MELDUNGEN VOM JANUAR 2018
26.1.2018 UN Humanitarian and Development Chiefs' Mission to Ethiopia - 27-29 January 2018. UNDP, UNOCHA
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and United Nations Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner will travel to Ethiopia from January 27 to 29 to highlight the immense challenge of persistent food insecurity and the new approach to addressing it.
Ethiopia has made remarkable strides in development and addressing food insecurity over the past three decades, but its susceptibility to drought has resulted in recurring food insecurity. In recent months, hundreds of thousands of people on the border between the Somali and Oromo regions have been displaced, requiring additional humanitarian response. Today, millions of people need assistance to survive, for which US$900 million will be required this year.
The UN principals will highlight the need to continue life-saving humanitarian assistance as an urgent priority, while simultaneously laying the foundations for long-term resilience to future shocks and recovery.
They will meet with senior Government officials and humanitarian and development partners, and travel to field locations to meet people who have been affected by drought and assess programmes that link the humanitarian response with resilience and recovery. They will also attend the African Union Summit and participate in a high-level meeting on the New Way of Working.
Who: Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Achim Steiner, United Nations Development Programme Administrator
What: Joint Mission to Highlight Food Insecurity and New Approaches to Address It
When: January 27-29, 2018 Where: Ethiopia
16.1.12018 Dürre in Äthiopien. Fünf Millionen Menschen benötigen dringend Hilfe. World Vision / epo.de
Nach dem wiederholten Ausbleiben von Regenfällen in Äthiopien hat sich die Ernährungssituation in dem ostafrikanischen Land dramatisch verschlechtert. Nach Angaben der Kinderhilfsorganisation World Vision ist besonders das Leben und die Gesundheit von Kindern bedroht. Eine von FEWS-NET (Famine Early Warning System Network) veröffentlichte Frühwarnung und Analyse zur Nahrungsmittelunsicherheit deutet darauf hin, dass etwa 5,5 Millionen Menschen zwischen Februar und Mai 2018 dringend humanitäre Hilfe benötigen werden. Besonders betroffen sind die Bewohner in den südlichen und südöstlichen Regionen des Landes. Etwa 3,6 Millionen Kinder, schwangere Frauen und stillende Mütter sind stark unterernährt. (…)
5.1.2018 Ethiopia Working to Improve Refugees’ Access to Education. ENA
Ethiopia through the Administration for Refugee and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) is working to improve the provision of education to refugees sheltering in camps in the country. Through the activities carried out so far gross enrolment rate in primary education for refugees has reached 70.5 percent in 2017, according to ARRA. Currently, some 177,745 refugees are enrolled in primary, secondary, pre-school, and alternative education in refugee camps in various parts of the country.
Ethiopia hosts more than 850,000 refugees mainly from Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan in 27 camps.
In an exclusive interview with ENA Communication and Public Relations Team Leader at ARRA Suleyman Ali said the primary education enrolment rate has increased by 8.5 percent compared to the previous year. “The Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs is providing primary education, health care, protection and food for refugees. We are currently working on administering educational centers in refugee camps,” Suleyman stated. The refugees are attending classes in 58 primary, 18 Secondary, 80 early childhood education and care (ECCE) centers, and 20 alternative basic education (ABE) learning centers. Through the campaign conducted under the motto of “No school age child shall be out of school”, the institution has managed to ensure some 20,573 new enrolments in 2017, he added.
Construction of schools and deployment of qualified teachers are also among the activities that ARRA is engaged. “We have also constructed additional 28 blocks of classrooms having four classes for each room and we were able to employ some 288 teachers including 139 qualified Ethiopian nationals. We were able to provide training for these teachers,” he stated.
In its effort to improve educational access for refugees, ARRA is cooperating with international organizations such as save the children. Education in Emergency Team Leader at Save the Children, Abera Mekonen told ENA that efforts are being exerted to improve refugees’ access to education in collaboration with the government and other stakeholders. The support covers childhood care, early childhood education, primary education and alternative basic education. “Education is very important even in emergency, it is a sign of stability, and school is a centre of safety and protection.” Mentioning that the demand for classrooms is increasing, he stressed on the need to build more temporary learning spaces. “We must have expanded certain class rooms that the teachers could handle to make a change in quality. It is very critical because unless. We focus on individual child; unless the teacher focus on individual child it is difficult to maintain quality.” Moreover he said “We are working in collaboration with the government, key stakeholders and other development partners to create more spaces, we need more teachers and we need more materials.”
In addition to enabling refugees attend primary education; ARRA has also been working on secondary and tertiary school programs for refugees by providing scholarships. The government has provided scholarship for refugees mainly Eritreans since 2010; however, the program was opened for refugees from South Sudan and Somalia since in 2012, according to ARRA. Some 2,386 refugees have so far joined public universities through government scholarship program. In 2017 alone, some 514 refugees have joined public universities through the program.
In addition, refugees are also attending technical and vocational education in Addis Ababa and Shire. A total of 6,773 refugees have so far enrolled in TVET schools.
Ethiopia is home to the world’s 5th largest refugee population, hosting more than 850,000 refugees.
Politics, Justice, Human Rights
31.1.2018 TPLF soldiers arrest hundreds of youth in Northern Ethiopia. ESAT News
Soldiers for the TPLF regime known as Agazi have arrested hundreds of youth in Woldia and Mersa towns in Northern Ethiopia. The towns have recently been hit by anti-regime protests and TPLF soldiers responded killing dozens of people in Woldia, Mersa, Sirinka, Kobo towns and other nearby localities.
ESAT sources said that TPLF soldiers have arrested about 300 people in Woldia and took them to a prison in Chifra in the Afar region. About 200 others were also rounded up in Mersa and were taken to the same prison in Afar. In Woldia, TPLF soldiers force detainees walk on their knees over cobblestones. They have also reportedly beaten residents including children and pregnant women. Schools, offices and businesses remained closed in the towns. Several highways remain closed and trucks transporting goods from Kobo to Tigray were seen accompanied by TPLF Agazi soldiers.
The violence by TPLF soldiers in Northern Ethiopia began two weeks ago when they shot and killed 13 people at the annual religious festival of Epiphany in Woldia town. Several others were also killed in Mersa, Kobo and Sirinka towns.
31.1.2018 Opinion: Demystifying the bold-move by the Oromia Regional State leadership vis a vis Ethiopia’s quest for a better tomorrow. Daniel Behailu (PhD), Addis Standard
Ethiopia is in a chaotic state of facts for the last five years and in the last three years the chaos has grown into a different phase. There have been persistent resistance mainly in Oromia and Amhara and southern nations nationalities and people’s regional states against state led rights abuse, corruption and mal-administration. In some areas, protesters were openly chanting slogans such as ‘yemengist leboch’ (government thieves). There was no mistaking that the prime target of these protests is the ruling party, EPRDF . throughout this, the party’s way of dealing with the crisis was mainly via leadership reshuffling, which it thinks would either confuse or diffuse the push for real change, accountability, rule of law and good governance.
All in all, the movement has created a leadership turmoil and shakeups that EPRDF has never witnessed hitherto. Yet again, the protests have also created a leadership circle that seemed to have understood the magnitude of the crisis and try to face it head on. In Oromia, young and vibrate leaders have come to the fore front. Initially, President Lemma Megerssa (Pictured), and his team have been received with mixed feelings, but as days and months go by the doubt and mistrust seem to be losing momentum and popular confidence is building with Ethiopians openly expressing the ability and stature of Lemma Megerssa and his team. He has demonstrated up until now that he has what it takes to understand the magnitude of the crisis and tried to come up with negotiated settlements. He has taken public stand on the need to deal with corrupt and inefficient leaders, contraband dealers and respect for rule of law by the mighty power wielders of Ethiopian politics.
However, the federal government seem to have been threatened; at the same time ‘inside network’ groups taking the cover of the federal government and security forces keep wrecking havoc in the regions where the leaders are winning popular support.
Now the issue is, where is this move taking the nation to? Is there a need to worry on the part of the federal government? Should it take this opportunity and weed out the ‘inside network’ circle and work in collaboration with the regions to discharge the responsibility of the federal power? And, to what extent the regions also push the federal government and claim their sovereignty as per the constitutional boundaries? Could this be a hope or a despair? Will there be a politics of compromise or the historic course of politics of mutual destruction and hatred? In what is to follow, we will walk through these issues and debate the matter. The writing is simply intended to initiate a debate and bring out the issues for discussion and deliberation. (…)
Der vollständige lange Artikel findet sich hier: http://addisstandard.com/opinion-demystifying-the-bold-move-by-the-oromia-regional-state-leadership-vis-a-vis-ethiopias-quest-for-a-better-tomorrow
30.1.2018 Amhara Regional State to pardon over 2900 prisoners. borkena.com
Communication head of Amhara regional state, Nigusu Tilahun, announced that Amhara regional state resolved to pardon 2905 prisoners. The decision was passed today during the regional council meeting in Bahir Dar. The regional state media, Amhara Mass Media Agency, reported about it as well. The regional media also cited the Federal prosecutor to report that charges of 598 people in custody will be dropped but did not give details about major political figures included in the list of people to be released.
It is unclear, from the news update of Amhara Communication Head and Amhara Mass Media Agency report, as to when the prisoners are going to be released.
Lawyers of Colonel Demeke Zewdu, who was arrested in 2016 after resisting Tigray region security forces came to his residence during night time to detain him in connection with Wolkait issue, have proved in court that government evidence in support of the case against colonel Demeke Zewdu is wrong. Other political leaders like Mamushet Amare of All Ethiopian Unity Party and Andualem Arage are still languishing in prison. They were charged in connection with their political activity but the federal government, which many Ethiopians think is TPLF, charged them with terrorism charges.
The ruling party passed the resolution to release political prisoners in order to broaden “democratic space” in the country but the Ethiopian government made headlines in major media outlets after prime minister Hailemariam Desalenge disowned his words that his government has decided to release political prisoners.
Oromo regional state pardoned nearly three thousand prisoners last week and the Federal government has released prominent opposition leader Merera Gudina, chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress party, who was given a hero’s welcome in his hometown Ambo.
The Ethiopian government has detained numerous journalists and Ethiopians with dissenting political views and the Federal government has not made it clear yet if it is releasing them all.
30.1.2018 Government acquits charges of 598 people in Amhara. Waltainfo
The Federal Prosecutor has indicated that charges of 586 people is acquitted based on the recent decision of the government to do so for the creation of national consensus and widening the democratic space. Chief Federal Prosecutor, Getachew Ambaye, told Walta TV today that the charges are acquitted based on the decisions of both the federal and Amhara regional state administration. The people to be acquitted are 224 from North Gondar, 176 from Awi Zone, 107 from West Gojam Zone, 41 from East Gojam Zone, 17 from South Wolo Zone, 3 from North Wollo Zone, 14 from Oromia Special Zone, 13 from South Gondar Zone, 2 from Waghimra Zone, and one from North Shewa Zone. The suspects are expected to be released from custody after decision of the respective courts and taking reform training, he indicated.
30.1.2018 Federal Police reportedly attacking Gonder University students. borkena
Federal police reportedly entered Gonder University and attacked students for resisting to sit for exams. At least three students are said to be in Gonder hospital and their condition is said to be life-threatening, according to activists’ report with a connection in the region. At this writing, the news is not reported by the regional Amhara Mass Media Agency or Federal government media outlets. More update will be published regarding the development in Gonder University as it becomes available.
In another development, six residents of Gonder are killed yesterday due to electric shock accidents during a religious ceremony. Critics have blamed the city administration as they think that the lives of the victims could have been saved had the city administration acted in a timely manner with a sense of responsibility.
30.1.2018 Seyoum Mesfin says TPLF is facing unprecedented danger. borkena.com
Speaking in Tigrigna during TPLF’s latest meeting in Mekelle, one of close confidants of the late Meles Zenawi and long time Ethiopian foreign affairs minister Seyoum Mesfin openly told TPLF member that the party is facing unprecedented danger which need the party to act fast. Translation of the Tigragigna speech published on Ethiomedia seem to suggest that the TPLF is living a deep crisis.
“Comrades, the danger ahead of us is very very worrisome. Before the sun set on us, we have to run, and run fast, to reverse the impending danger or our continuity is questionable,” reads a partial excerpt of his Tigrigna speech which is translated to Amharic by Ethiomedia editor, Abraha Belai. He added that it has been a long time since the party betrayed the people of Tigray, dashing the hope of peace,justice and democracy for which Tigreans sacrificed their children. “The people of Tigray, we betrayed long time ago, feels like killed twice” and alluded to the confusion of what direction to take. “Similarly, continued Seyom Mesfin, “the youth that was supposed to inherit our[TPLF’s]heritage is betrayed by its lead organization and confused as to what direction it should take”. He recommended that the organization should kill no more time to kneel down and beg for the apology of the people of Tigray and he warned “we have no time”.
Although it is very hard to tell how his speech resonate with people in Tigray,theoretically and practically the political base of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), his speech is likely to trigger anger among the rest of Ethiopia. The rest of Ethiopia outside of Tigray has seen not only exploitation and repression but many families have lost loved ones because of TPLF’s chauvinistic and belligerent policy. Tigray has always been party of Ethiopia and no Tigreans,historically speaking, was a target of hate because of ethnic identity. Because of the image of Tigray that TPLF created over the last twenty plus years, attitude towards Tigray identity and an image of Tigray is transformed to a negative one.
At a time when discontent about TPLF has reached to a breaking point, the organization still carries out killings in different parts of the country. And TPLF leaders have always tried to convince people in the rest of Ethiopia that there is no distinction between TPLF and the people of Tigray. It is time for these leaders to change the narrative, own their own problems and leave power peacefully without causing irreversible chaos for Tigreans and the rest of Ethiopians.
28.1.2018 Pictorial: Ambo crowd gives Dr. Merera Gudina a hero’s welcome. Addis Standard
Today hundreds of thousands of people from Ambo, a city 125 km west of Addis Abeba, and its environs came to welcome veteran opposition party leader Dr. Merera Gudina. Dr. Merera, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) was released from prison last week after spending more than a year a prison. Since then, he has been busy receiving jubilant supporters from all walks of life. But today, he went to his birth place, where he enjoys a massive support. His supporters came in droves from every vicinity of the city of Ambo. The program at the Ambo stadium lasted only few minutes. And Dr. Merera used the time to thank the people and the police for peacefully coordinating the massive turnout to welcome him.
Die Fotos sind hier zu sehen: http://addisstandard.com/pictorial-ambo-crowd-gives-dr-merera-gudina-heros-welcome
27.1.2018 Protests spread in North Wollo towns, ten killed in Mersa. Ethiopia Observer
Demonstrators in the Amhara region defied the threat of a security clampdown on Friday and Saturday as they spilled onto the streets of several towns. Thousands have demonstrated, opposing the killings of innocent people at Timket festival in Woldia and calling for an end to police beatings, with protests reported in Habru districts of Mersa, Robit, Gobiye, all of the towns crossed by the main all weather road from Addis Ababa to Mekele. In Mersa around 10 people were shot dead today, according to the town residents cited by Deutsch Welle Amharic service. Three of them were killed by Habru Woreda Justice Bureau head, who also injured three others, before being fatally shot himself in an ambush, the radio cited multiple sources. Thousands of security officials and defence force members were deployed to break up the protests. Mersa is a town known for its Saturday market located at 490 kilo meters North of Addis Ababa.In a another nearby town, Robit a person is reported to have been killed. Roughly 200 people have been arrested in Kobo town, according to other reports. Protesters attacked police stations, stoned government vehicles and offices and torched enterprises.
27.1.2018 At least eleven people, including a district court head, killed in Mersa, north Wello, as protests spread; residences, a local court, government offices and a police station burned down. Etenesh Aberra, Addis Standard
At least eleven people “possibly more” were killed today in Mersa town, some 27 km before Weldiya, in north Wello zone of the Amhara regional state in northern Ethiopia. Several people were wounded and a local court, a police station, residences and a local administrative office were also burned down.
Today’s protest was part of a continued anti-government protest following the killing of civilians in Weldiya city during a religious festival last week on Saturday.
According to an audio record sent by a resident and was received by Addis Standard, anti-government protests erupted this morning when thousands of the town’s residents took to the streets in an area called “aware”; but then several more protests erupted in various parts of the town when security forces “shot and wounded a young man.”
“The protesters were chanting anti-government slogans and slogans denouncing the killings in Weldiya and the arrest of hundreds of people from Kobo city yesterday”, the eye witness said in the audio. According to a latest information from another source in the city, at least eleven people were killed by security forces and several others were wounded. “This number is possibly more”. The wounded were taken to Dessie and Weldiya hospitals. As of now, a hybrid of federal and regional security forces are deployed throughout the town and in localities surrounding the town. “The protests have subsided but tension is still high,” our source said.
Today’s protests followed yet another deadly protest in Kobo town between Tuesday and Friday. Yemiru Yifrashwa, a businessman who runs spare parts shop in Kobo told Addis Standard by phone yesterday that the protests in Kobo began peacefully on Tuesday when “thousands of the city’s residents took to the street to protest against the killings in Weldiya.” The harsh response from security forces triggered anger among many young people in the city,” he said, adding there were arbitrary arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday nights “when members of the federal army began searching for young people by going door-to-door; they have detained many of the city’s young people and took them God knows where.”
According to the BBC Amharic, yesterday, more than 200 people were detained by security forces in Kobo city in post-protest crackdown yesterday. “The arrests were partly what triggered today’s protest in Mersa,” the eye witness in the audio received by Addis Standard said.
DW Amharic also reported today that residents and government offices, including a local administrative office, were burned down. Furthermore, inmates have escaped from a local police station. Quoting a source, DW said that protesters have accused the Habru district court head of wounding by a fire arm three civilians. The head of the court was killed by residents in an apparent retaliation; his house was also set on fire, the portal reported.
In a televised message through the Amhara region TV station on Thursday, Gedu Andargachew, president of the region also admitted the death of civilians and property damages both in Weldiya and Kobo. The president blamed it on the regional state’s failure to deliver on its mandates, which led to “piles of grievances.” “This is ANDM’s problem,” he said referring to the party governing the region. “The result of this conflict is loss of lives, property damages and hindrance on civilians from pursuing a peaceful life.” He promised that the party will work closely with religious leaders, elders and rank and file administrative members if the region to “restore peace.”
26.1.2018 Ethiopia 'pardons 2,000 prisoners' jailed over Oromo protests. Jason Burke, The Guardian
Hundreds have died in the protests and successive waves of repression since 2015
More than 2,000 prisoners jailed for involvement in unrest that gripped Ethiopia between 2015-2016 have been pardoned, officials said on Friday. The release is the latest of several in recent weeks, as authorities make efforts to calm continuing unrest since mass protests broke out in the Oromo region - dominated by the Oromo ethnic group - over accusations of land grabbing two years ago.
Hundreds have died in the protests and successive waves of repression. Analysts say the continuing disorder indicates a deep-rooted discontent with decades of rule by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. There have also been demonstrations and clashes in parts of the east African country dominated by the Amhara group. (…)
On Friday, top officials in the Oromo region announced that 2,345 inmates had been pardoned, of whom 1,568 had already been convicted and sentenced. Earlier Merera Gudina, an opposition leader who was arrested in December 2016 on his return from Brussels where he had addressed members of the European parliament on the violence in Oromiya, was freed alongside 114 other inmates.
The government in Addis Ababa has long been accused by rights groups of using security concerns as an excuse to stifle dissent and media freedoms. It denies the charges. Last week the United Nations urged Ethiopia to review the status of a “large number of people” still behind bars. Nineteen people linked to a group known as Ginbot 7, considered “terrorists” by Ethiopian authorities, were recently sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
UN human rights spokesperson Liz Throssell said the Addis Ababa government should review anti-terror legislation and laws “to ensure that they are neither interpreted nor implemented too broadly, thereby resulting in people being arbitrarily or wrongfully detained”. Laws placing undue restrictions on non-governmental organisations and restricting the media should also be revised, Throssell told a news conference in Geneva earlier this week. (…)
26.1.2018 Bishop thinks Woldia killings were premeditated. Engidu Woldie, ESAT News
A deputy bishop for a diocese in Northern Ethiopia says he thinks the Epiphany day killings in Woldia town last week were premeditated.
The deputy bishop, Abun Ermias told Hara Tewahido, a religious website, that the office of the diocese has specifically informed the local authorities that security forces should not be deployed to the religious ceremony last Saturday. He said they told the authorities that the church would take care of the security and order during the Epiphany. The father blames security forces for the loss of lives.
At least 13 people were shot and killed when TPLF soldiers rained bullets on a crowd of Epiphany goers who allegedly chanted anti-TPLF slogans at the conclusion of the annual religious festival. Among them is a nine-year old, Yosef Eshetu, who was murdered by TPLF soldiers while he was on his way to the religious reenactment of the baptism of Jesus.
Father Ermias said the church does not believe the youth did anything wrong on that fateful day. “The youth were just angry at the sight of the security forces on their religious day. They might have hurled insults at the soldiers or some might have thrown stones. But the response from the soldiers was fire,” he told Hara Tewahido. “It looks like they just came to shoot at people.”
“So many were killed and injured. We still don’t know how many,” Father Ermias said. Even priests carrying the the replica of the Arc of the Covenant in the religious procession were attacked with gas canisters and were able to complete the procession with the help of other priests, according to father Ermias. “We don’t know why they (the soldiers) came to a religious ceremony. And it looks like they came to kill.
26.1.2018 Ethiopia's Oromo leader meets German envoy over political developments. Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, africanews.com
Barely two weeks after criminal charges against him were dropped and he was released from prison, Dr. Merera Gudina, a leading opposition member in Ethiopia has hit the ground running. Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has been talking and acting politically since his release from jail on January 17, 2018.
The German Embassy in Addis Ababa shared photos of Gudina meeting with the Ambassador on Thursday January 25. “Both had a fruitful discussion about current political developments in Ethiopia. “The Ambassador expressed Germany’s relief about Dr Merera’s release. She also expressed Germany’s gratitude for his relentless and peaceful commitment to fostering Ethiopia’s democracy. “Dr Merera thanked the Ambassador for the continuous support that Germany has rendered to his case. He encouraged Germany to continue its contributions to finding a lasting solution to the political challenges of the country,” the Embassy’s social media handle said. Local media showed him at the offices of the OFC with other leaders of the party.
Gudina, an academic and former lawmaker, became a central figure around anti-government sentiments. He was arrested in December 2016 after he returned home from an European tour where he addressed the EU parliament over political events back home. The government said he was arrested for flouting a state of emergency provision by meeting anti-government elements on his tour. His initial terrorism charge was downgraded to multiple criminal charges last year. Addis Ababa released him after the ruling EPRDF coalition decided early January 2018 to drop charges against some category of politician detainees as a means of fostering national unity. Gudina and about 500 others were released on January 17, 2018.
He has since stressed that until the government engages in meaningful dialogue with the main opposition parties, it was just a matter of time before a new round of protests break out.
24.1.2018 EPRDF agrees to amend anti-terrorism proclamation. Yeshambel Beamlaku, Waltainfo
The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the national political parties agreed to make amendments on some articles of the anti-terrorism proclamation. The political parties have discussed on anti-terrorism proclamation for the 5th consecutive round today.
The opposition parties argued that some articles contradict with the constitution, violate human rights and shutter political space for peaceful struggle; on the other hand, the ruling party, EPRDF underlined that the proclamation never contradicts with either the constitution or any of the international laws and conventions that Ethiopia has adopted so far. It was noted that the responsibility entrusted to police while believing that a possible terrorist act may occur; the police are entrusted to gather information and evidence and arrest suspects without a court order; it leaves a space for police forces to exercise unlimited power are some of the articles proposed by the opposition parties for possible amendments. In addition, they mentioned the omission of an article that allows the gathering of information through intercepting or conducting surveillance on telephone calls and internet, stating that it violates individual rights.
It was noted that the Ethiopian Raey Party (ERAPA) has resigned from the national political parties negotiations ahead of the agreement made by the parties on the amendments of anti-terrorism proclamations. Walta has learnt EPRDF expected to present the amended anti-terrorism proclamations during the next national political parties negotiations.
24.1.2018 ERP drops out of negotiations with EPRDF. Neamin Ashenafi, The Reporter
The Ethiopian Raey Party (ERP) has announced to have dropped out of the ongoing political parties’ negotiation with the incumbent EPRDF after yearlong negotiations. This was known today at the fifth day of the negotiation being carried out on the infamous anti-terrorism proclamation. “Because of lack of acceptance to our proposals throughout the negotiations we have carried out since the beginning, ERP has dropped out of the negotiation,” the parties representative announced stating that no representative of the party will attend the negotiations from now on. ERP also stated that the total abandonment of the anti-terrorism proclamation is imminent.
24.1.2018 Ethiopian opposition leader calls for dialogue. enca.com, AFP
Ethiopia's government needs to hold negotiations with the country's most-popular opposition parties or risk the return of destabilising protests, veteran dissident Merera Gudina said in an interview, days after leaving prison. A cause celebre for opponents of Ethiopia's government during his time behind bars, Merera is the only prominent opposition politician to be freed since Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced earlier this month that his administration would release an unspecified number of the many dissidents jailed in the country. The announcement came amid continuing anti-government unrest in Ethiopia despite authorities ending a 10-month state of emergency last year and ongoing dialogue between the government and some opposition groups.
In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Merera said the dialogue holds little promise because the opposition parties involved are unpopular, while the prime minister's goal for the prisoner amnesty to "improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform" will not be met if more prisoners are not released. "I think [for] the ruling party, it is time to rethink, and stop these piecemeal things and lead this country to a real national dialogue and a national consensus. That's the only way out," Merera, 61, who chairs the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said at his home in the town of Burayu west of the capital Addis Ababa. Merera was detained in December 2016 shortly after the state of emergency declaration, which followed months of anti-government protests. Hundreds died and tens of thousands were arrested. (…)
Outside of our control
Protests have continued since the August 2017 expiry of the emergency decree, and the prisoner amnesty along with the government's assurance that more detainees will soon be released is widely seen as an attempt to temper the discontent.
"Millions of youth are outside of our control. If we don't present something real to them, again they can go out of control," said Merera, who is Oromo. While he was charged with an array of offences, Merera believes his arrest was an attempt to sap the morale of the protesters and sow disunity among the country's opposition parties. He said he considered retiring from politics after spending more than a year incarcerated during his trial, but decided against it after the reception he received from supporters upon his release.
"A country of 100 million, is too big, too big for one group. That is clear to everybody, I think including to them, those who lead us," Merera said. "Really, controlling state power should not be the end of the world. They should see life after that."
24.1.2018 6 arrested for inciting unrest at Ethiopian religious festival. Xinhua
Police in Arba Minch city in Ethiopia's Southern regional state said Wednesday six people were arrested over a deadly clash at a religious festival. Beta Anjelu, Coordinator at Gamo Gofa Zone Command Post of Southern regional state, said the six are suspected of trying to incite riot at Epiphany Celebrations last week. (…) Anjelu said police are looking for four more suspects.
News of the arrests came after a clash involving protestors and police in Woldiya city, in northern Amhara regional state, left seven dead. Six of the dead were civilians and one was a security officer, while two other officers and 15 civilians were injured. (…)
23.1.2018 Three killed for lowering flag at half-mast to mourn death of compatriots. ESAT News
TPLF security forces shot and killed three people in Alem Tena, East Shewa today while holding a sit in protest at a flagpole to mourn the death of protesters in Woldia and Moyale in the weekend. The deceased had lowered the flag to a half-mast to mourn the death of protesters this weekend. Security forces put the flag back to full-mast at which point the protesters held a sit in protest. According to information obtained from Oromo activists, the forces shot and killed the three people execution style. The killing has sparked angry protests by residents in Meki and other nearby towns.
The local UN office in Ethiopia also said in an alert to its staff that violent protests have been reported in Alem Tena. The office also said the main highway between Mojo and Awassa has been blocked by security forces. Protests were also held in Mendi, Wollega at a burial of a young man shot and killed yesterday by security forces.
23.1.2018 UNHRC Condemns Gov’t for the Woldia Epiphany Festival mishap. Dawit Endeshaw, The Reporter
United Nation High Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) condemned the recent incident in Woldia, North Wello Zone which claimed the lives of six civilians and one security officer. The Commission in its statements issued today, January 23, 2018, called the tragedy regrettable. “We are extremely concerned by the use of force by security officials against worshippers celebrating the Ethiopian Orthodox festival of Epiphany this weekend that left at least seven people dead and a number [of worshippers] injured,” reads the statement. Further, the commission stated that the incident “reportedly took place when the security forces tried to stop people from chanting anti-government songs and allegedly opened fire on them. Protesters reportedly later blocked roads and destroyed a number of properties.”
“This incident is all the more regrettable, as it comes just two weeks after Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, officially announced its intention to undertake reforms,” the statement lamented. Finally the commission called for independent and impartial investigation of the incident and insisted on ensuring that those responsible of the violation to be accountable.
22.1.2018 Death toll on rise in Woldia killings. ESAT News
The death toll in Woldia town reached 13 as two people were shot and killed on Monday by TPLF security forces.
Residents of the town were returning from the burial of some of the deceased on Monday and were chanting slogans denouncing the regime when the forces opened fire. At least two people who were taken to the hospital after Saturday’s shooting have died, according to sources. Several people were also brutally beaten by the security forces and some have been taken to the local hospital. Protests have continued for the third day in Woldia with the youth demanding the TPLF forces to leave the town.
22.1.2018 Woldia massacre: Ethiopian security forces kill a dozen, turning a holiday procession into nightmare. Zecharias Zelalem, Opride.com
Ethiopian security forces on Saturday killed nearly a dozen people and wounded many others turning a time honored holiday gathering into a nightmare. It’s becoming an all too familiar storyline in Ethiopia: A religious festival that was supposed to be a joyous occasion turned into a scene of carnage by the security forces’ disproportionate use of force to dispense crowd. The Woldia massacre, in the Wollo district of the Amhara state, took place on the second day of the Ethiopian Epiphany or “Timket” celebration.
Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by amid an internet blackout in the city and surrounding areas, but local reports indicate that federal forces fired live ammunition on unarmed civilians, who chanted anti-government slogans. The death toll is expected to amid rise reports that many are being treated for critical injuries at the Woldia City General Hospital. (…)
On Saturday, the youth in Woldia who turned out in droves were as vociferous and exuberant as they always are on this day, according to eyewitness reports. Political tension has been high in the area in recent months so security was apparently beefed up to ensure that the occasion would not become an opportunity to voice the collective resentment of the region’s people.
Activists allege that yesterday’s calamity came as a result of retaliatory action by federal security forces against celebrating youth, who chanted political slogans condemning the Ethiopian government. Some protesters reportedly hurled stones at local police officers before the army started shooting at the crowd but none of the demonstrators were armed. Security forces are said to have warned the youth to stop chanting anti-government slogans before unleashing bullets on those who defied the orders. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to Deutsche Welle, the crackdown lasted for hours, with sounds of intermittent gunshots running from 3pm to 6pm local time. The city’s residents also reported seeing troops putting up blockades and restricting the movement of people.
A nurse at the Woldia Hospital told Addis Standard that at least 18 people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. The city remains militarized. The thousands who left their homes to witness the traditional sending off of the St. Michael “Tabot” may have been stranded as the military set up checkpoints around Woldia. (…)
The outbreak of fresh protests on January 20 in Woldia is almost certainly a result of simmering tensions and growing resentment felt among residents because the repression across the region in recent years.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Amhara State Communications Affairs head Nigussu Tilahun said a “clash” between local youth and security forces have resulted in the loss of lives. He offered no details or casualty figures, but pledged to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the killing of innocent people.
On Sunday, Amhara State President Gedu Andargachew made a surprise visit to Woldia and met with residents and community representatives. He stated that the responsibility of keeping the streets of Woldia safe wasn’t just that of security forces but also “requires the cooperation of everyone in society.” In a telephone interview with the State-run EBC, although he never explicitly strayed from the narrative of a “clash between security forces and festival goers,” he noted “in tragic incidents such as what happened (in Woldia on Saturday), the ones who often suffer the most are innocent civilians. The ringleaders who stay in the background and egg others on to commit acts of violence are rarely harmed.” It isn’t clear who he was referring to. Later, it was reported that everyone who was detained during the chaos was freed after Gedu personally intervened on behalf of their loved ones and community elders.
Meanwhile, Amare Goshu, police chief of the North Wollo zone that encompasses the Woldia municipality, gave a highly conflicting statement to EBC. He corroborated the claims that no more than seven had died in the incident, without pointing a finger at anyone. He then went on to declare that his men have regained control of the city and are working alongside religious and community leaders to address concerns of worried residents. At the same time, he claimed that youths had laid siege to the city, rioting and damaging property, and that the local police was working to subdue those who sought to wreak havoc in the city.
Despite the deaths and destruction on the heels of a very important day in the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian calendar, there have been no public statements or messages of condolences by anyone affiliated to the Church’s governing body or the Patriarch Abune Mathias. No church officials have made themselves available for comment although victims were worshippers and its members who organized mass celebrations. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is also yet to make a statement on the tragedy.
22.1.2018 Tote bei Unruhen in Äthiopien. ZEIT ONLINE, AP, mib
Wenige Tage nach der Freilassung von Oppositionspolitikern ist es erneut zu gewaltsamen Protesten in Äthiopien gekommen. Mindestens sieben Demonstranten starben.
Bei Unruhen in Äthiopien sind am Wochenende mindestens sieben Menschen gestorben. Offenbar begannen die Auseinandersetzungen, als junge Männer am Rande des christlichen Timkat-Festes am Samstag in der Region Amhara die Polizei angriffen. Augenzeugen berichteten, die Sicherheitskräfte hätten auf steinewerfende Demonstranten geschossen. Bis Sonntagmittag seien Schüsse zu hören gewesen, berichteten Augenzeugen. Hotels, Restaurants und Geschäfte seien von aufgebrachten Demonstranten in Brand gesteckt worden. (…)
22.1.2018 TPLF removed Azeb Mesfin as EFFORT CEO. borkena.com
In what said to be a manifestation of defeat of Abay Woldu faction within TPLF, Meles Zenawi’s widow Azeb Mesfin is removed as head of EFFORT investments – the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front business conglomerate with virtual monopolistic status in the country. The giant TPLF parastatal is worth well over $6 billion. Azeb Mesfin was also removed from the nine member executive committee of TPLF when the party concluded months long internal evaluation in December of 2017. Abay Woldu, who was chairman of TPLF and president of Tigray regional state, was also removed from the executive committee of the TPLF on grounds of incompetence only to be appointed as Ethiopia’s Ambassador in London. (…)
21.1.2018 Detainees over Woldia’s Epiphany clash released. Dawit Endeshaw, The Reporter
All detainees in relation to the two-day Epiphany Festival conflict of Woldia Town, located in Northern Wolo Zone of the Amhara Regional State, have been released today, The Reporter learnt. After a meeting between the Amhara region president Gedu Andargachew and religious leaders, youth representatives and the elders of Woldia Town, all of those detained in relation to clash were released from prison, the zone’s security head Aderaw Tsedalu told The Reporter. “The detainees were released up on the request of the youth representatives in the meeting with the President,” he said. Aderaw also added that the youth were given the freedom to express themselves in the meeting and the situation in the town has now improved.
Regarding the damages, however, the security head said that further investigation is underway to identify the number of the dead as well as injured and the damages to property. The exact number of the detainees was not revealed by security as well. Nevertheless, the zone’s police department head Commander Amare Goshu’s, on his statement to the regional broadcaster, Amhara Television, confirmed earlier that seven people were reported to have died in the clash while at least 15 civilians and security officers also sustained injuries.
21.1.2018 14 year-old among seven killed as TPLF forces shot at Epiphany goers. Engidu Woldie, ESAT News
At least seven people were killed on Saturday in Woldia town in northern Ethiopia as TPLF security forces shot live fire at people gathered to celebrate the annual Ethiopian Orthodox Epiphany.
The youth in Woldia, known for their strong display of defiance against the TPLF, were chanting songs denouncing the regime when the forces rained bullets on them on one of the holiest days for the Orthodox christians on Saturday. Several people have reportedly been taken to the hospital sustaining gunshot wounds, some with serious injuries. Police commander for the North Wollo Zone confirmed to the regional TV that six people were shot and killed by security forces. Amare Goshu said one member of the force was among the dead. He said two members of police sustained serious injuries and added that at least 15 people were injured in total. He blamed the protesters for starting the violence saying they had attacked security forces with stones and the forces responded with live bullets. Gruesome pictures of the dead were shared instantly on social media.
Burial ceremonies on Sunday turned violent as angry protesters attacked and set ablaze a number of businesses owned by regime affiliates. Hotels and restaurants providing services to TPLF security were targeted. Roads leading in and out of the town remain shut on Sunday, according to sources who also said students of Woldia University were prevented from leaving their campus to join residents in the protest. Gunfire could be heard most of Sunday in the town that has seen one of the deadliest weekend in recent months.
Anti-regime protests at the Woldia University turned deadly last month when security forces shot and killed four students. The students were denouncing the killing of two students from the Amhara region at the Adigrat University in Tigray. Soccer fans in the town also responded with attacking TPLF affiliate businesses last month after fans from a Tigray soccer club hurled ethnic rant and slur.
20.1.2018 Ethiopia must rework anti-terror laws, free more detainees - U.N. Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, africanews
The United Nations has welcomed the positive political moves undertaken by the Ethiopian government after it released a number of detained politicians earlier this week. The U.N. however said there was more to be done in the area of freeing more more detainees and the need to rework anti-terror laws and other legislations that unduly targeted the media and activists. According to a U.N. human rights spokesperson, Liz Throssell, Ethiopia was at a critical juncture and the U.N. was ready to offer help in any way. “We do think that Ethiopia is at a key moment and that’s why we are saying that we stand ready to help Ethiopia,” Throssell said. “These are positive developments. We urge the government to continue to take steps to release individuals detained for expressing their political views,” Throssell added.
The government announced in early January that it was set to discontinue cases against some political detainees and to release them as a means of fostering national unity. Of the over 100 released this week, Merera Gudina, a former lawmaker was the highest profile personality. Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) was arrested in late 2016 and spent over 400 days before his release. Gudina was charged with terrorism before it was downgraded to multiple criminal charges. He is said to have met anti-government forces during a trip to Brussels. He denied the charges during his trial and reiterated his stance after release. He has said he is ready for dialogue with the government.
18.1.2018 Statement by the EU Spokesperson on recent political developments in Ethiopia. Delegation of the European Union to Ethiopia
The release from prison of political leaders and activists in Ethiopia, including Dr. Merera Gudina, and the decision of the Ethiopian Government to assign a Task Force to look into the possible extension of the measure to additional individuals, are important steps in widening political space in Ethiopia. In this context the announcement of the closure of the Maekelawi detention centre is another positive development. Freedom of expression and right to assembly are crucial components of a democratic society.
Within the framework of the EU Ethiopia Strategic Engagement, the EU continues to encourage the Government to address the grievances raised by the protestors, notably through an inclusive and constructive dialogue with the opposition and civil society. The revision of the relevant legislative frameworks, such as the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Electoral Law, are also essential elements of the reform process.
18.1.2018 EPRDF Agrees to Amend Articles in Anti-terrorism Proclamation. ENA
The ruling party EPRDF has agreed the amendment of some articles and inclusion of one article in the Anti-terrorism Proclamation and rejected the inclusion of five new articles during the negotiations it held today with 15 national political parties. The articles related to terroristic acts and the punishments can be revised, though it is relatively milder than those of other countries, the party said. It also agreed that the article which allows police to arrest without court warrant be amended with the idea that arrest can be made without warrant in the presence of imminent danger. The party reminded the opposition that a new proclamation on defining the use of necessary and reasonable force is underway. The Criminal Code is under revision too. With respect to introducing new articles to the proclamation, the ruling party has accepted the inclusion of an article that allows compensation for detained alleged suspects found innocent.
Describing the Anti-terrorism Proclamation as “a proclamation that neither contradicts with the Constitution nor narrows the human and democratic rights of citizens”, EPRDF opposed the other proposed ideas on the proclamation.
18.1.2018 Ruling party holding secret talks with ONLF. Ethiopia Observer
Ethiopia’s government is holding secret negotiations with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an outlawed separatist group, Ethiopia Observer learnt. As the ruling party’s internal vulnerabilities has increased due to home grown protests, the regime has made the secret approach for talk on the status of the contested Ogaden region with ONLF that it has once labelled as a terrorist organization. The framework for negotiations was agreed during initial meeting a month ago in Dubai and the principal meeting is due in the coming weeks in Nairobi, according to the sources. The ruling party was represented at the talks by General Gabre, the commander of the Ethiopian military forces in Somalia, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, president of Somalia regional government, and the ONLF delegation was led by Abdirahman Mahdi, ONLF head of foreign affairs. Founded in the early 1980s, the ONLF aims to create an independent state in Ethiopia’s southeastern Ogaden territory, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Somalis. In 2011, Addis Ababa labelled ONLF a terrorist organization, alongside al-Shabab and al-Qaida. Abdikarim Sheikh Muse, a top member of ONLF, was handed over to Ethiopian authorities on August 28, 2017 after he was detained by Somali security forces in the central Somali town of Galkayo.
Repeated attempts for peace talks in the past have failed, including a high-profile meeting hosted by Kenya’s government on October 2012.
17.1.2018 Merera Gudina calls for release of all political prisoners as he walks free. Engidu Woldie, ESAT News
A day after spokesperson for the Ethiopian regime, Negeri Lencho, says the release of a prominent opposition leader would be decided after two months, Merera Gudina, along with over a hundred other prisoners of conscience, has been freed today after fourteen months of detention. A number of other leading opposition figures and journalists as well as thousands of other prisoners of conscience still remain in jail. Bekele Gerba, Andargachew Tsege, Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Woubshet Taye and Nigist Yirga are to name only a few.
State television paraded the 115 prisoners as they were being handed out certificates after completing a two day “training” before they had secured their freedom. Speaking to reporters of ruling party media, Merera called on the regime to release all political prisoners. He also called for negotiations by all parties and stakeholders to work towards the creation of a democratic country.
A week ago, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced leaders of political parties would be released to “widen the political space” and “bring about national consensus.” But his office backtracked and said the premier was not in anyway indicating that the country holds political prisoners. With conflicting statements coming from the regime spokesperson, the prosecutor general and officials within the TPLF, the fate of hundreds of other prisoners of conscience remain unclear.
Merera was arrested at the airport in Addis Ababa in November 2016 as he arrived from Europe. Dr. Merara Gudina, Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, was in Brussels where he and Berhanu Nega, also a leader of the opposition Patriotic Ginbot 7, testified at the European Parliament on political crises in Ethiopia and the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against ordinary Ethiopians by the TPLF. Gudina was accused of trespassing the then state of emergency by having contact with opposition groups abroad that the regime outlawed and labelled “terrorists.” The TPLF regime routinely labels opposition party members and independent journalists as “terrorists” and uses the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to prosecute dissidents.
“The release of opposition politician Merera Gudina and hundreds of other detainees in Ethiopia today must only be a first step towards freedom for all prisoners of conscience, in the east African country,” Amnesty International said today. “Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa. “The Ethiopian authorities must now immediately and unconditionally release all remaining prisoners of conscience, including those who have already been convicted, as they did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested in the first place. To continue holding them is to perpetuate the gross injustice that they have already bravely endured for too long.”
17.1.2018 The dismissed president of Tigray region appointed as an ambassador. Ethiopia Observer
The recently dismissed Tigray People’s Liberation Front chairman (TPLF) and president of the region, Abay Woldu is assigned to diplomatic post, in an appointment that is causing a stir. Abay Woldu, president of the Tigray region since 2010 and president of TPLF since 2012, has been removed from his post, stripped of his chairmanship and executive member position a month ago, accused of gross inefficiency and incompetency. However, in startling move, Abay has been awarded an ambassador job, according to the state media, Radio Fana, though it did not say to which country he has been designated. “In Ethiopia, picking someone with no diplomatic experience to be an ambassador is not unusual, but awarding such post to someone that has been demoted is incomprehensible,” a retired career diplomat said. A political commentator, Gizaw Legesse reacted saying that how on earth someone found incompetent to run his region could represent his country. “I get discouraged when I observe our unjustified optimism about TPLF,” he wrote. A pro-government blogger said there is no surprise here, even though the party had issues with him, he is someone who has served faithfully the party for several decades. Abay joined the liberation front in the late 1970s and has served as member of the executive committees of the ruling collation and TPLF since 2000. He has served as TPLF deputy for several years until his election as president in 2012, after the death of Meles Zenawi. Abay’s wife, former TPLF fighter, Tirfu Kidanemariam Gebrehiwet is Ethiopian ambassador to Australia.
16.1.2018 Gov't Fulfilling Pledges to Address Public Grievances: GCAO. ENA
The government has started implementing the promise it made to the public in the resolutions passed by the Executive Committee of EPRDF, according to the Government Communication Affairs Office.
In a press conference he gave today, Government Communication Affairs Minister Dr. Negeri Lencho said measures are being taken by the government to restore peace and stability in the country and to widen the political landscape. According to him, charges against over 500 suspects were dropped and measures are being taken to pardon some prisoners, including political party members, who were sentenced for the crimes they committed in accordance with the constitution.
The Minister stated that the federal government is working with regional governments and other stakeholders to rehabilitate the displaced from Oromia and Somali regional states. Currently, preparations have been completed to rehabilitate over 86,000 displaced people in Oromia Regional State on the basis of their preferences, he added. The displaced will be given houses, and the areas of employments they will be engaged in is identified, it was learned. Those who chose to go back to their original homesteads will be repatriated, Dr. Negeri said.
He further pointed out that unrest in some public universities has been put under control and academic peace restored. The Minister said the federal police will continue to investigate any kind of trespassing of the law by everyone irrespective of age, and has no cause to attack the youth.
Dr. Negeri noted that the country will continue strengthening its strategic relationship with foreign countries, neighboring countries in particular. He further added that the official visit of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn to Egypt will cement the multi-faceted relations between the two countries.
15.1.2018 Charges on 528 Detainees Dropped. ENA
Charges on 528 detainees suspected of trespassing the law of the country by taking part in conflicts have already dropped, the Federal Attorney General disclosed. Getachew Ambaye, the Attorney General said the detainees whose charges are dropped will be released on Wednesday after going through a two-day rehabilitation training. Detainees who are not suspected of murder, inflict severe bodily injuries, involve in destruction of infrastructures and did not try to oust constitutional order by force are eligible to the termination of charges. Of the total cases terminated, 413 are from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional state who were apprehended while taking part in the clashes occurred in Gedeo and Konso woredas, while the remaining are from the federal level.
According to Getachew, dropping of such cases is the short-term plan of the task force established to resolve problems in justice area. The task force is working to amend the over 50 years old Criminal Code, and Commercial Code as well as introduce a new proclamation on the use of proportional power in its medium-term plan. According to Getachew, building a strong justice system that would comply with the development of the country has incorporated in the long-term plan. Through these consecutive activities, the public’s growing demand for good governance, fairness, and quick judiciary services will be maintained, he added.
Noting that dropping cases will be continued, Getachew said that this in no way of trespassing legal procedures rather helps maintaining the rule of law. “Ensuring rule of law will never be tabled for negotiation” the Attorney General stressed. Getachew noted that identifying cases which would be eligible to the same treatment in other regional states will be made through the task force. The decision to drop cases of detainees suspected of trespassing the law came following the direction by the Executive Committee of EPRDF to widen the political space.
15.1.2018 Ethiopia to free opposition leader, others jailed for involvement in unrest. Aaron Maasho, Reuters
Ethiopian authorities have dropped charges against a senior opposition leader and hundreds of others who had been jailed for involvement in unrest that gripped the country in 2015 and 2016, the country’s attorney general said on Monday.
Hundreds have been killed in violence in the Horn of Africa country since protests first erupted in its central Oromiya province over allegations of land grabs. Several dissident politicians have since been jailed having been charged with involvement in terrorism and collusion with the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front, which the government has branded a terrorist group.
Facing mounting unrest, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced earlier this month that jailed politicians would be released and those facing trial would have their cases dismissed in a bid to foster reconciliation. On Monday, Attorney General Getachew Ambaye told journalists that 528 people had so far been selected for clemency, including Merera Gudina - leader of the opposition group Oromo Federalist Congress who was arrested in late 2015. Getachew said criteria for their selection involved taking into account proof that the suspects did not take part in actions that led to killings and severe injury, damaging infrastructure, and “conspiracy to dismantle the constitutional order by force”. “All 528 will be released within two months,” he said.
Merera was arrested after a trip to Brussels to meet members of the European Parliament, and formally charged with attempting to “dismantle or disrupt social, economic and political activity”. He was also accused of backing a secessionist group Addis Ababa labels a terrorist movement, as well as flouting guidelines on a state of emergency that was imposed for nine months during his trip to Belgium.
Nearly 700 people died in one bout of unrest during months of protests in 2015 and 2016, according to a parliament-mandated investigation. Rallies over land rights broadened into demonstrations over political restrictions and perceived rights abuses, before spreading into the northern Amhara region and - to a smaller extent - in its SNNP province in the south. In recent months, a spate of ethnic clashes have also taken place. Dozens of people were killed in several bouts of violence between ethnic Oromos and Somalis in the Oromiya region last year.
Hailemariam made his announcement after the ruling EPRDF coalition concluded a weeks-long meeting meant to thrash out policies to address grievances. The unrest had triggered growing friction within the party. Some high-ranking members had subsequently submitted their resignation, while officials have openly squabbled with each other over the cause of clashes. Getachew said more pardons and releases are set to follow.
Ethiopia, sandwiched between volatile Somalia and Sudan, is often accused by rights groups of using security concerns as an excuse to stifle dissent and media freedoms. It denies the charge.
12.1.2018 Erneut 13 Regimekritiker zu Haftstrafen verurteilt. GfbV / epo.de
Trotz der angekündigten Freilassung politischer Gefangener sind in Äthiopien in den vergangenen Tagen erneut 13 Regimekritiker zu Haftstrafen verurteilt worden. Das hat die Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) am Freitag in Göttingen berichtet. Das Oberste Bundesgericht in Addis Abeba habe am Mittwoch neun mutmaßliche Unterstützer der Oppositionsbewegung Ginbot 7 zu Gefängnisstrafen zwischen drei und sechzehn Jahren verurteilt. Gegen weitere vier Personen, unter ihnen den führenden Oromo-Oppositionspolitiker Bekele Gerba, seien am Donnerstag sechs Monate Haft verhängt worden, weil sie in einem Gerichtsverfahren aus Protest ein Lied angestimmt hätten.
"Die jüngsten harschen Urteile gegen Regimekritiker zeigen, dass Äthiopien noch weit von einem politischen Frühling und einer Demokratisierung entfernt ist", kritisierte GfbV-Direktor Ulrich Delius. "Ohne weitreichende politische Reformen und die Respektierung grundlegender Menschenrechte insbesondere für die seit Jahrzehnten ausgegrenzte und verfolgte Bevölkerungsgruppe der Oromo wird Äthiopien nicht zur Ruhe kommen."
Der äthiopische Premierminister Hailemariam Desalegn hatte am 3. Januar die Freilassung einiger politischer Gefangener angekündigt. Medien hatten daraufhin weltweit berichtet, das autoritär geführte Land werde alle politischen Gefangenen aus der Haft entlassen. Dieser Darstellung hatte die Staatsführung jedoch zwei Tage später widersprochen.
Dass nicht von einer grundsätzlichen Neuausrichtung der Politik Äthiopiens auszugehen ist, macht nach Auffassung der GfbV auch der Fall des seit dem 30. November 2016 inhaftierten Oromo-Politikers Merera Gudina deutlich. Gudina muss sich seit Monaten vor dem Obersten Bundesgericht in Äthiopien verantworten. Denn er hatte gemeinsam mit anderen Oppositionspolitikern, die von den Behörden als "Terroristen" angesehen werden, an einer Anhörung im Europaparlament in Brüssel teilgenommen. Zuvor hatte er Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel bei ihrem Besuch in Äthiopien im Oktober 2016 über die katastrophale Lage der Menschenrechte informiert.
Erst am 29. Dezember 2017 hat das Gericht einen Einspruch von Gudinas Verteidigern zurückgewiesen. Sie wollten verhindern, dass die Staatsanwaltschaft weiteres vermeintliches "Beweismaterial" gegen den Oromo-Politiker einreicht. Mehrfach haben die Verteidiger dem Gericht vorgeworfen, internationale Standards einer fairen Prozessführung zu verletzen. So wurde den Verteidigern laut GfbV zum Beispiel die Einsicht in eine Liste der Zeugen der Anklage verwehrt, so dass die Identität der Belastungszeugen bis heute nicht geklärt sei.
http://www.epo.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14396:aethiopien-erneut-13-regimekritiker-zu-haftstrafen-verurteilt&catid=269&Itemid=33 oder https://www.gfbv.de/de/news/aethiopien-erneut-13-regimekritiker-zu-haftstrafen-verurteilt-8973
12.1.2018 Soldiers Charged With Terror Plot. Angola Press
Ethiopia's Federal Attorney General on Thursday filed terror-related charges against five Ethiopian soldiers. The soldiers are accused of conspiring to recruit potential members for the banned rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). OLF, proscribed as a terror group by the Ethiopian government, claims to fight for the rights of ethnic Oromos who make up about 33 percent of Ethiopia's 100-million population. The rebel group, which has been engaged in armed struggle since the 1980s, has in recent years faded from public view, weakened by defections and internal fractures. (…)
11.1.2018 Mehr Freiheit in Äthiopien? Welt-Sichten Interview mit Nicole Hirt
Die äthiopische Regierung hat eine Amnestie für politische Gefangene angekündigt. Nicole Hirt vom GIGA-Institut erklärt, warum das noch keine demokratische Öffnung bedeutet.
Anfang Januar kündigte der äthiopische Ministerpräsident Hailemariam Desalegn an, alle politischen Gefangenen würden freigelassen. Kurz darauf sprach er von einem Missverständnis und erklärte, nur einige Häftlinge würden amnestiert. Was halten Sie davon?
Ich hätte mich gewundert, wenn Desalegn seine Erklärung nicht wieder zurückgenommen hätte. Es gibt tausende politische Gefangene in Äthiopien. Würden die alle freigelassen, dann wäre das ein bedeutender Politikwandel. Ich verstehe die abgeschwächte Version als eine Geste des guten Willens angesichts der Unruhen in den vergangenen Jahren.
Sie meinen die Unruhen 2016? Warum eine solche Geste erst jetzt?
Nachdem die Regierung den Ausnahmezustand im vergangenen Jahr wieder aufgehoben hat, sind auch die Proteste wieder aufgeflammt. Neu hinzugekommen sind bürgerkriegsähnliche Auseinandersetzungen entlang der Grenze zwischen den Regionen Somali und Oromia. Es kann also keine Rede davon sein, dass sich als Folge des Ausnahmezustands die Unruhe in Luft aufgelöst hat. Es gibt nach wie vor Unzufriedenheit und ein großes Konfliktpotenzial.
Ist die Regierung instabiler geworden?
Ja, es gibt Anzeichen dafür. Die Führungselite hat nach einer zweiwöchigen Klausur unlängst eingeräumt, dass sie die Situation nicht voll unter Kontrolle hat.
Gibt es eine politische Opposition, die sich einig ist?
Nein. Die Regierung hat seit den Wahlen 2005, bei der die Opposition relativ gut abgeschnitten hat, alles getan, um den politischen Spielraum einzuschränken. Das Antiterrorgesetz von 2009 lässt legalen Oppositionsparteien wenig Raum, sich politisch zu betätigen.
Welche Länder haben Einfluss auf die äthiopische Regierung?
China natürlich, das viel in Äthiopien investiert hat, das sich aber aus allen politischen Fragen heraushält. Auch die westlichen Geber halten sich traditionell zurück. Sie sehen Äthiopien immer noch als Hort der Stabilität und haben kein Interesse daran, dass sich die Regierung auf politische Abenteuer einlässt.
Durchaus nachvollziehbar, oder?
Ja, denn die meisten Nachbarn Äthiopiens sind sehr instabil. Die Frage ist nur, ob der autoritäre Druck der Regierung die Stabilität des Landes nicht viel mehr gefährdet als eine politische Öffnung. Der Schuss könnte am Ende nach hinten losgehen.
Nicole Hirt ist freie wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am GIGA Institut für Afrika-Studien in Hamburg.
11.1.2018 Courts continue handing down prison terms to political prisoners. ESAT News
Ethiopian courts, seen by many as instruments of the oppressive regime, have continued handing down prison terms to dissidents who insist terrorism charges brought against them were politically motivated. A court in Addis Ababa today sentenced thirty-three defendants to prison terms ranging from 15 to 18 years for allegedly being members and supporters of an opposition group, Patriotic Ginbot 7. The same court yesterday sentenced Girum Asnake to 4 years in prison for allegedly being a member of the same opposition group.
News of recent sentencing by the regime courts, considered kangaroo courts by critics and rights watchdogs, came a week after the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, promised to release political prisoners to bring what he called “national consensus” and “broaden the political space.” The regime insists it is not holding any political prisoner in its jails, drawing further criticism from rights groups and the international community.
I a related news, the federal high court in Addis Ababa ruled that high officials of the regime, including the Prime Minister, should not be summoned to testify in a case involving Bekele Gerba and other officials of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). The court earlier had summoned the officials to testify before the court.
Bekele Gerba and three other defendants who staged their protest on the decision inside the court were sentenced to additional 6 months for “contempt of court.” Three others who were charged on a separate case for being members of Patriotic Ginbot 7 were also given three months for protesting the court’s decision not to summon regime officials in the case involving OFC leaders.
10.1.2018 Armaments Being Smuggled into Addis Intercepted: Nat’l Security Council. ENA
Huge number of armaments that were to be smuggled into Addis Ababa was intercepted over the last two months, the National Security Council has disclosed. In a press briefing he gave to journalists today, Head of the Secretariat of the Council Siraj Fegiessa said the intercepted armaments include about 270 Kalashnikov rifles, and 200 pistols, 66,000 round of bullets. Siraj, who is also Minister of Defense, said that the weapons were intercepted at the checking points of Assosa, Metema and Togowuchalie. By smuggling the weapons into the capital, the plan was to aggravate the prevailing situation by inciting unrest and armed conflict, Siraj pointed out.
Regarding institutions of higher learning, Siraj said activities aimed at ensuring peace and stability at the institutions has bore fruits, referring the resumption of learning process at the universities. Siraj said the investigation being carried out on the cause of the conflicts and individuals who fuel the clashes will continue in collaboration with the public.
He appreciated the initiative and participation of the public in helping security forces intercept the smuggled weapons as well as efforts towards ensuring peace and stability.
Regarding allegations against members of the defense force of killing innocent people, Siraj said the rumor is baseless. Siraj said the accusations against the Defense Force known for its discipline are just “rumors that are never supported with a single evidence”. According to him, these rumors are fabricated stories aimed to tarnish the image of the Defense Force, which has got good recognition at the global arena for its commitment and respecting the rights of people.
10.1.2018 Council appoints Dr. Deberetsion as Deputy Chief Administrator of Tigray. Waltainfo
The Tigray Regional State Council in its 5th extraordinary meeting has elected Debretsion Gebremicheal (PhD) as Deputy Chief Administrator of the region. Dr. Debretsion was appointed as deputy because he is not eligible to become chief administrator as he is not a member of the regional state’s council.
Similarly, Addisalem Balema (PhD) is elected as member of the cabinet with a Deputy Chief Administrator portfolio. The council has also endorsed bureau and zonal administrators elections presented by Dr. Debretsion.
Former Chief Administrator of the Region, Abay Woldu, has welcomed the new Cabinet administration made by the Executive Committee and also showed his interest to work closely and cooperatively with them.
10.1.2018 Ethiopian government mounting crackdown in Oromo region of Ethiopia. borkena.com
Days after the Federal police commission announced that it is working on “investigative” study of “Qeerroo youth movement” from the city of Dire Dawa, emerging reports indicate that government is mounting a crackdown on youth in Oromo region of Ethiopia. It came in the wake of Ethiopian government promise to release political prisoners, a promise which it later disowned on grounds that the prime minister was misquoted, and close an infamous torture chamber in the capital, Maekelawi. So far, confirmed, 16 youth are arrested in Guduru district in the past six days, reported ESAT citing sources who spoke to ESAT on the phone.
Protest in Oromo region of Ethiopia is not completely called off as some towns are still witnessing it. Qeerroo, Oromo language speakers translate it as “Youth”, movement which is estimated to have about six million members across the region, according to information from officials from the regional state. Pro-TPLF activists dare to liken Qeerroo movement to that of Al-Shabab – an effort to frame the movement for an attack.
OPDO leaders, who oversee the regional state and who showed tendency to not blame the popular protest during press briefing following completion of EPDRF’s meeting, seem to be in a collision course with the federal authorities regarding the move to crack down on Qeerroo as they tend to have a position that they youth do have a right to peacefully demonstrate.
The federal government and pro-TPLF bloggers, on the other hand, have been accusing Qeerroo of bypassing government structure in many small towns in the region to impose what government says is Qeerroo rule. When government officials oppose demand from the movement, goes the accusation, they end up being eliminated.
What is known to the public so far, for certain, is that the Qeerroo youth movement has been demanding change, at times openly calling for an end to the TPLF government, and it is vowing that no amount of pressure and attack from the government will make them drop popular protest for change.
10.1.2018 Plans to crackdown on youth movement face backlash. ESAT News
The announcement by Ethiopian regime authorities that they would investigate and crackdown on Qero, a network of youth in the country’s restive Oromo region that is behind the anti-TPLF protest for over two years, has drawn backlash from Oromo political leaders and activists. Reports show that the TPLF regime, through its security apparatus that is largely dominated by Tigrayans, has targeted the Qero in Eastern Ethiopia, accusing that the youth network of taking control of the local administrative structures, fire and appoint local officials and even release prisoners.
The accusations by the regime were vehemently opposed by Oromo political leaders and activists. Representatives of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and activists told ESAT that the move by the regime to target the Qero was actually indirectly aimed at the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and its leader Lema Megersa, whom they said had exposed the political and economic corruption of the TPLF regime. A representative of the OFC said the goal of the movement by the Qero is freedom and that no amount of threat and intimidation would stop that movement.
The Justice Bureau of the Oromo regional government went as far as saying that the attempt by the regime to investigate the Qero was illegal. A representative of the Bureau, Taye Denda told the Deutsche Welle radio that it was wrong to marginalize the Qero and still talk about development. He said the region has its own police force to keep the peace and security of the people and the intervention by the regime police was unwelcome and illegal.
A similar youth movement in the Amhara region known as Fano has also been in the frontlines of the anti TPLF protest in the region. Critics say the camaraderie and mutual support by the Qero and Fano and their opposition against tyranny has angered the TPLF.
10.1.2018 Omo People’s Democratic Union calls for National Dialogue. borkena.com
Ethiopian opposition from southern Ethiopia is calling for a national dialogue to resolve the political crisis in Ethiopia. Vice chairman of Omo People’s Democratic Union, Alemayehu Mekonnen, says if the statement that the ruling EPRDF party issued following its executive meeting is to bring about reconciliation in the country, the ruling party need to involve all Ethiopian citizens, reported Ethiopian Satellite Television. While commending confession from EPRDF for causing the problem which Ethiopia is facing now and for causing immense suffering to Ethiopians who clamored for justice,peace and democracy, the party demand the ruling party to organize a national dialogue and invite opposition parties (both in and outside of Ethiopia including armed opposition groups), religious leaders, civic organization and notable Ethiopians so as to bring about national reconciliation. If the ruling party fails to do that, warns Omo People’s Democratic Union, a wave of popular protest will wipe them out.
International organizations including, The European Union, have been calling for national dialogue in Ethiopia to resolve the existing crisis. However, the ruling party showed no interest to pursue that avenue. It rather demonstrates a sense of entitlement to continue to rule the country, in fact with no sensible reform to reverse adverse effects of misguided policy.
9.1.2018 Human Right Council urges Ethiopian government to close other “torture facilities”. Arefaynie Fantahun, Ethiopia Observer
Ethiopia’s prominent human rights organization, the Human Rights Council (HRCO) has urged the government to turn the rhetoric into tangible action in its commitment to upholding human rights, supporting democratic values. While welcoming the ruling coalition’s announcement to release political prisoners and close the infamous Maekelawi detention center in the capital, HRCO said there are many other similar “torture facilities” in the country and the government should shut down them all.
The 4-page report released Saturday by HRCO stated that since anti-government protests erupted three years ago in the Amhara and Oromia regions , government security forces, particularly the federal police and defences forces have been using excessive and unnecessary lethal forces on peaceful and unarmed civilians. HRCO said the federal government authorities have not made any meaningful investigations into alleged security force violations. As matter of fact, the reports reads, certain police and security officials hampered the discussion and adoption of the legislation on the use of force and accountability in the parliament, which was prepared some years ago by the Ethiopian Federal Attorney General, making it impossible to safeguard the lives of citizens and protect their rights, according to HRCO.
Meanwhile, HRCO applauded certain regional government’s security forces’ effort in exercising restraint during protests, and making a move to investigate the response of security forces who made alleged human rights violations and held certain federal and defences force members responsible.
HRCO said it has been expressing serious concern about the restriction of the political space for the opposition, the increasing human right violations, and the danger this could pose for the very existence of country over the past twenty-five-year. “We call on the government to make concrete commitments to bring about deep reforms of laws, policies and actions towards ending longstanding political repression and human rights abuse in the country. And civil society institutions and the media should be allowed to function freely to play an instrumental role in the democratization process,” it concluded.
The Ethiopian government did not respond to requests for comment regarding the report.
9.1.2018 Joining the wobbly EPRDF is not the priority for the people of Somali region. Muktar Omer, OPride.com
Ethiopia’s four-party ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), is facing growing internal discord and public pressure. Last week, its leaders gave a four-hour-long press conference to journalists from state-run media. The briefing was meant to address agreements reached during 18-day-long crisis talks. It did not break new ground but Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made global headlines by halfheartedly pledging to release some jailed political party leaders and individuals.
EPRDF is made up of four ethnic-based member parties: The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Oromo People’s Democratic Party (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM).
The parties represent four of the country’s nine linguistic-based federal states. After two decades and a half of master-servant relationship between TPLF and the other three parties, the coalition began to show signs of unraveling in 2015. That is when OPDO and ANDM, who represent two of the most populous states in Ethiopia, started to demand respect and equality, and openly and publicly challenge TPLF’s domination over the country.
To be clear, resistance to TPLF’s hegemony within the EPRDF did not start in 2015. We recall the humiliation and arrest of one-time Prime Minister Tamirat Layne of ANDM. We watched the televised drama between former Ethiopian President Negasso Gidada, of OPDO, and then-TPLF chair and long-time prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, where Negasso told the latter, “now I feel I am talking to Mengistu Hailemariam.” We have seen too many high-ranking desertions, including that of two presidents of Oromia regional state (Hassan Ali and Juneydi Sado) who fled to the United States. Juneydi’s wife was also harassed and jailed. And then there is the alleged poisoning of Alemayehu Atomsa, another president of Oromia.
But it was in late 2015 that the Oromo and Amhara public finally rose up against injustice, tyranny and systematic corruption by EPRDF. It’s the reaction to this public anger that ripped EPRDF apart. OPDO and ANDM understood why their constituents were angry and started to identify with some of the people’s grievances. TPLF felt slighted and betrayed by this and tried to do what it has always done for 27 years: misrepresenting the people’s demands as the outcome of incompetence and complicity of regional leaders, particularly OPDO and ANDM. Luckily, this time leaders of the two parties forged an alliance and overcame potential purges.
The genesis and trigger of the Oromo and the Amhara revolt is not the focus of this article. Instead, my intention is to shed light on one of TPLF’s strategies to defeat the OPDO-ANDM alliance and the implications of this strategy for the people of the Somali Region.
TPLF is proposing to admit more satellite parties into EPRDF and to transform the governing coalition into one cohesive national party. This is TPLF’s way of fixing its disintegrating “command and control” system. It is not yet clear if the proposal was accepted by the OPDO and ANDM during last month’s marathon meeting. It is unlikely the two parties will accept the remake of the coalition without a corresponding change to the rules of the new format. One change that they are likely to insist on is proportional representation to checkmate the advantage TPLF is hoping to obtain by admitting smaller parties that are loyal to it.
One of the first such parties to be admitted is the Ethiopian Somali People’s Democratic Party (ESPDP), the ruling party in the Somali Regional state. What does this mean for the people of the Somali Region?
First, joining EPRDF is not the agenda or the priority of the people of the Somali Region. It is not surprising that TPLF is setting a new agenda for the people of the Somali Region. TPLF leaders have long appropriated the right to speak for the people of the Somali Region. Or, more accurately, to present their problems as our solutions. The overriding agenda of the people of Somali Region is justice, human rights, and genuine self-rule.
Second, joining EPRDF is not a promotion. It is like crying to board a sinking ship. It does not take a genius or a political scientist to understand that the tide of the Ethiopian politics is turning. Institutions such as the parliament are showing signs of getting back the power they were robbed over the last 27 years. The center of power is shifting from the ruling party to the parliament and the executive branch. The parliament is likely to be more powerful after the next elections because Oromia and Amhara state, which represent 65 percent of the population, are going to elect genuine representatives that are keen to challenge TPLF’s hegemony.
Third, joining EPRDF is not prestigious. EPRDF, by its own admission, is the source of the inter-ethnic conflict and hate, as well as the rent-seeking and corruption that is wrecking the country. It oversaw one of the most violent episodes in Ethiopian political history. It is responsible for the lack of democracy, justice, and freedom, and for gross human rights violations against the people of Ethiopia. None suffered more than the people of the Somali Region during EPRDF’s 27 years reign. It is an insult and a humiliation to view joining a club owned by your killers as a mark of distinction and achievement.
Fourth, joining EPRDF is not politically smart. EPRDF is in turmoil and will likely continue to be divided. Bringing more parties into the EPRDF will not end the inter-party power struggle. The Amhara and Oromo are likely to block any demands by the smaller, “satellite” parties if they see the later as TPLF appendage. Therefore, there are no obvious political benefits that joining EPRDF will bring to the satellite parties. It is also unlikely that EPRDF will be able to the rule the country alone. The future is one in which opposition parties will get empowered and EPRDF’s hegemony (if it survives its own schisms) is likely to wane.
ESPDP is hoping that joining EPRDF will empower the state’s political leadership and allow it to continue to abuse the Somali people with impunity. This may not be entirely a misconception. The political leaders in Somali Region are already enjoying the backing of TPLF’s military and intelligence leaders. They won’t get any more political muscles by formally joining EPRDF. But they are right to think they will continue to enjoy impunity as long as TPLF calls the shots inside EPRDF. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like this will be the case much longer.
9.1.2018 Political Parties Negotiating on Anti-Terrorism Law. ENA
The 16 national political parties negotiated today on the anti-terrorism law of the country. The negotiating parties have agreed over the importance of the anti-terrorism law but to consider its amendment and the inclusion of new articles. The group of 11 opposition political parties has requested the amendment of 4 articles, the omission of 6 articles and the introduction of 5 articles. Other individual opposition political parties criticized the law for narrowing the political space in the country.
The ruling party, EPDRF, pointed out on its part that there is no convincing reason that compels the dropping and amending of the law. However, the party is willing to consider the inclusion of the articles proposed by the group of 11 opposition political parties. The anti-terrorism law is based on the Constitution and international anti-terrorism laws, the party argued.
The parties agreed to continue the negotiation on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
8.1.2018 Ethiopian national security council reflects on yet another daunting security assessment. Liyat Fekade, Addis Standard
In another meeting attended by members of Ethiopia’s Security Council, participants at a day long meeting on Friday January 05 have reflected on yet another daunting security assessment compiled from various parts of the country since the council’s first meeting was held, during which an alarming security assessment document was presented. The participants on Friday’s meeting included Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa, who is the chairperson of the security council. Both PM Hailemariam and Siraj Fegessa have chaired the meeting which was also attended by high level federal and regional defense and security officials and members of the federal and regional police forces among others.
Two sources familiar with the meeting have told Addis Standard during the weekend that “concerns were raised by members of the national defense forces and the federal police regarding strong resistance from several parts of the public, particularly in Oromia and Amhara regional states.” Oromia and Amhara regional states are two of the biggest regional states which were hit by persistent anti-government protests in the last two years. The security council meeting was also told by participants from the federal security and intelligence forces that increasing trends of ethnic based attacks observed in various universities and cities in Oromia, Amhara and Tigray regional states have become the “most serious issues that have challenged both,” according to one of the sources who wants to remain anonymous.
The issue of “diminishing lack of public confidence in the federal army and the federal police force” was also discussed in light of the October 26/2017 killings of ten civilians in Ambo, 125 km west of Addis Abeba, and the killings of more than a dozen civilians in Chelenko, East Hararghe zone of the Oromia regional state. “It was discussed in detail as one of the reasons for this lack of public trust,” said the other source who spoke to Addis Standard. The Oromia regional government and residents of both Ambo and Chelenko have blamed members of the national defense force for the killings.
Participants of the Security Council meeting have also discussed the “difficult issue of the recent ethnic based attacks” observed in some universities, as well as the mid-December 2017 killings in Ethio-Somali and Oromia regional states that claimed the lives of close to eighty civilians. “Both were raised as examples that the work of restoring law and order was far from achieved.”
At a press briefing he gave late on Friday, after the day long meeting of the council, Siraj Fegessa told local media representatives that the overall security situation in the country “has improved: since the Council’s meeting in October. However, he said the Council recognized that more needs to be done to consolidate the gains made so far. He also said normal teaching learning processes have resumed in the universities that have experienced disruptions following ethnic based attacks and student protests “except for three universities”. However, Siraj didn’t mention the three universities by name. He also refused to take more questions from journalists saying there will be another briefing for the media in due course.
However, answering to one questions from a local reporter, Siraj said that the security crisis in Ethiopian Somali and Oromia adjacent zones were caused by border disputes and that since the first security council meeting police forces from both regions were made to vacate contested areas which were then manned by members of the federal army.
The issue of absence of the federal government’s commitment in dealing with the Oromia-Somali crisis as well as its “lack of resolve to resettle hundreds of thousands internally displaced Ethiopians” who were “victimized” by the violence, which began showing signs of escalation as far back as December 2016, “stood out as one of the hotly debated topics,” according to one of the two sources.
Representatives from the federal defense and police forces on their turn blamed lack of cooperation from their regional counterparts, especially in Oromia and Amhara regional states, which led to “several deaths of innocent civilians” during protests. “A senior defense official said at the meeting that the federal government’s thinly spread budget has added to the already fragile dynamics between federal and regional security and intelligence officials in terms of coordinating their acts,” one of our sources said.
The meeting has discussed the possibilities of increasing more security measures to be coordinated between federal and regional states “to contain what was agreed as the most serious of all security threats”: such as road blockages, ransacking of state affiliated properties, including army vehicles and ethnic based attacks, according to our sources.
Meanwhile, Reporter, the weekly Amharic newspaper said in its Sunday edition that the federal police has established a special task force to investigate the “Qeerroo” (The Afaan Oromoo term for “Young man”), but who the federal police believes were “clandestine” groups responsible for impeding the federal defense and federal police forces activities in eastern Ethiopia.
It is not clear if this decision is part of the security measures considered in the first security document. But many see the news as yet another crackdown against those who have continued staging ant-government protests especially in Oromia.
7.1.2018 Federal police commission launching investigation into Qeerroo movement. borkena.com
Government possibly in a mission of framing Qeerroo, a youth movement in Oromo region of Ethiopia.
The Federal police commission is launching an in-depth investigative study on “Qeerroo youth movement,” says a report published by a government-affiliated local newspaper. The Federal police already formed a task force based in Dire Dawa, in the South Eastern part of the country, and has already commenced working on the project. The clandestine youth movement is prevalent in Eastern Hararge (this is the region where there was a violent clash between two language speaking groups recently) where it is, added the report citing sources in government, manifesting a tendency to substitute government structure.
The report added that the movement blocks roads affecting movements of trucks, confiscating goods and distributing them to local residents. Qeerroo movement goes to the extent of giving a command to personnel in government structure in the region and assassinating those who do not obey the command, according to Ethiopian Reporter “sources.” Towards the end of November last year, the movement managed to set free prisoners in Gara Muleta. However, an incident os assassinating government officials is not so far reported by other media outlets.
In fact, it is public knowledge that the Querroo Youth Movement exist in the Oromo region of Ethiopia. However, the characterization by the government is perhaps intended to form a narrative which would frame the movement as something else and start, as some activists have observed, “Red Terror” style security operatives campaign to eliminate members of it.
A statement in a website named after Qeerroo reads as follows :
“We are determined to die in freedom than living in slavery” Qeerroo Oromiyaa.“We, Oromo and all other oppressed peoples students, declare to the world and the Ethiopian peoples that we are committed to be first in torching the revolution. Given the recent history of Oromo students’ movement, we are cognizant of the price of freedom.We are determined to die in freedom than living in slavery.
We are confident that soon the remaining Ethiopian peoples would follow us in upholding the torch of the revolution so that their oppression, suffering, and slavery end here and now and give way, once and for all, for liberty, freedom, and democracy to prevail.”
In fact, not much is known about the intent of Qeerroo movement in the rest of Ethiopia which is why there is noticeable reservation, if not skepticism, towards the movement. At times the movement uses radical ethno-nationalists’ flag.
6.1.2018 At some point,though, the Gods will strike. Kebour Ghenna, borkena.com
First thing first: Welcome Home to the thousands of political prisoners, now free to go home for Christmas.
What do we make of a ruling party power that is superior to the law of the land? Anyway, this is a subject for another time.
Today I’ll briefly reflect on the outcomes of the meetings of the Executive Council of EPRDF, namely on its approach to addressing the ethnic crisis of the past years.
For many Ethiopians, there is still no contradiction in embracing a strong Ethiopian identity and yet taking pride in their own ethnic or linguistic background. The Ethiopian is still today an Ethiopian first but then an Amhara, Oromo, Tigray, Guraghe, or some other ethnicity at the same time. But this can change, and change fast. When people reassert such identities to express substantial unhappiness and perceptions of injustice, this often reflects their sense that things have gotten out of control. Hard positions about these identities are articulated, accentuating the differences between groups.
This backlash appears to be strong among groups overwhelmed by economic pressures and a sense of hopelessness, seeking their last refuge in their ethnic identity.
But we’re not yet at the “breakdown” or “new paradigm” stage yet.
How do I know?
Because I don’t see people up in arms! Yes, I definitely see signs of uneasiness, even incredulity but no widespread rebellion to take up arms and start shooting around. Everyone I talk to is still wondering where our leaders (the four Heads of the EPRDF constituent groups) are taking the nation.
Of course, they don’t know where they’re taking the nation – and don’t want to know – because if they fail and create greater crisis – they would simply apologize and start again. That’s their modus operandi. That’s why they don’t bother articulate their plans. They think they have a strategy when they really don’t, at least not a strategy that people can get aligned to. This is what we’ve seen coming for the last 15-20 years.
For EPRDF the ethnic problem, for example, is so straight forward. This is a problem it has resolved long ago. The type of ‘ethnic democracy’ it adopted is both correct and ethically superior to competing belief systems. End of discussion! What need to be managed are the symptoms: Making sure that all the four parties operate on equal footing, or recruiting an efficient and upright public servant, for example.
At a minimum I expected the four leaders (after such long closed-door meetings) to introduce a ‘new vision for Ethiopia’ – a new course for Ethiopia – with strategies describing the ‘norms of acceptability’ and the responsibilities of citizenship in contemporary Ethiopia. I expected a vision to rebuild Ethiopia as a ‘community of communities’ accepting proper human rights culture. I expected a new discourse defining patriotism and nationalism that emphasizes civic engagement over ethnic and biological attributes. Simply put a debate between ‘ethnic nationalism’ – defining the nation in terms of ethnic origin and birth; and ‘civic nationalism’ – a nation defined in terms of shared values, not shared ethnicity.
I expected them (the leaders) to bring to the fore the issues of modernization of Ethiopia’s political institutions. Building effective, transparent and predictable institutions, developing a country with legal rules…all these don’t seem to be part of the agenda. As a result, other political institutions are no longer able to operate as a true counterweight to EPRDF power.
EPRDF authoritarians try to cast themselves as protectors of stable and effective government. Yet Ethiopians are discovering—both from daily experience and from national tragedies—that corrupt bureaucracies cannot deal successfully with ethnic violence, manage efficient public transport, create a regulatory framework that encourages the growth of small business or even do much about encouraging free media. Above all, they cannot reform themselves.
Ethiopia itself will not truly be strengthened by authoritarianism. Authoritarianism will block the modernization of Ethiopia’s institutions and keep them weak. Over the long term, EPRDF’s policies can be no more successful than the institutions that support them and implement them. On their current course, therefore, they are likely to fail; they will limit rather than accelerate Ethiopia’s growth.
So unfortunate the EPRDF does not back up. The institutions that were meant to restrain it — a constitution, the judiciary — are ignored or reshaped so the farce can continue to the end.
I suppose I went overboard with my expectations!
Kebour Ghenna served as president of Addis Ababa chamber of commerce and is currently Executive Director of Initiative Africa He shared this article on his facebook page
6.1.2018 Äthiopier hoffen auf einen politischen Frühling. Johannes Dieterich, Frankfurter Rundschau
Regime will politische Gefangene freilassen, doch es gibt Grund zu Skepsis.
Die Ankündigung der äthiopischen Regierung, politische Gefangene freizulassen und ein berüchtigtes Foltergefängnis in ein Museum umzuwandeln, ist innerhalb wie außerhalb des ostafrikanischen Landes auf freudige Überraschung, aber auch auf Skepsis gestoßen.
„Ich könnte weinen vor Glück“, sagte der äthiopische Journalist und Menschenrechtler Atnaf Berhane, der selbst drei Monate lang in Addis Abebas Folterzentrum Maekelawi misshandelt wurde: Die Ankündigung der Regierung könne den „Anfang einer neuen Ära“ markieren. Auch Felix Horne von der Menschenrechtsorganisation Human Rights Watch zeigte sich „sehr überrascht“: Offen blieben allerdings noch „viele Fragen“ über die Zahl der Amnestierten und die Ernsthaftigkeit der Regierung im Allgemeinen. Zumindest sei der Status quo aufgebrochen, meinte Hallelujah Wondimu vom Internationalen Institut für Strategische Studien: „Äthiopiens Machtverhältnisse sind zweifellos in Bewegung geraten.“
Regierungschef Hailemariam Desalegn hatte am Mittwoch überraschend die Begnadigung und Freilassung aller verurteilten „Politiker“ sowie die Schließung des Folterzentrums Maekelawi angekündigt – bislang hatte die Regierung stets geleugnet, dass es in Äthiopien überhaupt politische Gefangene gebe. Einzelheiten über die Zahl der Amnestierten und den Zeitpunkt ihrer Freilassung wurden bislang zwar nicht bekannt: Doch die Maßnahmen seien im Zusammenhang einer allgemeinen „Erweiterung des politischen Spielraums für alle Äthiopier“ zu sehen, versicherte Desalegn.
Die Skepsis von Beobachtern dieser Entwicklung schient dennoch angebracht zu sein. Denn inzwischen ließ die Regierung mitteilen: Dass „alle“ politischen Gefangenen eine Amnestie erhalten sollen, sei „ein Übersetzungsfehler“ gewesen. (…) Ob die Ankündigung der Regierung tatsächlich dem Beginn einer äthiopischen „Perestroika“ gleichkommt, sehen Beobachter noch skeptisch: Für eine wirkliche demokratische Öffnung seien sehr viel mehr Schritte nötig, sagte Analyst Seyoum Teshome, der wegen regierungskritischer Äußerungen bereits selbst im Gefängnis saß.
6.1.2018 Oromia-Somali crisis continues rocking federal gov’t. Yonas Abiye, The Reporter
- Government blamed for slow response
- Half a billion birr allocated to help IDPs
Reporting its findings Thursday before parliament, a team investigating deadly border clashes along parts of the border straddling Oromia and the Ethiopian Somali Region revealed that tensions have not yet been fully defused. The violence has left thousands dead, and led to the displacement of more than half a million people. The 16-page report, as presented by a 13-member team led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, notes that the situation has aggravated from being a mere two-region affair to one that has already rocked the federal government.
Reversing his decision to resign from the speakership the previous week, Abadulla Gemeda presided over the session marked by expressions of frustration by lawmakers against the incumbent government. Members of the team were drawn from five parliamentary standing committees, and conducted their fact-finding mission from November 5 to 11, 2017 in 16 weredas of both regional states.
Team members Demeke Mekonnen, Minister of Federal and Pastoralist Affairs Kebede Chanie, Minister of Defense Siraj Fegessa, Federal Police Commissioner Assefa Abiyu and Disaster Risk and Management Commissioner Mitiku Kassa were in attendance as team coordinator Chanie Shimeka, who is deputy chair of the Democracy, Human Rights and Administration Affairs Standing Committee, presented the report.
Shocking accounts of sexual violence are included in the report that details a worsening in the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Given the magnitude of the conflict, failure to deploy security forces in a timely fashion has also aggravated the situation, according to Chanie. The findings revealed that the IDPs were not getting adequate educational and health care services.
Concluding its report, the team urged the government to bring all responsible parties to a court of law, and to scale up ongoing efforts to give succor to victims. The team praised regional states and local communities for the support they have been providing to the people sheltered in their respective areas. The team also called for more support to the ongoing peace conference to restore peace and normalize relations between the brotherly peoples affected by the conflict.
Based on interviews with survivors sheltered at temporary camps, the team noted that the violence was caused by the Leyou Hayl (special police force), militias and some elements of the youth. The vast expanse of the geographic area under consideration has made determining the exact number of the deceased or IDPs difficult, the report also concludes.
Meanwhile, many MPs castigated the team over the delay of the report, which they argued was supposed to have been made public a month earlier, wondering, “What else is an urgent a national crisis as the death of thousands of citizens and displacement of over 700,000 peoples?” Responding to the question about the delay in presenting the report, Chanie noted that senior government officials had already been informed about the findings but most people in leadership positions were pretty busy with meetings and forums over the past month. Some observers opined that it should not have been lost on MPs who had themselves boycotted regular sessions for weeks demanding appearance by the PM.
Regarding who really is behind the conflict and who should be held accountable, the report did not give much detail even though arrests were being made of some suspects and investigation is going on. Federal Police Commissioner Assefa Abiyu told MPs that some 107 individuals suspected of violating human rights are under investigation, and government agents are after 96 individuals suspected of involvement in the conflict. He also spoke of attempts at protecting wanted individuals by officials of both regions. Suspects already under investigation and those who are still at large include residents of the conflict areas, officials, members of the Leyou police, militias and the youth (otherwise referred to as qerro).
On the issue regarding delay to take action by members of the security forces, Minister of Defense Siraj Fegessa blamed it on the small number of uniformed personnel at hand during the first two days when the violence was at its worst. He, however, argued that had his forces not been deployed, the causality would have even been worse. Speaking of hurdles with the provision of emergency assistance to the IDPs, National Disaster Risk Management Commissioner Mitiku Kassa told MPs that, “We are discussing ways of delivering unhindered assistance with leaders of both regions.”
Meantime, MPs stressed that suspected perpetrators who violated human rights and caused loss of lives should quickly be made to face justice. Calling the violence “a historical mistake,” Tigray MP Mulu Gebre-Egziabher, urged the government to disclose the identity and role of all perpetrators behind the conflict “irrespective of who they are”.
Seconding Mulu, MP Tsehay Demissie underlined that the government should no longer hide information from the public, and noted that the people know everything already. She further said that we cannot blame the unfolding saddening crisis on rent-seekers and contrabandists, who might have had lesser roles. “If justice is to prevail and if we really have to heal the wounds of survivors, accountability should begin from top regional and federal government levels,” Tsehay said.
Hordoffa Bekele an emotionally-charged Oromia MP, questioned the government’s commitment to deal with the sorry plight of women and children. Another MP, Akilu Getachw, on his part, vented his anger thus, “This is neither merely about controlling illegal practices nor an ordinary criminal activity…All this criminal activity has not been committed without the knowledge of higher-ups. Hence, we should not continue beating around the bush. It is high time that we uncovered everything that our people demand to know.” He also asked, “Where was our army, a defense force that has been lauded for peace-keeping missions in other African countries. It is so ironic to see the army fail to safeguard its fellow citizens.”
Responding to comments, Deputy Premier Demeke Mekonnen said that the government is trying to enlist religious leaders and Aba Gadas to help in efforts aimed at defusing tensions in some localities. However, he admitted that measures taken so far by the federal government to calm down the situation were insufficient. Demeke also said that the government has been working to prevent crime, provide support for IDPs and to return them to their original places of residence. He also noted that 500 million birr has been earmarked to rehabilitate IDPs.
The fact-finding team concluded that the instability in the two regions remains a great concern and it would take a while before IDPs were resettled. However, many fear that the impact of the recent conflict will endure with complexity among the government structure while it is still uncertain as regards who should take blame at higher echelons of power. Finally, the session ended with lawmakers voting on a-12-point resolution proposed by the fact-finding team.
6.1.2018 Government calls upon public to stand by its in problem solving move. Waltainfo
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) called upon the public to stand by it so that it will take measures to satisfy and win the trust of the people. In a statement the Government Communication Affairs Office sent to ENA said the government is reforming and readying itself to responsibly carry out promises that are bestowed upon it by the people.
According to the statement, the government thoroughly looking into the problems facing the country over the last 25 years along with the impressive economic growth the country attainted. The government has put in place mechanisms to scientifically solve problems facing the country involving the people.
To widen the democratic space of the country, statement said that the government will give leverage to civic associations, political organizations, media and other organizations to have their say.
Failing to work in a speed where all people got satisfied is the major factor that triggered the political crisis happened in the country, the statement added. Statement noted that officials from higher leadership are responsible to the problems, which needs commitment to uproot the problem.
5.1.2018 Here is what Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said and what he didn’t say. Zecharias Zelalem, OPride.com
After a day of journalistic mishaps and mistranslations in both local and international press, we have some clarity on what exactly Ethiopian leaders said and did not say during Wednesday’s surprise announcement.
In a much-anticipated press conference, the four chairpersons of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) briefed journalists from the state media on what the agreements they reached at nearly three weeks long closed session of the party’s Executive Committee. The meeting, held amid heightened political tensions across the country, turned into a big media speculation storm.
Initial reports suggested that the Prime Minister used Wednesday’s presser to announce the unconditional releases of every single political prisoner in Ethiopia and plans to close the infamous Maekelawi prison. The report caught Ethiopia observers (and no doubt many Ethiopians) off guard.
The international press went with a glowing but as we now know mistranslated sound bites and most of the world went to bed believing repressive Ethiopia has taken an unprecedented step forward in expanding human rights and political freedoms for its citizens. In fact, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce issued a statement lauding Ethiopia for “finally acknowledg[ing] that it holds political prisoners.” The Republican lawmaker called on Ethiopia to “quickly follow through on its commitments to release them and close a prison camp notorious for torture.” The Ethiopian government adamantly denies holding any political prisoners in its jails.
Ethiopians on social media were much more skeptical. Many were quick to note it’s too good to be true.
Twenty-four hours later, a different picture is emerging from a closer review of the prime minister’s actual comments and a thorough parsing by Ethiopian journalists, social media activists, and netizens.
To be sure, much remains unclear but here is what I know to be factual:
First, the unconditional release of all those unjustly incarcerated at several detention facilities across the country doesn’t appear to be on the cards. However, all indications are that a number of high-profile political prisoners will be released or pardoned on or ahead of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas, which will be on January 7, 2018.
Second, the Maekelawi federal prison, widely known as a torture chamber for dissidents and government opponents, will be closed and turned into a museum. A new detention center will be built in its stead, a signal that Maekelawi’s closure doesn’t necessarily mean the end of torture and inhuman treatment for detainees as long as the legal system and its oppressive structures remain intact.
So what went wrong?
The big news was first reported, among others, by Associated Press and BBC claiming the ruling party has made a spectacular 180 degree turn to release all political prisoners. It appears that AP’s Elias Meseret was among the first to translate parts of the briefing from Amharic and spread the breathtaking declaration. AP’s wire copy was then picked up by the Guardian and many other western media outlets. Rights groups jumped on the report as well with Amnesty International suggesting the decision to free all political prisoners is a sign of “the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia.”
After the story made the rounds, snippets recorded from the nightly broadcasts were shared by local journalists on social media. The truth, it turns out, is much more somber.
The Prime Minister didn’t actually announce the freedom of every political prisoner Ethiopia. In fact, he went to great lengths to avoid calling them “political prisoners.”
Here is a word-for-word translation of the premier’s comments followed by AP’s version:
It is known that there are political leaders and individuals whose crimes have resulted in court convictions or have resulted in their ongoing prosecution under the country’s law. Nevertheless, to create an atmosphere of national understanding and due to our belief that we can simultaneously expand our democratic horizons, some of them will be pardoned as per the law’s of pardon and as would be constitutionally permitted. We will proceed with this action while taking precautions to ensure the rule of law is respected throughout the process, and pursue the development of our democratic and political structure that oversees our multiparty system.
Now, this is far from what most international media outlets quoted the prime minister as saying yesterday. The statement was vague and riddled with state propaganda to portray the government in Ethiopia as a well-oiled machine preparing for a brief pit stop before blazing onwards to glory. But it is a far cry from the media depiction of a regime that admitted to constitutional wrongdoings and is attempting to restart with a clean slate.
One of the first questions from Ethiopians was: What constitutes a political prisoner?
It is still unclear just how many prisoners will be released from the thousands held across the country, but we can immediately discard the suggestion that “all political prisoners will be freed” as a myth.
Unfortunately, this was a case of bad translation. There is no way the prime minister would refer to anyone as a “political prisoner.” To do so would be to admit that they had been unjustly detained. Instead, the premier referred to the detainees as “political leaders or individuals whose crimes have resulted in court convictions or ongoing prosecution under the law.”
Based on this statement, it will be a mistake to conclude that Ethiopia is abandoning its long-held position that it holds zero political prisoners. Similarly, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn did not admit that his government used the Maekelawi prison as a torture center. He noted that the detention center is will be closed because it is associated with atrocities committed by the Derg regime.
To my knowledge, at the time of publication, no outlet has issued a retraction or acknowledged that Hailemariam’s comments were misrepresented. Indeed both AP and BBC carried follow-up stories, the later quoting an aide to the prime minister who said the premier was misquoted due to “mistranslation.”
It is worth noting here that the initial Facebook on the verified “Office of the Prime Minister” page was edited at least eight times. The claim that Ethiopia had finally admitted holding political prisoners may have born out of the vague and contradictory Facebook postings by the PM’s official page and similar quotes by the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, which also edited its initial Facebook post several times.
The posts may have led some to believe that Addis Ababa had finally given in and admitted what everyone else knew to be true. But, as I explained above, this simply isn’t the case.
The Ethiopian Reporter on Thursday reported the pardoned prisoners could be released as soon as Friday or Saturday. The report does not answer the questions many are asking on who might be released, but implied that leaders of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, namely Bekele Gerba and Merera Gudina, are likely to be included in any releases.
Meanwhile, the African Union also issued a rare statement reacting to domestic political developments in Ethiopia. In a communiqué shared online, AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomed the “pardoning or suspending of ongoing judicial cases of members of political parties and other individuals.”
The language in AU’s statement, which mirrors Hailemariam’s comments, suggests AU was either notified or took extra steps to understand the claims. The AU leader’s message did not include a congratulatory message celebrating the releases of “all” political prisoners.
EBC has released an extended hour-long segment it said was part I of the briefing. It is likely to offer more clues and information on possible next steps. Unfortunately, given the mainstream media’s fleeting interest, much of it may get lost in the whirlwind of misinformation that was based on incorrect translation. And the tens of thousands jailed merely because of their political views and activities may still languish in Ethiopia’s many torture chambers.
5.1.2018 Ethiopia’s TPLF must fix its disease, not symptoms. Teshome M. Borago, narzet.com
After over 2 years of courageous Ethiopian protests and thousands of innocent lives lost, the TPLF ruling party has thrown crumbs and meaningless promise at the Ethiopian people once again. This week, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn first announced that “political prisoners” will be released. Suddenly, many naive international human rights organizations and leaders praised the regime. But just one day later, his TPLF handlers told him to reverse everything, accusing the media of “misquoting” his announcement. So, Hailemariam now completely rejects that “political prisoners” even exist in Ethiopia; therefore he claims that it is due to his party’s graciousness that “imprisoned or convicted politicians and others” will be pardoned.
When have we witnessed this drama before?
It was of course in 2007 when TPLF put on a masterful show of pardoning prominent opposition officials of the CUD party who were incarcerated right after winning the 2005 national election. That was a historic election where TPLF used its OPDO Oromo cadres to defame and attack the CUD party; just like it is currently using the Somali Liyu Police to attack the Oromo-Amara (#Oromara) alliance. The strategy failed then and CUD mobilized millions to win even populated regions of Oromia and 99% of the city votes. In response, TPLF declared state of emergency in 2005, killed hundreds of protestors and held opposition leaders as hostage. When most Western Powers denounced these barbaric acts, TPLF later freed the prisoners as a diversion tactic to portray an illusion of reform and change. However, after the prisoners release, the human rights situation in Ethiopia actually got worse and the ruling party decided to kick out even the small opposition figures in its parliament, successfully becoming a one-party tyranny like its Derg predecessor.
Will the same tactic work for TPLF again?
Ten years later, the TPLF seems to be using the same tactic to save its sinking ship.
The problem is that Ethiopia is too big and too diverse to be ruled with an iron fist forever. After 2005, even after TPLF destroyed the legal opposition; diverse members of its own coalition had began to crack. Having fed narrow tribal propaganda of Oromo nationalism (OPDO) and Amhara nationalism (ANDM) for two decades as a tool to undermine cosmopolitan Ethiopian nationalists, the TPLF finally got a taste of its own medicine since 2015. Land and power disputes took ethnic dimensions and sparked regional protests that the ruling party has yet to recover from.
The turning point of these isolated protests was when mostly Amara Gondar protestors (some armed with weapons and too close to TPLF’s hometown) began to strategically coordinate with Oromo protestors who suffocated the commercial routes of the center with their bravery and unflinching determination. Such Oromo-Amara alliance was recently fueled by their desperation to spread or nationalize their isolated movements, as well as inspired by Ethiopian nationalists like Teddy Afro, whose album in 2017 was featured in every major international media and quickly became an anthem for Ethiopians worldwide. Suddenly, even Oromo diaspora activists like Jawar Mohammed began to preach Ethiopian unity and virtually abandon divisive hot topics like tribalization of Addis Ababa and defamation of our patriotic ancestors. Jawar even defended Teddy Afro against government censorship as the #Oromara alliance grew.
This yearlong unity of Ethiopian protestors has cornered the TPLF ruling party and made several pockets of the nation completely ungovernable. The regime’s divide and rule policy has faltered.
And there is no sign that the new protests will end anytime soon. Unlike the systematic suppression of the urban opposition after the 2005 election, the TPLF will not be able to stop the current rural protests. For example, during the aftermath of that election, Meles Zenawi accelerated his program of the “One-to-five” network of spies around Addis Ababa. Since then, more Tigrayans have also migrated to the urban and many have become informers in every block of the cities, especially Addis Ababa.
Ironically, the same destructive “ethnic-federalism” structure that has made the country ripe for ethnic conflicts is also the same structure that might end up killing TPLF and its spy program. The ongoing protests have now proven that TPLF is unable to keep its important 1-to-5 spy program in the rural without the full support of OPDO and ANDM. Particularly in rural Oromia, once the program collapses, it is nearly impossible to restore this “one-to-five” structure without OPDO, due to language barriers and the shear size of the state. Also, unlike the millions of Amharas and southerners living inside Oromia towns, Tigrayans are almost nonexistent in much of the rural state. Therefore, OPDO or any Oromo opposition movement (if it has courageous leadership) will be more capable of defying the TPLF authority in the coming years. If the TPLF regime thinks it can throw crumbs and easily satisfy the protestors, it will be hugely mistaken.
Therefore, addressing only the symptoms of the tyranny by tackling minor corruption cases and releasing prisoners will not be enough. Ethiopia needs a permenant systematic change by fixing its undemocratic institutions at the judiciary, civil service, federal agencies and particularly the military which lacks independence from the TPLF. So far, the TPLF ruling party seems to be uninterested in genuine reform and it might even attempt to slide back to its brutal military solution.
It is upto the protest movements to force the regime and there are three more methods.
First, the Oromo and Amara protests must somehow take their movement to the center of Addis Ababa and that requires further de-ethnicization of their end goal and rhetoric. Secondly, the “Oromara” protests must be more disciplined and avoid attacking any Tigrayan businesses and civilians. Thirdly, the Oromo and Amara protests must reach out to other ethnic groups, particularly the Somalis, whose Liyu Police gang have become TPLF’s new lifeline. This third step requires not only political leadership among Oromo and Somali diaspora communities but also discipline back home to stop ethnic clashes or revenge killings that have led to massive displacement of civilians along the Oromia-Somali borders.
All these three strategies are vital to put more pressure on TPLF and set up a foundation for a transition to democracy.
5.1.2018 Ethiopia to Consider Pardoning Some Members of Opposition Parties. Salem Solomon, VoA News
The government of Ethiopia says it will consider pardoning or dropping charges against some members of opposition political parties accused of crimes. Initial news reports stated that Ethiopia will release all political prisoners, but that was based on an inaccurate translation of the prime minister's comments during a news conference Wednesday. The government had never before acknowledged that it detains political prisoners, and the possibility of a sweeping pardon drew reactions from activists, human rights groups and other governments.
In a written statement, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, said, "Ethiopia has finally acknowledged that it holds political prisoners. Now, the government should quickly follow through on its commitments to release them." The Ethiopian government has promised far less, however.
Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister, said in Amharic that the government would review the cases of certain individuals affiliated with political parties, including party leaders, who have been charged with crimes. He also said that, in some cases, charges would be dropped or people would be released or pardoned, depending on investigation results.
What wasn't mentioned during the televised press conference was "political prisoners," "all political prisoners" or immediate pardons without review. Hailemariam said the notorious Maekelawi Prison will be closed and turned into a museum, although the prime minister did not give a timetable for the closure at the same news conference.
The state-owned Fana Broadcasting Network said the government is closing the prison, located in the heart of Addis Ababa, because it was where Ethiopia's former Derg regime committed atrocities "under the guise of investigation." The government did not acknowledge that it currently treats prisoners inhumanely at the detention center, despite accusations by exiled dissidents and former prisoners. Human Rights Watch says the current government interrogates and tortures political prisoners at the facility.
Both HRW and Amnesty International welcomed the announced closure of the prison as an important first step. But both groups emphasized that those behind the alleged torture in Maekelawi Prison must be investigated and held to account. In an email reaction shortly after the announcement, HRW's senior researcher for the Horn of Africa, Felix Horne, said, "Ensuring independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions is critical to send a strong and clear message to security officials across the country that torture is no longer permissible and will be punished."
Activists have long accused the government and the ruling EPRDF coalition of using arrests, torture and imprisonment to suppress political dissent. The party has ruled Ethiopia since overthrowing the Marxist Derg regime in 1991.
5.1.2018 Judge prevents tortured prisoner at Ma’ekelawi from showing his scars. ESAT News
Two days after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said Ma’ekelawi detention center was used by the former marxist regime but not his government to torture opponents, a political prisoner asked a court in Addis Ababa today to show scars of torture on his body. But he was prevented by a judge, who sarcastically told the victim that he could sue his tormentors.
Fedissa Guta was arrested in Wollega allegedly being a member of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a political party outlawed by the repressive regime. The news also came at a time when the regime in Addis Ababa insist there are no political prisoners in the notorious Ethiopian prrisons. Guta, who wish to tell the court the names of his tormentors, was also denied from doing so.
A political prisoner recently showed scars of his body, injuries he said was sustained after he was flogged with electric wires. A number of political prisoners have shown their tortured bodies to a court in Addis Ababa but none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Accounts by released political prisoners and reports by rights watchdogs show that Ma’ekelawi, a detention center in Addis Ababa has been used as a torture chamber by the TPLF regime.
5.1.2018 Effective Activities Undertaken in Restoring Peace, Stability: Minister of Defense. ENA
The collaborative work done by federal and regional security forces in restoring peace and stability in parts of the country where conflicts were observed bring tangible results, the National Security Council said. The Council that consists federal and regional security forces had endorsed its plan to stabilize the areas affected by conflicts a month ago. The Council that evaluated its month long activities that were targeted to restore order in the areas said it has got promising results.
In a press conference he gave on Friday, the Minister of Defense Siraj Fegiessa, said the plan was intended to restore order by ending the conflicts that were targeting institutions and the free movement of people as well as disturb stability of the country. In this regard, Siraj said effective activities were carried out to end acts that hinder the free movement of people by blocking major roads. “Due to the collaborative efforts, now relatively better peace is observed in the country`s main roads”, Siraj elaborated. Through the collaborative efforts of security forces, community elders and religious leaders, peace has also restored to institutions of higher learning and learning process has resumed in almost all the institutions, he added.
Regarding the conflict occurred between the administrative border of Oromia and Somali states, Siraj said the situation has shown improvement during the past month. “The federal security force has replaced the security forces of the two regional states` and deployed on major border areas of the two regional states. Now relatively better stability is observed in the areas and among the people of the respective regions” he said. According to Siraj, apprehending individuals who incite conflict and participate in the clashes has been conducting in collaboration with regional security forces and administrations.
Highlighting that promising results have been gained over the past month in restoring order, Siraj noted that there are some issues that continue to be done afterwards. According to him, apprehending people involved in illegal acts, stopping unpermitted demonstrations as well as clashes in some areas are things need to be done. The joint security force agreed to continue on exerting its efforts to the sustainably ensure peace and security of the country.
4.1.2018 Chairpersons of Member Organizations of EPRDF Describe Federalsim as Cornerstone of Nat'l Unity. ENA
Chairpersons of the four national member organizations of EPRDF said they are building the federal system based on values of tolerance and mutual respect of the peoples to make it a guarantee for their unity. The chairpersons briefed journalists yesterday on the deliberations of the EPRDF Executive Committee that was in session for 17 days to evaluate the activities of the organization.
In its extensive evaluation session, the Executive Committee concluded that the federal system is the guarantor and the only viable system for the country, it has reached consensus that the cause of the current temporary challenge is the inability to lead the movement by understanding the objective reality in the country and failing to foresee problems and resolve them. Responding to the question that conflict arises "due to the establishment of the federal order on the basis of language", the Chairpersons answered in unison by stressing that the federal system addressed the age-old struggle of the Ethiopian peoples for the full respect of their culture, languages and identity. The federal system therefore delighted the nations, nationalities and peoples by responding appropriately to their demand. The Chairpersons, who underscored that the cause of current temporary problems that resulted in death, displacement of people and destruction of property is not the federal system, added that the problems are related to implementation and predatory persons in the localities.
Chairperson of EPRDF and SEPDM, Hailemariam Dessalegn said,
"I think it is important to deeply understand the inception of the Ethiopian federal system. The federal system is an outcome of the solemn declaration by the nations, nationalities and peoples to build democratic Ethiopia on the basis of mutual interest, respect and unity enshrined in the constitution.
"When the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia resolved to build a single socio-economic entity, the federal system acknowledged the diverse culture and historical values of the peoples of this country cemented in their unity.
"Therefore federalism created a common homeland in which there is no ground for favoritism or a situation in which others are discriminated. Our federal system is an inclusive system in which all stakeholders are included. Thus, the federal system cannot be a cause for any conflict."
Deputy Chairperson of EPRDF and Chairperson of ANDM, Demeke Mekonnen said,
"It is true that we have encountered recurrent conflicts. These conflicts have forced us to pay a lot of sacrifices. Any level of analysis on the root causes of these conflicts cannot however be attributed to the federal system, but correlating the issues with the leadership would enable us to look for viable solutions to resolving the conflicts in their proper order.
Chairperson of OPDO, Lemma Megerssa said,
"The federal system is not something that is superimposed on us but a system which the nations, nationalities and peoples of this country have willingly endorsed. The federal system is a system in which the identities of the peoples of Ethiopia was fully recognized and respected and a system that has answered the demands that the peoples of Ethiopia have voiced for ages. There is no problem with the federal system. The conflicts have never emanated from the federal system but from our inability to implement federalism properly."
Chairperson of TPLF, Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael said,
"The federal system was enacted to solve the multifarious problems the country had faced. In the advent of the downfall of the Dergue, there were some 17 ethnic based armed groups which could have caused the balkanization of the country unless some drastic measure was taken. The solution to the impending catastrophe rested on acknowledging diversity. Therefore, our federal system was never a problem but a viable solution to resolve conflicts. The system dealt a blow to the proliferation of armed groups and enabled the peoples of Ethiopia to use their languages freely, cherish their history and practice their cultures. It is a system that ascertained equality among the peoples of Ethiopia and prompted them to engage in the development of their country, registering unprecedented economic growth."
4.1.2018 President’s office requests list of convicted, charged political party leaders. Tamiru Tsige, The Reporter
The Office of the President requested the Federal Prisons Administration and the Federal Attorney General respectively to provide it with a list of political party members and leaders who are eligible for pardon as well as political party leaders and members currently on trial, The Reporter learnt. According to sources close to the matter, the President’s Office is due to receive the lists within two days.
It is to be remembered that, in a joint briefing they gave to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) and Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) yesterday, the leadership of the four member parties of the EPRDF announced that opposition party members and leaders will be released and that charges against those undergoing trial will be withdrawn. The infamous detention and investigation center a.k.a. Maekelawi was also said to be closed and converted to a modern museum.
4.1.2018 Ethiopia PM 'misquoted' over prisoners. BBC News
Ethiopia's government has denied that all political prisoners will be freed, saying that only some imprisoned politicians will be pardoned.
An aide to the prime minister said a mistranslation led to him being quoted as saying that all political prisoners would be freed to promote dialogue.
The prime minster also said a detention centre, allegedly used as a torture chamber, would be shut. Ethiopia has been hit by a wave of political unrest in recent years.
Amnesty International welcomed the initial announcement, saying it could signal "the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia" - although it warned that the closure of the Maekelawi detention centre should not be used to "whitewash" the "horrifying" events which took place under its roof. Ethiopia has always denied that there were any political prisoners in the country, as alleged by human rights and opposition groups.
In a statement on Thursday, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn's office said that "some members of political parties and other individuals that have been allegedly suspected of committing crimes or those convicted will be pardoned or their cases interrupted based on an assessment that will be made so as to establish a national consensus and widen the political sphere".
It remains unclear how many people will be freed, or when.
One of the main opposition groups, the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek), said the government often engaged in "face-saving" measures and tried to "buy time" when it was "cornered". Medrek was, nevertheless, prepared to enter into dialogue with the government, if it was genuine and the talks led to free and fair elections, said the group's deputy leader, Beyene Petros.
Who are the prisoners?
Those held in jails across the country include opposition activists from the Amhara and Oromia regions, which were at the centre of anti-government protests in 2015 and 2016, and journalists who have criticised the government, says BBC Ethiopia correspondent Emmanuel Igunza. The prisoners also include UK citizen Andargachew Tsege, who was seized in 2014 when changing planes in Yemen and forced to go to Ethiopia, where he had been sentenced to death in absentia for his political activities against the state.
It is difficult to know exactly how many politicians have been imprisoned, but our correspondent estimates that about 1,000 are held under the country's anti-terrorism proclamation, including high profile leaders from the opposition. However, there are another 5,000 cases still pending, made up of those arrested after a state of emergency was declared in October 2016, he adds.
Will they actually be released?
The government has given no timeline on the release of the prisoners, including those still awaiting trial.
Our reporter notes a number of cases have political backgrounds, but are also linked to groups the government considers to be terrorists. Nineteen people linked to Ginbot 7 - deemed a terror group - were sentenced to prison terms just this week. Whether they will all be released remains to be seen.
Any dialogue would have to include legitimate opposition groups like the Oromo Federalist Congress, whose leaders would have to be freed to fully participate in the process, our correspondent says.
What about the detention centre?
As well as releasing the prisoners, Mr Hailemariam announced the closure of Maekelawi - a detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa, which Amnesty International described as a "torture chamber used by the Ethiopian authorities to brutally interrogate anybody who dares to dissent, including peaceful protesters, journalists and opposition figures".
"A new chapter for human rights will only be possible if all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice," Amnesty International added.
The government strongly denies the torture allegations, but it has now decided the prison will become a "modern museum" - a move the privately-owned Addis Standard newspaper called for in an editorial in 2016. A new detention centre will be opened, Mr Hailemariam said, which would comply with international standards.
Our correspondent says detentions have always been a major concern. In December, social media users staged a day of action to remember those held behind bars. But this decision comes hot on the heels of a meeting between the parties which make up the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. Over the past months, infighting within the coalition, which has been in power for more than 25 years, has led the prime minister to acknowledge the need for change. The Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization and the Amhara National Democratic Movement, which are part of the coalition, have been pushing for increased political space and the "respect of their people" following the massive anti-government demonstrations that have been witnessed in the country.
Who is Hailemariam Desalegn?
A trained engineer, Mr Hailemariam took the reins of power in 2012, after the death of Meles Zenawi, who had ruled since 1991. However, while the former deputy prime minister was a close ally of Mr Meles, he struggled to gain approval of the other EPRDF leaders in order to assume his new role. He is not known for tolerating dissent well, despite statements to the contrary, his critics say. In 2016, he blamed "anti-peace forces" for the violence in the Oromia region, a year after he told the BBC that bloggers and reporters arrested were not real journalists and had terror links.
4.1.2018 Reported tension between executive and intelligence authorities over list of political prisoners. borkena.com
- Friction between executive and intelligence authorities in Ethiopia
- Government denies that it did not say all political prisoners will be released
A day after the Ethiopian government promised to release political prisoners (government calls them criminals) in an effort to “broaden the democratic space”in the country, there seem to be a bit of blurry and confusing information.
A local newspaper with close links to the ruling party, Ethiopian Reporter, indicated in its report today that members of opposition parties and leaders who are in prison could be released latest by this Saturday. Merara Gudina and Bekele Gerba, chairman and first secretary of Oromo Federalist Congress, respectively, are presumed to be among the leaders to be released.
The Office of Mulatu Teshome, president of Ethiopia, who has the constitutional power to grant amnesty to convicted prisoners, has requested prison authorities to send lists of convicted political party members and leaders. He has also requested Federal government prosecutor to hand over lists of political leaders and members whose case is still in court.
Meanwhile, there is reported tension between intelligence chief on the one hand, and the executive and the judiciary on the other following the decision to release some political prisoners which the Ethiopian government announced yesterday. The tension is over the lists of people to be released.
Member parties of the ruling EPRDF coalition have requested, says a report by Wazema Radio, the lists of prisoners to be released beforehand. The report, which cited anonymous insider sources, added that OPDO leadership have stretched themselves so as to get information in that regard but authorities in the intelligence unit are vowing to cross off names of some prisoners whom they consider as a `threat“ for the country.
Today, the Ethiopian government denied that it did not say all political prisoners will be release. BBC reported today that “An aide to the prime minister said a mistranslation led to him being quoted as saying that all political prisoners would be freed to promote dialogue.”
There are fears that releasing political prisoners selectively will cause renewed protest across the country. Some analysts seem to think that the hitherto dominant party in the ruling coalition TPLF, which do not seem to accept the reality that its domination is no longer acceptable for member parties which are in fact much bigger in terms of constituency,could carry out the executive decision to release prisoners in a way to bring about division among the parties that are challenging its domination.
4.1.2018 House speaker returns to his post. Yohannes Anberbir, The Reporter
The Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR), Abadulla Gemeda is reported to have resumed his regular duties as Speaker today as he is seen presiding over proceedings at today’s parliamentary session. Abadulla tendered his resignation to the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) in October leaving his position as Speaker of HPR on the grounds that the dignity of the people and the party that he represents has been compromised and claiming that he could not continue in this situation any longer.
Abadulla gave open press stament to the Oromia public broadcaster OBN and EBC at the time that he is not ready to divulge the full reason behind his resignation and said that he will reveal everything in due time. In subsequent weeks the HPR fall to the deputy Shitaye Minale while Abadulla was visible only in OPDO and EPRDF meetings and events. According to Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) is yet to accept the resignation of the Speaker while saying he has accepted Bereket Simon’s, who also decided to resign from all of his government responsibilities around the same time Abadulla did. However, in an unprecedented turn of events last week, both Abadulla and Bereket have announced their decisions to retract their resignations and return to government.
Following this, Abadulla has been seen returning to his position in today’s parliamentary session which is listening to the reports of a taskforce organized to assess conflicts that occurred in many parts of the country especially along the borderlines of the Somali and Oromia Regional States.
4.1.2018 Perpetrators of Oromia, Somali Border Conflict Must Face Justice Soon: HPR Representatives. ENA
A fact finding team established by the House of People's Representatives (HPR) announced that 107 individuals suspected of violating human rights in the Oromia and Somali border conflict are under investigation. This was revealed today when the team presented its observations during a field visit to both regions to the HPR.
Federal Police Commissioner, Assefa Abiy said investigation in identifying the cause that led to the violation of human rights and loss of lives in the two regional states will be finalized and reported to the House soon. Cases related to criminal acts are being investigated by the respective regional police forces and the commission is supporting them, he added. “The conflict has caused many deaths, displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and destruction of property in the regional states,” Assefa stated. According to the Commissioner, 98 and 9 suspects detained for violation of human rights are from Oromia and Somali regional states. The commission is hunting 96 individuals that are suspected of involvement in the conflict.
Noting that assistance to the displaced did not arrive on time due to lack of well organized communication and evidence, National Disaster Risk Management Commissioner Mitiku Kassa said, “We are discussing ways of delivering unhindered assistance with leaders of both regions.”
Members of the House stated that those who violated human rights and caused the loss of many lives should quickly face justice, and added that the anti-constitutional acts were not committed by peoples of the regions. Rehabilitating the displaced should be done in a sense of urgency and peace conferences conducted to restore the deep rooted relationship of the peoples of the regional states.
3.1.2018 Protest continues despite promise to release “some” political prisoners. ESAT News
Protests have continued today in a number of towns and villages in the country’s Oromo region despite an announcement by the regime that some political prisoners would be freed. Tensions remained high in West Arsi and West Shewa with protesters denouncing the regime from Shashemene to Kofele and Arsi Kokosa. Clashes with security forces have been reported in some places. Ambo and Bako towns have also continued anti-TPLF protests for several days now.
In Adama, Goro High School students took to the streets protesting the arrest and detention of 18 students of Adama University. Eighteen students of the Adma University were arrested yesterday and taken to undisclosed location. Students believe they were targeted because they are ethnic oromos and ethnic Amhara.
Classes have been disrupted in at least 20 of the 33 universities across the nation due to increasing protests against the TPLF and violent crackdown by its security forces.
3.1.2018 Growing Popular Opposition Continues to Put Pressure on Ethiopia’s Ruling Party. Endalk, Gobal Voices
Over the last six months, an ongoing protest movement in Ethiopia has triggered a power struggle within the country's longtime governing coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF), posing an unprecedented challenge to its 27-year rule.
On December 30, it became apparent just how much the growing opposition has threatened the political status quo when EPRDF addressed the country in a lengthy televised statement aimed at appeasing the three-year-old movement, which has braved deadly crackdowns to demand, among other things, fairer government representation of Ethiopia's ethnic groups. It came after the 36 members of the highest decision-making body of the EPRDF, the executive committee, convened in a heavily guarded secretive meeting that lasted a little over two weeks (from December 12 to 30, 2017).
But if hopes were high the mounting pressure would result in serious political reform, they were dashed with the statement, which offered nothing of the sort.
A coalition of power imbalances
The EPRDF is a coalition of four ethnic-based parties: the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). All four purport to represent Ethiopia’s major ethnic groups, but are closely aligned in ideology, political association, and policy preferences. The TPLF is the core of the EPRDF coalition, holding absolute power over the last quarter of a century. (…)
Puppets no more?
The power struggle has become plain in the last several months. In October, the speaker of Ethiopian rubber stamp parliament resigned over of the claims of disrespect to Oromo people. And tensions between OPDO and TPLF – which have simmered for some time – were laid bare when OPDO and later ANDM members of the Ethiopian parliament refused to perform their jobs unless the executive branch of the government offered them an explanation about the ongoing violence against protesters.
Oromo and Amhara MPs boycott parliament as winds of change (#OromoProtests + #AmharaResistance) and a bitter power struggle inside the governing EPRDF coalition reaches #Ethiopia’s (one-time?) rubberstamp legislative body—a new analysis with @AbbaKayo: https://t.co/J5D2cAmvcy pic.twitter.com/sA9TyeRH3t — Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) December 22, 2017
Some say when OPDO and ANDM members challenge the TPLF, they are driven by considerations of power, rather than ideology. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that some sections of OPDO and ANDM have also emerged as advocates for political reform within EPRDF that comes on the heels of unprecedented popular protests in their respective regional states: Oromia and Amhara.
2017 was the year of the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO). The OPDO was able to shake the puppet label and actually prove to be quite vocal in #Ethiopia‘s political arena. pic.twitter.com/4648ug8bCi — Zecharias Zelalem (@ZekuZelalem) December 30, 2017
The political elites of the two parties have also started to forge an alliance, a significant development given that the elites from Oromo and the Amhara peoples have long been at opposite ends of the country’s political divide. Tsegaye Ararssa, a diaspora-based academic and opposition political commentator, wrote on his Facebook page:
That nothing has unsettled TPLF in recent years more than the OPDO-ANDM alliance and the gestures of #Oromara solidarity is confirmed in the EPRDF CC Press Release. This is a conclusive evidence that it is the content of this gesture of solidarity, its substance–given real flesh and blood–that will be the undoing of TPLF's hold on power. #Oromara #OromoRevolution
Appeasement, not true reform
For days, the outcome of EPRDF’s executive committee meeting was awaited in the hope that it would offer a crucial insight into TPLF's willingness to compromise in the face of the popular protests and mounting pressure from two members of the coalition, OPDO and ANDM. However, the hopes that EPRDF’s executive committee meeting would lead to concrete reform within EPRDF appear premature. In a statement read on state television and released on Facebook, EPRDF announced a new raft of political actions, including a vow to end corruption, rent seeking, and patronage politics. It also expressed sorrow for deaths and displacement that have taken place since anti-government unrest began and thanked the Ethiopian defense and security forces for their service (even though they are largely blamed for the violence). According to human rights groups, at least 1,500 people were killed over the last three years.
The statement also vowed, without specifics, to quash “unprincipled relations” implying the burgeoning alliance between OPDO and ANDM.
‘I don’t think there is a positive spin here’
Some believe that the statement, allegedly a joint expression from the four members of the coalition, fits neatly into TPLF’s political agenda. Critics also cite that the delight of TPLF's social media following signal that that the party more than anyone still holds the power.
Mohammed Ademo, a diaspora-based journalist, summarized the statement in his view on Facebook:
Here is a quick reax: Sorry but not sorry; Oromia will be militarized to stop all protests, road blockage and similar activities; Allegations of Tigrayan hegemony unfounded; Thank you to our security forces for wanton killings and for turning a blind eye as hundreds of Oromos were killed and hundreds of thousands of Oromos and Somalis displaced; There will be heightened social media crackdown; OBN and Amhara TV will fall back in line and return to their old platform as agitprops; The budding Oromo and Amhara alliance is a threat to continued Tigrayan dominance over the country and it must be squashed; EPRDF will return to its democratic centralism and revolutionary democracy roots.On the surface, this looks like an embarrassing setback for OPDO. I don’t think there is a positive spin here. TPLFites must be smiling
Even some who were sympathetic to OPDO and ANDM said they doubted that the two parties were ever ready to contend TPLF:
Did OPDO buckle under the weight of 18-days of TPLF cajoling, intimidation, and bluster? If so, the country is headed straight to the abyss. God help our suffering people who will be fixed to pay a heavy price to make TPLF/EPRDF the last dictorship to Rule Ethiopia. — Hassen Hussein (@AbbaKayo) December 29, 2017
As the country wrestles with its gravest crisis in a generation, the question remains: How will this ever-deepening political crisis end?
Um die Auslegung des ERPDF Kommuniqués vom 29./30.12.2017 gab es tagelang verschiedene Meinungen. Die Regierungsagenturen ENA und Waltainfo brachten keine vollständige Version auf Englisch. Die wahrscheinlich genaueste Übersetzung findet sich hier (Daniel Berhane: The EPRDF ExeCom Statement in 15 points ): https://hornaffairs.com/2018/01/01/eprdf-executive-committee-statement-15-points
3.1.2018 Äthiopien will alle politischen Gefangenen freilassen. Süddeutsche Zeitung
Das kündigt Ministerpräsident Hailemariam Desalegn überraschend an. Ein berüchtigtes Gefangenenlager soll geschlossen werden.
Äthiopien will alle politischen Gefangenen freilassen. Das kündigte Ministerpräsident Hailemariam Desalegn am Mittwoch überraschend an. Außerdem solle das berüchtigte Gefangenenlager Maekelawi geschlossen werden.
Hailemariam Desalegn sagte auf einer Pressekonferenz nach mehrtägigen Beratungen der Regierung, dass er den demokratischen Raum für alle erweitern wolle. "Politische Gefangene, die angeklagt und bereits verhaftet sind, werden freigelassen." Einen konkreten Zeitpunkt für die Freilassungen nannte er allerdings nicht. Das bisherige Gefangenenlager Maekelawi solle ein Museum werden, so der Ministerpräsident weiter. Zuvor hatte es in großen Teilen der Regionen Oromia und Amhara monatelang Proteste gegen die Regierung gegeben.
Die Opposition wird mit Massenverhaftungen drangsaliert
Weiterhin kündigte Hailemariam Desalegn an, dass die Regierung ein neues Gefängnis öffnen wolle. Dies solle internationalen Standards entsprechen.
Menschenrechtsgruppen kritisieren, dass Äthiopiens Führung unter anderem mit Massenverhaftungen gegen die Opposition des Landes vorgehe. Auch Journalisten würden häufig eingesperrt. 2016 hatte die Regierung einen Notstand ausgerufen. Der Organisation Human Rights Watch zufolge sollen bei der Niederschlagung von Protesten mehrere hundert Menschen getötet worden sein.
3.1.2018 Hungerbäuche waren gestern. Süddeutsche Zeitung
In Äthiopien hat sich wirtschaftlich schon viel getan. Nun kommen alle politischen Gefangenen frei - ein Sieg mutiger äthiopischer Bürger. Der Westen hat all die Jahre vornehm geschwiegen. Kommentar von Bernd Dörries
Vor ein paar Tage hat ein äthiopischer Blogger das vergangene Jahr verabschiedet. Er sagte, das Beste an 2017 sei gewesen, dass er dieses Jahr nicht ins Gefängnis musste. In den Jahren zuvor sperrte die äthiopische Regierung Blogger, Journalisten und Oppositionelle ein und folterte sie.
Die Blogger sollen die Folterkammern bald wieder sehen können, diesmal als Besucher eines Museums. Ein solches soll der berüchtigste Folterknast des Landes werden. Es wird an die Zeit erinnern, in der es in Äthiopien noch politische Gefangene gab, an eine ferne Zeit, die noch nicht einmal richtig zu Ende gegangen ist. Die politischen Häftlinge des Landes sollen nun alle freikommen, sagt Äthiopiens Premier Hailemariam Desalegn. Es ist eine Amnestie, wie es sie nicht häufig gibt - von der man nicht einmal genau weiß, wie viele sie betrifft, wie viele in den Gefängnissen des Landes sitzen.
Zehntausende sind in den vergangenen Jahren verhaftet worden, weil sie gegen die Regierung protestierten, gegen die Bevorzugung einer Ethnie, gegen Korruption und wirtschaftliche Perspektivlosigkeit.
Dass die Regierung jetzt reagiert, geschieht nicht auf Druck des Westens, der all die Jahre meist vornehm geschwiegen hat. Es ist ein Sieg vieler mutiger Äthiopier, die immer wieder für ihre Menschenrechte demonstriert haben. Sie haben der Regierung letztlich gesagt: Wenn Ihr euch nicht bewegt, bewegen wir euch aus dem Weg.
Es ist ein überraschender Schritt und ein wichtiger für die Zukunft Äthiopiens. Mehr Kommunikation, mehr Demokratie soll es nun geben, sagt die Regierung, die nicht immer demokratisch gewählt wurde. Das Land ist bisher keine lupenreine Demokratie, es gibt viel zu kritisieren. Andererseits ist die Regierung eine der wenigen in Afrika mit klarem Plan. Sie befreite das Land aus einer blutrünstigen Diktatur, lässt Fabriken bauen, Straßen und Eisenbahnlinien. Sie holte Millionen aus der Armut. Bei Äthiopien denken viele in Europa immer noch an aufgeblähte Hungerbäuche. Für die Äthiopier sind die neue Straßenbahn in Addis Abeba und die neuen Handyfabriken frische Symbole ihres Landes. Symbole, die sich nicht mit politischen Gefangenen vertragen.
3.1.2018 Breaking: PM says government drops charges against some politicians, closes Maekelawi. Tesfa Megosie, Waltainfo
Some convicted politicians who are currently in prison for commiting a crime will be released and those whose cases held by prosecutors will be dropped, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in his official facebook page.
The PM disclosed the decision while flanked by chairpersons of four coalition of the ruling party in a press conference on current national and regional issues. “We will continue to prevail while preventing threats poised against our people, and crushing the bad wish of our enemies,” PM quoted as saying. The PM said that the government has reached to a decision to release politicians in a bid to create better national consensus and widen the country’s political space.
He also said that Maekelawi which was a torture chamber during the Dergue regime will come to a close and changed to museum. A modern investigation center, which will be compatible to international standards, will be set up by the House of Peoples Representatives’ (HPR) proclamation in another palace.
3.1.2018 Infamous detention, investigation center to be shutdown. Politicians to be freed, acquitted of charges. The Reporter
In a joint briefing they gave to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) and Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), the chairpersons of the four member parties of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) announced today that the infamous detention and investigation center a.k.a. Maekelawi will be closed.
The briefing by Hailemariam Dessalegn, chairman of the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the EPRDF, Demeke Mekonnen chairman of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and deputy chairman of the EPRDF, Lemma Megersa, chairman of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), chairman of the Tigriyan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) came following the self-criticizing communiqué the party released after its intensive 17-day meeting.
The detention center, which has been in use since the time of the Derg, will be transformed into a modern museum, according to Hailemariam. The investigative body that used to use Maekelawi will be moved to a new building.
It was also stated that “as part of the process of building a better national consensus and widening the democratic space, it has been decided that politicians and other individuals will be acquitted of their charges while detainees will be freed.”
3.1.2018 Breaking: Ethiopia to close down notorious prison, to release all political prisoners. Addis Standard
At a joint press briefing given by the four chairpersons of EPRDF’s member parties, PM Hailemariam Desalegn, who is the chairperson of SEPDM, said his government will close down the notorious prison ward (and a torture chamber by all accounts) called Mae’kelawi. The Prime Minister said Mae’kelawi will be turned into a “modern museum”.
PM Hailemariam also said a new center has been established to replace Ma’ekelawi based on the national parliament’s guidelines on human rights and international standards.
(Please see our editorial in June 2016 calling for its closure) Editorial: A new Ethiopia must have no business keeping old, repressive institutions!
In addition to that the Prime Minister said charges will be dropped for all “political prisoners” who are currently under prosecution and pardons will be issued to all who have already been convicted and are serving their sentences in order to create the space for a national dialogue and national consensus. The promise reveals that the government believes in the presence of prisoners of conscience, something authorities have never admitted in the past.
The announcement came days after Ethiopian netizen community have held a day-long social media campaign on December 27 aimed at remembering fellow prisoners of conscience jailed in several prison facilities in Ethiopia.
The issue of releasing political prisoners was also one of the burning issues at the front and center of the persistent anti-government protests that rocked Ethiopia for two consecutive years.
3.1.2018 Ethiopia to drop charges, free politicians. Fana Broadcasting Corporation
hief administrators of the four member parties of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) today issued a joint press conference on current national and regional issues.
In order to build national consensus and widen the democratic platform, a decision has been made to drop charges and pardon politicians who are currently under trial, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the event.
The decision also includes pardoning previously sentenced politicians and other individuals.
A decision has also been made for the closure of an investigation center commonly known as Maekelawi which the Dreg regime had been using to commit atrocities against the people under the guise of investigation.
The center will be turned into a museum.
As a replacement, an investigation center which meets international standard was built as per the proclamation issued by the House of People’s Representatives (HPR).
3.1.2018 EPRDF member parts' chairpersons briefing media on current national affairs. Waltainfo
The chairpersons of member parties of EPRDF:TPLF, ANDM, OPDO and SEPDM are delivering briefings on current national affairs regarding EPRDF’s Executive Committee decisions and directions following the seventeen days meeting. Detailed information will be delivered on our website: www.waltainfo.com and Walta TV soon.
2.1.2018 Civil Society Vow to Cooperate in Preserving Peace, Stability. ENA
Civil societies have vowed to closely collaborate towards preserving peace and stability. This was revealed during a day-long consultative meeting held today on the role of civil society in preserving peace and stability in the country.
Network of Ethiopian Women Association Director, Saba Gebremedhin complained that women are never included in any of the national reconciliation process. “We all need to change this and make women the main actors in preserving peace and stability,” she underscored. Peace is not lost only in the presence of conflict, according to the Director, “but most of all during the absence of peaceful communication.”
Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia Deputy Secretary-General, Hulluf Weldesilassie said starting from its establishment seven years ago the council is committed to promote peaceful co-existence and collaboration among religious institutions and communities in Ethiopia. Noting that the council has continued advocating for peace, all-inclusive dialogue, and reconciliation at regional and local levels, Hulluf said, "understanding the sense of urgency of the situation we are in by stepping up efforts to match the demand for peace is crucial." Hulluf emphasized that we all need to eradicate mistrust to preserve peace.
Conflict Prevention and Resolution Director General at the Ministry of Federal and Pastoral Development Affairs, Sisay Melese stated that a number of mechanisms were set to handle conflicts and they have paid off; though there still remains much to be done. Explaining that enhancing the culture for building peace at all times has its fruits, Sisay said “early warning and response mechanisms have to be capacitated”. He pointed out that “Our educational curriculums should include the essentiality of the culture of building peace and tranquility for a nation to survive and develop.”
2.1.2018 Two benches at federal high court jail nineteen Ethiopians accused of having links with PG7 to lengthy terms. Etenesh Abera, Addis Standard
The federal high court 19th and 4th criminal benches here in the capital Addis Abeba have today sentenced a total of nineteen Ethiopians who were accused of terrorism related offenses to jail terms ranging from three years and ten months to 16 years and six months. All the nineteen defendants were accused of having ties with Patriotic G7, a rebel group designated by the ruling party’s dominated parliament as a terrorist organization.
The Federal high court 19th criminal bench sentenced fourteen individuals under the file name of Getahun Beyene et. al to various terms in jail. Accordingly, the court handed the highest term of 16 years and ten months to Dr. Asnake Abayneh and Alemayehu Negussie, the second and the fifth defendants respectively, while it sentenced Bantewossen Abebe to lowest term of three years and ten months. Others in the same file have also been sentenced to various terms in jail. The first defendant Getahun Beyene and the fourth defendant Brazil Engida were sentenced to nine and 15 years each respectively.
Similarly, the federal high court 4th criminal bench sentenced five individuals in the file name of Yohanes Mengiste et.al from 14 to 15 years in prison. Accordingly, while the second defendant Tsegaye Zeleke was sentenced to 14 years, the remaining defendants: Yohanes Mengiste, Gashaw Mulye, Asmare Giletin, Gshaw Mamuye and Mansiboh Birhanu have all been sentenced to 15 years.
All the five defendants have refused to defend the terrorism charges brought against them and like Getahun Beyene et.al, they were also accused of having links with PG7. In addition, all the five were also accused of traveling to Eritrea to take military training in a camp called Harena, according to the prosecutors charges.
The defendants in both file names were first brought to the federal court between September and October 2016, following the brutal crackdowns against massive anti-government protests in Amhara regional state. As Ethiopia continued reeling from the three years persistent anti-government protests in both Oromia and Amhara regional states, terrorism charges brought against individuals who are accused of participating and leading these protests from the two regions have seen a dramatic uptick (digital illustration).
On November 14, the federal high court 4th criminal bench passed a key ruling in the case against activist Nigist Yirga and five others charged in the same file with terrorism related offenses. According to the ruling, Nigist and the five others with her: Alemneh Wase G. Mariam, Tewdros Telay Kume, Awoke Abate Gebeyehu, Belayneh Alemneh Abeje, & Yared Girma Haile should all begin to defend the terrorism charges brought against them by the federal prosecutors. All the defendants were brought from the Amhara regional state in the wake of the summer 2016 protest.
In March 2016, prosecutors have charged a group of 76 individuals with various articles of Ethiopia’s infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation at the federal high court 19th criminal bench. According to the charges under the name of Miftah Sheikh Surur, all the 76 defendants were accused of being members of the “Eritrean based rebel group Patriotic G7,”; they were also accused of participating and/or attempted to participate in several acts of terrorism in western Tigray zone of northern Ethiopia in places including, but not limited to, Metama, and Quwara; as well as in Woredas such as Wolkayit, Tsegede, & upper & lower Armachiho
2.1.2018 Ethiopia’s ruling party opts for more authoritarianism to tackle anti-authoritarian protests. OPride / Ethiopian Media Forum
In a lengthy statement on Dec. 29, the 36-person Executive Committee of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) congratulated itself claiming Ethiopia’s growing woes are the outcome of its economic miracles of the last two decades.
Issued at the end of crisis talks that lasted 18 days, the press release underscored the party’s dangerous turn toward more authoritarianism while masking its real intentions with reformist-sounding language that is as convoluted as self-contradictory.
The marathon meeting was forced by deepening political crisis in Ethiopia, which has come to cast doubt on the party’s ability to govern a country with a diverse population of more than 100 million. There are serious questions about whether the final statement was indeed agreed to by the entire top decision-making body and concerns about last-minute additions.
Nature of problems
The statement starts out with an analysis of the problems, old and new, facing Ethiopia—the most pressing being new and merely temporary. These problems, the statement claims, resulted from rising public expectations, which in turn are driven by the country’s burgeoning economy (midwifed by it). EPRDF summed this up with a metaphor: Two contrasting prospects—tantalizing opportunities for prosperity, on the one hand, and the prospect of instability, on the other— are staring each other in the eye. Consequently, Ethiopia is “at the crossroads caught between the phenomenal accomplishments emanating from the groundbreaking and correct policy directions taken by the party and temporary hiccups triggered by the party’s errors as well as newly emerging changes and desires induced by rapid economic growth.” In short, Ethiopia’s ills are merely unavoidable side effects of the ruling party’s successes.
This raises the question: Does EPRDF not see anything worrisome? The remedy suggested—quickly restoring law and order via the usual security solutions—bellies the effort to minimize the crises’ severity. Sensing the imminent danger of losing control, it makes imposing law and order the party’s number one priority. “The government, in concert with the public, will put under control all activities that undermine the peaceful lives of the people,” the statement said. This, the party intimates, would make sure that the “superiority of the rule of law” and aggressively punish all violations.
To this end, “EPRDF takes this opportunity to express its respect and admiration to our defense and security forces for protecting our peace under difficult and trying circumstances.” In effect giving security forces a free-hand to crush any resistance against the state’s reassertion of firm control.
In the same breath, the statement broaches the need to thwart “tendencies that allowed the violation of the human and democratic rights enshrined in the constitution.” In this regard, it admits the regrettable inability of citizens to hold violators accountable. However, the party doesn’t disclose neither what it plans to do nor why the government has miserably failed to guarantee the protection of basic rights. It also says little about the lack of an independent judiciary, which leaves these rights as nothing more than hollow promises on paper. Moreover, aren’t the chief human rights violators the federal security forces and the army? In an ironic way, the EPRDF statement commends the security forces for “their sacrifices” when they needed to be held accountable for their routine use of excessive force. If anyone is to be commended and lionized, it ought to be the Oromia state police force, and to some extent that of the Amhara state, for allowing citizens to exercise at least their rights to assembly against lethal threats by the trigger-happy federal police and army.
Sources of problems
Glaring leadership weaknesses, for which the party grudgingly apologizes, are presented as the main culprit. In a characteristic rhetorical gymnastics, EPRDF “assumed full responsibility” for the blunders and their deadly consequences. However, no one is held accountable.
The Executive Committee also identified the lack of democracy within the party as the other source of the current crisis. However, strangely, the leaders issued threats to stamp out recent openings at unnamed state-owned media outlets. This appears to be a subtle jab at the Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN) and Amhara Mass Media Agency (AMMA), who have begun to allow a freer exchange of ideas. The top party bosses make no effort to reconcile their claim that the inability to freely exchange ideas is a major problem facing the country and the party’s desire to maintain tight control over the media.
Once strictly mouthpieces for the party, both OBN and AMMA have in recent months welcomed diverse views from the public, as well as from outside the ruling party. The executive committee finds this opening worrisome and vows to squash it. This is done ostensibly under the pretext that the two agencies are pitting people against people rather than “promoting development and national unity.” Accordingly, the statement vows to stop the media from spreading “messages that incite public unrest contrary to the political and legal framework and in violation of the constitutional order.” Over the past two decades and a half, the regime used the same groundless charge to silence the private press and outfox independent journalists.
Democratizing the bureaucracy
The statement claims that the government is failing to carry out its day-to-day duties due to the weakening of inner-party democracy. Why should civil servants be forced to become party members in the first place? Likewise, what does democracy have to do with routine day-to-day bureaucratic decision-making? The tokenism becomes starkly clear from the remedy prescribed: Urging the civil service at both the federal and state levels to improve service delivery and respond quickly to people’s questions. This is tantamount to saying: the protesting youth are risking imprisonment and being shot on the spot because bureaucrats failed to issue them business permits or driving licenses on time.
Tigrayan hegemony or victimhood
At the start of the EPRDF meeting, the issue of Tigrayan hegemony was the single thorniest issue for the wobbly coalition. The prevalent view among both the Oromo and the Amhara public is that the unremitting problems facing Ethiopia have a lot to do with the pervasive political and economic dominance of the country by ethnic Tigrayans–a rent still accruing from their victory against the previous military junta two decades and a half ago. Online Tigrayan activists often dismiss such claims as blasphemy. Concurring with the narrow minority casting Tigrayans as the real victims, the EPRDF statement makes a denial of any form of ethnic supremacy.
Our country has created a situation whereby no nation and nationality is ruled by anybody other than itself. The federal and democratic system built over 25 years has established equality of all languages, cultures, and histories. Since self-rule has become a practical reality, a situation prevails where neither hegemony nor marginalization are possible. The federal system in place simply does not allow it.
Thus, Tigrean domination being a figment of imagination, the statement instructs regional parties to root out “parasite groups” seeking to build political capital from this phantom problem. As if this isn’t enough, the statement also censures efforts at closer bilateral relationships between coalition parties. Without naming names, it denounces the growing ANDM-OPDO bromance as opportunistic and unprincipled. The two are also castigated—again without being named—for lacking courage to deal with hard problems and instead resorting to empty populism.
Three points are worth raising here. First, if EPRDF is serious about inner-party democracy, why are the statement’s authors so bothered by horizontal affiliations between sister organizations? Second, how can a party that cannot allow the autonomy of its coalition partners be taken seriously on its promises to open up the political process for opponents? Third, isn’t democracy a system where policy is supposed to be a response to public desire? In this case, what is populist OPDO and ANDM’s efforts to respond positively to their constituents’ long standing grievances, which the mother party itself has in the past acknowledged as legitimate?
Why are People Revolting?
The EPRDF statement criticizes the public for resorting to protests “while our system provides for a sufficient and secure way to handle demands for special benefits and interests to be handled in a democratic, legal, and peaceful manner.” How can one talk of constitutionalism when one of the cardinal principles of the constitution — the right to free assembly — is criminalized? To pass the blame for the unrests on to regional party leaders, the statement absurdly scolded them for “failing to meet their obligations to expand democracy, which contributed its part in paving the way for people to attempt to resolve problems and differences through violent conflict.”
Pluralism and multiparty democracy
The constitutional and democratic order being built in our country is one of plural interests and benefits. Although our party and the government it leads have worked tirelessly for the last 25 years to build a democratic multiparty political order, we have observed that conditions allowing for expression of plurality of ideas have weakened over the last few years. Even though the question of expanding the democratic space does not hinge solely on proclamations and our party’s goodwill, the Executive Committee noted that there were gaps in terms of steps that could have been taken in this regard. Among the institutions crucial for building a democratic order, the media and the press play a key role. However, our efforts with regards to keeping the media’s independence and allowing them to serve as the eyes and ears of the public have not borne fruit.
In the same vein, the press release also talks about the importance of civic associations in promoting and deepening democracy. To say the least, that’s a bit rich coming from one of the worst violators of press freedom. This is the same regime that passed a trio of draconian proclamation since 2008 — the media Freedom of Information law, the Charities and Societies Proclamation, and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. These edicts have been blatantly instrumentalized to imprison dozens of journalists under bogus charges of terrorism and emasculated the civil society and the opposition. It is deeply insulting and mind-boggling for EPRDF leaders to ostentatiously claim free press and robust civic society are crucial for a democratic system. One could excuse this statement if it was preceded by the rescinding of the restrictive laws and the release of all political prisoners and members of the press who are victimized by these laws and languishing in jail.
The nauseating and contradictory statement makes mention of two further steps to realize multiparty democracy.
First, “since the participation of the public is the secret behind our proud achievements and successes,” the statement proclaims, it is important “for the party to take consecutive actions to restore its legitimacy with the public and answer popular demands in an expeditious manner.” To this end, it says the ruling party will hold public listening forums, particularly with the youth. EPRDF have been abusing public forums since it usurped power in 1991 to shove its one-sided agenda down people’s throats without any genuine input from the public. Why would things be different this time around when the same statement accuses OPDO and ANDM of populism for holding similar but genuinely participatory public forums?
Second, the EPRDF leaders make vague promises of dialogue with the opposition. It stated that the ruling party would work “in concert with the public and all opposition groups, to discuss the shortcomings observed with respect to building a multi-party system.” It also promised to open up the political space for intellectuals and civic organizations to play their proper role. A buyer’s remorse for their decision to go for 100 percent wins in elections?
EPRDF is hinting at allowing a token opposition in parliament at the next election. But what is the utility of this tokenism when the ruling party does not envisage itself ever losing elections and peacefully giving up power? But seriously, aside from appeasing their western donors (too easy to be pleased), what would inspire confidence that any future dialogue with the opposition will be credible when the top leaders of the domestic opposition, including Bekele Gerba, Merera Gudina, and Andualem Arage and many others, are in prison under bogus charges of terrorism and countless others are driven into exile and prevented from taking part in the political process?
One of the rising public concerns ahead of the EPRDF meeting was the issue of national unity, specifically whether growing ethnic self-identification, especially by the majority Oromo, is undermining national identity. Here, EPRDF tried to extend an olive branch to the urban opposition, to whom antipathy to “ethnic politics” is their bread and butter. EPRDF is simply shedding crocodile tears as its main intent is not to genuinely promote national unity but to rally allies against the threat of growing Oromo self-assertion. One of the ways EPRDF managed to cling to power is by playing the Oromo against other Ethiopians, especially the Amhara. The Tigrayan oligarchy is simply driven by self-interest: It is worried about recent rapprochement between OPDO and ANDM, which have blunted the effectiveness of this divide-and-rule tactic.
The achievements and effectiveness of our work in promoting national unity within the context of our constitutional order, developmental state model, and the multiparty system is limited. Hence, the gap observed in reconciling and integrating ethnic and national (Ethiopian) identity will be tackled quickly and on a sustainable way.
Isn’t that what the close ties between OPDO and ANDM all about?
A leadership in deep crisis
The evaluation has revealed the shortcomings of the Executive Committee and the top leadership of the government in providing the strategic leadership demanded by the current circumstances. There is consensus that the top leadership lacked the ability to foresee problems; to analyze and understand them; to plan ways to deal with them and to resolve them accordingly in way that is consistent with the demands of the time and the stage. And EPRDF expresses its heartfelt apologies.
But aside from ordering member parties, modeled after a similar effort by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front’s example, to do some house cleaning and reshuffle their leadership, where is the accountability for the disastrous blunders committed by leaders of the federal government, including the prime minister and the chiefs of the military and intelligence services?
The only two areas where ANDM and OPDO are offered some respite from criticism and ridicule are in recognizing the latent roles of the regional states in the economy and improve people-to-people relations. This decision gives Lemma Megersa, the President of Oromia State, a formal blessing for his so-called Economic Revolution. The EPRDF statement also mandated regional states to carry out “multifaceted activities” to strengthen national unity. This means we will see more of the people-to-people forums, similar to the Oromo-Amhara public forums in Bahir Dar and Debre Birhan, in the coming months. It is clear that TPLF doesn’t like such engagements when it is done by others. Still the most attention-grabbing discussions will be between Oromia and Amhara states—home to two-thirds of the population — especially in light of TPLF’s coming wars on populism and people-to-people alliances they did not pre-approve.
EPRDF’s press release is unusual for several reasons. First, it was issued 24 hours after the meeting concluded. Second, the chairs of the four coalition member parties were supposed to give a joint press conference, which didn’t happen. Third, the content is diametrically contrary to the public positions of at least two parties, OPDO and ANDM. There can be minor defections from these two but it is implausible for the majority of the leaders of the two organizations to make such a drastic about face. Hence, a majority view? The party is known to muzzle minority opinion through its principle of democratic centralism.
However, votes are usually taken by organizations and simple majority doesn’t carry decisions in coalitions, especially on major pronouncements. Can Lemma risk openly breaking with the public, who have come to grudgingly trust him as a genuine reform leader, in deference to this highly criticized and outdated principle? If so, he would squandering a golden and rare opportunity for Ethiopia’s smooth transformation into a truly representative democracy.
Fourth, the prime minister and chairman of the party, who usually goes on TV to boast about EPRDF’s uncanny ability to overcome challenges, has not done so to date. Fifth, even TPLF supporters privately admit that all is not well with EPRDF and that the statement didn’t necessarily show internal consensus. Sixth, even the return of Abba Dula to the speakership position, from which he abruptly resigned in October, is riddled with uncertainty. Did he make a personal deal with the powers that be or was it done with OPDO’s consent? In all, the statement is creating the very uncertainty it was meant to dispel more problems than it solves.
Ethiopia is clearly at the crossroads. Or as TPLF chair, Debretsion Gebremichael, wrote earlier this year, “the country is moving from one crisis to another” and the security situation remains “very disconcerting. ” However, EPRDF’s reading of the crisis, judging by this statement, is totally off the mark. It minimizes the severity of the problem. It is vowing to repeat the same harsh security measures that exacerbated the current turmoil. It denies the existence of Tigrean hegemony, which stokes considerable and widespread resentment throughout the country.
EPRDF also talks of opening up the political space. Yet it menacingly castigate member parties that are moving in a reformist direction. It is even more unnerving that the party talks of press freedom while criticizing and vowing to reverse recent modest efforts by OBN and AMMA to allow a free exchange of ideas.
In short, EPRDF is promising the same status quo against which a majority of Ethiopian people have gone on the streets to protest. In other words, the governing coalition is itching more and more toward authoritarianism than reform. At the same time, it couldn’t hide the party’s continuing fissures. Overall, the convoluted press statement doesn’t augur well for the country and points to more troubles.
2.1.2018 Members of air force pilots reportedly defected. borkena.com
Unconfirmed reports emerging on social media today say about ten Ethiopian air force pilots defected the regime. According to the unconfirmed report, seven of them were MIG 27 flyers and the rest were helicopter squadrons.
The circumstances under which the air force pilots defected is vague. The country or countries to which they defected to is not known at this time and thier names are not released either. Ethiopian Airforce pilots have defected in the past. Some crossed the border to Eritrea. Others to Kenya before they found themselves in a third country. The Ethiopian Airforce, just like the rest of the Ethiopian defense force, is dominated by TPLF ethno-chauvinist so much so that members of the airforce who are not of Tigray ethnicity feel like they are treated like second-class citizens.
The issue of TPLF domination over government and important institutions of government brought the regime into a collision course with two influential member parties of the ruling coalition, ANDM and OPDO, which demonstrated a remarkable interest to end the injustice from within. However, from the statement that the ruling coalition issued over the weekend when it concluded three weeks of the meeting indicated that TPLF emerged dominant again.
1.1.2018 The EPRDF ExeCom Statement in 15 points. Daniel Berhane, Horn Affairs
The executive committee of EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) held one of its highly anticipated meetings in recent years from Dec. 12 to Dec. 29. The marathon meeting was concluded with about 2500 words long statement, released 24 hours after the conclusion of the meeting. According to a HornAffairs source in the meeting, the first draft of the statement was read in the meeting. It was further edited the next day to incorporate the feedbacks and circulated among the chairpersons of each member party before its release to the media on Saturday around 9 pm.
HornAffairs summarized and translated the statement in 15 points as follows, maintaining the original spirit as much as possible:
1) The prevalence of parasitic decadence in the leadership led to the shrinkage of intra-party democracy, which in turn led to the lack of quality and unity of opinion and action.
2) Lack of intra-party democracy and prevalence of chameleon-ship led to the spread of unprincipled relations aimed at advancing narrow group interests. This weakens the front as a whole and the parties individually and is contrary to the discipline and unity expected of a developmental government.
3) The federal democratic system of the past 25 years is designed in a way that ensures equality among ethno-national groups. The equality is also realized in practice. Any tendency to alter this situation and impose a supremacy will not be sustainable rather will bring about discord. Such attempts, under any cover, to weaken this system of equality shall be thwarted. At the same time, all member parties have agreed to crackdown, without hesitation, in their respective regions, elements which disguise themselves as champions of one ethno-national group or another to further their parasitic interests.
4) The weakening of intra-party democracy have also resulted in a tendency of narrowing the democratic space. That contributed to a situation in which differences are resolved through violence. The increase of conflicts within and among regions led to high human and economic cost and posed a national existential threat and external vulnerability. Therefore, the executive committee decided not only to faithfully implement the constitutional democracy but also to scale it up to meet current challenges and also decided to address the causes of conflicts and restore peace shortly.
5) The constitutional democracy is based on diverse demands and interests and it has been practicing multiparty democracy for 25 years. However, the exercise of “diversity of opinions” have been weakened in recent years and the executive committee failed to take legal measures to redress the situation and expand democratic space.
6) Efforts to improve the media landscape didn’t bear as much results as anticipated. Moreover, some public media services, operating at federal and regional levels, have been working contrary to law and engaged in fanning conflict among peoples.
6) The active participation of the civil society is critical to the democratic system. However, the civil society’s participation have been weak. The executive committee should work on addressing the limitations on the active participation of the civil society.
7) Poor leadership have undermined the efforts to maintain and scale up achievements in terms of good governance. High public discontent have been caused due service delivery. There has been weakness in terms of taking quick measures on corruptions and other faults. Poor performance and ethical problems as well as populist tendencies in the implementation of mega projects have been observed.
8) There have been several shortcomings in facilitating people to people relations building activities – both in terms of overlooking such works and, when undertook, they were misguided and mismanaged. The party have also failed to work adequately in terms of nurturing ethno-national identity and Ethiopian unity side by side.
9) The aforestated shortcomings are the faults of the top leadership. The executive committee failed in terms of identifying, analyzing and setting directions for the challenges, since its leadership capacity didn’t grow in tandem with the complex challenges of the time. The executive committee apologizes and takes full responsibility for the harms resulted due to its failure to address the problems in time. It regrets for exposing the system to a serious danger and pledges it will not happen again.
10) The executive committee have decided the government shall put to halt any activity of road blocking and any individual or group activities that disturb the daily activities and freedom of movement of citizens. Any clashes due to border or other disputes shall be fully stopped. The death and displacement of citizens in Oromia and Somali border areas shall be halted and the displaced people shall be returned to their normal lives. Illegal trade activities which have been causes of conflicts in those areas shall be stopped and adequate protection and support shall be provided for the economic activities of farmers and pastoralists. The executive committee express its gratitude to the military and security personnel who lost their lives while keeping peace.
11) Each member party shall embark on deep gimgema (appraisal) sessions to tackle the problems at the top leadership level and take corrective measures.
12) Each member party shall exhaustively mobilize its resources to alleviate poverty and ensure development. Multifaceted activities to strengthen national unity shall be implemented.
13) A series of activities shall be undertaken to speed up reform works in governmental structures, to enhance the participation of youth in democracy and development and to tackle the shortcomings of the multiparty democracy building process and enhance the space for the participation of the educated class and civic societies.
14) Tendencies of violating the human and democratic rights shall be thwarted and additional steps shall be taken to ensure respect for these rights.
15) Concerted measures shall be taken to correct private and government media outlets engaged in disseminating contents that create discord among people. In particular, the dissemination of incitefull contents on regional and federal media – contrary to political, legal and constitutional norms – shall be stopped.
17.1.2018 Int’l trade union denounces exploitative wages in Ethiopia. Birhanu Fikade, The Reporter
The International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) slammed the wage rates offered in the budding manufacturing sector in Ethiopia. Launching a minimum wage forum in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Sharan Burrow, secretary general of ITUC, said that she has met local workers such as “Yeshi”, a mother of three and a clothing factory machine operator who gets paid only 600 birr (equivalent to USD 20) per month which is nowhere near the “minimum livable wage”. She said that the likes of “Yeshi”, working people should be paid "minimum livable wage" that according to Barrow is essential for the foundation of any country.
Talking about the current low rate many factory workers are receiving wages in Ethiopia, the secretary general said that it is time to end “exploitation” not only in Ethiopia but the whole of Africa. "[It is] time to end the exploitation in Africa. There was no dignity for workers in Africa. [There is] no value for labor and the wages don't reflect real values. Wages don't reflect collective bargain," Burrow said.
Organized by the ITUC, ITUC Africa, and the Ethiopian Trade Union Confederation, the two day forum brought together selected eight countries including Ethiopia to mainstream and set up a minimum wage floor in Africa. ITUC has launched a campaign dubbed "100% value, dignity wages in Africa". It is a campaign that seeks to challenge corporate greed in the continent.
15.1.2018 Landwirtschaft/Zucker: Zuckerfabrik Omo Kuraz II nimmt Produktion auf. Afrikaverein
Die Omo Kuraz Sugar Development hat die zweite Fabrik der Gruppe, die Omo Kuraz II, jetzt angefahren. Mehrere Versuchsproduktionen waren bereits im Zeitraum vom März angelaufen, so dass der Betrieb ab jetzt mit halber Kapazität betrieben werden kann. Übermäßige Regenfälle in der Region haben verhindert, dass das Werk mit voller Leistung gefahren werden kann. Die installierte Kapazität liegt bei der Verarbeitung von täglich 12.000 t Zuckerrohr. Bei den bisherigen Produktionstests konnten 6.500 t verarbeitet werden.
Nebenbei erzeugt das Werk 60 MW an elektrischer Energie, von denen 40 MW ins öffentliche Stromnetz fließen werden. Die Bauzeit betrug drei Jahre. Das Investitionsvolumen betrug € 200,8 Mio. Die Finanzierung läuft über die China Development Bank. (Quelle: Fana Broadcasting Corporation)
15.01.2018 Erneuerbare Energie: Verträge für den Bau von geothermischen Kraftwerken unterschrieben. Afrikaverein
Äthiopien setzt seine Bemühungen fort, dem von der Regierung für das Jahr 2020 vorgegebenen Produktionsziel näher zu kommen und unterschreibt zwei Verträge für die Errichtung von geothermischen Kraftwerken im Rift Valley in Corbetti und in Tulu Moye. Die Investitionskosten für die beiden Projekte werden auf insgesamt US-$ 4,0 Mrd. geschätzt. Es wird mit einer Bauzeit von acht Jahren gerechnet, die geplante Leistungsfähigkeit für beide Anlagen wird mit 1.000 MW angegeben. Investoren in diese Vorhaben sind u.a. die Meridiam aus Frankreich, der, Africa Renewable Energy Fund sowie die InfraCo. Africa. Es handelt sich um die ersten privatfinanzierten Energieprojekte dieser Art in Äthiopien, die von den Investoren für die Dauer von 25 Jahren betrieben werden. (Quelle: Alternative Energy Africa)
9.1.2018 Turkish Company Keen to Engage in Steel Production in Ethiopia. ENA
The Turkish Tosyali Holding Company has expressed its interest to invest in steel production in Ethiopia. Leader of the delegation of Tosyali Company, Fuat Tosyali, discussed today about steel investment in Ethiopia with Foreign Affairs State Minister Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael. Company Chairman Fuat Tosyali told journalists that his company is ready to engage in producing steel in Ethiopia. “We had a very positive meeting with the State Minister about the investment environment and conditions here in Ethiopia. Our meeting in the morning with the Commissioner of Investment Commission was also extremely positive,” he said. Tosyali stated that the holding group has an investment in Algeria that exceeds over 2 billion dollar and is becoming a net exporter of steel products. “Likewise, with the investment we are planning in Ethiopia we are planning on substituting the imports of steel production in Ethiopia”, he added. He also highlighted that the company will supply some steel products for several local companies when it starts production. The chairman also mentioned that the company will start the investment in the very near future as it has very fast moving investments in other countries.
State Minister Dr. Aklilu said the company will have a great role to creating job opportunities while supplying its products to local companies.
The Turkey based TOSYALI Holding company was established in 1952 and has been engaged in producing flat steel and steel pipe products. The company has 25 steel manufacturing factories in USA, Europe, Africa, and Middle East countries
8.1.2018 British Company to Build 100-million-USD Textile, Garment Factory. ENA
The British company Intrade UK Ltd. has concluded today an agreement to build a 100-million-USD textile and garment factory at Mekele Industrial Park. The agreement is part of the 200 million USD Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to invest in textile and garment, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products processing sectors. The company which owns cotton farming in Sudan has got a 200 million US dollar investment license in textile and garment, pharmaceutical and agricultural products after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The textile and garment factory to be built in the industrial park will reportedly create more than 1,300 new jobs. The factory which will rest on 10.5 hectares is expected to start production after 16 months.
Today's agreement was signed by Chief Executive Officer Wagdi M. Mahgoub and Investment Commissioner Fitsum Arega. Commissioner Fitsum said the number of investors engaging in the textile and garment industry is growing and the upcoming factory will strengthen the inter-linkage of industries by supplying raw materials. He also said the factory will provide textiles for garment exporters thus replacing imported raw materials. Chief Executive Officer Wagdi M. Mahgoub said on his part the favorable investment opportunity in the country has attracted the British company to invest in the country; and investing in the textile sector is the right decision on the part of the company.
8.1.2018 Israeli Company to Invest $500 Million in Ethiopia. Ezega.com
An Israeli company, GIGAWATT GLOBAL, announced plans to invest 500 million USD in Ethiopia's renewable energy and human resource development. Josef I. Abramowitz, CEO of the company announced the plan following discussions with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn alongside with the Israeli companies.
The company which is interested to invest in solar and wind power has planned to work with 10 Ethiopian universities.According to him, the project has targeted training hundreds of thousands of engineers in addition to improving power supply. The company has already concluded agreement with three universities – Debretabor, Jigjiga and Mekele – for the training of the engineers and consultation is going on with the other universities to reach similar stages, the CEO added. Raphael Morav, Ambassador of Israel to Ethiopia noted that the companies came to Ethiopia as “they believe very much in the opportunities that are here and they came here for a long term investment.”
7.1.2018 Ethiopian Construction Mogul to Invest in Solar Park. Ezega.com
Samuel Tafesse the founder of Sunshine Construction announced plans to build a solar park in Ethiopia. “At the moment, we are exploring opportunities in power generation,” the 60-year old entrepreneur told Forbes Africa. “I wouldn’t want to give away too much but we have currently teamed up with Globeleq – one of Africa’s leading power companies to establish a 100 MW IPP solar park in Ethiopia," said Samuel.
Ethiopia has begun to embrace solar energy as an option to address its surging energy needs and also as a means to cut soaring energy costs as it aspires to move towards a manufacturing economy. (...)
Globeleq is a self-described “leading private power generation company in Africa”, involved in mega energy projects in a number of nations. It most recently completed two mega renewable energy projects in South Africa, including the 50 MW PV De Aar Solar Power and the 50 MW PV Drogfontein Solar Power projects. “Infrastructure projects like these boost local economies through delivery of clean and reliable electricity, creation of jobs and the development of skills that will increasingly be in demand as the industry grows,” Globeleq CEO Mikael Karlsson said.
4.1.2018 Demeke Mekonnen to Chair MetEC Board of Directors. borkena.com
One of the three deputy prime ministers, Demeke Mekonnen, is appointed by prime minister Hailemariam Desalegne to chair the board of directors of state-owned Metals and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), according to local newspapers. Siraj Fergessa, current minister of defense, was the chair of the board before the appointment of Demeke and he will remain a member of the board.
MetEC is Ethiopia`s military-industrial complex with a capital of 10 billion Ethiopian Birr. The entity is criticized as one of the most corrupt state-owned business entities and hundreds of billions of birr is squandered in addition to delays of projects. One of the many TPLF generals, Major General Knife, Dagnaw is head of MetEC.
Demeke Mekonnen is also chair of Amhara National Democratic Movement, a subservient party engineered by the late Meles Zenawi.
5.1.2018 Over 5,000hcts state-owned land to be given for local, Dutch horticulture investors. Fana Broadcasting Corpporation
More than 5,000 hectares of land is to be given for local and five Dutch investors who wanted to engage in horticulture development. Previously, the government had been using the fields for seed multiplication and other related purposes. The stated size of land is located in Hawassa (1,200 hct), Alage (1,200 hct), Bahir Dar (500hct), Arba Minch (1,000hct), Humbo (900hct), Sile (300hct) and Bir Sheleko (700hct).
Once they entered into production, the investors are expected to create employment opportunities for 40,000 unemployed youth, Dr Adugna Debela, deputy CEO of the Ethiopian Horticulture and Agricultural Investment Authority told FBC yesterday. The CEO said the land will be distributed for the investors in this Ethiopian fiscal year. If local investors meet 15 percent of the investment capital, they will get access to 85 percent loan from financial institution, he said. However, foreign investors are expected to cover all the investment capital by themselves. But they will be given a privilege to import materials needed for their work duty-free. According to him, preparations are underway to conclude agreement with the undisclosed number of local investors and with the five Dutch investors.
Ethiopia secured 271 million US dollars from horticulture last fiscal year.
16.1.2018 Over 800,000 Addis dwellers affected by respiratory illness last year due to air pollution :MoH. Fana Broadcasting
More than 800, 000 people have been affected by respiratory disease in Addis Ababa last year due to air pollution, said the Ministry of Health. According to the air quality study it conducted last Ethiopian fiscal year, the ministry confirmed that air pollution level in Addis Ababa has exceed the limit set by the World Health Orgnaization (WHO).
Of the total patients who sought health treatment in health institutions, 819,900 or 27.2% of them were patients affected by respiratory illness, the ministry said. Dagne Taddes, sanitation and environmental care coordinator at MoH, noted tha the number was the highest and has been increasing from year to year due to problems associated with increased level of air pollution. He said the sample study carried out in different parts of the city indicated that air pollution level in the city has reached at a critical stage.
According to WHO air quality guidelines, particulate matter pollution should not exceed from 20 micrograms per cubic meter. However, the number exceeded more than 300 micrograms in some parts of the city, he noted. He said 60 percent of the air pollution in urban areas is caused by vehicle emissions, while solid and liquid wastes contribute the remaining percentage. Smokes from firewood share 80 percent for air pollution in rural areas. The remaining pollutants come from vehicles’ emission and other sources.
WHO data shows that more than 12 million people die each year due to air pollution.
Translated and posted by Amare Asrat
11.1.2018 Ethiopia cuts foreign academics’ pay by 40 percent. Arefaynie Fantahaun, Ethiopia Observer
Foreign academics at state universities in Ethiopia are responding with frustration and anger to a decision by the Ethiopian government to reduce their pay. According to the decision, which was issued without prior notice to state universities on December 2017, 35.5% salary cut and a general tax of 35 percent will be applied to their annual income, which means a salary cut of 40 percent.
The decision is driven by the foreign currency shortages in the country. There are around 2,000 Indian faculty members and scores of Europeans in Ethiopian colleges and universities, according to the latest official figures. “Most of the Europeans have left but the Indians and a number of Filipinos who remain here very displeased with the decision,” one of the Indian professors teaching at the Addis Ababa University’s Institute of Foreign Language Studies told Ethiopia Observer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The universities and colleges have implemented the decision since December, and deducted our salaries ever since,” he said. He said that this is contrary to the law, which exempts professors’ base salaries from taxes and reducing a salary mid-year is a violation of the contract. The professor said he is aware that the Filipino faculty in Axum University have returned to their countries and some Indians in other universities and colleges are either seeking jobs with international non-governmental organisations or considering returning home.
An official of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education contacted by the Ethiopia Observer admitted that a number of German nationals teaching at the Architecture Department at Addis Ababa University have left, but he said it had nothing to do with salary cut, rather it was because the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) aid fund dried out. Commenting on the case of Indians, he remained vague, only saying that the Ethiopian government cares about the interests and rights of faculty members.
The country’s higher education infrastructure has mushroomed in the last two decades but suffer due to funding cuts, unqualified lecturers, forcing the institutions to turn to hiring foreign academics. While the government needed to save money, cancelling wages of university lecturers would affect the quality of education, according to observers.
9.1.2018 Ethiopian parliament approves bans on child adoptions by foreigners. Xinhua
The Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday approved legislation banning international child adoptions. The legislation is said to encourage orphans to be adopted in their own country to shield them from abuse.
However, during the session some members of parliament have raised concerns over enough availability of local adoption facilities for adoptees. Questions over whether "adoptees" are genuine orphaned children and reports of physical abuse and even death of Ethiopian children in the hands of foreign foster parents have caused concerns over flaws in the adoption screening system in Ethiopia.
Several Western countries have also suspended adoptions from Ethiopia, fearing corruption within the inter-country adoption system.
13.1.2018 Fasil Kenema fans arrested en masse in Addis Ababa. borkena.com
Today, Mekele city team and Gonder city team ( Fasil Kenema – they are also known as Atsewochu) met in Addis Ababa at three o’clock local time for the primer league tournament. Although the game was peaceful, unlike the experiences of Fasil Kenema fans in Tigray, hundreds of Fasil Kenema fans are reportedly arrested after the match in Addis Ababa. (…)
Why Fasil Kenema Fans are arrested?
Fasil Kenema fans traveled all the way from Gonder but it is no secret that the team has a fairly good fan base in the capital Addis Ababa perhaps not exclusively because of soccer sentiment but by political sentiment. It has also fans from Oromo region of Ethiopia. The team received stellar reception when it traveled to Nazret (Adama) for a match against Adama city team.
Fasil Kenema fans were in Addis Ababa stadium today with a mood of celebration of the two hundred years birthday memorial of Ethiopia’s undisputably visionary monarch, Emperor Tewodros II, which is tomorrow. After completion of the game at Addis Ababa stadium, fans joined by other Ethiopians went on to celebrating Emperor Tewodos and marched to Tedwodros square in the city. Reports in social media say they were chanting anti-TPLF (ruling party) slogans. And that is when according to eyewitness accounts that the Federal police surrounded the fans and arrested hundreds of them.
But, generally, Ethiopian Premier League soccer tournament has become a trouble to the government rather than something that it should fear. The reason is that matches between different regions in the country have essentially become scenes of political showdowns. The problem is stronger when a team from Tigray region, which is the political base of Tigray People’s Liberation Front, plays against a team from Amhara or Oromo regions of Ethiopia. Tournament virtually sounds like an encounter between two ethnic groups and the picture that emerges from it reflects ethnic politics; what the regime in power passionate about with a sort of revolutionary fervor but it is slowly dying from it. The relation between the regime and ethnic politics is like a relation between man and heroin or man and alcohol. And the regime is now towards the end of its life.
1.2.2018 Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia agree to establish railways, roads linking countries. Berihu Shiferaw, Waltainfo
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ghandour announced that an agreement has been reached with Egypt and Ethiopia to establish railways and roads linking the three countries, reported the Sudan Tribune. The three leaders agreed on establishing a joint-fund to finance integrated projects, he added.
Monday’s tripartite summit held on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia’s leaders has yielded positive results and overcome the crisis regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), according to Ghandour. The foreign minister reported on the mutual view shared by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, saying both leaders spoke of the “eternal [and] sacred” relations between the two countries. Ghandour emphasized that they were determined to maintain the relations and put them in their “proper framework,” in order that they can survive the shocks – such as those weighing on the countries before the Addis Ababa summit.
A joint political, security, and technical committee is currently being established. It will incorporate ministers of foreign affairs, irrigation, as well as senior security and intelligence officials from the Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The committee will meet in Cairo within two weeks to discuss the mechanism of operating the dam in a way which doesn’t affect the shares accessed by the Nile basin countries, especially Sudan and Egypt, Ghandour mentioned. (…)
31.1.2018 Leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan Create Committee on Dam. Berihu Shiferaw, Waltainfo
The heads of state of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt agreed on the integration of a permanent tripartite committee to follow up on the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GPRE), a local newspaper reported today. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi agreed on several substantial aspects to improve negotiations in that regard, according to the Sudan Tribune newspaper.
The leaders agreed to instruct the tripartite committee, which includes the irrigation ministers of each party, to function as a political committee and to work to resolve all pending issues related to the GPRE, on which they must submit a report to the three leaders within a month. The dam is an Ethiopian project that should benefit the three countries, so the parts of the Nile River water that correspond to Sudan and Egypt should not be affected by its construction, stated the heads of state of the three countries.
The leaders of the three countries 'pointed out their enthusiasm for maintaining good relations among their governments and peoples and agreed to coordinate and work together for the common interest of their people,' stated Sudan's foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour.
30.1.2018 From deadlock to progress – Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan. The Reporter
In an unexpected turn of events, the three negotiating countries over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) announced that they have reached a milestone agreement regarding the negotiations over the dam’s impacts on downstream countries. Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, who discussed on the sidelines of the 30th Heads of State and Government Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa announced on Monday that they have reached an agreeable point to deal with issues arising in the dam’s construction. "Congratulations, we solved our problems," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi told reporters after holding discussions with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and Omar al-Bashir.
The said agreement, although not pronounced by the discussants, involves the completion of the dam’s impact assessment which was contracted to the French companies BRL and Artelia within a one month period. GERD discussions were said to have reached “deadlocks” and no way forward for additional dam discussions. But, the recent consensus among the leaders of the three countries comes as a surprise to many. The dam “was never intended to harm any country but to fulfill vital electricity needs and enhance development cooperation in the region,” Hailemariam told the state broadcaster the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).
29.1.2018 We need to work in consensus as one nation- Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan leaders. Waltainfo
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Egypt’s President Abdul Fatah al-sisi and Sudan’s President Oumar Hasan Al-Bashir said that the three countries have to work as one nation in full consensus, during their meeting on the sidelines of the 30th AU Summit. The three leaders indicated that they have agreed to work as one nation specifically on issues related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).vThey have also agreed to meet once every year and discuss bilateral issues and set mutual directions, according the information obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The leaders also have ordered their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Water Resource and other responsible ministries and institutions to submit report on the status and issues related to GERD. They also agreed to foster people to people and economic ties by establishing a tripartite infrastructure fund to be contributed equally from each country. The three leaders also stressed on the need to foster diplomatic ties not only on leaders level but also on levels below this authority in foreign ministries and others.
19.1.2018 Attempt to recruit army fails amid growing regional tensions. Engidu Woldie, ESAT News
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Defense is advertising in the local media urging the youth to join the regular army as tensions rose in the subregion following Sudan’s handover of a Red Sea island to Turkey and the ensuing deployment of troops by Egypt and Sudan along their border.
Regional allies and foes responded to the new development in the Red Sea with Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki visiting Cairo a week ago and vehemently denying this weekend reports that Egypt had deployed troops in his country along the border with Sudan. Meanwhile, the Middle East Monitor reported that Sudan and Ethiopia have agreed to deploy joint forces between the Sudanese Blue Nile State and the Ethiopian region of Benishangul-Gumuz to secure the border area. According to the agreement Ethiopia had reportedly “pledged to prevent any hostile activity against Sudan.”
Close relationships between Cairo and Asmara is not a welcome development as far as the Ethiopian regime, not an ally of either country, is concerned. Reports say Ethiopia has also deployed more troops along its border with Eritrea, two countries in the Horn that have remained in no peace no war situation after a bloody war 20 years ago that claimed the lives of over 70 thousands. Each side accuses the other of supporting their opponents. On the other hand, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are deadlocked over negotiations on the share of the Nile water as time is approaching for Ethiopia to fill the reservoir of a mega hydroelectric dam the construction of which is said to be completed 60%.
Amid these developments, it seems the Ethiopian regime found it imperative to urgently recruit army. However, over two decades of misrule and control of economic and political power by the minority Tigrayans had alienated the majority of Ethiopians. This, according to analysts, had resulted in extremely low response and turnout to the enticing advertisement on media calling the youth to join the military. Even in the power base of the TPLF, the Tigray region, the response to the call to join the army was very low, according to ESAT’s sources. Ethiopians are are done with the regime and they see that any war with a perceived enemy is not a war of their own, says a regional analyst.
16.1.2018 Sudan, Ethiopia agree to deploy joint force to secure border. Xinhua
Sudan and Ethiopia on Tuesday agreed to deploy a joint force to secure their joint border and prevent any hostile activities against the two countries. A conference on development of border relations between Sudan's Blue Nile State and Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia concluded sessions Tuesday in Damazin, the capital city of Blue Nile State.
"The two sides agreed to secure the border ... to pave way for the work of other joint committees," Hussein Yassin Hamad, Blue Nile State Governor, said in a statement. He further reiterated Sudan's commitment to protect peace and secure the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) near the Sudanese border.
Governor of Benishangul-Gumuz Region, Al-Shazali Hassan, for his part, vowed to prevent any activity hostile to Sudan. "We will fight any manifestations of smuggling of goods and weapons across the borders," he said. "We have agreed on deployment of joint forces between the Blue Nile State and the Benishangul-Gumuz Region as well as a civil administration conference between the two countries, particularly in border areas," he added.
Ethiopia is building the GERD in Benishangul-Gumuz Region near the Sudanese border, some 900 km northwest of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The GERD, extending on an area of 1,800 square km, is scheduled to be completed in three years at a cost of around 4.7 billion U.S. dollars.
16.1.2018 Sudan retracts accusations against Egypt, Eritrea. ESAT News
Sudan has recanted its accusation that Egypt and Eritrea had deployed troops near its border and said military deployment by the Sudanese army was a reaction to threats by Sudanese armed opposition groups in areas near Eritrea, according to a report by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Sudanese authorities said last week that they had intelligence indicating there was a “possible threat” coming from Egypt and Eritrea in the Eritrean region of Sawa.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a joint press conference with his Ethiopian counterpart, Workneh Gebeyehu in Khartoum on Sunday that Sudan was not concerned about military build-up by a specific country, but about security threat from armed opposition groups in the country’s Eastern border with Eritrea.
On the same day Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki was quoted as saying in Asmara that the story of deployment of troops by Egypt inside Eritrea was a fabricated story. “The fingerprints of TPLF regime, in collusion with certain special interest groups in the Sudan, are discernible in latest fabricated story. Objective is to nudge the Sudan into a futile conflict. The Sudanese people are too savvy to be hoodwinked and fall into this transparent trap,” Afwerki was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Latest political developments in the region came after Sudan agreed to hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey, a move that upset Egypt and its regional allies.
15.1.2018 Egypt doesn’t want war with Sudan and Ethiopia: al-Sisi. Sudan Tribune
The Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Monday said his country isn’t conspiring against Sudan and Ethiopia stressing Egypt isn’t planning to go to war against its “brothers”. Al-Sisi’s statements come amid rising tensions between Egypt on the one hand and Sudan and Ethiopia on the other.
The are several issues between Cairo and Khartoum including Sudan support to the Ethiopian renaissance dam, border dispute over Halayeb triangle and the ban on Egyptian farming products. The latest tensions have sparked between Sudan and Egypt after the former signed an agreement to temporarily hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey.
On 4 January Sudan summoned its ambassador to Egypt for consultation, hours after the head of the Sudanese Border Technical Committee, Abdallah Al-Sadiq, accused Egypt of trying to drag Sudan into a direct military confrontation over Halayeb. Last week, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea after the deployment of thousands of troops from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighters to Kassala State. On Thursday, Sudan admitted that the deployment of troops along the Eritrean border came as result of military threats from Eritrea and Egypt against the country.
Also, tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia flared up after talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are stalled over how to deal with the impact of the $5 billion dam that could threaten Egypt’s lifeblood. According to Reuters, a scheduled visit by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to Cairo on Monday was postponed for the second time.
In televised statements on Monday, al-Sisi said “Egypt will not fight its brothers ... I say these words as a message to our brothers in Sudan”. “We are not willing to enter into war with our brothers or with anyone ... our peoples deserve every single penny,” he added. “I say this to our brothers in Sudan and Ethiopia: Egypt doesn’t conspire. We don’t conspire, neither do we meddle in the internal affairs of anyone and we are very, very keen to have a very good relationship,” he further said. The Egyptian President stressed the ultimate goal of his government is to construct and develop Egypt, saying they wouldn’t carry out any other objectives. He further warned the Egyptian media against attacking Sudan. “I hope the Egyptian media doesn’t use offensive language against Sudan or any other country no matter how much anger or pain they feel towards that country,” he said.
14.1.2018 Eritrean president denies presence of Egyptian troops in his country. Sudan Tribune
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accused interested circles in Sudan and Ethiopia of attempting to create a conflict between Khartoum and Asmara, stressed that there were no Egyptian troops at the Sawa base, which borders the Sudanese border.
On Thursday, Sudan officially announced sending troops and equipment to the border with Eritrea and spoke about security threats after the alleged arrival of Egyptian troops to the Eritrean military base of Sawa, an area bordering the eastern province of Kassala in Sudan.
In an interview with Eritrean television on Sunday evening, Afwerki ridiculed Sudan’s allegations about the presence of Egyptian troops at the Sawa military base and slammed the Qatari Al-Jazeera TV channel which broadcast the news. He further said that Asmara has information about an attempt to deploy Ethiopian troops on the Sudanese-Eritrean border to be financed by Sudan. He added that Khartoum and Addis Ababa seek to push Eritrea to war pointing to the broadcast in the Sudanese media of footages of troops and weapons dispatched to Kassala state. "The Ethiopian and Sudanese intelligence services are promoting false information. These accusations are an attempt to escape forward." "Some circles in Sudan and Ethiopia are trying to create a clash between Sudan and Eritrea," he said.
In a joint press conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Sunday, the Sudanese foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour said his government does not accuse a specific country but speak about threats for its security on the eastern border. "Some opposition forces are in those areas," he said. "There are some people who are trying to harm the security of the country and we will explain this in detail in due course," Ghandour stressed.
Speaking about the Turkish military presence in the Red Sea region, Afwerki said it "is not acceptable". "I am not sure about the Turkish military presence in (the Sudanese town of) Suakin, but the Turkish presence in Somalia is unacceptable and does not contribute to the stability of the region," he said.
The head of the embattled east African country was recently in Egypt for talks with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following several reports about a rapprochement with Cairo which is in conflict with Khartoum and Addis Ababa over the Nile water.
10.1.2018 Egypt, Eritrea leaders meet as Nile tensions rise. Maggie Michael, AP
Egypt's president and his Eritrean counterpart met in Cairo on Monday amid heightened tensions with Sudan and Ethiopia over border disputes and the construction of a massive upstream Nile dam. Egypt fears the soon-to-be completed dam in Ethiopia could cut into its share of the river, which provides nearly all its freshwater. Eritrea and Ethiopia have long been bitter rivals and went to war in the late 1990s. Ethiopia denies it is cutting into Egypt's share of the Nile, and has accused Eritrea of training rebels to carry out sabotage attacks on the dam.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi hosted Isaias Afwerki at the presidential palace. "The two sides have agreed on continuing intensive cooperation in all issues related to the current situation to support the security and stability in the region," Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said, referring to the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea strait of Bab al-Mandab as two major areas for ensuring stability.
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network recently reported that Egypt is deploying troops in Eritrea. The Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization, an Eritrean opposition group, last year claimed that Egypt is building a military base on Eritrea's Dahlak island and will deploy up to 30,000 Egyptian naval forces. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane G. Meske denied the Al-Jazeera report in a tweet this week, saying: "Al-Jazeera News Channel seems to relish propagating false and preposterous news on Eritrea: latest is phantom deployment of Egyptian troops/weapons!"
Egypt's relations with Sudan, which has lent support to Ethiopia in the Nile dispute, have meanwhile deteriorated. Sudan recalled its ambassador for consultation last week, and has said a 2016 maritime demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia infringes on its territorial waters. The waters in question are off the coast of an Egyptian-held border region claimed by Sudan. Egypt's pro-government media have accused Sudan of conspiring against Cairo with Turkey and Qatar.
Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential for its economic development, noting that the vast majority of its 95 million people lack electricity. The dam's hydroelectric plant will generate over 6,400 megawatts, a massive boost to the country's current production of 4,000 Megawatts.
Egypt, with a population roughly equal to Ethiopia's, receives the lion's share of the Nile's waters under agreements from 1929 and 1959 that other Nile nations say are unfair and ignore the needs of their own large and growing populations.
9.1.2018 Damming the Nile - Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia battle it out. Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post
The three nations are locked in a dispute about the vast dam being constructed across the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, the source of 85% of Egypt’s water.
That Egypt’s economic well-being is dependent on the Nile has been a geopolitical fact of life since ancient times. Fly over the country, and Egypt’s dependence on the river is starkly illustrated. Amid vast deserts, the river and its cultivated banks appear as a narrow green ribbon snaking its way to the north, where it widens into a delta before reaching the Mediterranean. The vast majority of Egypt’s 94 million people live adjacent to this fertile belt, along which its main cities from Aswan to Cairo to Alexandria cluster. The lower Nile valley and the delta together comprise about 3.5 percent of Egypt’s total area. The remaining 96.5 percent is mostly desert.
The Nile that enters Egypt is fed from two sources. The White Nile, flowing through Sudan, supplies Egypt with 15 percent of its water; the Blue Nile, emanating from Ethiopia, provides 85 percent.
During the colonial era the fact that one of the the Nile’s main tributaries rises in Lake Victoria, which lies in Tanzania and Uganda, and runs through what are now eleven African countries before discharging into the Mediterranean, held little significance. Scant consideration was given by colonial rulers to the needs or the rights of the African hinterland. Given the priorities of the time, it is scarcely surprising that a 1929 treaty with Britain provided Egypt with a virtual monopoly over the Nile waters with veto rights over all upstream projects. In 1959, under the provisions of this treaty, Egypt signed a deal with Sudan which guaranteed the two countries use of 90 percent of the Nile waters.
But the world was changing fast. The eight other nations that shared the Nile basin at that time viewed Egypt’s historic dominance of the Nile as increasingly untenable. Egypt’s upstream neighbours were all undergoing rapid socio-economic development, and these emerging regional powers began to challenge Egypt’s control of what each regarded as its river.
The affected countries eventually got together, and in the 1999 Nile Basin Initiative put forward a proposal to “achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources.”
Ten years of negotiations followed. Finally in 2010, six Nile Basin countries signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA): Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. They were joined in June 2012 by the newly-created South Sudan. The CFA was meant to replace the 1929 colonial agreement that gave Egypt absolute rights over all the waters of the Nile, and provide a mechanism for cooperation among all ten member countries in managing the Nile basin water resources. However Egypt and Sudan rejected its reallocation of Nile water quotas under the 1959 agreement, and Congo also refused to sign.
This was the moment a further major complication entered the already complex Nile situation.
Back in the late 1950s, the US Bureau of Reclamation had undertaken a survey of the Blue Nile to identify where a dam might be sited to generate hydro-electricity for the region. Forty years later, in 2009, the Ethiopian government suddenly decided that the time was ripe to press ahead with the project. The driving force was former prime minister Meles Zenawi, who had run the country for more than two decades and was obsessed with Ethiopia’s rebirth.
By November 2010 a design for the dam had been drawn up. On 30 March 2011 the project was made public. Two days later, on 2 April, Zenawi laid the dam's foundation stone. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (or GERD), will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa. Almost incredibly, once constructed the reservoir is estimated to take from 5 to 15 years to fill with water.
In August 2017, as construction on the dam reached 60 percent completion, tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia began to rise. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the Nile was “a matter of life and death” for his country and that “no one can touch Egypt’s share of the water”. He demanded that Ethiopia cease construction on the dam as a precondition to negotiations. Ethiopia retorted that the dam was a matter of life and death for it, too, since it was a vital component in its plans for economic development.
In an attempt to resolve differences, discussions were arranged between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to consider how best to manage the impact of GERD. In November 2017 the talks broke down. On December 26, Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, flew to Addis Ababa to emphasise Egypt’s concerns.
At the heart of the dispute lies Egypt’s fear that, once the dam is built, and especially during the initial phase when the reservoir is being filled, the country will receive less than the annual 55.5 billion cubic metres of water it says is the minimum it needs. With a surging population that President Sisi has termed “a threat to national development”, Egypt will be requiring more, not less, fresh water over the next decade.
Although most of Egypt’s water comes from the Blue Nile, on which the dam is being built, Ethiopia is adamant that, once the reservoir has been filled, GERD will not adversely affect downstream countries. At the same time it refuses to acknowledge Cairo’s right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water every year, since this emanates from the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan to which Ethiopia was not a signatory.
Ethiopia is due to start testing the first two turbines shortly, with construction of the dam due for completion by the end of the year. But Egypt. Sudan and Ethiopia have yet to overcome their mistrust of each other and agree mechanisms to contain the impact on downstream countries, both during the filling period and once the dam comes into operation. They need to start co-operating soon.
6.1.2018 Sudan’s army chief visits Ethiopian capital. Visit comes 2 days after Sudan shut its eastern border with Eritrea. Addis Getachew, Anadolu
Sudanese Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Emad al-Din Mustafa Adawi visited capital Addis Ababa on Monday, just two days after Sudan shut its eastern border with Eritrea, according to state-affiliated FANA broadcasting service. Gen. Adawi met Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the capital.
Last year, the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance joint security and military cooperation between the two neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, FANA said. The closure of the border by Sudan came amid reports that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had set up a military camp in Sawa in Eritrea, a northern neighbor to Ethiopia. Eritrea, however, denies giving permission to Egyptian and Emirati military for any such activity.
According to some analysts, Egypt might want to use Eritrea as a pawn in its relations with Ethiopia, whose $4.8billion hydro dam project made Egypt uneasy. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 and between 1998 and 2000 the two countries fought a bloody war in which 70,000 people were believed to have been perished.
6.1.2018 Sudan shuts border with Eritrea. Fana Broadcasting Corporation
Sudan has shut its eastern border with Eritrea, state media reported Saturday, days after Khartoum declared an emergency in the neighboring state of Kassala. "The governor of Kassala issued a decree to close all border crossings with Eritrea from the night of January 5," the official SUNA news agency reported. It did not explain why the border was closed but said the decision comes after President Omar al-Bashir declared on December 30 a state of emergency in Kasala and in North Kordofan state for six months. Officials have said that decision was part of a government campaign to collect illegal arms in those two states.
A resident of Kassala told AFP that hundreds of Sudanese soldiers, several military vehicles and tanks had crossed through the town towards the border with Eritrea over the past two days. Thousands of Eritreans, fleeing a repressive regime at home, cross into Sudan illegally through the border with Kassala every year and later make perilous voyages across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Apart from Kassala and North Kordofan, a state of emergency is in place in Sudan's war-torn regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.