Friday, January 27, 2006

ION update: 01/27/06

The EPRDF's new diplomatic team
Indian Ocean Newsletter N°1166 28/01/2006

The Ethiopian government, which is having a hard time getting its post-election policies accepted by the international community, is to constitute a new team of ambassadors to defend this regime in a diplomatic atmosphere not always favourable to it. A rotation of diplomatic posts is under way, with the appointment of some twenty new ambassadors, many of who were unsuccessful pro-government candidates in the May 2005 legislative election and others are loyal top civil servants. At the same time, a handful of ambassadors are to be recalled to Addis Ababa to take up functions under close scrutiny within the ministry of foreign affairs or in regional governments. We investigate the likely appointments in the pipeline.

Europe. The head of expatriate Ethiopian affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Wubishet Demissie T/Mariam, of the Gurage ethnic group and a veterant diplomat, will probably become the next Ambassador to Paris, replacing Sahle-Work Zewde. The latter, after having spent many long years abroad (Djibouti and later Paris) may be called to take up the head of the Africa department of the MFA in Addis Ababa. She will hence replace another woman, Konjit Sinegiorgis, who will probably be posted as Ambassador to Vienna (Austria). The head of the Europe and America department of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Girum Abbay, for his part should become Ambassador to Italy. Meanwhile Zerihun Retta, a former representative to the United Nations, could be posted to Ireland. For her part, the former Minister of Education, defeated in the election, Genet Zewde, should be sent as Ambassador to London. Finally, Siraj Rashid is about to become number two in the Ethiopian Embassy to Germany.

Americas. The former Speaker of the Ethiopian Parliament, also defeated in the recent elections, Dawit Yohannes, should become the new Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, while Taye Izkesilassie already on post as chief of the Ethiopian Consulate in Los Angeles, will be given the rank of Ambassador. Getachew Hamussa, former chief of the finance and economic development bureau of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR), who was defeated in the May 2005 Parliamentary election at Arba Minch, will be sent as Ambassador to Canada. For his part, the Vice President of Addis-Abeba University (AAU), Samuel Assefa, who did not succeed in obtaining the post he coveted of President of this university (ION 1165), should be offered the post of Ambassador to Washington.

Africa. The former Ethiopian special envoy to the peace negotiations on Somalia, Abdulaziz Ahmed Adem, would naturally become Ambassador to this country and would be based in Jowhar. Meanwhile, the former chairman of the Addis Ababa city council, Ali Abdo, who was then recycled into the administration of the Oromia Regional State, could be sent as Ambassador to Sudan. Suleiman Dedefo, the current chief of staff of the Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, will become Ambassador to Nigeria. For his part, the former deputy chairman of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region, Melese Marimo, should get the same functions in Pretoria (South Africa). Disasa Derbissa, Terfa Mengesha and Hassen Abdilkadir (the present head of the State Justice Bureau) will become respectively Ambassadors to Kenya, Uganda and Senegal.

Middle East. A Tigrayan career diplomat, Fisseha Asgedom, who in the past has been in the post of number two in Ethiopia's delegation to the United Nations in New York, is expected to become the new Ethiopian Ambassador to Israel. A law expert, the current director of legal affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Idris, will become the ambassador to Egypt. Finally, Tekleab Kebede, the spokesman for the Relief Society of Tigray (Rest) and who has been Consul in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) since 1996, will keep his post with the rank of Ambassador while Tewfik Abdulahi will be posted as Ethiopian Ambassador to Yemen.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

ION update: 01/21/06

UEDF goes underground
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1165 21/01/2006

The meeting of the leadership of the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF, opposition) which ended on 16 January in Washington decided to expel its previous leaders Beyene Petros and Merera Gudina, who were not present at the meeting. They are accused of having accepted to take up their seats in the Ethiopian Parliament. The UEDF then designated a new executive committee, composed primarily of exiles. Fasika Belete, a representative of the radical organisation Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), became the new party chairman, Lieutenant Ayalsew Dessie the Deputy Chairman, and Aregawi Berhe Deputy Chairman for Europe. Only the secretary of the UEDF, Dereje Kebede is based in Ethiopia, but in all likelihood not for much longer. He had already been arrested by the Ethiopian authorities in November 2005 and could have problems in going back to Addis Ababa after participating in this UEDF meeting in the United States. The UEDF executive decided unanimously to organise a conference of all the opposition parties, at which opposition groups non-members of the UEDF (such as the Oromo Liberation Front, OLF) should also take part. A task force should soon be formed to prepare this conference. The most significant decision taken at the UEDF leadership meeting was that its activities in Ethiopia should from now on be underground. The opposition coalition considered that all the paths for an open struggle in Ethiopia were now exhausted. The old demon of armed struggle which has haunted the most radical opponents could now resurface.

An academic becomes ambassador
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1165 21/01/2006

The list of 19 new ambassadors appointed by President Girma Wolde-Giorgis on 13 January includes several top civil servants from the ministry of foreign affairs, as well as some former dignitaries, now sidelined. One of the latter is Ali Abdo, the former chairman of the Addis Ababa administrative region. Another is the Vice President of Addis Ababa University (AAU), Samuel Assefa, who did not finally succeed in getting the post of President of AAU he wanted, hoping to oust its incumbent Endrias Eshete. The good relations between Samuel Assefa’s and the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s wives was therefore not reason enough to get him the AAU presidency.

Ethiopia expels British journalist

Ethiopia has ordered a British journalist to leave the country within 24 hours, accusing him of portraying it in a bad light, state television said on Saturday.

Anthony Mitchell, who worked for the Associated Press, was summoned to the foreign ministry and told to leave.

Ethiopia orders British reporter to leave country (Reuters) January 21, 2006

Friday, January 20, 2006

Timket festival turns violent

Anyone unable to find fault in people who endanger everyone's life by throwing rocks at armed soldiers during a religious procession, as with EPRDF who refuse to use non lethal methods for crowd control, is part of this same cycle of ethnic b.s. (not politics) getting people killed. I'm sick and tired of hearing different people claim moral grounds, more like ethnic grounds. To hope for a better future in Ethiopia is to set oneself up for bitter disappointment, time after time. Ethiopia remains poor and ethnically divided because of who we are.

..."I don't really know what was happening to me. I was shot by the police twice, one on my stomach and one on my throat," Wubishet Solomon, 16, told the AP news agency.

He said he was listening to religious music when the shooting started.

Ethiopia festival turns violent (BBC News) January 20, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Melcome Timket!

An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church candle seller walks past federal policemen carrying batons and watching over the crowds as thousands of priests and worshippers walked to Jan Meda.

Let us hope Timket and the holiday festivities which started two weeks ago with Ethiopian Christmas will bring about peace, reconciliation and much needed focus back on Ethiopia's real problems. Melcome Timket!

Monday, January 16, 2006

H.I.M Lion of Judah

H.I.M LION OF JUDAH is an interesting documentary film about Haile Selassie with rare video and photos, written and narrated by David Holden of the BBC. Filmed almost four decades ago, the documentary itself is part of history.

ION update: 01/16/06

Confusion among the opposition
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1164 14/01/2006

The Ethiopian opposition is in a bad way. The Congress for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) is in tatters, its offices closed by the police and its leadership decapitated by the arrest of its principal leaders, to whom the courts are still refusing to grant bail. No alternative executive for the CUDP has surfaced to replace the arrested leaders and this opposition force has gone into a state of a sort of enforced hibernation. This has created a political vacuum, which the Ethiopian Democratic Unity Party-Medhin (EDUP-Medhin) is trying to fill, but this group is itself subject to division. Its faction led by Lidetu Ayalew finally decided, last week, that its elected members should take up their seats in the Federal Parliament and the Addis Ababa city council, where the opposition won all the seats in the May 2005 general election. Indeed, the EDUP-Medhin has always contested the CUDP’s choice of Berhanu Nega as the future mayor of Addis Ababa and certain people are taking advantage of his imprisonment to try to take his place. But the EDUP-Medhin faction loyal to Admassu Gebeyehu appears to want to set conditions to its participation in the administration of the capital in the present circumstances. Thus it was that a recent meeting of CUDP elected members called for Berhanu Nega and 15 other imprisoned opposition leaders to be freed, as a prior condition to any discussion with the government about the future municipal administration of Addis Ababa. For its part, the Union of Ethiopian Democratics Forces (UEDF, opposition) has scheduled a conference in Washington on 13 and 14 January, at which all of the members of its council, except for Beyene Petros and Merera Gudina, will be present. The UEDF is not expected to give ground on its opposition to the Ethiopian government; rather it is expected to decide to elect a new chairman and deputy chairman and condemn Beyene Petros’s decision to take up his seat in the Ethiopian Federal Parliament.

Gebrselassie shatters two records

Hail to the chief, he's simply the best!

Haile Gebrselassie broke Paul Tergat's 20km world record. Long-distance legend Haile Gebrselassie broke the world half-marathon record by a remarkable 21 seconds in Arizona.
The 32-year-old Ethiopian clocked a time of 58 minutes 55 seconds running the second half of the Rock 'N' Roll Arizona marathon.

Gebrselassie, twice Olympic 10,000m champion, also broke the 20km record en route, the 20th time in his career he has set a world mark.

"These are my first in America," he said. "It's a little special to me."

Gebrselassie shatters two records (BBC Sport) Jan 15, 2006

Friday, January 13, 2006

The ethnic issue

Andrew Heavens uses his journalistic eye and gives us an outsider's opinion of a day in Addis.

...It took about ten minutes for a small altercation outside a church to turn into a Federal incident – a bit like sending the SAS in to deal with a bar brawl. And it took about the same amount of time for onlookers to turn it into a Racial incident in their heads.

Red beret bust up at Kaldis (Meskel Square) January 11, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Applause and tears in court

Compared to any other Ethiopian news media, I've always considered Addis Fortune a good and fairly unbiased source of news (not just politics) out of Addis. If their online reports were regularly updated and subscription based, I would be the first to sign up. The following is an article on last week's court appearance of the arrested CUD leaders, alleged rioters and journalists. Article not yet published online (yet plagiarized copies abound...Gotta love the Internet!).

...The main agenda at the Wednesday January 4, 2006 Court session was to rule on the defendants' request for bail at the last appearance, but it also considered the case of Binyam Tadesse, who claimed to be 14 but had been charged by the prosecution as a 16-year-old.

The Court ordered in the last session that police should handle Binyam with special care and have a medical examination done to determine whether he was underage or not. The 2004 Criminal Code states that people between the ages of nine and 15 shall not be subject to ordinary penalties applicable to adults, nor shall they be kept in custody with adults.

Binyam was charged with the alleged crimes of outrage against the constitutional order, criminal conspiracy, and obstruction of constitutional power. During his first court appearance he wore his school uniform, this time he was dressed in a white T-shirt and trousers. The one thing that remained the same though was the look of fear on his face.

After checking the presence of the defendants, the Court looked at Binyam's case first. The Presiding Judge Adil Ahmed read a medical examination from Black Lion Hospital which confirmed the age of Binyam was between 16 to 18. Murmuring could be heard from people in the Court and there were many loud sucking noises from around the courtroom.

When Judge Adil began to read the charges to Binyam the lad spoke faintly: "I have a birth certificate" he said as he scratched his head. The Presiding Judge asked him where it came from; he responded that it was from the church. The murmuring and sucking of lips continued through the exchange. The Presiding Judge held off on giving a decision about Binyam until after ruling on the bail request of the defendants.

...After the recess, Judge Adil took into evidence Binyam's birth certificate and adjourned his situation until the next session to verify the contradictory results of the medical examination and the certificate. The prosecutor Shimeles Kemal objected that scientific results are conclusive for such cases and that the birth certificate should not be taken as evidence. Shimeles' argument raised guffaws among people present in Court.

Applause and tears in court (Addis Fortune) January 8, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ethiopian Idol

Good luck walking the streets of Addis the morning after one gets the boot from this show.

...The show even has it own Simon Cowell, the bad-guy judge on the British and US versions. The catchphrase of musician Feleke Hailu -"alta fakedem" or "you didn't make it" in Amharic - may seem positively meek compared to Cowell's acerbic reviews. But saxophonist Feleke, 46, has caused a sensation in this tradition-bound culture.

"Most of the time I tell [contestants] to go back to their old jobs, forget about a career in singing," he said. "Or I tell them they sing like donkeys. Sometimes they get angry. The girls burst into tears, and a few weeks ago one singer threw a stick at me after I told him he had failed to get through to the next round."

"The problem is in our culture it is not common to tell the truth or criticise. People cannot take criticism."

Ethiopia's Pop Idol hits the right note (Guardian, UK) January 7, 2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

ION update: 01/06/06

Effective lobbying
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1163 07/01/2006

Thorleif Enger, the Norwegian boss of Yara International, one of the leading manufacturers of fertiliser in the world, showed his flair when he awarded a prize of $200,000 to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August 2005 for his agricultural policy. In spite of the controversy this prize sparked off at the time, being awarded just when the Ethiopian regime was beginning to use clamp down hard on the opposition, Yara did not regret his decision. According to the North European humanitarian press agency Norwatch, this company has just won several contracts in Ethiopia. Following a call for tenders in December, Yara won contracts to supply fertilizer worth more than $14 million. An excellent rate of return on his investment.

Indians like roses
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1163 07/01/2006

The blooming horticulture sector in Ethiopia is not only attracting the attention of Dutch firms (ION 1162). Indian companies are also starting to gradually take root in Ethiopia where they can take advantage of a cost to transport their flowers to Europe that is 50 to 60% lower than from India. The first to sow its seeds was the firm Karuturi Networks owned by Ramakrishna Karuturi (ION 1112). After investing $8 million to develop the first phase of its project on a 50 hectare property at Holeta, near Addis Ababa, this company is now investing a further $6 million to double the area it cultivates. The Pune based firm Vikram Greentech also has its eye on Ethiopia. As for Pushpam Florabase Pvt, it is about to set up a 50 hectare horticulture plantation in Ethiopia. This firm’s project has awakened the interest of a London firm with which it has trade relations. In addition to the advantages in the cost of freight to Europe from Ethiopia, these Indian firms also intend to take advantage of the substantial aid the World Bank gives the horticulture sector in Ethiopia.

Asmara: Former opponent imprisoned
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1162 24/12/2005

A veteran of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF, opposition), Taha Mohamed Nur, who lived in Rome for many years before backing the regime of President Issayas Afeworki at the beginning of the 1990s, has recently been imprisoned in Asmara. Nur is divorced from his Italian first wife with whom he has had two daughters, and has recently remarried an Eritrean. One of the founder members of the ELF in 1960, a member of its supreme council, he subsequently founded the Eritrean People’s Forces (EPF), later becoming a member of the national council of the ELF-United Organization (ELF-UO) and this organization’s spokesman in Europe. When Afeworki came to power in Asmara in 1990, Taha Mohamed Nur rallied behind him and took part in the committee in charge of preparing the referendum for self government in 1993. He was subsequently involved in preparing the draft constitution. No reason was given for his recent arrest and the authorities in Asmara have made no comment on this matter.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Refused a Visa

For those of us who have dealt with Ethiopian bureaucracy, at times a tormenting odyssey with no guarantee of a conclusive outcome, relating to Michela Wrong's plight (at ET Embassy in London) is by no means a stretch. However, and this is the one problem I've with this article, the writer does not attempt to contrast her experience with the more denigrating process and outrageous financial extortion committed by Western embassies, especially the U.S., upon visa applicants in those same African countries she cries foul about.

It's the way an embassy turns down your visa request that tells you everything you need to know about the country in question, writes Michela Wrong.

...I've written too many articles criticising Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government to expect an easy time getting a visa. Would it be yes, would it be no? Neither, as it happened. I should have remembered the words of the late John Spencer, Haile Selassie's legal adviser, who wrote wonderingly of "the Byzantine arabesques of Ethiopian thought processes, habits and face-saving devices" he witnessed at the royal court. This, after all, is the ancient empire that coined the notion of "wax and gold", where the superficial meaning of a verse serves only to hide its real message. To just say "no" would be not only rude, it would be to descend to the level of the crass "ferenji" (foreigner). Far better to make the applicant jump through hoop after bureaucratic hoop. Eventually, she will tire and go away, uncertain as to whether she was actually refused a visa or fell victim to sheer incompetence.

Article also includes writer's experiences applying for permission to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea.

Michela Wrong is refused a visa (New Statesman) January 9, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Child Labor

Yet another reason to be thankful, and responsible, for we are the lucky ones...

Asmara Chanie herds cattle out to grazing fields at sunrise and herds them back at sundown. He is paid in sacks of barley, which feeds his family of six.

Himnat Yenealem scrubs floors, washes clothes and roasts coffee beans for her employer's breakfast. In return, she receives food, shelter and clothing.

Their jobs are the norm in Africa, where manual labor is the most common form of employment. But their ages would surprise many outsiders.

As Rural Ethiopians Struggle, Child Labor Can Mean Survival (Washington Post Foreign Service) January 3, 2006

African Tibet

I wonder if the Surma, or other ethnic people living in Ethiopia's remote regions, have heard of the ongoing post election strife. Would they even care? Ethiopia's population is over 74 million, and growing, with over 70 different ethnic groups. Hard to imagine how EPRDF, CUD, or UEDF, each largely representing individual ethnic groups, can claim to be the legitimate representative of Ethiopians. The Surma, as fierce as they look (savage by Western standards), have a strict code of conduct to solve disputes...And turn the concept of beauty upon its head!

In pictures: Ethiopia's remote people (BBC News) January 3, 2006

Monday, January 02, 2006


Yet again, another year begins and I give thought to running the Los Angeles Marathon. Mind you, the event is only two months away, but I'm sure early training does not apply to me. After all, I'm Ethiopian, have the same genes as the greatest distance runners in the world...Enough said, right? As soon as I juggle some free time from my three jobs, I'm on it!

I flew into Addis early last year on British Airways, arrived at 2am...So early even my ride was still asleep, having expected me to arrive at 2pm later that day (one can only imagine the scare I gave them calling that early!). By 4:30am, we were on Bole road and I caught a strange sight of a group of young women running, head scarf (shash) on some, white shawl (netela) wrapped around others, and all wearing sneakers. "They're training," my ride told me,"training to be the next Derartu Tulu." Reading the following article brought back memories of that early morning.

...So that's what the spunky girl with matchstick legs and a ponytail did. She ran along the rutted dirt roads of the Ethiopian highlands, barefoot or in torn sneakers, trying to improve her endurance. She ran up the wide, cracked steps to Meskel Square in the capital, while goats wandered by and clouds of pollution turned the air charcoal gray.

...Inspired by these new national heroines, Tesdale and thousands of other girls have left their villages and come to the capital, living with relatives in hardscrabble neighborhoods, training on their own and dreaming of being able to compete.

Facing Servitude, Ethiopian Girls Run for a Better Life (Washington Post Foreign Service) December 29, 2005

Sunday, January 01, 2006

And so, it begins...

Happy New Year!

Hopefully, when I get more free time (yah right!), I plan to add more content and make this a true blog.