Friday, December 29, 2006

Year in Review 2006

A brief glance as the year comes to an end.

Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin (1936-2006) - Writers live forever
Ethiopia's First Winter Olympian - African snowman, dread like Rasta
Bird flu ayaders - The Fasika scare that knocked doro wot off the list
D.C. cab driver - Ethiopian monopoly in U.S. seat of government
Ginbot vacation - There's never enough time
Deputy P.M. Addissu Legesse's whirlwind U.S. tour - "Note to self: Never do that again!" A.L.

The Good
Against all odds - God works in mysterious ways
U.S. Bill to finance human rights in Ethiopia - Our man in Washington
Global Online Freedom Act - End to ETC's block on dissenting blogs?

The Bad
Gumruk frees Belgian aid, or not - Customs Authority, at your service
Capitalizing on misery of others - Welcome home, not!
A glaring case for privatization - Even national symbols not spared
Ethiopia's Mister Rogers, sacked - Casting away elders who raised us

And the Ugly
Timket festival turns violent - Religious festival no sanctuary
Climate of fear - Mum's the word
'Poison,' Politics, and the Press - Write no truth, or else...
War declared on Somali UIC - At war on Christmas

Ethiopian-led forces seize Mogadishu

Somali transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops arrive in Mogadishu. We can only wait and see if Ethiopia's intervention in Somalia leads to a new era of peace between two neighbors, or if the worst is yet to come. Let us hope the former prevails...Inshallah, as the saying goes.

Mogadishu crowds greet Somali PM (BBC) December 29, 2006
Video: Islamists flee Mogadishu (Reuters) December 29, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Somalia's Islamists in full retreat

Sensing victory against its Somali Islamist foes, Ethiopia attacked retreating fighters from the air on Tuesday and threatened to seize their stronghold Mogadishu after a week of war in the Horn of Africa.

...The African Union (AU) backed Ethiopia's right to intervene in what analysts saw as a potentially significant endorsement that may embolden Addis Ababa further. Diplomats say Washington has also given Ethiopia its tacit support.

Ethiopia attacks retreating Somali Islamists (Reuters) Dec 26, 2006

Update: U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia (New York Times) December 27, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry (ferenj) Christmas to all!

May we never lose hope for peace, love and unity to prevail in Ethiopia and with its neighbors, someday.

War declared on Somali UIC

...In a televised speech, he [Meles] said the troops were sent into the neighbouring country to defend its sovereignty against the Islamic Courts Union (UIC).

...Air strikes and shelling have been reported in border areas. Eyewitnesses said Ethiopian fighters were bombarding the UIC-held town of Beledweyne near the border, on the fifth day of renewed fighting.

Ethiopia PM admits Somalia action (BBC) December 24, 2006

Ethiopia attacks Somalia airport (BBC) December 25, 2006
Ethiopian Forces Capture Somali Border Town After Bombing Islamic Positions (Associated Press) December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chronicle of a war foretold
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1204 16/12/2006

Alarm bells rang in the neighbouring countries when the heads of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) referred to “greater Somalia”, the ideology responsible for the war in the Ogaden thirty years ago, as well as calling for support from international Jihadists. A race to get into the lead then ensued. Ethiopia wants to protect itself from possible Islamist bombings inside the country and at the same time is preparing itself to give military support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. The radicals of the UIC want the TFG to fall and to take Baidoa before international forces arrive on the scene. For its part, Eritrea is waging a war by proxy. It is supporting the UIC as part of its strategy of making mischief with the sole purpose of destabilising Ethiopia at any price.

Meles fears bombings. This month the Ethiopian army has undertaken coordinated searches in Addis Ababa and in other towns to find the arms and explosives that are believed to have been brought secretly into the country with the aid of Eritrea and ethnic Somalis (see p.2). At the same time, military recruitment operations are under way, including prisoners released on condition they join the army. Because the government of Addis Ababa does not want an engagement in Somalia to weaken its northern front, the border with Eritrea. An emergency committee on Somalia has been formed around Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It includes Seyoum Mesfin, General Samora Younis, General Bache Debela, Abaye Tsehaye and at a lower level, colonels and heads of the country’s regional States. Special forces, trained by American instructors at the Bulaten camp, near the Kenyan border, are ready to fight in Somalia. But Meles Zenawi has not yet succeeded in creating national unity against the Somalian Islamist peril, as he had done during the war with Eritrea. Opposition MPs refused to vote a motion in Parliament at the end of November to give him the authority to undertake military action in Somalia. And even the MP widow of the former Minister Abdul Mejid Hussein, from the Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP, pro-government) abstained in this vote.

Islamists rearm. The leaders of the UIC want to arm with modern anti-tank weapons in order to be able to confront the Ethiopian army if need be. But their main objective is to get into the lead. In order to draw up their military strategy to take Baidoa as soon as possible, they have begun consultations with former Hawiye generals, like Mohamed Nour Galal and Mohamed Warsame Dholey. Trained in the former Soviet Union (1966-1969), a commander in the Dire Dawa sector (Ethiopian Ogaden) during the war with Ethiopia (1977-1978), General Galal has always been a staunch opponent of the warlord Aïdeed. After serving President Abdulkassim Salad Hassan (ION 942) he drew closer to the UIC. By brandishing the threat of a foreign intervention, the UIC has silenced critics of its decisions (such as banning Khat) in Mogadishu and has been able to impose taxes on commercial transactions to finance its war effort. It also obtained the return of 14 vehicles armed with machine guns and other weapons from the three telecoms companies operating in Mogadishu.

Kampala hesitates to intevene. After actively defending the idea of Ugandan participation in an African force to intervene in Somalia, President Yoweri Museveni backtracked. He was wary of opening up a military hornets nest. A Ugandan battalion has however been training since this summer at Singo, a military camp 80 km north of Kampala, ahead of its deployment in Somalia. It was trained first by British servicemen from the British Peace Support Team (BPST), normally based in Karen in the suburbs of Nairobi and then by French servicemen from the 13th half-brigade of the Foreign Legion based in Djibouti under the command of the Joint French Forces commander Major General Michel Arrault. Around thirty French legionnaires trained these Ugandan forces in peace-keeping tasks from 7 November until 1 December, such as escorting convoys, checkpoints and sensitive points in Baidoa, where they should be deployed to protect the Somalian presidency and the Transitional Federal Government.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Global Online Freedom Act

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of H.R. 4423: Ethiopia Consolidation Act of 2005, is now going after Internet repressive regimes (i.e., China, Iran,...Ethiopia) by introducing H.R. 4780: Global Online Freedom Act in 110th Congress.

"These dictatorships have enlisted American companies [Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Cisco systems]
to aid and abet their Internet censorship campaigns to prevent the spread of democracy and quash any discussion of dissent. We need to make it clear to these companies that they need to understand they have a responsibility to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor. My bill will hold them to that standard and I will work to enact it into law in the next Congress," said Smith.

Smith: New State Dept. Policy Puts Internet Repressive Regimes on Notice December 20, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Exodus continues

War or no war with Somalia, Mulunesh Abebayhu wants out. Out of her teaching job, where Ethiopian security forces constantly harass her because of her political views. Out of this city, where hundreds of protesters were killed by police bullets after disputed elections last year. And, if she can manage, out of this country that she believes has plunged into the abyss of dictatorship at the hands of its prime minister, Meles Zenawi, a staunch ally of the United States in the vulnerable Horn of Africa.

Many in Ethiopia See Premier's Talk of War As Ploy to Tighten Grip (Washington Post Foreign Service) December 20, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Kulibi a target?

This could be a heinous act with serious repercussions, or simply an erroneous report by a supposed source in the "Ethiopian opposition," which nowadays could mean anyone.

Addis Ababa
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1204 16/12/2006

Kulibi, or more specifically St Gabriel's Church, 68 km from Dire Dawa in the East of Ethiopia, could be a target for bomb attacks by ethnic Somali Ethiopian opponents. According to a source in the Ethiopian opposition, groups supported by Eritrea have brought explosives into Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa via Djibouti. Somali extremists could use this material to make explosions in the Ethiopian capital and could even target St Gabriel's Church where an annual pilgrimage is held on 28 December.

Jailed opposition told to dissociate from AFD

Now why would imprisoned CUDP leaders who are intellectuals and part of the civil society decline to dissociate themselves from armed opposition groups? Something is missing from this report.

Somalia as a backdrop
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1204 16/12/2006

Meles Zenawi is trying to moderate his internal opposition so as to have his hands free to handle the inevitable armed conflict with Somalian Islamists.

Several initiatives are currently under way to find a way out of the internal political crisis in Ethiopia. Thus, Ephraim Isaac (photo), a Falasha (Ethiopian Jew) living in the United States where he heads the Institute of Semitic Studies at Princeton University and is chairman of the Peace and Development Committee for Ethiopia and the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, last month visited the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in prison in Addis-Ababa. He presented himself to them as a “non-partisan” emissary, sent by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to ask them to dissociate themselves officially from the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, armed opposition). In return they would be freed before the end of the year. The imprisoned leaders rejected this offer but are nevertheless believed to be divided over it. Particularly since at least two of them, Hailu Shawel and Mesfin Woldemariam, are in poor health.

Furthermore, also according to our sources, discreet negotiations are under way between pro and anti-government Ethiopian intellectuals. These informal discussions have set the members of the Citizens’ Charter Group (CCG) against the intellectuals with ties to the regime in place, such as Professor Bahru Zewde in Addis Ababa. The CCG was formed by a dozen CUDP partisans (including Abate Kassa, Berhanu Abegaz, Elias Wondimu, Fekadu Fullas and Mammo Muchie) and recently issued a call to form a government of national unity in Ethiopia (ION 1201). Last week Zewde went to Paris for a meeting with, among others, Pr Mammo Muchie and Tecle Zerihun from Unesco. Some of these intellectuals have ties with Ephraim Isaac.

At the end of the 1999s, Ephraim Isaac had founded an Elders Peace Committee and undertook mediation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, without being able to prevent an armed border conflict from breaking out.

UPDATE: In written response to the second half of the above ION article, Professors Bahru Zewde, Mammo Muchie and Tecle Zerihun from UNESCO protest the facts behind the report.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ethiopia's Mister Rogers, sacked

Kefat (hate), pure and simple. Anytime someone seems competent at their job, successful, or God forbid popular, they inevitably fall prey to Kefu (hateful) people who's sole purpose in life is Kefat. A Kefu person seized the opportunity to fire Ababa Tesfaye, Ethiopia's Mister Rogers, even though I can't think of anyone more suited to handle the incident which led to his dismissal. With management like that, no wonder ETV transmits such lousy programming. The twelve story building for that useless institution is an absolute waste. Public funds would be better served turning the building over to the adjacent Black Lion Hospital.

...The grandfatherly Mr. Tesfaye was fired, after a young child on his program uttered a derogatory word for one of Ethiopia's main ethnic groups.

"After serving 41 years, it's a heartbreaking thing," recalls the 84-year-old Tesfaye. "I have told tales during the imperial government, with their censorship, during the military government's censorship, and during the present government. I keep wondering whether there is anything more I should have done [to reprimand the child]."

Freedom of speech suffers in tense Ethiopia (Christian Science Monitor) December 13, 2006

Mengistu found guilty

Ethiopia's Marxist ex-ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam, has been found guilty of genocide after a 12-year trial.

Mengistu found guilty of genocide (BBC) December 12, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Haile adds to Berlin victory

Paul Tergat must know Haile will soon relinquish him of the marathon world record, much like Haile denied him victory for years in the 10,000 meters. Haile is making his move again, and the Kenyan just can't shake the Ethiopian off his heels.

Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie stormed to victory in the Fukuoka Marathon on Sunday after leaving a strong field for dead over the final three kilometers.

Gebrselassie storms clear in Japan (CNN) December 3, 2006

Winds of war

...The spectre of a hostile Christian Ethiopia bearing down on Somalia has rallied Somalis behind the Islamists. Somalia's Islamists have spread a similar fear among Ethiopians, giving succour to Mr Zenawi's unpopular and isolated government.

The rumbling rumours of war (Economist) November 30th, 2006

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ethiopian woman sues host family

An Ethiopian woman has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against a Salem family she worked for, saying they lured her to the United States with the promise of a good job and then exploited her.

Ethiopian woman claims Oregon family exploited her (Associated Press) November 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thanksgiving tragedy

The recent heinous killings in Oakland of three members of the same Eritrean family by their in-laws, now seems caused by an old belief, or madness brought on by grief, that questions the wife's role in the death of her husband. This is especially common when death occurs early in marriage, or with dispute over the deceased's money or property. It's an ugly situation, families brake ties with their son's widow, and children grow up torn between loyalties to two families. In recalling a past lekso in Ethiopia, a mother openly wailed asking her dead son why he had to marry "that woman," while her son's young widow sat grieving in the same room. Grief and inability to accept loss of a loved one can be overwhelming psychologically, and in a society not used to having or seeking grief counseling, people may choose to hold someone accountable for their pain. What took place during Thanksgiving dinner in Oakland, however, defies belief. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and family.

...Police said the brothers, who also live in the apartment complex, were angry at Winta Mehari over the unexplained death of their brother, Abraham Tewolde, 42, who was her husband.

Brothers accused in Thanksgiving slayings could get death (San Francisco Chronicle) November 28, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A glaring case for privatization

Other than lazy lip service, there is no active media fundraising or request to foreign wildlife donors, no plans to donate lion cubs to overseas zoos to promote Ethiopia, no program to release lions to the wild where they have a fighting chance, and absolutely no interest to privatize the zoo to investors. So for lack of $1,000 a month, $12,000 annual deficit for the whole zoo, scores of rare Abyssinian black-maned lion cubs are poisoned annually and sold to a taxidermist for $170. Yet again, another sad story that epitomizes Ethiopian public institutions.

Rare zoo lion cubs poisoned (BBC) November 22, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Ethiopian auditor general
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1202 18/11/2006

The Ethiopian auditor general was sacked from his post on 10 Nov., just a short time after he had presented Parliament with a report that was very severe on the government's management of funds. Lemma Argaw had estimated that the government had spent 7.2 billion birrs (about $900 million) without giving justification. 4.8 billion birrs of this was by the regional administrations alone. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had responded angrily, stating that regional administrations even had the right to ”burn the money" from federal subsidies if they felt like it. Zenawi relieved him of his functions, even though only Parliament is supposed to have the power to do so.
Issayas Afeworki’s auxiliaries
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1202 18/11/2006

After ousting all those who could stand up against him, the Eritrean President is now governing on his own, with only a handful of his staunch supporters from the country’s one party as his advisors.

President Issayas Afeworki has never taken much heed of the advice of his entourage and is acting more and more on the basis of his own opinion. His handful of advisors are all very loyal members of the executive of the country’s single party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Some of them were born in the former Agame Province, now part of the Tigray Regional State in the north of Ethiopia. The spokesman and general secretary of the presidency, Yemane Gebremeskel is the Head of State’s closest collaborator: he lived in the United Kingdom before the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF, ancestor of the PFDJ) came to power in Asmara and had an insignificant role during the struggle for national liberation. The same is not the case for Yemane Gebreab, the PFDJ’s official in charge of political issues and Afeworki’s advisor on the same subjects. From Agame and very religious in his childhood, he studied in the United States where he joined the student wing of the EPLF before being sent to the front in Eritrea where he has always been loyal to Afeworki. He is so discreet and reserved that his opponents nastily call him “Yemane Monkey”. His mother, a Tigrayan called Adey Gabriela, owns a small shop at Adwa in the north of Ethiopia.

The present Eritrean Minister for Defence, Sebhat Efrem, is the de facto advisor on security matters and shares Afeworki’s liking for drink. After studying at the Asmara Evangelical Lutherian High School, he opposed Afeworki in the 1970s during an internal split within the liberation movement. But since their reconciliation, he has been a staunch supporter. Another of Afeworki’s advisors from Agame, Hagos Gebrehiwot, has been nicknamed Kisha (bag) because he is the Head of State’s main funds raiser and financier. Without any formal qualifications, he is a veteran of the EPLF and has always been loyal to Afeworki. As for Amare Tekle, Afeworki’s advisor for foreign affairs, he has spent the majority of his time in the United States for the last few months. He has dual nationality (American and Eritrean), is a graduate of the University of Denver. Since then he has always been an apologist for the Asmara regime at the United Nations.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Diaspora investment at home

Privatize land, implement sensible tax laws, reduce bureaucracy, and maybe more Ethiopians in diaspora will chance loosing their shirts in an economy where laws are arbitrary.

...After 23 years in America, Tadiwos Belete decided to sell his two swanky hair salons in Boston, Massachusetts, to return to his homeland, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia asks diaspora to work at home (BBC) 14 November, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

EPRDF loses its land suit in Jerusalem
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1201 04/11/2006

A court in Jerusalem (Israel) issued its verdict at the end of September on an old dispute over the ownership of a villa in this city which the Ethiopian government had tried to claim. This affair goes back to 1999 and pits the government of Addis Ababa against the family of Emperor Haile Selassie and empress Mennen. The Ethiopian government had recently obtained an injunction preventing members of the former royal family from using this property in Jerusalem. But this decision was overturned by the Jerusalem court, which has just found that the house does indeed belong to the emperor’s descendants. The latter were represented by the lawyer Tzvi Shamir while the Ethiopian government had taken on the services of his colleague Itzhak Hennig.
Call for national reconciliation
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1201 04/11/2006

A group of a dozen partisans of the Coalition for United and Democracy Party (CUDP) has issued a call for a government of national unity.The Citizens’ Charter Group formed by a dozen or so members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) issued a call on 27 October to create a government of national unity in Ethiopia. These militants (the group includes Abate Kassa, Berhanu Abegaz, Elias Wondimu, Fekadu Fullas and Mammo Muchie) have drawn up a Charter for a Democratic Ethiopia based on the respect of three basic principles: representative democracy, cultural pluralism and economic deregulation. This charter calls the political parties and civil associations, whether pro-government or opposition, to put an end to sectarianism and adopt a common platform in order to prepare for a transition period before instigating a government of national unity. A variety of opposition organisations have been invited to accept the principles of this charter. The United Ethiopian Democratic Force (UEDF) and the leaders of the CUDP in North America have responded positively to this idea but without endorsing the charter. The Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) has not yet given a formal response.

Friday, October 27, 2006

ION update: 10/27/06

Diplomats under surveillance
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1200 28/10/2006

The recent expulsion of two members of the European Commission illustrates the extent to which diplomats in Addis Ababa are under surveillance.

The two members of the European Commission expelled by the Ethiopian authorities for “trafficking” had not been arrested at Moyale, a town on the border with Kenya, as the Ethiopian authorities claim, but 150 km from there, near Agre Mariam, on their way back from Addis Ababa. The Swedish diplomat Bjorn Jonsson and the Italian Enrico Sborgi had gone to the border to accompany Yalemzewd Bekele, a 29 year old human rights activist who worked for the European delegation in Addis Ababa. She believed she was in danger of being arrested because of her links with the opposition. She had initially taken refuge in the premises of the European delegation and later in Jonsson’s house. She was then accompanied to Moyale where she was arrested on 19 November while showing her papers to the Ethiopian immigration service. Fasil Assefa, who was waiting for her at the Koket Borena hotel but had no intention of going to Kenya, was also arrested.

According to some sources, the Ethiopian intelligence agents investigating Yalemzewd had photos of her eating a pizza with Jonsson, her line manager, the day she took refuge in the EC premises in Addis Ababa. They are also said to have photos showing her in the company of other members of the staff of the European delegation during private meetings. This would appear to show that the whole affair had been minutely prepared by the Ethiopian intelligence services. Better still, according to opposition sources, these services have benefited from the complicity of members of the private security company which guards the European delegation compound. This security firm, Sebhatu and Brothers, is owned by the brothers of Mimi Sebhatu, a journalist close to the regime who benefited with her husband Zerihun Teshome, for the attribution of a licence to launch a private radio station. She is also the editor of the newspaper Eftin which is strongly supportive of the Ethiopian regime. Agents from this security company could have informed the official intelligence services of Yalemzewd’s comings and goings and of her departure for Moyale. Her telephone conversations with the expelled diplomats, and with Tim Clark, the head of the European delegation in Addis Ababa, are also believed to have been recorded in the same way.

Sebhatu & Brothers may be employing disguised government agents. It was the government coalition, EPRDF that, according to people close to Mimi Sebhatu and her husband, provided half of the funding to create this security company. This company has more clients than another security company linked to partisans of the regime, belonging to Major Alemseged Gebre Yohannes, a former deputy Police Commissioner.

Secretary general of Parliament on the run
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1200 28/10/2006

According to several tallying information sources, the secretary general of the Ethiopian Chamber of Representatives, Foto Bedane, took advantage of an official journey to Europe to defect from the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He was part of an Ethiopian parliamentary delegation headed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Degfe Bula which had left Addis Ababa on 13 October to go to Geneva (Switzerland) to attend the 115th general assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) from 16 to 18 October. Foto Bedane is reported to have then decided not to return to Addis Ababa and may seek refugee status in the United States. His predecessor, Samuel Alemayhu, had similarly defected after a world conference of speakers of parliament in September 2005 in New York.

Africa Intelligence - Indian Ocean Newsletter

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Starbucks blocks Sidamo & Harar trademark

Something is really wrong when a company makes $6.4 billion in sales last year alone, while coffee farmers in Ethiopia make only 3 cents for every cup of their export coffee sold by Starbucks.

US coffee chain Starbucks is denying Ethiopia earnings of up to £47m ($88m) a year, the charity Oxfam has claimed.

The charity says the firm asked the National Coffee Association (NCA) to block Ethiopia's bid to trademark two types of coffee bean in the US.

Starbucks in Ethiopia coffee row (BBC) 26 October, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Final chapter for Kelbessa Negewo

Kelbessa Negewo, when he was a midlevel administrator during Ethiopia's Red Terror.

A key player in Derg's Red Terror campaign who later fell victim to torture himself and fled to the U.S. two decades ago, the life of 56-year-old Kelbessa Negewo has come full circle. His life began to unravel while employed as a hotel bellhop and fate placed him in the same service elevator with a surviving victim. Detained for almost two years by the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for violating international human rights laws, and four months after being profiled in a New York Times article, "The Long Interrogation," Kelbessa Negewo stepped off a plane last Friday at Bole airport and into the custody of Ethiopian authorities. Tried and convicted in absentia on several counts of genocide, he will serve a life sentence. Given the current state of affairs, history is sadly repeating itself and years from now a similar story may well emerge.

Ethiopian extradited from US begins life term (Independent Online) October 21, 2006
Ethiopian begins life sentence for genocide after US deportation (International Herald Tribune) October 23, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

ION update: 10/20/06

The opposition in shreds
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1199 21/10/2006

The leadership of the CUPD in exile has finally exploded under the weight of its divergences.

The friction within the leadership of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) in exile has finally led to its collapse (ION 1197). This has led to division within many of its support committees in North America and other countries. Major Yosef Yazew and his partisans (Moges Biruck, Seyoum Solomon, Solomon Bekele etc) accuse their rivals Berhanu Mewa and Andargatchew Tsige of working for the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, governing coalition). To prove their case they point out that Berhanu Mewa’s plastics factory in Addis Ababa is still in operation and that Andargatchew’s sister is the wife of the Minister Tefera Walwa. In turn, the Berhanu/Andargatchew faction accuses Yosef Yazew and his friends of embezzling funds, hence justifying their decision to exclude them from the leadership of the CUDP in exile.

Yosef Yazew is supported in Addis Ababa by a CUDP leader, Hailu Shawel, while his rivals in the Diaspora tend to be supported in Ethiopia by Mesfin Wolde Mariam and Berhanu Nega.

EPPF kept at arm's length
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1199 21/10/2006

The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF, opposition) may have only a few hundred partisans near Tesenei in Eritrea and no combatants in Ethiopia itself. According to the singer Solomon Tekaligne who went to Asmara in July alongside the EPPF, he had not been able to see a single guerrilla from the organisation apart from its leader Mussie Tegegne. According to him, the propaganda about EPPF military victories is the work of Colonel Fitsum of the Eritrean army.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Soldiers to the corn front

In the rush to harvest crops, some tanks were mistaken for combined harvesters.

Eritrean troops are in a prohibited buffer zone on the border with Ethiopia to harvest crops, says Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu.

UN officials said 1,500 troops and 14 tanks entered the zone on Monday.

Eritrea incursion 'to pick crops' (BBC) October 17, 2006

Death toll revised

Ethiopian security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people protesting election fraud last year, triple the official death toll, a senior judge appointed to investigate the violence said Wednesday.

193 Protesters Said Killed in Ethiopia (Washington Post) October 18, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Airbus A380 on African continent

Airbus A380 makes first landing on African continent at Bole International, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Photo Gallery: Airbus A380 at Bole airport

Addis Fortune October 15, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Foreign adoption

"...I didn't have an afro comb until I was nine-years-old. My mother used to comb my hair with a metal comb that tore my head. When I was about nine, my parents took me to the doctor because they couldn't understand why my knees were grey."

'Growing up in an alien environment' (BBC) October 13, 2006
Visit Lemn Sissay's website

Friday, October 13, 2006

Running for his life

A book by Deana Driver, Never Give Up: Ted Jaleta's Inspiring Story, will be released in early November and chronicles the life of an Olympic hopeful who's future is changed by the Red Terror, years in refugee camps and finally a new beginning in Canada.

Marathon runner spent early years running for his life (CBC News) October 13, 2006

ION update: 10/13/06

Internal opposition in a fray
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1198 14/10/2006

While the leadership of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in the Diaspora is paralysed by a deep internal crisis (ION 1197), the situation is no better for the opposition within Ethiopia itself. Two of its leaders still free, former members of the United Ethiopian Democratic Force (UEDF), are pulling in different directions. Merera Gudina of the Oromo National Congress (ONC) and Beyene Petros of the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Coalition (SEPDC) no longer have the same political approach. According to sources close to the government, Merera Gudina has tried to persuade Beyene Petros to campaign with him to put the freeing of the imprisoned opposition leaders into a central place on the agenda of the new parliamentary session. Beyene Petros and Bulcha Demeksa are believed not to have accepted to follow Merera Gudina on this path, whereas Lidetu Ayalew is reported to not even have been contacted. Since then, the Ethiopian government has stepped up the pressure on Merera Gudina, with measures including freezing his personal bank account. For their part, some EPRDF newspapers have accused Merera Gudina and several CUDP MPs who accepted to take up their seat in Parliament of having plotted to “disrupt the work of Parliament”. However, according to a source close to Mereru Gudina, the latter’s disagreement with Beyene Petros broke out when the latter asked him to publish on behalf of the internal wing of the UEDF, a joint communiqué denouncing the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP, radical faction of the UEDF, influential among the Ethiopian Diaspora). Merera Gudina refused and Beyene Petros finally released the communiqué in the name of the SEPDC alone.

The difficult profession of journalist
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1198 14/10/2006

After a first spate of Ethiopian journalists from the independent press leaving the country, it is now the turn of those working for the State media to scarper. Ezedine Kedir, who worked for the Ethiopian government television station, has just set up home in Germany. This brings the number of journalists from government media defecting up to sixteen. According to information we have received, Alemneh Wassie, who worked for Radio Fana owned by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has also left the country with his family to settle in Israel. Journalists in government media who are reluctant to apply the orders of the authorities in Addis Ababa sometimes receive death threats, pushing them to leave the country.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Super Jumbo Airbus coming to Bole

The Airbus 380 is due to land at Bole airport in the next few days. Airbus spent $14 billion to develop the aircraft, which will be the world's largest airliner, seating more than 800 passengers across twin decks.

...Addis Abeba and its Bole International Airport were chosen as the test site for the local altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level, a flight and landing circumstance not available in previous test locations.

Super Jumbo Airbus to Land in Addis (Addis Fortune) October 10, 2006

Saturday, October 07, 2006

ION update: 10/07/06

Friction within the CUDP
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1197 07/10/2006

With the leaders of the CUDP still in prison in Addis Ababa, the executive in exile of this organisation is beginning to fall apart.

The executive in exile of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) which had only just been designated last June (ION 1187) has already plunged it into in-fighting that is paralysing it to the depth of its bowels. Ethiopian Review, which supports the opposition, has just launched an open campaign on its web site for the resignation of Major Yosef Yazew, one of the two CUDP executives who represented the CUDP in the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) constituted recently with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). For its part, the pro-government web site publishes a daily diary of the crisis within the CUDP in the Diaspora and the setbacks of its executives.

A meeting organised last week in Las Vegas by Berhanu Mewa, secretary general of the CUDP in Diaspora, almost turned to open combat after Major Yosef declared it illegal in a letter given out during the meeting. Since then, the CUDP support committee in Las Vegas has been divided into two rival sides. This cleavage harks back to differences inside the CUDP in Ethiopia itself. Hence, Berhanu Mewa is a supporter of Berhanu Nega (CUDP leader in prison in Addis Ababa) and opposes the supporters of Hailu Shawel (another imprisoned CUDP leader) including Major Yosef. Mewa is also close to Andargachew Tsige, the other CUDP representative on the AFD executive and to a group of the party’s hotheads in Washington. The latter are staunch opponents of the old guard composed, according to them, of Major Yosef, Solomon Bekele and Seyoum Solomon, all three of whom are supporters of Hailu Shawel.

The first effect of this division is to paralyse the activity of the CUDP in the Diaspora and to make it completely ineffective. Particularly as the internal problems have been deepened by differences over the constitution of the AFD and the debate over the alliance with the OLF. CUDP partisans in the Diaspora are therefore beginning to become bitter. One of them, London based Commander Assefa Seifu writing on the web site, recently condemned the CUDP executive in exile, further adding to the confusion and distress of this opposition party’s supporters.

Oromo rebels on the front page
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1197 07/10/2006

The Ethiopian Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebels recently got themselves a report several pages long in the latest issue of the magazine Raid specialised in military issues and equipment. The photos were taken by Jonathan Alpeyrie, a war photographer for the Getty Images agency, and had already been published on the OLF web site. The accompanying article was by Alain Rodier, a former higher officer in the French intelligence services who now works as a consultant for Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement (CF2R), a French private company headed by Eric Dénécé.

Friday, October 06, 2006

OLF profiled

Interesting photos, rehashed news, and writer moves Eritrea to our "eastern border."

...Addis Ababa is now fighting against 9 major rebel groups from all parts of the country with the powerful Eritrean army on its eastern border. The situation has become critical, its 240 thousand man army (TPLF) does not have the resources to be fighting everywhere at the same time, so it relies on poorly equipped, under trained militias to protect the frontiers.

Rebellion in Ethiopia (

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ogaden, again

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes events need no explanation.

...UIC's de facto leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, has made it clear that the two countries have unfinished business.

"The land taken by Ethiopia cannot be forgotten because it is attached to our blood and nationalists," he said in July, referring to troops and civilians who died during the 1977/78 war.

Ogaden draws in tension once more (BBC) 2 October, 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

ION update: 09/30/06

The political bigwigs in Addis Ababa
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1196 30/09/2006

While some Western embassies had been expecting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to make a substantial changes in the teams leading the various factions of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa), the outcome of the congresses of these parties was something of an anticlimax. Some minor changes were made at the top of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) without changing the overall balance of power. The changes among the leaders of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) were purely cosmetic and the team leading the Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) remained in control, in spite of an increase in the number of members of the executive of this organisation’s, which incidentally is quite marginal in the governing coalition.

Exit Sebhat Nega. The only new member of the nine man executive council (EC) of the TPLF, chaired by Meles Zenawi, is the Minister of Health Tewodros Adhanom Gebreyesus. He is the first leader of this party not to be the outcome of the guerrilla war waged against the previous Ethiopian regime. A graduate in biology from Asmara University (1986), and then with higher degrees in immunology from the University of London (1992) and community health from the University of Nottingham (2000), he was deputy minister of health before becoming the minister in October 2005 after the elections last year. His promotion was coupled with the demotion of Sebhat Nega, who had for a long time been the Prime Minister’s grey eminence. He left the TPLF EC and is now in 36th place among the 45 members of the central committee (CC), of which his sister Kidusan Nega is also a member. For the remainder, the TPLF executive team has not changed very much. But some people have left the CC (Tesema Gebre Hiwot, Alem Gebre Wahid, Tekle Berhan Araya and Aklilu Damberkai) and the Prime Minister’s wife Azeb Mesfin has joined. Although hated by Seyoum Mesfin (TPLF deputy chairman), Roma Gebre Sellasie (wife of Ambassador Tewolde Gebru, also a member of the TPLF CC), Adhana Haile and Berhane Kidane Mariam (publisher of the TPLF house newspaper) kept their seat on the party’s CC.

Bereket Simeon hands over power. The advisor to the Prime Minister, Bereket Simeon, who is sick, has handed over his seat of deputy chairman of the ANDM to the Minister Tefera Walwa but remains a member of its EC. This team is chaired by Addisu Legesse and includes the leaders of the Amhara Regional State - Ayalew Gobeze and Yoseph Reta - the Minister of Information, Birhan Hailu, the director of the Bahr Dr Management Institute, Ambachew Mekonnen, the representative of the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission at Bahr Dar, Demeke Mekonnen and some less well-known people like Yohannes Buayalew. Some heavyweight former dignitaries, including some ex-ministers who have become ambassadors (Kebede Tadesse, Tadesse Kassa, Genet Zewde, Dawit Yohannes and Hilawe Yosef) are still members of the ANDM CC.

Change in continuity. Long in internal crisis, the OPDO is still headed by the duo Abadula Gemeda/Girma Biru. The disgraced and the rehabilitated former leader Kuma Demeksa, is also a member of the OPDO CE, as are Shiferaw Jarso and Juneidi Saddo and the Ministers Aster Mammo Negewo and Muktar Kedir. Among the newly promoted figure the former administrator of the Western Wollega region, Zelalem Jamaneh and the former head of the bureau of agriculture and rural development of Oromia Regional State, Driba Kuma. On the other hand, the name of Ali Abdo and a few other former Oromo dignitaries are no longer on the official list of OPDO executive. The Minister Sufian Ahmed has had to be content with a seat on the CC, as have two former members of the OPDO EC, Mohamed Hassen and Alemayehu Atomsa. The SEPDM is still chaired by Hailemariam Desalegn with Shiferaw Shigute as his number two and a handful of government personalities in his CE, such as the Speaker of Parliament Teshome Toga, Kassu Illala, the Ministers Berhanu Adelo and Siraj Fegessa and also the head of the bureau for industry and urban development of the regional administration of south Ethiopia, Mekuria Haile.

Home Affairs goes to Mogadishu
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1196 30/09/2006

According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter from a diplomatic source, some officers from the Eritrean ministry of defence and officials from the Eritrean intelligence services were preparing to go to Mogadishu (Somalia) this week. These Eritrean servicemen will probably not be content with merely studying the local situation, but will most likely provide support to the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to help them counter a possible sizeable Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia. According to the same source, embittered Eritrean soldiers and Ethiopian opponents trained in guerrilla fighting by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) will probably also be transported to Mogadishu by the Asmara regime. Some combatants from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, Ethiopian opposition) may do likewise. Certain Eritrean servicemen en route for Mogadishu this week may transit via Djibouti.

Meseret Defar breaks 3000m record

Meseret Defar broke the world 3,000metres road-running record at the Newcastle/Gateshead meeting on Saturday with a time of eight minutes 46.9seconds.

Tyne records for Defar and Mottram (Coventry Evening Telegraph) September 30, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Meskel holiday celebrated

Unlike more violent episodes last year, and despite a few rock-throwers, Tuesday's religious celebration in Ethiopia was held largely without incident.

Ethiopia religious holiday unusually quiet (Middle East Times) September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Haile and Gete sweep Berlin Marathon

Winner runs fastest time in world this year: Haile Gebrselassie won Sunday's Berlin Marathon on a course where records have fallen of late, and Gete Wami made it an Ethiopian sweep by capturing the women's division.

..."I will break the record someday," Gebrselassie said.

Marathon winner runs fastest time in world this year (Seattle Times) September 25, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

ION update: 09/22/06

Meles' former chief of protocol defects
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ’s former head of protocol, who had accompanied him on several international State visits, has defected. According to Diplomatic sources, Addis Abadi Tesfaye , who had become Consular Attaché of the Ethiopian embassy in Ottawa (Canada) has recently left his post and asked for political asylum in the United States. He is not the only person to have done so. Daniel Ikubesillasie , third secretary and financial attaché of the Ethiopian embassy in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) did likewise.

Army officers defect
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Following the defections by several diplomats (see p.4) and a number of dignitaries from the ministry of justice, it is now the turn of several high ranking officers in the Ethiopian armed forces to leave the EPRDF government in power in Addis Ababa. To begin with, last month there was the defection of the Oromo General Kemal Gelchu who went to Eritrea. Two high ranking officers have now done likewise and joined the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an armed opposition group, member of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD). They are General Hailu Gonfa who worked at the Ethiopian ministry of defence and Colonel Gemechu Ayana, Commander of the 8th mechanised force. The two officers justified their defection in a communiqué issued on 14 September and carried by the official Eritrean media and Ethiopian opponent web sites, stating that “the armed forces have been systematically reduced to protecting the narrow interests of a small clique determined to cling to power at all costs”. They announced in it that they were rallying behind the OLF and called on Ethiopian servicemen to follow their example and “join the just and popular struggle” of the AFD. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter in Berlin, a third Tigrayan officer from Ethiopia, Major Yemane Tesfaye, has just asked for political asylum in Germany. He was a member of the security forces specialised in analysing information and radio communication and had been sent by the Ethiopian government to Germany to undergo training by the Bunderswehr at the Murnau military base near Munich. He left the base last week and is now in a refugee camp while waiting for the German authorities to decide on his request for political asylum.

A former Marxist at the bank
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

One of Meles Zenawi’s grey eminences, a former Marxist-Leninist ideologist, has just joined the board of directors of the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

Since the beginning of August Abay Tsehaye, special advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in charge of mobilising the population, has joined the board of the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) whose chairman is the Minister of Revenues Melaku Fenta. Abay Tsehaye has pulled himself up these last few years into the group of people close to the President, becoming one of the principle dignitaries in the regime, after having been in disgrace for a period.

An executive of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, in power in Addis Ababa) and former Minister of Federal Affairs, Abay Tsehaye had joined the politburo of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition) in September 2003. He hence returned to the role of political mentor he had had in this party two decades earlier, when he was the brains behind the Melallit, a small clandestine Marxist-Leninist organisation which formed the kernel of the TPLF, aligning it on the Stalinist line of the then President of Albania, Enver Hodja.

However, after the war with Eritrea from 1998 to 2000 Abay Tsehaye had a common cause with the TPLF dissidents who then defended an ultra-nationalist position, opposing Meles Zenawi. Consequently, he found himself put into the sidelines. Nevertheless, whereas the other dissidents were sacked from their functions and also excluded from the TPLF, Abay Tsehaye made honourable amends with Meles Zenawi and rallied behind him. This led to his being readmitted to the central committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and subsequently being given the portfolio of Minister for Federal Affairs. Since then, he has not ceased to rise in importance in the circles of the Ethiopian executive.

French Consul looking for volunteers
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Things don’t always go the way Franck Simaer , the French Consul in Addis Ababa, would like. A few months back he worked hard to gather data from French expats living in Addis Ababa so that he could devise a new security plan for this community, based on dividing up Addis Ababa into six security zones (ION 1174). Now he is back at work looking for people to coordinate this security plan in these zones. He has just put out a call to the French community in Addis Ababa to find heads of security zones, nevertheless pointing out that this is unpaid voluntary activity, but which is fully compatible with normal working and family life, whose purpose is primarily that of helping the French embassy keep in contact with French nationals in each zone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia

The 3.3-million-year-old fossilised remains of a human-like child have been unearthed in Ethiopia's Dikika region.

The female Australopithecus afarensis bones are from the same species as an adult skeleton found in 1974 which was nicknamed "Lucy".

'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia (BBC) 20 September, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ethiopia's Ancient Christian Kingdoms

Slide Show: Ethiopia's Ancient Christian Kingdoms

...Lalibela, Ethiopia, is a dirt-poor mountain village that has remained essentially unchanged for a millennium. The churches there are the most remarkable part of what Ethiopians call "the historic tour" — a several-day circuit through ancient Christian kingdoms.

Ethiopia Opens Its Doors, Slowly (New York Times) September 17, 2006

More Army officers defect

Two senior Ethiopian army officers have defected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the rebel group says.

The two are Brig Gen Hailu Gonfa (pictured right) and Col Gemechu Ayana, who commanded the Eighth Mechanized Division.

However, Ethiopian officials said they had no knowledge of the reports. Last month Brig Gen Kemal Geltu also joined the Eritrea-backed OLF.

Ethiopian officers 'join rebels' (BBC) 15 September, 2006

ION update: 09/16/06

A dignitary goes shopping in Paris
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1194 16/09/2006

An official of the governing coalition EPRDF and member of the central committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, the dominant party in Addis Ababa) went shopping in the luxury stores in Paris this week. He made a stop in Paris on his way home from the United States, spending almost 18,000 euros (over 190,000 birrs) since the beginning of this week on perfume, women’s clothes and handbags in Champs Elysée Sephora, Louis Vuitton to name but a few.

Friday, September 08, 2006

ION update: 09/09/06

Spate of defections continues
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1193 09/09/2006

The Ethiopian army, judiciary and diplomatic corps are still subject to numerous defections of employees and officials who go into exile to the United States.

After the defection at the beginning of August of the Oromo General Kemal Gelchu, more departures into exile have followed among Ethiopian diplomats and other top officials in the government of Addis Ababa. A Deputy Attorney General Alemayehu Zemedkun thus fled to the United States at the beginning of August where he asked for political asylum. Zemedkun, 41, left his wife and two children in Addis Ababa and fled to the USA after the Ethiopian authorities had asked him to take over the case of the charges against the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) imprisoned in Addis Ababa. He had attempted to convince his superiors, including the Minister of Justice Shemeles Kemale, that there was no case to answer, but to no avail. He then decided to go into exile. Since then, his testimony on Internet web sites and Ethiopian opposition blogs has shed a blunt light on the actions and attitudes of the Ethiopian executives, such as the minister of justice.

Some tens of defections have taken place lately in Ethiopian diplomatic circles. Meanwhile, suspicion has gone up a notch inside the ministry for foreign affairs about diplomats not felt to be sufficiently docile with the regime in place in Addis Ababa. Matters got even worse after revelations in the international media of confidential documents written by a foreign affairs ministry high official on its propaganda strategy. Some Ethiopian opponents have been able to draw up a list of 59 names of diplomats who have defected these last few months. They include two former Ambassadors (Yohanes Genda and Fleshes Adugna Wordofa) a few ministerial counsellor and a large number of junior diplomats. Among the latest defections to date are those of a diplomat in the Ethiopian embassy to India, of Biruk Hailu plenipotentiary minister to the embassy in Paris and Gizachew Bizuayehu, counsellor. The wife of the former Ambassador Kassahun Ayele is also believed to be filing her request for political asylum in the United States.

The majority of these diplomats complain about the management methods of their hierarchical superiors, of the generalised climate of suspicion that reins in the Ethiopian embassies and the obscure role of certain Tigrayan diplomats of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa) operating as true political commissionaires. General Kemal Gelchu, who fled to Eritrea along with twenty other Ethiopian servicemen, is for his part expected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, armed opposition). He accuses the actions of the Tigrayan hierarchy in the Ethiopian army and has revealed the growing level of discontent among non-Tigrayan soldiers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Addissu Legesse's whirlwind U.S. tour

Opposition rally in Atlanta (left) and Seattle (right)

So far, a series of meetings across the U.S. headed by Deputy Prime Minister of EPRDF, Addissu Legesse, regarding "investment and development in Amhara regional state," have been anything but successful. Apparently, barely twenty people showed up in San Jose, with meetings in other cities being cancelled or lasting minutes before the Deputy PM was forced to exit due to heckling from supporters of Ethiopia's imprisoned opposition party members. Addissu Legesse's coast-to-coast tour started in San Jose, and on to Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, and is scheduled to end in Washington DC, bastion of opposition groups. Will the Deputy PM cut short his failed tour and fly back to Addis, or opt for complete humiliation?

Video: Addisu Legesse heckled in Boston

Update, Sept. 2, 2006: No surprise, Addissu Legesse cancelled his meeting at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC due to poor attendance. Hundreds of Ethiopians were waiting outside the Embassy ready to confront him, or anyone else who chose to enter the meeting. The Deputy PM can use the long flight back to Ethiopia to question what on earth possessed him to attempt such a disastrous public relations tour of the Diaspora.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fuel prices up 19% in Ethiopia

Wow, again? I was just in Addis last May during an earlier price hike, taxi fares went up immediately the next morning. Not only is there lack of adequate public transport, people now have to manage an extra twenty percent into their monthly transport budget. Even the weather is not accommodating for those who choose to go on foot.

...A litre of benzene would now cost 8.17 birr (about $0.94) from the previous 6.68 birr, diesel would cost 5.44 birr ($0.58) from 4.78 birr and kerosene would cost 4.12 birr ($0.47) up from 3.45 birr. The new prices represent a 19 and 22 percent hike for diesel and benzene from the previous costs.

..."Any one who will use this price adjustment as an excuse to increase price on other goods and items will be punished accordingly," the [trade and industry] ministry warned.

Fuel prices up 19% in Ethiopia (Business in Africa) 28 August, 2006

Horn of Africa's exit point

...Several thousand Ethiopians sleep rough in Bossaso's dirt, like animals. They are sustained by Muslim alms: a free meal each day, paid for by Bossaso traders. Some of the Ethiopians arrive in town feral with hunger. They have to be beaten back with cudgels when the meal is served. The hope of all of them is to be illegally trafficked across the sea to Yemen. They slip out of town in the moonlight, cramming into metal skiffs that are death traps. Many drown in the crossing: the boat sinks or they are tossed overboard by traffickers when Yemeni patrols approach.

The path to ruin (Economist) August 10, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Islamists open militia camp

Somalia's powerful Islamist movement opened a militia training camp on Wednesday with trainers from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, witnesses said.

...The Islamists' hardline leader, Shiekh Hassan Dahir Aweys, attended the opening of the camp for more than 600 Islamist militiamen at Hiilweyne, north of Mogadishu.

Somali Islamists, foreign trainers open militia camp (Reuters) 23 August, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

U.S. Policy in Horn of Africa

...U.S. missteps in the region date to 1977, when policymakers tacitly — and foolishly — encouraged Somalia to take advantage of political instability in the Ethiopian capital and grab control of Ethiopia's Somali-inhabited Ogaden region.

The move backfired when Soviet and Cuban troops rushed in to defend the Marxist regime in Addis Ababa, turning Ethiopia into Moscow's staunchest ally in Africa. In response, Washington armed Mohamed Siad Barre's thugocracy in Somalia.

Dragged Back Into Somalia (Los Angeles Times) August 13, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ethiopian commander joins rebels

An Ethiopian Army general says he has defected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a rebel group backed by neighbouring Eritrea.

...Ethiopian television said Gen Kemal had asked for further promotion soon after being promoted to the rank of brigadier general, but after this was rejected he engaged in "divisive activities".

Ethiopian commander joins rebels (BBC) 10 August, 2006

Interview (Real Player)
Interview (Windows)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Live and Become (2006)

In a Sudanese refugee camp sheltering Ethiopians displaced by civil war and famine in 1984, the Israeli secret service has begun Operation Moses, airlifting thousands of Falashas, or Ethiopian Jews, to Israel. A non-Jewish Ethiopian woman persuades a Falasha woman whose own son has just died, to allow her son to assume his identity. Renamed Schlomo, the boy is adopted by a loving and liberal Israeli family. However, Israel, rather than being the promised land, turns out to be rife with racism. We follow Schlomo through the trials and tribulations of assimilation.

Movie Trailer
Live and Become (2006) - Yahoo!7 Movies

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dire Dawa, hundreds missing

Rescuers have been digging through mud and debris, looking for some 300 people still missing after floods in Ethiopia.

Hundreds lost in Ethiopia flood (BBC) 7 August, 2006

Friday, August 04, 2006

Against all odds

If this story doesn't convince you of the power we as humans have to transform not just our lives, but the lives of others as well, then surely yours is a life filled with cynicism.

An Ethiopian girl who became the face of African famine when she was filmed starving and in tears in 1984 has graduated from college.

Face of Live Aid appeal graduates (BBC) 3 August, 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Capitalizing on misery of others

Yet again, a regular contributor to this blog, the Customs and Tax Authority of Ethiopia rears its ugly head. This time, its victims are poor Ethiopians fleeing the war in Lebanon after already enduring years of physical and mental hardship as domestic workers. Evacuees can expect whatever valuables or personal belonging they may have packed will be subject to the usual and diabolical 100%-200% import tax.

“We would like to advise those returning from Lebanon and applying for their duty free right that we have suspended receiving such applications beginning July 19, for an unlimited period,” says the notice issued by the Customs and Tax Desk of the Ministry.

Lebanon Evacuees Denied Duty Free Status (Addis Fortune) July 23, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

ION update: 07/29/06

Firing on the EPRP
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1191 29/07/2006

The partisans of the Ethiopian government in the United States are making endless propaganda on the radio against the hard wing of the opposition.

For several months now, Selam Radio and Hager Fikr Radio have been making an endless number of programmes denouncing “the hardest line anti EPRDF elements”. Selam Radio broadcasts in Washington and is owned by the Ethiopian government coalition, the EPRDF. Hager Fikr Radio is subsidised by the Saudi-Ethiopian magnate Mohamed Hussein Al Amoudi. This campaign frequently takes the form of attacks against the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP, opposition), a formation which refused to join the Ethiopian opposition front recently formed entitled Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD).

The Hager Fikr radio station has been at the head of this media campaign for some time and has devoted half of its six hours of airtime on Sundays. The guests invited on the show to criticise certain radical opposition leaders by name are dignitaries of the Ethiopian regime, like the Consul in Los Angeles Taye Atskesellasie, but there are also some former Tigrayan dissidents who have rallied behind the present government in Addis Ababa. One such is Bisrat Amare and more surprising still, Abraham Yayeh, who spoke on the last two shows broadcast by this radio station.

This former dissident of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, governing) has long been a scathing critic of the present regime in Addis Ababa and its Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Yayeh lives in exile in Copenhagen but would nevertheless appear to have become a partisan of Zenawi. He now reserves his most virulent attacks for the opposition, which he considers dominated by the Amhara ethnic group and motivated by anti-Tigrayan feelings. What is most surprising is that Yayeh has been to Eritrea several times and recently was still collaborating with the government of Asmara, which supports certain Ethiopian opponents.

Members of Parliament invited to the USA
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1191 29/07/2006

According to a source in the Ethiopian opposition, protests are expected in front of the hotel where a delegation of Ethiopian MPs is to stay in Washington. They have been invited to the USA on a visit starting on 31 July as part of an American State Department programme. What angers certain Ethiopian opponents in exile is that these six MPs are members of the opposition who have accepted to take up their seats in the Ethiopian Parliament, an attitude widely contested in the opposition in exile. According to our sources, the Ethiopian delegation should consist of Olbamo Ayele Chamiso, Deputy Chairman of the Coalition for Unity and Democraty (CUD); Anore Ayele Seyoum an executive of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Member of the Chamber of Representatives; Woldemichael Temesgen Zewoude MP; Ledetu Ayalew Mehretu, MP and chairman of the EDP-Medhin; Mesfin Namarra Dressa MP and Ms Yetbarek Mesrk Mekonen, chair of the Amhara National Regional Council.

Winds of War?

...The arrival of a second flight at Mogadishu airport amid strict security has fuelled speculation that the Islamists are receiving weapons in violation of a UN arms embargo.

...The plane is the same one that touched down in Mogadishu on Wednesday and credible sources said that flight originated in Eritrea carrying anti-aircraft guns, uniforms, AK47s and several senior Eritrean officers.

Riots as Somali minister killed (BBC) 28 July, 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

ION update: 07/22/06

Somalia divides the EPRDF
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1190 22/07/2006

The possibility of a military intervention to support its allies in Somalia is dividing the EPRDF.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, governing coalition) is split over the idea of a military intervention in Somalia to support its allies of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The militia of the Islamist Courts Union (ICU) are preparing for military actions in the direction of Baidoa, the stronghold of the Somalian TFG and warlords who oppose the Islamists. The question of Ethiopian aid for the TFG forces is on the cards, but is dividing the Ethiopian authorities. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newletter, the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, supported by Bereket Simeon, is considering a direct and decisive intervention against the Islamists. But the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, as well as Sebhat Nega and Abay Tsegaye advise him to take a more cautious approach.

There are similar divergences within the army, with the Army Chief of Staff Samora Yunis along with some Tigrayan generals in favour of a strong intervention in Somalia. On the other hand, other generals, whether Tigrayan, Oromo or Amhara, are opposed to such intervention. They are wary that it may be exploited by Eritrea as in this case the EPRDF forces would be divided on two fronts a long way from each other. According to sources in the Ethiopian opposition, several hundreds of combatants of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF, opposition), armed and supported by Eritrea, have already infiltrated these last few weeks via Djibouti into the Ethiopian region of Ogaden, in the hope that an Islamist victory in Mogadishu would favour the development of their own breakaway struggle in Ethiopia.

Another topic of discussion in the EPRDF leadership concerns the idea of changing the name and the manifesto of this coalition. Certain nostalgic people, such as Adissu Legesse, are strongly opposed to such a change. Meanwhile, the EPRDF is setting up a committee to celebrate the millennium (according to the Ethiopian calendar, the first day of the New Year 1999 will be on 11 September). Mulugeta Asrat Kassa, son of the late Asrat Kassa, was called to Addis Ababa from his home in London to be one of the executives of this committee. The EPRDF wants to still be in power when it celebrates the first day of the year 2000 (according to the Ethiopian calendar) and hopes that by that time the unrest in the opposition will have dissipated. Particularly as the big shots have not entirely cut off links with the radical opponents. Hence, the Norwegian authorities have passed a message to open negotiations on to the government in Addis Ababa, from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD).

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Girogis, currently undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia and whose mandate ends in October, could be replaced by the present Minister for Water Shifferaw Jarso.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

LA Stars shine

Congratulations LA Stars - ESFNA 2006 Champions! You've done us all proud by winning the trophy on home ground.

Friday, July 07, 2006

ION update: 07/07/06

The Tigrayans still sew up the key posts
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1188 08/07/2006

Fifteen years after they came to power following a long guerrilla struggle, the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) still make up the hard core of the Ethiopian regime. In spite of cautious openings to their allies from other ethnic groups, they have the lion’s share of the key posts in the government, the army and the security organs. Meanwhile, cameo role Tigrayans (from the north of the country) act as political commissioners to non Tigrayan ambassadors on post abroad and whose allegiance to Addis Ababa is considered inadequate. Tigrayan nationalism is so strong that a fear of the opposition (including a number of Amhara leaders) wining in the Parliamentary elections has pushed many Tigrayan members of the Diaspora, including opponents, to move closer to the TPLF.

Key posts. The Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is surrounded by several advisors with the rank of minister, who are Tigrayans like he and members of the TPLF executive: Abay Tsehaye is in charge of federal affairs; Mulugeta Alemseged heads the police and the security machinery in his capacity of National Security Advisor; Newaye-Kristos Gebreab, from Adwa village like Meles Zenawi, is his economic advisor. General Birhane Negas, head of security of the Prime Ministerial Palace, is Meles Zenawi’s daughter’s godfather. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin, who has held this key post for 15 years, is another of these influential Tigrayans. The Ethiopian army chief of staff, Samora Yunis, is also from Tigray, as are a dozen superior officers promoted general last year, compared to only two Amharas and one Oromo. The chiefs of police and of security, Getachew Assefa and Esayas Weldegiorgis, are Tigrayans, as are many of the officials in these administrations.

Family networks. As well as their ethnic and political affinities, several TPLF leaders have close family ties to each other. Sebhat Nega and his familly are very typical of this concentration of power: he is a member of the political bureau of the TPLF, an advisor to the Prime Minister and a big wheel in the Endowment Fund For Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a consortium of companies which over time have taken on a nation-wide dimension, through the favours of the regime. His sister, Kidusan Nega, is a member of the central committee of the TPLF, mayor of Mekelle and wife of Tsegaye Berhe, who is one of the nine members of the TPLF political bureau and President of Tigray Regional State. Another of his sisters, Aberash Nega, stood as a candidate in the municipal elections in Addis Ababa in May 2005, together with two cousins, but was not elected. According to the Ethiopian opposition, Sebhat Nega even has a half sister who is the wife of the Eritrean Minister of Defence Sebhat Ephrem. For her part, Nigist Gebre Kristos, the wife of another member of the TPLF political bureau Arkebe Oqubay Mitiku, is none other than the sister of Berhane Gebre Kristos the Ethiopian Ambassador to Belgium, whereas Oqubay’s sister is the wife of Adis Alem Balema, a member of the TPLF central committee. Another member of the TPLF political bureau, Abay Woldu, is married to Turufat Kidane Mariam, who is in charge of justice and security for Meles Zenawi.

Economic hold. In addition to the Tigrayan ministers who chair the boards of State companies, like Seyoum Mesfin who has been at the head of Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) for many years, several TPLF leaders have gone to executive positions in the EFFORT consortium. This is so for Sebhat Nega, Tewodros Hagos (in charge of mining activity), Arkebe Oqubay and Abadi Zemu (who was the head of the Relief Society of Tigray from 1978 to 1991). Zemu, currently the Vice President of Tigray Regional State, was recently replaced as director general of EFFORT by the former Minister of Revenue, Getachew Belay Wendimu, who is also a member of the TPLF central committee. The wife of Prime Minister Azeb Mesfin has for a long time held a responsible post at the head of a company close to the regime, Mega Corporation, which earned her the nickname “Queen Mega”. This company has now been liquidated and Azeb Mesfin got herself elected to Parliament last year in the constituency of Humera. Since then she has been the Chair of the Social Affairs Standing Committee of the Ethiopian Federal Assembly.