Ethiopia May 18 2015

von Redakteur

Prime Minister HaileMariam Desalegn laid down a cornerstone yesterday in Ambo town for the construction of a 491km railway that links Addis Ababa with Bedele, known for its dense natural forest and crop production, in Oromoia regional state. The project is among the eight national railway roots set to be constructed by the Ethiopian Railways Corporation with a total length of 5060km (WIC, May 14).

Addis Ababa - An Eritrean diplomat from the Red Sea state's mission to the African Union is seeking asylum in Ethiopia, state-run media said, citing rights abuses at home. Mohammed Idris, a member of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), had served with Eritrea's diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa for the past five years, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) said in a report. Rights groups and critics accuse Eritrea of rights abuses, including imposing indefinite military service with poor pay. Many of those fleeing the country, which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war, say they are escaping conscription (Reuters,May 13).

The Ethiopian government has continued its effort to repatriate its citizens who are caught in the chaotic condition of Libya and exposed to the threat of ISIS .So far over 100 willing citizens had been transported back to Ethiopia through concerted efforts exerted by the government and its embassies in Egypt and Khartoum. The government is exerting strenuous effort to transport all Ethiopian nationals back to their home land and alleviate their security problems (WIC, May 14).

The General Manager and founder of Holland Car plc, Tadesse Tessema (Eng.) returned to Ethiopia after almost two years in the Netherlands. A day after his arrival, Tadesse told that he is back to his country aiming to revive his business that was declared bankrupt. He said that hopes are seen to re-launch the assembly. However the company is expected to deliver the cars for clients who already paid, if it commences operation. Sources told that the general manager is back to his country following a guarantee from the Minister of Justice that he will not be tried. Tadesse said that he will open his company with a six million birr capital injection. Holland Car was closed down in late 2012 after it declared bankruptcy due to lack of finance (Capital, May 13).

The Addis Ababa City Roads Authority said that road construction and expansion projects in the outskirts of the City are facilitating condo construction. Visiting construction sites in Addis, Authority Communications Affairs Work Process Leader Sisay Workneh said that the various road infrastructures are smoothing condo construction (WIC, May 13).

Ethiopia plans to begin exporting renewable energy to a broader range of neighbouring nations by 2018 as part of a cross-border effort to meet regional energy demand and limit increases in climate-changing emissions. The Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) initiative aims to create or expand clean energy transmission lines among about a dozen countries in the region. Ethiopia, which has plans to dramatically scale up its production and export of hydroelectricity, would take on a bigger role as a regional power exporter under the plan. Currently, Ethiopia exports power to parts of Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti, but it has signed deals to send power to Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Yemen as well, particularly from hydropower (Thomson Reuters Foundation, May 13).

Ethiopian opposition groups are accusing the government of harassing their members and carrying out illegal detentions ahead of the May 24 elections. Yonathan Tesfaye, spokesman for the Blue Party, told The Associated Press this week that some party members are being beaten, especially in the southern region. He said his party may boycott the elections. Chane Kebede, leader of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, also complained of a climate of fear. A spokesman for the ruling party, Desta Tesfaw, dismissed the allegations and accused opposition parties groups of trying to discredit the elections. He noted that the ruling party had taken some measures against our members who were found violating the election code. He did not say what the violations were (AP, May 12).

Election fever is gaining momentum in Ethiopia. It is 'Election 2015', the 5th general election since Ethiopia's formal adoption of the more (or less) liberal constitution of 1995 that ended the hesitant 'transition' from the Derg's military rule to a western-style representative democracy. Over the last few weeks, controversy has progressively raged over the politics and the logistics of the upcoming election. Decisions pertaining to recognition by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) of political parties with the 'right' leadership, registration of 'qualified' candidates, and ensuring the proper adherence to the relevant rules of constitutional, electoral, and political party registration laws have provoked a lot of ire among some of the parties seeking to partake in the election. Rulings over who is qualified as a candidate and which party is qualified as a contestant have unleashed a conversation over the process and speculations over the outcome of the election. In the first election debate conducted live on public television, the major ideological fault lines between the three major political parties were outlined. In the same week, we heard that some of the parties (such as the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum, alias Medrek in Amharic) were denied access to the state media (EBC) on the pretext that the parties' criticism of the media's bias towards the incumbent is an attempt to undermine the impartiality of the media. Their petition to the NEBE has not found a response yet. Not entirely unexpectedly, tension has started to build up (AP, May 12).

The World Bank has extended a US$350m loan for financing the agricultural sector in Ethiopia. State Minister Ahmed said the loan would be used to increase production and productivity of farmers, technology, researches, irrigation development and expansion, selected seed and market access. The project will benefit farmers of 157 woreda in Amhara, Oromia, SNNP, Tigray, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Harari regional states as well as Dire Dawa city administration. The agreement gives priority to areas that have the highest productivity potential thus benefiting over 1.6 million farmers, the State Minister said. World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia, Guang Z. Chen, saidthis loan will help further transform the agricultural sector and change the livelihood of farmers in Phase II of the Growth and Transformation Plan (Government of Ethiopia, May 11).

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, is pleased to announce that it has started serving Sao Paulo, a city in the fifth continent in its route network, with a non-stop flight from Addis Ababa since April 25, 2015. According to a press release from Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian tri-weekly flights to Brazil are operated using the ultra-modern Boeing 787 from the major hub in Addis Ababa (WIC, May 13).

Residents of Alamata town in Tigray Regional State of Ethiopia have celebrated establishment of a standard secondary school financed by a Chinese company, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). The school, which is a project of the Tigray Development Association (TDA), has been constructed with a finance amounting to 35m Birr from CCCC in Alamata town, about 640 km north of Addis Ababa. The school, named "Zikre Meles" in memory of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is part of the 21 model schools under the education plan developed by TDA. The school with an area of 5,000 m² and 22 classrooms, one comprehensive building, one library, one hall, and play yards among others. Having entered Ethiopian market in 1998, CCCC has carried out large-scale infrastructure projects in the East African country, including Bole Road, and the Addis Ababa-Adama Expressway, and currently, the company is undertaking the Weldia-Mekele Railway Project in the northern part of the country (Xinhua, May 12).

Following the rejection of a planned public rally - organized by Semayawi party (Blue) - by the Office of the Mayor of the City Government of Addis Ababa, the party has requested the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to intervene citing articles from the amended Electoral Proclamation of Ethiopia. The party planned to conducted a public rally for May 17, which is exactly a week before Election Day, at Meskel Square and submitted a letter of notification to the city administration. However, the notification was rejected by the administration in a letter dated May 6, 2015. The reason for the rejection is that the site is a major junction point in the city and has massive traffic flow. The administration said that it is willing to approve if the party can provide an alternate time and venue. The party downplayed the ban and stated that the planned demonstration and public rally will be conducted on the aforementioned day and place. However, May 17 has been set by the board - in its timetable announced some seven months ago - to be the day when explanations on the issues related to the process of voting will be made to the electorate in all kebeles (The Reporter, May 9).