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