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