Friday, May 22, 2015

Ethnic, nationalist ideologies polarize Ethiopia parties

World Bulletin / News Desk

As Ethiopians prepare to cast ballots in Sunday parliamentary and municipal polls, ethnicity and political ideology are the two principal routes by which contending political parties seek to win over voters.

Main opposition parties criticize the use of ethnic-based federalism to woo voters, warning that such a policy is counterproductive.

However, the ruling Ethiopian People's Liberation Front (EPRDF) – a coalition of four main ethnically organized parties – says ethnic-based federalism will remain a pillar of its philosophy by which equality can be assured among the country's various ethnic groups.

The EPRDF took power in 1991 after a 17-year guerrilla war against the Derg regime, which, the party believes, was caused by ethnic inequality that led it into a protracted struggle initiated by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF).

Main opposition parties – including the Blue Party (Semayawi), the Unity for Democratic and Justice Party (UDJP) and the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) – say that ethnic-based federalism and parties organized along ethnic lines aren't suitable to contemporary Ethiopia.

"Ethnic federalism hurts patriotism and sentiments of nationalism," Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye told Anadolu Agency.

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Ethiopia's elections are just an exercise in controlled political participation

Ethiopians will go to the polls on 24 May. Few observers doubt the outcome, with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) expected to remain in power.

While symbolically significant – this is the first general election since the death of the long-serving prime minister Meles Zenawi in 2012 – the polls are more of a logistical hurdle for the ruling party than a competitive, democratic exercise. What happens after the elections is more important for stability than the conduct of the polls themselves.

The prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, will lead the EPRDF into the elections, but there is intense speculation about how long he will remain in charge. Senior figures in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Meles’ former party and the core constituent group of the EPRDF, are assumed to be competing to succeed Desalegn as national leader.

However, Meles had begun a generational shift in the EPRDF’s leadership, bringing new leaders to the fore – including Hailemariam as his deputy – in the two years preceding his death. The continued dominance of ethnic Tigrayan leaders (such as Meles) was creating a challenge for the EPRDF as a multi-ethnic coalition. Hailemariam, an ethnic Wolayta from southern Ethiopia, is thus a symbolically significant choice. Retaining Hailemariam would reflect recognition within the EPRDF executive committee that stability rests on maintaining a truly multi-ethnic party.


UN investigates Briton on death row in Ethiopia

Special rapporteur on torture asks UK and Ethiopian governments about detention of Andargachew Tsige amid claims of ill-treatment

The detention of a British citizen held on death row in Ethiopia for almost a year is being investigated by the United Nations official responsible for preventing torture.

Andargachew Tsige was arrested last June while in transit through Yemen’s main airport and forcibly removed to Addis Ababa. He is the leader of an opposition party and had been condemned to death several years earlier in his absence.

Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating the treatment of Tsige. There are claims Tsige is being deprived of sleep and held in isolation.

His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their three children, said she had only spoken to him once by telephone since his abduction. “He’s in prison but we have no idea where he is being held,” she said. “He said he was OK but I’m sure the call was being listened to.

“He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn’t even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

“They say there was an extradition agreement but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television three times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets.

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Aiding Repression

Ethiopia is jailing journalists and crushing civil society activists. Why won’t the Obama administration speak up?

In July 2012, an Ethiopian court charged the prominent journalist Eskinder Nega with conspiring to commit terrorist acts. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison under a broad and ill-defined law. His crime? Writing about the Arab Spring and calling for peaceful protests.

A frequent critic of the government and a prominent journalist, Nega was no stranger to detention. But these charges were the most severe—and the corresponding sentence the longest—he’d ever received. Appeals to regional bodies, findings by the United Nations that his detention violates international law, and a litany of international journalism awards all underscore the politically motivated charges that keep him behind bars.

Sadly, he’s not alone.

Since Nega’s detention, Ethiopia has taken a far more repressive turn. At least 19 other Ethiopians are languishing in prison on trumped-up charges for exercising their right to free expression. During the past year alone, six privately owned media outlets have shut down due to ongoing government harassment. At least 22 journalists and bloggers have faced criminal charges for doing their jobs, while nearly 30 more have left the country—preferring exile to the constant threat of arrest.

The authorities in Addis have never been tolerant of an open media environment, but the political climate has deteriorated dramatically. Even the upcoming elections, scheduled for May 24, have not generated the opportunities for reform some analysts had originally anticipated. Instead, this Sunday’s elections are likely to reinforce the country’s repression.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections....

This election does not meet international standard so TPLF regime needs to find observer from Africa where no democratic rights existed
ADDIS ABABA— The only international observers during Ethiopia’s elections Sunday will be from the African Union, with opposition parties already feeling the AU observers are not demanding enough in their criticism of Ethiopia's election process, which is dominated by the ruling party.

Nine long-term AU observers (LTOs) arrived in April, and another 50 short-term observers arrived last week.

Former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, head of the mission, commended Ethiopia for being stable and peaceful even while located in a volatile region.

“The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is appointed by the prime minister and approved by the parliament of Ethiopia. The AU LTOs noted that some interlocutors have expressed the concern in the manner of the appointment of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia and urged that more political stakeholders be consulted in order for the process to be more transparent and inclusive," Pohamba said.

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Washington enables authoritarianism in Ethiopia

by Awol Allo

It was only two months ago during the Israeli election that the White House was scrambling to convince the American public that the United States does not intervene in the electoral processes of other democracies.

“This administration goes to great lengths to ensure that we don’t give even the appearance of interfering or attempting to influence the outcome of a democratically held election in another country,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in defense of President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the U.S. makes no apologies for its interventions on behalf of autocratic regimes elsewhere. For example, during a recent visit to Ethiopia, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman praised Ethiopia as a vibrant and progressive democracy.

“Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible, open and inclusive,” she said. “Every time there is an election, it gets better and better.”

Sherman’s remarks drew the ire of activists and human rights organizations. Daniel Calingaert, the executive vice president of Freedom House, dismissed her praise as “woefully ignorant” and at odds with the reality of life as lived by ordinary Ethiopians. Not only were her claims inconsistent with human rights reports, but they also fly in the face of her department’s annual country surveys, which tell a radically different story.

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Monday, May 18, 2015


By Teshome Abebe*

I begin this essay by paying tribute to the men who perished in the hands of the cowardly, ignorant, despicable, and abhorrent criminals who murder men and women and enslave children for political gain in search of power. Though their aim was, in part, to provoke inter and intra-religious antagonism and conflict in Ethiopia, they must have discovered, to their surprise, that in matters of peace and war, Ethiopians do not have a history of begging for mercy. In the spirit of the age-old Ethiopian tradition, the young men who perished never begged for mercy knowing fully that those who plead for it never get it.

Emperors Libene Dingel and Gelawdewos never begged for mercy when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, (‘Ahmed Gragne’) and his cousin Nur Ibn Miyahid, took turns horrifying the land; Tewodros never begged for mercy in the face of a superior invading foreign force; Yohannes never begged for mercy—instead he presented his neck; Abuna Petros never begged the Fascists of Italy for mercy—he died willingly. The countless ‘arbegnotch’ and scholars whose heads were chopped off by the Italians never begged for mercy—they knew they would be remembered as heroes by the future sons and daughters of Ethiopia.

A man alone is an easy prey even for a hyena, and the men who perished didn’t die rich. But they died stubbornly, committed to their individual faith, and whether we agree with their faiths or not, we admire their resolve and acceptance of their fate. We only wish that the Ethiopian government will do everything in its power to determine who was behind the dastardly criminal act so that we will be able to figure out and understand the real force or forces that perceived a license to spill the blood of its citizens.

Now, to my intended essay. In this essay, I wish to argue that acknowledging one’s errors is never a sign of weakness. Instead, it can be a sign of confidence and the acquisition of new knowledge—i.e. learning. I believe it must have been one of the former presidents of the United States who once said that there could be no effort without error or shortcomings! This is true for every undertaking, and it certainly is true of politics in general. Furthermore, we can safely state that there can be no single authority in a multidimensional world. And there can be no single arbitrating authority in a world with a multitude of issues and multiple identities. Whenever there is some sort of authority, it is usually authority based upon the largest audience or followership. Even a dictator’s authority is divisible in that he or she has to at least have the concurrence or acquiescence of some.

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As Ethiopia votes, what’s ‘free and fair’ got to do with it?

Ethiopia, Washington’s security partner and Africa’s second most populous country, is scheduled to hold national elections on May 24. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allied parties won 99.6 percent of the seats in the last round of elections in 2010. There is no doubt that the ruling party will win again.

The party has ruled since 1991 when it seized power following a prolonged civil war. It dominates all major political, economic, and social institutions, has virtually eliminated independent political space, and opposition parties are fractured and harassed. Ethiopia has jailed more journalists than any other country in Africa.

The EPRDF is an extremely strong and effective authoritarian party. Yet Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of Political Affairs in the Department of State, recently said, “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.” What roles do elections play in authoritarian states and what, if anything, do they have to do with “free, fair, and credible” standards?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The other side of Ethiopia's GDP growth: Severity of poverty increases in Ethiopia, UN report reveals!

Since the year 2005 severity of poverty in Ethiopia has increased, according to a national human development report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched this afternoon in the capital Addis Ababa. "...Although the incident of poverty is declining the severity is increasing," said Mr. Eugene Owusu, UNDP resident representative to Ethiopia, launching of the report at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa hall. Of the total of around 90 million people of the country, some 25 million

Ethiopians are still remain trapped in poverty and vulnerability because of high population growth of about 2.4%, according to the report. Confirming increasing of severity of poverty in Ethiopia since 2005, Mekonnen Manyazewal, Commissioner at the National Planning Commission at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, noted that why this happen needs further research. Among major incidents the years 2005 marks in Ethiopian history the death of close to 200 people, arrest of tens of thousands and exile of major opposition politicians following the controversial general election of the country. Meanwhile Mr. Mekonnen refuted some of the findings of the report such as the need to address income inequality, making the growth all inclusive and addressing regional disparity.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

End Relations With Eritrea, Say Refugees

Eritreans in Israel say the only way to stop migrants coming from their country is to cease diplomatic ties with the regime there.

By Tom Rayner, Middle East Reporter, Tel Aviv

Leaders of a demonstration by Eritrean refugees in Israel have called on the international community to end relations with the country.

They claim that pressure to end the regime's persecution of its people is the only way to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

The call comes ahead of a meeting in Brussels where EU states will discuss a proposed quota system that would apportion the number of asylum seekers each should accept.

Thousands of people fleeing African states, such as Eritrea, are thought to have drowned in recent months as they attempted to reach Italy and Greece by boat.

This week hundreds of Eritreans gathered outside the Eritrean embassy in Tel Aviv to condemn the regime from which they fled.

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