Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is Ethiopia’s Sovereign Debt Sustainable?

By Seid Hassan, Minga Negash, Tesfaye T. Lemma and Abu Girma Moges
Determining the sustainability of a developing country’s public debt is a challenge. This is because most developing countries in general and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) countries in particular face an undiversified export base, a large share of agriculture in GDP (which itself is characterized by low yields) with large share of labor force in the primary sector, and complex governance and instability problems. Debt management becomes even more complex if the countries in question have persistent current account and budget deficits and low savings and investments rates relative to their GDPs. Most of these countries follow public investment-led growth strategy, with all the dangers for the debt equation to unravel if and when the government-led growth “stumbles or stagnates.” Such a scenario worries lending institutions especially when the public investment programs happen to be externally financed. Whenever the IMF and the Work Bank think that the public debt of the debtor countries could be unsustainable, as in the case of Ethiopia now, they raise warning flags. It worries citizens and observers as well since the adverse effects of debt crisis hit hard the poorest segment of the population, often sparking social unrest, which in turn negates some of the economic theories of positive linkages between debt and development. Despite the current optimism about Africa’s growth opportunities and the increased appetite of emerging markets by fund managers on the SSA region, according to some estimates about two-thirds of the nations in the developing world are spending a significant portion of their export earnings on external debt repayments. 

Britain axes aid to Ethiopian police amid human rights outcry

Britain has suspended most of a £27 million aid programme to support Ethiopia’s police force, The Telegraph has learnt, amid mounting allegations of torture, rape and murder by the regime.
Ministers pulled the plug on a scheme intended to improve criminal investigations, help Ethiopian police “interact with communities on local safety” and help women access the justice system.
The cancellation coincides with an Amnesty International report that documents how the Ethiopian security forces have conducted a campaign of torture, mutilation, rape and murder in order to suppress political opposition.
Britain has given £1 billion in aid, including around £70 million for “governance and security” projects, to the country over three years. Critics of the ruling regime have disappeared, and Amnesty International found allegations of men being blinded and women being gang raped and burnt with hot coals by regime officials.
There are mounting fears for the safety of Andy Tsege, a British national and critic of the regime, who was abducted in Yemen before being tortured and sentenced to death. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Is the TPLF/EPRDF an ethnic-based-apartheid government?

Institutions are to be independent of political control in a healthy, just and inclusive society; however, in Ethiopia, one can see that oneObang Metho, Executive Director SMNE ethnic group, affiliated with one ethnic-based political party, dominates key positions in government and its institutions. Judge for yourself. The majority of the examples given below provide information of ethnic background and political affiliation for key leaders within key institutions in Ethiopia. This is a sampling of some of the most critical institutions under the control of the Government of Ethiopia. Civic organizations should act as watchdogs, but a similar sampling of such organizations would show a similar ethnic makeup and party affiliation following the passing of the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law). It should be noted that the TPLF has often placed persons from other ethnicities in a top role, but in most cases, those second in command are the hidden power-holders to fool Ethiopians, donor countries and other outsiders into believing this is an inclusive government when it is not. This kind of domination should be admitted and openly discussed, for tensions related to it have become a source of potential backlash that could evolve into ethnic-based violence and instability. We should all try to avoid this outcome; yet, it will require honesty, integrity and a willingness to put humanity before ethnicity or any other distinctions. Until then, none of us will be free!

Some of the current leaders heading key institutions in Ethiopia:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

International broadcasters protest against intentional jamming from Ethiopia

Press Release
Source: DW

Due to intentional jamming from Ethiopia the reception of TV programs by Deutsche Welle and numerous other international broadcasters is currently severely impacted in large parts of the Arab world.

BBC, France 24 and Voice of America are also among the broadcasters affected by the jamming. The satellite provider Arabsat has identified Ethiopia as the source of the strong jamming signals on all its three satellites. Ethiopian authorities have not responded to the incident yet.

Peter Limbourg, director general of Deutsche Welle: "This is a gross violation of the internationally recognized right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Deutsche Welle, BBC, France 24 and Voice of America strongly condemn this action against the free flow of impartial information. We urge the Ethiopian authorities to immediately cease the jamming."

While Deutsche Welle's short wave programs have been repeatedly target of jamming from Ethiopia, the current incident appears not to be aimed at specific broadcasters or programs. The jamming of satellite programs constitutes a violation of international agreements, but the practice is nevertheless on the rise. The most recent incidents occurred in 2011 and 2012 via Iran.

In the Arab world Deutsche Welle is available through its TV channel "DW Arabia." Selected radio programs in Arabic are available via partner stations throughout the region.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ethiopia charges nine bloggers, journalists with inciting violence

(Reuters) - Ethiopia has charged six bloggers and three journalists with attempting to incite violence, their supporters said on Monday, prompting accusations from rights groups that the government is cracking down on its critics.
All nine defendants, including freelance journalists Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye, appeared in court on Sunday after they were rounded up by police on April 25 and April 26, their colleagues told Reuters.
On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visits Ethiopia on Tuesday, to press the government to "unconditionally release" all the defendants, but Addis Ababa dismissed the criticism of the case.
"The nine arrests signal, once again, that anyone who criticizes the Ethiopian government will be silenced," said Leslie Lefkow, HRW's deputy Africa director.
"The timing of the arrests - just days before the U.S. secretary of state's visit - speaks volumes about Ethiopia's disregard for free speech," she said in a statement.
In 2012, Addis Ababa sentenced a prominent blogger and five other exiled journalists to between eight years to life on charges of conspiring with rebels to topple the government.
In the new case, a colleague of Tesfalem said security officials in plain clothes searched his house and confiscated several materials before taking him to a detention center.
An Ethiopian government official defended the case against the nine, saying it had nothing to do with muzzling the media.
"These are not journalists. Their arrest has nothing to do with journalism but with serious criminal activities," Getachew Reda, an adviser to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said.
"We don't crack down on journalism or freedom of speech. But if someone tries to use his or her profession to engage in criminal activities, then there is a distinction there," Getachew told Reuters.
Critics say Ethiopia - sandwiched between volatile Somalia and Sudan - regularly uses security concerns as an excuse to stifle dissent and clamp down on media freedoms.
They also point to an anti-terrorism law, passed in 2009, which stipulates that anyone caught publishing information that could incite readers to commit acts of terrorism can be jailed for between 10 and 20 years.
Addis Ababa says the law aims to prevent "terrorist attacks" as it is fighting separatist rebel movements and armed groups.
A court in Addis Ababa adjourned the hearing for the group of bloggers and journalists until May 7 and 8.
Kerry will meet Prime Minister Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom in Addis Ababa to discuss peace efforts in the region and to strengthen ties with Ethiopia, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The State Department says the aim of Kerry's African tour - which will also take in Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola - is to promote democracy and human rights.

(Editing by James Macharia and Gareth Jones)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ethiopia: Transparency Group Should Reject Membership

Source: Human Rights
Repression of Civil Society Contravenes Organization’s Rules
(New York) – A major global initiative to encourage governments to better manage natural resource revenues should reject Ethiopia’s bid for membership due to its harsh restrictions on civil society, Human Rights Watch said today.
The governing board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is expected to make a decision about Ethiopia’s candidacy at its next meeting, on March 18 and 19, 2014, in Oslo. EITI was founded in 2003 to strengthen governance by increasing transparency over revenues from the oil, gas, and mining industries. Itsmembers include countries, companies, and civil society representatives.
“The Ethiopian government has crushed activist groups and muzzled the media,” said Lisa Misol, senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ethiopia’s harsh repression of independent voices is utterly incompatible with this global effort to increase public oversight over government.”
An earlier effort by Ethiopia to join the transparency group was rebuffed in 2010 out of concerns over a draconian 2009 law, still in effect, that sharply limits the activities of independent groups. Civil society representatives on EITI’s board said that the law contravened the initiative’s standards that make the free and active participation of independent organizations a requirement for a country to join.
The board deferred the decision, and suggested that it would not reconsider “until the Proclamation on Charities and Society Law is no longer in place.”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ethiopia Government Accused of Using Spyware Against Citizens Living Abroad

By Peter Heinlein
VOA News
WASHINGTON — Several Ethiopians living abroad are accusing their home government of using sophisticated computer spyware to hack into their computers and monitor their private communications. One Washington area man has filed a federal suit against the Ethiopian government, and another has filed a complaint with British police.

The Ethiopian native, who is a U.S. citizen, charges that agents used a program called FinSpy to monitor his emails, Skype calls and his web browsing history. A suit filed in Federal District Court in Washington Tuesday asks that Ethiopia be named as being behind the cyber-attacks and pay damages of $10,000.

The suit includes an affidavit asking that the plaintiff’s name be kept secret.

Attorney Richard Martinez of the law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Cirese helped to prepare the suit. Martinez told VOA the unusual request for anonymity was made because the individual fears that he and family members still in Ethiopia could be in danger if he is identified.

"We have petitioned the court to proceed anonymously because this individual is very active within the Ethiopian diaspora community and we think the action taken by the Ethiopian government against him illustrates exactly the attention they’ve placed on him and the danger that exists for him," said Martinez.

The suit is the latest in a series of cyber spying accusations against the Addis Ababa government. In another case, an Ethiopian refugee in London is asking British police to investigate evidence that FinSpy software known as “FinFisher” was used to hack his computer.

Tadesse Kersmo, who identified himself as a member of the executive committee of the Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7, filed a complaint Monday asking for a probe of Gamma Group, a Britain-based company that produces the FinFisher software.

Kersmo told a news conference he became suspicious after files from his computer began appearing on the Internet, and found evidence it had been infected with FinSpy.

Much of the evidence linking Ethiopia to cyberspying has been developed by a Canadian organization called Citizen Lab. Bill Marczak, a researcher for Citizen Lab, told VOA that investigators first linked Ethiopia to cyber spyware nearly a year ago.

"Ethiopia first came across our radar at Citizen Lab in March/April 2013, when we were doing a global study looking at the proliferation of FinFisher, the commercial espionage software which is sold exclusively to governments by a German company called FinFisher GMBH. This technology is spyware that can be installed on a targeted computer giving governments operating it full access to a computer so they can make files, record passwords and keystrokes, and even turn on the computer’s webcam and microphone,” said Marczak.

Marczak said Citizen Lab’s investigation has also led it to an Italian firm called Hacking Team, which has been labeled by the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders on a list of what are called “Corporate Enemies.” A Citizen Lab report released this month suggests that Hacking Team software has been used to spy on U.S.-based journalists from Ethiopia.

Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told VOA his government does not engage in computer hacking.

"There is freedom of speech, everyone is entitled to his opinion, and that is something that is at the core of our rules and procedures. There is freedom of expression, and the hacking business is not our business. As for the allegation that the journalists are coming up with, I cannot say anything now," said Mufti.

Marczak said companies like Hacking Team and FinSpy offer confidentiality to their clients, leaving cyber detectives the difficult task of sorting out who is spying on who.

However, he maintained that it is clear someone is spying on journalists of Ethiopian origin and others identified with the country’s opposition, and despite its denial, the government is the most likely suspect.

“This is part of a pattern we’ve seen whenever we’ve exposed activists or journalists being targeted… The government is always the first to deny it and say ‘Oh we didn’t do that. It could have been anyone, we have no reason to use these products.’ The fact is, the Ethiopian government does have reason to be using these products. There’s a very strong and robust diaspora movement in Ethiopia, and the government is blind and clueless in the movement so they’re desperately looking for informants, eyes and ears in the movement, and to unmask people’s contacts and infiltrate these social networks,” said Marczak.

Marczak also said evidence has been found linking software supplied by Hacking Team and FinSpy to more than a dozen countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

A Hacking Team policy statement posted on the Internet said the company understands the potential for abuse of the surveillance technologies they produce, and takes precautions to limit that potential. The lengthy statement said Hacking Team has established an outside panel of technical experts and legal advisers to review potential sales. The company does not sell its products to any country blacklisted by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations or NATO. Ethiopia is not named on those blacklists

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ethiopia: 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom awarded to jailed Ethiopian journalist

Ethiopia: 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom awarded to jailed Ethiopian journalist

Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian publisher, journalist and blogger who is serving an 18-year jail sentence under anti-terror legislation, has been awarded the 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
Mr Nega was arrested on September 14, 2011 after publishing an article criticising his government’s use of the 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation to jail and silence critics, including Ethiopian actor and activist Debebe Eshetu. He was sentenced on 23 January 2012 and denounced as belonging to a terrorist organisation.
In making the award, the WAN-IFRA Board sent a message to the Ethiopian government that misusing anti-terror legislation to jail journalists and those critical of his government is unwarranted and against international protocols, including the Vienna Declaration on Terrorism, Media and the Law.
“This award recognises the courage of Eskinder Nega to speak out despite the risks that saw him jailed under his country’s draconian and overly broad anti-terror laws,” said WAN-IFRA President Tomas BrunegĂ„rd, speaking on behalf of the Board.
“We call on the Ethiopian government to release Eskinder Nega and all journalists convicted under the sedition provisions, including Solomon Kebede, Wubset Taye, Reyot Alemu, and Yusuf Getachew”, said Mr BrunegĂ„rd, who recently visited Ethiopia as part of an international mission that found that the country’s publishers and journalists practice journalism in a climate of fear.
The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award made by WAN-IFRA since 1961 to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom. More on the Golden Pen can be found at
The award will be presented on 9 June during the opening ceremonies of the World Newspaper Congress, World Editors Forum and World Advertising Forum, the global summit meetings of the world’s press, to be held in Torino, Italy.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Mr Nega said of his imprisonment: “I’ve never conspired to overthrow the government; all I did was report on the Arab Spring and suggest that something similar might happen in Ethiopia if the authoritarian regime didn’t reform... I also dared to question the government’s ludicrous claim that jailed journalists were terrorists.”
WAN-IFRA has been vocal in their opposition to Ethiopia’s misuse of anti-terror legislation, writing to late Prime Minister H.E. Meles Zenawi in 2012 requesting the immediate release of Mr Nega and most recently demanding his release, along with four other imprisoned journalists, in a joint international press freedom mission to Ethiopia, conducted with the International Press Institute. The full report from the international press freedom mission can be found at
Mr Nega opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, in 1993, which was soon shut down by authorities due to its critical reporting. He then, along with his wife Serkalem Fasil, managed Serkalem Publishing House, responsible for newspapers such as Asqual, Satenaw and Menelik, all of which are currently banned in Ethiopia. He has also had his journalist’s licence revoked since 2005, but continued to publish articles despite the ban.
Mr Nega is no stranger to being imprisoned due to his writings. He was detained at least seven times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. This included a 17-month jail sentence, along with his wife, on treason charges for their critical reporting on the Meles government's violent response to peaceful protests that followed the disputed 2005 elections.
WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ethiopia Has a Terrible Human Rights Record - Why Is the West Still Turning a Blind Eye?

Some disappeared, others were given lengthy prison sentences. One thing all thirty men arrested in 2012 in Ethiopia had in common was that they had criticised the state and the policies of the former Premier, Meles Zenawi.
And yet last week Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a group of Japanese business leaders met with the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn to discuss further support for Ethiopia at "government and private sector level."
The former Meles Zenawi was a staunch supporter of American counter-terrorism policy while at the same time overseeing a country with a violent human rights record. In the eyes of the USA, Ethiopia is strategically situated. Located in the Horn of Africa, next to Somalia, northern Kenya and Sudan, it acts as a buffer zone between the growing Islamic extremism of Somalia and the West. As a result, the human rights violations of Zenawi were ignored.
As one of the first signatories of the UN in 1948, Ethiopia is a Western ally: 11 per cent of its entire GDP comes from Foreign Aid. The US is one of Ethiopia's largest donors: it is estimated that it gave $3.3bn in 2008 alone. The two countries benefited from their close relation: there have been rumours that America hosted "black sites" in Ethiopia; bases where the CIA interrogated undeclared prisoners during the "War on Terror."
But Meles Zenawi died in 2012. The opportunity for a more liberal government was not seized: Zenawi was replaced by Hailemariam Desalegn, described by critics as an "identikit Zenawi" running the country on "auto-pilot". Desalegn is following the same political manifesto as Meles - he hasn't changed one member of parliament.
The arena for debate and discussion is narrowing. Critics argue that Ethiopia is fast becoming a "one party democracy" where there are many parties but the same one wins again and again. Meles spoke to foreign press in 2005 and defended his 97 per cent electoral victory: "In democracies the party with the best track record remains in power." The years since 2005 have seen growing unrest among the Ethiopian population and serious repression against critics of the regime. Human Rights Watch reported that Ethiopia "continues to severely restrict freedom of movement and expression". It adds that "30 journalists and opposition members have been convicted under...vague anti-terrorism laws".
The day before World Press Freedom Day on May 2 2013, the Ethiopian government ruled to uphold the imprisonment of one of its most well-known prisoners of conscience, Eskinder Nega. He was jailed for being a journalist who criticised the government, and yet, by standing up for his beliefs and expressing his basic human right for Freedom of Speech, he earned an 18 year jail sentence.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has denied his release. America and Britain have done little to challenge their ally, so worried are they about creating another enemy in the Horn of Africa. Britain and America have consistently failed to challenge their ally about its abhorrent Human Rights record. Ethiopia flaunts its apathy towards the UN convention of Human Rights, denying opposition members a right to fair trial and repressing people for trying to voice their opinions peacefully.
Ethiopian political repression is worsening. There have been repeated crackdowns against the country's Muslim minority. This has included arbitrary arrests as Muslims make peaceful demands for freedom of worship. Again, critics have voiced concern with the regime. Mehari Taddele Maru, head of the African Conflict Prevention Program at the Institute for Security Studies expressed concern that "if legitimate grievances are not met then there is a risk that extremist violent elements will exploit those grievances to further their own."
The world is waking up to Ethiopia's increasingly poor human rights track record and yet the United States hasn't stopped aid flowing to Ethiopia or threatened the country with sanctions. Japan still tries to conduct business with Ethiopia when instead they should be holding Ethiopia to account.
As a founding member of the UN and an "ally" of the West, Ethiopia must be held accountable for her crimes. If the West does not challenge Ethiopia and demand that it releases its prisoners who have been locked up without fair trial, then notions of democracy and human rights accountability as embedded in the Human Rights Charter look ever more vulnerable-Human Rights globally will be laughed out of the door.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ethiopian journalist on prison odyssey needs medical care

Berhane Tesfaye and her son, Fiteh, try to visit Woubshet Taye every week. (CPJ)

Ethiopian journalist on prison odyssey needs medical care

By Tom Rhodes

CPJ East Africa Representative

"When I grow up will I go to jail like my dad?" This was the shattering question that the five-year-old son of imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Woubshet Taye asked his mother after a recent prison visit. Woubshet's son, named Fiteh (meaning "justice"), has accompanied his mother on a wayward tour of various prisons since his father was arrested in June 2011.
Authorities have inexplicably transferred Woubshet, the former deputy editor of the independent weekly Awramba Times, to a number of prisons. From Maekelawi Prison, authorities transferred him to Kality Prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, then to remote Ziway Prison, then Kilinto Prison (just outside Addis Ababa), back to Kality, and in December last year--to Ziway again.
It is at Ziway, an isolated facility roughly 83 miles southeast of the capital, where heat, dust, and contaminated water have likely led to a severe kidney infection in Woubshet. The award-winning journalist was meant to receive medical treatment while at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, Woubshet's wife, Berhane Tesfaye, told me, but it never took place. Suffering in such pain in his ribs and hip that he cannot sleep, Woubshet has not even received painkillers, according to local journalists who visited him.
CPJ's attempts to reach Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal by phone call and text message were unsuccessful.
Despite high transport costs and more than four hours of travel each way, Berhane and Fiteh try to visit Woubshet every week. Fiteh routinely becomes ill from the dust, Berhane said, and prison guards prevent Woubshet from hugging his son. Prison visits are often brief and canned, local journalists told me, as even discussions over Woubshet's health are restricted by guards assigned to monitor the conversation.
What terrible misdeeds could have triggered such a fate? Authorities sentenced Woubshet to 14 years in prison on charges lodged under Ethiopia's broad anti-terrorism law. The evidence includes email exchanges he had with Elias Kifle, exiled Ethiopian editor of the Washington-based opposition website Ethiopian Review, Berhane said. An email to Woubshet's brother in America was also cited as evidence against him, she said. After Woubshet's brother asked about their ailing father's eye operation, his reply that "the operation was done successfully" was used as an example of his terrorist activities.
Local journalists suspect the real reason lies in Woubshet's critical reporting at Awramba Times. Two weeks prior to his arrest, Woubshet published a column critical of the ruling party's performance in its two decades of rule. Another column, written in 2009, that questioned the whereabouts of former opposition party members after the 2005 elections may have also triggered his arrest, Berhane said.
While debates over the reasons for Woubshet's arrest may persist, there is one point on which all sides should agree: Woubshet must be allowed access to medical treatment. Ethiopia is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and thus duty-bound to ensure the health of its citizens as a fundamental human right.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

EU urges Ethiopia to release journalists, revise terror law

(Reuters) - A European Union parliamentary delegation urged Ethiopia on Wednesday to release journalists and opposition politicians jailed under an anti-terror law, and revise the legislation that critics say is used to stifle dissent.
Ethiopian opposition parties routinely accuse the government of harassment and say their candidates are often intimidated in polls. All but two of the 547 seats in the legislature are held by the ruling party.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Corruption keeps Ethiopia mired in poverty

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Bankers, miners and developers presenting projects to investment committees in countries that fare badly in corruption rankings frequently struggle to get investment. Corruption raises red flags because it makes local markets uncompetitive, unpredictable and therefore largely hostile to these long-term players," Ed Hobey, the East Africa analyst at the political risk firm Africa Risk Consulting says.

In the biggest crackdown on corruption in Ethiopia in the last 10 years, authorities arrested more than 50 high profile people including government officials, businessmen and a minister last month.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ethiopia arrests reporter for covering land evictions

Ethiopian journalist Muluken Tesfahun of the privately owned weekly newspaper Ethio-Mehedar was arrested while reporting on the return of thousands of farmers who had been forced from their land near the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The government has admitted the March evictions were illegal, but so far no charges have been brought against the reporter. DW spoke to Mohammed Keita, Advocacy coordinator for sub-Saharan Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

DW: What is known about journalist Muluken Tesfahun and the circumstances that led to his arrest?

Mohammed Keita: Muluken Tesfahun had been sent by his newspaper to interview residents who had been forcefully evicted from their homes in mid-April. They were some allegations of violence and even unconfirmed reports of deaths. For months, the Ethiopian government maintained silence over the evictions until the Prime Minister in parliament finally condemned the evictions and invited the victims to return. Muluken had been sent to speak to people and collect their testimonies and also investigate their conditions, whether their return had been peaceful or not. In the midst of talking and interviewing people, he was arrested by police. He has been under police custody without charges and has not been taken to court which is a violation of his constitutional right. The Ethiopian constitution has set a limit of 48 hours for detention before being taken to a court.
Do you know where he has been detained?
He is currently being detained in Asosa, capital of the Benishangul-Gumuz region. He has been moved a couple of times, because he was actually arrested in a rural village while he was still speaking to farmers. These farmers had been forcefully displaced. To this day, local authorities have not given an explanation as to why these evictions were taking place.
He is not the first journalist to be detained while working on this story is he?
He is the first one that we have documented, there might have been others. Sometimes journalists do not report such things for fear of government reprisal.
Why are the Ethiopian authorities so anxious to keep this story under wraps?
This falls into a long standing pattern of the Ethiopian government suppressing any news that counters the official narrative and propaganda that is projected to the world. The Ethiopian government does not tolerate any criticism of any kind. It has been vindictive against journalists who have raised questions about its policies and sensitive topics like dam construction or human rights issues, political dissent or the conflict in the Ogaden. Many of these issues unfortunately are suppressed and we do not have enough information about these issues because reporters can not even carry out basic reporting on the ground. They are under surveillance, they are arrested as soon as they speak to people. Most people as well are afraid of speaking to reporters because they are harassed and persecuted for speaking truthfully to media. It's a very closed environment where independent voices are stifled and civil society has been guided by laws similar to those in Russia. The government dominates the media and the political space at such a level that it has a free range to project its narrative unchallenged. This newspaper (Muluken Tesfahun's) is one of the rare newspapers left. Over the last two decades, under the Ethiopian ruling party, at least 72 newspapers have been forced to shut under political pressure from the government.
Is there any chance that things might improve anytime soon?
Things are looking rather gloomy for press freedom in Ethiopia. The government has been on a repressive bent, especially since the contested elections in 2005. It has become increasingly authoritarian, it has been deepening ties with China's communist party CCP, it has been leading Africa in censoring the internet, and prisons are filled with journalists and dissidents. Ethiopia only trails Eritrea among leading jailers of journalists. But still the government is a donor darling and western partner in counter-terrorism. Western powers have basically continued to look the other way.
Mohammed Keita is the Advocacy coordinator for sub-Saharan Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ethiopia delays appeal of jailed blogger, opposition figure

Ethiopia delays appeal of jailed blogger, opposition figure

Source: AFP

An Ethiopian court on Wednesday delayed again the appeal of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage, who were jailed last year for terror-related offences.
Eskinder and Andualem were among 24 people jailed in July 2012 on terror-related charges.
Both men are accused of having links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
Andualem's lawyer Debribew Temesgen said the judges said they needed more time to examine the evidence, and had set a new date for a ruling of April 8.
Eskinder was jailed for 18 years, while Andualem was sentenced to life.
Neither appeared in court on Wednesday.
Rights groups have called Ethiopia's anti-terrorism legislation vague and accuse the government of using the law to stifle peaceful dissent.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Too undemocratic to split By Tesfay Atsbeha

It is being disseminated that a certain group of the TPLF and Bereket are trying to purge some veteran members of the TPLF. Purges are not new in the TPLF, but it is a break from the tradition of the TPLF, if a group has really disclosed its intention before taking an irrevocable measure.

One aspect of the tradition of the TPLF, which is devoid of any transparency and accountability was that the perpetrators prepare their intrigues to harm their victims without informing the targeted victims and the rank-and-file-members of the TPLF and purge (as they did to Aregawi and Ghidey in 1985, to Seeye, Gebru Tewelde etc in 2001) or liquidate their victims (Abera Manka, Hagos Haileselassie etc0in 1977/78 and Teklu Hawaz in 1985). In all the cases mentioned, the victims did not get a fair chance to express their opinions and this practice of injustice applies to many others.
To put it in military terminologies, the protagonists behaved as if they had to ambush their victims. They launched surprise attacks against their victims whenever the latter list expected the attacks. Another aspect of the tradition pertains to the fact that the perpetrators used to go over to a pre-emptive attack, whenever they felt insecure and feared being held accountable for crimes or feared losing power. Accusing Kinnjit was for instance a pre-emptive attack. Those who ordered the massacre and those who executed the order after the election should have been accused, but the killer framed the accusation to pre-empt his exposition and the mobilization of the people against him. This also shows that conflict resolutions in the TPLF have always been zero-sum-games. On the surface, the perpetrators seem to achieve their aims with dishonest accusations. In reality, it is the use and threat of physical force (the control of the army) which enables them to implement deceptive measures which they try to sell as sophistication and smartness.
During the armed struggle, they (the perpetrators) used to inform others after the fait accompli to justify their measures and silence any potential expression of any grievances in the case of purges. They kept liquidations secrete with the exception of that of Teklu. With the murders they committed in 1977/78, the perpetrators succeeded in making the none-CC members of the TPLF as apolitical as the weapons the latter carry by destroying mutual trust and instilling a feeling of suspicion and fear amongst the fighters of the TPLF. The evaluations (Gmgemas) are mainly meant to maintain the atmosphere of insecurity by forcing everybody control everybody else reciprocally.
A few individuals in the TPLF have been exploiting the lack of a democratic culture and consciousness amongst the members to maintain their repressive rule. Such individuals are perpetuating the undemocratic culture. In this connection, most members of the TPLF are victims, objects of experiment for tyranny and tools of the oppressors at the same time. The few who are in charge of the TPLF have the key (an organized and armed force) to control Ethiopia. They are controlling almost all key positions in Ethiopia that their dominance is too unjust to be tolerable and sustainable. As this lopsided ethnic relationship is the objective reality, exposing and opposing it should be the duty of any democrat. Objectively exposing the repressive and corrupt practices of the Tigrayan elite is not an attack on the people of Tigray.
But there are also people who generalize. On both sides, some generalize deliberately, others innocently or due to their inability to differentiate. Now, coming back to the alleged split, Sebhat Nega, in an interview with Dawit Solomon of Fnote Democracy (posted on 31 January 2013 in zehabesha) has said part of the truth, in saying that the TPLF has never experienced a split. The whole truth is that there were splits in the leadership, but no splits of the whole organization, because the none-CC-members have neither the right to make decisions nor the right to get information on the issues prior to the decisions. Generally, armed undemocratic organisations (like fascists, Stalinists and religious fanatics), do not split, because the leaders do not inform their members about their differences of opinion and let the members freely discuss as well as take sides on the issues. What the perpetrators do always is take measures on the dissidents and spread lies about them. And this was what the leadership of the TPLF has been doing so far. Sebhat is trying to hide the fact that the TPLF is too undemocratic even to split. The clique which controls the TPLF cannot tolerate any differences of opinion even within itself and that is why it subordinated itself to a single tyrant. Of course, a split would certainly have entailed war, since no independent groups would have tolerated each other. If the Sebhat clique were sincere and had confidence in the correctness of the decisions it arrived at, it would allowed the members of the Front to participate in the process of decision making. Since the clique is used to depriving its own members of their rights, it is depriving all Ethiopians of an alternative and harassing the opposition.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ethiopia Opposition Parties Demand Fair Elections

Unified Ethiopian Opposition Demands Fair Elections

By Martha van der Wolf

VOA News

— Thirty-four Ethiopian opposition parties have signed a petition to demand the elections next April - on the district, regional and city levels - be free and fair.
Opposition parties were invited by the Election Board last week to discuss the schedule of the polls. When the parties asked to discuss irregularities that occurred during previous elections, the meeting was adjourned.

Alessa Mengesha, chairman of the Gedeo People’s Democratic Organization opposition party, says several issues need to be discussed in depth.

“We have seen elections in Ethiopia in the past couple of years and decades, and those elections have always been marked by irregularities. And those irregularities include irregularities during voting registration, irregularities during election campaigns, irregularities during vote-counting and even post-election irregularities," he said. "We have witnessed all those.”
Thirty-four of Ethiopia's 75 opposition parties have signed a petition demanding the next vote be free and fair.
The petition lays out 18 points of how the Election Board can ensure a better process. Among other things, the parties say they want to be involved in the election administration, and request equal access to government media.

Asrat Tassie, secretary-general of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, the only opposition party that holds a seat in parliament, says it is very important that the opposition can freely name and put in place their own election observers.
“A candidate has its own observers. So what happens is they ask the names of those observers 10 days before the election. So as soon as the election board receives the names of those observers, the government harasses them," he said. "Some will be arrested; some will be chased out of the town and so on. So we don’t want to give them the names of our observers.”
European Union observers said the previous election in 2010 fell short of international standards. They said resources of the state were used to support the campaign of ruling party EPRDF, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The ruling party and its allies won all but one seat in the 546-member parliament.

The elections of 2005 resulted in mass demonstrations against the government. Nearly 200 people were killed in election-related violence, and dozens of people, including prominent opposition leaders, are still imprisoned.

The Election Board said it has received the opposition parties' petition but needs more time to respond to the demands

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Swedish journalists tell of time in Ethiopia jail

Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have been speaking to the BBC about their time in prison in Ethiopia. They were recently freed after serving more than 400 days of an 11-year sentence. The pair were found guilty of entering the country illegally and supporting a rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Their lengthy jail terms put the treatment of journalists in Ethiopia under the international spotlight. Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were captured along with ONLF rebels in June 2011. They maintained that they were only doing their jobs, and human rights group Amnesty International said the journalists had been prosecuted for doing "legitimate work". But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon previously defended the decision to jail the pair, saying the journalists were caught "red handed" co-operating with "terrorist organisations". Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reportedly pardoned the journalists before his death in August, leading to their release.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ethiopia's prime minister: The man who tried to make dictatorship acceptable

Who exactly was he? As leader of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, an ethnic militia from the country’s north, he presented himself to his countrymen as a severe, ruthless revolutionary; yet Westerners who spoke to him in his mountain hideouts found a clever, understated man who laid out, in precise English, plans to reform a feudal state. In 1991, after the fall of the last Derg leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, the 36-year-old Mr Meles (pictured above) took power, becoming Africa’s youngest leader. He had moral authority as a survivor of various famines. Western governments and publics, who became aware of Ethiopian hunger through the Band Aid and Live Aid charity concerts, gave freely. Mr Meles was often able to dictate terms under which donors could operate in Ethiopia .

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The unfulfilled promise of Meles Zenawi

By Editorial Board, Published: August 22
THE PARADOX OF Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia who died Monday at 57, was that he might have been so much more. A friend who knew him for two decades recalled that he was sharp, articulate, well-read and a patient listener. When President Bill Clinton visited Africa in 1998, he singled out Mr. Meles as an example of the African renaissance, a new generation of leaders. Beyond a doubt, Mr. Meles, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, managed to elevate the nation of 75 million people into a regional economic and political power. Although most of the population is still desperately poor, Ethiopia has attracted foreign investment and built a middle class with an authoritarian, state-driven capitalism based loosely on China’s model. Mr. Meles, who quit medical school to join the guerrilla force that toppled the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, put Ethiopia on the front lines of the war on terrorism, dispatching troops to Somalia against the radical Islamic Courts movement linked to al-Qaeda. He also played a key role in attempting to bridge the gap between warring Sudan and South Sudan, and under his leadership, Ethi­o­pia has been an important U.S. ally, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. But Mr. Meles’s promise as a leader was marred by contempt for the rights of his people. When internal discontent boiled up during the 2005 general election, international observers witnessed extensive vote-rigging. Demonstrations turned violent. The government cracked down on the protests, and at least 193 people were killed, thousands arrested and dozens of opposition activists and journalists arrested and charged with treason. When a friend asked Mr. Meles after these events how he could oversee the shooting of innocent people in the streets, the prime minister shook his head and replied, “There was a serious threat. The system needed to be protected.” Mr. Meles’s desire to protect his political “system” grew more and more repressive. Under the guise of national security, the parliament passed legislation between 2007 and 2009 to stifile dissent. According to Amnesty International, an anti-terrorism law “effectively criminalizes freedom of expression.” The State Department’s 2011 human rights report notes that the government arrested more than 100 people between March and September, including opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers. For decades, the United States has struggled with valuable allies who were intolerant dictators at home. The Cold War often provided a reason to look the other way. So did the need for oil imports. Over the last decade, the war on terrorism offered a similar pretext. The world is full of trade-offs and tough choices. But the passing of Mr. Meles ought to underscore once again that, no matter what the imperative for embracing a tyrant, it is essential and healthy to declare: Democracy and human rights are universal values, not to be forgotten with the next aid check.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ethiopian police detain VOA reporter, interpreter

Ethiopian police detain VOA reporter, interpreter Source: CPJ Nairobi, May 25, 2012--Police in Ethiopia today detained Peter Heinlein, a correspondent for the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, along with Simegnish Yekoye, a freelance reporter and Heinlein's interpreter, according to Jennifer Janin, the Africa coverage editor for VOA, and local journalists. Heinlein and Simegnish were detained while covering a demonstration of Muslims protesting alleged government interference in religious affairs, Janin said. They were being held late today at Maekelawi federal detention center in the capital, Addis Ababa, local journalists said. In recent weeks, members of Ethiopia's estimated 30 million Muslims have been staging protests on Fridays in Addis Ababa to oppose government policies they say interfere with religious affairs, according to news reports. The protests are a highly sensitive issue for the government, which fears a hardline Islamist influence within the country, according to wire reports. Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, said that Heinlein was being held because he was allegedly using a diplomatic car and refused to show his press identification, local journalists told CPJ. No official charges have been filed, the journalists said.

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