von Klaus Schmitt

Development and Humanitarian Issues

22.5.2017        Die kritische humanitäre Lage im April. Relief Web, Humanitarian Dashboard

Internally Displaced People1 (as of mid-April 2018)

The 10th round of the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) identified a total of 1,613,436 persons displaced by climatic, conflict and other factors in 950 sites across the country. Sixty six per cent of these IDPs have been displaced by conflict or social tensions.

Meteorological update2 (as of 30 April 2018)

In April, there was good rainfall in most parts of the country ranging from light to heavy in its amount - except in the north western part of the country. The heaviest rainfall was recorded in highland areas of east and west Harerghe, Bale, West Arsi, Guji, East Shewa and most areas of SNNPR. When compared with the long-term average precipitation in the same season, the current rainfall was above normal in most areas of the country (the green shaded areas on the map), while the north western part of the country the rainfall was below normal. In April 2018, flood incidences were reported in Oromia (Arsi, Bale, Borena, East Hararge, East Showa, Guji and West Hararge zones), Somali (Afder, Dawa, Doolo, Fafan, Liben, Nogob, Shabelle and Sitti zones) and SNNP regions (Gamo Gofa and Sidama zones). Following the reports, the NDRMC-led, multi-sector National Flood Task Force was activated.

The full report includes the following further issues: Market price update (increasing), Education (vast number of IDP children), Emergency shelter and non-food items (increasing needs), Health, Nutrition, Protection, Water/Sanitation/Hygiene (WaSH)


15.5.2018        Latest conflict intensifies No. of IDPs. Dawit Endeshaw, The Reporter

Following the conflict along the border of Gedeo and West Guji Zones of the Southern and Oromia Regional States, not less than 200,000 people are said to be internally displaced. The report disclosed by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on May 10, 2018 indicated that there is only a limited support and assistance for the displaced people coming from both the Ethiopian government and donors. The conflict referred in the report as “inter-communal violence” is said to have occurred on April 13, 2018. Aside from the internal displacement, it has also resulted in property damages and loss of life.

The Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from both zones are reported to have reached 100,000. The report further stated that the underlying causes for the conflict are ‘not conclusively known’ thus far. However, local sources told The Reporter that such kind of tension and border conflict has existed for so long in the area.

Following the first round of the conflict and IDPs, it is to be recalled that, officials from both regions have agreed to solve the problem and facilitate the return of the internally displaced population to their respective homes.  According to the report, as of April 21, nearly 46,000 people have returned from West Guji zone, while nearly 39,000 people have returned to Gedeo as of May, 1.

In order to support the IDPs during the first round, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission dispatched 1,250 tons of rice, 33 tons of oil and 500 cartons of biscuits to Gedeo (Southern) and Kercha (Oromia). In addition, in South, 650 tons of rice, 22.5 tons of oil and 500 cartoons of biscuits were also dispatched. However, given the demand, this support is still not sufficient, says the report.

In related news, thousands of families are suffering due to flooding. Around 170,760 people nationwide are displaced, the majority of whom due to flooding and in the Ethio-Somali Region.


11.5.2018        Heavy rainfall and further flooding expected across East Africa through the end of May. Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS)

Heavy rainfall has persisted across much of East Africa since March, with rainfall totaling more than 200 percent of average in many areas (Figure 1). The heavy precipitation has caused widespread flooding, resulting in fatalities, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and damage to infrastructure and crops. The scale of flooding impacts in the Horn is already similar to that which occurred in 2006/07, a bad year for flooding, and further flooding is expected in the coming weeks. After May/June, flooding is expected to decline in the Horn of Africa, but will become increasingly likely in northern parts of the region. Overall, the heavy rainfall is expected to have a positive impact on the food security of pastoral and agropastoral households. However, food security outcomes are likely to be more severe than previously projected for households in flood prone areas, most notably in riverine areas of the Horn of Africa.

Across the Horn of Africa, water levels in most major river basins and water catchments are near record high levels. In Kenya, OCHA reports flooding has occurred in 40 counties, displacing over 311,000 people, with the most significant impacts occurring in Tana-River, Kilifi, Garissa, Mandera, Siaya, Homa-Bay, Turkana, and Nakuru counties. In Ethiopia, severe flooding was reported in parts of Oromia, Somali, and SNNP regions, causing significant damage to infrastructure. DTM estimates over 97,000 people were displaced. In Somalia, more than 14,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed in riverine areas of Hiraan, Middle and Lower Shabelle, and Middle and Lower Juba, and OCHA estimates 219,000 people have been displaced. (…)

According to the Global Forecast System (GFS), moderate to heavy rainfall is expected to persist across much of East Africa through the end of May. An analysis by FEWS NET/USGS of this forecast and current soil saturation indicates that further flooding is likely in May in Somali Region of Ethiopia, (…) In June, incidents of flooding will decline in southern countries of East Africa, as rainfall moves northward. However, some flooding is still likely in June in the Lake Victoria Basin, Mount Elgon Region, northeastern Kenya, and the coastal strip of central Somalia.

The quantity of rainfall that has occurred during the first two months of the 2018 Gu/long rains season is the highest on record in many areas (Figure 2). The most comparable season that has occurred during this period is the 2006/07 October to December Deyr/short rains season. During this season, four major flood events occurred. These flood events displaced over one million people and destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of cropland. The scale of agricultural damage reported to date during the 2018 Gu season is already similar to that recorded throughout the 2006/07 Deyr season, further flooding is likely through at least the end of May 2018, and the population living in flood-prone areas has increased over 30 percent since 2006/07. Therefore, it is likely that the impact of flooding during the 2018 Gu season will be similar or greater than the 2006/07 Deyr season.

The food security impacts of the ongoing rainy season are mixed. In many pastoral areas of the Horn of Africa, where a prolonged drought occurred in 2016 and early 2017, heavy Gu rainfall has led to improved livestock body conditions and supported livestock births and productivity, which will increase pastoralists’ access to food and income. In agropastoral areas, the heavy rainfall is also largely beneficial, and production in most agropastoral livelihood zones of Kenya and Somalia is expected to be above average. Food security outcomes are expected to improve in these areas. However, food security outcomes are likely to be more severe than previously projected for many households in flood-prone areas, most notably in riverine areas of the Horn of Africa. Significant crop damage and low labor opportunities are expected in these areas and some households are likely to face difficulty meeting their food and non-food needs through August/September. However, above-average off-season production is likely in many riverine areas in September, which will lead to improved food security towards late 2018. Of greatest concern are households who have been displaced by flooding and whose homes were destroyed. These populations will need significant livelihoods support in the near term. It is expected some will also be in need of emergency food assistance. In a worst-case scenario where significant flooding continues through June, it is expected that additional households would be displaced as the spatial extent of flooding increases. Furthermore, the possibility of replanting crops would decline, and an increase in water-borne disease would be likely. The population in need of livelihood support and emergency food assistance would increase, and the timing of need would likely extend through much of 2018.

Looking beyond June, above-average rainfall is forecast over northern countries of the region between June and September, and flooding is likely in parts of Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan during this time. In addition, current forecasts indicate there is an increased likelihood of an El Niño event during the October to December 2018 Deyr/short rains. There is currently low confidence in this forecast; however, in the event of an El Niño, above-average rainfall would be likely in late 2018, which could drive further flooding.


8.5.2018          Mining Firm's License Renewal Fuels Protests. Voice of America

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in at least a dozen southern Ethiopian towns this week to protest the federal government's renewal of a license for a mining company that they say jeopardizes local residents' health and economic well-being.

The protesters, in the restive Oromia region, criticize a 10-year license for Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Cos., or MIDROC, to continue mining gold at a site near the town of Shakiso and the Lega Dembi river.

The demonstrations followed the April 27 report of the license renewal for MIDROC, which has operated the mine since the late 1990s. The company is owned by African-born billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, detained since November in what Saudi Arabia calls an anti-corruption sweep.

"Demonstrators are very angry. They are blocking roads and demanding change," Dulacha Lafe, administrator for the local Goro Dolaa district, told VOA in a phone interview on Monday, when the protests began. He said local authorities "understand and agree with their concern. However, we don't have the power to solve the problem. [The] Oromia regional government and the federal government should help us out. The license should not have been renewed at all."

Some high school students skipped classes this week to join in the anti-mining protests, which have erupted periodically over the years. A Shakiso resident, who asked VOA to withhold his name out of fear of retaliation, said Friday that some students "were beaten because of protesting and asking for their constitutional rights."

Abdu Kadir, an inspector for the local Guji district government, told VOA: "Some schools have been closed for a few days, and today students are back in class. Nobody is arrested or anything."

Chemicals blamed for ailments

Protesters contend that chemicals used at the mine contaminate the water and air, sickening humans and animals with everything from respiratory illnesses to miscarriages, birth defects and disabilities.

"Mothers are having miscarriages every single day," Abebech Elias, a health care provider from the Shakiso area, told state-owned Oromia Broadcasting Network in a report that aired Tuesday. "I am not seeing this in other places, only around the mining site."

Also in that report, MIDROC's environmental protection expert, Ahmed Mohammed, said the company used chemicals including hydrogen cyanide. "[E]ven a small amount" of hydrogen cyanide "can contaminate water and can cause serious consequences," he said. He did not specify the amounts used in MIDROC's operations, nor what safety precautions, if any, the company had taken.

MIDROC did not respond to VOA's attempts to reach it by phone and via its website.

The website explains that cyanide, "in the form of a very dilute sodium cyanide solution, is used to dissolve and separate gold from ore. … Cyanide is toxic in large doses and is strictly regulated in most jurisdictions worldwide to protect people, animals and the aquatic environment."

Local residents are concerned not only about health but also economics, said Galchu Halake, a community leader and one of the protesters in Arkalo town.

"They want the license to be revoked since the company has been mining gold for export without contributing to the local economy or the society's well-being," Galchu said.

Bacha Faji, a spokesman for Ethiopia's Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, said the renewed contract's terms direct a share of the company's earnings to local communities.

"Two percent of the income the company generates will go to locals," Bacha said in an interview with the BBC this week. He said that decision followed a government investigation "into what the company was doing for the past 20 years" and factored in local grievances.

Those include concerns about mining-related environmental degradation, health risks, displacement of housing and "the failure to hire local labor," the international organization Human Rights Watch noted in a 2016 report.That report focused on Ethiopian security forces' crackdowns, including "the killings and mass arrest of protesters" over gold mining and other issues.

In April 2016, Badada Gelchu was shot and killed at his home in Shakiso after participating in demonstrations against the gold mine. His family told VOA then that security agents "went to his house and killed him, accusing him of organizing the protests in our area."

Skeptical of deal

Addisu Bulala, a leader of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress party, expressed skepticism about MIDROC's renewed license. Speaking with VOA by phone, he mentioned televised reports showing children with deformities allegedly linked to contaminants from mining.

"Until today, there's been no compensation, no change. ... No one is charged for crimes committed" involving environmental pollution, Addisu said. "This is basically selling the community for dollars. Our party is concerned deeply, and no responsible government would allow this."

Oromia regional officials are "not accepting" the federal mining ministry's licensing decision, said Negeri Lencho, spokesman for the regional government. "Even if the [ministry] says it conducted an investigation, we have no idea of the findings. They did not share the results. It is disrespectful to us and our people. ... They admitted the lack of transparency and agreed to figure this out together."

Negeri said the regional government was conducting its own investigation into MIDROC's mining practices and environmental impact.

"We want our people to understand that, as a regional government, their concerns and questions are ours, too," he added.

Ethiopia still is under a state of emergency imposed in February after the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. His successor, Abiy Ahmed, confirmed in April, is the country's first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic group, which has long sought equal representation in government.

Contributors to this report include Namo Dandi, Tigist Geme, Sora Halake and Tujube Hora of VOA's Horn of Africa service.


Politics, Justice, Human Rights

15.5.2018        Long-serving officials discharged. The Reporter

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has retired five long-serving government officials and members of the Prime Minister’s advisory team today including the EPRDF’s old-guard and head of the Foreign Relations Strategic Research Institute, Sebhat Nega aka Aboy Sebhat.

According to the statement released from the Office of the Prime Minister today, the administration of Prime Minister Abiy is “continuing on the process of renewing top leadership of government institutions” to deliver on “the aspiration of the people for development and growth”. According to statement, other long-serving government officials: Kassu Ilala (PhD), from Policy Research Institute, Belete Taffere, from Integrated Land Management, Planning and Policy Project, Tadesse Haile, from Trade and Industry Policy Planning and Execution, and Mekonnen Manyazewal, from Policy Research Institute, were also honorably discharged to their pension to day. Furthermore, the statement also notes that the Prime Minister will continue to retire long-serving and veteran government officials from their position.


15.5.2018        Five high ranking authorities including Sebhat Nega to retire. borkena

Prime minister Abiy Ahmed seems to be changing gear to speed up measures that would help planned reform measures for his government. Apart from reshuffling cabinet ministers and appointed more than forty deputy ministers and directors, his administration is removing high ranking officials who are considered to be too powerful, albeit charges of corruption and abuse of power, to remove from power.

Pro-government sources including Fana reported today that the office of prime minister disclosed that five government authorities are made to retire. Statement from the office was explicit in pointing out that the change is part of the reform measure and part of the effort to address “people’s demand for change” and that it will continue to do so.

One of them is Sebhat Nega. One of the founders and ideologue of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), he was highly influential not only within TPLF but also in the Federal government so much so that he was even deemed more powerful than the late Meles Zenawi. At the age of 84, his last formal government portfolio was Director General of Foreign Relation Strategic Study Institute. He has been very controversial and is believed to be one of the masterminds of crimes committed by TPLF.

Kasu Ilala, Belete Tafere, Mekonen Manyazewal and Tadesse Haile are the other high ranking officials whose retirement is announced today. They all worked in policy areas. Tadesse Haile, from TPLF like Sebhat Nega, was head of Ethiopian investment authority and is believed to be corrupted.

Yesterday, citizens reported on social media that head of Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, Zeray Asgedom, a staunch TPLF who was blackmailing state-funded media in Amhara and Oromo regions of Ethiopia following a meeting after ethnic-based violence in Buno Bedele Zone, is removed from his position.


7.5.2018          Amhara pardons 3, 591 inmates. Waltainfo

The Amhara Regional State Justice Bureau said that it has pardoned 3, 591 inmates. According to the decision, of the state’s cabinet the inmates will be released this month. The pardon excludes inmates who took part in human trafficking, corruption, counterfeit currency, and rape. The regional state has pardoned 2,923 inmates this Ethiopian fiscal year alone.


7.5.2018          Fresh round of violence rocks Moyale town, leaving unknown number of causalities and fresh displacement in its wake. Liyat Fekade, Addis Standard

A fresh round of violence involving two ethnic communities, the Garre of Somali origins and the Oromo, in Moyale town, 790 km south of Addis Abeba, in the border between Ethiopia and Kenya, has left unknown number of civilian causalities and a fresh displacement in its wake.

According to locals who spoke to Addis Standard, the clashes, which began on Sunday at around 10:40 AM local time, lasted throughout the day. “We know of at least five people who were killed and several hundred who fled the eastern district of the town,” said one resident of the town who spoke on conditions of anonymity. However, despite involving the two ethnic communities, the clashes were first “provoked by the involvement of members of the Liyu Police,” our source said.

In a message sent via WhatsApp to Addis Standard, another resident wrote: “The fire exchange started as early as 10:40 am before noon today. The shooting was started by Somali Leyu force and Garri tribe in intention of opening fire on Oromia Police station which [is located] adjacent to Somali residents on the Eastern side of Moyale town. The Oromia police station covered an area of approximately around 2,000 square meters. And this always [served] to block members of the Liyu Police from passing to the western side of Moyale town where many ethnic communities including the Oromo live. On [many] occasions this side of the town was their target and [was] always blocked by [the] presence of Oromia police station.”

Clashes between the two communities is not unusual in the past, but residents of the town believe an uptick in the involvement of members of the Liyu Police have increased both the frequency and the intensity of these clashes in recent months. The same message sent on WhatsApp also blamed lack of action by members of the national defense force stationed in a military camp near the town.  “Immediately after the Liyu police opened fire on the police station the Federal police force known as Tsire Shibir (Anti terrorism force) tried to intervene but after losing one of their members in between they decided to move back to their camps. Although it’s difficult to clarify accurately some there were causalities from the Somali side.”

In a short message posted in his Facebook page, Dr. Negeri Lencho, communication head of the Oromia regional state, said that “the ongoing attack against our people in Moyale town is not acceptable…the responsible body should take the necessary measures to stop the attack in its early stage.” However, Dr. Negeri provided no further explanation and our attempts to reach him were to no avail.

Security in Moyale town remained fragile after the killing on March 10 of at least a dozen civilians by members of the military implementing Ethiopia’s current state of emergency.  The attack, which the Command Post in charge of the state of emergency blamed on mistaken intelligence, has also left tens of thousands of civilians displaced. Many remained in refugee camps on Kenya”s side of the border where they are being cared for by the Kenyan Red Cross and host of international aid organizations.

And on April 17, a grenade explosion at the bus station had killed at least three and wounded more than 50, according to information from the Oromia regional state administrative & security bureau. The town’s communication office blamed members of the “Liyu Force”, a controversial paramilitary force operating in Ethio-Somali regional state, while the statement from the Oromia regional state administrative & security bureau blamed “military forces armed by the Ethio-Somali regional state.”

The clashes yesterday happened at the same time when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was meeting with the Muhamud Ali, the Governor of Marsabit County. PM Abiy was accompanied by, among others, Lemm Megerssa, President of the Oromia regional state and Workneh Gebeyehu, Foreign Minister.

The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza quoted The Daily Nation as saying “a Kenyan has been killed and three Ethiopians injured in ethnic clashes in Moyale, residents however say deaths much higher across border.” The Daily Nation reported the news quoting the Kenyan police. Our attempts to reach the town’s mayor were not successful.


6.5.2018          Eskinder Nega calls on new government to go for not cosmetic but radical changes for democracy and justice. Ethiomedia

Prominent Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega on Saturday called on the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to carry out not cosmetic but radical changes for democracy, justice and the respect of human rights.

Speaking to a crowd of admirers who welcomed him at Dulles International Airport on the outskirts of the American capital, Eskinder vowed to return to Ethiopia and be part of the struggle until the Ethiopian people are able to 'breathe in an air of freedom, democracy and justice.'

Unlike many other political emigres who flee from the persecution in Ethiopia and seek political asylum in the West, Eskinder earns the credit of becoming the first prominent, repeatedly persecuted citizen who defies the threat of torture and suffering to carry out his pro-democracy campaign to the end.

Serkalem Fasil, the wife of Eskinder Nega, who has been with him since Eskinder left Ethiopia, and had earlier told the media that she wants Eskinder to go back to his country and carry out to frution the struggle that he has been waging for a long time.

"I share the message of Serkalem," Eskinder said, "that there should be no illusion that I'd remain here in the Diaspora. It should be clear to all that I am going back to my country, and join the struggle."

Earlier in his speech, Eskinder said the Ethiopian people and the ruling EPRDF party stand poles apart over how they treat the Ethiopian Diaspora.

The EPRDF treats the Ethiopian Diaspora as 'extremist,' 'terrorist,' chauvinist', narrow-minded and a less-knowledgeable entity that doesn't know much about Ethiopia.

In the eyes of the people (the scale of justice), however, the Ethiopian Diaspora is the advocate of democracy, defender of human rights, the pride of the oppressed and the treasure of Ethiopia.

"Today I'm here with you with the voice of the Ethiopian people. To stand and struggle for democracy cannot be extremism and terrorism. To be an advocate of equality and human rights is not narrow-mindedness or chauvinism. To say human rights should be respected, no children and innocent people should be killed, no shots should be fired at peaceful protesters doesn't mean the Ethiopian diaspora lacks in 'sufficient knowledge about Ethiopia."

The facts are quite to the contrary.

I call on the Ethiopian Diaspora to carry on the struggle until the Ethiopian people are able to breathe in an air of freedom, democracy and justice.

The demand of the Ethiopian people for democracy cannot be answered in a cosmetic way. It should be answered in a radical way.

To bring about a radical change, Eskinder says, three preconditions should be met, and they are:

1) All political prisoners, including G7's Andargachew Tsige and Mesfin Abebe of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) should be released without preconditions.

2) The State of Emergency should be lifted. All those arrested under the State of Emergency Law should be released without any preconditions.

3) An all-inclusive negotiation should be initiated by the government. In this all-inclusive conference, groups charged as "terrorist" should be included.

I believe, like most people, the new government of Dr. Abiy Ahmed will head for not a cosmetic but radical changes in the country. If they choose the cosmetic path, the people's struggle for democracy and justice will return even much more consolidated than before. And those of us former prisoners will once again be in front line to demand for the reign of democracy and justice, Eskinder concluded. (Ethiomedia)



22.5.2018        Labour Strike Rocks Bole Lemi Industrial Park. Berhane Hailemariam, Addis Fortune

Employees demanded favourable working conditions and higher pay

Labourers working inside the factories of the nation's first industrial park, Bole Lemi, were on strike for five days starting on May 11, 2018. They are demanding higher pay and a favourable working environment. The strike at the Bole Lemi Industrial Park occurred at only one factory on Friday and climaxed to four by last Monday. The factories were Shints Garment Solution from South Korea, Arvin Garment and Ashetn Apparel, the two Indian companies and the Taiwanese George Shoe. Only the first has an association for employees, which is also where the strike began - a company that pays between 900 Br and 1,600 Br to employees.

By Wednesday, the environment at the Park had worsened and was tense, with the compound occupied by federal police forces. The management of the park and the factories, officials of the Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC) and the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), were engaged in meetings. During the discussions, the management of the factories agreed with salary increments but only if an increase in productivity by the workers was evident. They also showed their willingness to loosen the working environment as long as the employees develop their workplace culture.

The management accused the workers of poor time management. The employees complained they are mistreated and abused, according to a female labourer who says the maximum wage at the leather factory she works at is 1,500, while the minimum is almost half that. The workers raised a total of 56 questions that included a salary raise, subjective bonus, operational safety and health (OSH), overtime pay, subjective disciplinary measures, few sick and annual leaves, and the bad utilisation of transport.

The Park that became operational in 2014 has 20 sheds and accommodates 14,200 workers out of which 13,000 are female. Most of the factories produce apparel while nine factories are engaged in the production of shoes and gloves. Officials at the Corporation say they are working to address the disagreement and that there are good signs. (…)


7.5.2018          Ethiopia, The Economic Miracle of Africa. Berihu Shiferaw, Waltainfo

The Ethiopian economy is valued as the largest in the region and a miracle in Africa, considering that only 18 years ago the country had one of the highest poverty rates in the world. According to a report recently released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the figures amounting to 8.5 percent indicate a continuous expansion after a decade. Thus, this nation of the so-called African horn averaged about 10 percent during that time in terms of economic growth, according to the IMF. The forecast, which places Ethiopia above Ghana, another of the macroeconomic gems of sub-Saharan Africa, and Nigeria, called the engine of the continent, takes as its starting point several elements, including the fact that currently 30 percent of the population lives in conditions of misery, when in 2000 that figure exceeded 60.

At the same time, the performance in attracting direct foreign investment exceeded the national plan by more than two thousand 500 million dollars, to the point of turning it into an African center of manufactures, according to data provided by the National Investor Commission. For the Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Addis Ababa Berhanu Deno, the news released by the IMF on this positive trend will contribute significantly to attract more international companies. In that sense, the public policy researcher of the same institution Costantinos Berhetesfa said that the Government operated with astuteness to promote access to loans with comparatively lower interest and other preferential policies, which finally ruined the arrival of reputable companies globally from China, Turkey and various parts of the world.

That presence contributes to economic growth not only through capital; it also reinforces the productivity and competitiveness of exports in the world market, according to the professor at the University of Wollo Hassen Beshir. The specialists considered that in order to guarantee stability, the authorities should give top priority to frequent power interruptions and improve road, rail and air connectivity.

In addition, they called on the private sector to form a reciprocal relationship with the public and invest in technology transfer, generation and employment management, as well as in market research and addressing the scarcity of currency. The country's large investment in infrastructure facilities, including the expansion of industrial parks, hydroelectric power stations and other basic services, together with the devaluation of Birr (Ethiopian currency) and the rebound of agricultural production, can be attributed to the estimated economic growth.

They highlighted documents from international organizations, such as the World Bank. A recent study conducted by the Center for Global Development and quoted by the portal Quartz notes that Ethiopia can become the 'new China' of the African continent. The main factor capable of driving the growth of these numbers in the future is that a greater part of citizenship is involved in production, which could be ensured through the growth of the active population, the academics argued.

Given that the UN predicts that by 2050, the population of Ethiopia will grow from 100 million inhabitants to 190 million, the expectations point to an improve of real GDP and the economy in the future. (Prensa Latina)


Media, Culture, Religion, Education, Social and Health

22.5.2018        PM Abiy Preaching “Walk the Talk in Faith”! Prof. Al Mariam, Ethiopian Media Forum

Last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia met with the top leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (ETOC) and urged them, indeed preached to them, to reconcile with the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church in Exile in the Diaspora. PM Abiy said:

Differences may have arisen [between Church leaders] for various reasons, but they not differences that cannot be solved. The biggest problem facing Church leaders is if those faith leaders who are regarded as the society’s problems are unable to solve their own problems.  Privately and in official capacity, we are ready to  provide the necessary support [to help bring the two Churches together]. You should all push forward and become role models for the rest of us.

PM Abiy was referring to the politicization of the ETOC which began under the military regime (Derg) in the mid-1970s and its full conversion into a political tool by the regime of the late Meles Zenawi. The EOTC lost its status as the official state church when the military junta declared socialism in 1994. The reigning Patriarch of EOTC was imprisoned by the junta and subsequently executed. The junta appointed its own Patriarch who was rejected by the EOTC synod (Church body which determines doctrine, administration and organization) because his appointment violated canon law and procedure. Only the synod has the authority to remove the Patriarch, and because the junta removed him, his replacement Patriarch was regarded as illegitimate.

Following the overthrow of the junta by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the junta selected Patriarch was forced into “retirement”. The TPLF arranged for a Patriarch of its own choosing to be installed. The “retired” Patriarch went into exile and announced he had been forced out by the TPLF. A number of bishops followed him into exile and formed a separate synod which gained substantial recognition and following in the Ethiopian Diaspora. There is little question that the Meles regime forced out the reigning Patriarch as the then prime minster later “regretted signing the order that removed the original patriarch creating the bifurcated the church.” (Walle Engedayehu offers a comprehensive discussion of the events leading to the schism and subsequent developments.)

In urging healing, reconciliation and reunification of the EOTC church, PM Abiy is merely amplifying on his message of unity and reconciliation between Diaspora Ethiopians and Ethiopians in the country.

I believe PM Abiy’s message to the Church Fathers is part of his core message of Ethiopianwinet and a manifestation of his many public declarations of our unity not only in our Ethiopianity but also divinity. (…)

Complete article (very long):


Horn of Africa and Foreign Affairs

8.5.2017          An Ethiopia-backed port is changing power dynamics in the Horn of Africa. Quartz Africa, Brendan J Cannon, Ash Rossiter (Khalifa University)

When Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Ethiopia became landlocked and therefore dependent on its neighbors—especially Djibouti—for access to international markets. This dependency has hampered Ethiopia’s aspiration to emerge as the uncontested regional power in the Horn of Africa.

Recently, however, the ground has been shifting. As we point out in a recent article, Ethiopia has attempted to take advantage of the recent involvement of various Arab Gulf States in the Horn of Africa’s coastal zone to reduce its dependency on Djibouti’s port. The port currently accounts for 95% of Ethiopia’s imports and exports. It has done so by actively trying to interest partners in the refurbishment and development of other ports in the region: Port Sudan in Sudan, Berbera in the Somaliland region of Somalia, and Mombasa in Kenya.

But it is Berbera, in particular, that will prove the most radical in terms of challenging regional power dynamics as well as international law. This is because a port deal involving Somaliland will challenge Djibouti’s virtual monopoly over maritime trade. In addition, it may entrench the de-facto Balkanization of Somalia and increase the prospects of Ethiopia becoming the regional hegemony.

Ethiopia’s regional policy

Ethiopia’s interest in Berbera certainly makes sense from a strategic perspective. It is closest to Ethiopia and will connect the eastern, primarily Somali region of Ethiopia to Addis Ababa. It will also provide a much needed outlet for trade, particularly the export of livestock and agriculture.

The development and expansion of the port at Berbera supports two primary pillars of Ethiopia’s regional policy. The first is maintaining Eritrea’s isolation. The aim would be to weaken it to the point that it implodes and is formally reunited to Ethiopia. Or it becomes a pliant, client state.

The second pillar rests on maintaining the status quo in post-civil war Somalia. Simply put, a weak and fractured Somalia enables Ethiopia to focus on quelling persistent internal security difficulties. It also keeps up pressure on Eritrea.

Ethiopia’s ambitions for Berbera have been hampered by two problems. Firstly the Republic of Somaliland – a de-facto independent state since 1991 – still isn’t recognised internationally. This makes engagement a political and legal headache. Secondly, Ethiopia, doesn’t have the critical resources needed to invest and build a port.

Ethiopia had been trying to get Abu Dhabi and Dubai interested in the Berbera Port for years. It’s latest push was assisted by a number of factors. These included a shift in the UAE’s military focus in Yemen and Ethiopian assurances of more trade and some financing to upgrade the port.

Ethiopia’s diplomatic push – which coincided with developments across the Gulf of Aden – finally got it the result it craved. In May 2016, DP World, a global mega-ports operator, signed an agreement to develop and manage Berbera Port for 30 years.

The Berbera Port deal

It is unlikely that DP World would have signed the deal if it didn’t see some long-term commercial benefit. The deal also includes economic, military and political dimensions.

Economically, for example, there will be investments in Somaliland’s fisheries, transportation and hospitality industry. The UAE will also establish a military installation in Berbera. The base is intended to help the UAE tighten its blockade against Yemen and stop weapons being smuggled from Iran.

Politically, the Berbera Port deal has provoked mixed reactions in Somaliland. There has been some popular anger aimed at Somaliland’s former president, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud aka “Silanyo”, and his family who reportedly benefited personally from it. Anger also stems from inter-clan and sub-clan rivalry over land, particularly in the Berbera area.

But the anger in Somaliland pales in comparison to the reaction in Mogadishu. This is because the Somaliland government has remained largely isolated internationally – until the port deal.

Somalia Federal Government ministers have publicly challenged the right of Somaliland to enter into official agreements with any country. The Ethiopian-driven deal means that Mogadishu’s claims over the breakaway territory have weakened substantially. The deal means that Somaliland has partially broken the glass ceiling of international recognition by entering into substantive deals with viable business partners and states operating on the global stage. Mogadishu can no longer pretend it controls the government in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa.

Ethiopia’s wins

The bottom line is that Ethiopia has engineered access to another port and enhanced its security and strategic economic interests. With the growth in annual volumes of transit cargo, Ethiopia has, for a long time, needed alternative routes from Djibouti.

In addition, Ethiopia has ensured its presence in the running of the port by acquiring a 19% share in the deal.

And by wangling a legally binding agreement between Somaliland and another state, Ethiopia has potentially paved the way for eventual international recognition of Hargeisa.

Ethiopia has also further cemented its hold over Somaliland through a combination of pressure and material incentives. By bringing significant outside investment and recognition, Ethiopia can also increasingly meddle in its internal affairs. This is a conundrum for Hargeisa. It finds itself increasingly emboldened to act independently. Yet it remains constrained by the need to get Addis Ababa’s approval.

As Ethiopia begins to move increasing amounts of goods and services on Somaliland’s new highway to the refurbished port of Berbera, Hargeisa may begin to question key aspects of the port deal.

But one aspect will not be in question: Ethiopia’s rising power and influence over the entire region.


7.5.2018          Tripartite meeting in Addis Ababa between Egypt,Ethiopia and Sudan ended with no agreement.

What is said to be the 19th tripartite meeting between Egypt,Ethiopia and Sudan ended with no agreement. The parties met in Addis Ababa this time around. The three countries have hired a French private firm to complete study on impact of Ethiopia’s $ 5 Billion grand dam project,it is believed to be the first of its kind in Africa, on the flow of water to the lower riparian countries.

Bottle neck in the talk is that Egypt seeks to the 1959 Nile agreement, to which Ethiopia was not a party, as a point of reference for the impact assessment by hired by the three countries. Ethiopia on the other hand disagrees on the point that the agreement between Sudan and Egypt during colonial Africa should not be binding for Ethiopia. Egypt has a stand that “no single drop of Egyptian water” could be used by other countries. 85 percent of the Nile water originates from Ethiopia and the water was never used by Ethiopia for generating electric power or otherwise. Ethiopia reaffirmed on different occasions that the Grand Dam project will not cause change to the volume of water flowing to Egypt.

Ethiopian authorities say that over 60 % of the project is completed.


6.5.2018          Ethiopia to take stake in Sudan port. Reuters

Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed on a deal allowing the Horn of Africa nation to take a stake in Sudan’s largest sea gateway port of Port Sudan, officials said on Thursday. Several countries including wealthy Gulf states have ramped up investments in seaports along the Red Sea and East Africa’s coast as they vie for influence in a strategic corridor vital for shipping lanes and oil routes. While the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are using some of the ports for military purposes, Ethiopia - which lost its access to the sea following the secession of Eritrea in 1993 aims to strike deals in a bid to diversify outlets and reduce port fees.

The deal between Addis Ababa and Sudan was reached in Khartoum last week at a meeting between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir. “The leaders of both countries agreed to develop Port Sudan together,” said Meles Alem, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry. “This deal entails that Ethiopia will be a shareholder of the port as well.”No financial details of the agreement were disclosed.Another official said that the agreement would enable Ethiopia to have a say in the level of port handling fees.

Similar arrangement

The deal comes two days after Ethiopia reached a similar arrangement over the Port of Djibouti, Djibouti’s main gateway for trade. “Access to a diversified range of ports is a strategic imperative for the government of Ethiopia. That is perhaps one of its most important priorities in terms of trade and development,” said Ahmed Salim, vice president at the Teneo global advisory firm. Ethiopia’s involvement supported the financing and development of the Sudan and Djibouti ports, he added. Djibouti had been seeking investors for its port since it terminated the concession for Dubai’s state-owned DP World to run the port in February, citing a failure to resolve a contractual dispute. The agreement with Ethiopia gave Djibouti the option of taking stakes in state-owned Ethiopian firms. The firms that it may look to invest in include Ethiopian Electric Power and Ethio Telecom – one of Africa’s remaining telecoms monopolies.

It was not clear if Sudan’s agreement involved a similar arrangement with Ethiopia. Djibouti’s location is of strategic value to countries such as the US, China, Japan and France, all of which have military bases there. The deal with Djibouti also followed Ethiopia’s agreement to acquire a 19 per cent stake in the Port of Berbera in the breakaway Somali region of Somaliland. Khartoum’s deal with Ethiopia came in the wake of another arrangement signed with Turkey, which wants to rebuild Suakin - a ruined Ottoman port city on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.


8.5.2018          Kenya, Ethiopia look at mega link projects afresh. Aggrey Mutambo, Daily Nation

Kenya and Ethiopia on Monday revisited building of major link infrastructure projects between the two countries. This comes two years after the two sides signed a similar Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was not implemented. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed, on his first tour of Kenya since he became premier, announced they will focus on the development of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.

“They committed to the development of Lapsset, the Northern Corridor including road network between Isiolo, Moyale through to Addis Ababa and the railway from Addis Ababa to Nairobi,” a joint statement said. “Both sides agreed to finalise the Ethiopia-Kenya interconnection transmission line. Both sides agreed to jointly supervise and inspect the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Moyale and Moyale-Hawassa-Addis Ababa road networks.”


And while Dr Ahmed is new in his position, President Uhuru Kenyatta had announced a similar thing in June 2016, when then PM Hailemariam Desalegn made a state visit to Nairobi. At the time, President Kenyatta told reporters at a joint press briefing that projects within Lapsset would be “fast-tracked.” They included link roads between the two countries, an international airport in Isiolo town and a sea port in Lamu.

Launched in 2012, the Lapsset project was estimated to cost at least Sh2trillion. But the cost of the projects was always going to be punitive and each country was to source financing, which meant further delays. The seven portions of the project require an estimated $24.5 billion (Sh2.4trillion) with $3.1 billion footing the bill for the Lamu Port.

In 2016, Ethiopia and Kenya also signed an MoU on an oil pipeline. Yesterday, both countries did not mention it, but said each side will have specific responsibilities on ensuring Lapsset project continues. “The Kenyan side will facilitate the formal acquisition of land in Lamu Port given to the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian side reiterated its commitment to develop the land for logistical facilitation,” the MoU said.


But the countries also admitted weaknesses in funding, instead calling on the private corporates to take a hand in the projects. “The two leaders strongly encouraged members of their respective private sectors to identify potential areas for engagement and pledged to continue improving the business environment and create maximum incentives for successful commerce.” Already, the Isiolo Airport as well as the highway up to Moyale on the Kenyan side is complete.

The problem however remains with the political situation on both countries. Dr Ahmed is new and has to rebuild his country’s stability following years of violence from regions on the south of the country, claiming oppressions. The two leaders identified cross-border security challenges, exacerbated by vulnerable communities, as obstacles to sustainable peace.

Economic growth

They agreed to focus on inclusive economic growth of the border regions, such as the one contemplated by the Special Status Agreement, affirming that cross-border trade between the border communities could greatly elevate their quality of lives.

Both leaders announced they will allow their national airlines, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, unfettered marketing on each other’s soils, in the interests of enabling growth in aviation. This could be positive, especially since Ethiopia has traditionally locked up its local market to protect Ethiopian Airlines.

They also agreed on a prisoner-exchange programme, which could start as soon as next month and which could mean Kenyans languishing in jails in Ethiopia could be brought back.

With South Sudan’s participation in Lapsset hampered by war, the two leaders said they were disappointed there had been slow progress to bring peace there. They urged the leaders of South Sudan to place the interests of their people above their own to give peace a chance.


3.5.2018          Nile dam won't harm Egypt, says new Ethiopian leader. AFP

Ethiopia's newly appointed prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said on Thursday that the controversial dam his country is building on the Nile will not harm Egypt's share of water supplies.

Egypt relies almost totally on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, and says it has "historic rights" to the river, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959. It insists the Grand Renaissance Dam will reduce its water supplies from the Nile, and talks on the issue involving Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have been deadlocked for months.

"We don't have any intention to harm Sudan or Egypt," Ahmed told reporters in Khartoum after meeting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. "In our opinion, utilisation of Nile would benefit the three countries with insignificant harm," Ahmed said in English with Bashir standing next to him. "The most important thing is to reduce, to minimise the downside of the project and we are doing that in a very responsible manner."

Ethiopia began building the $4-billion dam in 2012, but the mega project has triggered tensions primarily with Egypt as Cairo fears that once commissioned the dam will reduce its water supplies. Cairo argues the treaties grant it 87 percent of the Nile's flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects. It fears any reduction of water supplies to the biggest Arab country will affect its agriculture. Egypt is primarily concerned at the speed at which the dam's reservoir would be filled.

To ease Cairo's concerns a tripartite meeting between the foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was held last month in Khartoum but it failed to reach a breakthrough. Bashir reiterated Khartoum's support for the project. "We have fully supported the dam since it was at its planning stage," said the Sudanese president. "We are assured that the share of Sudan and Egypt in Nile water is completely guaranteed."

The Blue and the White Nile tributaries converge in Sudan's capital Khartoum and from there run north through Egypt to the Mediterranean. The project aims to produce 6,000 megawatts of hydro-electric power -- the equivalent of six nuclear-powered plants. The dam was initially expected to be commissioned in 2017, but Ethiopian media reports say only about 60 percent has so far been built.



Zur Geschichte des Konflikts zwischen Äthiopien und Eritrea

Teil 1: 1941 - 1993

Quelle:  John Markakis: Ethiopia. The Last Two Frontiers

James Currey, Rochester, NY, 2011, 385 S., 25,99 €, ISBN 978-1-84701-033-9

Markakis is a scholar with one of the longest field ex­perience in Ethiopia. Eme­ritus Professor of History at the University of Crete, he has published many books and articles on Ethiopia and the Horn. This most recent book, published in 2011, has the goal of wri­ting «the tale of a long drawn out struggle to forge a nation-state in Africa».

(ausführliche Besprechung im kommenden DÄV Infoblatt Mai 2018)


Die Zwischentitel sind Kapitelüberschriften aus Markakis‘ Buch

  • Imperial overreach: the annexation of Eritrea
  • Building the Socialist State 1974 - 1991
  • The Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionalry Democratic Front


 Imperial overreach: the annexation of Eritrea

An opportunity to expand the imperial domain presented itself in the 1950s, when the future of Italy’s former colonies in Africa - Libya, Somalia, Eritrea - was being decided by the Great Powers.  (…) The bulk oft he Eritrean highland is a geographical extension of Tigray province (des Kaiserreichs) in Ethiopia, and is inhabited mainly by Tigrigna-speaking Orthodox Christians. The foothills and lowland plains are home to several pastoralist groups, who are Mulsim and speak different languages from those on the plateau. Muslims also dwell on the highland. Eritrean Muslims used to have close contacts with fellow Muslims in the Sudan and across the Red Sea in Arabia. Massawa was a prime port since ancient times, coveted by every power that sought to control the Red Sea. In recent centuries, the coastal zone an Massawa itself have passed successively und the control of Arabs, Ottomans, Egytians and Italians. In 1941 Eritrea came under British military control, and for the rest of the decade its future was contested locally and abroad.

Given the fact that it included two major ports on the Red Sea, the temptation for Addis Ababa to claim Eritrea was simply irresistible. It was also historically compelling: from the Abyssinian perspective Eritrea is a part of the motherland that was lost in recent times. In a message to the UN General Assembly in 1949, Haile Selassie declared: “Time and time again, it has been clearly demonstrated that these provinces formed an integral part of Ethiopia, but were torn away from her by force of aggression”. The opportunity to annex Eritzrea Eritrea was eagerly grasped, and the consequences proved fateful for the imperial regime and its successors. While the Great Powers argued, the Eritrean people define the issue for themselves mainly along ethno-religious lines. Generally, Christian Eritreans, who constituted roughly half the population, supported Addis Ababa’s bid for “unification”. However, their enthusiasm was tempered by Tigray hostility towards the Amhara dynasty in Ethiopia, and the knowledge that their own language was suppressed there. A small minority of Christians openly opposed Ethiopia’s embrace. Unsurprisingly, the Mulsims of Eritrea, who made up the other half of the population, were against joining the Christian Empire and preferred independence.

A compromise was worked out by the UN n 1950, giving Eritrea self-government in a federation with Ethiopia. For the first time in modern history, the country now had access to the sea. Eritrea adopted a model constitution that accorded parity to the two religious communities in every sphere of public life. Political parties, elections, a free press, and a viable labour movement made it an unsettling contrast to the rest of the imperial domain, and was one of the motives behind the cosmetic revision of Ethiopia’s constitution in 1955. It was also a glaring contradiction to the centralisation drive pursued by the imperial regime, and so sooner had the federal agreement been signed than Addis Ababa set about undermining it. Working through an accommodating clique of Christian politicians in control of Ertirea’s government, Addis Ababa subverted the fragile political arrangement. Complex manoeuvres and the exercise of force majeure over a decade culminated in the arbitrary revocation of Eritrea’s special status in 1959, and its incorporation into the imperial state in 1962.

The loss of self-government shattered the delicate compromise achieved with great difficulty in 1950. Eritrean Muslims found the balance of power turned heavily against them. Islam was relegated to unofficial status and Arabic was eliminated from the public school system, as was Tigrigna. Parity in state employment was lost, and Muslims were supplanted by Addis Ababa’s appointees. As a result of the successive departures of Italian and British administrations, the local economy had deflated, the growth of Asmara was stunted and smaller towns deteriorated rapidly. Unemployment became rife, forcing Christian Eritreans to migrate to other parts of Ethiopia, while Muslims likewise crossed the borders to Sudan and the Red Sea. 

The long list of ‘liberation fronts’ in the history of the Horn is headed by the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) formed in 1961. Its leadership came from the Muslim urban community and support came from certain Arab states and Somalia. The rebellion escalated significantly during the 1960s, forcing Addis Ababa to maintain a large military presence in the province, which made little progress in stemming the growth of the insurgency. A series of bombings and highjackings of Ethiopian Airlines airdcraft in 1969 won the ELF international attention, and force the regime in Addis Ababa to acknowledge its existence and put Eritrea under military rule. (…)

Christian participation in the rebellion was initially limited and highly selective. It came from the generation os students and recent graduates infused with the political radicalism that produced the radical student movement in Ethiopia in the 1960s - the vanguard of the 1974 revolution. The position of the Christian radicals in the Muslim dominated movement was anomalous and soon brought them into conflict with the conservative ELF leadership. In 1970, the radicals, most of them Christians, left to form what eventually became known as the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF). Adopting a secular class ideology, the EPLF opened up new vistas to the nationalist movement, gaining support from the Christian community, whole role had thaus far been limited by the Muslim identification of the ELF. An internecine struggle broke out when the ELF tried to eliminate its rival by force. This reached a decisive stage in 1972 - 1974, the outcome demonstrating the younger movement’s viability as a fighting force.

The annexation of Eritrea was an instance of imperial overreach that failed. (…) the centre/periphery interaction requires the collaboration of subordinate elite with social status and political authority within its own community. The faction in Eritrea that made common cause with the imperial regime did not meet these requirements. The ‘Unionists’ were nearly all highlander Christians linked to the Orthodox Church. They lacked social status in their own community; whatever authority they acquired was owed to their link with Addis Ababa, and they lost even that after the forced annexation of Eritrea. The Muslim community of Eritrea - half of the population - was simply ignored by Addis Ababa, as if it did not exist.  (Markakis, 127-129)

Um den eritreischen (und gleichzeitig im Südosten den somalischen) Widerstand gegen gegen seine rücksichtslose Poltik der Einverleibung Eritreas (und des Südostens) unter sein zentralistisches und zugleich rückständiges Regime zu bekämpfen, brauchte Haile Selassie eine starke Armee. Mit deren Ausbau und sukzessiver Modernisierung schuf er die Kraft, die schließlich 1974 seine Herrschaft beendete. Rebellion there (south-eastern lowlands) and in Eritrea led to the build up of the military establishment, a weapon that was to strike the death blow to the imperial regime (Markakis, 160)


 Building the Socialist State 1974 - 1991

Die radikalen Militärs im Derg zerschlugen mit brutaler Gewalt sowohl jegliche Opposition in den eigenen Reihen als auch insgesamt im geografischen, demografischen und politischen Zentrum Äthiopiens. Widerstand war nur noch in den peripheren Gebieten möglich. Die zunächst gar nicht so klare ethnische Orientierung der Opposition bekam dadurch einen entscheidenden Schub. Die studentischen Gründer der TPLF gingen zurück nach Tigray und knüpften dort an die Tradition lokaler Aufständiger (woyane) gegen die Vorherrschaft von Shoa und Addis Ababa an. Vorbilder und Verbündete fanden sie auch bei den eritreischen Fronten, die aus ihren ganz eigenen Gründen schon mehr al sein Jahrzehnt vorher den Widerstand gegen den äthiopischen Zentralismus begonnen hatten.  The annihilation of the radical factions in the centre was a Pyrrhic victory for the Dergue, because it shifted the focus of the opposition to the periphery, where other nationalities emulated the Eritreans by launching their own ‘national liberation’ struggles. Among them were the Oromo, Sidama, Somali, Afar, Anywaa and Berta. The conflict in Eritrea widened to involve the Christian community, and the war went on for fifteen more years to sap the strength of the regime in Addis Ababa. What sealed the regime’s fate, however, was that rebellion broke out in Tigray, deep in the Abyssinian heartland (…) and ‘national self-determination up to and including secession’ now became the radical creed.

With ‘national liberation’ movements mushrooming, the state-rebuilding project faced collapse. The embattled regime in Addis Ababa rallied the population to ‘innat ager tirri’ (call of the motherland) and mobilised the country’s resources for total war. Turning Ethiopia into a garrison state, it unleashed a storm of violence that took a frightening toll in lives on all sides, laid rebel regions waste, forced millions to seek refuge abroad, crippled an already feeble economy and reduced the country to pauper status. (…) The size of the armed forces increased from five army divisions to thirty-one, and is estimated to have reached half-a-million men and women under arms (Markakis, 182)

Having undermined the imperial regime , the war in Eritrea went on to haunt its successor. At the same time as the radical factions were losing the fight in the centre, radicalism was agitating and invigorating the nationalist movement in Eritrea. The agitators were Christian Eritreans converted to Marxism while attending university in Addis Ababa, the birthplace of the student movement. Before long they clashed with the conservative leadership of the ELF and went on to set up a rival organisation, the EPLF. (…) students reinforced the radical ethos of the new front, infusing Eritrean nationalism with a strong dose of Marxism that became EPLF ideology. The ELF rejected its rival’s radical posture, because it ran the risk of dividing Eritreans along class lines and weakening the momentum of the revolution.

Since the rebels in Eritrea had declared that only unconditional independence would satisfy them, the Dergue ignored them and addressed the Eritrean people instead. General Aman Andom, himself an Eritrean and newly appointed Chief of Staff, was chosen to make the overture. A highly respected officer, but not a member of the Dergue, Aman made his first tour of Eritrea at the end of August (1974), addressing mass rallies in Tigrigna and Arabic to explain the nature and aims of the revolution. He returned there in October, now as Head of the Provisional Military Administrative Council, to admonish the people for failing to appreciate the changes taking place in Ethiopia. Since the oppressors of the people had been overthrown, ‘who is the enemy of Eritrea now?’ he asked . He ruled out political concessions, declaring ‘the unity of Ethiopia and Eritrea is eternal’, and threatened the rebels saying: “We have formidable force. We have shunned from using it so far.” However, when the Dergue decided to send the Bodyguard Division to Eritrea, amen refused to sign the order, and the first act in the bloody power struggle within the regime followed. On 23 November, aman was killed in a clash at his home with soldiers sent to arrest him. In a grisly sequel that night, a group of 59 prisoners comprising the political elite of the imperial regime were massacred by the soldiers.

As far as Eritrea was concerned, the dice was now cast. The Dergue adopted the imperials regime’s favoured line: the problem was caused by a handful of shifta (bandits) supported by Ethiopia’s enemies in the Arab world. (…) The war in Eritrea was to rage for another fifteen years, going through several dramatic but inconclusive phases. The Eritreans went on the offensive, and by early 1978 the controlled the entire province, save for the towns of Asmara, Massawa, Assab and Barentu. Success did not bring the rival fronts closer together. (…) soviet Union support enabled the Dergue not only to repel the Somali invasion of 1977-1978, but also to regain lost ground in Eritrea. By mid-1978, the government army had recaptured all the towns, except Barentu in the western lowland and Nacfa in the Sahel, and the buld of the Eritrean population came once more under Ethiopian control.

Relations between the two fronts deteriorated afterwards, and hostilities between them resumed at the end of the decade. The EPLF maintained a higher profile by holding on to the Sahel redoubt and the town of Nacfa (…) The continued failure of the Ethiopians to eliminate the guerrilla presence (in Sahel) kept nationalist hopes alive, and a steady stream of young recruits continued to join the rebels. Increasingly, they came froom the Christian highlands of Eritrea and mostly joined the EPLF, which also developed an effective network of support organisations abroad to gather material aid and channel it to the Sahel. By contrast, the capacity of the ELF deteriorated and by the end of the decade the older front’s active strength was decimated at one-quarter the EPLF’s reported 40,000 members. A final elimination round was fought at the turn of the decade, and by 1981 the ELF had lost that struggle and was pushed out of Eritrea into Sudan. Henceforth the EPLF had no rival in Eritrea. It withstood repeated attempts by the Ethiopian army to evict it from its base in the Sahel, and in the mid-1980s was able to go on the offensive and begin to recapture Eritrean towns. (Markakis 184-185)

Tigray youth were active in the student movement (…) a group of seven militants left the capital and returned to Tigray to prepare for the armed struggle. They were the seed from which the TPLF grew, which was to seize power in Addis Ababa fourteen years later. (…) in certain instances nationality contradictions ought to be resolved first through a struggle of national liberation, as a prerequisite to winning the class struggle (…) was the view taken by those who formed the TPLF. There were three important implications (…) Tigray is a nation in its own right (…) Tigray is an oppressed nation within the Ethiopian empire (…) Tigray was entitled to self-determination and independence (…).   (Markakis 189)

The relationship between the rebels in the adjoining provinces of Eritrea and Tigray was close, yet fraught with tension. Tigray needed Eritrean support, and the price for it was to recognise the Eritrean struggle as a colonial issue and accept that ‘the only solution to the Eritrean question is independence’. (…) The ELF had been active there (in Badme) before the birth of the TPLF, and refused to leave. In 1981, the TPLF joined the EPLF in a coordinated attack on the ELF, and together they pushed the older Eritrean front out of its last stronghold in western lowland Eritrea. The two victors agreed to leave the question of Badme to be settled after the conclusion of the war against the Dergue. This did not work out as expected and Badme was to provide the spark for an all-out war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998.

With the elimination of the ELF, the distinction between the Eritrean and Tigray rebellions was blurred. Both sprung from the same blighted northernmost region of the plateau, inhabited by the Tigrigna-speaking branch of the Abyssinian family that had been separated briefly by a colonial border. The leadership of both was drawn from an even more refined stock: Tigrigna-speaking, highland Christian, educated at the same time in the same institutions, where they absorbed the same brand of Marxism. Apparent differences were mainly of an ideological nature. EPLF’s bottom line for striking alliances was twofold. On one hand, it required acceptance of Eritrea’s historical status as a colony and the associated unqualified right to independence. On the other, it refused to recognise the same status and right for any other nationality in Ethiopia. This required a tortuous ideological rationalisation, whereby Eritrea’s situation was classified as a ‘colonial issue’ and all the others as ‘national’ issues to be resolved within the Ethiopian state. Interestingly, Eritrean nationalism did not envisage the disintegration of Ethiopia, only a change of regime in Addis Ababa. Further, the TPLF’s call for self-determination of the ‘Tigray nation’ did not sit well with the EPLF because it could be taken to include the Tigrigna-speaking highlanders in Eritrea.

Left without a rival in its province, the TPLF faced only the threat of the Dergue. Preoccupied with the Eritreans and the Somali, the regime paid little attention to the insurrection in Tigray for some time (…) it was content to keep open the two main roads leading to Eritrea and to hold on to the towns along those routes. The rebels in Tigray took advantage of the relative lull to build up their strength, improve their organisation, and to rally the peasantry to the cause through the formation of mass organisations, intensive political education, and programs of social reform, including land reform. They harassed government convoys on their way north to Eritrea, and cleared parts of the countryside of government presence, but did not engage in major offensive operatiions. The Dergue changed tactics in 1988, vacating the towns in Tigray to confront the insurgents in the countryside. This proved a mistake, ending with the rout of the government forces from the province by the end of that year.


The Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)

Wie kam es in der TPLF zur Wende von einem auf Tigray begrenzten Nationalismus zu einer Poltik, ganz Äthiopien unter Kontrolle zu bekommen? Und als Konsequenz daraus zum ethnischen Föderalismus, durchgesetzt und überwacht von EPRDF Parteikadern in ganz Äthiopien?

At the start of 1989, as TPLF forces stood poised on the southern border of Tigray, Ethiopians wondered if the rebels would be content to rule their home province, or go on to seize power in Addis Ababa. (The leadership) worked to persuade its fighters to carry on. They were told to consider what Tigray’s prospects for peace and security would be as long as the Dergue ruled Ethiopia. Ultimately, according to a TPLF statement issued on 18 February 1989 (…), ‘having realised that there is no alternative to continuing and intensifying the struggle in order to shorten the life of the enemy, they (masses) have decided to bear their share of the brunt of the armed struggle.’

As far as the leadership was concerned, the decision had been made much earlier, and the path to power in Addis Ababa had been meticulously charted. The plan was to put together a coalition of like-minded factions representing nationalities in Ethiopia, with the TPLF as primus inter pares. A first step was taken in 1984 with the founding of the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT) to implement the ‘maximum programme’ of socialism in Ethiopia. It was expected to serve as the platform for a multi-nationality coalition. Notions of secession and independence for Tigray had faded by this time, and other internal issues had been resolved in the mid-1980s, when the TPLF went through its first internal power struggle and purge at leadership level. The man who rose to the top was Meles Zenawi, a former medical student at Addis Ababa University, who proved himself as a master political tactician. Asked by the author in an interview to explain the decision to stay in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi was blunt: ‘When we reached the borders of Tigray, we looked back and saw there was nothing there. (…)

Given the refusal of other existing organisations to join the coalition, the EPRDF (TPLF und der amharische Ableger EPDM) proceeded to produce them itself. The human material was at hand. It consisted of government soldiers taken prisoner by the insurgents. Some forty thousand of them had ben captured in the first half of 1988 alone, and many nationalities were represented. Most of these men had lost faith in the Dergue, and many were favourable impressed by the humane treatment they received at the hands of their captors. They were given lessons on the EPRDF programme and its plans for Ethiopia’s future, particularly concerning the ‘nationality issue’. Afterwards, they had a choice of returning home, taking refuge in the Sudan, or joining the EPRDF. Those who took the last option were given further political education and trained to organise political parties and mobilise popular support. Thus, a cadre corps was groomed for the role of subordinate elite under the EPRDF, even before it came to power in Addis Ababa. The blueprint of Ethiopia’s political future was presented to the EPRDF’s first congress in January 1989 (OPDO gehörte bereits dazu).

As for Eritrea, it was decided that its people would be allowed to determine their future in a referendum that might well lead to secession; ‘Taking all things into consideration, this would be a lesser evil compared to the present condition of a fratricidal war and unmitigated destruction’ was the sensible conclusion. (Markakis 192-193)