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  • Ethiopia | Chris Smith: Ethiopia should acknowledge its challenges and seek reasonable solutions

    U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (D-NJ) on Thursday convened a hearing on the deteriorating conditions for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. Dozens of activists, mostly from the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, were packed into a small room at the Rayburn House building. Two expert witnesses and four Ethiopians testified and responded to questions posed by lawmakers.

    n his opening statement Smith criticized “a tradition of authoritarian rule” by a single party, which he said, “continues to strangle the advancement of democracy in Ethiopia.” His comments were critical and also noted the U.S. dilemma in engaging with the country. “Ethiopia has long been an important ally, providing effective peacekeepers and collaborating in the War on Terror,” said Smith. “However, increasingly repressive policies have diminished political space and threaten to radicalize not only the political opposition but also civil society by frustrating their ability to exercise their rights under law.”

    Unfortunately, said Smith, who chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, “there is a significant variance in how that government sees its actions and how the rest of the world sees them.” This quintessential Ethiopian contradiction was also echoed by the two expert witnesses: Felix Horne of the Human Rights Watch and Terrence Lyons, Associate Professor at George Mason University.

    Smith also noted that the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. had sent the committee a research conducted by a consulting firm, which aims to refute many of the allegations in the House Resolution 128, which he introduced in February.

    “Rather than spend hundreds of thousands on consultants to try to mislead Members of Congress on the facts and inciting e-mail form letter campaigns by supporters, the Government of Ethiopia can acknowledge their challenges and work with the U.S. government and others in the international community to seek reasonable solutions,” he said. “We are prepared to help once they are ready to face the ugly truth of what has happened and what continues to happen in Ethiopia today.”

    During the hearing, Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-Calif.) appeared to read from the “research” provided to the committee by the Ethiopian government in her questioning of the witnesses. Among other things, Bass asked about the “actual” number of seats in the 547 Ethiopian parliament that the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won in the May 2015 elections.

    Two new members of the committee, who also attended the hearing, raised concerns about post-EPRDF Ethiopia and warned against too much U.S. pressure vis-à-vis regime change that could create a political vacuum, pointing to the absence of a viable opposition in the country. Tom Suozzi of New York even used the analogy of “control vs. chaos,” suggesting Ethiopia’s instability would create yet another conflict hotspot and a refugee-producing nation.
    Witnesses
    Panel I
    Terrence Lyons, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor
    School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
    George Mason University
    [full text of statement]
    Mr. Felix Horne
    Senior Researcher
    Horn of Africa
    Human Rights Watch
    http://http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA16/20170309/105673/HHRG-115-FA16-Wstate-HorneF-20170309.pdf
    Panel II
    Ms. Seenaa Jimjimo
    President
    Coalition of Oromo Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy
    http://http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA16/20170309/105673/HHRG-115-FA16-Wstate-JimjimoS-20170309-U2.pdf
    Mr. Tewodrose Tirfe
    Co-Founder
    Amhara Association of America
    http://http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA16/20170309/105673/HHRG-115-FA16-Wstate-TirfeT-20170309.pdf
    Mr. Guya Abaguya Deki
    Representative
    Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition
    http://http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA16/20170309/105673/HHRG-115-FA16-Wstate-DekiG-20170309.pdf
    Mr. Yoseph Tafari
    Co-Founder
    Ethiopian Drought Relief Aid of Colorado
    [full text of statement]
    Source :opride

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  • Ethiopia: What is the meaning of “Moral High Ground” for Tedros Adhanom?

    What is the meaning of “Moral High Ground” for Tedros Adhanom? Is it moral hazard, bankruptcy or a mockery?

    “He who beats the dram for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself” African proverb, African wisdom (to all supporters of  the mad man).

    by Getahun Assefa G/YesusTedros Adhanom Hires US-based Firm to Win Top WHO Job

    The Graduate Institute of Geneva organized a “panel discussion” on Monday, 6 March 2017 . The panel consisted of the three contestants for the post of Director-General of the World health Organization (WHO): Tedros Adhanom  (Ethiopia),  Sania Nishtar (Pakistan) and David Nabarro  (United Kingdom) The event which was held in the Conference room of the Institute was moderated by the Financial Times’ columnist Andrew Hill. To the surprise and utter disappointment of many in the audience, the panel was not an open one and there was no real debate between and among the candidates..The three contestants came with a tacit agreement not to challenge one another. Moreover they were given questions in advance, which were purportedly collected through social media. My own random survey of those seated around me, shows that none (if not all) in the audience shared any of the question posed to the candidates or with the organizers in advance Therefore, the event in many ways, was a lost opportunity to publicly scrutinize the candidates in a truly open debates. What was the purpose of bringing the contestants together if they agreed not to challenge, question or interpret one another’s view? What was the purpose of organizing such an important event if the contestants are given advance questions to  make their prepared statements?

    The purpose of this article is not to complain about how disappointingly or unprofessionally the event was organized. Instead, it aims to challenge Tedros Adhanom’s declaration or statement on “Ethics” and “Moral High Ground”. Throughout the discussions he portrayed himself as someone who is determined to bring to the WHO “ethics” and “moral high ground”. No doubt that  these are shrill and ear- pursing  statements for anyone who knows Adhanom’s background and the atrocities he committed against Ethiopians of different ethnic identity from that of his own. These are noble notions but hearing them from Tedoros Adhanom can be troubling. It may give anyone familiar with the man,  stomachache, indigestion and vomit.

    Does Tedros Adhanom really know what ethics means? Does he really understand the meaning of “having or showing moral high ground”?

    In a literal meaning of the phrase to claim “the moral high ground” is to say that Adhanom  is morally better than someone else or his contestants (see Cambridge Dictionary). In substantive sense, “the moral high ground  in ethical or political parlance, refers to the status of being respected for remaining moral, and adhering to and upholding a universally recognized standard of justice or goodness[1]  Which of these noble features reflect Tedros Adhanom’s personality, character or actions? None of these attributes can be found either in Tedros Adhanm’s persona or the regime that he is part and has served for so long. Politically speaking, he was adopted, brought-up, inducted and educated by an ethnic junta, which represents 5 per cent of the Ethiopian population but bent on destroying the Ethiopian fabric and cleansing of the majority population of the country. When minority dominates the majority, when those in power cleans dominant ethnic groups, kill, maim, torture – these can be terminated as GENOCIDE, defined as “to have intent to destroy”, or “denial of the right of existence”. It is therefore a crime under international law whether the crime is committed on religious, ethnic, racial, political or any other grounds. It is despicable for those committing or have committed genocide in their own country, to speak about ethics and moral high ground internationally, unless  they are mentally challenged. .

    During the “couched panel discussions” on Monday (6 March),  Tedros Adhanom made bizarre and sickening statements. He referred,  time and again , to Aylan Kurdi – a Kerdish Toddler who was found dead off shore the  Mediterranean Sea on the wake of the refugee crisis in September 2015. Aylan’s death was heartbreaking for anyone with human soul, heart and brain. His terrible death will remain a dark spot on the 21st century and in the consciousness of the international community for many more years to come. However, using the name of the child that has been torturing the minds and spirits of any living soul  in modern times, not only is unethical but also immoral in itself. What Aylan’s circumstances have to do with WHO or the Director-General of the Organization.? His tragic death is a sign and symptom of mal-governance, arch dictatorship and ethnic cleansing in the lands where Aylan was born. As with Aylan millions of Ethiopian children died since the regime of Tedros Adhanom took power in Ethiopia in 1991. During the last 25 years,  when the ethnic junta  to which  Mr. Tedros Adhanm is a backbone and spine-doctor has been the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups- the two largest ethnic groups- were killed en mass in Ethiopia. That is, millions of Ethiopian children, women and men were killed, imprisoned, tortured and evicted from their ancestral lands by deliberate and mischievous policies of ethnic cleansing. Adhanom’s vow to bring ethics and moral high ground to the WHO shows a cognitive disorder and dissonance of the man. Simply put, it is either stupidity or sheer mockery.  Nothing less, nothing more!

    The following public records and findings of research outputs by repudiated international organizations substantiate the dismal failures of the autocratic regime of Ethiopia spin-doctored by Tedros Adhanom:

    • Hunger Game: Ethiopia suffers from malnutrition, famine and hunger in perpetuity. The root cause is not bad weather but the government’s use of land for political expediency and rationing of farm inputs on the basis of ethnic and political allegiance While Tedros Adhanom pledges to institute ethics in WHO and to have moral high ground, his government in Addis Ababa is using “mass starvation as a legitimate war of weapon”. It has been using food as coercive tool for political expediency since 1991. Currently, close to 20 million people are pushed to a verge of starvation, mainly due to the wrong policies of the government

    Lies and deception: Despite Adhanom’s ethnic junta’s repeated lies that Ethiopia has consistently registered double-digit economic growth for the last several years, the country is in pernicious environmental, political and socio-economic calamities. The most recent report (2015) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranked Ethiopia 174th out of 188 countries for which data were available. Among the poorest nations those ranked below Ethiopia are: (Niger:188th), Central African Republic (187th),  Chad (185th), Guinea Conakry(178th), Guinea Bissau (182), Sierra Leone (181st), Mali (179th), Burkina Faso (183rd) and Burundi (184th). All countries that scored as badly as Ethiopia are African countries mired by the combination of bad governance, despotism and civil strife or political conflict

    • Corruption, kickbacks and favoritism: Tedros Adhanom claims to have moral high ground. But the 2015 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International (global coalition against corruption) ranked 164 countries of the world. During the same year Ethiopia ranked 103rd. Any ranking (score) above 50 out of 100 reveals serious level of corruption. Thus Ethiopia is among the most corrupt nations in the world. The ranking is based on surveys of public opinion and experience with paying bribes or buying favours in the most “unfree” country of the world. Had the survey been carried out in conditions of free of fear from reprisal by the government, the results could have been much higher than currently recorded. http://www.transparency.org/country/#ETH’ Moreover, according to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research and advocacy think-thank, “corruption, kickbacks and bribery are on the rise in Ethiopia”. The recently published report of the GFI reveals that illicit financial flows out of Ethiopia (one of the poorest African nations) nearly doubled to US$3.26 Billion in 2009 over the previous year with corruption, kickbacks and bribery accounting for the vast majority of that increase. The findings of the think- thank are more troubling that “Ethiopia, which has a per-capita GDP of just US$365, lost US$11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009”.  http://www.gfintegrity.org/press-release/illicit-financial-outflows-ethiopia-nearly-doubled-2009-us3-26-bln-says-new-gfi-report/. The most recent report released by Global Financial Intelligence January (2016) revealed that $26 billion left the country unlawfully in many forms between 2004 and 2013  “with Ethiopia continuing to bleed an average of $2 billion every year”. The main culprits and offenders are the ruling party (TPLF) owned parastatals that are run by unhinged dictators in Addis Ababa where Adhanom is spin-doctor and henchman.
    • Disease as weapon of Ethnic cleansing: The Oromia and Amhara regions with a combined population of about 80 %  of the country’s total population,  are deliberately marginalized in health budget allocation. Aid budgets meant to fight diseases are used to send children of the members of the Junta to universities in Europe, North America and Fareast, including China. According to the WHO’S Africa office (WHO-AFRO),  in 2011 when Adhanom was the minister of health ,  75% of the land and 60% of the population is exposed to malaria in Ethiopia, although malaria admissions and deaths  marginally fell in the recent years (afro.who.int/en/ethiopia/country-programmes/topics/480-ethiopia-malaria.html). The National Malaria Guideline (3rd Edition) prepared b the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia in 2012, before the departure of Adhanom to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, states that “52 million people (68%) live in Malaria-risk areas”. The document further reveals that “Ethiopia is one of the most malaria- prone countries in Africa, with rates of morbidity and mortality increasing dramatically (i.e. 3.5 fold) during epidemics” (page 15) (for details see www.malariaconsortium.org. The same document alleges serious policy failures of the Government of Adhanom who was the Minister of Health  until 2013. It argues “Ethiopia faces many challenges related to human resources for healthcare, including the shortage of skilled health workers, high turnover and lack of retention of health professionals” (page 64). In addition to these challenges, the National Malaria Guideline stresses once again, “serious problems in coordinating health interventions and implementing partners” (page 65). Another document, assessing the country’s malaria epidemic, prepared by Aynalem Adugna accessible on www.EthioDemographyAndHealth.org reveals that “malaria is the number one health problem in Ethiopia with an average of 5 million cases a year and 9.5 million cases per year during 2001-2005 period”. The document further indicates that “the disease causes 70,000 deaths each year and accounts for 17% of outpatient visits, 15% of admissions and 29% of inpatient deaths” (page 3).
    • Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the USA claims that the main infectious diseases that are top killers in Ethiopia are: lower respiratory infection (10%), Diarrheal Diseases (8%), HIV/AIDS (7%), Tuberculosis (7%), Stroke (7%), Cancer (6%) , Ischemic Heart Disease (4%), and Preterm Birth Complications (3%)  (http://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/countries/ethiopia/. The remainder percentage of people are killed by  either by the regime or by injuries  and accidents including car accident where Ethiopia is ranked number one in the world.

    Champion of Genocide: Tedros Adhanom is a champion of genocide. He is not the champion of ethics. Nor is he someone with  moral high ground as he claimed. A recently released documentary by distinguished journalists and academic clearly prepared the ground for the possible trial of Tedros Adhanom and his regime at the International court of Justice for the genocide he and his regiome committed against Ethiopians at large.

     

     

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  • Don’t Make the State of Emergency Normal - Kebour Ghenna

     

    “Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government … doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety… It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.” - George Carlin

    The question that comes frequently about Ethiopia these days is whether the government will extend, or not, the soon to expire State of Emergency (SoE).

    But first, what does the SoE mean for Ethiopia and its citizens as they go about their daily lives?

    It’s hard to get a clear picture of what the SOE is for many people. Judging from the streets, it means peace and protected order. Indeed, the SoE brought an apparent calm and security to the country following last year’s unrest. Some initial steps to introduce democratic change and reform the functioning of the public sector have also been made. But any real political reform has not found either a midwife or a patron.

    This said, what people are conscious of is that the SoE still means that the government, at all levels, could crack down on virtually anyone at any time. It means that the authorities have been given a number of exceptional powers, including the right to limit the movement of people, set curfew, forbid mass gatherings, regulate the freedom of expression, assembly and various other citizen rights.

    The state of emergency also gives more powers to the security services and police, such as the right to conduct house searches at any time without judicial oversight, enforce house arrest and confiscate weapons, even if people hold them legally. In fact it’s no longer just the act of committing a crime or even the intention of doing so that is prosecuted. Merely belonging to a group that is considered terrorist by the government is sufficient for punishment.

    The concept of the SoE is nothing new to Ethiopia. In the late seventies the Derg enshrined it in its charter until its final days in power. The focus then was eliminating terrorists eager to dismember the country. Failed mission! Twenty years later we’re back at it, this time it’s about eradicating terrorists keen to do us, and the country, harm. So, here we are again doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

    So, what’s at stake in extending the SoE? You know the answer – people are satisfied with the status-quo.

    We are not particularly shocked by this, for it has long been apparent that our citizens are indifferent about politics only until something happens that might affect them personally.

    And yet, once upon a time in Ethiopia, there lived a nation of young citizens that showed tremendous interest in the state of their country’s well-being. With incredible zeal, these citizens worked tirelessly to correct any local, national or international issue that threatened them either as individuals or collectively, showing no fear and great resolve to march in the streets and demand justice or changes in the way the government functions.

    Today, that’s gone. Today Ethiopia is silent. It does not stand for any cause. Students, who were the vanguard of Ethiopia’s revolution in the sixties and seventies, are today replaced by students too busy chasing Birrs. Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms have become irrelevant to them. Citizens quietly observe EPRDF rulers dismantle the already fragile institutions guaranteeing democracy and popular participation using the SoE in the name of protecting these very same institutions. And yet, the SoE is precisely the instrument by means of which totalitarian authorities installed themselves in Europe in the 1920s and in Ethiopia in the seventies.

    Hitler’s first act (Megistu Haile Mariam followed the same line), after his nomination, was to proclaim a state of emergency that was never revoked. When one is surprised by the crimes that could be committed with impunity in Germany by the Nazis, it is forgotten that they were perfectly legal, because the country was subject to a state of exception and that individual freedoms had been suspended.

    Many would certainly argue that Ethiopia is not Germany, and that it’s impossible that a similar scenario can reproduce itself in Ethiopia… May be – if we want to ignore Mengistu’s regime!! But in a country that lives in a prolonged state of emergency, and in which police operations progressively replace judicial power, a rapid and irreversible degradation of public institutions must be expected.

    Back to the Derg regime for a moment – Remember this was a regime that perfected the maintenance of a generalized state of fear, the de-politicization of citizens and the renunciation of all legal certainty. Today some of us may feel secure in our little world and even technically feel free. In reality, however, we’re only as free as a government official may allow us to be. Can we really claim we live in a free country where all that we own, all that we earn, all that we say and do – our very lives – depends on the benevolence of government agents for whom power will always trump principle? Yet, by gagging the citizenry, by restricting the basic precepts of the constitution that allow people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just country, the government is deliberately (or not) stirring the pot, creating a climate in which violence becomes inevitable.

    We are at a crossroads. The world is at a crossroads. The SoE concept [in general] is not just a concern for the people of Ethiopia, but also a concern for the people of Europe (France and Turkey are currently under a SoE) and of the US, who had so carefully constructed the edifice of rights protection after the second world war and is now being dismantled. Attacks against privacy, civil rights, including habeas corpus are taking Europe and the US into a permanent state of emergency.

    What to do then?

    In truth, we the people should first understand what the SOE is and its long term implication on our lives and country, and then stand against it, because the SoE means unlawfulness and arbitrariness. It means not to be able to exercise and protect rights and freedoms. It means the disablement of parliament and putting aside the judicial protection and principle of rule of law when violations come into question. It means no inclusive participation in the affairs of the people and the state. All told, the state of emergency is rejection of democracy; it is a war policy and practice. That’s why it must be resisted.

    We say no to the state of emergency, the state of emergency must not be extended!

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  • Ethiopia: PG7 fighters attack prison freeing political prisoners

    A group of armed men on Thursday attacked a prison in north Gondar freeing political prisoners. Patriotic Ginbot 7, an armed group opposing the Ethiopian regime claimed responsibility for the attack.

    A representative who spoke to ESAT said they have killed two soldiers while four others have surrendered in the attack in Wegera district. The representative said they have also seized several weapons.

    Meanwhile, a fuel truck travelling from Sudan to Ethiopia came under attack in a place called Negade Bahir on the Ethiopian side of the border. Several fuel trucks were stranded following the attack.

    No party claimed responsibility for the ambush.

    There have been sporadic attack by self-organized armed groups and PG7 against regime forces in northern Ethiopia.

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  • Ethiopia: Arbitrary killings continue unabated, State Dep’t report says

    Ethiopian regime security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year in 2016, killing hundreds and injuring many more, the U.S. Department of State said in its annual report.

    Quoting Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2016 report the Department recalled  security forces killed more than 500 protesters. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained, the report said.

    According to the report, the most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.

    “There were numerous reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds,” the report said.

    “Mistreatment reportedly occurred at Maekelawi, official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. There were reports police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Interrogators reportedly administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees.”

    Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of political prisoners have continued in the year while hundreds, including children, have disappeared.

    The report also recalled that calls for an independent investigations into the atrocities were rejected by the regime

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  • Why Tensions Have Cooled between Ethiopia and Eritrea?

    The June 2016 border clash between Ethiopia and Eritrea reflected renewed tensions between the two countries that have been mutually hostile since their 1998 – 2000 war. Shortly after the clash, tensions escalated as Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalgn claimed further retaliation will be administered if “destabilizing efforts” continued, while Eritrea accused the Ethiopian administration of human rights abuses.

    However, recent developments are promoting a welcome de-escalation, reducing the likelihood of continued fighting.
    First, in July 2016, Ethiopia was elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member for the next two years. Considered the most powerful body of the UN, the UNSC can authorize military action, impose international sanctions, and mandate peace keeping operations. Ethiopia had been actively lobbying for the seat, not least because election enhances the prestige of the Addis government.

    Second, also early in July 2016, Eritrea allowed a consignment of food aid from the UN World Food Program (WFP) to transit its port of Massawa for humanitarian relief operations in South Sudan. The cargo was the first to pass through Eritrea’s port in a decade. WFP used Massawa to avoid the congested port in Djibouti, thereby accelerating the flow of aid to a humanitarian disaster area.
    Finally, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Commission) in June 2016 released a scathing report on Eritrea, detailing rampant human rights abuses by Asmara.

    Taken together, these three developments appear to have encouraged certain stabilization. Ethiopia had previously served on the UNSC in 1967 and 1989, well before the establishment of the current regime in 1993, now led by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The prime minister likely wants to avoid compromising his bolstered international reputation by instigating conflict with Asmara at the border. Ethiopia will take its seat on the UNSC in January 2017.

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  • Key U.S. Africa Ally Faces More Unrest After Scores Killed - Bloomberg

    Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamist militants in East Africa, faces the prospect of further unrest after a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations held by its two largest communities over the weekend that Amnesty International said left 97 people dead.

    Security forces opened fire on protesters in the country’s Amhara region, with the worst bloodshed in the northern city of Bahir Dar where at least 30 people were killed in a day, the London-based rights group said Monday. Deaths were reported in at least nine towns in the Oromia region, where demonstrations by Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group began in November, according to Amnesty. Communications Minister Getachew Reda acknowledged there’d been fatalities, without being specific, and said the protests were illegal.

    The unrest signals an increasing challenge to the government in Ethiopia, which the U.S. considers a bulwark in the Horn of Africa, a region troubled by failing states, and has used as a base for military drones. With Africa’s fastest-growing economy, Ethiopia is part of an internationally funded African force battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia and also has peacekeeping troops in South Sudan and Sudan.

    “This is a precarious time for the ruling party,” Michael Woldemariam, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University, said, citing the size and spread of the protests and the violence that has accompanied them.

    Farmer Evictions

    Under the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, security forces have killed more than 400 people and arrested tens of thousands in Oromia since protests began in November over the eviction of farmers for infrastructure and investment, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in June. Oromo complaints include the killings and arrests of demonstrators and federal control of the region’s security.

    The government is unlikely to change its strategy, according to Harry Verhoeven, who teaches African politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “Many inside the cabinet and security services fear reforms would encourage even more radical protests aiming to overthrow the regime,” he said by phone from Doha.

    The U.S. Embassy in the country on Monday expressed concern over the crackdown, urging the government to respect the rights of citizens to gather peacefully.

    ‘Excessive Force’

    Mulatu Gemechu, the deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, said that the government’s actions may worsen the violence. His organization said 86 Oromo protesters were killed by security forces on Aug. 6.

    “If the government goes on like this and uses excessive force, to defend themselves people will probably take another action,” he said by phone from the capital, Addis Ababa. No deaths were reported in that city, although videos show police beating protesters with batons in the main square, Amnesty said.

    More : http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-10/key-u-s-africa-ally-faces-further-unrest-after-scores-killed

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  • As political repression intensifies, peace and stability become more elusive in Ethiopia -

    The year 2016 was one of the most climactic in recent history of Ethiopia. After two decades of political repression and economic exclusion, millions of citizens across the four corners of the country decided to engage in a peaceful rebellion demanding fundamental change in the country. Tragically, but not unexpectedly, the TPLF/EPRDF-led regime decided to use brute force against peaceful demonstrators, killing hundreds and throwing into jail tens of thousands who still languish in identified and unidentified prisons scattered across the country.

    The suffocating political environment, exacerbated by economic marginalization and exclusion, has created a social atmosphere of hopelessness and desperation for the majority of citizens.
    The recent grenade attack and explosions in the northern cities of Bahr Dar and Gonder demonstrate that the people of Ethiopia are being pushed to the limit by the regime supposed to serve and protect them. The relentless brutally deadly measures being taken by forces loyal to the regime has created a situation where people are resorting to self-defense and resistance, at times taking desperate measures as seen recently in the two northern cities.

    In the context of the brutal political, economic and social atmosphere, it is understandable that some groups might resort to such acts out of desperation. Ultimately, however, the people of Ethiopia and all concerned parties must hold the regime responsible for its institutional violence that continues to brutalize and alienate citizens, driving them to engage in desperate acts.
    Conflicts, as the world has been witnessing in various countries, have their own dynamics, at times going in unfathomable and tragically abysmal directions. They start small, sporadic and scattered, subsequently they grow and intensify, costing lives and enormous destruction. The main catalyst for an unfortunate yet avoidable catastrophe is repression, oppression, and exclusion which leaves citizens with no choice but defend themselves and their families from neo-totalitarian minority regime brutality. This is what we are seeing in Syria and what we have observed across the Middle East and North Africa in recent years.

    The reality is that durable peace cannot be maintained through a state of emergency and other forms of repressive measures. The only way towards sustainable and just peace is democracy, the supremacy of the rule of law and freedom for all citizens. Anything short of these fundamental changes and democratic dispensations could only be described as “pressure cooker” stability that is secured using brute force. History tells that the peace and stability that result from authoritarian rule are not only short lived but also dangerous.

    The regime has a well-established record, not only violating citizen’s fundamental rights, but disregarding the sanctity of human life. As such, it is plausible that these kinds of irresponsible attacks on civilian targets could be the works of the regime itself to sow suspicion and mistrust among and between various communities.

    All concerned parties, especially the international community, must take note of the progression of conflict and the deteriorating peace and security situation in Ethiopia under the veneer of a false sense of stability the leaders of the TPLF regime proclaim. In the absence of free and independent media, both national and international information on what is happening around the country and beneath the surface is hard to come by. However, citizen reporting and alternative media outlets are describing the deteriorating security situation in various parts of the country.

    The people of Ethiopia are at the edges. Ethiopia as a multi-ethnic, multi–religious nation is at crossroads. The Ethiopian people can no longer endure the institutional repression they have tolerated for the past 25 years. The time has come to usher in a peaceful transition. And the time is now. The alternative which the international community should be cognizant about is we will only see more violence and destruction born out of desperation and hopelessness under the current under the current brutal minority regime. The international community must learn lessons from ongoing conflicts elsewhere, witnessing the broad repercussions for the security, and stability of the Horn of Africa region.

    The Patriotic Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy unambiguously opposes any attack on civilian targets. Our movement, while committed to transitioning Ethiopia to an inclusive democratic system of governance, takes all the necessary steps and precautions to protect the safety of the civilian population. Furthermore, we condemn in the strongest terms the government’s irresponsible action targeting civilians and demand it to immediately stop this heinous practice. We also demand all other concerned parties to take all precautionary measures that protects the safety of the civilian population

    It is imperative that the Western countries re-evaluate their relationship with the regime, and begin to build relationships with pro-democracy organizations and support their endeavors to move the country toward democracy, stability and just peace.

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  • New drought risks in Ethiopia may jeopardize recovery efforts -FAO

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new drought across parts of southern Ethiopia may put recovery efforts at risk, unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas.

    In a statement released on Tuesday, pastoral communities in these regions could suffer consequences of last year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, already witnessing forage shortfalls and water scarcity.

    Safeguarding recent gains requires responding to the livelihood-sustaining needs of fragile households that lost or sold livestock and other assets, to cope with the worst El Niño in modern history.

    The organization is now calling for an immediate response to support the food security and nutrition of households relying on animals, along with the provision of supplementary animal feed, especially along migratory routes.

    Targeted de-stocking interventions will be implemented to make protein-rich meat available for vulnerable pastoral communities.

    80 percent of the Ethiopian population depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods and an even higher share of the country’s arable land relies on seasonal rainfall.

     

     

     

    Source : africanews

     

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  • Analysis: Inside the controversial EFFORT - Addis Standard

    By Oman Uliah, Special to Addis Standard  

    Every authoritarian regime has its own symbol of economic exploitations and monopoly either in an individual face or in an organizational mask.

    Ethiopia, despite its success in persuading its western allies that it is combating poverty using its fast economic growth and democratization, remained to be one of the poorest and most closed countries where a group of few individuals control vast economic shares and absolute political power. Unlike many other authoritarian regimes, the most dominant ruling elite group in Ethiopia has a complex behavior in that it claims to represent a minority ethnic group from the northern part of the country, Tigray. In response it has gotten a relatively overwhelming legitimacy among the people of Tigray as compared to other regions; or at least many people, including myself, believe it receives better legitimacy only in that specific region.

    Moreover, this elite group has established a chain of several multi-billion dollar worth business firms under a home-grown umbrella called EFFORT, ‘Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray’, which was originally established to serve a harmless looking purpose of  ‘rehabilitating’ Tigray, a war-torn region deprived of a fair chance to prosper during decades of successive regimes. In the past 25 years of TPLF’s dominated political rule in Ethiopia, therefore, EFFORT has emerged as one of the leading economic powerhouses in the name of ‘rehabilitating’ the region.

     What is in the name?

    On the surface, EFFORT is an umbrella company for a group of businesses which are involved in major industrial activities in Ethiopia, such as banking and insurance, import and export, media and communication, construction, agribusiness, and mining, among others.

    Having started with an initial capital of around US$100 million, EFFORT’s worth has now reached more than a staggering US$3 billion in paid capital, creating more than 47,000 employment opportunities.

    EFFORT companies were first registered as private share companies owned by some of the top leaders of TPLF. Later on, however, the companies were re-registered as “endowment” companies whose profits will not be divided to individuals, according to the 1960 Ethiopian civil code. However, top officials of the TPLF, the most powerful member of Ethiopia’s ruling party EPRDF, remained as the CEOs and GMs of these companies; and some of whom reportedly own small shares designed to motivate them in helping EFFORT stay competitive.

    ‘The original sin’: How did TPLF accumulate its wealth?

     EFFORT’s official profile claims it was established by using seed money from the liquidated amount of capital of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accumulated during Ethiopia’s 17 years civil war of the militarist Derg regime to establish these companies.

    In 2008, Aregawi Berhe, a former veteran of TPLF who later on left the party, did his Ph.D. dissertation on The Political History of TPLF’ for Vrije Universteit in Amsterdam, somehow corroborates the story. In his account of the party’s earliest times, Aregawi wrote about one of the first successful operations that the then guerilla fighters ever had: ‘Axum Operation’. It is a military operation that succeeded in raiding a police garrison and a bank in the historic city of Axum in the north during which the TPLF fighters made away with “substantial amounts of arms and ammunition and 175,000 birr (US$ 84,000)”, according to Aregawi.

    Having started by raiding public banks, members of the TPLF continued to accumulate wealth and went on to dominate the contested use of ‘aid money’ for political purposes before the party came to control power in 1991. TPLF had also founded the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a humanitarian wing, during the civil war. “By June 1985,” wrote Aregawi Berhe, “REST had received more than US$100 million from donors in the name of saving famine victims. [… however] the late Meles [Zenawi’s] proposal for the allocation of the relief aid money was as follows: 50% for MLLT [Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray] consolidation, 45% for TPLF activities and 5% for the famine victims.” Predictably, Aregawi’s claim, especially that of aid money allocations, has been vehemently denied by the current TPLF leaders.

    Gebru Asrat, another former TPLF veteran who later on established an opposition political party Arena Tigray, has briefly raised this issue in his book, ‘Lualawinet Ena Democracy beEthiopia’, (Sovereignty and Democracy in Ethiopia), and said that the guerilla fighters used to get a lot of money in foreign aid and; ‘it was up to the TPLF [leadership] to allocate which money goes where.” Gebru neither confirmed nor denied Aregawi’s claim that aid money was used for political purposes. If anything, he is of the view that it is impossible to make such allegations.

    However, legally questionable ways of accumulating wealth seemed to have continued within the party even after it took control of state power. Ermias Legesse, a former Communication State Minister, who is now in exile, has recently published his second book, ‘Yemeles Leqaqit’, in which he raised multiple controversial points against the establishment and functions of EFFORT.

    In Chapter six of this 565 pages book, Ermias tells several stories on how EFFORT used to get its finances unfairly from the Ethiopian state and how it transferred it to its own account. Ermias went an extra mile to display a letter written in 1994 and was signed by the then Prime Minister, Tamrat Layne, demanding the Addis Abeba Health bureau to refund TPLF’s medical expenses of the civil war time. The money requested amounted to more than four million birr (almost 67% of the city’s annual budget at that time), but the total amount paid by the Ministry of Health was actually 17 million birr. Ermias also wrote that the medicines that TPLF had distributed to  the locals during the civil war, for which it had requested a refund, was actually robbed by the guerilla fighters from public pharmacies. The money that was paid back in such a bizarre demand by the then Prime Minister was put in TPLF’s accounts.

    Of continued sins & controversies

    Companies that are currently under the umbrella of EFFORT were originally established as PLCs having a few members of TPLF leaders as shareholders. Later on, in August 1995, they were re-registered as ‘endowment’ companies and still remained under the umbrella of EFFORT.

    The re-registration of these PLCs as ‘endowment’ companies was done to justify that these companies were established using the money donated by the shareholders of the preceding PLCs, which in itself portrays a picture that EFFORT, as a conglomerate of these companies, did not use public money to be established. According to the Ethiopian civil code, endowment companies are legally prohibited from distributing their profits to individuals. This fact effectively obscures the few individuals controlling these companies behind a party cover.

    In 2004, the Amharic version of the ‘Ethiopian Reporter’, a bi-weekly newspaper owned by a former member of the TPLF rebel group, published series of stories concerning EFFORT and its debt in public banks, including the controversial cancellation of the debt. (The copies of these publications are annexed in the latest book of Ermias Legesse, referred above.)

    According to this series of publication, EFFORT had borrowed 1.7 billion birr from the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) which later on has risen to 1.8 billion birr debt including the interests. First, CBE officials have denied and said that ‘they did not loan money to EFFORT’. But later on CBE had transferred the debts to yet another state-owned bank, Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE), for ‘better management’. Finally, DBE reported that the amount of money loaned to EFFORT was ‘none performing’ loan. Ermias claims that the CBE had loaned EFFORT the money with no collateral in the first place. The following year it was reported that DBE, the bank that took over the loan for “better management” was facing a bankruptcy of some 3.5 billion birr; certainly not exclusively attributable to the loan provided to EFFORT, but due in a significant part to it.

    The other controversy surrounding EFFORT lies in the manner in which its businesses affiliates operate. Its leaders claim that their extreme obedience to the rule of law and their refusal to bribe local officials often poses a great challenge to their operations, disadvantaging their businesses. However, EFFORT companies are generally known to enjoy a great deal of support from officials. A good example to prove this is a rare ruling by a federal court on the 19th December 2012. The federal First instance court at Lideta ruled that one of EFFORT’s companies, Mega Entertainment Center, which was led by the widow of the late PM Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin, has been running its business in a fraudulent manner by reporting more expenses than the actual and without paying value-added taxes collected from its customers during the preceding eight years.

    But the secrecy of most of these companies is such that details like this come to the public’s knowledge only when there is disagreement between stakeholders; this time, it was between Azeb and another management member of Mega, Eqoubay Berhe.

    Still, just what is EFFORT?

    According to a letter by former US ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, which was one of the Wikileaks documents, Ex-TPLF veteran Seyee Abraha (who later on fell from favor and was subsequently jailed for corruption) was quoted as saying the objectives of EFFORT during its foundation were “to study, and then establish profitable companies that use locally-available resources and provide employment [opportunities] for Tigray.” In this sense, EFFORT, even though it also gets raw materials from and markets its end products to other regions in Ethiopia, mostly (though not exclusively) hires Tigrians.

    In principle, its profit should be used to rehabilitate the region. However, many Tigrians despair the fact that the “Endowment” is merely used by a few corrupt TPLF elites to enrich themselves. Former veteran and ex-president of the Tigray region for a decade, Gebru Asrat, in his book mentioned above admitted that the “endowment” was being exploited by a few TPLF top leaders; he suggested that there must be ways of diverting EFFORT’s profits/wealth to the people of Tigray as the endowment belongs to the Tigrians. His suggestion indicates a return, once again, of the endowment to a share company in which as many individuals could become shareholders. Many Tigrian pro-democracy activists agree with Gebru Asrat’s suggestions.

    What do ‘others’ own?

    Without a doubt, other regions of Ethiopia have also suffered significant social and economic devastations during the 17 years civil war before it ended in 1991. Military expenditure was Ethiopia’s biggest expense during the entire rule of the militarist Derg regime. Suffice to say, therefore, other regions also needed ‘endowments’ of their own.

    It seemed it was in response to this concern that TPLF ‘provided’ seed money for other rehabilitation funds.  In Oromia regional state is Dinsho endowment, which was established in 1992 and was renamed Tumsa Endowment for Development of Oromia in 2001. It is led by top officials of the OPDO, the party representing the region within the EPRDF coalition. In Amhara regional state is ‘TIRET’, first established in 1995 and went on to incorporate several pre-existing companies. TIRET is led by senior officials of ANDM, the party representing the region within the ruling EPRDF. And in Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) is WENDO trading, which was established in 1994 and is led by senior officials of SEPDM, the party representing the region within the ruling EPRDF.

    Seyee Abraha has admitted: “TPLF gave a portion of its capital to each of the three parties within the EPRDF to establish their own endowment funds”. However, the combined numbers of companies run by these three ‘endowments’ are less than twenty; whereas at least 24 companies are listed under EFFORT; (some put these numbers as high as 380). The nature of secrecy surrounding this delicate matter means one may never find out the real figures.

    Nonetheless, the three “endowments” run by OPDO, ANDM and SEPDM were supposed to create employment opportunities for more than 80% of Ethiopia’s population as compared to EFFORT’s targeting of 6% of Ethiopians in Tigray regional state.

    According to a research titled ‘Rethinking Business and Politics in Ethiopia’, published in 2011 by Sarah Vaughan and Mesfin Gebremichael, “[TIRET] companies employ only 2,800 staff, as compared with the more 14,000 permanent employees or 34,000 contract staff of EFFORT and its companies.” And the poorest regional states of Ethiopia, namely, the Somali, Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella regions do not have ‘endowment companies’ of their own to help them rehabilitate their respective regions, although they are politically administered by EPRDF’s sister parties.

    What’s not and what’s owned by EFFORT?

    There is a big deal of confusion in identifying EFFORT’s business complexities. Selam Bus Share Company is a good example. Established in 1996, 99.6% of this interregional transport service providing company share is held by Tigray Development Association (TDA); the rest is held by individuals. Although Selam Bus board members, as are EFFORT companies’ board members, are members of the TPLF, EFFORT has no registered share in Selam Bus. However, Selam Bus is a company many people name first when asked to list EFFORT’s businesses. This blurry ownership status is perhaps one of the reasons why Selam Buses were targeted by the last year’s widespread public protesters in Oromia and Amhara regions.

    Dejennna Endowment is another example. Established to ‘help promote development in Tigray,’ on the surface Dejenna Endowment is a part of the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). There are 11 companies listed under Dejenna Endowment in its website. In 2009, Dejenna has merged with EFFORT following the appointment of Azeb Mesfin, widow of the late Meles Zenawi, as head of the later. Companies under EFFORT usually hold shares in one another’s companies so that one pulls up when another fails. However, until today little is known about the merger of EFFORT and Dejenna. Besides, the information on the official websites of the two endowments mis-inform readers as if the two are independent of one another. But, some of the companies that are known to be under EFFORT are actually listed as the properties of Dejenna endowment.

    The Sheger vs Mekelle narrative

    By now, keen observers of the relationship between politics and business in Ethiopia can safely assume that business and politics in Ethiopia are radically divided into two major narratives in defining and perceiving the current TPLF dominated regime. I call these narratives ‘the Sheger narrative’ – a political narrative that is mostly advocated from here in the capital Addis Abeba, and ‘the Mekelle narrative’ – usually advocated by the people in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray regional state, home to the all too powerful members of TPLF.

    However, both narratives go beyond these respective centers depending on whose political view is solicited. The two narratives are only thoughts that do have majority acceptance in their respective centers. ‘The Sheger narrative’ (the most popular one) considers the TPLF dominated administration as a total failure that holds power by force; whereas ‘the Mekelle narrative’ generally sympathizes with the regime and considers it as a legitimate administration, albeit admitting some of its fault lines mostly due to the corrupt practices of some of its leaders.

    This definition makes it clear how and why Tigrians (in most cases driven by ‘the Mekelle narrative’) and non-Tigrians (driven by ‘the Sheger narrative’) view the relationship between TPLF and EFFORT differently.

    Tigrian pro-democracy activists’ criticism of EFFORT can be clearly seen by how they react to the manner in which former leaders of TPLF, who were expelled during the party’s infamous split in 2001, view EFFORT. Former top leaders of TPLF, Seyee Abraha, as we read him on wikileaks documents, and Gebru Asrat, from his book, both criticize EFFORT’s management. Both regret EFFORT’s failure to rehabilitate Tigray as was stipulated in its foundational principles. However, both believe the people of Tigray are the rightful owners of these ‘endowment’ companies under EFFORT.

    On the contrary, most non-Tigrian activists and politicians disown EFFORT and also the rest of ‘endowments’ that are being manipulated by EPRDF leaders. Lidetu Ayalew, former leader of the opposition Ethiopian Democratic Party, and Dr. Berhanu Nega, current leader of the outlawed Ginbot 7, both condemned EFFORT as a party business that monopolized the economy, and both concluded the “endowments” should be dissolved or privatized. Similarly, many other activists want to (and sometimes advocate) boycotting EFFORT services and products to stop TPLF’s hegemonic march.

    In the same manner, Tigrian activists claim other home grown charity organizations operating in Tigray, namely REST and TDA, are used to create grassroots networks to dictate the people of Tigray become loyalists of the TPLF, whereas non-Tigrian activists, such as Ermias Legesse, disagree and say these organizations are replicas of EFFORT to simply promote disproportionate social development of Tigrians at the cost of others.

    This leads us to conclude that ‘the Mekelle narrative’ generally portrays EFFORT as an organization that rightfully belongs to the ‘Tigrian people’ which is unfortunately being exploited by few members of the top management for personal gains. ‘The Sheger narrative’, on the other hand, defines EFFORT as ‘a tool to exploit the wealth of Ethiopian people and create economic monopoly for the benefit of a [small] group’.

     The red line

    What is indisputable is speaking truth in a country governed by the TPLF dominated EPRDF is always a dangerous exercise; speaking the truth about EFFORT is even more dangerous. A tax controller from Adama, 100kms south east of Addis Abeba, who is now in Qilinto prison on the southern outskirt of Addis Abeba suspected of ‘corruption’ has recently told me that ‘EFFORT trucks were known to be untouchables on their way to and from Djibouti port’. Similarly, investigating companies under EFFORT is normally a red line no journalist in Ethiopia would like to cross, contributing to the secrecy of the ins and outs of the giant umbrella.

    Concealed in this intimidating rubble are crucial facts about EFFORT such as details on tax returns. That is why this article cannot be taken as an exhaustive look into the functions of EFFORT and its affiliates, but just the tip of the iceberg to demonstrate in part some facts about the economic exploitations of the authoritarian regime currently governing Ethiopia.

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