Friday, December 2, 2016

Ethiopia's Merera Gudina detained after trip to Europe


A prominent opposition leader in Ethiopia has been detained after he returned from Europe.
Merera Gudina had violated Ethiopia's state of emergency by having contact with "terrorist" and "anti-peace" groups, state-linked media reported.
Mr Merera criticised the state of emergency in an address to the European parliament on 9 November.
The government imposed it in October to end an unprecedented wave of protests against its 25-year rule.

More than 11,000 people have since been arrested

Mr Merera, who is the leader of the Oromo Federalist Conference, was arrested on Wednesday at the airport in the capital, Addis Ababa, after he flew in from Brussels, reports BBC Ethiopia correspondent Emmanuel Igunza.
Several of his relatives who were with him were also detained, local media report.
European parliament member Ana Maria Gomes, who invited Mr Merera, told the BBC she was "extremely shocked" about the arrests.
She said she would push for the European Union take a tougher line against the Ethiopian government.

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The U.S. And Ethiopia's Complicated Alliance

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why is the Ethiopian diaspora so influential?

During a year of anti-government protests throughout Ethiopia, its global diaspora, particularly that in the US, has been deeply involved - and not just vocally, writes Addis Ababa-based journalist James Jeffrey.

Twitter and Facebook have been blocked since a six-month state of emergency was imposed last month as the government tries to restore order across the country's two most populous regions of Oromia and Amhara.

There are also internet blackouts, primarily targeting mobile phone data, which is how most Ethiopians get online - and is for many residents of the capital, Addis Ababa, the most frustrating effect of the security clamp down.

The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has singled out social media as playing a key role in the latest unrest which broke out in November 2015 and which resulted in millions of dollars' worth of damage across Oromia, the region where the protests began.

But internet restrictions may have less to do with silencing Ethiopians at home than with stymieing influence from abroad where those in the diaspora energetically follow and respond to events.

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Internet blackout forces young Ethiopians to go retro

Since Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency, mobile data and numerous social media sites have been blocked leading young people to adopt 'old-school' solutions for maintaining their social lives.

House parties in Addis Ababa aren't what they used to be. This is one of the consequences of the Ethiopian government's declaration of a six-month state of emergency that you don't tend to hear about.

Admittedly, the declaration made on Oct. 9 appears to be having the desired effect as protests previously rocking the Oromia and Amhara regions have calmed down.

But a swathe of internet restrictions - including blocked mobile data and social media sites - remain very much in place. And no one is sure for how long they'll remain, whether they'll be relaxed before the state of emergency has run its full course, or whether they might even be extended.

"Your social life suffers," said Root, a young professional in her mid-twenties who relies on the internet for her busy social life. Like an increasing number of young people in the Ethiopian capital, she has disposable income to spend.

"When I was able to use my mobile data, I would know which party was coming up or that I was invited to. Now you have to call people, text them and you can't get in touch with everyone you want," she said.

Addis Ababa residents like to joke that if there is one area in which government interference is kept to a minimum, it's the city's vibrant social scene. Others would add that it suits the government to have the bars and nightclubs packed with distracted revellers.

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Ethiopian women face new threat of human trafficking as economic gains slow to trickle down

By Tom Gardner

ADDIS ABABA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in Ethiopia live under constant fear of violence, illness, hunger and poverty but they are now also facing a new threat - human trafficking, according to veteran women's rights campaigner Bogaletch Gebre.

Although a state-led industrial drive has transformed Ethiopia into one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, a third of its 99 million citizens still survive on less than $1.90 a day - the World Bank's measure of extreme poverty.

Girls are often regarded as a financial burden on their families in the Horn of Africa country long blighted by cycles of disease, drought, hunger and conflict, and expected to drop out of school to get married or find employment.

"When a child is born a girl in Ethiopia ... she is born into servitude. She is literally there to serve the family," Gebre said, as she recalled growing up in the 1960s in Kembatta, southern Ethiopia. "It's a tragedy."

In the past decade, human traffickers have increasingly lured girls away from their schools and homes in poor, rural areas with the promise of jobs and other opportunities in cities like the capital Addis Ababa, Gebre said.

But many ended up being exploited as maids and sex workers.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Only China, Syria, and Iran rank worse in internet freedom than Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s internet is among the least free in the world. According to a new index released by the nonprofit Freedom House, Ethiopia ranked ahead of only Iran, Syria, and China, out of 65 countries in terms of access to the internet, censorship, and freedom of information. It ranked the worst of any country in Africa.

This isn’t surprising. Anti-government protests have gripped the country over the last year, gaining extra global attention when Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa held his hands up, crossed at the wrist–an anti-government gesture used by protesters—at the Olympics. In response, Ethiopian authorities have intermittently shut down mobile phone and internet connections. They have also blocked social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.
Last month, a six-month state of emergency was declared, making it illegal to post or access information about the protests on social media as well as communicate with “outside forces.” Social media is also used to implicate dissidents and critics. Charges against protesters and opposition leaders often rely on evidence taken from social media, according to Freedom House.

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Rights group blasts Ethiopia journalist arrests

Addis Ababa -Campaigners on Thursday accused Ethiopia of an "intensifying crackdown" on the media, with at least three journalists and bloggers arrested or sentenced under a state of emergency since October.

"In recent weeks, Ethiopian authorities have jailed a newspaper editor, as well as two members of the award-winning Zone 9 bloggers' collective, which has faced continuous legal harassment on terrorism and incitement charges," the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

"A fourth journalist has been missing for a week; his family fears he is in state custody," the rights group added in a statement, calling for Ethiopia to immediately release the detained journalists.

Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency on October 9 - an unprecedented move by a government that has been in power for 25 years - as it pursued a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters that has left hundreds of people dead, according to rights groups.

The country has been in political crisis for around a year as unrest in the central Oromo region spread to Amhara in the north.

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Ethiopia’s internet crackdown hurts everyone

Ethiopia has never been an easy place to operate. But a six-month state of emergency, combined with internet and travel restrictions imposed in response to a wave of anti-government protests, means it just got a whole lot harder.

The government has targeted the mobile data connections that the majority of Ethiopians use to get online. Internet users have also been unable to access Facebook Messenger and Twitter, with a host of other services also rendered unreliable.

This has impacted everyone: from local businesses, to foreign embassies, to families, as well as the extensive and vital international aid community.

“Non-governmental organisations play crucial roles in developing countries, often with country offices in the capitals, satellite offices across remote regions, and parent organisations in foreign countries,” said Moses Karanja, an internet policy researcher at Strathmore University in Nairobi. “They need access to the internet if their operations are to be efficiently coordinated.”

A political decision

The Ethiopian government has been candid about the restrictions being in response to year-long anti-government protests in which hundreds of people have died.

It has singled out social media as a key factor in driving unrest. Since the beginning of October, there has been a spike in violence resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of damage to foreign-owned factories, government buildings and tourist lodges across Oromia Region, initially ground zero for the dissent.

“Mobile data will be permitted once the government assesses that it won’t threaten the implementation of the state of emergency,” government spokesman Getachew Reda – who has since been replaced – told a 26 October press conference in Addis Ababa.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ethiopia state of emergency arrests top 11,000

Some 11,607 people, including 347 women, arrested since state of emergency announced last month following protests.

Authorities have arrested more than 11,000 people since Ethiopia declared a state of emergency early last month amid violent protests.
A majority of the arrests were made in the Oromo and Amhara regions - the centre of demonstrations and home to two ethnic groups that make up about 60 percent of the country's population.
"Some 11,607 individuals have so far been detained in six prisons, of which 347 are female, in connection with the state of emergency declared in the country," official Taddesse Hordofa said in a televised statement on Saturday.

More than 500 people have been killed in unrest since last year, rights groups say, triggered initially by anger over a development scheme for the capital, Addis Ababa, which demonstrators said would force farmers off their land in the surrounding Oromo region.

Inside Story: What's fuelling protests in Ethiopia?

The protests evolved into broader demonstrations over politics and human rights and led to attacks on businesses, many of them foreign-owned, prompting the government to declare a six-month nationwide state of emergency on October 9.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Year on, Calls for Ethiopia to Discuss Issues With Protesters


It is now one year since persistent, sometimes violent anti-government protests started in Ethiopia's Oromia region. How much closer are the Oromos, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, to achieving their demands for more political freedom and economic inclusiveness? Opposition activists addressed members of the European Parliament this week in Brussels.

Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa is the most famous supporter of the protests in his native Ethiopia. Feyisa, the silver medalist in this year's men's marathon in Rio, drew attention when he crossed his wrists at the finish line, a gesture to show solidarity with the protesters.

Feyisa, who now fears returning to Ethiopia, addressed members of the European Parliament one year after the start of the Oromo protests:

He said it will be disastrous if the current situation continues, adding that because all media is blocked in Ethiopia, he is using his visibility to get worldwide media attention by being a voice for his people.

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