Whitmore received his PhD in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Montgomery, Alabama, on June 9th, 2021. (Courtesy photo)


    (Courtesy photo)


    (Courtesy photo)

    Related:

    Harris Leadership award goes to grandson of Ethiopian General

    Bishane Whitmore Follows in Footsteps of Grandfather at US Military School

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    U.S. on Elections in Ethiopia Press Statement

    Ned Price, U.S. Department of State Spokesperson. (Courtesy photo)

    Press Release

    Elections in Ethiopia

    PRESS STATEMENT

    NED PRICE, DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON

    JUNE 11, 2021

    On June 21, many Ethiopians will be able to cast ballots in elections, an important exercise of their civil and political rights.

    These elections should not be seen as a singular event but rather as part of a democratic political process that involves dialogue, cooperation, and compromise. To that end, we urge the Government of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians to commit to an inclusive, post-election political dialogue to determine a path forward to strengthen the country’s democracy and national unity.

    We recognize the efforts that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and its staff have made to prepare for these elections at a time when so many Ethiopians are suffering and dying from violence and acute food insecurity caused by conflict.

    We urge politicians and community leaders to reject violence and to refrain from inciting others. All political actors and community leaders should seek to resolve grievances through negotiation, dialogue, and recognized non-violent dispute resolution mechanisms.

    The United States continues to urge Ethiopia’s leaders to support a free media and an active civil society. We urge the government to respect the right of citizens to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and to reject the use of Internet shutdowns or network restrictions.

    The United States is gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held. The detention of opposition politicians, harassment of independent media, partisan activities by local and regional governments, and the many interethnic and inter-communal conflicts across Ethiopia are obstacles to a free and fair electoral process and whether Ethiopians would perceive them as credible. The exclusion of large segments of the electorate from this contest due to security issues and internal displacement is particularly troubling.

    The hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia threaten the country’s unity and territorial integrity. The period following these elections will be a critical moment for Ethiopians to come together to confront these divisions. The United States stands ready to help Ethiopia address these challenges and find a path to a brighter future. We stand with all Ethiopians working toward a peaceful, democratic, and secure future for the country.

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    In Louisville, Kentucky Family of Slain Ethiopian Store Owner Devastated His American Dream Came to Tragic End

    The shooting happened around noon Monday...when police arrived, they found a man, now identified as Dimtsu Haileselassie, 62, of Louisville, shot to death inside the store. His niece Hilena Haileselassie and nephew Amanuel Abay said they didn't know who would do this to their uncle. (WLKY)

    WLKY

    Family of slain Louisville liquor store owner devastated his American dream came to tragic end

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The family of a Taylor Berry liquor store owner shot to death inside the store is asking for the public’s help in identifying his killer.

    The shooting happened around noon Monday at a store in the 3200 block of Taylor Boulevard, which is just blocks away from Churchill Downs.

    When police arrived, they found a man, now identified as Dimtsu Haileselassie, 62, of Louisville, shot to death inside the store.

    His niece Hilena Haileselassie and nephew Amanuel Abay said they didn’t know who would do this to their uncle.

    “What am I going to say to the person who took our everything?” Haileselassie asked. “Someone chose on a Monday morning to come and take his life and it’s devastating. His wife found him. His nephew [Abay] found him.”

    The store was a venture by Haileselassie and his wife to start a new chapter when they moved from Louisville to Atlanta. Haileselassie owned the store for two years before tragedy struck a family already experiencing loss in their home country.

    “I feel like I lost a thousand people,” Abay said. “We’re already losing a lot of people in Tigray, Ethiopia. Our family are dying there. Again, here, to happen, this to us. It’s unreal, another death.”

    Abay recalled the conversations he had with his uncle about staying safe in a city now plagued by violence.

    “He kept saying as long as you’re nice to people, they will never kill you,” Abay said. “He never thought somebody would come and kill him.”

    Part of the shock for the family is knowing how much Haileselassie himself survived as a young man. The family said he fled his home country of Ethiopia through Sudan and arrived in America in search of a better life.

    “To say Dimtsu Haileselassie was the epitome of the American Dream is not an understatement,” niece Hilena Haileselassie said. “Pulling himself up, pulling his family up with him, pulling the community up with him. Even having gone through all of that, he was the brightest face in the room. That’s his legacy. The kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness. My stomach was sick just to know his blood was spilled here.”

    A communal room next door to the store where he was killed is being used to celebrate his life. As the family begins their Ethiopian mourning tradition, they’re calling out to the community Dimtsu Haileselassie had so much faith in to honor him and help bring his killer to justice.

    “We need some form of closure,” Hilena Haileselassie said. “It’s not going to bring Dimtsu back. But it can’t end like this so please, please call the anonymous tip line.”

    LMPD has not yet made an arrest in his shooting, but released photos Tuesday of a suspect:

    Suspect in liquor store homicideWANTED: LMPD releases photos of suspect in fatal shooting of liquor store employee
    Anyone with information is asked to call the anonymous tip line at 502-574-LMPD.

    Read the full story and watch video at wlky.com »

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    Spotlight: Review of Mimi’s Ethiopian BBQ in DC

    Mimi’s is named for Siham Mohammed (bottom left), whose mother used to call her “Mimi” as a child. [Siham] is an entrepreneur, just like her parents were back in Gondar. Her restaurant Mimi’s Ethiopian BBQ is located on Pennsylvania Avenue SE in Wahington, DC. (The Washington Post)

    The Washington Post

    Mimi’s Ethiopian BBQ brings a delicious taste of East African cooking to a new audience

    A woman tends to a small portable grill she has placed atop a picnic table at Anacostia Park, just steps from a pirate ship that has, for the moment, separated children from their phones long enough to explore every inch of the three-masted playground. From my own picnic table, I can’t tell what she is cooking, but it has the unmistakable aroma of meat charred and caramelized on a hot grill.

    Of course, I have my own platter of grilled meat, which I had bought minutes earlier at Mimi’s Ethiopian BBQ, just up the way on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Long, ropy lengths of beef are coiled and tangled on a bed of injera, each strip slathered with awaze red-pepper paste and blackened from a brief stay on the grill. Some sections have this sublime crustiness, which forms best, I think, when thickly marinated meats hit a superhot grate. To be honest, I can’t tell who’s enjoying their afternoon more: the children on the pirate ship or me with my zilzil tibs.

    Mimi’s is named for Siham Mohammed, whose mother used to call her “Mimi” as a child. Mohammed is an entrepreneur, just like her parents were back in Gondar, in the northern reaches of Ethiopia. Aside from Mimi’s, Mohammed also owns the supermarket a few doors down where, according to the signage, you can get groceries, accessories and your checks cashed. To my mind, the sign doesn’t begin to cover the vast array of foods, services and household goods found in Mohammed’s store.

    Mimi’s, by contrast, has only a few offerings. It has even fewer workers. Its principal employee is Hikmah Tasew, older sister to Mohammed. Tasew serves as prep cook, baker, chef, dishwasher, cashier, you name it. She arrives early in the morning and leaves late at night, six days a week. She’s a crew of one, layered in clothes from top to bottom, from her floor-length striped dress to her tawny-colored headscarf. The only visible parts of her body are her hands and her face, which radiates kindness.

    “It breaks my heart seeing her working hard, to be honest with you,” says Mohammed. “She makes everything on a daily basis. She doesn’t make anything for the next day. … She makes everything fresh, just like at her house.”

    Read more »

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    An Extremely Rare Jazz Album From a Legendary DC-Area Artist Has Been Reissued: Hailu Mergia’s “Tezeta”

    On Friday, Ethiopian jazz artist Hailu Mergia re-released the nine-track "Tezeta".

    Washingtonian Magazine

    A very rare jazz album from a legendary Ethiopian artist is now a lot easier to get a hold of. Hailu Mergia, who’s lived in the DC area for years, debuted “Tezeta” in 1975 with the Walias Band. The nine-song album was originally released on cassette and has been difficult to track down. But on Friday, the record label Awesome Tapes From Africa reissued a remastered version of “Tezeta”—meaning fans can now simply download it.

    Hailu Mergia & the Walias Band were a huge influence on modern Ethiopian music. The group went on tour in the U.S. in 1981, performing mostly for Ethiopian refugees. However, they split after four band members opted not to go back to Ethiopia, which was under a military regime at time.

    The four members, including Mergia, continued to release music under a new name, Zula Band. Mergia studied music at Howard University and worked as a taxi driver near Dulles airport. As he drove passengers around, he would jam out to his old songs, which increased the popularity of Zula Band within Washington.

    You can buy “Tazeta” digitally for $9. Physical copies have already sold out.

    Related:

    Originally released on cassette tape in 1975, the reissue arrives this June via Awesome Tapes From Africa


    Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band. (Photo courtesy of Awesome Tapes From Africa)

    Pitchfork

    Ethiopian music legend Hailu Mergia has announced a new reissue of his 1975 album with the Walias Band, Tezeta. The rare, initially cassette-only release has been remastered by restoration engineer Jessica Thompson and arrives June 4 via Awesome Tapes From Africa. Check out “Nefas New Zemedie,” as well as the album artwork and full tracklist, below.

    Tezeta was recorded at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, where Mergia and the Walias Band were the resident backing band for some of the most influential names in Ethiopian music. It was the group’s first proper full-length release and was originally released under its own Ethio Sound label. At the time of the recording, the Walias Band lineup featured Moges Habte (saxophone and flute), Mahmoud Aman (guitar), Yohannes Tekola (trumpet), Melake Gebre (bass guitar), Girma Beyene (piano), Temare Haregu (drums), and Abebe Kassa (alto saxophone).

    Read Pitchfork’s review of Hailu Mergia’s 2020 album Yene Mircha.

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    Profile: At Harvard Yoseph Boku is Geared Up to Fight for Social Justice From A Biomedical Perspective

    This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates. “I really believe that public service can be therapeutic, that you can learn just as much from a volunteer opportunity as you can learn from a classroom or a section discussion,” said Yoseph Boku, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and immigrated with his family to Alexandria, Va., when he was 6 years old. (The Harvard Gazette)

    The Harvard Gazette

    Yoseph Boku constantly asks himself: How can I have an impact?

    The question-slash-mindset helped define his experience at Harvard College through his research on rare genetic diseases and in his volunteer work with the homeless. It will undoubtedly continue to frame his next steps as he starts Harvard Medical School this fall.

    “I hope to dedicate my future to fighting for justice from a biomedical perspective,” he said.

    Boku’s drive to make a difference started his first year, when he realized he could do something to help local disadvantaged teenagers and young adults.

    “I saw that a lot of youth my age were sleeping outside,” said Boku, who concentrated in molecular and cellular biology and is living in Kirkland House. “I really saw great inequity where on one side of Mass. Ave., you have one of the wealthiest schools and right on the other side, you have youth who didn’t have any homes.”

    Boku began volunteering at Y2Y, a youth homeless shelter in Harvard Square. He stayed on campus during the winter break of his first year to be able to continue volunteering while interning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In his sophomore year, Boku became volunteer director at Y2Y and oversaw all Harvard student volunteers, about 150 each week. In that job Boku worked doggedly to recruit peers at Harvard, not only for the benefit of the youth the shelter served but also to give his student conscripts the opportunity to get involved with public service.

    “I really believe that public service can be therapeutic, that you can learn just as much from a volunteer opportunity as you can learn from a classroom or a section discussion,” said Boku, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and immigrated with his family to Alexandria, Va., when he was 6 years old. “Even doing a single shift can leave an impact. It was my hope that, from their shift at Y2Y, it would give Harvard students a yearning for social justice so that these Harvard students, wherever they go on to — whether it’s consulting or medicine or law — that volunteer experience with Y2Y would impact them so that they continue for the rest of their lives to advocate for those who don’t have.”

    That type of effort was why Boku was recognized in 2020 with the Spirit of Harvard College award. It is given to students who have shown a commitment to the ideals articulated in Harvard’s mission.

    When the pandemic struck, Boku switched to working remotely as a case manager. During the fall semester, Boku helped a local high school student find a place to take his online classes when the Y2Y building was closed. He worked with the student, the administrators at his school, and the Cambridge mayor’s office to find him a shared working space in Cambridge.

    “It showed me the importance and real-life impact that advocacy can have,” Boku said.

    The 21-year-old made his impact felt outside of Y2Y as well. Just before the pandemic hit last February, Boku helped organize the third annual student-run Black Health Matters Conference. It focused on racial disparities in health care for African Americans, an issue that a few months later was in the national spotlight.

    Over the years Boku has developed a special interest in sickle cell anemia, a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to become misshapen and break down, and disproportionally affects Black and brown communities. He got involved in mentoring young adults diagnosed with it through STRIVE, the Harvard mentoring program for teenagers with the disease.

    While he is concerned about sickle cell disease, Boku hasn’t done much research on it just yet. Most of his efforts thus far have been geared toward rare genetic diseases with no cure, such as progeria and tuberous sclerosis complex. Because they don’t affect a large number of people, they tend to have trouble drawing major funding from sources like big pharmaceutical companies.

    Boku’s passion for looking into rare diseases was cultivated in a neurobiology class he took his junior year. A father of two girls with a rare sleeping disorder spoke to the class about the difficulties of finding physicians who specialized in treating his daughters’ condition.

    “There wasn’t really enough research being done so he broke the fourth wall and asked us to go into rare disease research,” Boku said. “That is what strengthened my resolve to do research on these diseases that are neglected by the broader research community. In a way, I see that as no different from my work with Y2Y, mentoring students with sickle cell, or my work with the Black Health Matters Conference. All of it is fighting for justice, whether I’m pipetting in the lab or whether I’m making a grilled cheese sandwich at Y2Y or whether I am introducing speakers for a panel at the conference. All of it was fighting for justice.”

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    ART TALK: Tariku Shiferaw’s ‘It’s a Love Thang, it’s a Joy Thang’ Exhibition in NYC

    Installation view: Tariku Shiferaw: It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang, Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, 2021. (Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York.)

    The Brooklyn Rail

    Tariku Shiferaw: It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang

    Tariku Shiferaw’s It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang embodies Black joy—but not in the sense that people might think. In his latest exhibition, the artist pays homage to quotidian pleasures: those often referenced in the jazz era, a time when the greats sang about their daily lives. Their happiness, the Ethiopia-born, Los Angeles-raised artist explains, was not in the commoditization of their music or in the difficulties they overcame, but in the beauty of their expression. Now based in New York, Shiferaw presents a show of his own work, featured alongside handpicked poetry and a stunning sound piece, emulating a love song, and showcasing the small joys on which a person relies to overcome. There’s a powerful playlist to match, bringing Shiferaw’s work to life, featuring Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Aaliyah and Tyler, the Creator, Solange and Kendrick Lamar, along with many others. Each of his pieces, it’s worth noting, is inspired by one of the musical artists in the abovementioned playlist, adding a sense of interconnectedness to the concept of Black joy.

    The exhibition is designed to be a multisensory experience. Shiferaw explains that he embraced ideals such as self-love and joy first and foremost, all while exploring the power of positivity on a more universal level. He cites celebrated American poet Toi Derricotte, an 80-year-old professor who crafted the famous 2008 poem “Joy is an act of resistance.” Derricotte’s work is printed in small font and mounted on the wall in vinyl, such that viewers must come closer and read lines such as: “What does her love have to do with five hundred years of sorrow, then joy coming up like a small breath, a bubble?” Like Shiferaw, Derricotte puts the nuances of Black joy into a tangible form, embracing the same, blues-based artistry as the creatives who came before her, demarcating the line between joy and sorrow. Here too, she finds pleasure in the small things; for instance, she writes extensively about the happiness she derived from observing her goldfish Telly, who cost practically nothing but offered her jubilance in his simplicity, in the way he smiled, and in the beauty of his mere existence in the world as a little orange fish.


    Tariku Shiferaw, A Boy is a Gun (Tyler, the Creator), 2020. Wood, wall paint, lacquer, 106 x 140 inches. © Tariku Shiferaw. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York.

    The show itself, viewers will find, is serene and immersive in equal measure. With a new site-specific installation, Jerusalema (Master KG) (2021), reflective mylar sheeting covers one wall, layered behind high chain-link fencing that mimics the sense of separation one might experience from gazing across a barrier. On the opposite wall, flat, slatted wooden sculptures hang against a pink-painted panel, representative of the artist’s early use of shipping pallets. Here Shiferaw has created his own resting place, a space where he can simply chill out, relax, and, in his words, “not think about shit.” Installed in the middle of the room are Velvet Rope (Janet) (2021), and High Fashion (Roddy Ricch) (2021); between them a live palm tree and a smattering of sand that honor the artist’s childhood and conjure a Caribbean beach where both viewers and the artist himself can sit back and simply be. The black and blue hues only amplify this, highlighting the contrast of implied, lilting water to stillness of the air. Observers will find this dynamic play on black and blue in every one of the pieces on display.

    They will find it, for example, in A Boy is a Gun (Tyler, the Creator) (2020), a rectangle of rocky mountain sky blue paint applied to the gallery wall, supplemented with the same palette-like sculptures. They will find it in one of Shiferaw’s favorite pieces in the show, Waiting in Vain (Bob Marley) (2021). Named for Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” (1977), it is a love song in its own right, focused on the intensity of separation—which Shiferaw describes as a ransom or denial of pleasure. In Waiting in Vain, much of a vibrant blue painting is hidden behind the bars of a black pallet; Shiferaw, through his use of lacquer paint, acrylic, canvas, and wood, hopes to spark discussion on what he calls the “incarceration of painting.” And, of course, viewers will find the same black and blue in The Nearness of You (Ella Fitzgerald) (2021), a darkened canvas with hints of deep blue denoting the nearness of better times, the thrill of wanting or waiting, or of anticipation.

    Through It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang at Galerie Lelong & Co., Shiferaw aims to move beyond notions of overcoming to embrace new tools and ideas through which a person might experience hope. The show is about tap dancing, he explains, about singing the blues, or about letting one’s hair down. Ultimately, through Shiferaw’s musical curation and abstract paintings and installations, he has opted against talking about trauma, instead focusing on how we might derive pleasure from the time we have.

    Read the full article at brooklynrail.org »

    ON VIEW
    Galerie Lelong & Co.
    It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang
    April 1 – May 15, 2021
    New York

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    OBITUARY: Influential Ethiopian Producer Amha Eshèté Dies at 74

    Amha Eshete, the Founder of Amha Records -the pioneering record company whose work from the "golden era" of Ethiopian music is now enshrined in the world-famous éthiopiques CD series - has died at the age of 74. “The Amha Records catalog includes more than 100 vinyl references, released between 1969 and 1975. (Courtesy photo)

    World Music Central

    Amha Eshèté, a highly influential Ethiopian music producer and founder of Amha Records, died on April 30, 2021. The Amha Records label released iconic recordings of Ethiojazz and Ethiopop rooted in traditional music. These releases captured the golden era of Ethiopian music. The Amha recordings were licensed to French world music label Buda Musique and received worldwide distribution and critical acclaim as part of the successful Ethiopiques series.

    Gilles Fruchaux (Buda Musique) and Francis Falceto (collections éthiopiques & ethioSonic) issued a press release: “The departure of our friend Amha Eshèté (Amha Records) from Ethiopia’s great modern music scene follows five weeks after the death of Ali Tango (Kaifa Records).

    “A music lover through and through, a lone pioneer of record production in his country, a daring young entrepreneur, an alternative activist before his time (and something of a combative dude), a gentleman outlaw, Amha managed to circumvent Emperor Haile-Selassie’s state monopoly which did not publish any modern music and banned the importation and production of records. Amha Eshèté said «I had a gut feeling that it was the thing to do. I thought, nobody’s going to kill me for that. At most I might land in jail for a while. »

    “The Amha Records catalog includes more than 100 vinyl references, released between 1969 and 1975. The very essence of Ethiopian pop golden oldies. Nearly all of them have been reissued in the Éthiopiques series. Ethiopian pop is now firmly established, everywhere.

    “Without Amha Records and Kaifa Records, there would have been no Ethiopiques.

    “Thank you Amha. Thank you Ali. Rest in peace.”

    Related:

    TADIAS Interview: Amha Eshete & Contribution of Amha Records to Modern Ethiopian Music

    How Ethiopian Music Went Global: Interview with Francis Falceto

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    Spotlight: In Colorado, Governor Visits Konjo Ethiopian in Edgewater

    Yoseph Assefa and Fetien Gebre-Michael of Konjo Ethiopian [the first Ethiopian food truck in Colorado serving the Denver metro area] meet with Colorado Governor Jared Polis at the Edgewater Public Market on Friday, April 30, 2021. (Photo: Oh Hey Creative)

    Edgewater Echo

    This past Friday (April 30, 2021) Colorado Governor Jared Polis visited Edgewater and had lunch with the owners and operators of Konjo Ethiopian, Yoseph Assefa and Fetien Gebre-Michael, at the Edgewater Public Market. Governor Polis spent the day touring small businesses throughout the Denver area.

    Here’s our interview with Fetien Gebre-Michael of Konjo Ethiopian about the visit.

    How did you hear the Governor would be stopping by Konjo?

    We received a call from the Governor’s office wanting to confirm a time in the next 2 days for him to stop by Konjo. Ummm, let’s rewind a bit here. Yes, we would love to have the Governor stop by, but why Konjo? So, Konjo is a part of the SBDC and back in 2018 we particpated in Trout Tank, a pitch accelerator. We ended up winning for our pitch of a fast-casual Ethiopian restaurant. One of the judges at the time, China, who is now the director of the SBDC, threw Konjo’s name in the hat. How cool is that?? Full circle.

    What was the message you wanted to the Governor to hear?

    We wanted the Governor to know that even though we barely made it through the pandemic, our struggles as a small business are not over yet. Yes, people are getting vaccinated and starting to come out more and more, but no one in our industry has enough staff. We are all struggling to keep up with the overnight demand and lack of staff has been a big issue. Our co-founder Yoseph suggested some sort of incentive to try to get more folks back into the service industry by way of a signing bonus funded by the state or a way that small businesses can draw potential employees back with help from the state level.

    What makes you hopeful for the future?

    Business is already starting to pick up exponentially. This will be a busy summer across the board. People are antsy to get out and they have money saved up from staying home for so long. They want to be around other people and start socializing again. Failure wasn’t an option for Konjo. We’ve worked too hard to get to where we are. We diversified and did what we could to stay afloat. If we can make it through Covid, we can make it through anything.

    Related:

    Video: The Ethiopian Food Truck In Denver

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    UPDATE: Ethiopian Airlines Launches COVID-19 Digital Health Passport

    Ethiopian Airlines is now the first African carrier to use the International Air Transport Association's COVID-19 test mobile app. The IATA Travel Pass, which will help verify the authenticity of test information presented by travelers, will be used by the airline on two flights out of Addis Ababa: Washington D.C. and Toronto. (Photo: Airbus)

    Simple Flying

    Ethiopian Airlines Launches IATA Travel Pass Trials

    Yet another airline is announcing that it will be trialing IATA’s Travel Pass – a digital health passport that will make the verification of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations easier for the carrier. Ethiopian Airlines is now the first African carrier to run through a test of the mobile app, joining other airlines such as Emirates, SWISS, Singapore Airlines, and more.

    “Ethiopian has gone digital in all of its operations to avoid physical contact and combat the spread of the pandemic and now, embarks on this initiative which will allow passengers to relish unparalleled flight experience.”

    -Ethiopian Airlines official statement

    Where is the trial taking place?

    The IATA Travel Pass, which will help verify the authenticity of test information presented by travelers, will be used by Ethiopian Airlines on two flights out of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD):

    Washington D.C. – Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
    Toronto – Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

    For flights to Addis Ababa, two airports will participate in this trial:

    London Heathrow (LHR)
    Toronto – Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

    The airline notes that this was effective as of April 25th, 2021, meaning that the trial is already underway.


    A visualization of the airports participating in this trial. Ethiopian flights to Toronto and Washington include technical stops, but this has not been included in the map to reduce confusion. (Photo: GCMap.com)

    Solving problems through digital technology

    Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, says that digital technology is vital to solving many of the problems that arise from the pandemic. Saying:

    “We are glad that we are offering new digital opportunities to our passengers so as to fully and safely restart air travel. Our customers will enjoy efficient, contactless and safer travel experience with their travel pass digital passport. As a safety first airline, we have become the first African airline to trail IATA’s travel pass initiative to facilitate travel.”

    For those still unfamiliar with IATA’s Travel Pass, the mobile app is designed to be a digital health passport of sorts, which will receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for the traveler’s specific route.


    Ethiopian has 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet. These are a mix of the -9 and shorter -8 variants. (Photo: byeangel via Wikimedia Commons)

    The app will share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. “The digital travel app will also avoid fraudulent documentation and make air travel more convenient,” the airline’s official messaging adds.

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    UPDATE: Census Bureau Announces 331 Million People in US

    The new census data shows that the US population grew from roughly 308.7 million in 2010 to 331.4 million, a 7.35% increase. That's the slowest population growth since 1930-1940 — the decade of the Great Depression. The US population has more than quadrupled since the 1900 Census. (CNN)

    CNN

    The US Census Bureau announced Monday that the total population of the United States has topped 331 million people, marking the country’s second slowest population growth rate in US history. Amid that, Texas will gain two seats in the redistricting process, the results found.

    Additionally, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat in Congress.
    California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose congressional seats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

    The results — which show that political power in the country is shifting from states in the Midwest and Northeast to those in the South and West — will have wide-ranging impacts on numerous aspects of American life, ranging from each state’s representation in Congress to the amount of money each state will get from the federal government. The numbers could shift the political makeup of Congress and set up what will likely be contentious redistricting battles in the coming months.

    And the numbers reflect which states are growing in both population and power. With Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Texas all gaining seats — and thus, electoral votes — their political clout will grow over the next decade, largely at the expense of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

    The new numbers represented a decrease in the population growth rate when compared to growth between 2000 and 2010. It was only slightly more than the growth rate seen during the 1930s.

    Census officials said they were “very confident in the quality of the data” that they collected.

    “While no Census is perfect, we are confident that today’s 2020 Census results meet our high data quality standards. We would not be releasing them to you otherwise,” acting Director Ron Jarmin said.

    Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also expressed her confidence in the results.

    “2020 brought unprecedented challenges — a global pandemic, destructive wildfires, the most active hurricane season on record and civil unrest across the country. With all of that happening, the Census Bureau had to quickly adapt its operations to confront these challenges head on,” she said Monday.

    Some expectations from census experts were off. Some believed that Texas would gain three total seats, not two, while others believed states like Arizona, which did not gain a seat, would add a House district. Experts also expected Minnesota and Rhode Island to lose a seat — neither did, according to the Census Bureau.

    Some of the figures were remarkably close, however. Census Bureau officials said that if they had counted 89 more people in New York during the census and all other state populations had stayed the same, the state of New York would not have lost a district.

    More detailed data will also be released in the coming months that states will use to help draw the boundaries of their congressional districts. The agency has said those redistricting counts are expected to be released by the end of September.

    Although the Census will publish resident counts for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, their totals are not included in the overall apportionment population because they don’t have voting seats in the House, the agency said.

    The release of the data has been a long time coming, delayed by both the coronavirus pandemic and controversial legal fights on how President Donald Trump’s administration has handled the process.

    The Census Bureau announced in February that the numbers, which would normally come out by April 1, would be delayed. The bureau cited the coronavirus pandemic, and the difficulty the virus created for those collecting census data, as the reason for the delay.

    The process was also complicated by the Trump administration’s efforts to exclude noncitizens when seats in Congress were apportioned, a decision that landed the bureau and the Republican administration in lengthy legal fights.

    Former attorney general Eric Holder responded to the announcement, saying that with the release of the numbers, “each state now needs to prepare for a fair and transparent redistricting process that includes input from the public.”

    Holder, the head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a Democratic group aimed at combating gerrymandering, added: “Make no mistake — the same Republican state legislators who are pushing forward on hundreds of anti-voter bills at the state level have been very clear that they intend to manipulate the redistricting process to lock in their power.”

    In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps. Because Republicans have been more successful at winning state legislatures in recent years, the party has almost total control over the process in a number of key states, like Texas and Florida.

    If Republicans embark on cutting up increasingly diverse populations in the suburbs around some of the nation’s largest cities — combining them with more reliably Republican voters in exurbs and rural areas — the party will open themselves up to racial gerrymandering claims. Democrats are prepared to fight any attempts.

    “The presumption that Republicans should get all of those new seats simply because they control the process is a presumption of gerrymandering,” said Kelly Ward Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “And that is illegal.”

    Another issue facing both parties is how each should analyze the last four years of political shifts under Trump, a time that saw Democrats make up considerable ground in the suburbs and Republicans make inroads with Latino communities in places like South Florida and South Texas and consolidate support among rural voters.

    The question for those party officials in charge of the redistricting process will be whether to treat these shifts as either aberrations or signs of more lasting changes.

    “For people who did this stuff a decade ago, if they had known that Donald Trump was going to come along in 2016 and shift the American electorate, there’s at least a couple dozen seats around the country that would have been drawn differently than they were,” said Adam Kincaid, the head of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “And that is the challenge for the next few years is trying to forecast out how much this realignment is permanent versus temporary.”

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    In Virginia No Bail for Accused Ethiopian Man in 70-pound Marijuana Plot

    Samson Desalegne Alemu, 31, of Springfield, was one of four people arrested April 14 as Christiansburg police ended weeks of surveillance and swooped in on an operation that investigators said connected a Northern Virginia supply chain to drug sales in two town neighborhoods. The trigger was Alemu’s arrival in a red 2019 Ford Escape that officers secretly equipped with a tracer. (Photo: Christiansburg Police Dept.)

    The Roanoke Times

    No bail for accused driver in 70-pound marijuana plot in Montgomery County

    HRISTIANSBURG — An Ethiopian man accused of delivering 70 pounds of marijuana to a suspected dealer in Christiansburg will not be allowed free on bond, a Montgomery County judge said Thursday.

    Samson Desalegne Alemu, 31, of Springfield, was one of four people arrested April 14 as Christiansburg police ended weeks of surveillance and swooped in on an operation that investigators said connected a Northern Virginia supply chain to drug sales in two town neighborhoods. The trigger was Alemu’s arrival in a red 2019 Ford Escape that officers secretly equipped with a tracer – Alemu was tracked electronically as he drove south, with officers falling in behind him as he passed Roanoke, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz said at Thursday’s bond hearing.

    Police seized 66 pounds of suspected marijuana from the vehicle Alemu drove and another four pounds from the townhouse in the 300 block of Oak Tree Boulevard where his trip ended, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said.

    Another pound of suspected marijuana was found at an apartment in the Christiansburg Bluff complex in the 500 block of Republic Road that allegedly also was used by accused drug seller Tomas [Alemayehu] Keno, 29, of Radford, a search warrant said.

    Alemu and Keno each were charged with conspiring to distribute or to possess with the intent to distribute more than five pounds of marijuana, and with distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute more than five pounds of marijuana.

    Also arrested was Kayla Lynn Raines, 28, of Christiansburg, on the same two charges, and Natnael Kifle Yilma, 20, of Herndon, who was charged with the same conspiracy count and with having a firearm while involved in selling a pound of marijuana.

    Keno and Yilma had already been denied bail at earlier hearings, and Raines released on a $25,000 secured bond, when Alemu appeared by a video link from the county jail Thursday in Montgomery County General District Court.

    Attorney Chris Anderson of Roanoke, who represented Alemu, said his client, an Ethiopian citizen, was needed at home in Springfield, where the youngest of his two children was undergoing cancer treatment and his fianceé was recovering from her own cancer care.

    “There is a substantial need for Mr. Alemu’s presence there,” Anderson said.

    Alemu also has a more local community tie, with a sister living in Christiansburg, Anderson added.

    Wolz countered that the scale and alleged ongoing nature of the marijuana operation argued against setting a bond, as did a 2014 conviction that Alemu had for failing to appear for a Radford court hearing.

    Judge Gerald Mabe agreed with Wolz’ argument, saying that Alemu’s earlier failure to appear concerned him and the nature of the case left him unsure if Alemu would not commit other offenses if set free. Mabe said Alemu would have to remain in jail at least until his preliminary hearing, now set for Sept. 13, or he could appeal to Circuit Court and try to convince a judge there to set bail.

    According to Wolz, investigators had been looking at Keno as a regional marijuana seller since March and thought that Alemu was his source. Raines is Keno’s girlfriend, and she told investigators that she stayed at the Oak Tree Boulevard townhouse and Keno helped her with expenses, Wolz said.

    When officers raided the townhouse, they found more than $30,000 in cash. Much of the money was in a nightstand and Raines said it had not been there that morning, Wolz said. Among the money was $200 in marked bills that had been used in an earlier police undercover drug buy from Keno, Wolz said.

    A tipster had told police that several times per week, someone was bringing 10 to 20 pounds of marijuana from Keno’s address, Wolz said.

    Alemu told officers that the contraband found in the Ford Escape and in the townhouse was all his, Wolz said.

    When Alemu drove to Christiansburg, he was followed by a white 2014 Ford Fusion driven by Yilma, Wolz said. Among the items in the Fusion were five bags of spice, or synthetic marijuana, Wolz said.

    In an email after the hearing, Pettitt drew a sharp distinction between the alleged marijuana operation in Christiansburg and the legalization that Virginia is about to enact.

    “Beginning July 1st, adults 21 years of age or older may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use and may grow up to four plants per household,” Pettitt wrote. “However, it will be illegal to use marijuana in public or while driving. In addition distribution or sharing of marijuana in any amount over 1 ounce will continue to be illegal and a felony. We will continue to pursue distribution of marijuana cases when the amounts involved exceeds the 1 ounce authorized by the Legislature.

    “In this case, the quantity involved is over 1,100 ounces and the street value is approaching $200,000.”

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    Spotlight: Jessica Beshir’s ‘Faya Dayi’ Wins Top Prize at Swiss Film Festival

    The award was announced at a ceremony in the Swiss lakeside town on Nyon on Saturday (April 24). Faya Dayi, which explores the role that khat plays in the economy and culture of Ethiopia, also picked up the Fipresci award. (Photos: @FayaDayi/Twitter)

    Screen Daily

    Jessica Beshir’s ‘Faya Dayi’ wins top prize at upbeat hybrid Visions Du Réel

    Jessica Beshir’s feature debut Faya Dayi has won the grand jury prize at Swiss documentary festival Visions Du Réel (April 15-24).

    The award, which includes 20,000CHF ($21,900), was announced at a ceremony in the Swiss lakeside town on Nyon on Saturday (April 24).

    Faya Dayi, which explores the role that the narcotic khat plant plays in the economy and culture of Ethiopia, also picked up the Fipresci award.

    The US-Ethiopia-Qatar co-production marks the directorial debut of US-based Mexican-Ethiopian director Beshir and previously premiered in competition at Sundance. Mubi recently acquired all rights to the documentary for the UK and Ireland, Latin America, Italy, France, Germany, Turkey and India.

    Read more »

    Related:

    ‘Faya Dayi’: Visions du Reel Review

    Ethiopia’s lucrative khat crop inspires a hypnotic, immersive documentary glimpse into the country’s soul

    The khat plant provides the most lucrative cash crop in Ethiopia. The state of bliss that results from chewing its leaves is almost a national anti-depressant. In Faya Dayi the cultivation, harvest and consumption of khat becomes a glimpse into the soul of the country.

    The combination of human stories and haunting imagery leaves a lasting impression

    Jessica Beshir’s hypnotic, immersive and very beautiful documentary marks an impressive feature debut. Audience engagement may reflect a film that embodies all the challenges and the rewards of slow cinema, but a high-profile festival run has led to it being acquired by Janus for North America, with MUBI taking a number of international territories including the UK.

    Faya Dayi’s meandering, unhurried approach requires you to slow down and adjust to the rhythms of a different pace and sensibility. A languid drowsiness envelopes much of the film. Sleeping dogs lie stretched out on nighttime roads, a young boy happily floats on the surface of calm water, wisps of smoke ascend from a fire, the flutter of a bird’s wings breaks the silence, a boy’s tear silently falls.

    Beshir serves as writer, producer, director and cinematographer, and her striking, acutely observed monochrome images lie at the heart of film. The walled city of Harar with its narrow, winding network of streets is a solid presence in a picture that takes particular note of connections to the land and nature. Water is a recurring feature, from the shallow pools in which boys play to the cracked surface of a bone-dry lake bed where water once flowed. The growing, picking, transport and distribution of the khat is threaded through the film. It provides jobs, a thriving economy and distraction for the masses. Beshir captures images of men at work in the fields and in vast warehouses, leaves collected into bundles, sheaves carried on shoulders as the product is spread across the land.

    Human connections require much more work on the part of the viewer. We are allowed to glimpse scraps of lives that emerge in tales of struggle, lost loves and anxiety over the future. There is a distinct generation gap between fatalistic older men and those youngsters who ponder whether it might be better to risk fleeing the country. “We shouldn’t have to perish in the deserts and the seas to change our lives,” says one. Another boy frets over the volatile shifts in temperament of a father at the mercy of khat. Yet, he too is drawn to the leaf and the state it induces. He has been told that the hazy high from khat (called Merkhana) is like watching films in your head.

    Faya Dayi is a film that grows increasingly mournful as the diverse elements start to come together. Beshir contemplates some of the religious and spiritual significance attached to khat. We learn about a troubled land and how the khat crop is both an economic blessing and a human millstone. Personal experiences of torture, violence and repression are recounted.The fears of the Oromo people are acknowledged. There is little need to spell out why the use of khat is such a widely accepted means of escape from reality.

    A running time close to two hours means that Faya Dayi risks overstaying its welcome, but the combination of human stories and haunting imagery leaves a lasting impression.

    Related:

    Economist Review: Jessica Beshir’s Mesmerising Ethiopia Film “Faya Dayi”

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    UPDATE: U.S. Names Jeffrey Feltman as Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa

    Jeffrey David Feltman is an American diplomat and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. This week the Biden Administration announced that it has appointed Feltman to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. (UN Photo)

    PRESS STATEMENT

    ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE

    Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa

    Today, I am announcing that Jeffrey Feltman will serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. This appointment underscores the Administration’s commitment to lead an international diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security, and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa. Having held senior positions in both the State Department and the United Nations, Special Envoy Feltman is uniquely suited to bring decades of experience in Africa and the Middle East, in multilateral diplomacy, and in negotiation and mediation to develop and execute an integrated U.S. strategy to address these complex regional issues.

    Of particular concern are the volatile situation in Ethiopia, including the conflict in Tigray; escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan; and the dispute around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. At a moment of profound change for this strategic region, high-level U.S. engagement is vital to mitigate the risks posed by escalating conflict while providing support to once-in-a-generation opportunities for reform.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Biden Nominates Mary Catherine Phee as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

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    UPDATE: Ethiopia Signs $907 Million Financing Pact With World Bank

    Ethiopia's finance ministry said that $200 million will go towards small and medium businesses affected by the pandemic with the aim of easing their financing challenges. Another $207 million will be for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and the remaining $500 million will be invested in efforts to increase access to electricity in the Horn of Africa nation. (Reuters)

    Reuters

    Ethiopia’s finance ministry signed a $907 million financing agreement with the World Bank on Friday geared towards improving access to financing, the fight against COVID-19 and electricity investment, it said.

    Some $700 million was a loan and $207 million a grant, the ministry said in a statement.

    The ministry said that $200 million will go towards small and medium businesses affected by the pandemic with the aim of easing their financing challenges.

    Another $207 million will be for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and the remaining $500 million will be invested in efforts to increase access to electricity in the Horn of Africa nation.

    Like other countries around the world, Ethiopia’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic.

    In February, the International Monetary Fund said that Ethiopia’s economic growth is projected to be 2% in 2020/21, largely due to the effects of the coronavirus, but it is expected to rebound to 8.7% in 2021/22 in line with a global recovery.

    Related:

    UPDATE: IMF & World Bank Say Ethiopia’s Debt is Sustainable

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    UPDATE: Biden Nominates Asmeret Berhe as Next Director of Office of Science

    Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, who was born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea, is a Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry; the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology; and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the University of California, Merced. (Photo courtesy of TED)

    Press Release

    The White House

    President Biden Announces 12 Key Climate and Infrastructure Administration Nominations

    WASHINGTON – Today, on Earth Day, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to serve and further the Biden Administration’s commitment to a modern sustainable infrastructure and clean energy future.

  • Carlos Monje, Nominee for Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, Department of Transportation
  • Amit Bose, Nominee for Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation
  • Shalanda Baker, Nominee for Director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact, Department of Energy
  • Asmeret Berhe, Nominee for Director of the Office of Science, Department of Energy
  • Robert Hampshire, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Department of Transportation
  • Monica Medina, Nominee for Assistant Secretary, Bureau and Oceans and International Environmental and Science Affairs, Department of State
  • Bryan Newland, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior
  • Annie Petsonk, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, Department of Transportation
  • Frank Rose, Nominee for Principal Deputy Administrator for National Nuclear Security, Department of Energy
  • Margaret Schaus, Nominee for Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Rick Spinrad, Nominee for Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce
  • Tracy Stone-Manning, Nominee for Director of the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior

    Asmeret Berhe, Nominee for Director of the Office of Science, Department of Energy

    Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is a Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry; the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology; and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the University of California, Merced. Her research is at the intersection of soil science, global change science, and political ecology with an emphasis on how the soil system regulates the earth’s climate and the dynamic two-way relationship between the natural environment and human communities. She previously served as the Chair of the US National Committee on Soil Science at the National Academies; was a Leadership board member for the Earth Science Women’s Network; and is currently a co-principal investigator in the ADVANCEGeo Partnership – a National Science Foundation funded effort to empower (geo)scientists to respond to and prevent harassment, discrimination, bullying and other exclusionary behaviors in research environments. Her scholarship on how physical processes such as erosion, fire, and changes in climate affect the biogeochemical cycling of essential elements in the earth system and her efforts to ensure equity and inclusion of people from all walks of life in the scientific enterprise have received numerous awards and honors. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, and a member of the inaugural class of the US National Academies New Voices in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

    Berhe was born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea. She received a B.Sc. in Soil and Water Conservation from the University of Asmara, an M.Sc. in Political Ecology from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2020 she was named a Great Immigrant, Great American by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

    Click here to read the full press release »

    Related:

    UPDATE: Biden Nominates Mary Catherine Phee as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

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  • UPDATE: America Absorbs Floyd Verdict With Sense of Relief, Caution

    Lucia Edmonds, 91, of Washington reacts on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Washington, after the verdict in Minneapolis, in the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted for killing George Floyd. (AP photo)

    The Associated Press

    ‘Sliver of hope.’ Relief, caution as Floyd verdict absorbed

    NEW YORK (AP) — When the verdicts came in — guilty, guilty and guilty — Lucia Edmonds let out the breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.

    The relief that the 91-year-old Black woman felt flooding over her when white former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for killing George Floyd was hard-earned, coming after a lifetime of seeing other cases end differently.

    “I was prepared for the fact that it might not be a guilty verdict because it’s happened so many times before,” the Washington, D.C., resident said. She recalled the shock of the Rodney King case nearly three decades ago when four Los Angeles officers were acquitted of beating King, a Black motorist.

    “I don’t know how they watched the video of Rodney King being beaten and not hold those officers to account,” Edmonds said. About the Chauvin verdict, she said, “I hope this means there is a shift in this county, but it’s too early for me to make that assumption.” Still, she added: “Something feels different.”

    The same sense of relief, of accountability served and crisis at least temporarily averted, was palpable across the United States on Tuesday after a jury found Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in killing Floyd, a Black man who took his last breath pinned to the street with the officer’s knee on his neck.

    But when it came to what’s next for America, the reaction was more hesitant. Some were hopeful, pointing to the protests and sustained outcry over Floyd’s death as signs of change to come, in policing and otherwise.


    A person reacts near Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. (AP Photo)

    Others were more circumspect, wondering if one hopeful result really meant the start of something better in a country with a history of racial injustice, especially in the treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

    With all the relief and gratitude 68-year-old Kemp Harris, a retired kindergarten teacher in Cambridge, Mass., felt upon hearing the verdict, it was tempered by what he’d seen in the much more recent past: The deaths of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and of Adam Toledo in Chicago.

    “You know, I think it puts a period on the end of this particular incident,” Harris, who is Black, said when asked if the Chauvin decision represented the end of a chapter. “But I don’t think it puts a stoppage on what’s been going on.”

    In Columbus, Ohio, some residents had their celebrations cut short by reports that police fatally shot a teenage Black girl.

    “As you’re getting one phone call that he was guilty, I’m getting the next phone call that this is happening in my neighborhood,” Kimberly Shepherd said. Hours later, police released body-camera footage that appeared to show the officer firing just as the girl lunged at another female with a knife.

    Beverly Mills, 71, of Pennington, New Jersey, and Elaine Buck, 67, of Hopewell Borough, New Jersey, found themselves thinking back through history as they reflected on the verdict in Minnesota.

    “I was bracing myself for what would happen if he did get off,” Mills said. “I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it because I thought, then there is no hope.” Mills said she was on her senior class trip to Washington, D.C., one of just four Black girls out of a class of 200 or so, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

    “Washington and all the major cities were starting to erupt and they wanted to get the kids back to New Jersey. As the train was leaving, you could see the smoke starting to circle in the sky,” Mills said.

    Will the verdict change anything? Buck said: “It will make everybody aware that we’re watching you. We’re videotaping. What else are we supposed to do?”

    Things are and will be different, insisted Aseem Tiwari, an Indian American screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. He’s convinced the level of outrage spurred by Floyd’s death would last, even if it doesn’t take the form of sustained, nationwide protests as it did in 2020.


    A couple dances at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Washington, after the verdict in Minneapolis, in the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was announced. (AP Photo)

    He used himself as a case in point. Floyd’s death drove him to be more involved and more willing to speak out than ever before — even during a pandemic when gathering carried a risk.

    Before one protest, he recalled, his mother “asked me one simple question: ‘Are you willing to get COVID and die while protesting for this?’ And I didn’t flinch for a second.”

    That kind of determination, he said, isn’t just going to fade.

    There’s still a hard road ahead, said Jonathan Har-Even, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and the verdict, while important, doesn’t necessarily feel like a victory.

    “It feels like a step in the right direction,” said Har-Even, who is white. “It feels positive, but it’s hard to feel victorious.”

    Naim Rasheed, 26, of Oklahoma City, said he had assumed no one would face justice for Floyd’s death. The guilty verdict, he said, was a relief, and he believes police officers will realize they can’t get away with violence against Black Americans.

    “I bet that they’re going to take their lives a little bit more serious and their careers a little bit more serious now,” Rasheed said.

    Tina Ikpa, a Black attorney in Norman, Oklahoma, said she was “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

    “I feel like there’s some hope, but I still feel like there’s a lot of work left to do,” the 38-year-old said. “I feel like this is maybe a crack in the wall, but the wall has not come down. It’s a small sliver of hope, but I’m hesitant to say we have reached the mountaintop.”

    If nothing else, the verdict gave the country a glimpse of something it hasn’t always seen, said Harris, the retired teacher in Cambridge, Mass.

    “I at least think that we saw what justice can look like in this country,” he said. “We saw what can happen when people just deal with the truth of the matter.”

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    In Harlem Ethiopian Church Faces Eviction In City’s Affordable Housing Deal

    Board members Atsede Elegba (left) and Almaz Kebede outside the Beaata Le Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church on March 28, 2021. The church is set to be evicted from its home on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. due to a city deal with a local nonprofit. (Photo: Patch)

    Patch

    A celebrated deal to create permanently affordable housing in Harlem will leave the neighborhood’s last Ethiopian Orthodox church homeless.

    HARLEM, NY — When leaders of the Beaata Le Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church received an eviction notice in 2019, displacing them from their longtime home, they assumed their landlord had reached a deal with some private developer to construct a new set of condominiums or a luxury tower.

    “We thought it was some huge corporate structure who was just wanting to buy the building to make money,” said Atsede Elegba, a church board member.

    It was not until March of this year that the church learned the more complicated truth: their landlord, the city’s Housing Preservation Department, had reached a much-heralded deal to give their building to a neighborhood nonprofit, which will convert it into permanently affordable housing.

    Now, members of the church — the last remaining Ethiopian Orthodox institution in Harlem — are packing up icons and incense at their home on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and West 121st Street ahead of their May 28 eviction date.


    In this pre-pandemic photo, crowds gathered inside Beaata Le Mariam for a bishop’s visit in 2019. (Courtesy of Atsede Elegba)

    They are also contending with internal disagreements over how to find a new home, and conflicted feelings about the group that is displacing them.

    “I’m very sad,” said Mezgebu Zikarge, the church’s head priest and administrator. “I cry to God.”

    “People from all over”

    Behind Beaata Le Mariam’s modest corner storefront, about two dozen people were gathered on a recent Sunday after finishing that day’s services. Families sipped coffee and tea and tore off chunks of dabo bread; women wearing traditional netela scarves spoke in English and Amharic as children ran between rooms.

    In the inner sanctuary, Zikarge pointed at portraits of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Jesus’s crucifixion as the smell of incense wafted in. The church, which welcomed up to 100 congregants on past Sundays, has continued holding smaller, socially-distanced services during the pandemic.


    Mezgebu Zikarge, priest head and administrator of Beaata Le Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, inside the church sanctuary on March 28, 2021. (Nick Garber/Patch)

    The Ethiopian Orthodox church first made inroads in Harlem in the 1950s, arriving at the request of Black Americans who were drawn to it as one of the few Christian churches in Africa that predated colonialism.

    Today, Beaata Le Mariam is “a rare combination of Western-born and Ethiopian-born parishioners,” said Elegba, whose family were early converts to the faith in the 1960s. Starting in the 1970s, Black American and Caribbean congregants were joined by native Ethiopians and Eritreans immigrating to Harlem during those countries’ civil war.

    Over the years, fellow churches around Harlem have shut their doors as parishioners moved to other boroughs and the suburbs. Beaata Le Mariam opened in 2003 in Lower Manhattan, sharing space with an Armenian orthodox church before moving into its Harlem home in 2006.

    “We have a lot of people from all over,” said board chair Almaz Kebede, citing congregants who travel from the Bronx, New Jersey and Connecticut to attend weekly services.

    A historic housing deal

    For more than a decade, Beaata Le Mariam paid just $1,267 per month to occupy the ground floor of the five-story brick building at 2020 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.

    Despite repeatedly asking for a permanent lease, the church was kept on a month-to-month basis by HPD, which the agency says is standard practice as it works to convert its properties into affordable housing.

    Then, in April 2019, came the eviction notice.

    Since December 2019, the church has been allowed to pay no rent, and was granted an extension on its eviction through June 2020 after negotiating with the city. Due to the pandemic, the deadline was extended into 2021, before the firm May 28 deadline was handed down earlier this year.


    Congregants celebrated Easter inside Beaata Le Mariam in 2013. (Courtesy of Atsede Elegba)

    It was only through media reports this spring that church leaders learned what had happened: their building had been transferred to the nonprofit East Harlem El Barrio Community Land Trust (EHEBCLT), in a historic agreement announced last fall and hailed by housing advocates.

    In the deal, the EHEBCLT purchased four HPD-owned buildings for $1 each, promising to renovate them and turn them into housing that would be kept affordable in perpetuity.

    “In anticipation of this property’s substantial renovation as part of the East Harlem El Barrio Community Land Trust (EHEBCLT) project, the former commercial tenant was issued a standard 30 day vacate notice,” HPD spokesperson Jeremy House said.

    “We don’t have the money”

    As the deadline nears, congregants are split roughly in half between those who want to find a way to stay, and others who see the eviction as a chance to start fresh elsewhere, Elegba said.

    But as church leaders hunt for a new home in Harlem, they are facing a stark reality: few spaces are available with rents as low as what they are used to paying.

    “We don’t have the money to rent a market-rate facility,” Elegba said. “It just seemed as though we were disregarded.”


    Congregants served food at Beaata Le Mariam for a 2013 celebration. (Courtesy of Atsede Elegba)

    Now, elders are moving the church’s possessions into a storage locker in the Bronx, after outreach to the mayor’s faith-based pandemic advisory council and City Councilmember Bill Perkins’s office failed to yield any relief.

    Reached for comment, Athena Bernkopf, a project coordinator for the EHEBCLT, said the group could not comment on legal proceedings, but has “always been open to being in conversation with community members regarding community land.”

    Members of Beaata Le Mariam were hesitant to draw attention to their eviction, Elegba said, in part because they support the land trust’s mission of creating affordable housing.

    But the desire to find a new home for the church outweighed their reluctance, Elegba said.

    “A part of me hopes that if someone writes about it, maybe someone else will have the heart to say, ‘Maybe you can move here.”


    The storefront home of Beaata Le Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and West 121st Street, March 28, 2021. (Nick Garber/Patch)

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    SCIENCE: NASA Mars Helicopter Makes History as First to Fly on Another Planet

    NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this image of its shadow as it hovered over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021, during the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    National Geographic

    Ingenuity has lifted off the Martian surface and launched a new era of planetary exploration

    A small helicopter opened a new chapter of space exploration this morning when it lifted off the surface of Mars, marking humankind’s first powered flight on another planet. The 19-inch-tall chopper called Ingenuity kicked up a little rusty red dust as it lifted about 10 feet off the ground, hovered in place, turned slightly, and slowly touched back down. The flight lasted only about 40 seconds, but it represents one of history’s most audacious engineering feats.

    “A lot of people thought it was not possible to fly at Mars,” says MiMi Aung, the project manager of Ingenuity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “There is so little air.”


    In this video captured by NASA’s Perseverance rover, the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took the first powered, controlled flight on another planet on April 19, 2021. (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

    The wispy atmosphere at Mars’s surface is equivalent to an altitude of about 100,000 feet on Earth—much higher than even the most capable helicopters can fly. The highest helicopter flight in history occurred in 1972, when French aviator Jean Boulet flew to 40,820 feet at an airbase northwest of Marseille.

    The Martian helicopter experienced a setback on April 9, when the craft’s onboard computer shut down early during a test to spin the two rotors at high speed. After reviewing the data, the team at JPL adjusted the command sequence that is sent to the spacecraft to start the rotors, allowing them to complete the high-speed spin test on April 16. And at 3:34 a.m. ET on April 19—in the midafternoon local time on Mars—the helicopter successfully completed its first flight.

    In the future, similar flying machines could scout new areas for rovers and astronauts, collect samples from hard-to-reach places, and traverse dozens of miles over the span of days to provide a new perspective of the Martian landscape.

    Only four pounds on Earth, which is 1.5 pounds on Mars, Ingenuity has been operating on its own since April 3, when the car-size Perseverance rover deposited it in a flat area clear of debris. A small solar panel tuned for the relatively low levels of sunlight charges the helicopter’s batteries during the day, and electric heaters keep the vehicle warm during nights that can plunge to -130°F.


    NASA’s Perseverance rover took a selfie on Mars with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6. Perseverance then drove off to an overlook about 200 feet away to watch Ingenuity’s flight attempt. (PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

    To achieve its short foray into the Martian atmosphere, the little rotorcraft relied on a tiny processor like those in cellphones, autonomous navigation technologies from self-driving cars, eight lithium-ion batteries, and lightweight composite materials. Its two carbon-fiber rotors, which span four feet from tip to tip, had to spin up to about 2,500 rotations per minute—roughly five times the speed of a normal helicopter rotor—to lift off the ground.

    Now that Ingenuity has taken its first flight, the team can plan a second, which will likely perform the same hovering maneuver but a bit higher and for a bit longer. They are about halfway through a 31-day window to test the helicopter, using Perseverance as a communication relay to Earth before the rover drives off to begin its search for past life on Mars. Up to five flights are planned, building up to a trip down a 50-foot-long flight zone and back.

    “It boggles your mind,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, “flying for the first time in history a helicopter on Mars.”

    “Don’t tell me anymore it’s not possible”

    Read more »

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    UPDATE: In Denver, Funeral Held For Joshua Haileyesus, 12-Year-Old Who Died As A Result Of ‘Blackout Challenge’

    The 12-year-old was found struggling to breathe on March 22 in his home. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support and died over the weekend. Joshua Haileyesus was the son of Ethiopian immigrants and had several siblings, including a twin brother. Below you can read the statement from his family. (Photo courtesy of Nebiyu Asfaw and Hirut Yitayew)

    CBS4

    Friends, Family Attend Funeral Service For Joshua Haileyesus, Boy Who Died After Trying ‘Blackout Challenge’

    AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A funeral service was held on Monday for 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus from Aurora. His family believes his death was a result of playing game he saw online called the “Blackout Challenge.”

    Haileyesus was found struggling to breathe on March 22 in his home. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support. He died 19 days later.

    The Blackout Challenge, which has gotten attention on TikTok and YouTube, dares participants to choke themselves until they lose consciousness.

    The Haileyesus family hopes the news of their son’s death will bring awareness to the dangers.

    Haileyesus was the son of Ethiopian immigrants and had several siblings, including a twin brother.

    UPDATE: In Denver, Funeral To Be Held For Joshua Haileyesus, 12-Year-Old Who Died As A Result Of ‘Blackout Challenge’

    CBS4

    Funeral To Be Held Monday For Joshua Haileyesus, 12-Year-Old Who Died As A Result Of The ‘Blackout Challenge’

    AURORA, Colorado – A funeral service will held on Monday for an Aurora boy who died from what his family thinks was a result of playing an online game called the “Blackout Challenge.” The family of Joshua Haileyesus says the service will be open to the public.

    The 12-year-old was found struggling to breathe on March 22 in his home. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support and died over the weekend.

    The Blackout Challenge, which has gotten attention on TikTok and YouTube, dares participants to choke themselves until they lose consciousness. The Haileyesus family hopes the news of their son’s death will bring awareness to the dangers.

    While he was on life support, members of the community as well as those who never even knew Haileyesus reached out to his family sharing their prayers and words of support. The family shared a statement this week that they are comforted and “sincerely grateful to the thousands” who did so.

    “It has been moving to witness so many people from around the state and in fact from around the United States; showing love and compassion for Joshua,” the family statement read.


    (Photo courtesy of the Haileyyesus Family)

    The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. at Colorado Community Church, located at 14000 East Jewell Avenue in Aurora. A burial service will take place afterwards at Olinger Hampden Mortuary at 8600 East Hampden Avenue in Denver.

    Haileyesus was the son of Ethiopian immigrants and had several siblings, including a twin brother. The family described him in the following way:

    Everyone who knows Joshua can tell you what an incredibly gifted, funny, caring, and happy 12-year-old he is. Together with his twin brother, he would learn and master new hobbies out of pure curiosity and drive. Whether it was playing soccer, barbecuing sophisticated meals (better than any adult in the family can), practicing professional photography, experimenting with 3D modeling software, learning the ins-and-outs of acting including screenwriting and costume design, playing guitar, and planning his future of joining the U.S Army before becoming a First Responder, Joshua has excitement and passion for growing and learning. Joshua was so smart and impressive, unlike any twelve-year-old that we know; he seemed to have planned all his life in advance with his dreams and aspirations. Beyond his love for knowledge, Joshua has a love for people that you wouldn’t expect in a child. Since he was very young, he always expressed compassion for others. He would pray for people who were sick, stand up for others who were bullied at school, and practice CPR in case he ever needed to save someone else’s life.

    A GoFundMe page raised more than $181,000 for the family.

    Related:

    12-year-old dies after 19 days on life support, family blames online ‘blackout challenge’

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Interview: Up-and-Coming Ethio-American Musician Abel Maasho

    “I never really listened to music or anything in the house,” Maasho confessed of his childhood. “Both of my parents are Ethiopian immigrants. I’m a first gen, and the only music that was ever played was Ethiopian gospel music on Sundays.” (Photo: @abelmaasho/Instagram)

    The Daily Californian

    Dropping hits from his dorm room: Maasho talks being self-taught, entering music industry

    In an interview with The Daily Californian, Abel Maasho laid out his vision for an upcoming first album: “I’m a teenager, this is my life, I’m also a fucking superstar, and I’m gonna do this s— regardless if people like it or not, because it’s my world and you’re just living in it.”

    Considering that the young musician has garnered over 13 million global streams from only 9 songs with no record label or management to thank for it, the above statement checks out perfectly. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter from North Carolina has all the makings of a musical prodigy, but his songwriting journey only began two years ago.

    “I never really listened to music or anything in the house,” Maasho confessed of his childhood. “Both of my parents are Ethiopian immigrants. I’m a first gen, and the only music that was ever played was Ethiopian gospel music on Sundays.”

    It wasn’t until 2019, when Maasho sat in on his friend’s songwriting session, that he realized his natural aptitude for alt music. Soon after picking up songwriting as a hobby, Maasho’s meticulous nature kicked in and demanded that he verse himself in production, mixing and mastering.

    “I really, really like being able to have control over my entire process, because at the end of the day this is an extension of myself,” Maasho said. “I decided that I wanted to pursue music seriously probably a couple weeks into being in my freshman dorm at (East Carolina University) where it was like, ‘Damn, I can do this myself!’ ”

    2019 saw hits for Maasho such as “Fresh Air” and “Ginger,” with over 6 million and 2 million Spotify streams, respectively. Despite already finding the route to writing hit songs, Maasho is still allowing himself to explore new sounds and songwriting strategies.

    “I’ve taken up painting recently, and I’ve started trying to write down my lyrics on physical paper,” said Maasho of his new habits. “I’ve used the paintings and written songs about (them)… you should try and do art in as many possible ways as you can if you have the ability and you have the circumstances to do them.”

    While Maasho is already deliberate in his devotion to creating art, life tends to force spontaneous creativity from him regardless. He explained one instance in 2020 when the neighboring city Raleigh was shut down over Black Lives Matter protests and he was followed by three cops on a 15-minute drive to his own house. The days that ensued saw Maasho turning his racial trauma into a fiery, truth-spitting three-song EP about racial injustice, entitled “World on Fire.”

    “I was freaking out… Because I am a Black male driving home in my predominately white town and I am scared,” Maasho remembered. “That really pissed me off, because I was like okay… I (felt) safe in my city, but I no longer do, and ‘World on Fire’ ended up being made literally the next day after that.”

    Maasho’s most recent single, “Sad Machine,” is in that same vein of cathartic songs that allow for coping. Accompanied by a comedically tinged music video, “Sad Machine” is a gritty and undeniably catchy piece of indie pop that boasts both woeful lyrics and an uplifting beat.

    “The song for me is kind of personifying my battle with anxiety and depression and other mental health things, and a lot of people go through that, especially people my age,” Maasho commented. “It’s an easily accessible song. If this makes you feel good, but it’s also talking about things you deal with on a daily basis, I’m very glad. I’m ecstatic that I (can) make that.”

    While a catchy, relatable anthem about mental health might have been Maasho’s end product, its origin was a mere experiment performed alone in a bedroom.

    “It was like yo, look, I’m going to make this super simple song, the hook is going to have 11 words, and it’s gonna be a hit, and that’s how I feel about it,” explained Maasho. “I don’t care about streams, this is literally just what I’m doing.”

    Maasho’s beyond-his-years outlook on life guarantees that he’ll continue to create a brand for himself as a multi-genre producer, singer and songwriter.

    “I’m just looking for the next step, seeing what’s good with my artistry and growing myself as a person, and just using my music as more self-extension rather than self-expression,” Maasho added.

    Later in 2021, the world will see Maasho release many new projects, including an upcoming single with friends Weston Estate and also his first-ever album, tentatively titled “Abe’s World Volume I.”

    “I’m very very excited about that because it shows all the different sounds that I’ve been playing with over the course of these singles over the past year,” emphasized Maasho. “Be on the lookout.”

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Biden Nominates Mary Catherine Phee as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

    Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who had previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, is among seven individuals nominated to fill key roles in the State Department. Phee currently serves as Principal Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department. (Photo: C-SPAN)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: April 15th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — Today President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Mary Catherine Phee as the next U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation.

    In a press release the White House named Ambassador Phee – a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who had previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia – among seven individuals nominated to fill key roles in the State Department.

    According to the White House:

    Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department. She was U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan from 2015 to 2017. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. She also was the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and Deputy Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, handling UN engagement in Africa for both portfolios. Earlier in her career, Phee served as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council and as Senior Civilian Representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Maysan Province, Iraq. She began her career in Amman, Jordan and also worked at U.S. Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Kuwait City, Kuwait. She received the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for conflict resolution and peacemaking, the James A. Baker, III-C. Howard Wilkins, Jr. Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Order of the British Empire Award, and a Presidential Rank Award. She speaks Arabic. A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Indiana University and holds a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

    Click here to read the full press release »

    Related:

    Diplomacy: Request for Proposals that Strengthen Ties Between U.S. & Ethiopia

    Video: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Interviews Senator Coons About Ethiopia

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Hires More Help in Washington, DC to Lobby U.S Government

    U.S. Announces More Than $152 Million in Additional Assistance

    UPDATE: U.S. Senator Chris Coons Says Ethiopia Trip Was ‘Constructive’

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Diplomacy: Request for Proposals that Strengthen Ties Between U.S. & Ethiopia

    The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia invites proposals for programs that strengthen cultural ties between the U.S. and Ethiopia through cultural, media and exchange programming that highlights shared values and promotes bilateral cooperation. (Photo: Courtesy U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa Facebook page)

    Press Release

    PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

    The U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce that funding is available through its Public Diplomacy small grants program. This Annual Program Statement outlines our funding priorities, strategic themes, and the procedures for submitting requests for funding. Please carefully follow all instructions below.

    Purpose of Small Grants: PAS Addis invites proposals for programs that strengthen cultural ties between the U.S. and Ethiopia through cultural, media and exchange programming that highlights shared values and promotes bilateral cooperation. All programs must include an American cultural element, or connection with American expert/s, organization/s, or institution/s in a specific field that will promote increased understanding of U.S. policies, values, and perspectives.

    Examples of PAS small grants programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic and professional lectures, seminars and speaker programs;
  • Artistic and cultural workshops, joint performances and exhibitions;
  • Cultural heritage conservation and preservation programs;
  • Programs developed by an alumnus/a of a U.S. sponsored or supported educational or professional exchange program;
  • Programs that strengthen U.S. college and university relationships with local higher education institutions, businesses, and/or regional organizations;
  • Media trainings.

    The APS is intended to inform individuals, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and academic institutions about opportunities from the Public Affairs Section to support projects in at least one of the following thematic areas:

  • Efforts to support Ethiopia’s economic and political reforms, including support for elections, civil society, democracy and governance, and/or entrepreneurship;
  • Strengthening independent and state media through media literacy, training and other engagement;
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM);
  • Engaging emerging and under-represented populations, including youth, women and persons with disabilities through education, art, sports, culture and other programs;
  • Promoting tolerance and peace through dialogue;
  • Promoting economic growth, especially via entrepreneurship;
  • Promoting sustainable policies to protect the environment.

    Priority Program Areas:

    Proposals must identify how it fulfills a broad U.S. Embassy priority:

  • Strengthen Democratic Institutions and Expand Human Rights: improve internal stability and strengthen rule of law through active engagement with stakeholders; improve learning outcomes by increasing achievement in education; and improve workforce skills development.
  • Spur Broad-based Economic Growth and Promote Development: strengthen role of women and youth in economic activity; improve trade and investment climate; increase development and growth of the domestic private sector; and increase livelihood transition opportunities.
  • Advance Regional Peace and Security: promote regional peace and security.

    Participants and Audiences:

    The Public Affairs Section encourages applications from U.S. and Ethiopian organizations and individuals including:

  • Registered not-for-profit organizations, including think tanks and civil society/nongovernmental organizations with programming experience;
  • Non-profit or governmental educational institutions;
  • Individuals will be considered, but priority is given to registered organizations and educational institutions with a proven track record of success.

    For-profit or commercial entities are not eligible to apply.

    The following types of programs are not eligible for funding:

  • Programs relating to partisan political activity;
  • Charitable or development activities;
  • Construction programs;
  • Programs that support specific religious activities;
  • Fund-raising campaigns;
  • Lobbying for specific legislation or programs
  • Scientific research;
  • Programs intended primarily for the growth or institutional development of the organization; or
  • Programs that duplicate existing U.S. government programs.

    Read more »

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  • Video: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Interviews Senator Coons About Ethiopia

    CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviews Senator Chris Coons about his recent trip to Ethiopia, April 13th, 2021· (Photo: CNN)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: April 14th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — This week in an interview with CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour President Joe Biden’s close confidant Senator Chris Coons discussed his recent trip to Ethiopia.

    As Senator Coons told Amanpour he was asked by President Biden last month to serve as his special personal emissary to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. “He met with me for five hours over two days and he was very generous with his time,” Coons shared. “I delivered a letter directly to him from President Biden and I brought a letter back to President Biden from Prime Minister Abiy.”

    The Senator added:

    A couple of key developments: [PM Abiy] made commitments about humanitarian access, he publicly stated that there had been human rights violations committed by his own troops, by Eritrean troops and by the TPLF and committed to an international investigation in partnership with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Most importantly, he recognized publicly for the first time the presence of Eritrean troops in his country and then made a trip to Asmara to meet with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea to demand he withdraw his troops. That was a significant step forward. We are looking for action across these three key commitments and there are also other regional concerns about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and a border dispute with Sudan. There was progress made on all these fronts, but there is still more that has to be done…I am going to be working with the Biden Administration to make sure those commitments are followed up.

    Click here to watch the interview »

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Hires More Help in Washington, DC to Lobby U.S Government

    U.S. Announces More Than $152 Million in Additional Assistance

    UPDATE: U.S. Senator Chris Coons Says Ethiopia Trip Was ‘Constructive’

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    People: Madonna Buys The Weeknd’s Los Angeles Mansion for $19.3 Million

    The Weeknd previously bought the 12,547-square-foot estate in 2017 for $18.2 million. (Getty Images)

    People Magazine

    Madonna has a new home on the West Coast!

    The “Material Girl” singer, 62, has put down roots in Los Angeles, purchasing The Weeknd’s Hidden Hills mansion for $19.3 million.

    The Weeknd previously bought the 12,547-square-foot estate in 2017 for $18.2 million.

    Situated on three acres of land in a private gated community, the house boasts a seven-bedroom main house and a two-bedroom guest house. Lifestyle amenities in the main house include a living and dining rooms, an expansive chefs kitchen and an entertainer’s bar.

    The landscaped front driveway leads to an entrance hall with double-height ceilings and a two-story window wall, which brighten up the interior of the home. The brilliant white walls are warmed by wood and stone accents.

    Pocket doors open to a backyard with several terraces, a pool, spa and a cabana with a living room. The property, which is lined with redwood trees, also includes a spacious barn, a five-car garage with LED flooring and a full basketball court.

    The community is near Calabasas and the Malibu coast.

    The “Blinding Lights” singer, né Abel Tesfaye, first listed the property last summer for just under $25 million. By December, the price had dropped to $22 million before Madonna closed for another $2.7 million less.

    The Weeknd was represented by Angel Salvador at The Agency and Madonna was represented by Trevor Wright at The Beverly Hills Estates.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Hires More Help in Washington, DC to Lobby U.S Government

    Holland & Knight - an international law firm with more 27 offices in the United States, Europe, and Latin America - has been retained by the Ethiopian government to provide “strategic counsel and federal government relations” before both Congress and the White House, according to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department. The six-month contract is worth $270,000. (Photo: Holland & Knight LLP)

    Politico

    Ethiopian Peace Ministry hires Holland & Knight

    The Ethiopian government has hired more help in Washington as the Biden administration continues to issue warnings and reports of atrocities against the Tigrayan people continue to trickle out. Holland & Knight’s Michael Cavanaugh, Rich Gold, Michael Galano and Ronald Oleynik will assist Ethiopia’s Ministry of Peace with “strategic counsel and federal government relations” before both Congress and the White House, according to documents filed with the Justice Department.

    — The six-month contract is worth $270,000, and was disclosed the same day national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, according to the White House, to convey the administration’s “grave concern” over the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country, which Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said amounts to “ethnic cleansing” by the government in Addis Ababa against the Tigray people.

    — President Joe Biden dispatched one of his top congressional allies, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to the Ethiopian capital last month. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told Coons during the visit that he is “deeply concerned” about reported atrocities, and is “fully committed to investigating all allegations of human rights abuses” and bringing to justice those responsible for the brutalities, according to a letter from Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United States to the heads of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that was disclosed to the Justice Department by the lobbying firm Venable, which is representing the Ethiopian embassy.

    Read more »

    Related:

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Ethiopian Airlines Celebrates 75 Years Of Flights

    As Ethiopian Airlines announced [this week] April 8th, 2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the carrier’s first-ever commercial flight. This inaugural service flew from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to its Egyptian counterpart, Cairo. (Photo: Ethiopian was the first African airline to order the Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner.’/Getty Images)

    Simple Flying

    Yesterday marked a significant anniversary in the airline industry, as Ethiopian Airlines marked 75 years since its inaugural commercial flight. In the three-quarters of a century since then, the carrier has become the largest in Africa. Let’s take a look at the airline’s history, and how it has celebrated this special anniversary this week.

    How did it all start?

    As Ethiopian Airlines announced yesterday, April 8th, 2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the carrier’s first-ever commercial flight. This inaugural service flew from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to its Egyptian counterpart, Cairo.

    The flight was operated by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, and flew via the Eritrean capital of Asmara. Ethiopian’s initial fleet consisted of five C-47s acquired from the US government. These previously served as military transport aircraft, and were a development of Douglas’s popular DC-3. Ethiopian’s C-47s had a mixed configuration, carrying passengers and cargo.

    In the 75 years that have followed, Ethiopian has experienced impressive and consistent growth. According to Planespotters.net, its fleet today consists of 127 aircraft. These include some of the most modern and efficient twinjets in the skies, namely the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. With this fleet, Ethiopian serves the fourth-largest number of countries of any airline.


    Ethiopian eventually operated the popular Douglas DC-3 as well as its military counterpart, the C-47. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

    Anniversary celebrations

    The ongoing coronavirus is continuing to significantly impact the world of commercial aviation. As such, Ethiopian’s 75th birthday probably did not play out how the airline might previously have imagined. Nonetheless, the carrier was able to mark the occasion with a special event on a flight to Cairo. As established, this was Ethiopian’s first commercial route.

    Read more »

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    ETHIOPIA UPDATE: U.S. Announces More Than $152 Million in Additional Assistance

    U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

    Press Release

    Office of Press Relations
    press@usaid.gov

    UNITED STATES ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $152 MILLION IN ADDITIONAL HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE FOR THE PEOPLE AFFECTED BY TIGRAY CRISIS

    In response to growing needs in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing more than $152 million in additional humanitarian assistance. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, and this latest announcement brings the total contributed by the American people for the people in Tigray to nearly $305 million.

    The humanitarian situation in Tigray continues to be dire, with approximately 4.5 million people in need of assistance and the UN warning that there could be a risk of famine. This new funding will address life-threatening hunger and acute malnutrition, as well as provide safe drinking water, urgently needed medical and health support, and shelter for some of the estimated one million people who have fled their homes. USAID support will also provide protection for the most vulnerable—including safe spaces and psychosocial support for women and girls, case management for survivors of gender-based violence, training for social workers and community case workers, and programs to reunite children separated from their families.

    Amidst considerable insecurity and humanitarian access constraints, USAID support will provide life-saving aid to more than 3 million people most in need in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. In addition to providing critical humanitarian aid, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which has been on the ground since March 1, 2021, to lead the U.S. Government’s response efforts.

    The United States remains deeply concerned about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Tigray and the lack of sufficient humanitarian funding to address it. Large-scale assistance is urgently needed to prevent conditions in Tigray from worsening. The United States urges other donors to immediately increase their contributions to address Ethiopia’s critical humanitarian needs, and to help the most vulnerable people in the Tigray region. While the U.S.’s humanitarian assistance will help alleviate urgent needs, it will not address the root causes of the ongoing conflict and human rights violations in Ethiopia. An immediate cessation of fighting, dialogue, reconciliation, and accountability measures are needed to stop the suffering in Tigray.

    Related:

    UPDATE: The Weeknd Donates $1 Million to Relief Efforts in Ethiopia

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Vogue: Liya Kebede & Her Daughter Bring A Touch Of Ethiopia’s Artisanship To H&M

    Liya Kebede says working with her daughter was wonderfully emotional and a proud moment in her career. (Vogue)

    Vogue

    Liya Kebede & Her Daughter Bring A Touch Of Ethiopia’s Artisanship To H&M

    Liya Kebede has been quietly working to preserve the art of weaving in her native Ethiopia since she founded her artisanal brand Lemlem, which means “to bloom” and “flourish” in Amharic, in 2007. By employing traditional weavers and breaking their cycle of poverty – the once thriving industry creating custom habesha kemis garments suffered as young Africans turned to modern imported fashion – Kebede has reinvigorated a community, and kept an important element of the culture of Addis Ababa, where she was born.


    Kebede is working with H&M on ways the high-street giant can benefit the Lemlem Foundation. Community is at the core of Lemlem and it was crucial that this was reflected in the H&M collaboration. (Vogue

    The UN ambassador and maternal health advocate’s craft-focused business model can be seen as a lesson in sustainability – one that is spoken about less frequently than eco-friendly textile innovations and circularity initiatives. “Lemlem is about the human element of sustainability,” explains Kebede over Zoom, still as radiant as when she started modelling at the age of 18. “In philanthropy, there’s always this issue of making something sustainable. For me, enabling and educating people, giving them jobs and making them independent is a sustainable way of doing aid.”

    The work of the Lemlem Foundation, which runs in tandem with the clothing brand and connects female artisans in Africa to healthcare, education and jobs, struck a chord with H&M, a pioneer in the high-street sustainable fashion movement. When the Swedish fast-fashion giant invited Kebede to design a capsule collection, she didn’t balk at the prospect, but saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about Lemlem’s mission. “The idea of H&M collaborating with a brand like ours, which is very much based on sustainability, brings that kind of awareness to their customers,” Kebede explains of H&M’s mammoth outreach. “I think that’s really important and great to be a part of.”


    Effortless-yet-elegant is the style takeaway from the edit. Jewellery is to be worn stacked and passed down through generations. (Vogue)

    After deciding that the shipping of fabrics back and forth between Ethiopia and Europe would pose major carbon footprint issues and that the quantity of stock would overwhelm Lemlem’s weavers, Kebede agreed to create a line of effortless daywear in the spirit of Lemlem’s archive, but made in Europe. Sustainably sourced organic cotton and linen and recycled polyester were selected to give the same texture as Lemlem’s artisanal pieces, while the joyful mood of the striped beachwear and breezy separates emulates the brand’s signature colourful aesthetic. “I love the whole energy of layering and everything sort of going with each other, even though it’s not the same,” says Kebede, who has been living in the samples.

    Jewellery, a new category for Lemlem and one Kebede is thrilled to experiment with, comes in the form of stacking trinkets made from recycled zinc, among other materials. It’s designed, like the rest of the sunny edit, to be passed down from generation to generation, and Kebede chose her daughter Raee to star in the lookbook with her – an experience she describes as emotional. “These classic pieces are wonderful items that you can always wear forever,” she says of the seasonless Lemlem ethos she extended to H&M.

    Raee, who loves the sustainable Lemlem X H&M crop tops and swimwear, and her friends, who mostly shop vintage, are indicative of the shift in consciousness around fashion’s negative impact on the environment. Kebede, who says there were no conversations around sustainability when she began modelling, is buoyed by this. “When people first started talking about it, everybody said, ‘If I make [clothing] sustainable, I’m going to be limited, so I won’t be able to make it as gorgeous as I want.’ Now that has completely changed,” she asserts. The healthy food movement, she believes, is helpful at illustrating this: organic food was once conceived as good for you, but lacking in flavour. Now, it is widely-accepted. With change-makers like Kebede spreading the message about quality, beautiful and ethical fashion, sustainability is firmly on the menu.

    result - 2021-04-08T124156.776
    Liya Kebede, who oversaw every finish, has been living in the samples since developing the collection. (Vogue)

    Shop Lemlem x H&M, which is priced from £7.99 to £39.99, from 22 April. As part of the collaboration H&M has made a donation to the Lemlem Foundation to bolster its important work.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Maryland: Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet Photo – Frederick Police Release First Picture of Shooting Suspect

    The Frederick Police Department, Fort Detrick and the Federal Bureau of Investigations Baltimore Field Office released an image of Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet on the afternoon of April 7, 2021, more than 24 hours after he allegedly opened fire at Riverside Tech Park in Frederick and then died after reportedly brandishing a gun at Fort Detrick. (Photo: Getty/Frederick Police Department)

    Heavy

    Frederick Police released the first photo of shooting suspect Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet this afternoon, the day after they say he shot two Navy sailors and was fatally gunned down at Fort Detrick.

    Woldesenbet, a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman, allegedly wounded two people at a military installation about 10 minutes from Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army base where he worked Tuesday, April 6, 2021. He was shot and killed at the base when officials said he fled a stop at a checkpoint and brandished a gun at about 8:45 a.m. He was 38 and lived in Frederick. The two injured victims survived. Their names have not been released.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Law Enforcement Released a Joint Statement April 7 Releasing the First Photo of Woldesenbet But Added No New Information

    The Frederick Police Department, Fort Detrick and the Federal Bureau of Investigations Baltimore Field Office released an image of Woldesenbet on the afternoon of April 7, 2021, more than 24 hours after he allegedly opened fire at Riverside Tech Park in Frederick and then died after reportedly brandishing a gun at Fort Detrick.

    “Frederick Police Department, in coordination with cooperating agencies investigating an active shooter incident Tuesday, is releasing the photo of subject Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet, 38, of Frederick, who was shot and killed by Fort Detrick’s civilian military police after initially shooting two people in the 8400 Block of Progress Drive and then driving onto Fort Detrick,” the press release said.

    The statement continued with an acknowledgment of the limited information that has been released, but said they want to maintain the integrity of the investigation. It further said that the public should rely on information from trusted sources and avoid rumors.

    The statement said:

    Additionally, our agencies know the public and the media want answers regarding this incident and the subsequent investigation. We do as well. Investigations take time. When the agencies have information that we have confirmed we will release it via the FPD’s news alert system, which everyone, including media partners, can sign up for at cityoffrederickmd.gov/alerts.

    Until then, we want to ensure the public we are investigating this incident from all angles and we encourage all residents and media partners to avoid speculation or rumors regarding details of the investigation. Unverified misinformation can prove harmful to the investigation.

    Read more »

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    Science: Meet the Newly Discovered Chameleon in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains

    The newly discovered Ethiopian chameleon "lives in bushes and small trees, often at the edges of the forest in the Bale Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot that’s also home to the endemic Ethiopian wolf as well as lions, leopards and warthogs," according to the U.S.-based non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform Mongabay. (Photo from Koppetsch et al 2021)

    Mongabay

    Spiny new chameleon species described from Bale Mountains of Ethiopia

    Researchers have described a new chameleon species from the Bale Mountains of south-central Ethiopia and say it’s likely that more will emerge.

    Wolfgang Böhme’s Ethiopian chameleon is around 15 centimeters (6 inches) long and has a distinct crest of large spiny scales along its back and tail.

    It lives in bushes and small trees, often at the edges of the forest in the Bale Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot that’s also home to the endemic Ethiopian wolf as well as lions, leopards and warthogs.

    The conservation status of the new chameleon is unknown, but due to its small distribution range and human-caused habitat disturbance and agriculture in the area, it is likely that it will be classified as threatened.

    Named Wolfgang Böhme’s Ethiopian chameleon (Trioceros wolfgangboehmei), in honor of the senior herpetologist at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZMFK) in Bonn, Germany, the chameleon is around 15 centimeters (6 inches) long and has a distinctive crest of large spiny scales along its back and tail. The species has been described in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

    Researchers uncovered the new reptile while examining variations in Ethiopian chameleons (Trioceros affinis). After careful study of the internal and external features of both preserved and wild chameleons, researchers decided there were enough differences to warrant a new species.

    The researchers suggest that the Ethiopian chameleon be considered a species complex, a group with an unknown number of species, rather than a single species. They expect more species to be described from the group.

    “Given the variation in colour patterns and morphology between different populations of these chameleons in Ethiopia, it is likely that these groups still bear a higher hidden diversity than expected, which might be revealed by further ongoing investigations,” said Thore Koppetsch, a zoologist from the ZMFK who was part of the team that described the species.


    The new Ethiopian chameleon, Trioceros wolfgangboehmei, in muted tone. Chameleons can change the arrangement of specialized skin cell to blend in with their surroundings. (Photo from Koppetsch et al. CC-BY 4.0)

    Wolfgang Böhme’s Ethiopian chameleons live in bushes and small trees, often at the edges of the forest in the Bale Mountains, 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level. Many of Ethiopia’s endemic animals are found in the Bale Mountains, including the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). The area is also home to lions, leopards, warthogs, and many other endemic reptiles.

    “Although the region from which the new chameleon is known from, the Bale Mountains, can be considered as a hotspot of species diversity and a center of endemism,” Koppetsch said, “it is quite astonishing to find an unknown chameleon in this region since two chameleon species endemic to this area are already known.”

    The conservation status of the new chameleon is unknown, Koppetsch says, but due to its small distribution range and human-caused habitat disturbance and agriculture in the area, it is likely that it will be classified as threatened with extinction.


    Head details of Trioceros wolfgangboehmei. (Photo from Koppetsch et al 2021. CC-BY 4.0)

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    UPDATE: The Weeknd Donates $1 Million to Relief Efforts in Ethiopia

    The Weeknd, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is the child of two Ethiopian parents who immigrated to Canada. (Photo: The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida/Getty Images)

    RollingStone

    The Weeknd announced Sunday that he would donate $1 million to relief efforts in Ethiopia, where an ongoing conflict between the government and the Tigray region has resulted in thousands of deaths and over a million displaced people.

    “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction,” Abel Tesfaye, the Toronto-born son of two Ethiopian immigrants, wrote Sunday on Instagram.

    “I will be donating $1 million to provide 2 million meals through the United Nations World Food Program and encourage those who can to please give as well,” providing a link for his fans to contribute.

    “The outbreak of conflict in Tigray last November coincided with the peak harvest period, leading to lost employment and incomes, disrupted markets, a rise in food prices, and limited access to cash and fuel,” the U.N. World Food Programme said, adding that they aim “to support 1.4 million of these vulnerable people before it’s too late.”

    In June 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, the Weeknd donated $1 million in Covid-19 relief, with $500,000 going to MusiCares and $500,000 to an Ontario, Canada hospital. Two months later, Tesfaye also gave $300,000 to a fund helping those impacted by the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Why the Weeknd is Boycotting Future Grammy Awards

    Video: The Weeknd Rocks Tampa with Super Bowl Halftime Show

    The Weeknd: “My Natural Singing Voice Was Inspired, Shaped By Ethiopian Music”

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    Spotlight: Scientist Sossina Haile Focuses on Social Good on a Global Scale

    Fuel cell pioneer Sossina Haile focuses on social good on a global scale. Born in Ethiopia, [Sossina’s] family fled the country in the ’70s after a military coup. They settled in Minnesota, and Haile went on to earn academic degrees in materials science and engineering on both coasts, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.(Northwestern Magazine)

    Northwestern Magazine

    Basic Science Leads to Sustainable Solutions

    Materials scientist and engineer Sossina Haile couldn’t have predicted that the cost of solar and wind energy would plummet in recent years, or that places like California would start paying customers to take electricity because their supply outstripped demand. But once those things happened, she had a solution.

    Haile’s team developed a way to convert electricity into hydrogen, store it and convert it back to electricity when more is needed. This breakthrough offers a way to rebalance, and even stabilize, the U.S. energy grid.

    “That’s the benefit of doing work on fundamental materials,” says Haile, a professor in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “You can switch gears because you understand the properties of your materials and their potential applications.”

    Equipped with this technology, a storage company could take excess electricity from ComEd or PG&E, for example, and store it as hydrogen, Haile says. And when ComEd needs more electricity to power its customers’ air conditioners in the middle of summer, it would pay that storage company to convert hydrogen back to electricity. “That firm will make a killing,” Haile says.

    “I had to learn that quiet persistence only got you so far.”

    BACK TO BASICS

    In 2001 Haile created the first solid acid fuel cell, which converts hydrogen, or a fuel like natural gas, into electricity. In recognition of this breakthrough, Newsweek magazine named Haile one of 12 people to watch. She was also featured, along with 11 other women in science and technology, on the ceiling of Grand Central Station in New York City.

    Haile made a subsequent world-first discovery in 2010, when she converted solar energy into hydrogen more efficiently than photosynthesis, the process by which living plants build their organic matter. This work, which she described in a 2012 TEDx talk and for which she was awarded the 2012 International Prize in Ceramics, opened the door to larger-scale efforts to use sunlight to directly make renewable fuels.

    And then the cost of solar and wind energy plummeted, and Haile’s basic science background proved invaluable, enabling her to switch her research focus back and forth between electricity and hydrogen.

    Now, Haile’s lab is reconfiguring their solid acid fuel cells so the devices can convert ammonia into high-purity hydrogen. “This would make it possible to use ammonia as a hydrogen carrier,” Haile says, “avoiding the cost of building a new delivery infrastructure to supply hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles.”


    Sossina Haile works with a student in her lab before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Northwestern Magazine)

    ENERGY INNOVATOR

    Born in Ethiopia, Haile’s family fled the country in the ’70s after a military coup. They settled in Minnesota, and Haile went on to earn academic degrees in materials science and engineering on both coasts, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.

    Haile’s work in sustainable energy was recognized early on, with a National Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Fulbright Fellowship, among other honors. But just a few years into teaching, she found herself “in a very big ocean with lots of very big fish.”

    “I had to learn that quiet persistence only got you so far,” Haile says. “Success required focusing on the most important problems in my field, finding the right questions to ask and convincing the world, with just a bit of fanfare, that I could solve those problems.”

    Read more at magazine.northwestern.edu »

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    GERD UPDATE: Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Resume Talks on Big Dam Amid Tensions

    Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations were attending the talks [this weekend], along with experts from the African Union, according to Ethiopia’s Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele. (Photo: Satellite image of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River in Ethiopia/Handout photo)

    The Associated Press

    A new round of talks between three African nations began Saturday, officials said, aimed at resolving a yearslong dispute over a giant dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River’s main tributary.

    The three-day talks are taking place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current chair of the African Union. The AU is mediating the negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

    Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Cairo wants the negotiations to eventually lead to a legally binding agreement over the operation and filling of the dam’s massive reservoir.

    Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations were attending the talks, along with experts from the African Union, according to Ethiopia’s Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele.

    A Sudanese diplomat said experts from the three countries and the African Union met Saturday, ahead of ministers who would meet Sunday and Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief media.

    Sudan said it would take part in the Kinshasa round with an aim of agreeing on a “negotiating approach” to ensure the talks would be constructive. That would include an Egyptian-backed Sudanese proposal to include the U.S., European Union and United Nations as mediators along with the AU, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    Ethiopia has rejected the proposal, saying it “believes in resolving African problems by Africans.”

    The dispute centers on the speed at which a planned reservoir is filled behind the dam, the method of its annual replenishment, and how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs. Another point of difference is how the three countries would settle any future disputes.

    Egypt and Sudan want a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines.

    The talks in Kinshasa come a few days after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said his country’s share of Nile River waters were “untouchable” — a stark warning apparently to Ethiopia, which is preparing for another stage of the dam’s filling later this year.

    El-Sissi warned Tuesday of “instability that no one can imagine” in the region if the dam’s is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.

    Bekele, the Ethiopian minister, said his country “as always is determined for principled, equitable and reasonable utilization without causing significant harm,” according to Ethiopia’s official news agency.

    Egypt is a mostly desert country that depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs. It fears that a quick fill would drastically reduce the Nile’s flow, with potentially severe effects on its agriculture and other sectors.

    Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential, arguing that the vast majority of its population lacks electricity. The dam will generate over 6,400 megawatts of electricity, a massive boost to the country’s current production of 4,000 megawatts.

    Sudan wants Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River. The Blue Nile meets with the White Nile in central Sudan. From there the Nile winds northward through Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

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    Spotlight: Rediet Abebe Tackles Social Problems With Computer Science

    Rediet Abebe uses the tools of theoretical computer science to understand pressing social problems — and try to fix them. Rediet, who holds a doctorate in computer science from Cornell University, is a co-founder of the organizations Black in AI. (Photo: Quanta Magazine)

    Quanta Magazine

    A Computer Scientist Who Tackles Inequality Through Algorithms

    When Rediet Abebe arrived at Harvard University as an undergraduate in 2009, she planned to study mathematics. But her experiences with the Cambridge public schools soon changed her plans.

    Abebe, 29, is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city. When residents there didn’t have the resources they needed, she attributed it to community-level scarcity. But she found that argument unconvincing when she learned about educational inequality in Cambridge’s public schools, which she observed struggling in an environment of abundance.

    To learn more, Abebe started attending Cambridge school board meetings. The more she discovered about the schools, the more eager she became to help. But she wasn’t sure how that desire aligned with her goal of becoming a research mathematician.

    “I thought of these interests as different,” said Abebe, a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows and an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “At some point, I actually thought I had to choose, and I was like, ‘OK, I guess I’ll choose math and the other stuff will be my hobby.’”

    After college Abebe was accepted into a doctoral program in mathematics, but she ended up deferring to attend an intensive one-year math program at the University of Cambridge. While there, she decided to switch her focus to computer science, which allowed her to combine her talent for mathematical thinking with her strong desire to address social problems related to discrimination, inequity and access to opportunity. She ended up getting a

    Today, Abebe uses the tools of theoretical computer science to help design algorithms and artificial intelligence systems that address real-world problems. She has modeled the role played by income shocks, like losing a job or government benefits, in leading people into poverty, and she’s looked at ways of optimizing the allocation of government financial assistance. She’s also working with the Ethiopian government to better account for the needs of a diverse population by improving the algorithm the country uses to match high school students with colleges.

    Abebe is a co-founder of the organizations Black in AI — a community of Black researchers working in artificial intelligence — and Mechanism Design for Social Good, which brings together researchers from different disciplines to address social problems.

    Quanta Magazine spoke with Abebe recently about her childhood fear that she’d be forced to become a medical doctor, the social costs of bad algorithmic design, and how her background in math sharpens her work. This interview is based on multiple phone interviews and has been condensed and edited for clarity.

    You’re currently involved in a project to reform the Ethiopian national educational system. The work was born in part from your own negative experiences with it. What happened?

    In the Ethiopian national system, when you finished 12th grade, you’d take this big national exam and submit your preferences for the 40-plus public universities across the country. There was a centralized assignment process that determined what university you were going to and what major you would have. I was so panicked about this.

    Why?

    I realized I was a high-scoring student when I was in middle school. And the highest-scoring students tended to be assigned to medicine. I was like 12 and super panicked that I might have to be a medical doctor instead of studying math, which is what I really wanted to do.

    What did you end up doing?

    I thought, “I may have to go abroad.” I learned that in the U.S., you can get full financial aid if you do really well and get into the top schools.

    So you went to Harvard as an undergraduate and planned to become a research mathematician. But then you had an experience that changed your plans. What happened?

    I was excited to study math at Harvard. At the same time, I was interested in what was going on in the city of Cambridge. There was a massive achievement gap in elementary schools in Cambridge. A lot of students who were Black, Latinx, low-income or students with disabilities, or immigrant students, were performing two to four grades below their peers in the same classroom. I was really interested in why this was happening.

    Read the full Q & A at quantamagazine.org »

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    UPDATE: Ethiopia Receives $500M World Bank Financing for Electricity Projects

    New World Bank financing supports Ethiopia's goal of universal electricity access by 2025. (Photo: The World Bank Group headquarters building in Washington, D.C./Wikimedia)

    Press Release

    World Bank Group

    ADDIS ABABA — The World Bank approved a $500 million International Development Association (IDA)* credit to support Ethiopia’s goal of achieving universal electricity access by 2025.

    Over the past decade, the Government of Ethiopia has made encouraging progress on its electrification program and expanded the grid network coverage to nearly 60 percent of towns and villages. Despite this progress, Ethiopia has the third largest energy access deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa with more than half the population still without access to reliable electricity especially in deep-rural areas which are dependent on biomass and kerosene. The electricity deficit in Ethiopia continues to exacerbate the poverty situation, preventing far too many people from fulfilling their basic socio-economic needs and limiting access to opportunity.

    The Access to Distributed Electricity and Lighting in Ethiopia (ADELE) Project is an important component of Ethiopia’s National Electrification Program (NEP), which aims to strategically change direction from infrastructure development to the delivery of adequate, reliable and affordable electricity services with a vision to reach universal electrification by 2025. ADELE will focus on access to new and improved electricity services for households, smallholder farmers, commercial and industrial users, and social institutions in urban, peri-urban, rural, and deep-rural areas. The first phase of the NEP was supported by the World Bank-financed Ethiopia Electrification Program (ELEAP) approved in 2018.

    ‘With a goal of providing electricity services for nearly 5 million people, 11,500 enterprises and 1,400 health and education facilities, the project represents the World Bank’s continued support to the Government of Ethiopia’s NEP and is aligned with our commitment to support Ethiopia’s resilient recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic. It is also an important step towards improving service delivery and addressing drivers of fragility and conflict’ said Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia.

    An important feature of ADELE will be the deployment of innovative solutions such as decentralized renewable energy technologies, particularly solar photovoltaic (PV) mini-grids and individual solar system for both household and productive use, deployed through a combined approach of public and private delivery modalities that further enhance affordability and inclusion. The project also has a strong focus on closing the gender gap in the energy sector and increasing the percentage of women participating in the mini-grid sector and off-grid technology value chain.

    ‘ADELE can contribute to achieving near universal electrification of secondary schools and health centers. Closing the energy gap and enabling the productive use of renewable energy in rural and deep-rural areas will be crucial in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase,’said Riccardo Puliti, World Bank Africa Regional Director for Infrastructure.

    The ADELE project will be implemented by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity, the Ethiopian Electric Utility, and the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

    *The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. Established in 1960, it provides grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. IDA resources help effect positive change in the lives of the 1.6 billion people living in the countries that are eligible for its assistance. Since its inception, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments are constantly on the rise and have averaged $21 billion over the past three years, with about 61% going to Africa.

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    UPDATE: U.S. & Ethiopia Launch $2.2 Billion Productive Safety Net Program

    The United States has supported the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) initiative since its inception and remains Ethiopia’s largest bilateral assistance partner, investing over $4 billion in the last five years alone. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia)

    Press Release

    U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia

    U.S. and Ethiopia Launch New $2.2 Billion Phase of the Productive Safety Net Program

    Addis Ababa, March 29, 2021 – Today, the United States joined the Government of Ethiopia and development partners to launch the next five-year phase of the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). The PSNP is the Government of Ethiopia’s multi-billion dollar food security, public works, and social safety net program for millions in need across Ethiopia.The PSNP was first established with U.S. support in 2005. As the largest donor, USAID’s contribution accounts for over $550 million.

    Today’s launch represents a total additional $2.2 billion investment by the government and Ethiopia’s international partners in PSNP. Over the next five years, the PSNP will reach up to nine million people each year as it provides food assistance and services that will lift vulnerable families out of poverty. Minister of Finance Ato Ahmed Shide and Minister of Agriculture Ato Oumer Hussein launched the new, fifth phase of PSNP with heads of agencies from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, World Food Programme, UNICEF, Irish Aid, and the Netherlands at a ceremony in Addis Ababa.

    USAID Mission Director Sean Jones said, “The American people’s commitment to this Ethiopian-led program is long-standing. We are pleased to continue our work together to build upon the success of the PSNP in improving food security and nutrition, and resilience in poor and vulnerable communities. We applaud the Ethiopian government’s commitment, leadership, and increased ownership under this initiative. The American people greatly appreciate the opportunity to be a partner of the Ethiopian people in the coming years.”

    The United States has supported the PSNP initiative since its inception and remains Ethiopia’s largest bilateral assistance partner, investing over $4 billion in the last five years alone.

    Related:

    UPDATE: U.S. Creates Special Envoy For Horn of Africa

    UPDATE: U.S. Senator Chris Coons Says Ethiopia Trip Was ‘Constructive’

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis Response

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

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    Q&A: 5 Questions With R&B Singer Mélat

    An Austin, Texas native and proud Ethiopian, Mélat is a shining musical anomaly, crafting songs about the many forms of love as a way to empower herself and her fans. (Austin Monthly Magazine)

    Austin Monthly Magazine

    The soulful R&B singer spoke with [Austin Monthly] about her heritage, her future, and what motivates her right now.

    An Austin native and proud Ethiopian, Mélat is a shining musical anomaly, crafting songs about the many forms of love as a way to empower herself and her fans.

    Mélat spoke to us about everything from the solitude of COVID-19 shutdowns and how it’s affected her writing process to what it’s like being an R&B singer in a city dominated by guitar heroes and folksy singer-songwriters.

    How did you first get started as a vocalist and songwriter?

    I would always write as a kid. My parents were super strict so I wasn’t able to go hang out with my friends. And I didn’t want to tell my parents how I was feeling or whatever. So I just resorted to my journal. And so I would journal all the time. But I had also been put into piano lessons for four years of my really young life. I had that musical sensibility, so sometimes I would write little songs and things. But it wasn’t until I got a little bit older, like in high school, probably to where the things that I was writing in my journal, the feelings I was feeling, would translate into more of a poem and more into song. And it took a while before I was really confident. It took a while to admit that I was writing songs and to feel okay with that. But, you know, once I made my first project, which is called Canon Aphaea, I received a message back from a girl saying she was contemplating suicide, and this EP helped her out and made her change her mind. And I had been going through a lot of stuff personally, at that point. And so I was like, Wow, my struggles, my issues, my lack of confidence, my lack of all of that, allowed someone else to feel like they weren’t alone in their own struggles as well. So I was like, Okay, maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. I continued making music because my goal, my lifelong goal, for as long as I could remember was just to help people. And if this is a vehicle that I can use to make people feel less alone (and in turn, make myself feel less alone), then I’m just going to continue doing it.

    How has your lyrical approach changed since your earlier releases?What inspired you early in your career and what is inspiring you now?

    I think earlier on it was harder—it still is—but it was harder to be more vulnerable and more transparent. I was a little bit more vague in what I was talking about, or how I talked about things, rather. And it was very focused on what I was going through. And I think through the years of doing it, I’ve started to incorporate more and more of other people’s stories into my music, reflecting what I see. As well as being a little more transparent with the things that I’m going through or the way that I’m writing these things. They’re not as vague as they used to be. I’m a little more like this is what I’m going through, this is what it is. The more I’ve done it, the more I’ve realized there will always be people who relate to your story. And sometimes being more specific about your story helps someone else relate to it even better. So that’s probably one of the main differences of how, just in general, how all my music has evolved.

    What impact has your Ethiopian heritage had on your musical style?

    Oh, it’s imbued in everything that I do. It’s how I was raised. It’s who I am. It’s the first language I spoke. It was difficult at first to embrace my heritage. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a world artist. So it was hard for me to embrace that without being like, people aren’t gonna understand what I’m trying to do. And as I’ve evolved through my career, so has the world. People have become more accepting of like, not genre-bonding somebody. You don’t have to be this one little thing. As far as, like, the public’s eyes. So I think it’s something that I’ve always treasured, but had a hard time expressing. As I’ve gone through my career, I’ve grown to embrace it. And hopefully later this year, you guys will be able to see more of that side of me. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. But hopefully, you’ll be able to see more of my Ethiopian heritage come through my work.

    What’s on the horizon for you in 2021?

    Well, definitely a lot of new music–a lot of stuff that I’ve just been cooking up after being in quarantine for about a year at this point. So a lot of new music and a lot of new visuals and things like that. The manifestation of the creativity I was able to explore during quarantine would be the short way to say it.

    How do you think R&B will fit into Austin’s music scene in the future?

    I hope it’ll be seen. I hope it’ll be understood. I think that’s one of the biggest issues R&B has in Austin at this point—the fact that people are so used to rock, Americana, and blues that they don’t quite understand what R&B is. Because I’ve been lumped into hip hop so many times, it just makes me want to throw up…and it’s not a knock on hip hop. There’s a huge difference between R&B and hip hop. And the fact that people don’t understand that is a big learning curve that needs to happen in the music scene. So, what I hope for R&B is that there is a bigger understanding of what it is and what it sounds like, the variances that it can have that. I mean, if there’s one thing that I could ask for it, it would be for an understanding of what it actually is.

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    Spotlight: Ethiopian American Ainae Nielsen, Howard University Student Competing on ‘The Voice’

    Ainae Nielsen, a Washington, D.C., native and Silver Spring, Maryland, resident, made it onto Team Kelly in the final blind audition last week. She grew up in an Ethiopian American family that loves music. She said she's always known she wanted to be a singer. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that she began to make her dream a reality. (Photo: Ainae Nielsen on stage during season 20 of “The Voice”/NBC)

    NBC Washington

    ‘You Got This’: Howard University Student Competing on ‘The Voice’

    A 21-year-old Howard University student is competing on “The Voice” and may advance Monday night.

    Ainae Nielsen, a Washington, D.C., native and Silver Spring, Maryland, resident, sang her own arrangement of “Best Part” by H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar and made it onto judge Kelly Clarkson’s team last week in the final blind audition.

    Nielsen told News4 she could hardly believe her eyes as she saw Clarkson’s chair begin to turn to see her.

    “The whole time, I was saying to myself, ‘You got this, you got this,’” she said. “I was nervous, but I was confident that all that practice that I did would come through in that moment.”

    Nielsen majors in business marketing at Howard and is set to graduate this spring. She grew up in an Ethiopian American family that loves music. She said she’s always known she wanted to be a singer. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that she began to make her dream a reality.

    Nielsen said a casting director from “The Voice” asked her to audition. She took it as a “sign,” as she had been dreaming of moving to California to pursue a music career.

    Nielsen’s advice to others who may want to audition for a singing competition was to “know yourself” and “be confident.”
    “Now that I’m here, I know this is the road I’m supposed to be going on,” she said.

    After the blind audition, Clarkson said Nielsen is “a competitor” and “different from anyone else in the show.” Clarkson said she believes Nielsen is ready to take on the challenge.

    Nielsen said she has had a great experience on the show so far.

    “The amount of growth that I’ve had within a week is insane,” she said.

    Nielsen’s advice to others who may want to audition for a singing competition was to “know yourself” and “be confident.”

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    In Denver, 12-Year-Old Joshua Haileyesus In Critical Condition After Trying ‘Blackout Challenge’

    Joshua Haileyesus. (Photo courtesy of Nebiyu Asfaw and Hirut Yitayew)

    CBS4

    12-Year-Old Joshua Haileyesus In Critical Condition After Trying ‘Blackout Challenge’

    AURORA, Colo. — Ethiopian community members will gather outside Children’s Hospital on Monday to pray for 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus. Haileyesus is in critical condition after trying a game called the “Blackout Challenge” which dares participants to choke themselves until they lose consciousness.

    On Monday, March 22, Joshua’s twin brother found him unconscious and not breathing on the bathroom floor.

    “His twin brother is devastated and misses him very much and can only talk about bringing him home,” organizers told CBS4.

    The communal prayer gathering will be from 6-7 p.m. on the lawn of Children’s Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

    “Joshua has a love for people that you wouldn’t expect in a child. Since he was very young, he always expressed compassion for others,” a family representative said.

    “He would pray for people who were sick, stand up for others who were bullied at school, and practice CPR in case he ever needed to save someone else’s life.”

    Now, they are praying for his recovery and warning others in the community about the danger of the “game.”

    Read more and watch the video at denver.cbslocal.com »

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    UPDATE: U.S. Creates Special Envoy For Horn of Africa

    The envoy, who is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks, will focus on the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over a disputed border area, the department said in a statement Wednesday. (Image: DOS)

    Bloomberg

    By Samuel Gebre

    US Creates Special Envoy Post to Address Crisis in Ethiopia

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the establishment of a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, where multiple political crises are unfolding.

    The envoy, who is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks, will focus on the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over a disputed border area, the department said in a statement Wednesday. The person will also tackle a disagreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it said.

    Read more »

    Related:

    UPDATE: U.S. Senator Chris Coons Says Ethiopia Trip Was ‘Constructive’

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis Response

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: U.S. Senator Chris Coons Says Ethiopia Trip Was ‘Constructive’

    U.S. Senator Chris Coons, who met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other officials during his recent trip to Ethiopia, said his visit was "constructive." (Getty Images)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: March 24th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — U.S. Senator Chris Coons has returned home after a special trip to Ethiopia on behalf of President Joe Biden to discuss the current crises in the Tigray region.

    Senator Coons, who met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other officials during his stay in Addis Ababa, said his visit to Ethiopia was positive and encouraging.

    “I just returned from a weekend spent as President Joe Biden’s personal emissary meeting with Prime Minister Abiy and a whole range of senior Ethiopian officials and others in the international community, which I believe was constructive,” Senator Coons said during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting on Wednesday. “I want to note that there has already been positive public statements by PM Abiy in the last 24-hours recognizing the need for accountability for human rights violations, the first public acknowledgment of the presence of Eritrean troops and just in the last few hours positive statements about the possible resolution of the border dispute with Sudan and the path forward on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

    Coons, who is a close Biden ally and a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added: “There are other issues we must address: full humanitarian access, the cessation of hostilities, the path forward for free and fair elections. I look forward to working with each of you on these issues and hopefully there being more progress.”

    Watch: Sen. Coons Speaks at SFRC Business Meeting – March 24, 2021

    Related:

    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis Response

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Music: Rare Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band Album ‘Tezeta’ to Be Reissued

    Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band. (Photo courtesy of Awesome Tapes From Africa)

    Pitchfork

    Originally released on cassette tape in 1975, the reissue arrives this June via Awesome Tapes From Africa

    Ethiopian music legend Hailu Mergia has announced a new reissue of his 1975 album with the Walias Band, Tezeta. The rare, initially cassette-only release has been remastered by restoration engineer Jessica Thompson and arrives June 4 via Awesome Tapes From Africa. Check out “Nefas New Zemedie,” as well as the album artwork and full tracklist, below.

    Tezeta was recorded at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, where Mergia and the Walias Band were the resident backing band for some of the most influential names in Ethiopian music. It was the group’s first proper full-length release and was originally released under its own Ethio Sound label. At the time of the recording, the Walias Band lineup featured Moges Habte (saxophone and flute), Mahmoud Aman (guitar), Yohannes Tekola (trumpet), Melake Gebre (bass guitar), Girma Beyene (piano), Temare Haregu (drums), and Abebe Kassa (alto saxophone).

    Read Pitchfork’s review of Hailu Mergia’s 2020 album Yene Mircha.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Women’s History Month: Hewan Teshome, Senior VP for Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle

    Hewan Teshome, senior vice president and general counsel for Climate Pledge Arena and the Kraken [in Seattle, Washington], is the daughter of parents who came to the U.S. for higher education, planning to return to Ethiopia afterward. A military coup made it unsafe to remain in their home country. (NHL.com)

    NHL

    ‘Committed to Doing It Differently’

    March is Gender Equality Month across the globe. Three Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena colleagues provide insights about lessons learned, measuring progress and innovative thinking

    A brief gender equality primer from the UN:

    “There has been progress over the last decades: More girls going to school, fewer girls forced into early marriage, more women serving in parliament and positions of leadership and laws being reformed to advance gender equality … Challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership and one in five women (ages 15 to 49) report experiencing physical violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period … the COVID-19 outbreak exacerbates existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere from health to economy to security and social protection.”

    Hewan Teshome, senior vice president and general counsel for Climate Pledge Arena and the Kraken, is the daughter of parents who came to the U.S. for higher education, planning to return to Ethiopia afterward. A military coup made it unsafe to remain in their home country.

    Like many immigrant parents, they hoped Teshome would become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. But Teshome said when she chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in journalism at New York University, “my parents encouraged me to do what I love.”

    It turned out Teshome did earn a law degree from Stanford, then landed a job with a firm in New York working a young lawyer’s marathon days and weeks. Her father returned to Ethiopia on an annual basis during those days as part of a Rotary Club program to provide polio vaccinations. Teshome managed to find the time to join those trips.


    Photo of Hewan with her parents at graduation and photo of Hewan and other Kraken and CPA colleagues at CPA. (Courtesy of Hewan Teshome)

    “Everything changed so much in a year,” recalls Teshome. “I thought, ‘there’s got to be some way to contribute. I met a lot of people in the [Ethiopian] business community. I started thinking about maybe finding a job in the private sector there.”

    Three years into her work at the law firm in Manhattan, the CEO of SouthWest Holdings (hotels, real estate, beverages) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, offered a VP/corporate and legal affairs position Teshome couldn’t turn down. Her parents were less inclined.

    “My parents have always been super supportive of my career,” says Teshome, laughing gently. “This was the one time they said, ‘Are you sure?’ … I was going back to a business community not fully developed.”

    Per the UN findings, social norms regarding gender in Ethiopia were “not as open and progressive as a city like Seattle” when Teshome accepted the job in 2011.

    “Gender was a factor in the professional and legal culture,” she says. “It was assumed women would be paralegals and eventually stay home to raise kids. I was in a senior position and still experienced pushback and dismissiveness.”

    Click here to read the full article »

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    COVID-19 New Cases Rising in Ethiopia

    According to the Ministry of Health the number of coronavirus cases in Ethiopia has reached 188,902 as of March 22nd, 2021. (Photo: Image via Twitter @lia_tadesse)

    THE LATEST UPDATE:

    Updated: March 22nd, 2021

  • Ethiopia Coronavirus Cases Reach 188, 902
  • Ethiopia reports 1,724 new COVID-19 cases
  • Ethiopia begins COVID-19 vaccine rollout
  • Ethiopian Airlines Delivers First Batches Of Vaccine In Ethiopia
  • COVID-19 limits activities of “Timket” celebration in Ethiopia
  • COVID-19: New Study on Preventive Practice Among Pregnant Women in Northwest Ethiopia
  • Aid Groups Warn of COVID-19 Outbreak at Ethiopian Refugee Camp in Sudan
  • Ethiopia to launch 6-month COVID-19 prevention campaign
  • Survey identifies troubling effect of pandemic on where women give birth in Ethiopia
  • US shifts to speed vaccinations; won’t hold back 2nd doses
  • MAP: Covid-19 vaccination tracker across the U.S.
  • ‘Relieved’: US health workers start getting COVID-19 vaccine
  • FDA authorizes the first coronavirus vaccine, a rare moment of hope in pandemic
  • US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
  • In U.S. every state has its own COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Find the one for yours here.
  • Only half in US want shots as vaccine nears
  • US regulators post positive review of Pfizer vaccine data
  • Britain launches the West’s first mass coronavirus vaccination
  • Cases and deaths in the U.S. | Cases and deaths worldwide
  • Ethiopia Coronavirus Cases Reach 117,242
  • Ethiopia’s month-long conflict hampers efforts in fighting COVID-19 outbreaks
  • How Ethiopia prepared its health workforce for the COVID-19 response
  • Assessing Ethiopian women’s vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Pfizer CEO confident of getting U.S. advisory panel nod for COVID-19 vaccine
  • Demand for COVID-19 tests to outstrip supply for months, says Roche CEO
  • A year into COVID-19, U.N. declares a day of ‘epidemic preparedness’
  • WHO sees limited COVID-19 vaccine doses in early 2021
  • 2nd virus vaccine shows overwhelming success in U.S. tests
  • Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine: 11 Things You Need to Know
  • Ethiopia Coronavirus Cases Reach 100,327
  • Virus cases surpass 90K as schools reopen in Ethiopia
  • Refusing to wear a mask in Ethiopia could cost you two years in jail
  • Ethiopia: Schools to Start Regular Face to Face Classes With Covid-19 Precautions
  • 5 Ethiopian footballers contract coronavirus
  • WHO: 10% of world’s people may have been infected with virus
  • Global coronavirus death toll tops 1 million as U.N. chief warns that ‘misinformation kills’
  • ‘I feel sorry for Americans’: Baffled world watches USA
  • U.S. Covid-19 death toll surpasses 200,000
  • China’s BGI wins 1.5 million coronavirus test kit order from Ethiopia
  • Ethiopia Braces for Election Amid COVID19
  • The pandemic appears to have spared Africa so far. Scientists are struggling to explain why
  • Ethiopia opens facility to make coronavirus test kits
  • Ethiopia to make and export COVID-19 test kits
  • IN PICTURES: On the Frontline Against Covid-19 in Ethiopia – A Photo Essay
  • Oxford vaccine trial on hold because of potential safety issue
  • In Canada, EthioCare Volunteers Help Calgary Church Members After COVID-19 Outbreak
  • How Ethiopian Airlines’ Agility Saw It Through COVID With No Bailout
  • COVID-19: US Retailer Cancels Millions of Dollars of Garment Orders from Ethiopia
  • COVID-19 reveals risky life on the buses for Ethiopia’s child conductors
  • Ethiopians fight pandemic by early morning exercises
  • One of Ethiopia’s main coronavirus centres ‘nearly full’
  • A vision for post-pandemic mobility in African cities
  • COVID-19 Spreads Inside Ethiopian Detention Centers
  • Turkish factory in Ethiopia plans output amid COVID-19
  • Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia resist camp closure amid COVID-19 fears
  • COVID-19 is crushing Ethiopian entertainers, just when we need them the most
  • Chinese first lady donates medical supplies to Ethiopia
  • Over 25500 migrant Ethiopians return home in four months amid COVID-19 pandemic: IOM
  • In Jamaica Ethiopian Consulate Donates 1,000 Care Packages
  • Global coronavirus cases top 20M as Russia approves vaccine
  • In Ethiopia extreme Poverty Rises due to the coronavirus
  • U.S. infections surpass 5 million
  • Africa’s cases of COVID-19 top 1 million
  • Ethiopians struggle to cope with COVID-19 fears
  • 15,000 Ethiopian returnees receive emergency Covid-19 assistance at quarantine sites
  • The United States Provides Ventilators to Ethiopia to Respond to COVID-19
  • In Ethiopia, Health Ministry To Conduct 17 Million COVID-19 Tests Via Month-Long Campaign
  • Ethiopia Starts Covid Test Campaign; Cases Spike After Protests
  • As COVID starts to surge, Ethiopia battles complacency
  • Coronavirus – Ethiopia: COVID-19 Response Overview
  • Ethiopian Workers Are Forced to Return Home, Some With Coronavirus
  • Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases exceed 750,000
  • Coronavirus Deaths on the Rise in Almost Every Region of the U.S.
  • Ethiopian farmers slaughter thousands of chicks as COVID hits demand
  • Ethiopia’s COVID-19 Update Affected By Internet Cut
  • Amid Pandemic Ethiopia Launches Policy to Encourage Walking and Cycling
  • African Development Fund approves $165 m grant for Ethiopia’s national COVID-19 emergency response
  • Sponsor network gives lifeline to Ethiopians struggling under pandemic
  • Ethiopia among Forbes’ post-Covid ‘Rising Stars in Travel’
  • COVID19 Contact Tracing is a race. But few U.S. states say how fast they’re running
  • WHO warns of ‘new and dangerous phase’ as coronavirus accelerates; Americas now hardest hit
  • World Bank Provides Additional Support to Help Ethiopia Mitigate Economic Impacts of COVID-19
  • Africa outperforms world economies in coronavirus mayhem
  • As coronavirus cases rise in U.S., public health experts urge caution
  • COVID-19 Cases Pass 10 Million Worldwide
  • U.S. tops 3.2 million reported cases
  • US Deaths From Coronavirus Surpass 134,000 and Growing
  • Once the coronavirus epicenter in the U.S., New York City begins to reopen
  • Winter is coming south of the equator, along with predictions of the coronavirus’s spread
  • NYT honors coronavirus victims with powerful front page
  • Spotlight: Ethiopia’s First Private Ambulance System Tebita Adds Services Addressing COVID19
  • WHO reports most coronavirus cases in a day as cases approach five million
  • World Health Organization warns against hydroxychloroquine use for covid-19
  • Experts: Trump’s threats to WHO could undercut global health
  • Why Cape Town has 10 percent of Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases
  • WHO head says vaccines, medicines must be fairly shared to beat COVID-19
  • U.S. coronavirus death toll tops 80,000
  • U.S. Jobless Rate Spikes to 14.7%, Highest Since Great Depression
  • Doctors face new urgency to solve children and coronavirus puzzle
  • In Ethiopia, Abiy Warns of Opposition Power Grab Amid Pandemic
  • Q&A: How Ethiopia’s Health Minister is Preparing for Coronavirus
  • Young Inventor Helps Ethiopia’s COVID-19 Crisis
  • Hospitalizations continue to decline in New York, Cuomo says
  • Researchers double U.S. COVID-19 death forecast, citing eased restrictions
  • Ethiopia: PM Abiy Writes COVID-19 Related Op-Ed on World Economic Forum Blog
  • Virus deaths in D.C., Virginia and Maryland surpass 2,000
  • IMF Approves $411M in Coronavirus Aid for Ethiopia
  • COVID-19 and Its Impact on African Economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet
  • Los Angeles becomes first major U.S. city to offer free coronavirus testing for all residents
  • Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 200,000, as world leaders commit to finding vaccine
  • City demolitions expose Ethiopian families to coronavirus
  • In Maryland, Wogene Debele Gave Birth Before Dying of Covid-19. She Never Got to See Her Newborn.
  • Germany to start first coronavirus vaccine trial
  • U.S. coronavirus deaths top 51,000, with fatalities expected to climb
  • Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying from strokes
  • Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health Holds Webinar With Diaspora on COVID-19 Response
  • Webinar on COVID-19 and Mental Health: Interview with Dr. Seble Frehywot
  • CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating
  • Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time info. about coronavirus to Trump admin.
  • In Ethiopia, Dire Dawa Emerges as Newest Coronavirus Hot Spot
  • COVID-19: Interview with Dr. Tsion Firew, an Ethiopian Doctor on the Frontline in NYC
  • UN COVID-19 Major airlift operation reaches ‘most vulnerable’ African nations
  • Ethiopia Cases of Coronavirus Surpass 100
  • In U.S., New York’s Cuomo attacks Trump’s pandemic response
  • Doctor who sounded the alarm about covid-19 is now a children’s book hero
  • Ethiopia Opens Aid Transport Hub to Fight Covid-19
  • Ethiopia to buy life insurance for health workers
  • IMF says COVID-19 pandemic is causing worst global economic downturn since Great Depression
  • U.N. says Saudi deportations of Ethiopian migrants risks spreading coronavirus
  • Ethiopia’s capital launches door-to-door Covid-19 screening
  • Worldwide deaths from the coronavirus hit 100,000
  • Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team: Interview with Mike Endale
  • Ethiopia eyes replicating China’s successes in applying traditional medicine to contain COVID-19
  • WHO Director Slams ‘Racist’ Comments About COVID-19 Vaccine Testing
  • Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency, Recruits Health Workers to Fight Virus
  • The virus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate, a Post analysis shows
  • In China, Wuhan’s lockdown officially ends after 11 weeks
  • U.S. coronavirus deaths surpass 10,000
  • U.S. Government urged to release race, ethnicity data on covid-19 cases
  • Ethio-American Tech Company PhantomALERT Offers Free App to Track & Map COVID-19 Outbreak
  • 2nd COVID-19 death confirmed in Ethiopia
  • The Next Coronavirus Test Will Tell You If You Are Now Immune. And It’s Fast.
  • New York City mayor calls for national enlistment of health-care workers
  • ‘Your Safety is Our Priority’: How Ethiopian Airlines is Navigating the Global Virus Crisis
  • Ethiopia races to bolster ventilator stockpile for coronavirus fight
  • Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promise
  • Over 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March as economy collapsed
  • U.N. Chief Calls Pandemic Biggest Global Challenge Since World War II
  • US death toll eclipses China’s as reinforcements head to NYC
  • Getting Through COVID 19: ECMAA Shares Timely Resources With Ethiopian Community
  • 2020 Ethiopia Election Canceled Due to COVID-19
  • DC Metro Area Goes on Lockdown
  • U.S. Approves Malaria Drug to Treat Coronavirus Patients
  • U.S. Deaths Could Reach 200,000
  • The Curious Case of Ethiopian Traditional Medicine Covid-19 Treatment & Need for Caution
  • Ethiopia: PM Abiy spoke with Dr. Tedros regarding the Coronavirus response in Africa
  • COVID-19: Fire brigades disinfect Ethiopian capital
  • The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming
  • In Tunisia Factory Workers Making 50k Masks a Day While in Voluntary Lockdown
  • Virus infections top 600,000 globally with long fight ahead
  • Maryland Issues COVID-19 Fact Sheet in Amharic for Ethiopian Community
  • Gouged prices, middlemen and medical supply chaos: Why governors are so upset with Trump
  • Worshippers in Ethiopia Defy Ban on Large Gatherings Despite Coronavirus
  • A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy
  • Ethiopia: Parents fear for missing students as universities close over Covid-19
  • Ethiopia pardons more than 4,000 prisoners to help prevent coronavirus spread

    Ethiopia begins COVID-19 vaccine rollout


    A healthcare personnel receives the first dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at the EKA Kottebe hospital as vaccination process begins in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 13, 2021. (Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu – Anadolu Agency)

    By Addis Getachew | Anadolu Agency

    ADDIS ABABA — Hoping to curb a recent spike in infections, Ethiopia kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Saturday. Jabs were administered in several major cities, including the capital Addis Ababa, where top government officials and UN representatives attended a ceremony at the Eka General Hospital. Doctors, nurses, and support staff at the hospital, one of Ethiopia’s main COVID-19 treatment centers, were given shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Ethiopia received its first batch of 2.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week under the COVAX initiative, a project co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. Speaking at the ceremony, Education Minister Getahun Mekuria said Ethiopia has been experiencing an alarming increase in infections over recent days. “Negligence is costing the nation dearly,” he warned.

    Read more »

    Survey identifies troubling effect of pandemic on where women give birth in Ethiopia

    In urban areas, delivery rates in lower-level health facilities increased and hospital deliveries decreased after social distancing restrictions were put in place

    By Johns Hopkins Magazine

    A new study from the Bloomberg School of Public Health and researchers at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia has found that as of June, the proportion of women in urban areas—where COVID-19 rates were highest—who delivered in lower-level health facilities significantly increased while deliveries in hospitals declined. A pregnant woman’s place of delivery is a key maternal health service component that has a direct impact on pregnancy and newborn outcomes, and researchers have been monitoring how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting women’s delivery patterns. The analysis was conducted using data from the Performance Monitoring for Action Ethiopia survey, led by Linnea Zimmerman, assistant professor in the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School, and Solomon Shiferaw and Assefa Seme at Addis Ababa University. The project is managed by Johns Hopkins global health affiliate Jhpiego and the Gates Institute. Results from the analysis also showed that at the national level, there was no difference in the proportion of women who delivered in a hospital and home delivery rates remained unchanged. Looking within urban areas, women who delivered during May and June, after COVID-19 restrictions started, were significantly less likely to deliver in a hospital relative to women who delivered prior to the pandemic.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia Coronavirus Cases Reach 188,902

    By Ministry of Health

    In Ethiopia, as of March 22nd, 2021, there have been 188,902 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Read more »

    Assessing Ethiopian women’s vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic

    By World Bank

    The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has devastating health and economic impacts globally and has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups. As highlighted in a blog published at the onset of the pandemic, the coronavirus is not gender-blind and pre-existing gender gaps may intensify during and after the pandemic due to worsening human capital, economic, and women’s agency outcomes.

    What can high-frequency phone survey data tell us about the gendered effects of the pandemic in Ethiopia?

    The short answer: A lot!

    Read more »

    How Ethiopia prepared its health workforce for the COVID-19 response


    Photo via the World Health Organization

    By The World Health Organization

    In a busy intensive care unit in Eka Kotebe General Hospital, Addis Ababa, Dr Samuel Getnet, 28, a newly-recruited young and energetic physician anxiously monitors the mechanical ventilators, an indispensable form of life support for COVID-19 patients with respiratory distress.

    “I never thought my professional journey would bring me to the place where I’m today—at the center of COVID-19 pandemic management team—treating and caring for the most severely ill patients who critically need my support and care. Despite the challenges and risks, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my people at this critical time,” he said.

    Dr Getnet is a general practitioner who came on board as part of the surge capacity planning for human resources announced by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in February 2020. Before starting his duty in the intensive care unit, he received in-person training from the World Health Organization (WHO), with practical sessions taking place in the hospital. The topics he covered include case management, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), infection prevention and control (IPC), and the application and use of mechanical ventilation. He also benefited from online WHO resources such as Open WHO.org.

    Read more »

    ‘Relieved’: US health workers start getting COVID-19 vaccine


    Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo)

    By The Associated Press

    The biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history kicked off Monday as health workers rolled up their sleeves for shots to protect them from COVID-19 and start beating back the pandemic — a day of optimism even as the nation’s death toll closed in on 300,000.

    “I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay said after getting a shot in the arm at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.

    With a countdown of “3-2-1,” workers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center gave the first injections to applause.

    And in New Orleans, Steven Lee, an intensive care unit pharmacist at Ochsner Medical Center, summed up the moment as he got his own vaccination: “We can finally prevent the disease as opposed to treating it.”

    Other hospitals around the country, from Rhode Island to Texas, unloaded precious frozen vials of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech, with staggered deliveries set throughout the day and Tuesday. A few other countries have authorized the vaccine, including Britain, which started vaccinating people last week, and Canada, which began doing so on Monday.

    For health care workers, who along with nursing home residents will be first in line for vaccination, hope is tempered by grief and the sheer exhaustion of months spent battling a coronavirus that still is surging in the U.S. and around the world.

    Read more »

    IN PICTURES: On the Frontline Against Covid-19 in Ethiopia – A Photo Essay


    Frontline workers at the Eka Kotebe hospital. (Photo by Yonas Tadesse)

    By Yonas Tadesse

    The first case of Covid-19 in Ethiopia was reported on 13 March, when a team of first responders took in a 48-year-old Japanese man. Having never seen anything like his condition, they did not know what to prepare for, and thus started their new normal of battling the coronavirus in Ethiopia.

    Doctors, nurses, janitors, security guards and drivers donned hats they had never dreamed of wearing as they worked to develop systems and techniques to minimise the damage from the virus – often at the cost of their health, their home lives, their reputations, and sometimes their lives.

    Read more and see the photos at theguardian.com »

    FACTBOX- Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 67.72 million, death toll at 1,548,575

    By Reuters

    More than 67.72 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,548,575​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

    Read more »

    Africa’s cases of COVID-19 top 1 million

    By Reuters

    Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 1 million, a Reuters tally showed on Thursday, as the disease began to spread rapidly through a continent whose relative isolation has so far spared it the worst of the pandemic. The continent recorded 1,003,056 cases, of which 21,983 have died and 676,395 recovered. South Africa – which is the world’s fifth worst-hit nation and makes up more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s case load – has recorded 538,184 cases since its first case on March 5, the health ministry said on Thursday. Low levels of testing in several countries, apart from South Africa, mean Africa’s infection rates are likely to be higher than reported, experts say. Read more »

    COVID19 Contact Tracing is a race. But few U.S. states say how fast they’re running

    Someone — let’s call her Person A — catches the coronavirus. It’s a Monday. She goes about life, unaware her body is incubating a killer. By perhaps Thursday, she’s contagious. Only that weekend does she come down with a fever and get tested. What happens next is critical. Public health workers have a small window of time to track down everyone Person A had close contact with over the past few days. Because by the coming Monday or Tuesday, some of those people — though they don’t yet have symptoms — could also be spreading the virus. Welcome to the sprint known as contact tracing, the process of reaching potentially exposed people as fast as possible and persuading them to quarantine. The race is key to controlling the pandemic ahead of a vaccine, experts say. But most places across the United States aren’t making public how fast or well they’re running it, leaving Americans in the dark about how their governments are mitigating the risk. An exception is the District of Columbia, which recently added metrics on contact tracing to its online dashboard. A few weeks ago, the District was still too overwhelmed to try to ask all of those who tested positive about their contacts. Now, after building a staff of several hundred contact tracers, D.C. officials say they’re making that attempt within 24 hours of a positive test report in about 98 percent of cases. For months, every U.S. state has posted daily numbers on coronavirus testing — along with charts of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. So far, only one state, Oregon, posts similar data about contact tracing. Officials in New York say they plan to begin publishing such metrics in the coming weeks.

    Read more »

    Coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpass 2.5 million

    By The Washington Post

    June 28th, 2020

    Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 2.5 million on Sunday morning as a devastating new wave of infections continued to bear down throughout the country’s South and West. Florida, Texas and Arizona are fast emerging as the country’s latest epicenters after reporting record numbers of new infections for weeks in a row. Positivity rates and hospitalizations have also spiked. Global cases of covid-19 exceeded 10 million, according to a count maintained by Johns Hopkins University, a measure of the power and spread of a pandemic that has caused vast human suffering, devastated the world’s economy and still threatens vulnerable populations in rich and poor nations alike.
    Read more »

    WHO warns of ‘new and dangerous phase’ as coronavirus accelerates; Americas now hardest hit

    By The Washington Post

    The World Health Organization warned Friday that “the world is in a new and dangerous phase” as the global pandemic accelerates. The world recorded about 150,000 new cases on Thursday, the largest rise yet in a single day, according to the WHO. Nearly half of these infections were in the Americas, as new cases continue to surge in the United States, Brazil and across Latin America. More than 8.5 million coronavirus cases and at least 454,000 deaths have been reported worldwide. As confirmed cases and hospitalizations climb in the U.S., new mask requirements are prompting faceoffs between officials who seek to require face coverings and those, particularly conservatives, who oppose such measures. Several studies this month support wearing masks to curb coronavirus transmission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend their use as a protective measure. Read more »

    World Bank Provides Additional Support to Help Ethiopia Mitigate Economic Impacts of COVID-19

    JUNE 18, 2020

    The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved $250 million ($125 million grant and $125 million credit) in supplemental financing for the ongoing Second Ethiopia Growth and Competitiveness Programmatic Development Policy Financing. This funding is geared towards helping Ethiopia to revitalize the economy by broadening the role of the private sector and attaining a more sustainable development path.

    “The COVID 19 pandemic is expected to severely impact Ethiopia’s economy. The austerity of the required containment measures, along with disruptions to air travel and the collapse in international demand for goods exported by Ethiopia are already taking a toll on the economy,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea. “Additionally, an estimated 1.8 million jobs are at risk, and the incomes and livelihoods of several million informal workers, self-employed individuals and farmers are expected to be affected.”

    The supplemental financing will help to mitigate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on the Government’s reform agenda. Specifically, the program is intended to help address some of the unanticipated financing needs the Government of Ethiopia is facing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Additional financing needs are estimated to be approximately $1.5 billion, as revenue collection is expected to weaken, and additional expenditure is needed to mitigate the public health and economic impacts of the crisis.

    Read more »

    Once the coronavirus epicenter in the U.S., New York City begins to reopen


    After three months of a coronavirus crisis followed by protests and unrest, New York City is trying to turn a page when a limited range of industries reopen Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo)

    100 days after the first coronavirus case was confirmed there, the city that was once the epicenter of America’s coronavirus pandemic began to reopen. The number of cases in New York has plunged, but health officials fear that a week of protests on the streets could bring a new wave.

    Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) estimated that between 200,000 to 400,000 workers returned to work throughout the city’s five boroughs.

    “All New Yorkers should be proud you got us to this day,” de Blasio said at a news conference at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a manufacturing hub.

    Read more »

    US Deaths From Coronavirus Surpass 100,000 Milestone

    By The Associated Press

    The U.S. surpassed a jarring milestone Wednesday in the coronavirus pandemic: 100,000 deaths. That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korea wars combined. “It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. The true death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year and was first reported in the U.S. in January, is widely believed to be significantly higher, with experts saying many victims died of COVID-19 without ever being tested for it. Read more »

    Ethiopia Coronavirus Cases Reach 5,846

    By Dr. Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health

    Report #111 የኢትዮጵያ የኮሮና ቫይረስ ሁኔታ መግለጫ. Status update on #COVID19Ethiopia. Total confirmed cases [as of June 29th, 2020]: 5,846 Read more »

    New York Times Memorializes Coronavirus Victims as U.S. Death Toll Nears 100,000

    America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak — each figure here represents one of the nearly 100,000 lives lost so far. Read more »

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s First Private Ambulance System Tebita Adds Services Addressing COVID19

    By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

    Twelve year ago when Kibret Abebe quit his job as a nurse anesthetist at Black Lion Hospital and sold his house to launch Tebita Ambulance — Ethiopia’s First Private Ambulance System — his friends and family were understandably concerned about his decisions. But today Tebita operates over 20 advanced life support ambulances with approval from the Ministry of Health and stands as the country’s premier Emergency Medical Service (EMS). Tebita has since partnered with East Africa Emergency Services, an Ethiopian and American joint venture that Kibret also owns, with the aim “to establish the first trauma center and air ambulance system in Ethiopia.” This past month Tebita announced their launch of new services in Addis Abeba to address the COVID-19 pandemic and are encouraging Ethiopians residing in the U.S. to utilize Tebita for regular home check-ins on elderly family members as well as vulnerable individuals with pre-existing conditions. The following is an audio of the interview with Kibret Abebe and Laura Davis of Tebita Ambulance and East Africa Emergency Services: Read more »

    WHO reports most coronavirus cases in a day as cases approach five million

    By Reuters

    GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization expressed concern on Wednesday about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries, even as many rich nations have begun emerging from lockdown. The global health body said 106,000 new cases of infections of the novel coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began. “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.” Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “We will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases.” Read more »

    WHO head says vaccines, medicines must be fairly shared to beat COVID-19

    By Reuters

    Scientists and researchers are working at “breakneck” speed to find solutions for COVID-19 but the pandemic can only be beaten with equitable distribution of medicines and vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday. “Traditional market models will not deliver at the scale needed to cover the entire globe,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.

    Read more »

    Doctors face new urgency to solve children and coronavirus puzzle

    By Axios

    Solving the mystery of how the coronavirus impacts children has gained sudden steam, as doctors try to determine if there’s a link between COVID-19 and kids with a severe inflammatory illness, and researchers try to pin down their contagiousness before schools reopen. New York hospitals have reported 73 suspected cases with two possible deaths from the inflammatory illness as of Friday evening. Read more »

    COVID-19 and Its Impact on African Economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet


    Prof. Lemma Senbet. (Photo: @AERCAFRICA/Twitter)

    By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

    Last week Professor Lemma Senbet, an Ethiopian-American financial economist and the William E. Mayer Chair Professor at University of Maryland, moderated a timely webinar titled ‘COVID-19 and African Economies: Global Implications and Actions.’ The well-attended online conference — hosted by the Center for Financial Policy at University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business on Friday, April 24th — featured guest speakers from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the World Bank who addressed “the global implications of the COVID-19 economic impact on developing and low-income countries, with Africa as an anchor.” In the following Q&A with Tadias Prof. Lemma, who is also the immediate former Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium based in Nairobi, Kenya, explains the worldwide economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the African continent, including Ethiopia. Read more »

    US unemployment surges to a Depression-era level of 14.7%

    By The Associated Press

    The coronavirus crisis has sent U.S. unemployment surging to 14.7%, a level last seen when the country was in the throes of the Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assuring Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself…The breathtaking collapse is certain to intensify the push-pull across the U.S. over how and when to ease stay-at-home restrictions. And it robs President Donald Trump of the ability to point to a strong economy as he runs for reelection. “The jobs report from hell is here,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, “one never seen before and unlikely to be seen again barring another pandemic or meteor hitting the Earth.” Read more »

    Hospitalizations continue to decline in New York, Cuomo says

    By CBS News

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the number of people newly diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19 has continued to decrease. “Overall the numbers are coming down,” he said. But he said 335 people died from the virus yesterday. “That’s 335 families,” Cuomo said. “You see this number is basically reducing, but not at a tremendous rate. The only thing that’s tremendous is the number of New Yorkers who’ve still passed away.” Read more »

    Los Angeles offers free testing to all county residents

    By The Washington Post

    All residents of Los Angeles County can access free coronavirus testing at city-run sites, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said on Wednesday. Previously, the city had only offered testing to residents with symptoms as well as essential workers and people who lived or worked in nursing homes and other kinds of institutional facilities. In an announcement on Twitter, Garcetti said that priority would still be given to front-line workers and anyone experiencing symptoms, including cough, fever or shortness of breath. But the move, which makes Los Angeles the first major city in the country to offer such widespread testing, allows individuals without symptoms to be tested. Health experts have repeatedly said that mass testing is necessary to determine how many people have contracted the virus — and in particular, those who may not have experienced symptoms — and then begin to reopen the economy. Testing is by appointment only and can be arranged at one of the city’s 35 sites. Read more »

    Researchers Double U.S. COVID-19 Death Forecast

    By Reuters

    A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts nearly 135,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by early August, almost double previous projections, as social-distancing measures for quelling the pandemic are increasingly relaxed, researchers said on Monday. The ominous new forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflect “rising mobility in most U.S. states” with an easing of business closures and stay-at-home orders expected in 31 states by May 11, the institute said. Read more »

    Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 200,000, as world leaders commit to finding vaccine

    By NBC News

    The global coronavirus death toll surpassed 200,000 on Saturday, according to John Hopkins University data. The grim total was reached a day after presidents and prime ministers agreed to work together to develop new vaccines, tests and treatments at a virtual meeting with both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We will only halt COVID-19 through solidarity,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Countries, health partners, manufacturers, and the private sector must act together and ensure that the fruits of science and research can benefit everybody. As the U.S. coronavirus death tollpassed 51,000 people, according to an NBC News tally, President Donald Trump took no questions at his White House briefing on Friday, after widespread mockery for floating the idea that light, heat and disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus patients.”

    Read more »

    Germany to start first coronavirus vaccine trial

    By DW

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn has announced the first clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine. The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the regulatory authority which helps develop and authorizes vaccines in Germany, has given the go-ahead for the first clinical trial of BNT162b1, a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It was developed by cancer researcher and immunologist Ugur Sahin and his team at pharmaceutical company BioNTech, and is based on their prior research into cancer immunology. Sahin previously taught at the University of Mainz before becoming the CEO of BioNTech. In a joint conference call on Wednesday with researchers from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Sahin said BNT162b1 constitutes a so-called RNA vaccine. He explained that innocuous genetic information of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transferred into human cells with the help of lipid nanoparticles, a non-viral gene delivery system. The cells then transform this genetic information into a protein, which should stimulate the body’s immune reaction to the novel coronavrius.

    Read more »

    Webinar on COVID-19 and Mental Health: Interview with Dr. Seble Frehywot

    By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

    Dr. Seble Frehywot, an Associate Professor of Global Health & Health Policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and her colleague Dr. Yianna Vovides from Georgetown University will host an online forum next week on April 30th focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health. Dr. Seble — who is also the Director of Global Health Equity On-Line Learning at George Washington University – told Tadias that the virtual conference titled “People’s Webinar: Addressing COVID-19 By Addressing Mental Health” is open to the public and available for viewing worldwide. Read more »

    Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying from strokes

    By The Washington Post

    Doctors sound alarm about patients in their 30s and 40s left debilitated or dead. Some didn’t even know they were infected. Read more »

    CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating

    By The Washington Post

    Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season. “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean…We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said. Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

    Read more »

    Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration

    By The Washington Post

    More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials. A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said. The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States. Read more »

    In Ethiopia, Dire Dawa Emerges as Newest Coronavirus Hot Spot

    By Africa News

    The case count as of April 20 had reached 111 according to health minister Lia Tadesse’s update for today. Ethiopia crossed the 100 mark over the weekend. All three cases recorded over the last 24-hours were recorded in the chartered city of Dire Dawa with patients between the ages of 11 – 18. Two of them had travel history from Djibouti. Till date, Ethiopia has 90 patients in treatment centers. The death toll is still at three with 16 recoveries. A patient is in intensive care. Read more »

    COVID-19: Interview with Dr. Tsion Firew, an Ethiopian Doctor on the Frontline in NYC


    Dr. Tsion Firew is Doctor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. She is also Special Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

    By Liben Eabisa

    In New York City, which has now become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, working as a medical professional means literally going to a “war zone,” says physician Tsion Firew, a Doctor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor at Columbia University, who has just recovered from COVID-19 and returned to work a few days ago. Indeed the statistics coming out of New York are simply shocking with the state recording a sharp increase in death toll this months surpassing 10,000 and growing. According to The New York Times: “The numbers brought into clearer focus the staggering toll the virus has already taken on the largest city in the United States, where deserted streets are haunted by the near-constant howl of ambulance sirens. Far more people have died in New York City, on a per-capita basis, than in Italy — the hardest-hit country in Europe.” At the heart of the solution both in the U.S. and around the world is more testing and adhering to social distancing rules until such time as a proper treatment and vaccine is discovered, says Dr. Tsion, who is also a Special Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. Dr. Tsion adds that at this moment “we all as humanity have one enemy: the virus. And what’s going to win the fight is solidarity.” Listen to the interview »

    Ethiopia Opens Aid Transport Hub to Fight Covid-19

    By AFP

    Ethiopia and the United Nations on Tuesday opened a humanitarian transport hub at Addis Ababa airport to move supplies and aid workers across Africa to fight coronavirus. The arrangement, which relies on cargo services provided by Ethiopian Airlines, could also partially offset heavy losses Africa’s largest carrier is sustaining because of the pandemic. An initial shipment of 3 000 cubic metres of supplies – most of it personal protective equipment for health workers – will be distributed within the next week, said Steven Were Omamo, Ethiopia country director for the World Food Programme (WFP). “This is a really important platform in the response to Covid-19, because what it does is it allows us to move with speed and efficiency to respond to the needs as they are unfolding,” Omamo said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Addis gateway is one of eight global humanitarian hubs set up to facilitate movement of aid to fight Covid-19, according to WFP.

    Read more »

    Covid-19: Ethiopia to buy life insurance for health workers

    By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

    The Ethiopian government is due to buy life insurance for health professionals in direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Health minister Lia Tadesse said on Tuesday that the government last week reached an agreement with the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation but did not disclose the value of the cover. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement this week to effect the insurance grant. According to the ministry, the life insurance grant is aimed at encouraging health experts who are the most vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus. Members of the Rapid Response Team will also benefit.

    Read more »

    U.N. says Saudi deportations of Ethiopian migrants risks spreading coronavirus

    By Reuters

    The United Nations said on Monday that deportations of illegal migrant workers by Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia risked spreading the coronavirus and it urged Riyadh to suspend the practice for the time being.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia’s capital launches door-to-door Covid-19 screening


    Getty Images

    By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

    Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa is due to begin a door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening across the city, Addis Ababa city administration has announced. City deputy Mayor, Takele Uma, on Saturday told local journalists that the mass screening and testing programme will be started Monday (April 13) first in districts which are identified as potentially most vulnerable to the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus. The aggressive city-wide screening measure intends to identify Covid-19 infected patients and thereby to arrest a potential virus spread within communities. He said, the mass screening will eventually be carried out in all 117 districts, locally known as woredas, of the city, which is home to an estimated 7 million inhabitants. According to the Mayor, the door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening will be conducted by more than 1,200 retired health professionals, who responded to government’s call on the retired to join the national fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

    Read more »

    Worldwide deaths from the coronavirus hit 100,000

    By The Associated Press

    The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has hit 100,000, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The sad milestone comes as Christians around the globe mark a Good Friday unlike any other — in front of computer screens instead of in church pews. Meanwhile, some countries are tiptoeing toward reopening segments of their battered economies. Public health officials are warning people against violating the social distancing rules over Easter and allowing the virus to flare up again. Authorities are using roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team: Interview with Mike Endale

    By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

    A network of technology professionals from the Ethiopian Diaspora — known as the Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team – has been assisting the Ethiopian Ministry of Health since the nation’s first Coronavirus case was confirmed on March 13th. The COVID-19 Response Team has since grown into an army of more than a thousand volunteers. Mike Endale, a software developer based in Washington, D.C., is the main person behind the launch of this project. Read more »

    Ethiopia eyes replicating China’s successes in applying traditional medicine to contain COVID-19

    By CGTN Africa

    The Ethiopian government on Thursday expressed its keen interest to replicate China’s positive experience in terms of effectively applying traditional Chinese medicine to successfully contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the East African country.

    This came after high-level officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MoIT) as well as the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) held a video conference with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners and researchers on ways of applying the TCM therapy towards controlling the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country, the MoIT disclosed in a statement issued on Thursday.

    “China, in particular, has agreed to provide to Ethiopia the two types of Chinese traditional medicines that the country applied to successfully treat the first two stages of the novel coronavirus,” a statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology read.

    Read more »

    WHO Director Slams ‘Racist’ Comments About COVID-19 Vaccine Testing


    The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has angrily condemned recent comments made by scientists suggesting that a vaccine for COVID-19 should be tested in Africa as “racist” and a hangover from the “colonial mentality”. (Photo: WHO)

    By BBC

    The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned as “racist” the comments by two French doctors who suggested a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.

    “Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

    The doctors’ remarks during a TV debate sparked outrage, and they were accused of treating Africans like “human guinea pigs”.

    One of them later issued an apology.

    When asked about the doctors’ suggestion during the WHO’s coronavirus briefing, Dr Tedros became visibly angry, calling it a hangover from the “colonial mentality”.

    “It was a disgrace, appalling, to hear during the 21st Century, to hear from scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen,” he said.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19

    By Reuters

    Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the country to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, his office said on Twitter. “Considering the gravity of the #COVID19, the government of Ethiopia has enacted a State of Emergency,” Abiy’s office said.

    Ethiopia virus cases hit 52, 9-month-old baby infected

    By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

    Ethiopia on Tuesday reported eight new Covid-19 cases, the highest number recorded so far in one day since the country confirmed its first virus case on March 12. Among the new patients that tested positive for the virus were a 9-month-old infant and his mother who had travelled to Dubai recently. “During the past 24 hours, we have done laboratory tests for a total of 264 people and eight out of them have been diagnosed with coronavirus, raising the total confirmed number of Covid-19 patients in Ethiopia to 52,” said Health Minister Dr Lia Tadese. According to the Minister, seven of the newly confirmed patients had travel histories to various countries. They have been under forced-quarantine in different designated hotels in the capital, Addis Ababa. “Five of the new patients including the 9-month-old baby and the mother came from Dubai while the two others came from Thailand and the United Kingdom,” she said

    Read more »

    The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate

    By The Washington Post

    As the novel coronavirus sweeps across the United States, it appears to be infecting and killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate, according to a Washington Post analysis of early data from jurisdictions across the country. The emerging stark racial disparity led the surgeon general Tuesday to acknowledge in personal terms the increased risk for African Americans amid growing demands that public-health officials release more data on the race of those who are sick, hospitalized and dying of a contagion that has killed more than 12,000 people in the United States. A Post analysis of what data is available and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.

    Read more »

    In China, Wuhan’s lockdown officially ends after 11 weeks

    After 11 weeks — or 76 days — Wuhan’s lockdown is officially over. On Wednesday, Chinese authorities allowed residents to travel in and out of the besieged city where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December. Many remnants of the months-long lockdown, however, remain. Wuhan’s 11 million residents will be able to leave only after receiving official authorization that they are healthy and haven’t recently been in contact with a coronavirus patient. To do so, the Chinese government is making use of its mandatory smartphone application that, along with other government surveillance, tracks the movement and health status of every person.

    Read more »

    U.S. hospitals facing ‘severe shortages’ of equipment and staff, watchdog says

    By The Washington Post

    As the official U.S. death toll approached 10,000, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams warned that this will be “the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives.”

    Read more »

    Ethio-American Tech Company PhantomALERT Offers Free App to Track & Map COVID-19 Outbreak

    By Tadias Staff

    PhantomALERT, a Washington D.C.-based technology company announced, that it’s offering a free application service to track, report and map COVID-19 outbreak hotspots in real time. In a recent letter to the DC government as well as the Ethiopian Embassy in the U.S. the Ethiopian-American owned business, which was launched in 2007, explained that over the past few days, they have redesigned their application to be “a dedicated coronavirus mapping, reporting and tracking application.” The letter to the Ethiopian Embassy, shared with Tadias, noted that PhantomALERT’s technology “will enable the Ethiopian government (and all other countries across the world) to locate symptomatic patients, provide medical assistance and alert communities of hotspots for the purpose of slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus.”

    Read more »

    2nd COVID-19 death confirmed in Ethiopia

    By Dr. Lia Tadesse (Minister, Ministry of Health, Ethiopia)

    It is with great sadness that I announce the second death of a patient from #COVID19 in Ethiopia. The patient was admitted on April 2nd and was under strict medical follow up in the Intensive Care Unit. My sincere condolences to the family and loved ones.

    Read more »

    The Next Coronavirus Test Will Tell You If You Are Now Immune. And It’s Fast.


    People line up in their cars at the COVID-19 testing area at Roseland Community Hospital on April 3, 2020, in Chicago. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

    By Chicago Tribune

    A new, different type of coronavirus test is coming that will help significantly in the fight to quell the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and scientists say. The first so-called serology test, which detects antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself, was given emergency approval Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And several more are nearly ready, said Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Genetic Medicine.

    Read more »

    ‘Your Safety is Our Priority’: How Ethiopian Airlines is Navigating the Global Virus Crisis

    By Tadias Staff

    Lately Ethiopian Airlines has been busy delivering much-needed medical supplies across Africa and emerging at the forefront of the continent’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic even as it has suspended most of its international passenger flights.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia races to bolster ventilator stockpile for coronavirus fight

    By AFP

    Ethiopia’s government — like others in Africa — is confronting a stark ventilator shortage that could hobble its COVID-19 response. In a country of more than 100 million people, just 54 ventilators — out of around 450 total — had been set aside for COVID-19 patients as of this week, said Yakob Seman, director general of medical services at the health ministry.

    Read more »

    New York City mayor calls for national enlistment of health-care workers


    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. (AP photo)

    By The Washington Post

    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday called for a national enlistment of health-care workers organized by the U.S. military.

    Speaking on CNN’s New Day, he lamented that there has been no effort to mobilize doctors and nurses across the country and bring them to “the front” — first New York City and then other areas that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

    “If there’s not action by the president and the military literally in a matter of days to put in motion this vast mobilization,” de Blasio said, “then you’re going to see first hundreds and later thousands of Americans die who did not need to die.”

    He said he expects his city to be stretched for medical personnel starting Sunday, which he called “D-Day.” Many workers are out sick with the disease, he added, while others are “just stretched to the limit.”

    The mayor said he has told national leaders that they need to get on “wartime footing.”

    “The nation is in a peacetime stance while were actually in the middle of a war,” de Blasio said. “And if they don’t do something different in the next few days, they’re going to lose the window.”

    Read more »

    Over 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March as economy collapsed

    By The Washington Post

    More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — a new record — as political and public health leaders put the economy in a deep freeze, keeping people at home and trying to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The past two weeks have seen more people file for unemployed claims than during the first six months of the Great Recession, a sign of how rapid, deep and painful the economic shutdown has been on many American families who are struggling to pay rent and health insurance costs in the midst of a pandemic. Job losses have skyrocketed as restaurants, hotel, gyms, and travel have shut down across the nation, but layoffs are also rising in manufacturing, warehousing and transportation, a sign of how widespread the pain of the coronavirus recession is. In March alone, 10.4 million Americans lost their jobs and applied for government aid, according to the latest Labor Department data, which includes claims filed through March 28. Many economists say the real number of people out work is likely even higher, since a lot of newly unemployed Americans haven’t been able to fill out a claim yet.

    Read more »

    U.N. Chief Calls Pandemic Biggest Global Challenge Since World War II

    By The Washington Post

    The coronavirus outbreak sickening hundreds of thousands around the world and devastating the global economy is creating a challenge for the world not seen since World War II, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said late Tuesday. Speaking in a virtual news conference, Guterres said the world needs to show more solidarity and cooperation in fighting not only the medical aspects of the crisis but the economic fallout. The International Monetary Fund is predicting an economic recession worse than in 2008.

    Read more »

    US death toll eclipses China’s as reinforcements head to NYC

    By The Associated Press

    The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,800 Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count, as hard-hit New York City rushed to bring in more medical professionals and ambulances and parked refrigerated morgue trucks on the streets to collect the dead.

    Read more »

    Getting Through COVID 19: ECMAA Shares Timely Resources With Ethiopian Community

    By Tadias Staff

    The Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA) in the New York tri-state area has shared timely resources including COVID-19 safety information as well as national sources of financial support for families and small business owners.

    Read more »

    2020 Ethiopia Election Canceled Due to COVID-19

    By Tadias Staff

    The highly anticipated 2020 national election in Ethiopia has been canceled for now due to the coronavirus outbreak. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced that it has shelved its plans to hold the upcoming nationwide parliamentary polls on August 29th after an internal evaluation of the possible negative effect of the virus pandemic on its official activities.

    Read more »

    Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia on lockdown as coronavirus cases grow

    By The Washington Post

    Maryland, Virginia and the District issued “stay-at-home” orders on Monday, joining a growing list of states and cities mandating broad, enforceable restrictions on where residents can go in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    Read more »

    U.S. Approves Malaria Drug to Treat Coronavirus Patients

    By The Washington Post

    The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency approval to a Trump administration plan to distribute millions of doses of anti-malarial drugs to hospitals across the country, saying it is worth the risk of trying unproven treatments to slow the progression of the disease in seriously ill coronavirus patients.

    Read more »

    U.S. Deaths Could Reach 200,000

    By Bloomberg News

    A top U.S. infectious disease scientist said U.S. deaths could reach 200,000, but called it a moving target. New York’s fatalities neared 1,000, more than a third of the U.S. total.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia: PM, WHO Director Discuss Coronavirus Response


    @fanatelevision/twitter

    By Tadias Staff

    Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed spoke with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, over the weekend regarding the Coronavirus response in Ethiopia and Africa in general.

    Read more »

    Virus infections top 600,000 globally with long fight ahead

    By The Associated Press

    The number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide topped 600,000 on Saturday as new cases stacked up quickly in Europe and the United States and officials dug in for a long fight against the pandemic. The latest landmark came only two days after the world passed half a million infections, according to a tally by John Hopkins University, showing that much work remains to be done to slow the spread of the virus. It showed more than 607,000 cases and over 28,000 deaths. While the U.S. now leads the world in reported infections — with more than 104,000 cases — five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

    Read more »

    Maryland Issues COVID-19 Fact Sheet in Amharic for Ethiopian Community

    By Tadias Staff

    The state of Maryland Department of Health has issued a COVID-19 Fact Sheet in Amharic for its large Ethiopian community.

    Read more »

    Gouged prices, middlemen and medical supply chaos: Why governors are so upset with Trump

    By The Washington Post

    Masks that used to cost pennies now cost several dollars. Companies outside the traditional supply chain offer wildly varying levels of price and quality. Health authorities say they have few other choices to meet their needs in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ battle.

    Read more »

    Worshippers in Ethiopia Defy Ban on Large Gatherings Despite Coronavirus

    By VOA

    ADDIS ABABA – Health experts in Ethiopia are raising concern, as some religious leaders continue to host large gatherings despite government orders not to do so in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this week, Ethiopia’s government ordered security forces to enforce a ban on large gatherings aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Ethiopia has seen only 12 cases and no deaths from the virus, and authorities would like to keep it that way. But enforcing the orders has proven difficult as religious groups continue to meet and, according to religious leaders, fail to treat the risks seriously.

    Read more »

    U.S. deaths from coronavirus top 1,000

    By The Washington Post

    It began as a mysterious disease with frightening potential. Now, just two months after America’s first confirmed case, the country is grappling with a lethal reality: The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States, a toll that is increasing at an alarming rate.

    Read more »

    A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy

    By The Washington Post

    A record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, as restaurants, hotels, barber shops, gyms and more shut down in a nationwide effort to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

    Last week saw the biggest jump in new jobless claims in history, surpassing the record of 695,000 set in 1982. Many economists say this is the beginning of a massive spike in unemployment that could result in over 40 million Americans losing their jobs by April.

    Laid off workers say they waited hours on the phone to apply for help. Websites in several states, including New York and Oregon, crashed because so many people were trying to apply at once.

    “The most terrifying part about this is this is likely just the beginning of the layoffs,” said Martha Gimbel, a labor economist at Schmidt Futures. The nation’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in February, a half-century low, but that has likely risen already to 5.5 percent, according to calculations by Gimbel. The nation hasn’t seen that level of unemployment since 2015.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia: Parents fear for missing students as universities close over Covid-19


    Photo via amnesty.org

    As universities across Ethiopia close to avert spread of the COVID-19 virus, Amnesty International is calling on the Ethiopian authorities to disclose measures they have taken to rescue 17 Amhara students from Dembi Dolo University in Western Oromia, who were abducted by unidentified people in November 2019 and have been missing since.

    The anguish of the students’ families is exacerbated by a phone and internet shutdown implemented in January across the western Oromia region further hampering their efforts to get information about their missing loved ones.

    “The sense of fear and uncertainty spreading across Ethiopia because of COVID-19 is exacerbating the anguish of these students’ families, who are desperate for information on the whereabouts of their loved ones four months after they were abducted,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa.

    “The Ethiopian authorities’ move to close universities in order to protect the lives of university students is commendable, but they must also take similarly concrete actions to locate and rescue the 17 missing students so that they too are reunited with their families.”

    Read more »

    UPDATE: New York City is now reporting 26,697 COVID-19 cases and 450 deaths.

    BY ABC7 NY

    Temporary hospital space in New York City will begin opening on Monday and more supplies are on the way as an already overwhelmed medical community anticipates even more coronavirus patients in the coming days. Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted 20 trucks were on the road delivering protective equipment to hospitals, including surgical masks, N95 masks, and hundreds more ventilators.

    Governor Cuomo added the temporary hospital in the Javits Center will open on Monday the same day that the USNS Comfort will arrive in New York City.

    Read more »

    Related: New York sees some signs of progress against coronavirus as New Orleans hit hard (REUTERS)

    L.A. mayor says residents may have to shelter at home for two months or more

    By Business Insider

    Los Angeles residents will be confined to their homes until May at the earliest, Mayor Eric Garcetti told Insider on Wednesday.

    “I think this is at least two months,” he said. “And be prepared for longer.”

    In an interview with Insider, Garcetti pushed back against “premature optimism” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying leaders who suggest we are on the verge of business as usual are putting lives at risk.

    “I can’t say that strongly enough,” the mayor said. Optimism, he said, has to be grounded in data. And right now the data is not good.

    “Giving people false hope will crush their spirits and will kill more people,” Garcetti said, adding it would change their actions by instilling a sense of normality at the most abnormal time in a generation.

    Read more »

    Ethiopia pardons more than 4,000 prisoners to help prevent coronavirus spread

    By CNN

    Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde has granted pardon to more than 4,000 prisoners in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

    Sahle-Work Zewde announced the order in a tweet on Wednesday and said it would help prevent overcrowding in prisons.

    The directive only covers those given a maximum sentence of three years for minor crimes and those who were about to be released from jail, she said.

    There are 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ethiopia, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
    Authorities in the nation have put in place a raft of measures, including the closure of all borders except to those bringing in essential goods to contain the virus. The government has directed security officials to monitor and enforce a ban on large gatherings and overcrowded public transport to ensure social distancing.

    Read more »


    U.S. House passes $2 trillion coronavirus emergency spending bill


    Watch: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York breaks down massive coronavirus aid package (MSNBC Video)

    By The Washington Post

    The House of Representatives voted Friday [March 27th] to approve a massive $2 trillion stimulus bill that policy makers hope will blunt the economic destruction of the coronavirus pandemic, sending the legislation to President Trump for enactment. The legislation passed in dramatic fashion, approved on an overwhelming voice vote by lawmakers who’d been forced to return to Washington by a GOP colleague who had insisted on a quorum being present. Some lawmakers came from New York and other places where residents are supposed to be sheltering at home.

    Read more »

    In Ethiopia, Abiy seeks $150b for African virus response

    By AFP

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday urged G20 leaders to help Africa cope with the coronavirus crisis by facilitating debt relief and providing $150 billion in emergency funding.
    The pandemic “poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries,” Abiy’s office said in a statement, adding that Ethiopia was “working closely with other African countries” in preparing the aid request.

    The heavy debt burdens of many African countries leave them ill-equipped to respond to pandemic-related economic shocks, as the cost of servicing debt exceeds many countries’ health budgets, the statement said.

    Read more »

    Worried Ethiopians Want Partial Internet Shutdown Ended (AP)


    Ethiopians have their temperature checked for symptoms of the new coronavirus, at the Zewditu Memorial Hospital in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Wednesday, March 18, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough and the vast majority recover in 2-6 weeks but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health issues, the virus that causes COVID-19 can result in more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

    By Elias Meseret | AP

    March 24, 2020

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Rights groups and citizens are calling on Ethiopia’s government to lift the internet shutdown in parts of the country that is leaving millions of people without important updates on the coronavirus.

    The months-long shutdown of internet and phone lines in Western Oromia and parts of the Benishangul Gumuz region is occurring during military operations against rebel forces.

    “Residents of these areas are getting very limited information about the coronavirus,” Jawar Mohammed, an activist-turned-politician, told The Associated Press.

    Ethiopia reported its first coronavirus case on March 13 and now has a dozen. Officials have been releasing updates mostly online. Land borders have closed and national carrier Ethiopian Airlines has stopped flying to some 30 destinations around the world.

    Read more »

    In Global Fight vs. Virus, Over 1.5 Billion Told: Stay Home


    A flier urging customers to remain home hangs at a turnstile as an MTA employee sanitizes surfaces at a subway station with bleach solutions due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. (AP)

    The Associated Press

    NEW YORK (AP) — With masks, ventilators and political goodwill in desperately short supply, more than one-fifth of the world’s population was ordered or urged to stay in their homes Monday at the start of what could be a pivotal week in the battle to contain the coronavirus in the U.S. and Europe.

    Partisan divisions stalled efforts to pass a colossal aid package in Congress, and stocks fell again on Wall Street even after the Federal Reserve said it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them through the crisis.

    Warning that the outbreak is accelerating, the head of the World Health Organization called on countries to take strong, coordinated action.

    “We are not helpless bystanders,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, noting that it took 67 days to reach 100,000 cases worldwide but just four days to go from 200,000 to 300,000. “We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

    Read more »

    China’s Coronavirus Donation to Africa Arrives in Ethiopia (Reuters)


    An Ethiopian Airlines worker transports a consignment of medical donation from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundation to Africa for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing, upon arrival at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)

    The first batch of protective and medical equipment donated by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma was flown into the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday, as coronavirus cases in Africa rose above 1,100.

    The virus has spread more slowly in Africa than in Asia or Europe but has a foothold in 41 African nations and two territories. So far it has claimed 37 lives across the continent of 1.3 billion people.

    The shipment is a much-needed boost to African healthcare systems that were already stretched before the coronavirus crisis, but nations will still need to ration supplies at a time of global scarcity.

    Only patients showing symptoms will be tested, the regional Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Sunday.

    “The flight carried 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of protective face shields,” Ma’s foundation said in a statement.

    “The faster we move, the earlier we can help.”

    The shipment had a sign attached with the slogan, “when people are determined they can overcome anything”.

    Read more »


    Related:

    We Need Seismic Change, Right Now: by Marcus Samuelsson

    City Sleeps: A Look At The Empty NYC Streets Amid The Virus – In Pictures

    Ethiopia enforces 14-day quarantine for all travelers

    Diaspora-based Tech Professionals Launch Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Task Force

    Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Hopeful & Inspiring Stories Shared by Obama

    Pleas to Diaspora to Assist Coronavirus First Responders in Ethiopia

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund Announces Board Vacancy and Request for Proposal

    The Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund is a U.S.-based non-profit organization established to mobilize the Ethiopian Diaspora to raise funds and support Ethiopian projects at home. (Courtesy image)

    Press Release

    Board Vacancy at the Friends of EDTF (FEDTF)

    We are excited to invite you to apply or nominate to be a member of the Board of the Friends of Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund (FEDTF). FEDTF is a US incorporated non-profit entity with the primary mission of mobilizing resources from the Diaspora and channel them to projects that promote inclusive development of Ethiopia and impact livelihoods. It is governed by the Board of Directors in conformity to best governance practices under US laws.

    More info at ethiopiatrustfund.org »

    Request for Proposal

    Operations and Management at Friends of EDTF, INC.

    Issued by: Friends of EDTF, INC.
    Submissions to be sent to: Lulite Ejigu (Email: Board@EthiopiaTrustFund.org)

    Introduction & Background

    Friends of EDTF, INC. a non-profit organization organized to mobilize the Ethiopian Diaspora to raise funds and support Ethiopian projects at home. As part of the FEDTF’s renewed organizational initiative to be more visible, responsive and transparent and to increase its operational capability, it is looking to hire a management and operations support team. To this end it is issuing a Request for Proposal (“RFP”).

    We invite and encourage qualified persons or firms who can provide high quality support in fundraising, administration, and other general day-to-day management of the organization to apply.

    This management and operations support would help implement FEDTF’s enhanced vision and strategy to raise more funds to have meaningful impact in the lives of our brothers’ and sisters’ back in Ethiopia. In response to this RFP, qualified applicants must be capable to provide the following:

    1. Develop a fundraising strategy engaging the diverse Ethiopian Diaspora Communities, including milestones and a timeline for targeted growth for FEDTF;
    2. Develop a grant strategy to raise funds from national and global grant giving organizations
    3. Develop a strategy to raise funds from corporations as part of their CSR programs
    4. Develop a timely and transparent communication plan to reach out to its donors and all stakeholders and manage donor relationships effectively
    5. Increase its fundraising dollars as well as develop a global core of strategic partners and donors
    6. Propose, organize, and implement fundraising events including assisting EDTF chapters across the globe;
    7. Manage and Oversee the execution of new large scale multi-million dollar development projects on the ground in Ethiopia.

    The objective of this RFP is to identify and select a candidate that will provide the best overall value – both financial and programmatic, to the Foundation. While cost is a significant factor, other criteria will also be considered as the basis of the award decision, as fully described in the Evaluation Factors section below.

    Submission Guidelines & Requirements

    The following submission guidelines & requirements apply to this RFP:

    1. Only qualified individuals or firms with prior experience in the required activities listed above.
    2. Potential bidders must notify the Foundation with a letter of intent no later than March 26, 2021.
    3. Bidders should have experience working on the African continent and/or have experience running projects with stakeholders across the globe.
    4. Bidders should be able to highlight how they have mobilized both volunteers and fundraised resources for projects of similar scale.
    5. Bidders must list projects that are substantially similar to this project as part of their response. Examples of work and references will be requested if chosen.
    6. A technical proposal must be provided that doesn’t exceed four pages. This technical
    proposal must provide an overview of the proposed solution including, milestones and
    time tables as applicable.
    7. A cost breakdown must be provided on a separate sheet, not more than one page. This should indicate the overall fixed cost for the project as well as any potential variable costs.
    8. Proposals must be signed by the applicant or, if for a company, by a representative that is authorized to commit company.
    9. If you have a standard set of terms and conditions, please submit them with your proposal.
    10. Proposals must be received on or before March 31, 2021 to be considered.
    11. Proposals and financial quotations must remain valid for a period of 60 days.
    12. Friends of EDTF, INC. would select the winner of the awards after completing its in depth discussions and negotiations with bidders.

    Project Description

    The purpose of this project is as follows:

    The purpose of this project is to improve our management and operations efficiency and productivity so that we can expand our capabilities to implement our mission to connect the large Ethiopian diaspora community from across the globe fulfill its desire to support socio-economic development projects in Ethiopia.

    The description of the project is as follows:

    To manage the day-to-day operations overseeing grant management, administration activities, and improve fundraising efforts; including identifying and soliciting new strategic partners and expanding the donor base.

    The criteria set forth below should be met to achieve successful completion of the RFP:

    1. Strategic Plan for (2021-2025)
    2. Expansion of donor base including significant strategic partners
    3. Refinement of grant & fundraising management as well as reporting processes, including enhancing reporting with key data elements to highlight performance
    4. Enhanced operations procedures based on strategic plan assessment

    Acceptance of the work is contingent on the following acceptance criteria:

    1. Effective action plan that is adopted by the Board of Directors
    2. Updated and adopted operations procedures by the Board of Directors

    RFP & Project Timelines

    The Contract period shall commence as soon as practicable following the date of award. The minimum length of the contract is until December 31, 2021. The Board of Directors, at its sole discretion, may elect to extend for an additional four (4) one (1) year option periods.

    Evaluation Factors

    Friends of EDTF, Inc. will rate proposals based on the following factors, with cost being the most important factor:

    1. Responsiveness to the requirements set forth in this RFP
    2. Relevant past performance/experience
    3. Cost, including an assessment of total cost of ownership
    4. Technical expertise/experience of bidder and bidder’s staff

    Friends of EDTF, Inc. reserves the right to award to the bidder that presents the best value to Friends of EDTF, INC. as determined solely by Friends of EDTF, INC. in its absolute discretion.

    The FEDTF Board of Directors also reserves the right to cancel this RFP, in whole or in part, at its own discretion

    Learn more at ethiopiatrustfund.org »

    Related:

    EDTF Launches Emergency COVID19 Fund

    Update: EDTF procures $1.173 Million medical supplies for campaign against COVID-19 in Ethiopia

    Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund: Q&A with Dr. Bisrat Aklilu

    EDTF Ethiopia Board Announced

    Ways to Boost Donor Participation for the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund

    Few Takeaways From EDTF Press Conference at Ethiopian Embassy in DC

    Interview: Dr. Lemma Senbet on the Diaspora Trust Fund & Chapter Formation

    Interview with Dr. Bisrat Aklilu About the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund

    A Diaspora Trust Fund for Ethiopia (Tadias Editorial/July 10th, 2018)

    You can learn more at https://www.ethiopiatrustfund.org/

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Columbia University News Series: Meet Etsegenet Kedir Mohammed

    Etsegenet Kedir Mohammed is a student at Columbia University's School of Social Work and is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Columbia News)

    Columbia News

    This is part of a Columbia News series introducing members of the University’s Scholarship for Displaced Students, a program administered by Columbia Global Centers.

    Etsegenet Kedir Mohammed is a student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We checked in with her to learn more about her studies and her plans for the future.

    What are you studying?

    I’m currently studying for my master’s degree in social work. I am hoping to go for the clinical social work track.

    Where are you currently living?

    In Alexandria, Virginia.

    What are your goals for the future?

    My future goal is to serve marginalized groups of people in society through direct practice, advocacy, and activism on social policies that need to be amended or even created.

    What do you wish more people knew about Ethiopia?

    Ethiopia is one of the first countries in the world that officially accepted Christianity. Out of the various Christian denominations followed in the country, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the largest and oldest.

    Ethiopia has its own calendar that has 13 months. For this reason, Ethiopia is called a country of 13 months of sunshine. Ethiopians also measure hours of the day differently from most other countries in the world. Ethiopia is one of the very few countries that has never been colonized during the colonial era.

    Learn more about Columbia Global Centers at globalcenters.columbia.edu.

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    Ethiopia-born Minister on Immigration Amid COVID ‘Even in Wars, We Didn’t Stop’

    Pnina Tamano-Shata, who immigrated when she was 3, says her firsthand knowledge of the ‘difficulties there are in coming to Israel’ made her want to help new arrivals. (Photo: Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata in an undated photo/Natan Weil/Government Press Office)

    Times of Israel

    JTA — To immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia, Pnina Tamano-Shata’s family had to trek on foot through the desert to Sudan in the middle of a famine.

    Later, the truck bringing her mother and two of her sisters to the airfield broke down. It wasn’t until the plane doors closed that Tamano-Shata realized that they would not be traveling with her, her father and the rest of her family. She was 3 years old. It would be a year before she saw her mother again.

    But Tamano-Shata still describes the experience in magical terms. So when, 36 years later, as Israel’s immigration and absorption minister, she was tasked with deciding whether to allow immigration to Israel during the pandemic last year, it was a no-brainer. She kept the gates open.

    “Even in wars, we didn’t stop aliyah,” Tamano-Shata, 40, said recently in a Zoom interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, using the Hebrew term for Jewish immigration. “We came here from the Iron Curtain, from Arab countries, from Ethiopia. The corona is going to stop us?”


    In this photo from the Jewish Agency, Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (left) and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog (center) greet 119 new immigrants from Ethiopia at Ben Gurion Airport, May 21, 2020. (Shlomi Amsalem)

    When Tamano-Shata tells her story, and connects it to Israel’s present challenges, it doesn’t come across as overwrought. The first Ethiopian Jew to serve in an Israeli cabinet, she came to Israel on Operation Moses, the secret 1984 mission to bring Jews who had crossed the border into Sudan to Israel. The harrowing experience, and her joy upon reaching Israel, irrevocably shaped her.

    Read more »

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    UPDATE: DOJ Documents Show Who is Lobbying U.S Officials on Ethiopia Issues

    According to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department: "Last month, the Ethiopian Embassy hired the lobbying firm Venable for government relations help through the end of April at a monthly rate of $35,000. [And] Last week, the Alexandria, Va.,-based Tigray Center for Information and Communication retained the lobbying firm Von Batten-Montague-York to apply pressure on the Ethiopian government." - Politico. (Photo: Venable offices in Washington, D.C/ALM and Montagueyork.com)

    Politico

    Who is lobbying in the Ethiopia conflict as Coons heads to Addis Ababa

    — Both the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan advocates have enlisted help in Washington in recent months. Last month, the Ethiopian Embassy hired the lobbying firm Venable for government relations help through the end of April at a monthly rate of $35,000, according to documents filed with the Justice Department. Their work has included outreach to at least three Democratic senators, including at least one call between Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ethiopian Ambassador Fitsum Arega, according to DOJ filings. Venable declined to comment on their representation of the embassy.

    — Last week, the Alexandria, Va.,-based Tigray Center for Information and Communication retained the lobbying firm Von Batten-Montague-York to push the Biden administration and Congress “for the removal of all Eritrean military personnel and militia from Tigray,” as well as to apply pressure to the Ethiopian government to allow open access to humanitarian assistance and the appointment of an independent investigator to prove claims of war crimes against the Tigray people.

    — Another lobbying disclosure filed earlier this week revealed that Platinum Advisors DC hired former Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) back in December as a subcontractor to lobby for support for increased humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia on behalf of JM International, a real estate development and petroleum distribution company based in Virginia.

    Read the full article at politico.com »

    Related:

    U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis Response

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Video: U.S. Mission to the AU in Ethiopia

    Jessica Lapenn (left) is the U.S. Ambassador to the African Union in Addis Ababa. This week Ambassador Lapenn, who is also the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, spoke to African students at the 2021 African Leadership Academy Model African Union Conference (ALAMAU), which is inspired by the similar Model UN program. Watch the video below. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Mission to AU)

    Press Release

    U.S. Mission to the African Union

    Ambassador Lapenn addressed an amazing group of young African students at the opening ceremony of the African Leadership Academy Model African Union Conference (ALAMAU). ALAMAU is an annual conference for young leaders around Africa and across the world, simulating the activities of the AU. ALAMAU was established in 2013 as a platform for young leaders to develop practicable solutions to African developmental challenges through diplomacy and international cooperation, in a Model UN inspired format. Amb. Lapenn’s remarks focused on the importance of pan-Africanism and the huge role young people will have in shaping the future of Africa.

    Video: ALAMAU 2021 Opening Ceremony (ALA Model African Union)

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    Spotlight: Ethiopian-Canadian R&B/Neo-Soul Artist Liza

    Born and raised in Toronto, Liza grew up in a traditional Ethiopian household immersed with the Ethiopian musical culture. (Photo: Liza © Zachary Zewudia)

    Atwood Magazine

    TODAY’S SONG: LIZA’S “DONE IS DONE” BRINGS SOULFUL NEW MEANING TO DESOLATION

    R&B and Neo-Soul artist Liza tells the story of love fading away and how much of it is worth saving in her hauntingly cathartic single, “DONE IS DONE.”

    For artists who leave trails of their talent behind in bright, lively, feel-good music, a venture into the world of melancholy songs can sometimes be surprising. However, when the song comes from Ethiopian-Canadian R&B/Neo-Soul artist Liza, it is far from shocking. Liza is a voice for the R&B sound today, blending rhythm with soul, no matter what stage of living her soul might be in. From her first few singles off February 29 (2017) to her latest 2021 release, “ROLLA,” it’s always been evident that the writing, the sound, and the music that go into Liza’s tracks are authentic, and for the first time, so is her new haunting, desolate single, “DONE IS DONE.”


    DONE IS DONE – Liza

    Her switch from upbeat R&B songs to a track like “DONE IS DONE” isn’t surprising because of the artist’s truthfulness in her art. With enchanting vocals, melodic trills, and captivating, soul-soothing melodies, the song is a pathway to Liza’s up-and-coming eclectic sound. “Just like the words said / They can’t be unsaid / Tears can’t be unshed,” Liza sings. As a listener, it is easy to follow her story, whether she’s singing of a newfound romance or a love that’s dying out. “DONE IS DONE,” is the sequel to the artist’s previous single, “ROLLA.” Where “ROLLA” narrates the excitement of falling in love, her newest single tells of the yearning for closure after a broken heart is left behind.

    Produced by Akeel Henry (Jeremih, dvsn, and Ty Dolla $ign) and Kofo (Wizkid and Kaash Paige), Liza’s soulful vocals paired with harmonies from vocalist Nevon Sinclair bring the sound of heartache drowned in R&B to light on the track. Initially writing “DONE IS DONE” as a poem, Liza has since been able to eloquently articulate her feelings in retrospect. Drawing from her upbringing in Toronto, Canada where a mix of different cultures inspired her sound, artists like Brandy, Sade, Aster Aweke, and traditional Ethiopian sounds can often be found in a lot of the artist’s music. On “DONE IS DONE,” you’ll hear a perfect blend of all of the above where Liza’s open lyricism and questions of where love went wrong are synced to the song’s wandering, heartfelt sound.


    Liza © Zachary Zewudia

    “I find that sometimes I have a hard time learning to let go of things, and people. I tend to let good memories overshadow the present reality of a given situation and, as a result, I don’t immediately recognize when something is no longer working. When I wrote this song, I initially wrote it as a poem and I was going through many life transitions at the time – dealing with the end of some really important relationships. It was months later where Nevon read my poem and told me that it should be a song. We worked together to bring it to what it is now and it was a really deep and beautiful experience. Through the making of this song, I realized and accepted that even though relationships may come to an end, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t serve its purpose.”

    “Dead roses don’t come back to life,” she sings. The magic of hearing an artist embrace something like the sadness you’re left wondering “When did we go down?” especially after a discography of light, carefree songs is in the fact that they’re embracing every emotional part of the human experience. “DONE IS DONE” showcases Liza’s darker, more sorrowful side, and it’s something that listeners will be able to relate to, just as much as they relate to her songs about giving up everything for the one you love. Her artistry is versatile and entering a new phase, one that shows how soul – as a genre and as a human experience – has a place in every kind of music.

    Liza has been most recently featured on Daniel Caesar‘s latest project, CASE STUDY 01 as well as Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Official Spotify Playlist. Her original music serves as the soundtracks for hit TV shows like “Twenties” on BET and “Grown-ish” on ABC. Her plans to release more new music are forthcoming in the Spring of 2021. In the meantime, stream “DONE IS DONE,” and keep up to date with all things Liza by following her socials below!

    Stream: “DONE IS DONE” – Liza

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Science: Gigantic Stone Stripes Etched Across Ethiopia Pose an Ancient Mystery

    What created the gigantic stone stripes across the central Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains? As part of the research, scientists looked at moraine boulder samples in the Bale and Arsi Mountains, rocks that would once have been carried along by glaciers. (Image: Groos et al., Earth Surface Dynamics, 2021)

    Science Alert

    ENVIRONMENT

    Gigantic Stone ‘Tiger Stripes’ Etched Across Ethiopia Pose an Ancient Mystery

    If we want to predict our planet’s future under climate change, we must better understand what has happened on Earth before, even hundreds of thousands of years in the past.

    New research into the Ethiopian Highlands during the Last Glacial Period helps do just that. As well as answering some geological questions, it has also raised up a new one: What created the gigantic stone stripes across the central Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains?

    As part of the research, scientists looked at moraine boulder samples in the Bale and Arsi Mountains, rocks that would once have been carried along by glaciers.

    By studying their physical arrangement and measuring the extent of decay in an isotope of chlorine, they determined that past glaciations would not have been in sync with other similar stretches of mountains.


    (Groos et al., Earth Surface Dynamics, 2021)

    “Our results show that glaciers in the southern Ethiopian Highlands reached their maximum extent between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago, several thousand years earlier than in other mountainous regions in Eastern Africa and worldwide,” says glaciologist Alexander Groos from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

    While these highlands aren’t packed with ice today, between 42,000 and 28,000 years ago – thousands of years before the most recent period in which ice sheets stretched far from the poles – they would have been topped by glaciers that covered as much as 350 square kilometres (about 135 square miles). The relatively early cooling and glacier onset is likely caused by variations in rainfall and mountain features, the researchers say.

    In other words, temperature wasn’t the only driver of glacier movement across Eastern Africa during this time. Such insights can help us understand what might happen next, and what the impact on biodiversity and ecosystems is likely to be.

    As for the massive stone stripes formed by boulders and basalt columns, they were discovered during the course of the research, just outside the area of the former ice cap. The stripes measure up to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) long, 15 meters (49 feet) wide, and 2 meters (6.5 feet) deep, and haven’t been seen before in the tropics.


    (Groos et al., Earth Surface Dynamics, 2021)

    “The existence of these stone stripes on a tropical plateau surprised us, as so-called periglacial landforms of this magnitude were previously only known from the temperate zone and polar regions and are associated with ground temperatures around freezing point,” says Groos.

    Another way in which the Ethiopian Highlands are different to their immediate neighbors then, in terms of what went down during the last ice age. The scientists think these stripes are the natural result of periodic freezing and thawing of the ground near the ice cap, which would have drawn similar rocks together.


    (Alexander R. Groos/Digital Globe Foundation)

    That would have required substantial drops in the ground and air temperature, however – and what’s less clear is whether this is typical of the way tropical high mountains cooled at the time, or whether it was a regional phenomenon.

    We’ll need to wait for future studies of other regions to find out, but the research gives plenty for scientists to go on. Understanding climate shifts in the tropics is crucial – it’s where much of the circulation of the world’s atmosphere and oceans is driven from – and it would seem these mountainous regions might have experienced the Last Glacial Period in a variety of different ways.

    “Our findings highlight the importance of understanding the local climatic setting when attempting to draw wider climatic interpretations from glacial chronologies,” conclude the researchers in one of their newly published papers.

    The research has been published in Science Advances and Earth Surface Dynamics.

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    U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis Response

    The U.S. Department of State. (AP Photo)

    PRESS STATEMENT

    ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE

    MARCH 18, 2021

    The United States is providing an additional nearly $52 million in assistance to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The United States has provided a total of nearly $153 million in humanitarian assistance since the crisis began.

    This assistance from the American people will enable our international humanitarian partners to help some of the estimated 4.5 million people in need in Tigray and nearly 62,000 refugees who have fled to Sudan. It will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, essential health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services. This funding will also help our partners re-establish contact between family members who have been separated due to the conflict. U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team remains deployed in support of U.S. humanitarian response efforts.

    We remain gravely concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Tigray. While we acknowledge public commitments and progress made by the Government of Ethiopia on increasing humanitarian access, the international community must see follow-through on all commitments, including lifting restrictions on the import and use of communications equipment by humanitarian organizations and providing extended visas for international humanitarian workers. Immediate, full, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations and workers is essential to provide timely, needs-based assistance to those affected by the conflict.

    The humanitarian situation will continue to worsen without a political solution.

    Read more »

    Related:

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    FP EXCLUSIVE: Biden Sends Closest Ally Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia

    President Joe Biden is sending one of his closest allies in the U.S. Senate -- his hometown Senator Chris Coons of Delaware -- to Ethiopia where he will meet with Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and officials from the African Union over several days to discuss the situation in Tigray, according to Foreign Policy magazine. Coons is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for diplomacy and foreign-aid programs. (Getty Images)

    Biden Dispatches Senate Ally to Ethiopia to Address Crisis

    Foreign Policy

    Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, once a top contender to be Biden’s secretary of state, is departing on a temporary diplomatic mission to meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to address the crisis in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray.

    Coons is expected to depart on Thursday for Ethiopia, where he will meet with Abiy and officials from the African Union over several days to discuss the situation in Tigray, according to a senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity…

    Coons told Foreign Policy in a statement: “I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and conveying the President’s concern,” he said.

    Read the full article at foreignpolicy.com »

    Press Release

    White House

    Updated: March 18th, 2021

    Statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) Travel to Ethiopia

    Senator Christopher Coons is traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali at President Biden’s request. Senator Coons will convey President Biden’s grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa. He will also consult with the African Union on how to advance the region’s shared interests in peace and prosperity.

    Related:

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: U.N. Rights Chief Agrees to Ethiopia Request for Joint Tigray Inquiry

    United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet “responded positively” to a request from the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for joint investigations in Tigray, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Jonathan Fowler said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

    Reuters

    NEW YORK – United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has agreed to an Ethiopian request for a joint investigation in the country’s northern Tigray region, where Bachelet says possible war crimes may have been committed.

    Fighting between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the mountainous region of about 5 million.

    The United Nations has raised concerns about atrocities being committed in Tigray, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing. Ethiopia has rejected Blinken’s allegation.

    Bachelet “responded positively” to a request from the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for joint investigations in Tigray, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Jonathan Fowler said on Wednesday.

    “The U.N. Human Rights Office and the EHRC are now developing an investigation plan, which includes resources needed and practical modalities, in order to launch the missions as soon as possible,” Fowler said.

    Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it was ready to work with international human rights experts to conduct investigations on allegations of abuses.

    Amnesty International last month accused Eritrean forces of killing hundreds of civilians over 24 hours in Axum city last year. Eritrea denied that, but the EHRC also described such killings in a rare acknowledgment from the Ethiopian side that Eritrean troops have participated in the conflict.

    The United Nations and the United States have demanded that Eritrean troops leave Tigray.

    Both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have denied Eritrean troops are in Tigray, despite dozens of eyewitness accounts and admissions that Eritreans are there from Tigray’s federally-appointed regional administration.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Why the Weeknd is Boycotting Future Grammy Awards

    From left: Beyoncé, the Grammys’ most nominated artist this year; the Weeknd, who was shut out of the 2021 awards; and Taylor Swift, whose quarantine album “Folklore” received five of her six nods. For the Weeknd, the entire process has proved unacceptable. In a statement to The New York Times, he said he would boycott the awards from now on. “Because of the secret committees,” the Weeknd said, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.” (Credit...Getty Images/NBC/NBCU/Reuters)

    The New York Times

    Grammys Ready Pandemic Show, as the Weeknd Boycotts Future Awards​: The event on Sunday will address the challenges of a music industry hit hard by the pandemic. The Weeknd, who was snubbed, says he will boycott the awards going forward, in a sign of continuing friction with artists.

    When music fans tune in to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, with Trevor Noah as host and performances by nearly two dozen stars including Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Dua Lipa and BTS, they will see the music world coming together in celebration and friendly competition after a grueling year.

    Beyoncé, who has nine nominations, will be aiming for her first win in a major category since 2010, while Swift has five nominations connected to “Folklore,” an album made entirely in quarantine. The show will also address the pandemic’s painful impact on music, with an extended “in memoriam” segment and a spotlight on the independent venues that represent music history, but which have suffered devastating blows after a year of lost business.

    But behind the scenes, the industry is waging a war for the soul of the Grammys, after years of accusations of bias against women and Black artists, and complaints over an opaque voting system that critics say is unfair and out of touch.

    Every year there are winners and losers. But this year’s biggest controversy highlights the way names get on the ballot in the first place. It involves the Weeknd, the Canadian pop star whose sleek, high-concept earworms like “Blinding Lights” have broken chart records and drawn wide critical acclaim; last month he also played the Super Bowl halftime show, perhaps pop music’s biggest big-tent moment. Yet when it came time for Grammy nominations, the Weeknd got nothing.

    Why? Scrutiny has zeroed in on a little-understood part of the Grammy process: the role of anonymous expert committees, which review initial nomination choices by the thousands of music professionals who make up the voting membership of the Recording Academy, the nonprofit group behind the awards, and — for 61 of the Grammys’ 84 categories — have the final say about who makes the cut. To the Grammy leadership, the committees are a check-and-balance step to preserve the integrity of the awards. To suspicious artists, they are unaccountable star chambers that can subvert the will of the voters.

    For the Weeknd, the entire process has proved unacceptable. In a statement to The New York Times, he said he would boycott the awards from now on. “Because of the secret committees,” the Weeknd said, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”

    Read more »

    Related:

    Video: The Weeknd Rocks Tampa with Super Bowl Halftime Show


    Abel rocked Raymond James Stadium Sunday in between halves, headlining the Pepsi Halftime Show solo … as promised. For starters, almost 80% of his set was done on an elevated platform from high up in the bleachers — away from pretty much everyone below. (TMZ)

    TMZ

    The Weeknd came, he saw, and he conquered his Super Bowl halftime performance … and, boy, was this one different in the midst of a pandemic.

    Abel rocked Raymond James Stadium Sunday in between halves, headlining the Pepsi Halftime Show solo … as promised. For starters, almost 80% of his set was done on an elevated platform from high up in the bleachers — away from pretty much everyone below.

    They built an elaborate stage for the guy — complete with a makeshift cityscape made in the fashion of Las Vegas and kinda NYC too. Weeknd was surrounded by a bunch of would-be clones that changed costumes throughout, but started out with masks and glowing red eyes.

    Of course, TW was in his signature red blazer, black gloves and MJ-esque shoes. He ran through a few of his hits, including ‘Starboy,’ ‘The Hills’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face.’ He then ran backstage into a house of mirrors type of set, reminiscent of his ‘Blinding Lights’ music vid.

    Weeknd continued to sing snippets of ‘I Feel It Coming,’ ‘Save Your Tears,’ and ‘Earned It’ — that’s when the party got on the move … down to the field level where he kept the show going.

    Almost the entire gridiron was flooded with Abel lookalikes, but all of them had their faces bandaged … with the OG eventually joining them as they wrapped a choreographed dance routine. He then led them into a march down field, and went on to sing ‘BL,’ which was capped off with a crazy firework show and the so-called clones running around him in elaborate circles before falling to the ground and lying still, with only Weeknd left standing.

    It was pretty neat — but perhaps most noteworthy … the fact fans couldn’t come on down and join in on the fun. Still, Weeknd made the most of it … and the crowd seemed to love every minute, as they could be heard screaming from the stands.

    The whole thing ran about 14 minutes, and seemed to go off without a hitch. Well done, all!

    Related:

    Spotlight: 5 Things to Know About The Weeknd


    It’s Super Bowl Weeknd (not a typo). Canadian singer The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) will be on the biggest stage of his career when he performs the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida., and he’s taking no chances on its success. (AP photo)

    WUSA9

    From The Weeknd’s unusual stage name to his musical influences, here are a few things you may not know about the Super Bowl halftime performer.

    It’s Super Bowl Weeknd (not a typo). Canadian singer The Weeknd will be on the biggest stage of his career when he performs the halftime show at Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he’s taking no chances on its success.

    “We all grow up watching the world’s biggest acts playing the Super Bowl and one can only dream of being in that position,” the singer said when it was announced in November. “I’m humbled, honored and ecstatic to be the center of that infamous stage.”

    How honored? The Weeknd told Billboard last week that he’s put up $7 million of his own money to “make this halftime show be what he envisioned.”

    The Weeknd broke though into mainstream with his smash hit “Can’t Feel My Face” that was featured on his second studio album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which topped the Billboard 200 in 2015 and won a Grammy. He’s had three other chart-topping albums including his recent offering “After Hours,” which was released in March 2020.

    The Weeknd’s 2020 hit single “Blinding Lights” became his fifth song to peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He’s also won Grammys for his album “Starboy” and the song “Earned It.” That song also earned him an Oscar nomination after it appeared in the movie “Fifty Shades Of Grey.”

    If you’re unfamiliar with The Weeknd, an artist known for being somewhat press averse, here are five things to know before he takes the field in Tampa.

    What is The Weeknd’s real name?

    Abel Tesfaye. He was born in Toronto, Canada, on February 16, 1990.

    Why is he The Weeknd and not The Weekend?

    Tesfaye wanted to call himself The Weekend, according to E!, but an Ontario band already had dibs on the name. So, he just dropped a vowel.

    He did crossword puzzles to improve his vocabulary

    Tesfaye was a high school dropout, according to a 2015 Rolling Stone interview. He did crossword puzzles to up his vocabulary. He said then he wished he was a more eloquent speaker. “Me not finishing school — in my head, I still have this insecurity when I’m talking to someone educated,” he said.

    Michael Jackson was a huge influence due to The Weeknd’s heritage

    Tesfaye said Michael Jackson was an influence on his career not only for the King of Pop’s music, but due to Tesfaye’s family roots. Although he was born in Toronto, his parents were from Ethiopia.

    “People forget — ‘We Are the World’ is for Ethiopia,” he told Rolling Stone, referencing the 1985 song Jackson wrote with Lionel Richie to raise money to combat famine in Africa. “At home, if it wasn’t Ethiopian music, it was Michael. He was our icon.” He told Vanity Fair that Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” helped him find his voice.

    A run-in with police helped him ‘smarten up’

    In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Tesfaye said he had a “near-miss” with the law that he described as “bad enough for me to smarten up, to focus.” While he didn’t elaborate, he said he knew he was given a second chance. “And you either take the experience and think, ‘This is it, final straw’, or you don’t. And the next move after that? It’s your entire life. You become who you become because of the next move you make.”

    Tesfaye joins a list of celebrated musicians who have played during Super Bowl halftime shows, including Madonna, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Katy Perry, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and last year’s duo of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

    Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company is executive producing the halftime show for a second year. Jesse Collins, who has produced the BET Awards and is working on this year’s Grammys and Oscars telecasts, will serve as an executive producer.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Senior U.S. Commerce Official Discusses Trade and Entrepreneurship With American & Ethiopian Businesswomen

    The U.S. Department of Commerce office building in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

    Press Release

    U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia

    Senior U.S. Commerce Official Discusses Trade and Entrepreneurship with U.S. and Ethiopian Businesswomen, and Encourages Prosperity through Mutually Beneficial Commercial Engagement

    Addis Ababa – U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of Commerce for Middle East and Africa Global Markets Camille Richardson participated in a Women’s Empowerment Through Trade Initiative Coffee Chat Series (“The Series”) on March 9. The event occurred during Women’s History Month. The virtual meeting featured speakers and panelists from the private sector and government from Ethiopia and the United States.

    The panel featured two Ethiopian female entrepreneurs, Felekeche Biratu and Sara Yirga, and Business Development Specialist at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EX-IM) LaTaunya Darden. Felekeche Biratu is the co-founder of the Yenae Collection and a member of the Association of Women in Boldness/Business. Sara Yirga is the founder of Ya Coffee Roasters and Ethiopian Women in Coffee. Both shared valuable perspectives on opportunities in Ethiopia, female entrepreneurship, and potential for business relations between women-led businesses in the United States and Ethiopia. LaTaunya Darden outlined the important role that EX-IM can play in supporting U.S. exporters.

    The Ethiopia Coffee Chat was the second of ten such engagements planned throughout the year by the Office of Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Department of Commerce. “The Series” is one component of the Women’s Empowerment Through Trade Initiative, which will include another webinar on March 31, 2021 organized in conjunction with the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, and which will focus on women’s entrepreneurship throughout the African continent. “The Series” will culminate in a multi-region event in Dubai in conjunction with Trade Winds Dubai, in March 2022, that will coincide with International Women’s Day 2022.

    This Ethiopia Coffee Chat reflects the high priority that the U.S. Department of Commerce places on the commercial relationship between the United States and Ethiopia. The U.S. International Trade Administration also maintains a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. This MOU was signed in 2018 and is intended to facilitate information-sharing and collaboration on commercial opportunities in priority sectors.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion ‘American Rescue Package’ into Law

    President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan Act on Thursday in the Oval Office of the White House. (Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package into law on Thursday, setting in motion a vast effort on the part of his administration to implement one of the largest stimulus measures in U.S. history, and some stimulus payments could be delivered this weekend.

    “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” the president said during the bill signing.

    The first round of stimulus payments of up to $1,400 could go out this weekend to Americans whose direct deposit bank account information is already on hand at the IRS, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday.

    The bill, known as the American Rescue Package, authorizes a third round of one-time stimulus payments up to $1,400 for most Americans; extends additional unemployment support to millions still out of work; and makes major changes to the tax code to benefit families with children. It also sets aside new federal money to help schools reopen, aid cities and states facing budget shortfalls, and assist in the distribution of coronavirus vaccine doses.

    Democrats have pledged to promote the bill heavily in the coming months, touting it as one of the most significant anti-poverty proposals that Congress has adopted in a generation. Biden, meanwhile, is expected to embark on a cross-country tour to sell the rescue plan to voters, including a trip to Pennsylvania scheduled for Tuesday. Vice President Harris and her husband are set to deliver the same message out west, although details of the trip are not yet clear.

    For now, Biden’s signature on the law puts the U.S. government on track to start delivering some of the total $1.9 trillion in new coronavirus support, including stimulus checks. Administration officials have said a large number of Americans could receive their checks before the end of the month since the IRS, which is tasked with implementing the program, has delivered such aid in the past.

    Other elements of the sweeping law may prove much tougher to implement, as the U.S. government must grapple with complex new mandates to deliver it in a tight time frame. That includes some of the changes to unemployment benefits and the new payments to be provided to Americans who have children, meaning it could be weeks or months before some families start to see the full scope of support authorized under the law. The White House said this week it would task an official to oversee stimulus spending across government.

    Its passage offered an early economic jolt: Two airline giants, United Airlines and American Airlines, said this week they would cancel tens of thousands of layoffs as a result of aid they are set to receive under the stimulus law. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York, which oversees the city’s buses and trains, said the money would help stave off layoffs and other service cuts in the face of a rapidly dwindling budget situation.

    Biden had initially intended to sign the bill on Friday, but White House aides said they received a copy of the legislation from Congress earlier than anticipated, allowing the president to put his signature on the proposal hours before he is set to deliver his first-ever prime time television address.

    Related Videos:

    Watch: Pelosi touts American Rescue Plan ahead of House vote


    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the American Rescue Plan on March 9 ahead of its expected passage. (The Washington Post)


    Economic stimulus or economic relief: Here’s what we know about who might qualify for the next round of coronavirus checks and how much they’ll get. (The Washington Post)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Ethiopian 737 MAX Crash Families Set to Obtain Key Documents

    At a memorial service for the crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 at the Ethiopian Pilots Association in Addis Ababa. The Boeing 737 Max crashed near Ethiopia's capital on 10 March 2019 killing all 157 on board. (Photo by Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

    Reuters

    Updated: March 12th, 2021

    Ethiopian 737 MAX crash families set to obtain key Boeing documents

    Families of victims of the deadly 2019 Ethiopian Airlines jet crash may obtain as soon as Thursday Boeing’s reports to U.S. regulators that helped keep its 737 MAX flying after a prior disaster with the same jet in Indonesia five months earlier.

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent U.S. government investigative agency, told Boeing Co in a letter on Monday it should turn over nearly 2,000 documents to lawyers representing families who want to determine what the company knew about its flight systems after the Indonesian crash on Lion Air.

    The agency said international rules mandate the release of the documents after two years from the crash date, even though Ethiopia has yet to produce a final crash report which the agency cited in blocking the documents until now, according to the letter reviewed by Reuters.

    Boeing said it plans to produce the investigation-related information to the plaintiffs beginning today following the NTSB guidance that, at the second anniversary of the Ethiopian accident, the restrictions would be lifted.

    The plaintiffs lawyers said they expect the papers to show what Boeing executives knew of defects in the flight system of the newly designed aircraft following the Indonesian crash. An automated flight-control system called MCAS has been implicated in both crashes, which together killed 346 people.

    The plane continued to fly until the Ethiopian crash prompted a global grounding.

    “What we want to see are the documents upon which Boeing resisted the grounding of the airplane and based its assertion to its customers that the airplane was safe,” plaintiffs’ attorney Justin Green told Reuters.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia to Release Final Boeing Max Report in ‘Near Future’

    Bloomberg

    By Samuel Gebre

    Updated: March 10th, 2021

    (Bloomberg) — The Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau said Wednesday it plans to release a final report on the fatal crash of the Boeing Co. jet in the “near future” after lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 pandemic hampered the investigation.

    The work is in the final stages, the Transport Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page Wednesday, without giving a publication date. The update coincided with the two-year anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines jet disaster outside Addis Ababa, which killed all 157 people on board.

    The incident followed another fatal Max crash in Indonesia the previous year and led to regulators grounding the model worldwide, plunging Boeing into crisis. The U.S. planemaker has since made revisions to the model and addressed safety concerns, and the jet was cleared to return to the skies in its home market late last year.

    While regulators in the European Union, U.K., U.A.E. and others have since followed suit, others are more circumspect. China, a major market for Boeing, still has safety concerns and said this month it’s awaiting conclusions from the Ethiopia probe.

    Ethiopia’s final report will build on interim findings released a year ago. Investigators had then planned to say Boeing’s design and inadequate pilot training led to the crash, but those conclusions were dropped after push back from the U.S. and France, Bloomberg reported at the time.

    The interim conclusions did highlight the role of a malfunctioning safety feature known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, to which Boeing has since made several changes.

    Meanwhile, families of the crash victims are planning a series of events to commemorate the second anniversary. Representatives are planning to meet with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Washington, protest outside a Boeing office in nearby Virginia and hold an hour-long vigil outside the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration offices.

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Court Filing Ethiopia 737 MAX Crash Lawyers ask Boeing CEO to Testify


    Families have called for testimony from Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, his predecessor [Dennis Muilenburg, pictured above] and other current and former employees as part of their legal case in Chicago, court documents show. (Reuters)

    Reuters

    Updated: February 27th, 2021

    Relatives of victims of a Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia that occurred five months after an Indonesian Lion Air disaster are stepping up pressure on the American planemaker and the federal government, according to a court filing and a letter to U.S. lawmakers.

    Families have called for testimony from Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, his predecessor and other current and former employees as part of their legal case in Chicago, court documents show.

    Separately, the families urged lawmakers in letter to demand that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration turn over internal emails and documents spanning the Lion Air crash and one month after the Ethiopian crash. Together, 346 people died.

    The letter was sent to members of the House and Senate transportation committees on Friday, including committee head Representative Peter DeFazio and aviation subcommittee chair Representative Rick Larsen.

    A Congressional official said: “I can confirm that this week Chairs DeFazio and Larsen re-upped their request to DOT (Department of Transportation) for FAA records that have gone unfulfilled to date.”

    A Senate report in December detailed lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It found that FAA leaders obstructed that report as well as a DOT watchdog review of the regulator’s oversight, the results of which were released on Wednesday.

    “There is serious unfinished business,” the families said in the letter, reviewed by Reuters.

    Boeing has mostly settled civil litigation stemming from the Lion Air crash, but still faces over 100 lawsuits in Chicago federal court related to the second crash.

    The plaintiffs’ lawyers are focusing on what Boeing knew about the causes of the first crash and why the plane continued to fly. They want to schedule depositions of Calhoun and Muilenburg between May 3 and June 18.

    Those victims’ families also want to know what FAA management, which in November lifted a 20-month safety ban of the MAX, understood about the first crash.

    Boeing’s board faces a separate investor lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court, where a complaint unsealed this month alleged breach of fiduciary duties and gross negligence by failing “to monitor the safety of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes.”

    Last month, Boeing reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department over the 737 MAX crashes, including a $243.6 million fine.

    Related:

    Boeing Reaches $2.5 Billion Settlement in 737 MAX Crashes in Ethiopia & Indonesia


    Ethiopian officials deliver the Black Box for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to the headquarters of France’s BEA air accident investigation agency in Le Bourget, France on March 14, 2019. As NPR reports the families of the passengers who died in the crash will be compensated from a fund of $500 million. (Reuters photo)

    NPR

    Updated: January 7th, 2021

    Boeing To Pay $2.5 Billion Over 737 Max Fraud, Faces No Other Charges

    Boeing will pay more than $2.5 billion to settle criminal charges that it repeatedly concealed and lied about the 737 Max’s engineering problems that led to two catastrophic crashes claiming hundreds of lives.

    The company admitted to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States as part of the deferred prosecution agreement announced on Thursday and will face no further charges from the U.S. Department of Justice.

    “Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception,” Acting Assistant Attorney General David Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, wrote in a statement.

    Boeing, which is the country’s second-biggest defense contractor behind Lockheed Martin, will pay the DOJ a criminal penalty of $243.6 million.

    The families and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passenger victims who died in the Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia five months later will be paid from a fund of $500 million. If split equally among them, that amounts to a little over $1.4 million for each family.

    The vast majority of the settlement is allocated for airline companies that had purchased the faulty 737 Max aircraft and were subsequently forced to ground the planes following the crashes. Together they will receive $1.77 billion in compensation for their financial losses, according to the DOJ.

    “The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers,” Burns added in the statement.

    In both cases, the crashes were caused by changes to the jet’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that forced the nose of the 737 Max toward the ground and left pilots unable to control the planes.

    In a note to employees, Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun said, “I firmly believe that entering into this resolution is the right thing for us to do—a step that appropriately acknowledges how we fell short of our values and expectations.”

    He added: “This resolution is a serious reminder to all of us of how critical our obligation of transparency to regulators is, and the consequences that our company can face if any one of us falls short of those expectations.”

    Internal Boeing documents revealed during a U.S.House panel’s inquiry showed that engineers notified the company of the MCAS “egregious” problems as early as 2016.

    Related:

    Ethiopian Report Blames Boeing for 737 MAX Plane Crash

    Boeing to Stop 737 Max Production (AP)

    Internal FAA review saw high risk of 737 MAX crashes

    Boeing Was Aware of 737 Max Problem Long Before Ethiopia Crash – Report

    Boeing CEO Apologizes to Victims of Ethiopia, Indonesia Crashes

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

    Read Excerpt From Ethiopia Crash Report

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

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

    Watch: Ethiopia Releases 737 Max Preliminary Crash Report

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: New U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Ms. Geeta Pasi Visits Tigray

    Ambassador Pasi, who replaced the former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor, arrived in Ethiopia last week presenting her credentials to President Sahle-Work Zewde on March 5th, 2021. (Photo: @USEmbassyAddis/Twitter)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: March 10th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) – This week the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa announced that new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Ms. Geeta Pasi is visiting Tigray to assess the situation on the ground.

    “Ambassador Pasi and members of the U.S. Embassy will travel to Tigray today,” the Embassy said in a social media post on Wednesday. “This is her first official trip, and it underscores America’s partnership with the people of Ethiopia.”

    Ambassador Pasi, who replaced the former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor, arrived in Ethiopia last week presenting her credentials to President Sahle-Work Zewde on March 5th.

    Ms. Pasi, an Indian American from New York, is a career Foreign Service Officer and most recently served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the Department of State.

    Related:

    Ethiopia frees workers with foreign media detained in Tigray, official says

    Reuters

    By Reuters Staff

    Updated: March 3rd, 2021

    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Four Ethiopians working with foreign journalists in the northern Tigray region have been released without charges, an official and media outlets said on Wednesday.

    A reporter for the BBC’s Tigrinya language service, Girmay Gebru, two translators with Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times, and a journalist working with the New York Times were detained in recent days, their outlets said.

    “All journalists and translators have been released without charges,” Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray’s interim administration, told Reuters.

    The BBC confirmed Girmay’s release in a tweet, while AFP and the New York Times also confirmed in emails to Reuters that those working with them had been freed.

    “We are pleased that the local journalist we had worked with was released and that no charges were filed,” said the New York Times’ communications vice-president Danielle Rhoades Ha.

    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen sweeping reforms since taking office in 2018, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets and release of dozens of journalists.

    However, rights groups say press freedom has suffered during outbreaks of violence including in Tigray, where thousands have died in fighting since last year between federal troops and the former local ruling party.

    Watchdogs reported the arrests of at least 13 journalists in Ethiopia last year, including Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu who was held without charge for 12 days.

    Abiy’s government declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after its forces withdrew from major cities and towns at the end of November.

    However, low-level fighting has continued in parts.

    UPDATE: U.S. Deploys Diaster Response Team to Tigray, Urges End of Hostilities


    The USAID team will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The press release said: “The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.” The U.S. is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia, having given more than $652 million last year alone. (Photo: USAID Headquarters in D.C./Shutterstock.com)

    Press Release

    Office of Press Relations: press@usaid.gov

    USAID DEPLOYS DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM TO RESPOND TO HUMANITARIAN NEEDS IN TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to respond to growing humanitarian needs stemming from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. After nearly four months of fighting between armed groups, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than four million people are in need of food assistance.

    USAID’s DART will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.

    Since the outbreak of conflict, USAID’s partners have been pivoting existing programs to provide life-saving assistance in the few areas of Tigray that can be reached. While USAID has been working with partners to overcome many access challenges, an estimated 80 percent of Tigray remains cut off from assistance.

    The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia and is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia. In FY 2020, the U.S. provided more than $652 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to acute food needs, conflict-driven displacement, flooding, a desert locust infestation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    U.S. Urges Ethiopia to End Hostilities in Tigray

    By Reuters

    Published March 2, 2021

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday pressed the leader od Ethiopia to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region, citing a “growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”

    In a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Mr. Blinken pushed for Ethiopia to withdraw outside forces from Tigray, and for an immediate end to the violence, according to a State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

    The Biden administration is seeking an end to what it describes as a deepening humanitarian crisis. It was the second time in less than a week that Mr. Blinken cited reports of atrocities in the region.

    “The secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” Mr. Price said in a statement Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, he said, “We strongly condemn the killings, the forced removals and displacement, the sexual assaults, and other human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have now reported.”

    Mr. Blinken also asked that Mr. Abiy allow independent international investigations.

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, Billene Seyoum, pointed to a statement made late last month in which Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called American attempts to intervene in its internal affairs “regrettable.”

    The statement said that Ethiopia’s government took its responsibility for the safety, security, and well-being of all citizens “very seriously” and that it was “fully committed to undertake thorough investigations” into reports of abused.

    But it added the government had a duty to hold the nation together in the face of “treasonous and divisive forces.”

    The Ethiopians military ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the regional capital in November, after what it described as a surprise assault on its forces in Tigray.

    Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine around the region of more than five million people.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Responds to U.S. Criticism Over Tigray


    People receive services from a mobile health and nutrition clinic in Freweyni town, north of Mekele, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Zerihun Sewunet/UNICEF via AP)

    The Associated Press

    Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

    Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

    In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

    Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

    The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

    “Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

    No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

    Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

    Related:

    Ethiopia slams US for urging pullout of Amhara forces


    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.” (Anadolu Agency)

    AA

    Addis Getachew Tadesse

    Forces from Amhara region were on frontlines of law enforcement operations against Tigray rebels last November

    ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government on Monday lashed out at the US for demanding the withdrawal of forces from the region of Amhara in the country’s northernmost Tigray region.

    Force from the Amhara region were on the frontlines of law enforcement operations launched against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November after the group’s deadly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

    On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a statement saying that Amhara and the neighboring country of Eritrea need to pull their troops out of the Tigray region.

    The US remarks followed a report by Amnesty International that hundreds of civilians were shot dead in the town of Axum in Tigray — a report that alleged the involvement of Eritrean forces in the killings, which, if proved, could amount to crimes against humanity.

    “[The] attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically the reference to the Amhara regional forces’ redeployment is regrettable,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which, as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” it said.

    It added: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    The Horn of Africa country said it would investigate the alleged killings and other human rights abuses in Tigray.

    Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


    Children playing in front a house in the Tigray region that was damaged in fighting in December. (Getty Images)

    The New York Times

    Updated: Feb. 27, 2021

    An internal U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally — posing President Biden’s first major test in Africa.

    Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

    The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for…

    On Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

    Read the full article at nytimes.com »

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Ethiopia Premier Launches Campaign to Support Tigray


    “In an online meeting held this afternoon [Thursday, February 18th 2021], Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister. (AA)

    AA

    By Addis Getachew

    Updated: February 18th 2021

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian prime minister and regional authorities have launched a campaign to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the restive Tigray region.

    “In an online meeting held this [Thursday] afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister.

    “The solidarity initiative aims at mobilizing the contribution of regions and federal institutions as well as other stakeholders in supporting humanitarian efforts underway, in addition to food and non-food items to be directed to the people of Tigray,” it said.

    It added that “the regional presidents also pledged direct support to strengthen the provisional administration to carry out public service delivery duties.”

    Vehicles, various equipment, input seeds for farmers, ambulances, medicines, and monetary support were pledged by each region and would be handed over to the provisional administration within the coming days.

    “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further called upon all sections of society to make whatever contributions they can towards the #RebuildTigray solidarity initiative,” the statement noted.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the federal government launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters were either neutralized or captured.

    Although the prime minister declared the military operations were over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between the government forces and fighters loyal to TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been reported to have become internally displaced and in dire need of emergency assistance.

    The international media have been kept out of the scene, making it difficult to give total pictures of the humanitarian tribulations and suffering in an objective and impartial manner.

    An Addis Ababa resident with relatives living in Tigray told Anadolu Agency, asking to remain anonymous, that humanitarian assistance in support of suffering civilians has not been sufficient.

    Last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission revealed that 108 rape cases were reported in two months across the region.

    Related:

    UPDATE: UN Ethiopia Tweeted ‘Progress’ on Humanitarian Front in Tigray

    UN, Ethiopia Strike a Deal Over Aid Workers’ Access to Tigray

    ANALYSIS: In Ethiopia’s Digital Battle Over the Tigray Region, Facts Are Casualties

    UPDATE: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Message to the World on the Situation in Ethiopia

    Doctors Without Borders on the Humanitarian Crisis

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    NPR: How Minnesota Pharmacist Elias Usso Rebuilt After George Floyd Protests

    The George Floyd murder trial begins Monday. NPR speaks with pharmacist Elias Usso, whose neighborhood shop was destroyed by rioters and has now reopened. (Photo: Star Tribune)

    NPR

    Neighbors Help Minneapolis Pharmacist Rebuild Shop After George Floyd Protests

    The George Floyd murder trial begins Monday. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with pharmacist Elias Usso, whose neighborhood shop was destroyed by rioters and has now reopened.

    SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

    The city of Minneapolis is on edge. The trial of the former police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd begins on Monday. Barbed wire and fencing has been put up around the courthouse. The video of George Floyd with a policeman’s knee on his neck is painful to see. There are also hard memories of some of the unrest that followed.

    Seward Pharmacy was destroyed. It is owned by Elias Usso, who didn’t live far away but who had to watch helplessly as looters smashed the shop that he and his wife had opened months before. But the pharmacy is now back with the help of neighbors and nonprofit groups, and they are even giving COVID-19 vaccine shots. Elias Usso joins us from Minneapolis. Mr. Usso, thanks so much for being with us.

    ELIAS USSO: Thank you, Scott, for having me.

    SIMON: I have to ask you to tell us if you could, please, what happened months ago. I understand your store is just a few blocks from the 3rd District police station that burned down. What happened that night to your pharmacy?

    USSO: It was a traumatic situation for us to just watch it live. The morning that we went to the pharmacy, it was hard for us to just get up. We couldn’t even sleep. It was, like, totally destroyed. You cannot recognize something that I left that night before. Drugs, all these pills on the floor, water, ashes – so it was just horrible. And then I looked around – it was the whole neighborhood – and I said, this is again is – you know, the injustice happened. It’s not only us. We are in it together.

    Once we start cleaning, neighbors just came out, just flooded. How we can help? There was this gentleman that brought his brooms and vacuums in to clean with us. That’s when I felt like, you know what? We can’t give up on this. I mean, this is my home, and I feel great, you know, being a part of this neighborhood. Regardless whatever happened, we’re here to reopen and continue giving service.

    SIMON: Tell us about your community, your neighborhood, your customers.

    USSO: So our neighbor is very diverse. And majority of my community, Oromo community here from Ethiopia, lives here. It’s one of the most wonderful, welcoming immigrant state. And it’s willing to embrace you. It’s where you can thrive. You leave your refugee life behind you and just move forward to grow and to open your own business, like I did.

    SIMON: Mr. Usso, I have to ask, as this significant trial is about to begin, what are your feelings about the police?

    USSO: As a Black person, as an immigrant, you know, as owner of a business, it kind of makes you feel sad, you know? Something happened at my business. Should I call the police or not? That’s getting to a question that – should I do that, you know? And then if I call, is something bad going to happen? So we have to fix this. This is – it’s not only one person who can fix this. It’s all of us together. So not all police are bad. That’s not the perception that I personally have. But these days, you know, we’ve stretching police officers also to the point that we give them a call for everything – for mental health, for all kinds of stuff – while that money could be allocated to a different avenue of helping the society.

    SIMON: How do you feel as the trial is about to open, Mr. Usso?

    USSO: I hope to see justice will be served, and we hope the George Floyd family will get justice, you know, for what happened to George Floyd. It’s – it’s just – it’s hard to think about it, you know, someone kneeling on your neck and for eight minutes and 40-something second and getting away.

    SIMON: Do you have – as the trial is about to open, do you have any concerns about your family, your business?

    USSO: My priority now is to make sure that my patients get their prescription. But, you know, when I look back, you know, if that destruction didn’t happen at all, would the world have heard us? Would there be any cry-out? I wonder that. Maybe, you know, for me, you know, as a business owner, for our business to be like that, maybe that’s just the little price that we pay for justice. I see it that way.

    SIMON: Elias Usso – pharmacist, and he owns the Seward Pharmacy in Minneapolis – thanks so much for being with us, sir.

    USSO: Thank you very much.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    NASA Set to Launch a Space Mission Named After ‘Lucy’ (Dinkinesh)

    Lucy is named for the famous two-million-year-old fossil found in Ethiopia in the 1970s that, as a relative of modern humans, helped illuminate the evolution of our species. It is hoped that the spacecraft Lucy will similarly elucidate our solar system's earliest days. (Photo: An artist's concept of NASA's Lucy mission, which will study Jupiter's Trojan asteroids/Image credit: Southwest Research Institute)

    Space.com

    Lucy mission: NASA’s visit to the Trojan asteroids

    The Lucy mission is a NASA probe scheduled to launch in October 2021 that will explore a set of asteroids near Jupiter known as the Trojans. These ancient space rocks hold important clues to the creation of our solar system and, potentially, the origin of life on Earth.

    Along with a mission called Psyche, Lucy was approved in January 2017 as part of NASA’s Discovery program, which supports focused and relatively cheap planetary missions whose development costs are capped at around $450 million. A year after approval, the mission was officially given a schedule and a set of eight asteroid targets.

    Lucy is named for a famous female Australopithecus afarensis fossil found in Ethiopia that, as a relative of modern humans, helped illuminate the evolution of our species. It is hoped that the spacecraft Lucy will similarly elucidate our solar system’s earliest days.

    LUCY SPACECRAFT SIZE AND INSTRUMENTS

    Lucy spans more than 46 feet (14 meters) from tip to tip, larger than a 4-story building, though much of that width will be the enormous solar panels used to power the spacecraft, according to NASA. The spacecraft will carry an instrument that can measure the surface temperatures of its target asteroids, providing information about their composition, two high-resolution cameras, and a device that uses infrared light to inspect and identify ice, organic material, and different minerals in each asteroid.

    NASA is scheduled to launch Lucy on its 12-year mission in October 2021 on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, according to the agency. The total cost to launch the spacecraft is approximately $148.3 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.


    An artist’s depiction of the Lucy spacecraft with extended solar panels, studying asteroids. (Image credit: SwRI)

    LUCY MISSION TARGETS: THE TROJAN ASTEROIDS

    The probe’s main objects of study are the Trojan asteroids. These objects are thought to be remnants from the primordial disk that formed the sun and planets, which were captured by Jupiter’s gravity sometime near the beginning of the solar system.

    Lucy will be the first mission to visit the Trojans, which are each named for famous figures from the Trojan war in Greek mythology.

    According to NASA, the Trojans share Jupiter’s orbit around the sun in two loose groups, with one set slightly ahead of the gas giant and another behind it. “The Trojans are stabilized by the sun and its largest planet in a gravitational balancing act,” the agency wrote.

    After being launched from Earth, the spacecraft will first make a quick flyby of a main belt asteroid in 2025. The small space rock is named 52246 Donaldjohanson after the paleontologist who discovered the fossil Lucy. Situated between Mars and Jupiter, the fly-by will serve primarily as a test for the spacecraft’s instruments, according to the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), which helps oversee the craft.


    A diagram of Lucy’s itinerary among the Trojan asteroids that trail and lead Jupiter. (Image credit: Southwest Research Institute)

    If all goes according to plan, between 2027 and 2033, Lucy will then fly past six Trojan asteroids, including three different asteroid subclasses and two objects that rotate around each other. NASA has said that “no other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun.”

    The mission’s targets include C-type, D-type, and P-type asteroids, each of which will help scientists better understand the solar system’s genesis, according to SwRI.

    WHAT ARE C-TYPE ASTEROIDS?

    Lucy will fly by two C-type asteroids: the previously mentioned main asteroid belt object Donaldjohanson and a Trojan named Eurybates.

    C-type asteroids are rich in carbon and are where most meteorites on Earth originated. The OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa 2 missions have previously collected samples from C-type asteroids to bring back to our planet for study.

    WHAT ARE D-TYPE AND P-TYPE ASTEROIDS?

    It will also inspect two D-type asteroids, which are named Leucus and Orus, and three P-type asteroids, one named Polymele and a binary asteroid pair orbiting one another called Patroclus and Menoetius.

    D-type and P-type asteroids are much redder than C-type asteroids and are hypothesized to be rich in organic and volatile elements. No mission has ever flown past a D- or P-type asteroid before.

    The asteroids are expected to provide a wealth of information, especially about the organic material that would have rained down on our planet in its earliest days and potentially helped trigger the creation of living organisms. Each target is also thought to contain water ice underneath its rocky surface.

    The final encounter with Patroclus and Menoetius is considered particularly special because the pair spend most of their time orbiting high above the main ecliptic plane of the solar system and are therefore hard to reach. The elusive asteroid pair will be passing through a region that is accessible to Lucy in March of 2033, when the spacecraft is scheduled to reach them.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: IOM Releases 1st Survey on Internally Displaced Persons in Tigray

    In a statement Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) survey is the first official data of this type on the crisis in Northern Ethiopia. (Photo: IOM)

    Anadolu Agency

    Over 131,000 people are displaced in 39 accessible locations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and neighbouring Afar and Amhara, UN Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) survey finds.

    @IOMEthiopia

    Over 131,000 displaced in northern Ethiopia crisis: IOM

    More than 131,000 people are displaced in 39 accessible locations of Ethiopia’s Tigray region and neighboring Afar and Amhara, according to a survey.

    In a statement Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) survey is the first official data of this type on the crisis in Northern Ethiopia, which began in November 2020.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the country launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters either neutralized or captured.

    Although Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared that the military operation was over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between government forces and fighters loyal to the TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan, while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    “The data are not indicators of the total number of persons displaced due to the crisis but rather represent only the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in sites accessible to DTM surveyors,” according to the IOM.

    “Almost 70% (91,046) are in Tigray, 26% (34,091) are in Afar and 5% (6,453) are in Amhara. Many displaced persons – including women and children – reportedly are in need of emergency shelter, food and access to clean and safe drinking water,” it added.

    The IOM said its Displacement Tracking Matrix will continue to expand its assessment coverage in the northern part of the country so that the needs of more internally displaced persons can be assessed.

    “The assessment was conducted in Western, Northwestern, Southeastern and Southern zones of Tigray region, as Central and Eastern zones were not accessible during the time of data collection,” it added.

    Ethiopia frees workers with foreign media detained in Tigray, official says

    Reuters

    By Reuters Staff

    Updated: March 3rd, 2021

    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Four Ethiopians working with foreign journalists in the northern Tigray region have been released without charges, an official and media outlets said on Wednesday.

    A reporter for the BBC’s Tigrinya language service, Girmay Gebru, two translators with Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times, and a journalist working with the New York Times were detained in recent days, their outlets said.

    “All journalists and translators have been released without charges,” Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray’s interim administration, told Reuters.

    The BBC confirmed Girmay’s release in a tweet, while AFP and the New York Times also confirmed in emails to Reuters that those working with them had been freed.

    “We are pleased that the local journalist we had worked with was released and that no charges were filed,” said the New York Times’ communications vice-president Danielle Rhoades Ha.

    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen sweeping reforms since taking office in 2018, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets and release of dozens of journalists.

    However, rights groups say press freedom has suffered during outbreaks of violence including in Tigray, where thousands have died in fighting since last year between federal troops and the former local ruling party.

    Watchdogs reported the arrests of at least 13 journalists in Ethiopia last year, including Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu who was held without charge for 12 days.

    Abiy’s government declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after its forces withdrew from major cities and towns at the end of November.

    However, low-level fighting has continued in parts.

    UPDATE: U.S. Deploys Diaster Response Team to Tigray, Urges End of Hostilities


    The USAID team will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The press release said: “The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.” The U.S. is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia, having given more than $652 million last year alone. (Photo: USAID Headquarters in D.C./Shutterstock.com)

    Press Release

    Office of Press Relations: press@usaid.gov

    USAID DEPLOYS DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM TO RESPOND TO HUMANITARIAN NEEDS IN TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to respond to growing humanitarian needs stemming from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. After nearly four months of fighting between armed groups, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than four million people are in need of food assistance.

    USAID’s DART will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.

    Since the outbreak of conflict, USAID’s partners have been pivoting existing programs to provide life-saving assistance in the few areas of Tigray that can be reached. While USAID has been working with partners to overcome many access challenges, an estimated 80 percent of Tigray remains cut off from assistance.

    The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia and is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia. In FY 2020, the U.S. provided more than $652 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to acute food needs, conflict-driven displacement, flooding, a desert locust infestation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    U.S. Urges Ethiopia to End Hostilities in Tigray

    By Reuters

    Published March 2, 2021

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday pressed the leader od Ethiopia to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region, citing a “growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”

    In a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Mr. Blinken pushed for Ethiopia to withdraw outside forces from Tigray, and for an immediate end to the violence, according to a State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

    The Biden administration is seeking an end to what it describes as a deepening humanitarian crisis. It was the second time in less than a week that Mr. Blinken cited reports of atrocities in the region.

    “The secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” Mr. Price said in a statement Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, he said, “We strongly condemn the killings, the forced removals and displacement, the sexual assaults, and other human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have now reported.”

    Mr. Blinken also asked that Mr. Abiy allow independent international investigations.

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, Billene Seyoum, pointed to a statement made late last month in which Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called American attempts to intervene in its internal affairs “regrettable.”

    The statement said that Ethiopia’s government took its responsibility for the safety, security, and well-being of all citizens “very seriously” and that it was “fully committed to undertake thorough investigations” into reports of abused.

    But it added the government had a duty to hold the nation together in the face of “treasonous and divisive forces.”

    The Ethiopians military ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the regional capital in November, after what it described as a surprise assault on its forces in Tigray.

    Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine around the region of more than five million people.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Responds to U.S. Criticism Over Tigray


    People receive services from a mobile health and nutrition clinic in Freweyni town, north of Mekele, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Zerihun Sewunet/UNICEF via AP)

    The Associated Press

    Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

    Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

    In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

    Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

    The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

    “Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

    No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

    Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

    Related:

    Ethiopia slams US for urging pullout of Amhara forces


    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.” (Anadolu Agency)

    AA

    Addis Getachew Tadesse

    Forces from Amhara region were on frontlines of law enforcement operations against Tigray rebels last November

    ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government on Monday lashed out at the US for demanding the withdrawal of forces from the region of Amhara in the country’s northernmost Tigray region.

    Force from the Amhara region were on the frontlines of law enforcement operations launched against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November after the group’s deadly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

    On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a statement saying that Amhara and the neighboring country of Eritrea need to pull their troops out of the Tigray region.

    The US remarks followed a report by Amnesty International that hundreds of civilians were shot dead in the town of Axum in Tigray — a report that alleged the involvement of Eritrean forces in the killings, which, if proved, could amount to crimes against humanity.

    “[The] attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically the reference to the Amhara regional forces’ redeployment is regrettable,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which, as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” it said.

    It added: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    The Horn of Africa country said it would investigate the alleged killings and other human rights abuses in Tigray.

    Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


    Children playing in front a house in the Tigray region that was damaged in fighting in December. (Getty Images)

    The New York Times

    Updated: Feb. 27, 2021

    An internal U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally — posing President Biden’s first major test in Africa.

    Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

    The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for…

    On Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

    Read the full article at nytimes.com »

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Ethiopia Premier Launches Campaign to Support Tigray


    “In an online meeting held this afternoon [Thursday, February 18th 2021], Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister. (AA)

    AA

    By Addis Getachew

    Updated: February 18th 2021

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian prime minister and regional authorities have launched a campaign to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the restive Tigray region.

    “In an online meeting held this [Thursday] afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister.

    “The solidarity initiative aims at mobilizing the contribution of regions and federal institutions as well as other stakeholders in supporting humanitarian efforts underway, in addition to food and non-food items to be directed to the people of Tigray,” it said.

    It added that “the regional presidents also pledged direct support to strengthen the provisional administration to carry out public service delivery duties.”

    Vehicles, various equipment, input seeds for farmers, ambulances, medicines, and monetary support were pledged by each region and would be handed over to the provisional administration within the coming days.

    “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further called upon all sections of society to make whatever contributions they can towards the #RebuildTigray solidarity initiative,” the statement noted.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the federal government launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters were either neutralized or captured.

    Although the prime minister declared the military operations were over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between the government forces and fighters loyal to TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been reported to have become internally displaced and in dire need of emergency assistance.

    The international media have been kept out of the scene, making it difficult to give total pictures of the humanitarian tribulations and suffering in an objective and impartial manner.

    An Addis Ababa resident with relatives living in Tigray told Anadolu Agency, asking to remain anonymous, that humanitarian assistance in support of suffering civilians has not been sufficient.

    Last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission revealed that 108 rape cases were reported in two months across the region.

    Related:

    UPDATE: UN Ethiopia Tweeted ‘Progress’ on Humanitarian Front in Tigray

    UN, Ethiopia Strike a Deal Over Aid Workers’ Access to Tigray

    ANALYSIS: In Ethiopia’s Digital Battle Over the Tigray Region, Facts Are Casualties

    UPDATE: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Message to the World on the Situation in Ethiopia

    Doctors Without Borders on the Humanitarian Crisis

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    International Women’s Day: Spotlight on GGRF’s Work Empowering Girls in Ethiopia

    Girls Gotta Run, a non-profit in Ethiopia, currently invests in and empowers 195 girls through running programs and education. (Photo: Girls Gotta Run)

    Press Release

    Girls Gotta Run Receives the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls Education Award!

    This International Women’s Day is especially exciting as Girls Gotta Run celebrates it’s Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls Education award from the World Food Program USA.

    In recent years, only about 50 percent of Ethiopian girls who enroll in primary school ever made it to Grade 5. COVID-19 has further threatened girls’ access to school and has made them increasingly vulnerable to child marriage due to nation-wide school closures for several months in 2020. As a result of this grant, Girls Gotta Run will be able to bring on a new cohort of girls who will not only attend school but get the unique training they need as leaders and changemakers through local run clubs and life skills classes. The creation of these safe spaces is critical in reducing girls’ sense of isolation and increases their capacity to assert their right to choose to stay in school and when to marry.

    About the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education

    After winning the World Food Prize in 2003, Catherine Bertini, the former Executive Director for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recognized an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for women’s empowerment. Bertini used her winnings to establish the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, a fund that supports innovative grassroots initiatives around the globe that boost access to training and educational opportunities for girls.

    I am impressed with the innovative model Girls Gotta Run has developed of using sport to build girls’ confidence and to guide them in setting and obtaining goals. These are critical skills for girls to be able to succeed in school anywhere, including for the girls this grant will support in some of the most vulnerable areas of Ethiopia.”

    - Catherine Bertini*

    Girls Gotta Run

    Girls Gotta Run is a non-profit that’s mission is to invest in girls by using running and education to empower themselves and their communities. Girls Gotta Run works with adolescent girls living in economically and socially disadvantaged families in two rural Ethiopian communities.

    Their Athletic Scholarship Program targets girls who are at acute risk of dropping out of school, becoming socially isolated, entering early marriage and/or experiencing harmful cultural practices like female genital cutting. Mothers of girls in the program are also equipped with the knowledge, tools and mentorship needed to build financially resilient futures for themselves and their families. They currently reach 195 girls across two program sites in Ethiopia.


    (Photo: Girls Gotta Run)

    Upon completion of the three-year Athletic Scholarship Program, girls who are interested in continuing their education are invited to join the Alumni Project which provides tuition and a basic living stipend to girls in high school and university.

    The Bertini Fund has supported dozens of girl-centered education programs over the years, ensuring that thousands of young women could access the schooling they deserve. You can see all of their stories here.

    You can learn more and support GGRF at girlsgottarun.org.

    Related:

    Ethiopia: Girls Gotta Run Foundation Announces New Leadership

    In Sodo & Bekoji, New GGRF Athletic Scholarship Keeps Girls in School

    Why Girls Gotta Run: Tadias Interview with Dr. Patricia E. Ortman

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Fire Kills Ethiopian Migrants at Yemen Detention Center

    The majority of those held in the immigration holding facility “were Ethiopian so we can assume that the dead are mostly of that nationality,” said an official with the International Organization for Migration. (Photo: Ethiopian migrants in the Yemeni capital, Sana last year/Getty Images)

    Bloomberg

    By Samuel Gebre

    Fire in Yemen Migrant Detention Center Kills 8 and Injures 170

    At least eight people, mainly of Ethiopian origin, died in a fire in detention center for migrants in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, on Sunday.

    There were more than 350 migrants in a hanger near the main building of the center at the time the blaze broke out and at least 170 of them were injured, with many still in critical condition, the International Organization for Migration said in an emailed statement.

    “While the cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, its impact is clearly horrific,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

    The majority of those held in the immigration holding facility “were Ethiopian so we can assume that the dead are mostly of that nationality,” another IOM official said, adding that the death toll could climb much higher.

    Most of the migrants were arrested in Yemen, while trying to cross to Saudi Arabia. More than 170,000 migrants have crossed from the Horn of Africa to Yemen since 2019, according to IOM data.

    Last week, at least 20 people drowned after smugglers threw them into the sea while on a journey from Djibouti to Yemen. Similar incidents claimed 50 lives in October last year. More migrants are waiting to cross, and thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen, according to IOM.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Q&A: Ethiopia’s High Flying Female Pilots Amsale Gualu and Tigist Kibret

    March is International Women’s Month and in the following timely interview the British national Afro-Caribbean weekly newspaper, The Voice, features Ethiopian pilots Captain Amsale Gualu and Capt. Tigist Kibret. As the publication notes these two women "have defied the statistics to get their wings – and hope that more young females across the world will be inspired by their success." (The Voice Online)

    The Voice

    International Women’s Month: Meet Ethiopia’s high flying female pilots Amsale Gualu and Tigist Kibret

    Captain Amsale Gualu is inspired by the female pioneers who came before her, and would like to change society’s perceptions

    IN A male-dominated field, to become a female pilot is a feat in itself. The International Society of Women Female Pilots estimates that of the world’s 130,000 pilots, just 4,000 – or three per cent – are women.

    But two Ethiopian women – Captain Amsale Gualu and Capt. Tigist Kibret – have defied the statistics to get their wings – and hope that more young females across the world will be inspired by their success.

    In December 2017, the pair made history in being part of the world’s first-ever all-female crew for a special Ethiopian Airlines flight from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa to Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria.

    The 13-member crew, supervised by Captain Amsale Gualu and then-First Officer Tigist Kibret, flew 391 passengers to the Nigerian capital on Boeing B777-300 ER, in a groundbreaking journey that took four and a half hours.

    As part of The Voice’s feature celebrating incredible black women, we speak to the two trailblazers and discuss their ambitions, personal lives and hopes for the future.

    First, we spoke with Captain Amsale Gualu, who says she is inspired by the female pioneers who came before her, and would like to change society’s perceptions.

    What are your hobbies?

    I have several hobbies. I love travelling and discovering new places. I enjoy staying physically active by doing yoga and occasionally swim. I also like design and decorating in my spare time.

    What advice would you give to a young girl who is aspiring for a male dominated career?
    I would advise that being a girl or woman should not stop them from doing what they want. It’s not that things are difficult, but we don’t dare to try it in the first place. If something has not been done before, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done – it’s just a matter of perspective and practice.

    If you were asked to name three role models in your life who would they be and why?
    Firstly, my parents who were very supportive, encouraging and gave me the confidence to achieve my dream. Secondly, Muluembet Emiru was the first Ethiopian woman who flew an aeroplane in the 1930s, in a time where such things were unthinkable. And Dr Catherine Hamlin, an Australian obstetrician, and gynaecologist doctor, who came to Ethiopia in 1959 and settled. She dedicated her life to providing free fistula treatment for a poor woman suffering from early childbirth.

    Why did you decide to become a pilot?

    Since I was a kid, I was always curious about planes, watching them fly; I knew early on this was a profession that fascinated me.

    Please share with our readers one of your greatest achievements outside of aviation?

    Before joining pilot training school, I graduated from Addis Ababa University with BSc in Architecture and Urban planning and still practice it as a hobby and enjoy it.

    How do you conquer your fears?

    I overcame my fears by taking the time to immerse myself in the comprehensive training and understanding of the aircraft’s operation and systems. By doing so, I built up my confidence and conquered my fears.

    What is your favourite song and why?

    I enjoy listening to Ethiopian and international songs, especially the 90s music. I particularly like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and also enjoy more modern artists like Ed Sheeran.

    What’s your favourite traditional Ethiopian dish?

    Doro Wot is my favourite traditional Ethiopian food prepared from chicken with different homemade organic spices.

    If you could meet a celebrity, who would it be and why?

    Generally, I admire celebrities who go forward from obstacles and difficulties, but there is no specific celebrity that I would like to meet.

    What has been the greatest challenge?

    The biggest challenge, aside from being a working mum, is changing society’s perception toward women’s leadership capability.

    Captain Tigist Kibret says she is proud and honoured to be considered a role model for others – and uses each day to learn and grow further.

    Who inspires you to succeed?

    My success resulted from support and love from my family and various people that I came across in my life.

    Although I have had different people who have inspired me, my ultimate inspiration is my mother, who embodies strength and open-mindedness.

    She never placed limitations or ideas on what I could be and who I could become.

    What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

    As a pilot, our day-to-day life is full of challenges, as I am responsible for passengers and crew’s lives on board and the operation of multi-million- dollar equipment.

    I usually have to deal with rapidly changing situations, which I overcome by putting my training and skills in effect.

    Besides that, my most significant career challenge has been during the pandemic, especially in the first season.

    It was tough for us to fly to different parts of the world under restrictions and leave our families behind.

    How do you relax in your spare time?

    I am a wife and a mother, so I spend most of my spare hours having quality time with my husband and the kids. But when I am not with my family, my extra hours will be a selection of reading, a coffee get-together with friends, going to the spa or a movie.

    Please share with our readers one of your greatest achievements.

    Being told that I am an inspiration by my peers and those I encounter is my greatest achievement.

    You are a role model for many women across the world, how do you feel about that and what would you say to them?

    I feel very proud and honoured for being a role model for others. And I would say to them; it’s never late to become the person you want to be.

    Stumbling should not stop you from owning what is yours.

    How do you keep motivated?

    Being a pilot is motivation as there’s always something new to learn. The latest updates to company training and courses keep me motivated and the varied people I encounter and learn from daily – be it my senior or junior team members.

    How do you balance family life with your career?

    I try to make the best of my time; as I mentioned earlier, I spend most of my spare time with my family. But if no one is at home during my days off, I spend it reading, checking emails and being up-to-date with my work.

    What is your favourite food/ dish and do you cook it?

    I love almost all Ethiopian food. But my favourite would be Kechin Shiro with Tikus Injera. And yes, I sometimes cook it, it’s easy to cook.

    Do you listen to any inspirational music before flying?

    No.

    Tell us a little about the training you had to undergo to become a pilot.

    I went to one of the best aviation schools in Africa (Ethiopian Aviation Academy), which gives several training types under Aviation, Cargo, Catering, Ground services, and Maintenance and Overhaul.

    After the recruitment, I joined the school for thorough theoretical, computer-based, simulator, and actual flight training and several aiding courses.

    It was one of the unforgettable experiences of my career.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Film & Culture: Is Hollywood Ready to Stop Stereotyping Africa?

    “Coming 2 America,” the sequel was released this week on Amazon Prime. "Coming To America set the tone [within mainstream Western cinema] for Black Panther with the African garments and the culture," says Gabrielle Tesfaye, a US director of Ethiopian and Jamaican heritage whose 2019 film Yene Fikir, Ethiopia (My Love, Ethiopia) was nominated for a Film Africa award. [People] want to see themselves within an imagined state of being that is also connected to truth, like Black Panther was. BBC (Paramount Pictures)

    BBC

    However, more broadly, Tesfaye believes that “Africa” is still constantly misunderstood and generalised about, in film and otherwise, because it remains such an unknown location to most Westerners. “Never seeing it for themselves,” she says, “they really don’t know how diverse it is. In the US it’s not as travelled [to] as Asia, South America or even Europe.”…The real answer, of course, is to look to African cinema itself. As Tesfaye says, “there’s a lot of films set in Africa by actual African filmmakers who are portraying their people in their country in such an amazing imaginative, empowering light.”

    — Ethiopian American director Gabrielle Tesfaye,

    The Eddie Murphy film Coming to America busted some clichés about the continent. But, as a sequel comes out, David Jesudason asks if Western cinema will more fully change its attitude.

    Released in 1988, Coming to America was a brash romantic comedy; a box-office juggernaut for Hollywood comic actor Eddie Murphy. But, despite its contrived plot and fairy-tale schmaltz, it was, in its own way, revolutionary.

    Still one of Murphy’s biggest successes, it told the story of Akeem Joffer, the prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, as he headed to the US to find a wife and avoid an arranged marriage. In the late 1980s, it was remarkable among mainstream Western films for its depiction of Zamunda: a wealthy African country that was entirely self-reliant, worlds away from the kind of downtrodden stereotypes found elsewhere. Now, as a sequel to the film, Coming 2 America, is released, 33 years on, it is astonishing to consider how little has changed. In the intervening years, only one other widely-watched US film has depicted an empowered African society in such a manner: Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), which again featured a fictional kingdom, Wakanda.


    Comedy sequel Coming 2 America sees Eddie Murphy’s King Akeem of Zamunda returning to the US in search of his heir (Jermaine Fowler) (Credit: Amazon Prime)

    Coming to America was only commissioned because of the star power Eddie Murphy commanded after a string of hits, including Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and 48 Hours (1982). He hired director John Landis through his own production company and fought with Paramount over the casting as the studio remained sceptical that a mainstream audience would accept a film with African characters. Only this week, Murphy revealed on the US chat show Jimmy Kimmel Live that he was told that “there has to be a white person in the movie”, resulting in the comedian Louie Anderson joining the black cast.

    How Coming to America changed the game

    After all, Western cinema has a long and continuing history of relegating Africans to the sidelines in films about Africa, using the continent as a backdrop for white characters’ journeys of self-discovery or moral reckoning, from The African Queen (1951) to Out of Africa (1985) to more modern thrillers like Blood Diamond (2006) and The Constant Gardener (2005). Or, if films have centred on African characters, they have done so predominantly in stories of distress and suffering, such as genocide dramas like Hotel Rwanda (2004) and Beasts of No Nation (2015).

    Coming to America set the tone [within mainstream Western cinema] for Black Panther – Gabrielle Tesfaye
    But Murphy was determined to depict Africans as rich, equal to white people and proud of their roots. He assembled a stellar, though wholly African-American, cast around him that included fledging black talent such as Arsenio Hall and Eriq La Salle alongside trailblazers James Earl Jones and John Amos.

    The film was so successful that, with a $288 million (£224 million) worldwide gross, it remains one of the most commercially successful movies ever to have a predominantly black cast (a record now held by Black Panther) and is still cherished today by many people of colour for its humour and its empowered characters. It certainly showed that global audiences wanted to see more stories about a different sort of Africa from that they were used to watching on screen.

    “Coming To America set the tone [within mainstream Western cinema] for Black Panther with the African garments and the culture,” says Gabrielle Tesfaye, a US director of Ethiopian and Jamaican heritage whose 2019 film Yene Fikir, Ethiopia (My Love, Ethiopia) was nominated for a Film Africa award. “It [was] the highest grossing [black] film because black people are craving that representation. They want to see themselves more than just working on a plantation. And they also want to see themselves within an imagined state of being that is also connected to truth, like Black Panther was. It was exciting for us and we deserve to have that type of content.”


    Black Panther subverted stereotypes by depicting a progressive African kingdom with strong roles for women (Alamy)

    Now, Coming 2 America’s plot centres not around the search for a wife, but instead for a new heir to Zamunda – Murphy’s Akeem, having returned to Zamunda and married New York love interest Lisa (Shari Headley) at the end of the first film, is now king, but tradition states that the crown should be passed to a son and he only has daughters. However, he discovers that he does have a male successor, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), who was the result of a one-night stand that took place when Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Hall) visited New York in the first film. (Facial de-aging technology is used to depict this time in flashbacks). The contrived plot enables more back and forth between continents than in the first film, which was mostly set in the US, with Akeem visiting the Big Apple before returning with his newfound son back to the royal court in Zamunda.

    The persistent problem of generalisation

    Part of the fun of the New York section of the sequel, set as before in the borough of Queens, is to see the effect gentrification has on proceedings. But fans of the original can breathe a sigh of relief as the Queens’ My-T-Sharp barbershop has somehow withstood market forces and barber Clarence (one of the many characters played by Murphy) is still in situ arguing about boxing with Jewish customer Saul (also Murphy). What also hasn’t changed in the intervening decades, however, is the Queens’ contingent of characters retrograde attitudes to “Africa”: they still refer to it as a homogeneous entity and again a lot of humour is derived from their assumptions about the continent. For example, when the Zamundan court servants are commanded to clean and bathe the US visitors, it is accepted as an “African” custom by them.

    It’s open to debate how to interpret these jokes: on one hand, they may seem to exploit cheap stereotypes, but says Tesfaye, the perception of Africa as a monolith arguably accurately reflects part of the African-American psyche when it comes to the continent. “For the black diaspora,” Tesfaye says, “Africa becomes just one word for an entire continent. It’s important to understand that people who are a part of the history of the transatlantic slave trade don’t know where in Africa they are from. And that’s why the word Africa is a vague thing for them, because they don’t know.”

    Africa is often depicted as monolithic. And I do not think there is any excuse for any filmmaker to treat the African continent in this way – Lindiwe Dovey
    However, more broadly, Tesfaye believes that “Africa” is still constantly misunderstood and generalised about, in film and otherwise, because it remains such an unknown location to most Westerners. “Never seeing it for themselves,” she says, “they really don’t know how diverse it is. In the US it’s not as travelled [to] as Asia, South America or even Europe.” This ignorance is evidently what the two films in the Coming to America franchise are playing on, lampooning people’s prejudices about this “mysterious” continent.

    And yet are they simply indulging in such “othering” themselves? It is perhaps telling that, unlike Black Panther, Coming 2 America, like its prequel, was entirely shot in the US, with Zamunda’s palace actually being rapper Rick Ross’s mansion in Georgia. Lindiwe Dovey, professor of film at SOAS University of London, where she runs the African Screen Worlds project, believes that such inauthentic, generalised depictions are indefensible in 2021. “Africa is often depicted as monolithic,” she says. “And I do not think there is any excuse for any filmmaker to treat the African continent in this way.”


    Beyoncé’s recent film Black is King is an epic visual and musical celebration of African cultures (Alamy)

    As well as spending more time in “Africa” than in the first film, Coming 2 America also boasts stronger female roles and actors native to the continent, such as Nomzamo Mbatha and Trevor Noah, who were both born in South Africa. Meanwhile the writing team (which this time includes an African-American writer, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, alongside the original white screenwriters, Barry W Blaustein, and David Sheffield) have obviously tried to give Zamunda more depth by including more details of the African society and how it’s governed. Unfortunately, these details paint the kingdom as a regressive one, in which women can’t own businesses and male-only royalty is obligatory. “It sounds as though Zamunda could come to stand in for ‘Africa’ as a homogenous entity,” says Dovey, “And I worry that such ideas will simply translate into the re-confirmation of stereotypes about the African continent that aren’t true.”

    More progressive portrayals

    By contrast, Black Panther did deal with these kinds of stereotypes head on, and subvert them, by depicting Wakanda as a progressive kingdom that had strong roles for women in its hierarchy. Wakanda could also not be construed as standing-in for the whole of Africa. Rather, it is a nation whose rulers have cut it off from the rest of the continent, while also pretending to the outside world that it is poor to prevent other countries stealing its stocks of the precious mineral vibranium – another comment on Western expectations. At the same time, unlike Zamunda’s Akeem, its ruler king T’Challa, aka the titular superhero, understands Western countries and views himself as a global player.

    Another notable recent attempt to buck stereotypes about Africa was Beyoncé’s film Black is King (2020) a visual companion to her soundtrack for the 2019 reboot of The Lion King. The film slickly employs the best talent from many different countries in Africa – including Ghanaian director Blitz Bazawule – to weave together an epic musical celebrating black identity and female empowerment, specifically, and serves as a manifesto for black Americans to recover their heritage.

    However, Black Panther and Black is King are both allegorical fantasies, leading to the question: where can you find inspiring representations of Africa in a real-life setting?

    It’s worth mentioning Queen of Katwe (2016), about the real-life Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, that featured an all-black cast including Lupita Nyong’o and was directed by Indian-American film-maker Mira Nair. Sadly, unlike Black Panther and Black is King, this feelgood movie did not gain much global traction.

    The real answer, of course, is to look to African cinema itself. As Tesfaye says, “there’s a lot of films set in Africa by actual African filmmakers who are portraying their people in their country in such an amazing imaginative, empowering light.”

    And if the profile given to African cinema on an international platform is still paltry compared to what it deserves, then things might be changing with the advent of streaming services that allow for the wider distribution of great new films from the continent such as Ghanaian works The Burial of Kojo (directed by Bazawule) and Azali, Nigeria’s The Delivery Boy and Senegal’s Atlantique, all on Netflix. Also positive is the broadening of Oscar voting membership to include more African members, including last year, Nigerian-born actor, film director and writer Akin Omotoso and Atlantique’s French-Senegalese director Mati Diop. With such steps taking place to amplify African filmmakers’ voices, the hope is that broad-brush misrepresentations of the continent can become a relic of the past.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Ethiopian Employees of International Media Held in Tigray Released

    “All journalists and translators have been released without charges,” Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray’s interim administration, told Reuters. (Getty Images)

    Reuters

    By Reuters Staff

    Ethiopia frees workers with foreign media detained in Tigray, official says

    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Four Ethiopians working with foreign journalists in the northern Tigray region have been released without charges, an official and media outlets said on Wednesday.

    A reporter for the BBC’s Tigrinya language service, Girmay Gebru, two translators with Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times, and a journalist working with the New York Times were detained in recent days, their outlets said.

    “All journalists and translators have been released without charges,” Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray’s interim administration, told Reuters.

    The BBC confirmed Girmay’s release in a tweet, while AFP and the New York Times also confirmed in emails to Reuters that those working with them had been freed.

    “We are pleased that the local journalist we had worked with was released and that no charges were filed,” said the New York Times’ communications vice-president Danielle Rhoades Ha.

    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen sweeping reforms since taking office in 2018, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets and release of dozens of journalists.

    However, rights groups say press freedom has suffered during outbreaks of violence including in Tigray, where thousands have died in fighting since last year between federal troops and the former local ruling party.

    Watchdogs reported the arrests of at least 13 journalists in Ethiopia last year, including Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu who was held without charge for 12 days.

    Abiy’s government declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after its forces withdrew from major cities and towns at the end of November.

    However, low-level fighting has continued in parts.

    UPDATE: U.S. Deploys Diaster Response Team to Tigray, Urges End of Hostilities


    The USAID team will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The press release said: “The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.” The U.S. is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia, having given more than $652 million last year alone. (Photo: USAID Headquarters in D.C./Shutterstock.com)

    Press Release

    Office of Press Relations: press@usaid.gov

    USAID DEPLOYS DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM TO RESPOND TO HUMANITARIAN NEEDS IN TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to respond to growing humanitarian needs stemming from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. After nearly four months of fighting between armed groups, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than four million people are in need of food assistance.

    USAID’s DART will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.

    Since the outbreak of conflict, USAID’s partners have been pivoting existing programs to provide life-saving assistance in the few areas of Tigray that can be reached. While USAID has been working with partners to overcome many access challenges, an estimated 80 percent of Tigray remains cut off from assistance.

    The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia and is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia. In FY 2020, the U.S. provided more than $652 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to acute food needs, conflict-driven displacement, flooding, a desert locust infestation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    U.S. Urges Ethiopia to End Hostilities in Tigray

    By Reuters

    Published March 2, 2021

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday pressed the leader od Ethiopia to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region, citing a “growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”

    In a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Mr. Blinken pushed for Ethiopia to withdraw outside forces from Tigray, and for an immediate end to the violence, according to a State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

    The Biden administration is seeking an end to what it describes as a deepening humanitarian crisis. It was the second time in less than a week that Mr. Blinken cited reports of atrocities in the region.

    “The secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” Mr. Price said in a statement Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, he said, “We strongly condemn the killings, the forced removals and displacement, the sexual assaults, and other human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have now reported.”

    Mr. Blinken also asked that Mr. Abiy allow independent international investigations.

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, Billene Seyoum, pointed to a statement made late last month in which Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called American attempts to intervene in its internal affairs “regrettable.”

    The statement said that Ethiopia’s government took its responsibility for the safety, security, and well-being of all citizens “very seriously” and that it was “fully committed to undertake thorough investigations” into reports of abused.

    But it added the government had a duty to hold the nation together in the face of “treasonous and divisive forces.”

    The Ethiopians military ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the regional capital in November, after what it described as a surprise assault on its forces in Tigray.

    Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine around the region of more than five million people.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Responds to U.S. Criticism Over Tigray


    People receive services from a mobile health and nutrition clinic in Freweyni town, north of Mekele, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Zerihun Sewunet/UNICEF via AP)

    The Associated Press

    Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

    Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

    In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

    Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

    The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

    “Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

    No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

    Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

    Related:

    Ethiopia slams US for urging pullout of Amhara forces


    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.” (Anadolu Agency)

    AA

    Addis Getachew Tadesse

    Forces from Amhara region were on frontlines of law enforcement operations against Tigray rebels last November

    ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government on Monday lashed out at the US for demanding the withdrawal of forces from the region of Amhara in the country’s northernmost Tigray region.

    Force from the Amhara region were on the frontlines of law enforcement operations launched against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November after the group’s deadly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

    On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a statement saying that Amhara and the neighboring country of Eritrea need to pull their troops out of the Tigray region.

    The US remarks followed a report by Amnesty International that hundreds of civilians were shot dead in the town of Axum in Tigray — a report that alleged the involvement of Eritrean forces in the killings, which, if proved, could amount to crimes against humanity.

    “[The] attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically the reference to the Amhara regional forces’ redeployment is regrettable,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which, as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” it said.

    It added: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    The Horn of Africa country said it would investigate the alleged killings and other human rights abuses in Tigray.

    Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


    Children playing in front a house in the Tigray region that was damaged in fighting in December. (Getty Images)

    The New York Times

    Updated: Feb. 27, 2021

    An internal U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally — posing President Biden’s first major test in Africa.

    Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

    The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for…

    On Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

    Read the full article at nytimes.com »

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Ethiopia Premier Launches Campaign to Support Tigray


    “In an online meeting held this afternoon [Thursday, February 18th 2021], Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister. (AA)

    AA

    By Addis Getachew

    Updated: February 18th 2021

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian prime minister and regional authorities have launched a campaign to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the restive Tigray region.

    “In an online meeting held this [Thursday] afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister.

    “The solidarity initiative aims at mobilizing the contribution of regions and federal institutions as well as other stakeholders in supporting humanitarian efforts underway, in addition to food and non-food items to be directed to the people of Tigray,” it said.

    It added that “the regional presidents also pledged direct support to strengthen the provisional administration to carry out public service delivery duties.”

    Vehicles, various equipment, input seeds for farmers, ambulances, medicines, and monetary support were pledged by each region and would be handed over to the provisional administration within the coming days.

    “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further called upon all sections of society to make whatever contributions they can towards the #RebuildTigray solidarity initiative,” the statement noted.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the federal government launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters were either neutralized or captured.

    Although the prime minister declared the military operations were over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between the government forces and fighters loyal to TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been reported to have become internally displaced and in dire need of emergency assistance.

    The international media have been kept out of the scene, making it difficult to give total pictures of the humanitarian tribulations and suffering in an objective and impartial manner.

    An Addis Ababa resident with relatives living in Tigray told Anadolu Agency, asking to remain anonymous, that humanitarian assistance in support of suffering civilians has not been sufficient.

    Last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission revealed that 108 rape cases were reported in two months across the region.

    Related:

    UPDATE: UN Ethiopia Tweeted ‘Progress’ on Humanitarian Front in Tigray

    UN, Ethiopia Strike a Deal Over Aid Workers’ Access to Tigray

    ANALYSIS: In Ethiopia’s Digital Battle Over the Tigray Region, Facts Are Casualties

    UPDATE: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Message to the World on the Situation in Ethiopia

    Doctors Without Borders on the Humanitarian Crisis

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: US Deploys Diaster Response Team to Tigray, Ethiopia Answers Criticism

    The USAID team will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The press release said: "The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict." The U.S. is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia, having given more than $652 million last year alone. (Photo: USAID Headquarters in D.C./Shutterstock.com)

    Press Release

    Office of Press Relations: press@usaid.gov

    USAID DEPLOYS DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM TO RESPOND TO HUMANITARIAN NEEDS IN TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to respond to growing humanitarian needs stemming from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. After nearly four months of fighting between armed groups, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than four million people are in need of food assistance.

    USAID’s DART will lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response. The team includes disaster experts who are assessing the situation, identifying priority needs to scale up assistance, and working with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities affected by the conflict.

    Since the outbreak of conflict, USAID’s partners have been pivoting existing programs to provide life-saving assistance in the few areas of Tigray that can be reached. While USAID has been working with partners to overcome many access challenges, an estimated 80 percent of Tigray remains cut off from assistance.

    The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia and is the largest humanitarian donor in Ethiopia. In FY 2020, the U.S. provided more than $652 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to acute food needs, conflict-driven displacement, flooding, a desert locust infestation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    U.S. Urges Ethiopia to End Hostilities in Tigray

    By Reuters

    Published March 2, 2021

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday pressed the leader od Ethiopia to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region, citing a “growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”

    In a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Mr. Blinken pushed for Ethiopia to withdraw outside forces from Tigray, and for an immediate end to the violence, according to a State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

    The Biden administration is seeking an end to what it describes as a deepening humanitarian crisis. It was the second time in less than a week that Mr. Blinken cited reports of atrocities in the region.

    “The secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” Mr. Price said in a statement Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, he said, “We strongly condemn the killings, the forced removals and displacement, the sexual assaults, and other human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have now reported.”

    Mr. Blinken also asked that Mr. Abiy allow independent international investigations.

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, Billene Seyoum, pointed to a statement made late last month in which Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called American attempts to intervene in its internal affairs “regrettable.”

    The statement said that Ethiopia’s government took its responsibility for the safety, security, and well-being of all citizens “very seriously” and that it was “fully committed to undertake thorough investigations” into reports of abused.

    But it added the government had a duty to hold the nation together in the face of “treasonous and divisive forces.”

    The Ethiopians military ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the regional capital in November, after what it described as a surprise assault on its forces in Tigray.

    Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine around the region of more than five million people.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Responds to U.S. Criticism Over Tigray


    People receive services from a mobile health and nutrition clinic in Freweyni town, north of Mekele, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Zerihun Sewunet/UNICEF via AP)

    The Associated Press

    Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

    Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

    In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

    Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

    The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

    “Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

    No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

    Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

    Related:

    Ethiopia slams US for urging pullout of Amhara forces


    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.” (Anadolu Agency)

    AA

    Addis Getachew Tadesse

    Forces from Amhara region were on frontlines of law enforcement operations against Tigray rebels last November

    ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government on Monday lashed out at the US for demanding the withdrawal of forces from the region of Amhara in the country’s northernmost Tigray region.

    Force from the Amhara region were on the frontlines of law enforcement operations launched against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November after the group’s deadly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

    On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a statement saying that Amhara and the neighboring country of Eritrea need to pull their troops out of the Tigray region.

    The US remarks followed a report by Amnesty International that hundreds of civilians were shot dead in the town of Axum in Tigray — a report that alleged the involvement of Eritrean forces in the killings, which, if proved, could amount to crimes against humanity.

    “[The] attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically the reference to the Amhara regional forces’ redeployment is regrettable,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which, as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” it said.

    It added: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    The Horn of Africa country said it would investigate the alleged killings and other human rights abuses in Tigray.

    Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


    Children playing in front a house in the Tigray region that was damaged in fighting in December. (Getty Images)

    The New York Times

    Updated: Feb. 27, 2021

    An internal U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally — posing President Biden’s first major test in Africa.

    Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

    The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for…

    On Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

    Read the full article at nytimes.com »

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Ethiopia Premier Launches Campaign to Support Tigray


    “In an online meeting held this afternoon [Thursday, February 18th 2021], Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister. (AA)

    AA

    By Addis Getachew

    Updated: February 18th 2021

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian prime minister and regional authorities have launched a campaign to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the restive Tigray region.

    “In an online meeting held this [Thursday] afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister.

    “The solidarity initiative aims at mobilizing the contribution of regions and federal institutions as well as other stakeholders in supporting humanitarian efforts underway, in addition to food and non-food items to be directed to the people of Tigray,” it said.

    It added that “the regional presidents also pledged direct support to strengthen the provisional administration to carry out public service delivery duties.”

    Vehicles, various equipment, input seeds for farmers, ambulances, medicines, and monetary support were pledged by each region and would be handed over to the provisional administration within the coming days.

    “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further called upon all sections of society to make whatever contributions they can towards the #RebuildTigray solidarity initiative,” the statement noted.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the federal government launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters were either neutralized or captured.

    Although the prime minister declared the military operations were over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between the government forces and fighters loyal to TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been reported to have become internally displaced and in dire need of emergency assistance.

    The international media have been kept out of the scene, making it difficult to give total pictures of the humanitarian tribulations and suffering in an objective and impartial manner.

    An Addis Ababa resident with relatives living in Tigray told Anadolu Agency, asking to remain anonymous, that humanitarian assistance in support of suffering civilians has not been sufficient.

    Last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission revealed that 108 rape cases were reported in two months across the region.

    Related:

    UPDATE: UN Ethiopia Tweeted ‘Progress’ on Humanitarian Front in Tigray

    UN, Ethiopia Strike a Deal Over Aid Workers’ Access to Tigray

    ANALYSIS: In Ethiopia’s Digital Battle Over the Tigray Region, Facts Are Casualties

    UPDATE: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Message to the World on the Situation in Ethiopia

    Doctors Without Borders on the Humanitarian Crisis

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Ethiopia Election: Board Calls for Civil Society & Media Proposals to Host Debates

    The announcement noted that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is inviting "expression of interest" from public associations and the press, either as a group or individually, indicating their plans and capacity to host the national event. (Image via @NEBEthiopia/Twitter)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: March 2nd, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) – This past weekend in Ethiopia the Election Board said it’s calling on media and civil society organizations to help host debates in advance of the country’s upcoming general elections.

    The announcement noted that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is inviting “expression of interest” from public associations and the press, either as a group or individually, indicating their plans and capacity to host the national event.

    In a social media post on Saturday NEBE shared that once it has confirmed all the participating candidates and opposition parties it would like to organize debates among the registered contestants in collaboration with non-governmental civilian organizations.

    The press release emphasized that the proposal from the public should include “transparent objectives, mode of engagement, code of conduct, number of debates, method of selecting participants and moderators, the language in which the debates will be conducted, plans for public broadcasting,” as well as “budget and source of funding.” The board added that it will work in setting up the debates but it will not cover expenses.

    The Ethiopia election, which was originally scheduled for last year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been re-scheduled for June 2021.

    Related:

    UPDATE: Carter Center Battles Online Misinformation Ahead of Ethiopia Elections


    “Social media has offered us a means to organize, networking, and expressing ourselves safely, easily and cheaply,” democracy activist Befeqadu Hailu explained to VOA during a Skype interview from his office in Addis Ababa. “But on the other hand, the political organizations and political groups are using social media in an organized manner so they can disseminate any information in the interest of their political advantage, so that is manipulating their followers.” (VOA News)

    VOA News

    Updated: February 26th, 2021

    CHICAGO – As Ethiopia prepares for parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in June, the contest to win the hearts and minds of voters is already under way on social media, which democracy activist Befeqadu Hailu is closely watching.

    “Social media has offered us a means to organize, networking, and expressing ourselves safely, easily and cheaply,” he explained to VOA during a Skype interview from his office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “But on the other hand, the political organizations and political groups are using social media in an organized manner so they can disseminate any information in the interest of their political advantage, so that is manipulating their followers.”

    Ethiopian elections come as unrest flares in its northern Tigray region, where ethnic and political tensions are exploited online. Facebook is the dominant social media platform in the country, although less than 20% of the overall population has internet access.

    “People disseminate whatever they hear on social media through mouth-to-mouth communication,” Hailu explained.

    In October 2019, a disputed Facebook post by a well-known Ethiopian media figure went viral, prompting outrage that led to violence and the deaths of almost 80 people in the Oromia region. The killing of a popular singer in Addis Ababa in 2020 also triggered a wave of posts on the social media site, followed by violence in the capital and beyond.

    As national elections approach and social media use expands, Hailu said his country is ripe for online disinformation campaigns that could lead to further bloodshed.

    “They disseminate ethnic biases, hatred and prejudices so they might instigate conflict in ethnic clashes and political clashes. So, this is of concern to us,” Hailu said.

    “We work with partners to flag activity that could potentially thwart participation, exacerbate tensions or contribute to unwarranted perceptions that the voting process or the outcome are illegitimate,” said Michael Baldassaro, senior adviser with the Carter Center’s digital threats monitoring team, a relatively new program in the organization’s global democracy and peace initiatives.

    Baldassaro, who spoke to VOA via Skype, said with internet access increasing in many emerging democracies, use of social media is changing the ways candidates and voters interact.

    It is also changing how the global nonprofit Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, assesses elections.

    “We typically do this work in environments that are characterized by deep political polarization where citizens distrust government institutions or election authorities to varying degrees, and their primary sources of media are either unprofessional or hyper-partisan, or both,” Baldassaro explained.

    “We find in these environments that people turn to social media, where they find themselves in echo chambers, and encounter bias-confirming content — a good portion of which is false and misleading or demonizes those with different perspectives or beliefs.”

    The Carter Center, together with partners in countries where they are monitoring elections, not only flag dangerous online activity, but press tech companies to act.

    “If that information is indeed false, we might relate that to Facebook and the human rights policy team or to our counterparts in the country office to take action,” said Baldassaro. “Maybe at that point, they might take action to either downrank or deplatform that content all together. We want to be able to mitigate potential harms in real time.”

    Hailu’s Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) is one of several organizations in Ethiopia monitoring and acting on potential harmful online activity.

    “We try to identify those profiles who are repeatedly disseminating false information and demand or advocate for the social media platforms to remove that content as soon as possible,” he said.

    In a 2020 report, the United Nations outlined the dangers in Ethiopia of unmoderated content on Facebook. The tech giant said it is increasing content moderation staff in Africa, but Hailu said there are many challenges monitoring and moderating enormous amounts of content in different languages from different locations, including from diaspora communities outside the continent.

    “It requires the efforts of multiple organizations and multiple stakeholders,” he told VOA.

    With Carter Center support, CARD has expanded its mission beyond Amharic-only language content in Ethiopia.

    “We are also now observing at least three local languages,” Hailu said.

    But Hailu admits it is still an enormous task monitoring users and content that increases daily, reaching audiences in dozens of different languages or dialects throughout Ethiopia.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Ethiopia Responds to U.S. Criticism Over Tigray

    People receive services from a mobile health and nutrition clinic in Freweyni town, north of Mekele, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Zerihun Sewunet/UNICEF via AP)

    The Associated Press

    Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

    Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

    In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

    Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

    The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

    “Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

    No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

    Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

    Related:

    Ethiopia slams US for urging pullout of Amhara forces


    The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.” (Anadolu Agency)

    AA

    Addis Getachew Tadesse

    Forces from Amhara region were on frontlines of law enforcement operations against Tigray rebels last November

    ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government on Monday lashed out at the US for demanding the withdrawal of forces from the region of Amhara in the country’s northernmost Tigray region.

    Force from the Amhara region were on the frontlines of law enforcement operations launched against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November after the group’s deadly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

    On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a statement saying that Amhara and the neighboring country of Eritrea need to pull their troops out of the Tigray region.

    The US remarks followed a report by Amnesty International that hundreds of civilians were shot dead in the town of Axum in Tigray — a report that alleged the involvement of Eritrean forces in the killings, which, if proved, could amount to crimes against humanity.

    “[The] attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically the reference to the Amhara regional forces’ redeployment is regrettable,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which, as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” it said.

    It added: “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

    The Horn of Africa country said it would investigate the alleged killings and other human rights abuses in Tigray.

    Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


    Children playing in front a house in the Tigray region that was damaged in fighting in December. (Getty Images)

    The New York Times

    Updated: Feb. 27, 2021

    An internal U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally — posing President Biden’s first major test in Africa.

    Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

    The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for…

    On Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

    Read the full article at nytimes.com »

    Related:

    UPDATE: In Ethiopia Premier Launches Campaign to Support Tigray


    “In an online meeting held this afternoon [Thursday, February 18th 2021], Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister. (AA)

    AA

    By Addis Getachew

    Updated: February 18th 2021

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian prime minister and regional authorities have launched a campaign to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the restive Tigray region.

    “In an online meeting held this [Thursday] afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the regional presidents, and city administrators launched a solidarity initiative for the Tigray Regional Provisional Administration and the people of the region,” said a statement by the office of the prime minister.

    “The solidarity initiative aims at mobilizing the contribution of regions and federal institutions as well as other stakeholders in supporting humanitarian efforts underway, in addition to food and non-food items to be directed to the people of Tigray,” it said.

    It added that “the regional presidents also pledged direct support to strengthen the provisional administration to carry out public service delivery duties.”

    Vehicles, various equipment, input seeds for farmers, ambulances, medicines, and monetary support were pledged by each region and would be handed over to the provisional administration within the coming days.

    “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further called upon all sections of society to make whatever contributions they can towards the #RebuildTigray solidarity initiative,” the statement noted.

    On Nov. 3, 2020, the now-outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its special forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military hardware.

    The following day, the federal government launched what has been dubbed as a large-scale law enforcement operation in Tigray in which the TPLF was largely defeated and some of its top leaders and fighters were either neutralized or captured.

    Although the prime minister declared the military operations were over on Nov. 28, there have been sporadic clashes between the government forces and fighters loyal to TPLF.

    More than 60,000 Ethiopians fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan while international organizations have been calling for scaled-up humanitarian assistance in the region for civilians affected by the conflict.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been reported to have become internally displaced and in dire need of emergency assistance.

    The international media have been kept out of the scene, making it difficult to give total pictures of the humanitarian tribulations and suffering in an objective and impartial manner.

    An Addis Ababa resident with relatives living in Tigray told Anadolu Agency, asking to remain anonymous, that humanitarian assistance in support of suffering civilians has not been sufficient.

    Last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission revealed that 108 rape cases were reported in two months across the region.

    Related:

    UPDATE: UN Ethiopia Tweeted ‘Progress’ on Humanitarian Front in Tigray

    UN, Ethiopia Strike a Deal Over Aid Workers’ Access to Tigray

    ANALYSIS: In Ethiopia’s Digital Battle Over the Tigray Region, Facts Are Casualties

    UPDATE: PM Abiy Ahmed’s Message to the World on the Situation in Ethiopia

    Doctors Without Borders on the Humanitarian Crisis

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: In Court Filing Ethiopia 737 MAX Crash Lawyers ask Boeing CEO to Testify

    Families have called for testimony from Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, his predecessor [Dennis Muilenburg, pictured above] and other current and former employees as part of their legal case in Chicago, court documents show. (Reuters)

    Reuters

    Relatives of victims of a Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia that occurred five months after an Indonesian Lion Air disaster are stepping up pressure on the American planemaker and the federal government, according to a court filing and a letter to U.S. lawmakers.

    Families have called for testimony from Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, his predecessor and other current and former employees as part of their legal case in Chicago, court documents show.

    Separately, the families urged lawmakers in letter to demand that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration turn over internal emails and documents spanning the Lion Air crash and one month after the Ethiopian crash. Together, 346 people died.

    The letter was sent to members of the House and Senate transportation committees on Friday, including committee head Representative Peter DeFazio and aviation subcommittee chair Representative Rick Larsen.

    A Congressional official said: “I can confirm that this week Chairs DeFazio and Larsen re-upped their request to DOT (Department of Transportation) for FAA records that have gone unfulfilled to date.”

    A Senate report in December detailed lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It found that FAA leaders obstructed that report as well as a DOT watchdog review of the regulator’s oversight, the results of which were released on Wednesday.

    “There is serious unfinished business,” the families said in the letter, reviewed by Reuters.

    Boeing has mostly settled civil litigation stemming from the Lion Air crash, but still faces over 100 lawsuits in Chicago federal court related to the second crash.

    The plaintiffs’ lawyers are focusing on what Boeing knew about the causes of the first crash and why the plane continued to fly. They want to schedule depositions of Calhoun and Muilenburg between May 3 and June 18.

    Those victims’ families also want to know what FAA management, which in November lifted a 20-month safety ban of the MAX, understood about the first crash.

    Boeing’s board faces a separate investor lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court, where a complaint unsealed this month alleged breach of fiduciary duties and gross negligence by failing “to monitor the safety of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes.”

    Last month, Boeing reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department over the 737 MAX crashes, including a $243.6 million fine.

    Related:

    Boeing Reaches $2.5 Billion Settlement in 737 MAX Crashes in Ethiopia & Indonesia


    Ethiopian officials deliver the Black Box for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to the headquarters of France’s BEA air accident investigation agency in Le Bourget, France on March 14, 2019. As NPR reports the families of the passengers who died in the crash will be compensated from a fund of $500 million. (Reuters photo)

    NPR

    Updated: January 7th, 2021

    Boeing To Pay $2.5 Billion Over 737 Max Fraud, Faces No Other Charges

    Boeing will pay more than $2.5 billion to settle criminal charges that it repeatedly concealed and lied about the 737 Max’s engineering problems that led to two catastrophic crashes claiming hundreds of lives.

    The company admitted to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States as part of the deferred prosecution agreement announced on Thursday and will face no further charges from the U.S. Department of Justice.

    “Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception,” Acting Assistant Attorney General David Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, wrote in a statement.

    Boeing, which is the country’s second-biggest defense contractor behind Lockheed Martin, will pay the DOJ a criminal penalty of $243.6 million.

    The families and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passenger victims who died in the Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia five months later will be paid from a fund of $500 million. If split equally among them, that amounts to a little over $1.4 million for each family.

    The vast majority of the settlement is allocated for airline companies that had purchased the faulty 737 Max aircraft and were subsequently forced to ground the planes following the crashes. Together they will receive $1.77 billion in compensation for their financial losses, according to the DOJ.

    “The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers,” Burns added in the statement.

    In both cases, the crashes were caused by changes to the jet’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that forced the nose of the 737 Max toward the ground and left pilots unable to control the planes.

    In a note to employees, Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun said, “I firmly believe that entering into this resolution is the right thing for us to do—a step that appropriately acknowledges how we fell short of our values and expectations.”

    He added: “This resolution is a serious reminder to all of us of how critical our obligation of transparency to regulators is, and the consequences that our company can face if any one of us falls short of those expectations.”

    Internal Boeing documents revealed during a U.S.House panel’s inquiry showed that engineers notified the company of the MCAS “egregious” problems as early as 2016.

    Related:

    Ethiopian Report Blames Boeing for 737 MAX Plane Crash

    Boeing to Stop 737 Max Production (AP)

    Internal FAA review saw high risk of 737 MAX crashes

    Boeing Was Aware of 737 Max Problem Long Before Ethiopia Crash – Report

    Boeing CEO Apologizes to Victims of Ethiopia, Indonesia Crashes

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

    Read Excerpt From Ethiopia Crash Report

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

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

    Watch: Ethiopia Releases 737 Max Preliminary Crash Report

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Biden Discusses Crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region With Kenyan Leader – White House

    Getty Images

    Reuters

    Biden Discusses Crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region With Kenyan Leader -White House

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, in a call with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, discussed the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the White House said.

    Biden and Kenyatta “discussed the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the need to prevent further loss of life and ensure humanitarian access,” the White House said in a statement.

    The United States has expressed concern over the crisis in Tigray, where the Ethiopian government has claimed victory over a rebellious regional government in a conflict that began in November.

    Related:

    VOA News: US Restoration of Foreign Aid to Ethiopia Signals New Course


    Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S. Fitsum Arega celebrated the move, saying the GERD has the potential to provide electricity to 60 million people and lift them out of poverty. (Photo via Reuters)

    Voice of America

    By Salem Solomon

    WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s reversal of policy that foreign aid to Ethiopia will not be linked to its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) hydropower project signals a decided change in U.S. relations with Ethiopia, analysts say.

    “It is a fairly predictable move, as the Trump administration aid freeze had not achieved anything other than further antagonizing the Ethiopians,” William Davison, International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Ethiopia told VOA.

    Former President Donald Trump cut $100 million in aid to Ethiopia in September 2020 saying it would be withheld until the country agreed to a deal following a mediation effort led by U.S. Treasury Department and the World Bank.

    The relationship further deteriorated when Trump said Egypt would “end up blowing up the dam” during a conference call. This resulted in Ethiopia’s foreign minister summoning the U.S. ambassador in Addis Ababa and calling the comments an “incitement of war” between Ethiopia and Egypt.

    U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the total amount of aid to Ethiopia affected by the pause was $270 million. He told reporters last week that the U.S. is reviewing the paused aid money to ensure it goes where it is needed most.

    “We are committed to providing life-saving assistance to those in need, and humanitarian assistance does remain exempt from the pause,” Price said.

    Price added that the U.S. will try to play a constructive role in ongoing discussions between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over Nile River water usage issues.

    “We understand the GERD is a major issue for the three parties,” he said. “We’re reviewing our GERD policy and assessing the role that we can play in facilitating a solution between those parties.”

    Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S. Fitsum Arega celebrated the move, saying the GERD has the potential to provide electricity to 60 million people and lift them out of poverty.

    “GERD is fully financed by Ethiopians & it represents the Ethiopian renaissance!” Fitsum wrote in a tweet. “It is a sustainable socio-economic project replacing fossil fuels & reducing CO2 emissions. It’ll significantly contribute to the economic & social dev’t of Ethiopia & the region. De-linking GERD is good!”

    Negotiations between the three Nile River countries hit an impasse over how quickly Ethiopia would fill the dam’s reservoir and what mechanisms would be put in place to stop the filling in the event of drought or water level drops.

    “It’s certainly a stop-start process, and I think one of the dynamics that recurs is that the parties come together, and they stitch together something, which is more of a kind of political agreement than it is any sort of technical or legal agreement,” analyst Davison said. “And of course, when you have a political agreement that opens up whatever text they’ve agreed on four different interpretations.”

    Egypt relies on the Nile for roughly 90 percent of its fresh water and is concerned that the dam and its reservoir, with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, will diminish its water supply. Egypt has warned that it could lose about 22 percent of its water flow making thousands of acres of farmland unusable.

    In July, as negotiations were ongoing, Ethiopia began filling the dam leading to angry denunciations from Egyptian leaders.

    Ethiopia has said it will fill the dam over four to seven years.

    Mirette Mabrouk, director of the Egypt program at the Middle East Institute, said there is a disagreement between the parties over whether Ethiopia has the right to unilaterally begin filling the dam.

    “The very, very least one would expect that the negotiations would be over before Ethiopia started filling unilaterally,” she said. “Ethiopia has always said it has always maintained that it does not need the agreement of Egypt and Sudan to start filling. That’s directly contradicted by Egypt and Sudan, who say that the 2015 Declaration of Principles agreement signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan specifically says that shouldn’t have unilateral action on the filling.”

    Mabrouk said tensions remain high between the countries, but she does not think a military confrontation is inevitable.

    “Nobody wants that kind of conflict,” she said. “But I do think that if Egypt and Sudan have their backs up against the wall, it may be a final option. But Egypt understands very, very well that any military option is really not going to be in anyone’s favor.”

    Related:

    UPDATE: US to Unlink Trump Era Aid Cut to Ethiopia From GERD, Plans Special Envoy for Horn of Africa


    Ethiopians were furious after former President Donald Trump last year directed the suspension of aid to their country in a rare example of his direct involvement in an African issue. Ethiopia had left a U.S.-led attempt to mediate the dispute with Egypt, alleging bias. Trump also caused an uproar by saying downstream Egypt would “blow up” the dam project that Cairo considers an existential threat. – AP (Getty Images)

    Reuters

    Updated: February 18th, 2021

    US to Unlink Paused Ethiopian Aid from Dam Policy

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department on Friday said Washington will unlink its pause on some aid to Ethiopia from its policy on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam that sparked a long-running dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

    U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that President Joe Biden’s administration will review U.S. policy on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and will assess the role the administration can play in facilitating a solution between the countries.

    Filling started in July

    A bitter dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the filling and operation of the dam remains unresolved even after the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.

    “We continue to support collaborative and constructive efforts by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to reach an agreement on the GERD,” Price said.

    The temporary pause on certain U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia affects $272 million in development and security assistance to Ethiopia, Price said, adding that the resumption of assistance will be assessed on a number of factors and that the decision has been shared with Addis Ababa.

    Among the factors assessed will be “whether each paused program remains appropriate and timely in light of developments in Ethiopia that occurred subsequent to the pause being put in place,” a State Department spokesperson said.

    Trouble in Tigray region

    The United States has expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the central government has claimed victory over a rebellious regional government in a conflict that began in November.

    Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind the dam after the summer rains last year despite demands from Egypt and Sudan that it should first reach a binding agreement on the dam’s operation.

    Egypt views the dam as a major threat to its fresh water supplies, more than 90% of which come from the Nile. The Blue Nile flows north into Sudan then Egypt and is the Nile’s main tributary.

    Aid cut to Ethiopia

    Ethiopia says the dam is crucial to its economic development.

    Then-U.S. President Donald Trump said Ethiopia had broken a U.S.-brokered agreement to resolve the dispute, forcing him to cut funds. The United States cut $100 million in aid to Ethiopia in September.

    Ethiopia in October summoned the U.S. ambassador over what it called an “incitement of war” between Ethiopia and Egypt from Trump over their dispute.

    Related:

    US: Aid pause to Ethiopia no longer linked to dam dispute (AP)

    Biden Mulls Special Envoy for Horn of Africa (FP)


    The post, if created, would bring more diplomatic firepower to the brewing crisis in Ethiopia as members of Biden’s cabinet and other senior State Department nominees await confirmation. (Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to staff during the first visit of President Joe Biden to the State Department in Washington on Feb. 4./ GETTY IMAGES)

    Foreign Policy Magazine

    Updated: February 17th,2021

    This article is part of Foreign Policy’s ongoing coverage of U.S. President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, detailing key administration policies as they get drafted—and the people who will put them into practice.

    The Biden administration is weighing plans to establish a new special envoy for the Horn of Africa to address political instability and conflict in the East African region, including a brewing civil war and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, current and former officials familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy.

    The new special envoy post could fill a diplomatic leadership gap in the administration’s foreign-policy ranks as it works to install other senior officials in the State Department, a process that could take weeks or even months to complete, as they require presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. Special envoy posts do not require Senate confirmation.

    A new Horn of Africa envoy would have their work cut out for them: Sudan is undergoing a delicate political transition after three decades under a dictatorship, South Sudan is wracked by chronic instability and corruption, and the fragile government of Somalia is grappling with ongoing threats from the al-Shabab terrorist group and political gridlock that has delayed national elections. An ongoing dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over a major dam project adds another layer of complexity to the tensions in the region.

    The most pressing crisis in the eyes of many U.S. policymakers, however, is in Ethiopia. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military campaign against the ruling party in the country’s northern Tigray region, after accusing it of attacking a government military base. Conflict has ravaged the region since then, marked by thousands of deaths, millions in need of humanitarian assistance, and widespread reports of interethnic violence. U.S. officials fear that the conflict could turn into a full-blown regional crisis, with turmoil spilling over into neighboring Eritrea and Sudan.

    While officials cautioned no final decision has yet been made, one top contender for the potential job is Donald Booth, a seasoned diplomatic troubleshooter in the region who currently serves as U.S. special envoy for Sudan and has previously served as U.S. ambassador to Liberia, Zambia, and Ethiopia.

    Some experts welcomed more attention to the Horn of Africa but cautioned against the new administration relying too heavily on special envoy posts. “I don’t want us to get back into the practice of throwing special envoys at every problem set. It often saps the State Department’s resources and authorities in ways that aren’t productive,” said Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, and a former senior U.S. intelligence analyst. “But in this case, it is urgent, and there aren’t enough senior people in the region.”

    With less than a month in office, President Joe Biden doesn’t yet have his full cabinet in place, let alone many senior posts across the State Department that require Senate confirmation. Biden has yet to name a nominee for the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, and the U.S. ambassador posts in Eritrea and Sudan are unfilled, held in an acting capacity by lower-ranking diplomats. The next U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, Geeta Pasi, is expected to arrive at her post shortly.

    A State Department spokesperson did not confirm the administration was set on creating the new special envoy post when asked for comment. “Africa is a priority for the Biden-Harris administration, and we are committed to re-invigorating our relationships throughout Africa from a position of mutual respect and partnership. This includes deepening our engagement on the challenging issues present in the Horn of Africa,” the spokesperson said. “Senior-level engagement on a consistent basis will be a signal of our commitment. The Administration is actively considering a range of options to ensure that our staffing, including any use of Special Envoys, supports implementation of our strategy.”

    One big question would be whether the new special envoy post would report directly to the president or secretary of state, or to the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. The former would be viewed as more empowered to negotiate on behalf of Washington, with a direct line to the president or his cabinet.

    Some administration insiders have also floated the idea of tapping a former senior U.S. lawmaker for the job, arguing someone with political clout could engage directly with senior African leaders, including Ethiopia’s Abiy. (Biden has eyed former Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake for a senior diplomatic post, such as an ambassadorship in South Africa or Europe, according to Axios.)

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    UPDATE: Carter Center Battles Online Misinformation Ahead of Ethiopia Elections

    “Social media has offered us a means to organize, networking, and expressing ourselves safely, easily and cheaply,” democracy activist Befeqadu Hailu explained to VOA during a Skype interview from his office in Addis Ababa. “But on the other hand, the political organizations and political groups are using social media in an organized manner so they can disseminate any information in the interest of their political advantage, so that is manipulating their followers.” (VOA News)

    VOA News

    CHICAGO – As Ethiopia prepares for parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in June, the contest to win the hearts and minds of voters is already under way on social media, which democracy activist Befeqadu Hailu is closely watching.

    “Social media has offered us a means to organize, networking, and expressing ourselves safely, easily and cheaply,” he explained to VOA during a Skype interview from his office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “But on the other hand, the political organizations and political groups are using social media in an organized manner so they can disseminate any information in the interest of their political advantage, so that is manipulating their followers.”

    Ethiopian elections come as unrest flares in its northern Tigray region, where ethnic and political tensions are exploited online. Facebook is the dominant social media platform in the country, although less than 20% of the overall population has internet access.

    “People disseminate whatever they hear on social media through mouth-to-mouth communication,” Hailu explained.

    In October 2019, a disputed Facebook post by a well-known Ethiopian media figure went viral, prompting outrage that led to violence and the deaths of almost 80 people in the Oromia region. The killing of a popular singer in Addis Ababa in 2020 also triggered a wave of posts on the social media site, followed by violence in the capital and beyond.

    As national elections approach and social media use expands, Hailu said his country is ripe for online disinformation campaigns that could lead to further bloodshed.

    “They disseminate ethnic biases, hatred and prejudices so they might instigate conflict in ethnic clashes and political clashes. So, this is of concern to us,” Hailu said.

    “We work with partners to flag activity that could potentially thwart participation, exacerbate tensions or contribute to unwarranted perceptions that the voting process or the outcome are illegitimate,” said Michael Baldassaro, senior adviser with the Carter Center’s digital threats monitoring team, a relatively new program in the organization’s global democracy and peace initiatives.

    Baldassaro, who spoke to VOA via Skype, said with internet access increasing in many emerging democracies, use of social media is changing the ways candidates and voters interact.

    It is also changing how the global nonprofit Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, assesses elections.

    “We typically do this work in environments that are characterized by deep political polarization where citizens distrust government institutions or election authorities to varying degrees, and their primary sources of media are either unprofessional or hyper-partisan, or both,” Baldassaro explained.

    “We find in these environments that people turn to social media, where they find themselves in echo chambers, and encounter bias-confirming content — a good portion of which is false and misleading or demonizes those with different perspectives or beliefs.”

    The Carter Center, together with partners in countries where they are monitoring elections, not only flag dangerous online activity, but press tech companies to act.

    “If that information is indeed false, we might relate that to Facebook and the human rights policy team or to our counterparts in the country office to take action,” said Baldassaro. “Maybe at that point, they might take action to either downrank or deplatform that content all together. We want to be able to mitigate potential harms in real time.”

    Hailu’s Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) is one of several organizations in Ethiopia monitoring and acting on potential harmful online activity.

    “We try to identify those profiles who are repeatedly disseminating false information and demand or advocate for the social media platforms to remove that content as soon as possible,” he said.

    In a 2020 report, the United Nations outlined the dangers in Ethiopia of unmoderated content on Facebook. The tech giant said it is increasing content moderation staff in Africa, but Hailu said there are many challenges monitoring and moderating enormous amounts of content in different languages from different locations, including from diaspora communities outside the continent.

    “It requires the efforts of multiple organizations and multiple stakeholders,” he told VOA.

    With Carter Center support, CARD has expanded its mission beyond Amharic-only language content in Ethiopia.

    “We are also now observing at least three local languages,” Hailu said.

    But Hailu admits it is still an enormous task monitoring users and content that increases daily, reaching audiences in dozens of different languages or dialects throughout Ethiopia.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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