Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year in Review 2007

The Good
Opposition free at last – A second chance, so it seemed.
Haile owns world marathon recordAnbessaw, brings home glory.
Lucy exhibit draws record crowdDinkinesh, star in America.
Beyonce & Ludacris perform in Ethiopia – Night on world media map.
Ethiopia’s new coastline in Persian Gulf – Little Ethiopia.

The Bad
Historical items on eBay – Selling away our heritage.
Non-profit, or for-profit? - Human greed has no bounds.
Ethiopia’s rumour mill - aka Confusion Comité.
Ethiopia’s Brain Drain - The rich robbing the poor.

The Ugly
Saving man’s best friend – Four legs good, two legs bad.
Evils of man - When violence goes unchecked.


Ethiopian domestic workers in Iraq

Despite the dangers, countless horror stories, young Ethiopian females continue Mid-East migration in search of a dream.

...Yobdar Abu, 23, arrived in the Kurdish region in October via Dubai, having been told she was headed for Turkey.

Shame of Imported Labor in Kurdish North of Iraq (New York Times) December 29, 2007
Ethiopia bans citizens from seeking work in Lebanon (Daily Star) May 5, 2008

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Washington sponsors the moderate opposition

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1228 17/12/2007
Speaking in an interview in the Amharic language on Dinq TV, a television channel in Calgary (Canada) owned by Ethiopian nationals, Debebe Eshetu, the head of public relations for the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition), gave some details about the aid the US government has promised to the moderate opposition in Ethiopia. According to him, Washington has offered the CUDP $20 million provided it accepts to participate in elections in 2010. For Debebe Eshetu, there is no doubt that the CUDP, which he represents, will indeed accept the deal.

Debebe Eshetu, a professional actor, had in the past been a member of the party led by former President Haile Mariam Mengistu. He is now a member of the CUDP central committee and is loyal to the faction of this party formed around Berhanu Nega and Ms Birtukan Mediksa.

However, this faction is not getting everything its own way in Addis Ababa. Last week the partisans of their rival Hailu Shawel prevented Birtukan Mediksa and her friends from entering the CUDP premises. Then on 14 December, the police prevented them from holding a press conference; it considered that their group was not legally recognised.

Hence, while Washington holds the “financial carrot” under the opposition’s nose, the Ethiopian government is still wielding the stick.

To stay or not to stay in Somalia

Indian Ocean Newletter N° 1228 21/12/2007
When he speaks in public on the subject, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi denies that his country’s troops are having a hard time bringing the Islamic rebels in Somalia to heel. He even accuses United Nations agencies of not having been "positive" enough on the role played by the Ethiopian forces there. However, the internal discussions within the Ethiopian military executive are far less optimistic.

On 11 December 2007, from 11 in the morning until well after nightfall, Meles Zenawi held a meeting with his generals behind closed doors to evaluate the situation in Somalia. Those present included the army chief of staff Samora Yunis. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter, several participants in this conclave reached the conclusion that the Ethiopian army is faltering through the poor quality of its intelligence sources on the situation in Somalia. The morale of Ethiopian troops on the ground is at a low ebb in the face of repeated attacks by insurgents and the Somalian Transitional Federal Government’s inability to cope.

A few generals went as far as to suggest withdrawing the Ethiopian troops, at least from certain neighbourhoods in Mogadishu. One of the participants even said that in the event of a full retreat, the Ethiopian servicemen should be disarmed, in order to avert a possible mutiny. But the majority of the generals present in the meeting rejected this proposal. They pointed out that disarming an elite force would have a detrimental effect on the morale of the rest of the army and so cause even more problems. In the end, nothing was decided and no date set for a further meeting on this subject.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Private" radio stations hit airwaves

There was a communist era joke about a private TV station in Soviet Union with permit to broadcast on separate channel. But when excited viewers switched to Channel 2, all they saw was a man pointing a Kalashnikov telling them to listen to the man on Channel 1.

...Some critics say Meaza [Birru] and Mimi Sebihatu, a veteran of Voice of America who is setting up the other private radio station, were selected over 10 other applicants because of pro-government sympathies. Both have had shows on government radio.

Ethiopia cracks open airwaves to commercial radio (Christian Science Monitor) December 19, 2007
Mimi Sebhatu wins all the stakes in Ethiopia (Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169) February 18, 2006

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seye Abraha, and Berhanu Nega?

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1228 15/12/2007
The Ethiopian former minister of defence and TPLF dissident has been keeping a low profile since he was freed from prison. He did not join the new party launched by the other TPLF dissident formed around Grebru Asrat, the former President of the Tigray Regional State. At the beginning of December in Denver (Colorado) Seye Abraha met one of the leaders of the moderate opposition, Berhanu Nega, to discuss possible political cooperation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mexico in Addis, 'Etiopia' in Mexico

Food for thought as you bite into your next Carne asada.

According to Berhane Deressa, City Mayor of Addis Ababa, the Mexico Square found in Addis got its name to acknowledge the efforts of the Mexican government to restore Ethiopian administration that was out of place during the fascist Italy occupation. Capital learned that Mexico too has a place named after Ethiopia. Andy Goldman (Photo) told Capital that there is a place called "Etiopia" in Mexico City with its own subway stop, which is four stations away from Balderas Station.

Mexico in Addis, 'Etiopia' in Mexico (Capital) December 10, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ethiopian school girls segregated in Israel

Good enough to die serving Israeli Defence Force, but too dark to be considered real Jews.

...It was recently discovered that four Ethiopian girls enrolled in Lamerchav Elementary School are learning in complete isolation from their peers. They study in separate classrooms, have their own recess time and are even reportedly given daily cab fare so as not to ride home on the bus with other students. TV: Segregation at Petah Tikva religious school ( December 6, 2007
Interview with Avraham Neguise, Chairman of the Ethiopian Coalition

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Services held for slain father and daughter

There was mass turnout by Ethiopian community in Los Angeles today for church service in remembrance of a father and daughter slain by their own family member earlier this week. Mulushewa Tebedge brutally murdered his father and sister earlier this week in what police are calling a fit of rage brought on by history of mental illness. Church services were held at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for 75-year-old Getahun T. Reta, while a separate service was conducted for his daughter, 33-year-old Zerfie Tebeje Getahun, at a Pentecostal Church. Some members from both congregations united following church services for meal and prayers at the Orthodox Church, recognizing the need to eulogize father and daughter under one roof. Nice to see there are those in our community who still believe transcending all else is being principled.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Asmara, the magnet for opponents

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1227 01/12/2007
A small country with big ambitions, Eritrea has become the headquarters of opponents from all over the Horn of Africa. Asmara uses them against Ethiopia or as bargaining counters to make its presence felt on the regional diplomatic scene. But its aid is not without obligations, as many of its “guests” have found out to their cost.

Full steam ahead for Ethiopia. While Eritrea is subsidising the Islamist leaders of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), founded in Asmara in September, it is putting the overwhelming bulk of its support into backing Ethiopian rebels. Some leaders of these Ethiopian rebel groups have lived for many years in Asmara, such as Daoud Ibsa of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), along with his staff and other of this organisation’s officials. Hundreds of OLF recruits have been stationed and trained in a camp near Teseney. The head of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), “Admiral” Mohamed Omar Osman, is frequently in Asmara where the leader of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), Musse Tegene, moved after leaving his residence in Geneva. Mussa Ibrahim of the ARDUF (Afar rebel movement) is also one of Asmara’s new residents, where Gelfato Feka of the Sidama Liberation Front and Meazo Make of Southern Ethiopia People’s for Justice and Equality are also “guests” of the Eritrean government. The movements of these Ethiopian opponents are monitored by the security services and the Eritrean government party and they are under the control of Colonels Teame and Mussa. The ONLF, which can take pride in an extensive action against a Chinese mining company in Ethiopia, carried off the lion’s share of funds given by Libya to Eritrea to finance the Ethiopian opposition. The other Ethiopian rebel groups had to be content with the strict minimum.

Manipulation over Darfur. A great many Darfur militants have had Eritrean support, ever since Sharif Harir, a Zaghawa who joined the AND in 1995, and the former governor Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige. Khalil Ibrahim and his JEM movement were for a while strongly present in Asmara, whereas Abdel Wahid Mohamed an-Nour on the other hand came there in 2004 but was very soon irritated by the Eritrean interference. Today, the splits between the Darfur factions are so wide that no rebel movement stays in Asmara for any length of time. However, the band of frequent “visitors” includes Sharif Harir (who acts as an intermediary with Chad), Ahmed Tugod Lissan who still has his old habits, Ahmed Abd-el-Shafie (a Fur, the head of the “traditional” wing of the SLM), Diraige of course and Souleiman Marjan (a Meidob who is at the head of Unity, one of the splinter groups of the SLM). Khamis Abdullah Abakar of the United Front for Liberation and Developement and Abdullaziz Daffalh of the Darfur Revolution Democratic Front have arrived there recently. The two assistants of a leader of one of the SLM factions, Mustafa Eisa Mustafa and Elhadi Idris live there too. But the Eritrean leaders do not hesitate to go to Darfur themselves. Yemane Gebreab, the political advisor to President Issayas Afeworki, spent several weeks in Abéché at the beginning of 2007 to try to coordinate the various Darfur rebel factions.

Strong arm tactics. These rebels are quickly brought to heel when they are no longer part of Eritrean diplomatic strategy or if they turn out to be too independent. So, the Sudanese rebels of the Eastern Front were used for military actions against Sudan and later for peace negotiations with Khartoum but were later sent back home. In 2005, the Darfur rebels present in Asmara were briefly “sequestrated” to make them adopt the strategy determined by Eritrea. Certain disgraced rebels were suddenly handed hefty bills for their stay in Asmara, a tab hitherto picked up by the Eritrean authorities. The fate of others was much less enviable. One EPPF leader, Tesfaye Getachew, died under torture in Eritrea, while his rival, Colonel Tadesse is under house arrest. The same happened to the former general secretary of the OLF turned dissident, Galasso Dilbo. As for the former Somalian warlord Hussein Aideed, who has been living in Asmara for several months, he is believed to be under high surveillance because Eritrea sees this former GI as a US agent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

VOA and DW block confirmed

...In recent days, the reports from listeners and monitors confirmed that all five short-wave frequencies used by VOA are being jammed. Broadcasts by the other major western broadcaster in Amharic, Germany's Deutsche Welle, have also been blocked.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving tragedy, again

Can it get any worse? Last Thanksgiving, tragedy struck in Oakland when two Eritrean brothers massacred their in-laws. This Thanksgiving weekend, a local Ethiopian in South L.A., Mulushewa Tebedge, brutally murdered his father and sister, dismembered their bodies and dumped them off Freeways in Fresno and Santa Barbara County. Besmam! Such gruesome acts are incomprehensible, even in an emotionally charged habesha culture. While authorities investigate the motive behind this brutal crime, the local community may already have the answer. It seems Mulushewa has long suffered from schizophrenia, making this story all the more tragic. Our hearts and prayers go to this family.

An Ethiopian immigrant has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing deaths of his father and sister, whose bodies were found near freeways in Fresno and Santa Barbara counties.

LA man charged with killing father, sister; bodies found dumped (Associated Press) November 26, 2007
News Video (KABC-TV)

Paving away old Addis

The Chinese shun the limelight in Ethiopia's capital, but traces of them are rarely far away.

...It is on the city's roads - potholed, dusty and permanently under construction - where the Chinese influence is most pronounced.

China in Africa: Developing ties (BBC) November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Great Ethiopia (Millennium) Run

Ethiopian runners Tsegaye Kebede and Wude Ayalew were impressive winners of the men’s and women’s race at the 2007 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run, the seventh edition of the annual 10Km international race, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

General staff tightens screw on officers

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1226 21/11/2007
The number of officers from the Ethiopian armed forces imprisoned in the military camp at Tatek has grown considerably these last few weeks. The latest to join them is General Alemeshet Degfe’s former secretary, the Oromo officer Major Teshome. Degfe is the former head of the air force who had been relieved of his functions last year at the same time as Generals Kumera Assefa and Asamenew Tsgie. Teshome has been imprisoned because he is accused of sympathising with General Degfe.

Several Ethiopian officers whom Addis Ababa government considers potential dissidents have been imprisoned in other military camps throughout the country: Adigrat, Chifra, Tolai, Bahr Dar and Titta.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mean streets of Addis

In Ethiopia, an estimated 150,000 children live on the streets. The story of Genet, now living in a safehouse in Addis Ababa, is similar to those of many such children, especially girls.

Genet's story: A life on the streets (BBC) November 20, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

CNN: Haile Gebrselassie Revealed

Follow one of the all-time greatest distance runners as he attempts to register his 25th world record. VIDEO

How did the diminutive Ethiopian rise to become one of the greatest athletes of all time? FULL STORY

Part one: At home in Ethiopia. The running man talks family, business and charity. VIDEO

Part two: The world-record breaker discusses how he began running and his illustrious career. VIDEO

Part three: Following Gebrselassie as he attempts to break the marathon world record in Berlin. VIDEO

Happiness again for Kenenisa

Ethiopian track heavyweight Kenenisa Bekele on Saturday married 22-year-old Dannawit Gebregziabher, an up-and-coming actress in Ethiopia's fledgling film industry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ethiopia's new coastline in Persian Gulf

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have bought a man-made island in the shape of Ethiopia that is part of an ambitious luxury development off the coast of Dubai, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Hollywood couple intend to use the reclaimed piece of land to showcase environmental issues and encourage people to live a greener life, the Emirates Today newspaper said.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Record Birr to U.S. dollar exchange

The Birr to U.S. dollar exchange rate is on track to reach 10:1, but don't expect any bargains on your next trip.

...Economists say the US dollars is up in the Ethiopian market due to the rising inflation in the country, which independent economists say has reached 22 percent but the government insists is only 12 percent.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Low Bridge!

Construction boom in Addis brings new obstacles for some, like this trucker who manged to get his load wedged under the ring road overpass (click photo to enlarge). Last I was in Addis, the ring road was still in need of posted signs (e.g., on-ramp, exit, low bridge!), supposedly left by Chinese builders for city administration to complete. Procrastinating officials may be counting on the usual Addis motorist remaining oblivious to road signs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fatal attraction

MEHARI Wodaje could not live with the fact the woman he wanted had just married another man -- so he strangled her with a telephone cord just days after she returned to Winnipeg from her lavish wedding in her native Ethiopia.

Jilted love blamed for killing, suicide bid (Winnipeg Free Press) November 6, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Two new regional parties in Ethiopia

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1225 03/11/2007
Two opposition political leaders have created regional political parties which have just been legally authorised by the Ethiopian Electoral Board. Merera Gudina has obtained official authorisation for his Oromo People’s Congress (OPC), a party only allowed to participate in elections in the Oromia Regional State. Merera Gudina is the former leader of the Oromo National Congress (ONC, opposition) but had been ousted from his post by members of the party better placed than he in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. For his part, the former President of the Tigray Regional State and dissident of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the coalition in power in Addis Ababa), Gebru Asrat [ION 1224] has obtained the legalisation of the Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty Party (ATDSP). However, this party will only be allowed to field candidates in elections in the Tigray region. In fact, these formations will be obliged to form alliances if they are to offer a political alternative to the electorate at a national level.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Getting real about the economy

Despite EPRDF's voodoo economics painting a rosy outlook, meaningful change will not occur until the government implements land reform and allows growth in private sector. Hard to imagine such policy is ever about socialist ideology, but more a means to control the people.

...The reasons for this economic crawl are not hard to find. Beyond the government-directed state, funded substantially by foreign aid, there is—almost uniquely in Africa—virtually no private-sector business at all.

A brittle Western ally in the Horn of Africa (The Economist) November 1, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saving man's best friend

Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him? ~Pierre Troubetzkoy

...The Gido Washa cave in Ethiopia has been used for years as a pit into which unwanted dogs were thrown. Dozens of animals died here every month until the Homeless Animal Protection Society in Addis Ababa intervened in July to save the last four dogs to be trapped in the cave. It took a week from start to finish.

Local doctor saves dogs a world away (KTRK/Houston) October 31, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dallas community suffers another murder

Only two months ago the Ethiopian community in Dallas mourned the death of Tadesse Kebede, shot during a store robbery. Now another hard working Ethiopian, Abate Hailu, has his life cut short by worthless thugs, monsters who casually destroy lives with no remorse.

...Abate left Ethiopia with his wife in 1992. A family member said they fled war for a safer life in America. They raised their two sons in North Texas. As friends and family gathered in front of Hailu's home on Sunday, it was clear the dream was over.

DPD: 2 Robbers Kill Convenience Store Owner (CBS 11 News) October 28, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Illicit trade costs $138 million annually

Ministry of Agriculture announced $100 million loss from illicit livestock trade just a few years ago, with promises back then of establishing trading centers, yet here we are again. No investor, let alone a struggling pastoralist, will risk their livelihood by participating in a centralized economy where the only guarantee is endless bureaucracy, and a diabolically high tax rate with no services in return.

..."The government will soon organise trading centres where pastoralists would receive competitive prices ... to discourage illicit trade which loses the country over $138 million annually," Assefa Mulugeta, head of the Agriculture Ministry's Livestock Department, told Reuters.

Al-Qa'eda in Horn of Africa

In the rapidly changing battleground against international terrorism, the arid plains of the Horn of Africa are becoming a steadily more significant base from which al-Qa'eda's followers can launch their attacks.

Al-Qa'eda target west from Horn of Africa (UK Telegraph) October 22, 2007

Beyonce & Ludacris perform in Ethiopia

Pop star Beyonce has joined millennium celebrations in Ethiopia with a concert for 5,000 fans.

...However reaction to Beyonce's opening act, multi-platinum-selling rapper Ludacris, was lukewarm from a crowd that tends to be loyal to music in its national language, Amharic.

"Rap music doesn't suit Ethiopia," said local music promoter Michael Melake.

"Ethiopians need a melody. It's all about the black American experience, and we don't relate to that." he said.

Beyonce marks Ethiopia millennium (BBC) October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Meles Zenawi blows hot and cold

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1224 20/10/2007
The Ethiopian military adventure in Somalia has hardly been the “lightning war” intended. Meles Zenawi will therefore probably hesitate before considering a similar operation in Eritrea. And yet, he will have to take an initiative on these two conflicts before the general election in 2010. Until then, the Ethiopian Prime Minister will also try to find a modus vivendi with the more moderate of his opponents. But severity remains the byword for the others, including the dissident members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition) who have been demanding, so far in vain, to be allowed to form a legal political party.

Washington tames the CUDP. Having persuaded Meles Zenawi to free the imprisoned members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition), Washington does not want the 2010 Ethiopian election to be a replay of the disastrous scenario of 2005. Some CUDP leaders visiting the United States were received by the State Department on 21 September (see newsflash sent to ION subscribers by email on 25/09/2007), to check out the possibility of a joint political platform by all the opposition with a view to participating in the 2010 election. Meanwhile, Washington wants the more radical elements of the Ethiopian opposition (such as the EPRP or the faction led by Hailu Shawel) to calm down or else be sidelined. However, the efforts by the US Ambassador to Addis Ababa, Donald Yamamoto, to bring Meles Zenawi to come to a compromise with his moderate opponents, and even accept their return to Parliament and the Addis Ababa city council to which some of them were elected in 2005 before being imprisoned, was torpedoed when the US Congress adopted the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 on 2 October.

OLF the next target for negotiations. Now that the CUDP leaders have come back into the fold, it is the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that is to be the target of moves to bring it to negotiate with the Ethiopian government. Norway, which has been trying to bring the Addis Ababa government and the OLF to the negotiating table for some years (ION 1211) is no longer in a position to do so now that it is on poor diplomatic terms with Ethiopia. Ephraim Isaac, who has acted as an intermediary between Meles Zenawi and the imprisoned CUDP leaders (ION 1204) would like to do likewise with the OLF. Nevertheless, contacted by The Indian Ocean Newsletter, the OLF spokesman Beyan H. Asoba categorically denied that his organisation had begun to negotiate with the Ethiopian government or that it had sent a delegation to Addis Ababa to do so. However, according to our sources a delegation of Oromo intellectuals close to the OLF faction backed by Eritrea and headed by Daoud Ibsa, had indeed arrived in Addis Ababa last week to speak to government representatives. This move would be in response to pressure from Washington which points out that the OLF could be trapped in Eritrea, in the same way that some of its elements were in Somalia at the beginning of 2007, in the event that a new border war were to break out with Ethiopia.

A plague on Tigrayan dissidents. For their part the former TPLF leaders, now become dissidents, have not had the benefit of any indulgence from their former comrades. Led by a former member of the TPLF central committee and the former President of the Tigray Regional State, Gebru Asrat, they are still waiting the response from the authorities to their demand for legislation to allow the authorisation of a political party, that they had filed several months ago. Meanwhile their activists have been the subject of various threats. In September 2007, Gebre Medhin Gebre Yohannes, Gebru Asrat’s former bodyguard now working on collecting the 3000 signatures needed to create a political party, was the target of an attempted assassination. Unidentified individuals fired shots at him while he was entering his home in the town centre of Maichew (South Tigray). Not only did the local police close the file, but two weeks later it arrested him and searched his home; they considered him a dangerous opponent and advised him to no longer take part in malicious political activity alongside TPLF dissidents. Other partisans of this future party were also arrested in Maichew and Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Orthodox watching rise in evangelical faith

As Ethiopia enters its third millennium, so does its Orthodox church, a venerable state-backed institution whose dominance is increasingly threatened by a myriad of evangelical faiths.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No change to ceremonial post

Contrary to earlier speculation, President Girma Wolde-Giorgis was reelected to another six-year-term.

Ethiopian president reelected for new six-year-term (AFP) October 9, 2007

Human rights!...Cabbie rights!

Passer-bys might mistake the gathering for another protest calling for human rights in Ethiopia, but the rally planned at Washington D.C.'s Freedom Plaza is organized by members of the city's taxi driver associations, many of whom are Ethiopian drivers.

...But these are anxious times for the Ethiopian immigrants who make up one of the largest groups of taxi drivers in the District. They and other cabdrivers are concerned about Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's impending decision about meters -- due Oct. 17 -- and how it might affect an industry that has provided a livelihood and a way of life.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

President Mohamed Ali?

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
An ambassador currently on vacation in the United States is tipped to become the next President of Ethiopia. However, Mohamed Ali has ties with the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), a member of the governing coalition. His nomination to replace the current President Girma Woldegiorgis could therefore contravene the legislation passed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, the governing coalition) after the presidency of Negasso Gidada. This measure stipulates that no member of a political organisation can be appointed to the post of President of Ethiopia.

Enduring disagreement in TPLF

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
The Ethiopian opposition is not alone in being riddled with rivalry. Rumours of conflict within the government coalition are beginning to leak out from the screened walls of the Ethiopian Prime Ministerial residence. According to information obtained in Addis Ababa by The Indian Ocean Newsletter, this disagreement pits on one side Meles Zenawi, supported by his Minister for Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin, against on the other side the regime’s grey eminence, Sebhat Nega, backed notably by Bereket Simeon and Tefera Walma. Their rivalry was revived in the run-up to the adoption on 2 October of the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 in the United States. But it has its roots in the rejection by Sebhat Nega and his partisans of the Prime Minister’s “soft” policy on the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition). Meles Zenawi is having a hard time selling his colleagues his policy of appeasing the reformist wing of the opposition, even though this policy has the support of Washington. Indeed, this should lead to opening negotiations with the most moderate faction of recently freed CUDP former political prisoners. The latter would return to the political scene and possibly to Parliament (in the case of those elected in 2005) and even to the post of mayor of Addis Ababa in the case of Berhanu Nega. Various groups are active in the wings in the United States to pave the way for possible negotiations between the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the moderates in the opposition. The Carter Center founded by former US President Jimmy Carter could act as mediator for these discussions. However Sebhat Nega and Bereket Simeon are staunchly opposed to this idea of negotiating with the opposition.

The Tigrayan officers clear the tables

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
The recent promotion of a number of officers to top ranks went largely to Tigrayans.

Four of the six generals promoted to the rank of major general and ten of the seventeen colonels promoted to brigadier general at the end of September are Tigrayans, members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition). Their promotion strengthens still further the control Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the TPLF have on the armed forces. All the more so since on the same occasion, 400 officers in the Northern Command, overwhelmingly Tigrayans, were also promoted during a ceremony at Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray Regional State. The Ethiopian Army Chief of Staff, Samora Yunis, also a Tigrayan, was promoted to the rank of general even though he has not even had a modern military training.

One notable exception is Abebaw Tadesse Asres, an Amhara, who was raised to the rank of lieutenant general, no doubt to please the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM, a component in the ruling coalition). Meanwhile, just two Oromo officers, General Birhanu Julla Gellelcha and Colonel Getachew Shiferaw Feyissa and one officer from the south of the country, Colonel Negussie Lemma Dibaro, benefitted from this wave of promotions.

These measures will aggravate tension between Tigrayan non-commissioned officers and their Oromo and Amhara colleagues. Such tension already put in an appearance in an officers’ meeting of the 4th infantry division last week. Particularly as the Ethiopian army is still bogged down in Somalia where operations are led by the Tigrayan General Seyoum Hagos (one of those just promoted) and a resumption of fighting in Eritrea is still a possibility.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Seyoum Mesfin addresses United Nations

Seyoum Mesfin, Minister for Foreign Affairs, addresses the general debate of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Watch the video

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

H.R. 2003 passes House vote

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation [H.R. 2003] supporting democracy and human rights in Ethiopia.

...The White House has indicated it opposes the bill despite a provision that would give the president authority to ignore the restrictions on security assistance in the interests of U.S. national security.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Haile owns world marathon record!

Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit...Haile once again shows us what it's all about. A true Ethiopian hero!

Haile Gebrselassie finally fulfilled one of his biggest dreams: The 34 year-old Ethiopian broke the World record at the real,- Berlin-Marathon, clocking 2:04:26.

Haile - 2:04:26 World Record in Berlin! (IAAF) September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last call for Hailu Shawel

Opponents received in Washington
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1222 25/09/2007
The American government has invited Ethiopian opponents to Washington for talks with opposition leaders recently freed from prison. The latter group, led by Ms Birtukan Mideksa (ION 1222), came to the USA on its own steam two weeks ago. All were received at the State Department on 21 September by American officials working on the Africa and Ethiopia desks.

This meeting gathered Beyene Petros, Merera Gudina, the former President Negaso Gidada, Ayele Chemiso (an MP from the legal arm of the CUDP), Lidetu Ayalew, Berhanu Nega, Birtukan Mideksa and Hailu Araya. Their discussions with the American officials concerned how the Ethiopian opposition could adopt a joint political platform so that it could take part in the next elections in Ethiopia with the approval of the Addis Ababa government. They also discussed a strategy to sideline the hard wing of the opposition, consisting of Hailu Shawel and the EPRP, which wants nothing to do with the current EPRDF regime in Ethiopia.

The talks are expected to continue with further meetings with the presence of Bulcha Demeksa, currently passing through Washington. The American Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer is expected to meet these Ethiopian opponents this week.

This American mediation is consistent with the strategy devised by the US Ambassador to Addis Ababa Donald Yamamoto, intending to isolate Amhara radicals such as Hailu Shawel and the anti-EPRDF forces like the EPRP.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Non-profit, or for-profit?

Present yourself as a bride forced into marriage at age 13, an abused single mother of two who was raised by Jews persecuted in Ethiopia, a soldier in the Eritrean struggle for independence, then add against all odds a doctorate and other degrees to your resume and what do you get? A non-profit, multi-million $$$ fund raising machine, and a con that has all angles covered...So it seemed.

The founder of a nonprofit agency for African refugees here -- an immigrant Oprah Winfrey once named a "Phenomenal Woman of the Month" -- has been arrested on 25 charges of conspiracy, embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion and grand theft.

Nikki [aka Nigisti, Nigistiazeb] Tesfai, a 53-year-old native of Ethiopia [from Eritrea], defrauded the African Community Resource Center of more than $1 million to benefit herself, relatives and boyfriend, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Founder of L.A. refugee agency arrested for fraud (L.A. Times) September 23, 2007

...“She is a woman who saw her chance and took it,” says an East African woman who has worked with Tesfai. “Who would not trust an abused, African Jewish woman who wants to help refugees?

Is the Saint of South L.A. for Real? (LA Weekly) May 20, 2004

Friday, September 21, 2007

The opposition Pentecostals

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1222 22/09/2007
The welcome certain Ethiopian opposition leaders have had in Washington from their partisans is revelatory of the influence the Pentecostal church holds among their ranks.

The welcome given on 9 September at Dulles Airport (Washington) to a delegation from the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) led by Birtukan Mideksa was surprising for more than one reason. To begin with, Haile Shawel was not present, nor were any of his partisans, thus illustrating the depth of the split in the CUDP leadership, whose main leaders were freed recently (ION 1220). Secondly, certain opposition supporters prostrated themselves in front of Birtukan – going as far as kissing her feet – and her colleagues Hailu Araya and Shifferaw Gizatchew. This kind of behaviour has not been seen in Ethiopia since the time with the subjects of Emperor Haile Selassie prostrated themselves before him.

For some observers this strange scene at Dulles airport is a sign of the growing importance Pentecostals have in the CUDP leadership. This Protestant church has the wind in its sails in Ethiopia where its followers abstain from alcohol and songs. But until recently it was not involved in politics. Birtukan Mideksa is a "Pente” (as they are called pejoratively by the Orthodox Christians, who are the majority in Ethiopia) as is her Tigrayan companion Marcos Retea, a former lawyer who drafted certain legislation for the current Ethiopian government before defecting to the opposition and taking refuge in Nairobi. Ethiopian Pentecostal adepts now proudly cite the example of Birtukan, the CUDP economist Daniel Assefa, Eyuel Muluneh and others to prove that their Church is now politically active in the opposition.

"Strategic importance" brings $100 million

Hmmm...Could this have anything to do with Somalia?

The United States said Friday it is donating 97 million dollars (69 million euros) to Ethiopia in recognition of the Horn of Africa country's "strategic importance."

US gives 'strategically important' Ethiopia $97 million (AFP) September 21, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Al Amoudi receives award

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi awarded Sheik Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, the renowned tycoon, late Thursday with the ‘first special millennium golden medal’ for his exemplary deeds for the development of Ethiopia and its people.

Meles awards Sheik Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi with special millennium golden medal (ENA) September 14, 2007

You've got message

Ethiopian Telecom Corporation yesterday resumed its text messaging services, which had been banned during the political unrest that followed the contested 2005 polls.

"Wishing you a happy Ethiopian Millennium. And now the SMS service is launched," read a message sent to all users.

SMS service resumes in time for Ethiopia's Millennium (Business Report) September 14, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy New Millennium!!!

Ethiopia (GMT+2) has this minute entered the third millennium (Sept. 12). May the years ahead bring lasting peace and prosperity.

Video: Fireworks in Addis Ababa

Unprecedented support for Ethiopiques

Mulatu Astatke's soundtrack from the movie Broken Flowers has revived Ethiopia's glorious jazz era. Do yourself a favor and order The Very Best of Ethiopiques. You'll wonder how such great music faded from the scene, and where those great artists are today.

With 15 reviews and 5 major features to date the stunning Ethiopiques best of release is already setting records as one of the best received albums in Union Square Music's history. To find out more check ethiopiques and our very special ethiopiques fan site. And to hear what all the fuss is about check out our ethiopiques sound medley.

Union Square Music News August, 2007

Forgotten archive goes on display

From Emperor to Military Dictator: Shemelis Desta’s Ethiopian Archive 1963-1982 opens at London’s Photographers’ Gallery on 13 September.

In pictures: Ethiopia's forgotten archive (BBC) September 11, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ethiopia's Brain Drain: Rich robbing the poor

Ethiopia is unique in Africa having successfully resisted colonial invaders, but a new version of Scramble for Africa has been slowly devastating the nation. If you've never quite grasped the magnitude of the problem, then get this. Apparently, there are more Ethiopian doctors living in city of Chicago than those staying in Ethiopia. Western countries have been actively draining Africa's brain trust at the worst possible time, with no reimbursement for years spent training these professionals. According to the head of the World Bank's Global HIV/AIDS Program, Ethiopia has only 1 medical doctor per 100,000 people. A recent report by the World Health Organization in its 2006 World Health Report gives a figure of 1936 physicians (for 2003), which comes to about 2.6 per 100,000. Many educated professionals ranging from medical staff, university faculty and research academics are leaving Ethiopia for better economic opportunities in the West. This is a Millennium challenge the government needs to highly prioritize. It's futile to invest in more universities and provide free education, if the end result is transfer of graduates to wealthier nations.

..."There are more nurses from Malawi in Manchester than in Malawi, and more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than Ethiopia," according to European Parliament member Gladys Kinnock, quoted in an IPS agency report.

...A 2005 report by Save the Children and Medact estimated that Britain had saved £65m in training costs for doctors and £38m for nurses it had taken from Ghana alone since 1999.

Related articles:
Rate of Ethiopia Brain-Drain Alarming - Study (Daily Monitor) September 2, 2007
Report shows brain drain cost country dearly (Africa Monitor) April 29, 2007
The Global Effects of the Brain Drain on Health Care Systems (Georgetown Journal of Health Sciences) March 15, 2006
Reversing the Brain Drain In Ethiopia (David H. Shinn) November 23, 2002

Smelling of Roses

Ethiopia is now Africa’s second largest flower exporter after Kenya, with its export earnings growing by 500 per cent over the past year.

This has left Kenya stunned, given that five years ago, the Horn of Africa country was doing less than $20 million of exports compared with the East African giant’s $300 million.

...It is now estimated that Ethiopian flower exports could generate an about $300 million in just another two-three years.

Ethiopia’s flower sector outgrows Kenya (The East African) September 9, 2007

D.C.'s divisions cloud Millennium festivities

...The Washington region, the U.S. hub for Ethiopian immigrants, will attract thousands of Ethiopians from across the country for the nation's biggest millennium events. On deck is an explosion of concerts, lectures and celebrations that are meant to show off Ethiopia -- but that also lay bare the community's deep political cleavages.

Millennium Festivities Expose Deep Rifts (Washington Post) September 9, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Millennium" in Amharic = "Menem Yellum"

The list of planned Millennium events cancelled by EPRDF continues to grow. Other than the postponed Great Ethiopia Run, Teddy Afro's concert at Ghion Hotel and TAAAF organized Millennium day music festival at Meskel Square have all been axed. Unless one can spare 1000-1500 Birr for festivities hosted by Hilton Addis or Al Amoudi's MIDROC, the average inhabitant of the city will be under a self-imposed curfew.

...With the schedule of events changing and security concerns in the capital, many Ethiopians say the celebrations — which include a concert with tickets that cost what an average Ethiopian earns in two months at nearly $170 — are beyond their reach.

Coptic millennium celebrations fall flat for some Ethiopians (The Associated Press) September 7, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lucy exhibit draws record crowd

Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia triumphs despite all attempts by critics and some politically motivated opportunists to dissuade the world from experiencing Ethiopia's historical and cultural history.

Brad Levy, director of customer service, estimated that 12,000 to 14,000 people will see the exhibit today through Monday. He said advance sales for the opening weekend already are 25 percent higher than they were for the museum's last blockbuster, Body Worlds, which went on display in February 2006.

..."What people are saying is that they are appreciative the Ethiopian people are sharing this exhibit with them," he said.

Houston's newest (and oldest) visitor attracts about 1,000 (Houston Chronicle) September 1, 2007
Watch Lucy's Legacy TV Spot

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bare Knuckle Tiff with Washington

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1220 25/08/2007
Asmara’s relations with the American administration have entered a highly turbulent phase.

Eritrean president Issayas Afeworki doesn’t have a high opinion of American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Africa. In the past, he described Susan Rice, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs under Bill Clinton as “childish and uninformed.” Jendayi Frazer, who fulfils the same functions in George W. Bush’s administration, doesn’t rate much higher in his eyes. Afeworki considers her a protégé of secretary of state Condoleeze Rice and feels - not without some reason - that she is very pro Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia and Afeworki’s rival.

On the delicate question of delimitating the border between the rival states of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Frazer isn’t ready to accept the decision handed down by an international arbitration board, a ruling Asmara insists must be honoured. She has suggested finding a new boundary acceptable to both countries, which Afeworki refuses.

Realizing that the United States won’t turn up the heat on Ethiopia to make it accept the border delimitation decided upon by the arbitration panel, Afeworki is seeking other means of getting Addis Ababa to give in. Hence his assistance to Islamic elements in Somalia, which has only worsened diplomatic relations with Washington. To the point that Frazer let it be known in public last week that her government is thinking of adding Eritrea’s name to the list of rogue states. The tougher American stance towards Asmara also results from a lobbying campaign in the United States by Christian evangelist circles who have been denouncing repression against their brethren in Eritrea for years.

Washington has equally given Eritrea 90 days to close its consulate in Oakland, California in a tit-for-tat move against the Eritrean government’s restrictions on the activities of the U.S. embassy in Asmara. In February the embassy was forced to reduce its diplomatic operations after the Asmara authorities demanded to inspect the contents of the American diplomatic bag.

Millennium countdown

Ben's Blog from Addis has updates on fast approaching Millennium.

Dear Netters,

The Millennium fever is running high. However, regrettably as I mentioned on my last posting, nobody knows about the details of events. If this is the case in Addis, you can visualize how bad it can be outside of the capital. Addis residents are enthusiastic to rejoice this historic day. But, from what I see so far the people who are in charge to inform about details failed miserably. There is still time to improve and I hope they will correct it swiftly. Actually, I knew more details when I was in Diaspora than my stay here. That is unacceptable!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Great Ethiopia Run postponed

The Great Ethiopia Run has been postponed because of unspecified security concerns ahead of next month's millennium celebrations.

..."It's really, really very hard to accept," Gebrselassie said Thursday. "But what can we do? Our top priority is the safety of the people, nothing else."

Ethiopia postpones annual Great Run race ahead of millennium security concerns (Associated Press) August 30, 2007

Some things never change

After endless rounds of sebseba by Millennium committee for the past year, nothing meaningful has been done that would have a lasting effect on the city's poor. Ethiopia's Millennium seems set to be received much like the unexpected guest. Dust coffee table, shove newspapers under sofa and throw everything else into closet.

Ethiopia will try to remove tens of thousands of beggars from the streets of Addis Ababa to create a more "conducive" atmosphere for coming Millennium celebrations, city officials said on Thursday.

Ethiopia to kick beggars off street for Millennium (Reuters) August 30, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kenenisa is peerless

Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won his third 10,000-meter world title, surging clear on the last lap Monday and crossing in 27 minutes, 5.90 seconds.

Bekele wins gold at the world championships (International Herald Tribune) August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tirunesh, indeed!

Spectators were treated to what must be one of the more Herculean performances of all time Saturday night in Osaka as Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba successfully defended her World Championship 10,000m title.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No Visa for You!

Thanks to fiasco by CUD North America for the past two years, the shameful infighting, corruption and insane alliance with active terrorist groups, U.S. administration has seen fit to deny (or delay) visas for released CUD leaders. Berhanu Nega, the only CUD representative on route to U.S., will now be confronted with three bickering CUD parties, all vying for his ear. God give him strength.

Free But Not Allowed to Roam
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1220 25/08/2007

Recently released from jail after asking for a pardon from Meles Zenawi, leaders of the opposition have been refused visas to the United States.

The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa has refused to grant immediate visas to leaders of the opposition CUDP party who were recently pardoned by prime minister Meles Zenawi, and who wished to travel to Europe and the United States starting from Aug. 29. It appears the refusal will stand at least until Ethiopia celebrates its New Year in September. Only Berhanu Nega was able to fly to London via Kuwait and make his way to the U.S. He could quit Ethiopia because he has a valid Green Card granting him permanent residence in the States. In the U.S. he will seek to meet with Ethiopian exiles or even the leaders of other opposition groups in the hope of persuading them to renounce the armed struggle and their radical positions.

That fits in with American diplomatic strategy as well. The strategy consists of sidelining radical factions of the Ethiopian opposition (specially the ultra-nationalist Amharas) and to persuade others to talk with the Addis Ababa government. The American envoy to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, lifted the veil on the strategy in an interview with the PBS network in Washington last week.

He admitted that the ruling EPRDF party has serious problems in governing the country and could only do so if it joined forces with opponents who call for reforms but are also ready to cooperate with the government.

The new political situation has exacerbated relations between various opposition movements. Radical elements in the EPRP and the CUDP faction headed by Taye Wolde Semayat and Hailu Shawel have come under attack, notably on the Internet, by more moderate wings of the Ethiopian opposition. In one instance, Gemoraw Kassa, secretary general of the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) and close to the moderate opposition party EDP headed by Lidetu Ayalew - some of its members sit in Ethiopia’s parliament - launched a broadside against Taye, a former union leader living in the U.S. and heading the local CUDP faction linked to Shawel.

The Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum linked to Andargatchew Tsige - and by extension to Nega’s group - has done likewise. Taye’s critics accuse him of secretly being a member of the radical EPRP group.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rare utopia in Ethiopia

He can't read or write, but Zumra Nuru created a society that would have made Karl Marx proud. The 60-year-old Ethiopian farmer founded and cochairs Awra Amba, a commune where men cook, women plow, and religion has no place.

In Ethiopia, one man's model for a just society (Christian Science Monitor) August 21, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

U.S. to place Eritrea on terrorist list

The United States said on Friday it was considering putting Eritrea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism for allegedly funneling weapons to insurgents fighting the Ethiopian-backed government in Somalia.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Volcano in Afar

A volcano has erupted in Ethiopia's remote Afar region, leaving two people missing and forcing hundreds to leave the area, the state news agency said on Wednesday.

Countdown to terror?

Security forces in Ethiopia say they have prevented an attempt by a rebel group to assassinate officials and destroy public institutions.

...The venue of the main outdoor concert on New Year's Eve has been moved from the central Meskel Square to the National Stadium, where it would be easier to check those attending.

Ethiopia New Year terror thwarted (BBC) August 15, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jijiga grows under Karamara mountains

Since the government started devolving power and money to the component parts of the Ethiopian federation, Jijiga has become the capital of Somali region, and it is now finally acquiring the trappings that go with its status.

...But Jijiga is also the capital of a region battling a long-running rebellion, which has flared up dramatically in the past few months.

In the shadow of Ethiopia's rebels (BBC) August 14, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Eritrean consulate sent packing

The United States has ordered the closure of Eritrea's consulate in California, in a sign of worsening diplomatic relations.

...The BBC's Peter Martell in Asmara says the closure will affect the Eritrean government's attempt to collect a 2% income tax on Eritrean expatriates in California - an important source of income.

US moves to shut Eritrean mission (BBC) August 13, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Leakey calls Lucy's tour 'prostitution'

Ancient Greek and Roman artifacts, priceless artwork by great European painters, even prehistoric dinosaur fossil predating Lucy's bones have all been transported and displayed safely in museums around the world. Yet somehow, when Africa attempts to get earnings from display of a rare possession, it's called "prostitution?" I wonder if Mr. Richard Leakey has ever visited the Addis Ababa National Museum. I have, last year, and what a sad sight. The building is old, with staff looking lifeless and underpaid. A national museum that is uninviting is a good reason why many Ethiopians themselves have sadly not visited, though that's no excuse. And yes, even Lucy's bones on display are actually a replica. The smaller museum at Holy Trinity Church does better, though built with private funds, displaying surprising cultural treasures donated by Ethiopia's former imperial family. Sharing Lucy's fossil on tour can help educate and produce much needed funds to build facilities in Ethiopia for display of national treasures, securely and with dignity. So with all due respect, unless Mr. Leakey or any other critic is willing to help fund these projects, they need to quit preaching...Put up, or shut up!

..."It's a form of prostitution, it's gross exploitation of the ancestors of humanity and it should not be permitted," Leakey told The Associated Press in an interview Friday at his Nairobi office.

Leakey calls Lucy skeleton tour 'prostitution' (Associated Press) August 10, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Peacemaker

...Professor Ephraim Isaac, a retired Ethiopian Harvard scholar who lectures around the world on religion, peace, and conflict, had just helped resolve his country's two-year political crisis using problem-solving methods as traditionally Ethiopian as his garb.

In Ethiopia, elders dissolve a crisis the traditional way (Christian Science Monitor) August 9, 2007