Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin passed away

...Tsegaye was a poet, playwright, essayist and theatre director. He has also played a great role for the freedom of expression to flourish in Ethiopia. He was forced to live in exile due to persistent persecution by the regime for his critical writings. He was censored and almost all his theatre works were banned from public scene.

Recently he won the Norwegian authors’ union’s freedom of expression prize for 2005.

Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin passed away (Ethiopian Media Forum) 25 February, 2006

A Short Walk Through His Literary Park, by Professor Negussay Ayele

Saturday, February 25, 2006

ION update: 02/25/06

Lukewarm success for UEDF, snubbed by CUDP
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1170 25/02/2006

Response was lukewarm for the UEDF’s call to hold a joint conference of all the political parties and create a joint task force to organise it.

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other Ethiopian small opposition groups in exile appears to have given a good welcome to the call recently issued by the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) to hold a conference of all the political parties (ION 1165) and create a joint task force to prepare for it. But the same cannot be said for the executive of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in the United States, which completely rejected this idea through an official letter from their executive in Washington D.C., Major Yosef, a former member of the EDU. The executives of the CUDP in the USA informed their counterparts on the UEDF that “the Ethiopian people were mobilised behind the CUD’s eight point demands” and that they had neither the mandate nor the time to attend a conference of all parties. This attitude consisted of snubbing an initiative that had not been initiated by them. It was confirmed by the head of the CUDP for North America, Berhanu Mewa. Speaking at a public meeting in San Jose, he stated that his party was fully capable of acting alone and therefore had no intention of cooperating with the UEDF. It is true that the CUDP leadership in the United States has iron nerves: it is at the head of a war fund estimated at $700,000 collected from the Ethiopian Diaspora. However, the CUDP’s refusal to cooperate with the UEDF does nothing to settle the party’s internal problems. It had been effectively decapitated by the imprisonment of its leaders and is still hesitant as to what strategy to adopt vis-à-vis the Ethiopian government. To be sure, the CUDP has been deeply divided since a large number of its elected MPs (89 to date) have accepted to take up their seat in Parliament whereas others are maintaining their decision to boycott this institution.

Delegation going to Ethiopia to find out how journalists are treated
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1170 25/02/2006

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ, an NGO based in New York) is to send a delegation to Ethiopia on a mission to find out how journalists are treated there. It will be led by Julia Crawford, coordinator of CPJ’s Africa program and is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa in the first week in March. Crawford and two other members of the CPJ (Gwen Ifill and Frank Smyth) met the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Kassahun Ayele on 22 December 2005 to call for the 16 journalists then imprisoned in Ethiopia to be freed and to discuss the preparations for their mission there. Three years ago the CPJ had already sent the then head of its Africa program on a fact-finding mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ethiopian opponents in Asmara
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

A partisan of the previous Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam has drawn closer to a group of Ethiopian opponents based in Asmara.

The interest Alem Zewd holds in the Ethiopian Patriotic Front (EPF, group of Ethiopian opponents based in Asmara) is on the up. A former Member of the Ethiopian Parliament and partisan of former President Mengistu Haile Mariam, Alem Zewd once again visited Eritrea. He claims to represent the EPF, whose true President, Colonel Imru Wonde, is undergoing treatment in a Washington hospital after a stroke. Wonde is therefore unable to confirm or deny Alem Zewd’s supposed role in this front, whose situation appears to have improved somewhat since the blow-out of the Ethiopian political crisis after the May 2005 elections. Nevertheless, the EPF is still subject to the strict control by Eritrean officials, affected to this task by the Asmara authorities.

The current leader of the EPF in Asmara is a former teacher from Wello named Getachew. He replaces Aberu Atalay, also known by the name of Meskerem, who is believed to be in hospital in Germany. Two former EPF leaders, Colonel Tadesse and Tesfaye Getachew are out of the game: the first is under house arrest and the second is believed to have been liquidated by the Eritrean authorities. In the field, the EPF elements are divided into two groups, one of which rejects the finicky control by Eritrea while the other accepts to be put under close scrutiny by the authorities of Asmara. Alem Zewd is working with the EPF faction that is under the thumb of Eritrea, although in the past he has been suspected of sympathising with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the hard core of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the coalition in power in Addis Ababa.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CUD refuse to enter a plea

...None of the accused answered questions, saying the trial was political. Some wore black t-shirts and put their hands over their mouths when asked to plead.

...One of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leaders, Bertukan Medeksa, a former judge, said the court was controlled by Mr Meles, who had already found them guilty.

Some diplomats told the BBC they feared that the trial could drag on for a long time.

Key Ethiopia treason trial starts (BBC) 23 February, 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A lion in winter

Robel Teklemariam has lived in the United States for more than two decades, long enough to have fielded two lifetimes' worth of questions about his native Ethiopia.

Those questions have followed him to Italy, where he is the entire Ethiopian team at the Winter Olympics: the coach, vice chairman of the Ethiopian National Ski Federation, equipment manager and support staff.

...He finished 84th in the 15-kilometer race on Friday, and he'll try to improve his finish when he competes in the sprint today.

Although Teklemariam isn't even close to being considered a medal favorite, he has accomplished his goal of representing his country and dispelling some myths.

..."For me, it's not just about Ethiopia," he says. "I don't think it should be a sport for only one group of people. It's such a beautiful sport, I want everybody to enjoy it. Skiing is such a great sport. You have to share it. For me, when people ask me about the Olympics, it's good because they ask about Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's lone Olympian, once scared to sleep in the dark, offers a profile in courage (Houston Chronicle) February 22, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Africa's "renaissance" men

...By most independent accounts, last May's parliamentary elections were free and fair. But when results revealed that the opposition won overwhelmingly in Addis Ababa, the capital, Meles responded by sweeping up thousands of rioting protesters and arresting political enemies. More than 80 people were reportedly killed in clashes with police last year.

Now Meles says he is likely to step down in 2010, after what would be almost two decades in power...

...Uganda was once at the forefront of the so-called African renaissance. Both Clinton and President Bush visited Museveni and praised his leadership in combating AIDS, helping to burnish the Ugandan's reputation at home.

But when huge crowds welcomed opposition leader Kizza Besigye, a former Museveni ally, home from exile last fall, the president promptly had him arrested on charges of treason and rape. He also threatened to prosecute Besigye's wife...

...Kenya's 2002 election marked a rare peaceful turnover of power to an African opposition party. In 2003, Kibaki was honored with a state dinner when he visited Washington.

But U.S. officials are debating whether to again cut development aid, as they did a year ago after Kenya's anti-corruption czar, John Githongo, resigned in frustration.

After fleeing to London amid death threats, Githongo said this month that he had told Kibaki about bogus government contracts. But Githongo said the Kenyan president did nothing, leaving him "dangling in the wind"...

Africa's 'New Generation' Likened to Old (Los Angeles Times) February 20, 2006

Zalambessa, Ethiopia

It's hard to tell which stones are the rubble of war and which are the ingredients of reconstruction in the frontier town of Zalambessa.

In 1998, Eritrea's soldiers invaded and destroyed this town on the disputed border with Ethiopia at the start of a two-year war in which 70,000 people were killed.

..."We have to survive with what we have now, and we are feeling the threat of war," businessman Hailu Zerafa, 70, said.

When he came back two years ago, his grinding mill, grain store and bar had been destroyed and all the hardware had been carted to Eritrea. His wife had returned from an Eritrean jail but, weakened by sickness, she died months later. "The Eritreans took all of my property, including my wife. They didn't even leave a nail. Now I have nothing -- zero and zero," he said.

Hailu, and people like him, are now rebuilding their homes and businesses, in the shadow of a military standoff playing out just yards from...

Rebirth, fear on ruined Ethiopia-Eritrea frontier (Reuters) February 20, 2006

ION update: 02/20/06

Mimi Sebhatu wins all the stakes in Ethiopia
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

After having been one of the three firms to be short listed last year by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Agency (EBA) (ION 1133), Zami Public Connection is one of the lucky two winners of a license to operate a radio station on the FM waveband. This firm has good contacts with the current regime in Ethiopia. It is owned by the former reporter on Voice of America (VOA) Mimi Sebhatu and her husband Zerihun Teshome, who is also the general manager of the weekly publication in the Amharic language Iftin. The couple passes on the viewpoints of the Ethiopian authorities into the journalistic circles in Addis Ababa and to Ethiopians abroad. The second FM license was awarded to Tisae Fine Arts & Adei Promotion owned by the actor Abebe Balcha and his partners.

Dereje Bekele promoted
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

The former independent MP Dereje Bekele has just obtained an official post. Bekele had joined the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM, opposition), led by Bulcha Demeksa, during the May 2005 elections, but was later expelled from the party. Last month he was appointed advisor on rural development issues to the office of Abadula Gemeda, the former Minister of Defence and the current head of the Oromia Regional State. Bekele had been a deputy minister on Oromia matters reporting to the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister during the transition regime at the beginning of the 1990s and subsequently worked for the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Corporation. After that, he distanced himself from the Ethiopian regime while nevertheless remaining a moderate opponent. He therefore quickly came into dispute with Demeksa and other OFDM leaders who accused him of supporting the government because he held the OFDM responsible for the current instability in the Oromia region. The OFDM then expelled him. He has now rallied behind Gemeda, who is the head of the Oromo People Democratic organizationon (OPDO, member of the governing coalition). This lends credence to Bekele's detractors who accuse him of wanting to turn the OFDM into a branch of the OPDO.

Meles Zenawi invites Louis Michel
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

During his recent visit to Brussels, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia invited the European Commissioner Louis Michel to Addis Ababa.

The European Commissioner for Development Louis Michel is trying to take advantage of the momentum built up by the visit to Brussels on 4 February by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (ION 1168) to continue peace talks. During the visit, Zenawi invited Michel to Addis Ababa to see the situation in his country for himself. Michel considered his decision carefully and set a condition to accepting the invitation: that he be allowed to visit the imprisoned opposition leaders. The Ethiopian authorities gave their agreement on this point and Michel went to Addis Ababa from 15 to 17 February. He is to have a long meeting with Meles Zenawi on 16 February and then to go on to interview the political prisoners in the prison in Addis, making him the first foreign political official to do so. Michel should also have meetings with MPs, the families of political prisoners and the representatives of the European Union and the United States in Addis Ababa.

Michel aims to discuss with the Ethiopian authorities about the conditions for freeing the political prisoners, or at least bringing them to trial. It would appear that only the second option will be retained, as the Ethiopian Prime Minister is still staying firmly entrenched in his position on the imprisonment of the leaders of the Ethiopian opposition. In that case, the European Commissioner had planned to seek for the in-principle approval of having international observers to ensure a fair trial of these opposition members. A source at the European Commission in Brussels this week told The Indian Ocean Newsletter that the European Union may envisage discussing the resumption of its aid to Ethiopia. But that would be only after the Ethiopian authorities have given their assurances on this point of the presence of international observers at the opposition leaders' trial and the resumption of dialogue between the Ethiopian government and its political opposition.

Two American Democrat Congressmen support Asmara
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

Two American Congressmen, members of the Democratic Party (DP) James P. Moran (Virginia) and Betty McCollun (Minnesota) this week brought their support to the Organization of Eritrean-Americans (OEA) which is waging a campaign for Ethiopia to implement the border agreement with Eritrea. The OEA organized a demonstration on 13 February in front of the US State Department to put pressure on the United States, the main witness to the Algiers agreement to have the 2002 ruling by Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC) applied. Created in 1998 and based in Washington DC, the OEA sees itself as the voice of Eritrea to the American Administration and media. Betty McCollun, who is a member of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa Global Human Rights and International Operations, and James P. Moran sent the OEA a letter in which they both congratulated its members for bringing such a large group together at this demonstration.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Banned Ethiopian clear to compete

Teklemariam has been cleared to compete in Turin, after his five-day suspension was lifted by the International Skiing Federation (FIS).

He was one of 12 athletes banned for high levels of haemoglobin, but a new blood test has given him the all clear.

Teklemariam, Ethiopia's first ever Winter Olympian, will take part in Friday's 15km, next Wednesday's sprint and the 50km on Saturday 25 February...

Banned Ethiopian clear to compete (BBC) 15 February, 2006

ION Update: 02/16/06

A discreet visit to Brussels
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

At his request, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia has had a meeting at a secret location in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia went to Brussels on 4 February, on a surprise visit to the European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel. Their meeting was held at a secret location in the Belgian capital in order to avoid demonstrations by opponents to the regime. Also present at the meeting were the Ethiopian Ambassador to Brussels Berhane Gebre-Christos and the leader of the European Union (EU) delegation to Addis Ababa, Tim Clarke. Meles Zenawi’s visit to Brussels was not listed in the European Commissioner’s diary. In fact, the Ethiopian Prime Minister came at the last minute in the hope of obtaining a resumption of European aid (461 million euros for the period 2002-2007), particularly in funds for the Ethiopian budget.

However, the Ethiopian opposition got wind of this meeting before it took place. On 3 February, the European Commissioner’s electronic inbox was flooded with e-mails denouncing the repression of opponents in Ethiopia. A delegation from the Joint Civic and Political Task Force of Ethiopians in Europe even went to Michel’s home to hand him a letter signed by its representatives Gebeyaw Nigussie, Dadimos Haile and Abebe Bogale, which included a reminder of the resolution adopted on 15 December 2005 by the European Parliament. This text called for the immediate and unconditional freeing of political prisoners, for a commission to be set up to investigate violations of human rights and to investigate frauds committed during the May 2005 election and also for sanctions to be taken against members of the Addis Ababa regime.

The message would appear to have got through, because Michel told the Ethiopian Prime Minister that the present situation suited no-one and that any resumption of political dialogue with the EU supposed that the Ethiopian opposition would be treated in a manner customary in a democratic State. Louis Michel also made a plea for the freeing of political prisoners. “We did not want to discuss aid. It is not on the agenda. We will discuss it when political dialogue has resumed” the European Commissioner’s spokesman told The Indian Ocean Newsletter. However, the European Commission felt Meles Zenawi’s wanting to discuss his country’s situation with it to be “positive”. The European Commission even considers that it is the sole international institution with which Meles Zenawi still wants to keep a discussion channel open. It hopes to obtain from him a road map for bringing the situation in his country back to normality.

ACP-EU assembly mission cancelled at the last minute
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

A mission that was to have gone to Eritrea and then on to Ethiopia, was cancelled on 3 February 2006, just two days before it was scheduled to leave for Asmara. This mission should have been led by the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), Glenys Kinnock from the United Kingdom and Georges Rawiri from Gabon. The reason for the sudden cancellation was that President Isayas Afeworki refused to receive the delegation. On the Eritrean side, the explanation is that the government of Asmara has nothing in particular against the JPA, but that over the last four years all of the visits by foreign delegations have produced nothing positive concerning the border dispute with Ethiopia and they have constituted a “waste of resources”. However, last week Eritrea decided to close its embassy in Brussels “for financial reasons” and transfer the corresponding jurisdiction concerning relations with the European Union (EU) to its embassy in The Netherlands. This illustrates the nature of Eritrean feeling about the European Union. The government of Asmara considers that the EU has not applied enough pressure on the government of Ethiopia to oblige it to accept the border defined by the International Court of Justice. Meanwhile, relations between the European Parliament and Ethiopia fare hardly any better. The same 3 February, the Ethiopian Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos informed the European Parliament that the Ethiopian portion of the mission had been cancelled. This time, the pretext given was the last minute announcement by the ACP countries, on 2 February, that they would not be sending anyone to take part in the JPA delegation to Ethiopia due to “financial difficulties” in their group. Although Ms Kinnock stated that she intended to go to Addis Ababa in any case, the Ethiopian officials informed the European Parliament that without the presence of representatives from the ACP countries, the mission had lost all of its “joint” character and therefore “no longer had any point”. The view widely held inside the circles of the Ethiopian opposition and the European Parliament, is that Addis Ababa had taken this decision in reprisal to the preliminary report on the 2005 elections written by the mission of European observers led by the Portuguese Socialist MEP Ana Gomes.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blair meets Meles

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said he wants to see Ethiopia resolve its internal problems and continue on a democratic path.

…"The government won the election, there was then a reaction to it, there was then, perhaps, if I can say this without being too undiplomatic, an over reaction to that, which often happens," said Mr Blair.

"We have to try and resolve the situation, the human rights issues, but do so - and I want to do so - in a way that supports Ethiopia."

Mr Zenawi said if there had been flaws, Ethiopia would learn from its mistakes and move on. He respected Britain's decision to withhold government aid.

UK PM targets Ethiopia at summit (BBC) 12 February, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ethiopia's First Winter Olympian

A little history for those who may be skeptic. In their first winter games (1988), Jamaica's bobsled team was seen as a novelty as they had many technical difficulties, injuries and crashes. In the second games (1992) the team had drastically improved. The 4-man team came in 14th ahead of the US, French, Russian and Italian teams, while in the 2-man event the Jamaican team shocked the world by beating the Swedish national champions and coming in 10th place. No matter where he places at the finish line, Robel is a first for Ethiopia. Ski, Robel, Ski!

PRAGELATO, Italy (Reuters) - With his black skin and long dreadlocks, Robel Teklemariam stands out from the other cross-country skiers at the Turin Olympics.

But next Friday, he will line up alongside them for the men's 15 km classical race to become the first Ethiopian to compete at the Winter Olympic Games.

Ethiopia's Robel with a cause at Turin Olympics (Reuters) Feb 8, 2006

Struggling to end food aid

ADDIS ABABA, 7 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - There is a joke told in Ethiopia that encapsulates the country's struggle with food aid dependency. In it, two subsistence farmers are talking about the year's poor rains and the impact on their harvests.

The older, his face and hands worn from a lifetime of hard work, turns to his younger friend and offers some advice: "It is not the rains in Ethiopia you need to worry about, but whether it rains in America or Canada."

For the last three decades, millions of Ethiopians have depended on food aid from the donors. Each year, regardless of harvests or rains, at least five million Ethiopians need food aid for six months to survive...

ETHIOPIA: Struggling to end food aid dependency (IRIN) Feb 7, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

ION update: 02/06/06

Mediators to the rescue
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1167 04/02/2006

In its efforts to calm the opposition and soften the Ethiopian regime, American diplomacy is now calling on university professors to act as mediators.

Professor Donald Levine of the University of Chicago has been in Addis Ababa for a few weeks and was recently authorised by the penitentiary administration to meet the leaders of the Congress for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) in Kaliti prison where they are being held. Before that, this professor of sociology, a specialist in Ethiopian affairs, had met with officials from the Ethiopian government.

In a message sent at the beginning of the year to the ethiopundit web site, Levine stated that he wanted to see Ethiopia move in a new direction in 2006 in which “old hatreds give way to new possibilities of living together harmoniously”. At the same time he announced that he was intending to go to Ethiopia on 7 January for several weeks, “to promote some movement in this direction”. In Addis Ababa, his intention was “to attempt to meet with leaders from all sides”. Afterwards, he should go to the south of the country to inaugurate the Awassa Peace Center on 5 February, as The Indian Ocean Newsletter had already announced (ION 1164).

This move is part of a strategy devised by the United States deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Donald Yamamoto, to use the services of Levine and another intellectual specialised in Ethiopia, Paul Henze, to try to influence both sides of the Ethiopian political conflict. The idea is hence to embark on route to compromise which could lead to the freeing of the opposition leaders and the latter accepting to take up their seats in the Federal Parliament and lifting the order to boycott the institutions and other civil resistance actions.

Meles Zenawi’s new advisor
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1167 04/02/2006

Annette Scheckler, the former head of Voice of America’s (VOA) Horn of Africa service, has become a new special political advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Scheckler has been in conflict with VOA since she left the station a few years ago. No official announcement has been made about her new position, but according to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter in Addis Ababa, this is indeed the case. In fact, Scheckler has just gone to the Ethiopian capital to negotiate the terms of her employment and will subsequently be based at the Ethiopian embassy in Washington, while nevertheless reporting directly to the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin. Her work should consist of lobbying American officials in favour of the Ethiopian government. This contract is believed to be the result of an intervention in her favour by one of her friends, Igigayehou “Mimi” Sebhatu, who is a journalist close to the Ethiopian regime. Sebhatu was formerly a VOA reporter in the United States and founded the company Zami Public Connection in Addis Ababa with her husband (ION 1133). Scheckler is the wife of an Ethiopian former member of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP, opposition), whose first name is Dawit who committed suicide last year. She had been in conflict with an Africa executive of VOA, the Ethiopian Negussie Mengesha whom she accused of being a member of the Ethiopian opposition. Ousted from VOA in 1998, she released a twenty page letter to the public in which she contested VOA’s decision and attacked Negussie Mengesha (ION 855).

Chaos in the customs
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1167 04/02/2006

There have recently been some sackings in various departments of the tax administration.

Last week, the new minister of revenue sacked the general manager of the Federal Inland Revenue Authority (FIRA), Woldegabriel Naizghi. The latter was a protégé of the previous Minister of Revenue Getachew Belay who was not retained in his functions in the cabinet reshuffle last year after being beaten in the Parliamentary elections in May 2005. Woldegabriel Naizghi was considered a close ally of Getachew Belay and opponents had in the past gone as far as criticising his alleged Eritrean origin. He also holds an American Green Card (which gives the holder the right of permanent abode in the USA) won in the annual lottery and had gone to the United States a year ago to renew his residence card.

In the wave of dismissals, the general manager of the Ethiopian Custom Authority (ECA), Damtew Demissie was also sacked and replaced by Bogale Negash, the former chief of administration (a sort of mayor) of the Jimma Special Zone. Bogale Negash is a member of the executive of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO, a component in the government coalition). Solomon Gebreamlak, the head of the intelligence department of the FIRA, was also sacked from his post. A member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa), he is also chairman of the Ethiopian Mineral Development Share Company (EMDSC), the only State firm active in the mining sector.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Selassie I on Meet the Press

Selassie I on Meet the Press is another in a collection of old video footage of Haile Selassie, this time on a visit to the U.S. in the early sixties. Watch the emperor answer questions posed by reporters on Meet the Press, the television newshour still broadcast today. Questions regarding the newly formed OAU, Kennedy's ongoing fight with civil rights in America's South, and Africa's struggle to rid itself of colonialism are some of the questions posed to the emperor.

Meles rejects abuse accusations

...Meles, in an interview with Reuters, scoffed at the Amnesty report as based on second-hand, biased information.

...Amnesty said those detained had reportedly been accused of links with the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition group fighting for independence in the southwestern region, although none has yet been charged.

Ethiopia's Information Ministry also ridiculed the Amnesty report, saying 86 students had been arrested "in compliance with the laws of our country" for throwing bombs, breaking property and disrupting classes.

"The news disseminated by Amnesty International that thousands of students are detained in Ethiopia is misinforming and incredible," the ministry added in a statement.

..."It's not a fair criticism," Meles said of the reports. "It's this type of sloppy reporting and, coupled with that, the vilification of the government by supporters of the opposition involved in the street action, that has distorted the image of Ethiopia."

Ethiopia's Meles rejects abuse accusations (Reuters) February 1, 2006

'Thousands arrested' in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has arrested thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group over the past three months, according to Amnesty International.

The London-based human rights group said students were among those who have been rounded up since November.

Amnesty said the arrests follow protest calls by the rebel Oromo Liberation Front against alleged government fraud.

..."Those detained have reportedly been accused of links with the OLF, although none of them has yet been charged," it said.

It called on Ethiopian authorities to either charge or release the detainees and investigate alleged mistreatment of some of those held.

Meanwhile, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Frezer Negash, an online journalist for the
Ethiopian Review, had been arrested on Friday and was being held without charge in Addis Ababa.

'Thousands arrested' in Ethiopia (BBC News) February 1, 2006