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Adwa and Abyssinia’s Participation in the Scramble for Africa:
Does that Have Relevance to the Ongoing Oromo Protests?
By Mekuria Bulcha, PhD, Professor
Whenever an Oromo scholar or politician mentions Menelik or his conquest of Oromia, the scathing criticism that meets him or her is that history is irrelevant for the current crisis. They are often advised to stop looking backwards and to focus on the future. Meanwhile, the irony is that in the lead up to and weeks after the 121st anniversary of the Battle of Adwa, many Ethiopian scholars and politicians have been engaged in intense debate about this event. In fact, I am all for a debate about Ethiopian history; however, I was surprised when I read an article written by Teshome Borago entitled “Adwa: When Oromos fought Italy as Abyssinians” published on the Ethiomedia webpage on March 3, 2017. Borago wrote the article to commemorate the anniversary of Ethiopia’s victory over Italian forces at Adwa in 1896. By and large, he talks about the victory of Adwa as an example of unity among the peoples of Ethiopia and calls on the peoples of Ethiopia to keep up that spirit of unity. But, the problem is that he did not stop there; he used the Oromo contribution to the victory at Adwa obliquely as a pretext to question the validity of Oromo grievances voiced by the ongoing protests. He laments the “new generation” Oromos’ failure to appreciate their forefathers’ contributions to the Adwa victory, and for not respecting the spirit of Adwa which was Ethiopian unity. He refers to their protests as an effort made in defense of “tribalism”. My criticism is that, using the victory of Adwa as a point of departure, Borago distorts not only Oromo and Ethiopian history, but also misrepresents the motives of the ongoing Oromo protests. Borago is not the only writer who has been labelling the Oromo struggle for freedom as a manifestation of “tribalism”, or to criticize Oromo views about Menelik and the creation of the Ethiopian state. There are dozens of commentators who, like him, have been distorting Oromo history and demonizing Oromo politics and scholarship. Haile Larebo has been one of the most vocal representatives of this group.
The views which are expressed in both Borago’s article and Larebo’s story about the Battle of Adwa, which was broadcast on March 22, 2017 on Aronios Radio are the points of departure for this article. The purpose of the article is to critically assess the meanings of the Battle of Adwa for the Oromo and other non-Abyssinian peoples who were conquered and forcibly incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire by Menelik. The following questions will guide my discussion: (a) what were the conditions under which the Oromo and the other non-Abyssinian peoples participated in the Battle of Adwa? (b) What “benefits” did they derive from the victory at Adwa? (c) In what ways was the Battle of Adwa a turning point in Abyssinia’s participation in the Scramble for Africa? (d) What was the relationship between the peoples of the south including the Oromo and the Abyssinian state before and after Adwa?
Menelik’s army at Adwa: freemen, gabbars, captives and slaves
As Wendy James has aptly pointed out, “without the contributions of Ethiopia’s southern peoples, whose sweat and blood go unrecorded in Ethiopianist annals, the Battle of Adwa in 1896 might not have been won and Menelik II might not have gone on to build his empire.” Obviously, one of those peoples were the Oromo. I am not denying Oromo contribution to the Ethiopian victory over the Italians at Adwa. My critique concerns the representation of the conditions under which their contribution occurred. I argue that Oromo human and material resources were not “contributed” voluntarily as Borago and Larebo want us to believe. By and large, they were robbed. To start, as Harold Marcus has stated, “Menelik had exploited the south and the south-west to purchase weapons.” He was “indirectly Ethiopia’s greatest slave entrepreneur and received the bulk of the proceeds” from the slave trade. Marcus wrote that being a Christian Menelik was not directly involved in the trade, but “Many slaves were however supplied by him.” The “human merchandize” used in that trade were Oromos and others who were captured his conquest of the south. Pankhurst has also stated that “the supply of slaves was…swollen by large numbers of prisoners captured during Menelik’s southern campaigns.” The evidence is extensive to present in this short article, but it is important to not here that Menelik covered in part the cost of the firearms used at Adwa with revenue from the export of human merchandize.
What is also equally important to understand is that the fighters who marched north carrying those firearms were not all freemen, but also a motley of captives, gabbars and slaves, including thousands of women. Most of them were Oromo, Walaita, Kambata and Gurage and were from territories which were conquered a decade or a few years prior to the Battle of Adwa. They were used not only as fighters, but also providers of the services that made the fighting possible. They were bearers of firearms and supplies; they cooked for the fighters and looked after the horses and mules used by the fighters. In this connection, a remarkable story emerges if we look closely at the case of Walaita which was conquered in 1894 just two years before the Battle. It is also interesting to note that Borago who writes that “several kingdoms volunteered and mobilized from every region in Ethiopia to fight at the Battle of Adwa” claims Walaita ethnicity. According to archival evidence collected by the historian Tsehai Berhane-Selassie, one of the aims of the expedition against Walaita was slave raiding. She noted that it was carried out in order to replenish depleted manpower because of the severe famine of 1889-92, to pay outstanding debts to arms dealers, and to finance the impending war against the Italians. Describing the battle the French business agent Gaston Vanderheym who accompanied Menelik on his campaign against the Walaita, expressed the “crushing effects” of newly acquired guns on the southern conquests as “some kind of infernal hunting were human beings rather than animals served as game” and “where no distinction was made between fighters and civilians.” Prouty notes that according Menelik’s own chronicler, 118,987 Walaita were killed and 18,000 were enslaved. The King of Walaita Tona was wounded and captured and his kingdom was destroyed. Martial de Salviac wrote that the captives were made to march in a single line in front of Menelik who “chose the most robust and had a cross marked on their hands with a sharp object.” In fact, Menelik not only enslaved thousands of Walaita, he also drove 36,000 head of looted cattle all the way to Shawa. Two years later, the captives were used to transport food, weapons, ammunition from Shawa to Adwa in 1896.
The united country called Ethiopia, which according to Larebo and Borago existed centuries before Adwa, is a myth. The fact is that when he turned north to meet the Italians at Adwa, Menelik was in the midst of the conquest of the south. The entire Macha region – the Gibe and Leeqa states – was annexed only in 1886. Arsi was conquered in 1886 and Hararge in 1887. As indicated above, Walaita was conquered in 1894. The sores inflicted by the atrocities committed against the Oromo at Anole and Calanqoo in 1886 and 1887 by the conquering Abyssinian forces were still bleeding. Even Wallo’s conquest in the north was completed in 1878 after years of fierce battles between Menelik (then King of Shawa) and Emperor Yohannes IV on one side and the Wallo Oromo on the other. What is most remarkable is Larebo’s assertion that the Ethiopian people were united from corner to corner at the time of Adwa. In his interview on Radio Atronos, he posits that there was not a single village in Ethiopia which did not send fighters to Adwa. The absurdity of this proposition is that the Gujii and Borana Oromo and more than 80 percent of what is today the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SSNP), Gambella, Benishangul, Ogaden were outside the reach of Menelik’s empire. Needless to stress that Larebo’s assertions are not true because the country not only lacked unity, but, geographically, Ethiopia as we know it today did not exist at that point.
Indeed, the Ethiopian empire was defended by the blood and bones of Oromo fighters, but their blood was shed not for love of country as Larebo and others would have us believe. While the Abyssinians were defending their freedom, the Oromo had no freedom to defend against the Italians. They had lost it to the Abyssinians during the preceding decade. Their land was an Abyssinian colony. The “contribution” they were forced to make to the war effort saved the Abyssinians from European colonialism, but it did not help them to regain their own independence. There is no indication that they were beneficiaries of the victory over the Italians. In fact, as I will explain later, their contribution to the victory had reinforced colonial Abyssinian rule which Menelik had imposed on them a decade or two prior to the Battle of Adwa.
Ironically, like the naftanya elite, Borago and Larebo have few sympathetic words for the Oromo and the other conquered peoples of Ethiopia. It seems that they saw nothing wrong or immoral in the atrocities committed against them when they lay claim on Oromo loyalty to Menelik. They want the Oromo to see Menelik as their hero and an icon of their resistance against racism and colonialism. The Oromo admit that their forefathers had fought and defeated the Italian army together with Abyssinians. However, the war was not a joint undertaking, but an Abyssinian war with Italy. The Oromo were used as means to defend Abyssinia’s independence.Few believe Larebo’s repetitious story about Menelik being the defender of the black race against white colonizers. As the Oromo scholar Tsegaye Araarsa has expressed the matter, to call the empire built by Menelik the beacon of black freedom is a blatant “distortion of history intended to galvanize legitimacy for his rule.” It is a deceitful attempt to cleanse the history of the atrocious conquest from the stains of blood with which it was smeared. Given the great harm his conquest had inflicted upon them, one must be contemptuous of the Oromo to expect them to honor Menelik as their hero. I know that there are Oromos who take pride in the valor which their forefathers had shown at Adwa, but I have also seen their pride giving way to bitterness as soon as they discover the “rewards” they had received for their heroic contributions to that victory. Several years ago one of the Oromo admirers of Menelik II sent me a note and a picture of the Oromo cavalry who fought at Adwa.
Portrait of Oromo cavalry at Adwa
My friend who is an ardent “pan-Ethiopianist” was exhilarated when he read about the valor of Oromo fighters at the battle of Adwa in a book he came across. In the note he mentioned Fitawrari Gebeyehu as one of the heroes who made the victory at Adwa possible. Gebeyehu died in action leading the troops under his command in the forefront of the battle. However, he felt offended when he reflected on the fact that Gebeyehu’s name is rarely mentioned and his ethnic identity obscured by Ethiopian historiographers. He lamented, “The sad thing however is that Gebeyehu’s father’s name, Gurmu, is never mentioned in the history books. One day we will all be free from this and that type of racism little or big and the real patriots will be celebrated by all Ethiopians.” Gurmu is not a “genuine” Abyssinian name. However, Gebeyehu was not the only Oromo who was denied his social identity in Ethiopian history in that manner. Many Oromos who contributed to the defense of Abyssinia’s or Ethiopia’s independence were treated in that way. Even the ethnic origin of Haile Selassie’s grandfather was concealed. The reason was that the Abyssinian ruling elite were reluctant to recognize Oromos as partners in the making of Abyssinian-cum-Ethiopian history. As Hassen Hussein and Mohammed Ademo have expressed Gebeyehu’s “disappearance from Ethiopian history parallels the erasure of his people’s contributions from the country’s official historiography.” As the two authors have stated, “This is the root of Oromo ambivalence toward Ethiopia: the Oromo are good enough to fight and die for Ethiopia, but not live in it with their full dignity and identity.” This also underpins the lukewarm Oromo attitude toward the history of Adwa.
That the role of Oromo fighters was crucial for Menelik’s victory at Adwa is undeniable, but the victory did not help them as a people in any manner. It is remarkable that Borago and Larebo who come from conquered and marginalized peoples in the south, the Walaita and Hadiya respectively, could miss the cause of the unenthusiastic Oromo feeling toward Ethiopia and “Ethiopiawinnet”. Presenting Oromo forefathers as significant players in defense of the Abyssinian Empire does not change that reality or disprove the fact that the empire was a colonial creation and the Oromo are its colonial subjects. The point is, the Oromo did not fight at Adwa as ethnic Abyssinians or citizens of Abyssinia as Borago and other commentators try to suggest. They fought for their colonizers. They were not the first people to fight a war for their enemies. Colonized peoples had done that throughout history. For example, over 1,355,300 Africans fought for the British in WWII. They did not become Englishmen because of their contributions to British victory in that war. They returned home and struggled for their independence. The Oromo have not been silent subjects because of the victory at the Battle of Adwa. Although their struggle has been sporadic, as reflected in the current uprising, the hope for independence is alive and strong.
Did the Abyssinians participate in the Scramble for Africa?
Teshome Borago is suggesting that a “united Ethiopia” was in place long before Adwa when he says “One has to wonder, how could [did] we win unless a multiethnic Ethiopian nation existed long before the so-called ‘Abyssinian colonization’? How can we defeat a European superpower without sharing a sense of common identity and destiny?” With these rhetorical questions he joins the numerous Habesha politicians and scholars who deny Abyssinia’s participation in the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century. Concerning Abyssinia’s conquest and colonization of the Oromo and the other peoples in the south, the attitude of Habesha politicians’ and scholars’ is like that of climate change deniers. They ignore volumes of historical and scientific evidence that prove the reality of what they deny. However, to answer Borago’s questions, a multi-ethnic Abyssinian state and nation existed for sure long before the Scramble for Africa. Its main ethnic constituents were the Amhara and the Tigrayans with Agaw, Qimant, Falasha and Shinasha ethnicities. Its territorial base was, to a large extent, the current Amhara and Tigray Regional States and parts of highland Eritrea. One sees them as an Ethiopian nation since Abyssinia and Ethiopia often are interchangeably used. In contrast, the Ethiopian nation Borago has in mind did not exist before Adwa and is not a reality even today. The reality Borago will not acknowledge is that in the Horn of Africa, there were nations like the Oromo, the Sidama, the Walaita, the Afar, Somali and the Kaficho that existed parallel to and independent from Abyssinia. The victory at Adwa not only saved Abyssinia from European colonization, it also encouraged Menelik to continue, with renewed vigour, the colonization of the rest of the Oromo territory and the greater part of what is now south and southwest Ethiopia. I will present, below, a summary of evidence gleaned from the works of scholars on Abyssinia’s colonial exploits during the Scramble for African. I will use “imperial ambitions”, “ideology” and “possession of firearms” as guiding themes to identify the parity of Abyssinia’s participation in the Scramble for Africa with that of the European imperialist powers of the day.
Imperial ambitions: The evidence for Abyssinian imperial ambitions is reflected in Menelik’s letter to European heads of state wherein he states “if Powers at a distance come forward to partition Africa between them … I do not intend to be an indifferent spectator.” In the words of Gebru Tareke, impelled by “the appearance of European colonialist in the region”, Menelik “embarked on a much larger scale of colonization in the 1880s” than what had been attempted previously. Bahiru Tafla wrote also that it was “European colonial acquisition in Africa [which] awakened imperialist interest in the minds of the Ethiopian rulers of the late nineteenth century.” The influence of European imperialism on Menelik is articulated further by Elspeth Huxley who figuratively states that “the Abyssinians had caught a severe attack of the prevailing imperialist fever” and they “were the only Africans to join the scramble for Africa.” In his Ethiopia: The Last Frontiers, John Markakis writes that Abyssinia “competed successfully in the imperialist partition of the region [Horn of Africa]. Not a victim but a participant in the ‘scramble’, Ethiopia doubled its territory and population in a burst of expansionist energy, and thereafter proudly styled itself the ‘Ethiopian Empire’. He notes that “the title [‘Empire’] is not a misnomer, since Ethiopia’s rulers governed their new possessions more or less the same way and for similar ends as other imperial powers were doing. The people who took the pride in calling themselves Ethiopians were known also as Abyssinians (Habesha).” He states that “Today’s ruling elite frown at the use of this name because it obstructs their effort to forge an inclusive Ethiopian national identity.”Here, it is interesting to note that the Abyssinian use the term today, particularly in the diaspora, to differentiate themselves from other black peoples. When used as such, it has racial underpinnings as indicated by Hussein and Ademo in their article mentioned above.
Ideology: Asserting the colonial ideological factor in the creation of the Abyssinian empire, the conflict researcher Christian Scherrer notes that “European and Abyssinian colonialism occurred simultaneously, pursued similar interests, albeit from differing socio-economic bases, and this was reinforced by comparable colonial ideologies of the idea of empire and notion of ‘civilizing mission’ and the exploitation of the subjugated peoples.” Writing on the ideological underpinnings of Menelik’s colonial conquests, Gebru Tareke, a historian from the north, has also stated that the Abyssinian ruling elite acted like the white colonial rulers in the rest of Africa. The language they used when describing their colonial subjects did not differ from the language the European colonialists were using. It was a language which was infused with stereotypes, prejudices and paternalism. He adds, “They [the Abyssinian elite] tried much like the European colonisers of their time, to justify the exploitability, and moral validity of occupation.” They “looked upon and treated the indigenous people as backward.” One can add here that stereotypes and ethnic slurs about the Oromo, popular in Habesha discourse are the product of this colonial ideology.
Military technology: Obviously firearms were the other crucial elements in making the imperial colonial penetration of the African continent in the nineteenth century possible. Therefore, drawing parallels between the Abyssinian and European and Abyssinian colonial expansion during the Scramble, Margery Perham notes “The speed with which this great extension of the empire was made ….is explained by the …firearms which the emperor [Menelik] was obtaining from France and Italy. This same superiority was carrying the European powers at the same speed at the same time from the coast into the heart of Africa.” The Swedish historian Norberg also says that “using the same military technology as the European powers”, Menelik managed not only to conquer the neighbouring African territories, but was also able to garrison them with large forces called naftanya who controlled and lived on the conquered populations. As suggested by Richard Caulk, “the system of near serfdom imposed on wide areas of the south by the end of the nineteenth century could have not been maintained had the newcomers not been so differently armed. The historian Darkwah notes that “Menelik succeeded in keeping the arms out of the reach of the [Oromo] enemy. He did this by imposing a strict control over the movement of firearms into his tributary territories and the lands beyond his frontiers.”
Menelik was not a manufacturer of firearms, but was a keen importer of them. The bulk of firearms in his arsenal numbered around 25,000 in 1878. According to Luckman and Bekele, he was able to import over one million rifles, a quantity of Hotchkiss guns and artillery pieces between 1880 and 1900. For that purpose, he used more than a dozen French and Italian commercial agents and suppliers of firearms. In addition, European states were also supplying him with modern weapons in an attempt to use him as a proxy in their colonial scheme in northeast Africa. As I will explain below, the support Menelik received from European powers in his Scramble for colonies was not limited to firearms; military training and diplomacy were also included.
Europeans in the making of the Ethiopian empire
The other dimension of the history of Abyssinia’s conquest of the south, which is bypassed silently by Ethiopian historiographers and is denied incessantly by Habesha politicians, is the involvement of European fortune seekers and mercenaries in the making of Menelik’s Empire. There is no research on how many Europeans were in his service but, whatever their number might have been, the role they played in his conquest of the south must have been significant. Darkwah notes that “in 1877 a Frenchman named Pottier was employed in training a group of Shewan youths in European military techniques. Another Frenchman, Pino, was a regular officer in the army which was commanded by Ras Gobana. Swiss engineers, Alfred Ilg and Zemmerman were employed on, among other things, building bridges across the Awash and other rivers to facilitate movement.”According to Chris Prouty, Colonel Artamonov together with other Europeans was attached to the forces commanded by Ras Tasamma Nadew in Ilu Abbabor. He adds that even Count Nicholas Leontiev, a colonel in the Russian army, was a commander of a force which was sent to conquer the southwest in the 1890s. Another Russian officer, Baron Chedeuvre was Leontiev’s second-in-command during the expedition. Several French and Russian medical officers were also attached to the Abyssinian forces, particularly those which were led by Menelik and European commanders. The Russian Cossack Captain Alexander Bulatovich wrote that with him, there were Lieutenants Davydov, Kokhovskiy and Arnoldi along with a command of Cossacks who had finished their term of service” and who were received in audience by Menelik and took leave from him and returned to Russia in June 1898.
Several advisors helped Menelik in different fields to build his Empire. The Swiss engineer, Alfred Ilg had served him in a variety of capacities including diplomatic contacts for 27 years. The Italians made not only material but also diplomatic contributions that enabled Menelik to compete effectively in the scramble for colonies. The idea and the contents of the circular letter which Menelik sent to European heads of state in 1891 delineating his territorial claims came, for example, from the Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi himself. Menelik was advised to send the letter to European heads of state because the European powers were about to meet in Paris and establish the boundaries of their colonies in Africa. The territories which were defined in the letter the Italians drafted for Menelik to claim extended “as far as Khartoum and to Lake Nyanza beyond the land of the Galla [Oromo].” The territories were those which the Italians were planning to claim for themselves through Menelik as their proxy. However, the European support in firearms and diplomacy given to Menelik was a double-edged sword. It helped him to conquer the Oromo and amass resources to defeat the Italians at Adwa. That said, the conclusion we can draw is that Abyssinia’s participation in the Scramble for Africa is crystal clear. As the historian Haggai Erlich succinctly stated, “While rebuffing imperialism successfully in the north, Ethiopia managed to practice it in the south.” It was also based on what is outlined above that Bonnie Holcomb and Sisai Ibssa have eloquently described the Abyssinian conquest of the south as manifestation of “dependent colonialism” and its outcome the “invention of Ethiopia”. By that they meant the direct and indirect meshing of Abyssinian and European interests in the making of the Abyssinian-cum-Ethiopian Empire. Thus, notwithstanding the inconclusive arguments being orchestrated by denialists, the historical facts lead to the unescapable conclusion that Abyssinia was an active participant in the Scramble for Africa.
Where colonialism did not have race or color
Based on what I have described above, it is logical to construe that colonialism had no specific color or nationality in the Horn of Africa – its color was white and black and its nationality English, French, Italian or Abyssinian. The difference is in the degree of brutality used against the colonized peoples and the severity of exploitation exercised in the colonies. The intensity of demonizing Oromo scholars, activists and politicians who write and speak about the colonization of Oromia and the cacophony of denials expressed in the flora of written and oral commentaries will not change this historical truth.
That a black African force had defeated a white European army at Adwa in 1896 is beyond doubt. But, the representation of Adwa as an anti-colonial war and an African victory over colonialism is an atrocious lie. Indeed, Adwa was a turning point in the Scramble for colonies in the Horn of Africa; Menelik relinquished the role he was playing as an Italian proxy at the battle of Adwa, retained for himself the territories he had hitherto conquered using the firearms he had acquired partly from the Italians, with the understanding that they would be partners in the ownership of the territories he was conquering. He became a member of the colonialist club in his own right. In short, as colonialism lost its color at Adwa, military might became the decisive factor in the share of the African cake. The European mass media of the time reported that fact. The Spectator of 27 February 1897, for example, reflected the British view of the matter stating that, although Menelik, his queen, and his generals care little for human life, “this native dynasty of dark men,” nominally Christian is “orderly enough to be received into intercourse with Europe.” The European colonial powers recognized ‘the dynasty of dark men’, as their junior partner in the scramble for colonies. Soon after Adwa, both Britain and France negotiated and signed agreements that delineated the colonial borders with Abyssinia.
The whole story about the battle of Adwa is not written yet. Its bright side has been illuminated time and again. But its ugly sides are deliberately concealed from proper scrutiny or distorted by self-appointed “gurus” of Ethiopian history with Professor Haile Larebo as their outstanding representative. In the following paragraphs, I will describe briefly some of the non-glamorous sides of the victory at Adwa, namely, the ‘recruitment’ of colonial subjects for the war efforts, their treatment in the aftermath of Adwa, and the atrocious treatment of black (Eritrean) prisoners of war.
The circumstances, under which the peoples of the south, such as the Oromo, who were conquered in the 1880s, and the Walaita, who were conquered by Menelik two years before the battle of Adwa, were made to march north and participate in the battle, remains uninvestigated. Did they march north to fight against Italian colonialism voluntarily? What had happened to them after the war? These questions are never raised or answered in the story. Were they rewarded for their contributions in the victory over the Italians? I will not delve into details, but the answer is a definitive ‘No’! They were, as indicated in the case of the Walaita, captives who were forced to march north and became cannon-fodder. The reward for those who had survived the war and returned home must have varied depending on their status. The probability for those who were slaves to remain as such was almost hundred percent. The probability that some were sold by their masters to cover expenses on their southward journey after the war or afterwards was significant. Thus, the Oromo, the Sidama and Walaita, who participated in the battle of Adwa, did not win any victory over colonialism for themselves. They helped a black colonialist to defeat a white colonialist in a war over colonies. They did not defend themselves or their peoples against the colonialists. They fought for their enemy and strengthened the grip of black imperialism on themselves by defeating its white Italian antagonist. It was after Adwa that Menelik imposed the notorious gabbar system on the conquered south. Slavery and the slave trade became even more rampant thereafter with the conquest of the rest of the south and southwest which became hunting grounds for captives and ivory. Ironically, it was the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 which brought the outrageous institution and evil trade in human beings to an end. To suggest that it was a “united Ethiopia” that fought the Battle of Adwa or Ethiopia was united because of the victory achieved at Adwa is a charade.
In the interview he gave on March 22, 2017 to Radio Atronos, Larebo calls Menelik the most democratic emperor in world history and that Ethiopia was blessed to have had him as their ruler. However, this “most democratic” emperor had no mercy for black prisoners of war. In his book From Menelik to Haile Selassie II, (was used a history text book in grades four through seven in the 1960s in Ethiopia) the historian Tekle Tsadiq Mekuriya notes that “Menelik released the Italian and Arab [presumably Libyan] prisoners of war and gave them food and drinks, but he ordered with the approval of the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Matewos, the mutilation of Eritreans caught fighting on the Italian side.”According to another source, “The Italians taken prisoner were treated well but Ethiopian [Eritrean] troops (around 800) who had fought for the Italians were mutilated with their right hands and left feet being cut off.” Where is the saint-like character Professor Larebo ascribes to Menelik? The cruelty with which the Eritreans were treated was similar to the crime committed against thousands of Oromo men and women whose arms and breasts were hacked off by the order of Menelik’s paternal uncle Ras Darge ten years earlier at Anole, in Arsi. The difference was that the Eritreans were Italian colonial soldiers while the Oromo were unarmed men and women who were invited to a meeting, which appeared to be for peacemaking, by Ras Darge many months after the Battle of Azule in September 1886. In that battle with the invading Abyssinian forces the Arsi Oromo lost some 12,000 warriors and were defeated.
James, W. “Preface” in Donham, D. & James, W. (eds.), The Southern Marches of Imperial Ethiopia: Essays in History and Social Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. xiv.
 Marcus, H. The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844-1913. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1975: 140, 73
 Pankhurs, R. Economic History of Ethiopia, 1800-1935. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University press, 1968: 102.
 Berhane-Selassie, T. “Menelik II: Conquest and Consolidation of Southern Provinces”, B.A. Thesis, History Department, Addis Ababa University, 1969.
 Cited in Prouty, C. Empress Taytu and Menelik II: Ethiopia 1883-1910, Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 1996
 Tareke, Gebru. Ethiopia: Power and Protest. Lawrenceville, N.J: The Red Sea Press, 1996:40
 Bairu Tafla, in Asmé, 1905 [1987: 405, fn. 584]
 Huxley, E. White Man’s Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya, 1967: 38-9
Markakis, M. Ethiopia: The Last Frontiers, James Currey, New York, 2011, pp. 3-4.
 Scherrer, C. “Analysis and Background to the refugee Crisis: The Unsolved Oromo Question”, in Scherrer, C. & Bulcha, M. War Against the Oromo and Mass Exodus From Ethiopia: Voices of Oromo Refugees in Kenya and the Sudan, 2002, p. 27
 Bulatovich A. Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes: A Country in Transition, 1896-1898, translated and edited by Richard Seltzer, Lawrenceville, N.J: The Red Sea Press. Two volumes combined in the English translation, 1900/2000: 162
 Holcomb, B. & Ibssa, S. (1990). The Invention of Ethiopia: The Making of a Dependent Colonial State in Northeast Africa, Trenton, N.J.: The Red Sea Press.
 See Darley, H. 1926. Slaves and Ivory: A Record of Adventure and Exploration in the Unknown Sudan, and Among the Abyssinian Slave-Raiders, for a vivid description of slave raiding by the conquerors in these areas in the 1920s.
 Tekle-Tsadik Mekuriya, The History of Ethiopia: From Emperor Tewodros to Emperor Haile Selassie. In Amharic. Addis Ababa: Berhan ena Selam, Printing Press. 7th Edition, 1961 Eth. C (1968). p. 98.
Seyoum Teshome is a professor at a university in Ethiopia and writes to fight the spread of fear that has engulfed his country as a result of an increasingly repressive administration. In September 2016, Seyoum was arrested and charged with incitement to violence against the state. In this blog, he describes the treatment of prisoners in one of Ethiopia’s rehabilitation centres, where he was detained further to his arrest. Thousands of Ethiopians like Seyoum have been arrested and tortured in rehabilitation centres since the state of emergency was imposed in October 2016.
It was around 6:30 am on 30 September 2016 when I was rudely awakened by loud knocks on my door and someone shouting out my name. Peeping through the keyhole, I saw around 10 local police officers. Some of them were staring at the door while others were guarding the corridor.
I said to myself, “Yap! At last…here you go, they have come for you!”
One of them asked if I was Mr Seyoum Teshome to which I replied in the affirmative. They said they wanted to talk to me for a moment, so I opened the door. They showed me a court warrant which gave them permission to search my house. The warrant indicated that I had illegal weapons and pamphlets to incite violence against the government.
Accused without evidence
After searching my entire house and despite finding no signs of the said items, they arrested and took me to a local police station. They also carried off my laptop, smartphone, notebooks and some papers. Confident that they hadn’t found the items mentioned in the court warrant, I was certain of my release. However, three hours later, I found myself being interrogated by a local public prosecutor and two police investigators. The interrogation eventually led to the commencement of a legal charge.
I was scheduled to sit a PhD entry exam on 2 October 2017 at Addis Ababa University, something I had been working towards for a very long time. Throughout the interrogation, my pleas for the case to be hastened so that I wouldn’t miss the rare opportunity to pursue a PhD course fell on deaf ears. My colleagues had provided a car and allowance fee for a police officer to go with me to the university so that I could sit the exam. This is a standard procedure. Yet on that day, they were not willing to lend me a hand. I was stuck in pre-trial detention due to Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and missed my chance.
Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.
The day before my arrest, I had given an interview to Deutche Welle-Amharic radio station about the nation-wide teachers meeting where I commented that, in Ethiopia, expressing one’s own opinion could lead to arrest, exile or possibly death. Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.
On 3 October 2016, I was presented in court. I was accused of writing articles and posts on social media sites aiming to incite violence against the government. In addition to the two notebooks and papers they had taken from my house, the investigator had also printed 61 pages of the 58 articles I posted on the Horn Affairs website that year. In total, they brought more than 200 pages of written and printed writings as evidence to support their allegations. I denied all the charges.
Another court session was scheduled in 10 days to allow the police to conclude their investigations. The 10 days lapsed and the police requested an additional seven days to complete their investigations on me while denying me bail.
On 20 October 2016, a jury found there was no evidence to support the police department’s claims. I thought the matter was over but I was immediately accused of contravening the State of Emergency that had been declared on 9 October 2017. A piece of paper with some writing on it was presented as evidence to support the charge.
The Police initially took me to Tolay Military Camp and later transferred me, together with others arrested, to Woliso Woreda Police Station in central Ethiopia, outside Addis Ababa. We were shoved into a 3×5 metres squared detention room where we joined more than 45 other people already there. It was very hard to find a place to sit. I survived suffocation by breathing through a hole beneath the door. After that terrible night, I was taken back to Tolay where I stayed until 21 December, 2016 – 56 days after my arrest.
Access to food in the first 20 days was limited. We were made to walk while crouching with our hands behind our heads. We also walked barefoot to and from the toilet and dining areas. Due to this treatment, three of my fellow detainees suffered cardiac arrest. I don’t know whether or not they survived. I also heard that a woman’s pregnancy was terminated.
Every day, a police officer came to our room and called out the names of detainees to be taken for the so-called “investigation.” When they returned, the detainees had downtrodden faces and horrible wounds on their backs and legs. Waiting for one’s name to be called was agony.
It took eight days before my name was finally called. I sat in front of five investigators flanked on either side by two others. While I was being interrogated, detainees in another room were being beaten. I could hear them crying and begging their torturers to stop.
Moved by what I had witnessed, I decided to secretly gather the detainees’ information. It didn’t take long before I was discovered by the authorities. On a hot afternoon, they came to my room and called my name. A group of investigators ruthlessly began beating me, to the point where I fainted three times. The beatings were unbearable so I finally confessed to collecting information in the camp. The chief investigator was then called in so that I could also confess to him.
By then, I had gained enough strength to renounce my earlier confessions which angered the Chief Investigator very much. He drew a pistol and threatened to kill me for making a fool out of them. I stretched turned around and spread my arms wide. Then, I said, “Fear of death doesn’t make me confess against myself! Go ahead, shoot!”
Amazingly, the commander ordered me to go to my room and take a shower. I didn’t believe it. I still don’t. I quickly ran off. I was released a little over two weeks later.
Though I finally left Tolay, those memories and emotions are still with me. Though I am still afraid of another arbitrary arrest and being sent back to prison, what I fear more is the totalitarian state that complete denies freedom. . While there, I told myself that, if I made it out, I would raise international awareness on the government’s outrageous treatment of prisoners.
Last week on March 22, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who also chairs the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council, officially introduced the Amharic version of Ethiopia’s new tourism logo ‘Ethiopia, Land of Origins’. It is now called Midre Kedemt in Amharic.
The Prime Minister unveiled the Amharic version of the new logo while attending the fourth regular meeting of the Council, which was established three years ago in March 2014 along with the Ethiopian Tourism Organization. Reason? To transform the country’s ailing tourism industry.
A sign of urgency to reboot the country’s tourism industry plagued by, among others, poor tourism infrastructure and absence of meaningful coordination, both the Council and the Organization were established following a regulation issued by the Council of Ministers (CoM) in August 2013.
The ups and downs
Tourism in Ethiopia has been witnessing an increasing- if modest- growth since the country officially opened its doors to foreign tourists in 1963. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the most significant dip in the number of foreigners visiting Ethiopia happened during the 17 years in power of the military Derg regime from 1974 to 1991. Since then, following the coming into power of the incumbent in 1991, the numbers have shown a steady growth from 64,000 to 750,000 during the 2014/15 fiscal year.
That was until November 2015, when anti-government protests that would grip the country throughout 2016 first started, an unexpected turn of an event both the Council and the Organization seemed not prepared to handle.
“That [the time the protests began] was when we started to notice the difference,” says a tour operator who requested anonymity. “More and more clients began asking questions about security as the [protests] got international press coverage. Pretty soon the low season was upon us and the number of tourists plummeted as we [feared]. But we didn’t expect that more than 95% of our bookings for the high season would end up being canceled.”
The high season in Ethiopia typically starts in September, when the main rainy season is over; and it ends around February when it becomes too hot to take tourists to famous destinations such as the Danakil depression.
Encouraged by the steady inflow of tourists before the start of the protests, our source invested in two 4WD cars. “We bought two cars towards the end of the last fiscal year,” he explained. “We borrowed money from a bank and invested some from our own accounts. But there are no tourists now and we can’t even rent the cars to business tourists coming to Addis Abeba. We don’t know what to do. We are just paying rent, maintaining a small staff and hoping for the best at the moment.”
Although order seemed to have returned following the declaration of the current state of emergency in October last year, and “we are getting more requests now than before, it is not enough to maintain our business,” our source worries. “If things continue at this rate, we will be forced to close down. We picked a bad time to expand our business.” He also said most of their clients come from abroad after communicating with them via the internet, which suffered its own share misfortune as the country shut down internet following protests. Walk in and domestic clients account only for less than 2% of their total bookings, he said.
His frustrations are shared by many tour and travel companies that joined the market recently. Not only tour operators but those working in the transport sector were affected as well, according to Getnet Asefa, a freelance driver/guide. Getnet, who used to make an average 500birr (around $21) per day as a freelance guide, says he is now considering a change in career. “Last year at this time, I worked at least 4 days a week,” he says, “Now getting tourism work has become very difficult. Some of my friends have started working as taxi drivers. At this point, we don’t know what is going to happen next and that is scary.”
The effect is also felt among tour and travel agencies that on the surface seemed to be doing well. “We are concerned that the company won’t survive this year,” says Yenealem Getachew, managing director of Horizon Ethiopia Tour and Travel plc. “We don’t expect to be reimbursed for our losses. But we do have many commitments. For example, we have to pay profit tax at the end of the year. Some of us have bank loans. When you have a debt to service, that is the first thing you want to take care of. If you can’t do that, you start to lay off employees.”
Yenealem said his company has asked the government for help but they “still haven’t got a response. I think they are more concerned about companies with physical damage. They don’t seem to grasp that without clients we tour operators get nothing.”
In late Oct. 2016, Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism, MOCT, has established a command post to assess the damage the industry sustained as well as to ensure the “safety of tourists”. “We went to see the damage caused by the protesters,” Tewedros Derbew, Tourist Services Competence and grading directorate director at the ministry and head of the committee, told Addis Standard. “We called the owners for a meeting to discuss how to help them as well as to offer moral support. We have now sent a report to the investment commission detailing their losses. We have also distributed questionnaires to tour operators but we haven’t received their responses yet.”
Tewedros admits “the industry has been severely affected. There is no question about that.” But contrary to the actors in the industry say, he insists “no tour and travel company was forced or threatened to close down or let go of its employees because of it.”
The opposite of…
In late 2015, around the same time the protests began, MOCT announced that it wanted to “triple the number of foreign visitors, to more than 2.5 million, by 2020”, and make Ethiopia become one of Africa’s top five tourist destinations.
In a stark difference to what the actors in the industry and several reports say in post-protest Ethiopia, in a January 2017 report to the house of people’s representatives, Hirut Woldemariam, the new minister at the ministry of culture and tourism, reported that despite the current state of emergency 300,000 tourists have visited the country during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, generating $872 revenue to the country.
But as in every sector, data for this sector is prepared by the government itself. If one goes by Hirut’s numbers above for example, more tourists have visited Ethiopia during its turbulent year than in its years of peace. In Oct. 2015, one month before the start of the protests, the same ministry said that during the 2014/15 fiscal year, 750,000 tourists have visited Ethiopia, fetching in $2.9 billion income to the county. That figure is close to the $3b the government expected to earn from the industry by the end of its first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in 2015.
In Oct. 2016, Lonely Planet has rated Ethiopia 10th out of the “Top Ten Countries to visit in 2017.” But, that announcement seemed to contribute little when it comes to shaking off Ethiopia’s image in the aftermath of the widely reported yearlong protests.
“Image is everything for a country’s tourism sector,” one expert says. “We had just managed to overcome decades of bad publicity caused by famines and violent regime changes. [As of late] Ethiopia had been named one of the emerging tourist destinations. The country’s overall infrastructure was getting better. Then this [the protest] happens. It will take a long time to recover from the effects of the unrest. It is difficult to predict just how long.”
Other issues many tour operators cite in relation to the decline in tourism are the substandard services and accommodations, inadequate maintenance given to tourism infrastructure and destinations, and the lack of communication between tour operators and government agencies.
“Take Lalibela for example. It looks exactly the way it did 10 years ago but the entrance fee has increased,” says Yenealem. “Our hotel bookings are dropped with little to no notice when there are big events like Epiphany in Gondar. The local guides monopolize any work to be done on the sites [including] increasing entrance and guide fees at will and they chase away anyone who refuses to have a guide.”
Lots of plans
In addition to the five-year plan by the MOCT, in September 2016, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has handed over Ethiopia’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) 2015-2025 to the then minister of tourism and culture, Ayisha Mohammed Mussa. It targets to lift the number of international visitors to five million in the year 2025. The projected income from the industry to increase from ETB14.197 billion in 2012 to ETB180 billion in 2015. The corresponding number of jobs in the tourism sector will increase from 985, 500 to 4.8 million, according to the document.
As part of its several initiatives to revive the industry, as of last week, the Ethiopian Tourism Organization is organizing a series of workshops in several cities in North America including New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
ETO has also recently signed, for an undisclosed amount of money, an agreement with New York-based CornerSun, a tourism marketing and public relations firm to “represent and promote Ethiopia” to travel trade and media throughout the United States and Canada. Since it was formed in 2014, the organization, led by an industry veteran Solomon Tadesse, has spent more time and resource to promote Ethiopia by participating in various fairs and exhibitions outside the country.
With all that said and all the inconsistencies considered, however, tour operators worry that the number of tourists visiting Ethiopia will continue falling short than both the five year plan by the ministry and ECA’s STMP have anticipated.
Last week and this week, while Solomon Tadesse, along with a group of hotels as well as tour and travel company owners, is doing a three-city roadshow in the Americas, some tourists who want to take chances to visit Ethiopia signed onto Lonely Planet’s online forums to complain about complicated visa requirements at Ethiopian embassies abroad and a steep rise in domestic flight fare by the state monopoly, Ethiopian Airlines, an indication that beyond the protest-tainted image the industry is facing as of late tourists are also dealing with other problems that are equally urgent; but problems that are less the focus of the endless plans to revive the sector, including a new logo. AS
Acute food insecurity and conflict in Africa by Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Nineteen African countries are facing acute levels of food insecurity. Ten of those countries are experiencing internal conflict.
Nineteen African countries are facing acute levels of food insecurity. Ten of those countries are experiencing internal conflict. Click on image to download as PDF.
Historic droughts in East and Southern Africa have caused food prices to skyrocket to record levels, doubling the price of staple cereals in some areas. The areas of greatest food insecurity, however, are those affected by conflict. An arc of conflict-affected countries, largely overlapping regions of greatest food insecurity, spans the center of the continent from Somalia to Mali. In addition to disrupting production, conflict undercuts markets that would normally bring food to areas of greatest shortage. In some places, conflict prevents even conducting a full assessment of the level of food insecurity. And because countries in conflict lack the resilience or coping mechanisms of more stable areas, their food crises tend to last longer and have more lasting impact. In short: Nineteen African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity Ten of those countries are experiencing civil conflict Eight of those ten countries are autocracies Those eight are also the source of 82 percent of the 18.5 million Africans that are internally displaced or refugees
Fed up with ineffective leaders who aren’t dealing with the crises on the continent, people are coming together to launch a pan-African solidarity movement
The expression “Africa rising” was popularised by the Economist and focuses on GDP growth. The growing middle class and major increases in foreign direct investment all pointed to Africa being a prime investment destination and the promised return-on-investment levels that City bankers could only dream of since the collapse of the Asian tigers.
But while GDP has been rising across Africa, Africans themselves have been sinking – into deepening inequality, increasing corruption, shrinking civic space and in low lying areas, literally due to climate change.
This is why 272 people from 44 African countries (and the diaspora) founded Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity, in August last year, out of a deep desire to rewrite the rising narrative. The vision is a decentralised, citizen-owned future. Social inclusion, peace and shared prosperity are the key touch points of this new pan-African movement.
Africa is a rich continent. It has been impoverished by colonialism, slavery and now by new forms of economic injustice. We can’t undo history and the mess that we find ourselves in but we refuse to allow our political and business leaders to blame everything on colonialism.
History is not to blame for the human rights violations happening right now, for the gender inequality, for using fossil fuels when we have some of the best conditions for renewable energy. These wrongs are current and Africans Rising is about calling out our leaders on these failures and building a better, more just, more peaceful and sustainable Africa.
On 25 May – commonly know as Africa Day and officially as African Liberation Day – there will be a series of actions and events across the continent to mark the launch of the movement. We chose that day so that we can remind ourselves, our leaders and the world that we are tired of waiting for that liberation to be delivered. And to show them that we are prepared to take action and hold political and business leaders accountable and reinvigorate the journey to that better life for all.
Red is the colour of the launch, primarily to commemorate the blood that was spilt for the freedom of the peoples of Africa (and reminding our leaders that what is asked of them today is much less than what was asked from leaders in our anti-colonial struggles). Secondly, red signifies that Africa is bleeding its wealth on a daily basis through illicit financial outflows. Thirdly, we want to remind all Africans that whatever our beliefs and origins, we all have the same blood and, we have to work together for peace and justice.
Africans Rising is a catalysing movement and the launch will amplify existing struggles. If you are addressing violence against women for instance, you can use #25May2017 to advance your demands or other struggles at local or national level.
On the evening of 25 May, we’re calling on people to switch off their lights between 7pm and 8pm and to light a candle. This is for two reasons. One is to recognise there are still millions of Africans living in absolute energy poverty, which has consequences for education, health and economic activity. Even though Africa is blessed with some of the best renewable energy resources, we have hardly begun to harness these to lift our people out of energy poverty and create decent jobs. Secondly, the candles are a signal to our leaders, who do not have the political courage to lead in the way that we need them to, that we will not allow them to destroy the futures of current and forthcoming generations.
At the launch events all over the continent on 25 May, people will read out the Kilimanjaro declaration and pledge that: “We are Africans and we are rising for justice, peace and dignity”.
Young people are at the centre of Africans Rising, and were the majority at the conference in Arusha, Tanzania that gave birth to the movement. We are one of the youngest continents in terms of our demographic profile but we have some of the oldest leaders. If political leaders were honest with themselves many would acknowledge that they’ve been in power for far too long. They’ve run out of fresh ideas. We need to make way for younger people who have new perspectives on the problems facing the world.
We are building pan-African solidarity. When there is a crisis of humanity in Africa, either through manmade or natural disasters, the first people to step forward and offer solidarity often are people from outside the continent. Valued though those expressions of solidarity are by the victims of injustice, this allows our governments to cry imperialism and foreign interference.
There are devastating human rights violations happening in many countries including Zimbabwe, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon and in my own country, South Africa. While we have a wonderful constitution for which so many people gave their lives, we still see protesting workers killed.
Africans Rising is about deepening solidarity across the continent. We must step up and be the first to speak out against human rights violations.
Even though we have not yet formally launched, Africans Rising has already responded to crises with a solidarity mission to the Gambia, after the long-serving president refused to accept electoral defeat and a fact-finding mission to Cameroon to investigate a brutal state crackdown on protests by minority Anglophone communities.
We are committed ethically as well as tactically to peace. The Kilimanjaro declaration explicitly commits us to non-violent means of resisting injustices. But we believe peaceful civil disobedience is the right of citizens when governments refuse to listen or to act in the interests of the people.
That doesn’t mean we won’t engage in conventional dialogue with governments. We will, but we won’t do so believing that merely meeting with government is going to deliver the changes we need, quickly enough to improve the lot of our people.
We are building a movement that aims to finish the journey of true African liberation, for which so many people laid down their lives in the struggle against colonialism and since. We refuse to accept that all that blood was spilt for the difficult lives people live every day on the continent. The struggle continues!
Mozambique is the first major African nation in recent times to become unable to meet obligations to international creditors
Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 group of the world’s most influential industrialised and emerging economies met in Baden Baden, Germany on the 17/18 March. The German NGO Erlassjahr.de (Jubilee Germany), which campaigns for debt relief, saw this as an opportunity to draw attention to the growing debt problems of many developing countries. The NGO has identified as many as 40 African countries which are showing signs of heavy indebtedness.
“This is not surprising because today’s economic indicators are telling a story very similar to the situation in the late 1970s and early 1980s which led to the Third World debt crisis,” said Jürgen Kaiser, political coordinator at Jubilee Germany. In the wealthy industrialised countries, interest rates are very low, but in Africa investors can fetch returns of between seven and 15 percent. This leads to large capital flows from the North to the South.
The debt trap: declining commodity prices “The low interest rates encourage countries to take out big loans which they then have difficulty paying back,” Kaiser said. The situation becomes particularly precarious when commodity prices fall. This leads to a subsequent decline in tax revenue in economies that are dependent on oil, natural gas, coal or other raw materials.
This latest debt crisis may come as a surprise to some people because numerous developing countries had a large share of their debts written down under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. However, commentators who were convinced at the time that that this initiative launched by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G-8 group of leading industrialised nations, including Germany, would solve the developing nations’ debts problems turned out to be wrong.
Mozambique insolvent again despite debt relief Figures released by Jubilee Germany show how unsustainable the HIPC initiative was. Among the 40 African states where the indebtedness indicators were flashing red, 26 went through the HIPC program. One of those countries was Mozambique. In January 2017, the country ceased paying back its debts on time. In 2012, Mozambique’s obligations to its creditors amounted to 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they now total 130 percent. Banks and investment funds were keen to lend Mozambique money believing it would be safe because the country possesses huge reserves of coal and natural gas. Those investors have been left empty-handed.
Debt explosion in Angola, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa “Mozambique is a very dramatic case. It is the first country to cease repayments in such an abrupt significant manner since HIPC debt relief,” said Jürgen Kaiser. “But countries such as Gambia or Ghana, which also have an abundance of natural resources, are in a very critical situation as well. Senegal, which does not have much in the way of natural resources, is also in difficulties once again,” he added.
On analysing World Bank data of African nations’ indebtedness with foreign countries, it quickly becomes apparent that a large number of African economies have recently acquired dramatic levels of new debt. Between 2005 and 2015 – the most recent year for which figure are available – Angola, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa have witnessed a threefold increase in their debt levels. Smaller countries such as Cape Verde also borrowed fresh capital during this time frame.
The solution: international insolvency proceedings? Currently there is no internationally recognised set of proceedings to settle the affairs of a country which has become insolvent. Many countries have such mechanisms for individuals and companies, but all attempts to create insolvency proceedings for sovereign states have been blocked by a lobby consisting of banks and nation states.
IMF Managing Director Anne Kruger proposed the creation of a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism in 2001. It would have been administered by the IMF, but the proposal was blocked by the United States. It wasn’t the only proposal. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “towards the establishment of a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes.” There were 124 votes in favor, 41 abstentions and 11 votes against. This resolution was non-binding and the chances of it being implemented are slim. One of the 11 states that voted against it was Germany.
“That could have been a mechanism that could have helped us move forward right now,” said Jürgen Kaiser referring to Africa’s present debt crisis. “Insolvency proceedings would mean that it wouldn’t be just the creditors who would decide when debts should written down on or not. In the past that practice has led to debt relief being dispensed too late, on too small a scale, or not at all.
Sovereign debt restructuring was not on the agenda of the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers at the weekend, but if more developing countries follow Mozambique’s example and default on loan repayments, then it could be that G-20 will be forced to tackle the issue of debts levels.
An impatient Ayider Habesha, nine, had left his older brother searching for his footwear. He headed to religious lessons in a hut next to the towering dump. Ayider was buried alive with his six classmates and teacher when a chunk of the open landfill gave way on the evening of 11 March. His body was recovered two days later.
While Bargicho sees divine intervention at play in the incident, the collapse at Reppi landfill was an avoidable, manmade disaster.
In 2011, the French development agency (AFD) gave Addis Ababa’s government 34.6m euros (£17.3m) to close and rehabilitate Reppi and build a new landfill site at Sendafa, about 25 miles outside the capital in Oromia state.
Oromia has been engulfed by violence since November 2015. The unrest has been fuelled by concerns over a masterplan to integrate the development of Addis Ababa – a metropolis of about 5 million people – with surrounding Oromo areas. While federal officials insist the blueprint would mean harmonious progress, activists cast it as another land grab that would mean the eviction of thousands more Oromo farmers as the capital expands.
The AFD funding also covers retraining for the hundreds of people who picked through the waste at Reppi for valuable items, some of whom died in the landslide.
When Reppi was established in the 1960s, it was in the countryside. Now it is surrounded by shops and houses, which have encroached on an expanding rubbish mountain.
Rubbish started being sent to Sendafa, rather than Reppi, in January last year. But operations were suspended seven months later after protests by local farmers, who said the Sendafa site was poisoning water and killing livestock.
The trucks returned to Reppi, where rubbish had been dumped without being treated, compacted or otherwise managed for half a century. Authorities knew Reppi was unstable and over capacity when they resumed operations, according to Nega Fantahun, the head of the city government’s solid waste recycling and disposal project office, the responsible agency.
“One cause is the return to Reppi. It’s not the only reason, but it’s one cause, one reason, it aggravates it,” he says of the landslide.
The government hasn’t given up on Sendafa, a joint initiative of the city and Oromia region. But activity at the fenced-off site is limited to work on buildings and other infrastructure. Black sheeting covers a shallow bulge of rubbish to try to reduce the smell. An eight-metre high net was constructed to prevent waste blowing on to adjacent farmland but, when a gust of wind arrives, several plastic scraps soar into the air and tumble over the fence into the fields.
In rolling farmland next to the landfill, local opposition to the project is fierce. Gemechu Tefera, 40, a farmer, says maggots from the landfill have ruined food, cattle have died from toxic water, and a dog brought a human hand back from the site. Consultation was so inadequate that residents thought the site would become an airport, the group claims. “If they come again they will have to go through us. We will continue protesting. They will have to kill us first,” says Tefera.
The French financing included Sendafa’s construction and the closure of 19 hectares (about 47 acres) of Reppi’s 36 hectares between 2011 and 2013. Eventually, the plan is to transform the toxic site into a park. Seven hectares have been set aside for a separately funded $120m (£96m) waste-to energy plantowned by the state electricity company, which could deal with 75% of the city’s rubbish when it becomes operational later this year.
The AFD is waiting for notification from the city government to begin rehabilitating the remaining section of Reppi. That will only begin once the site is no longer being used for dumping, says Shayan Kassim, project manager at the French agency’s Addis Ababa regional office.
According to Kassim, consultants reported that the performance at Sendafa of the city’s contractor, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, was satisfactory and there were no irregularities in dealing with the impact on the community. Vinci worked with AFD and the authorities on improving Sendafa for a year after completion, and the government is undertaking more work following storms that caused some leakage into the nearby environment, he says.
The local administration responsible for the new landfill’s location supports the farmers’ pollution claims. Shimallis Abbabaa Jimaa took over as head of Bereke district government last year after the protests. He produced an October 2016 report from Oromia’s government that concluded water in a local well was not potable and the cause could be a river polluted by seepage from Sendafa. The area had been earmarked by the region as a productive cropping area and should not have been selected for waste disposal, says Jimaa.
The promised improvements could mean local acceptance of Sendafa but, given the strength of the resistance, that seems unlikely, he says. “No one agreed with the project so they rose in revolt.”
After welcoming speakers and participants from across the globe, the conference’s host, MEP Liliana Rodrigues, opened the event by expressing that the responsibility to stop the atrocities in Ethiopia belongs to us all: “We are here to help break the silence.” Dr Shigut Geleta, of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), reminded the audience that large donors, such as the European Union and the United States, continue to provide substantial aid to Ethiopia despite the country’s heinous human rights record. Dr Geleta emphasised that this aid has been crucial in maintaining the ruling coalition’s stranglehold on political power in Ethiopia.
Continuing off of this point, Mr Denboba Natie, an executive committee member of the Sidama National Liberation Front, raised the question of how marginalised communities can make their struggle known when internationally sponsored funds are flowing into the authoritarian regime, contributing to their repression. For a moment of reflection, Mr Natie asked the entire conference to stand in silence to honour the pain and sacrifices of these subjugated peoples and of the women and girls who have been victims of gender-based and sexual trauma in Ethiopia. UNPO Secretary General Marino Busdachin made reference to the array of issues affecting these regions, such as land-grabbing, eviction, poverty and extrajudicial killings, ultimately declaring that “enough is enough.”
To open the first panel, a statement by Graham Peebles, freelance writer and director of The Create Trust, was read by moderator and UNPO Programme Officer Julie Duval. Mr Peebles’ statement drew attention to a number of worrying issues in Ethiopia – the lack of independent media sources, the stifling of any political dissent, the routine sexual abuse and rape of imprisoned women – all of which contribute to the precarious condition of human rights for marginalised populations. Ms Ajo Agwa of the Gambella People’s Liberation Movement and the Gambella Women’s Association gave a poignant overview of the ongoing violence in her region, where public schools and medical clinics are looted, children are abducted and civilians are massacred by assailants clad in military uniforms under the guise of enforcing protection along the border with South Sudan.
The testimony of MsDinknesh Dheressa, Chairwoman of the International Oromo Women’s Organization, highlighted the extreme level of state violence in Oromiya, where government security forces have repeatedly “used live ammunition to disperse protests.”
Mr Garad Mursal, Director of the African Rights Monitor, stated that “civilians in Ogaden, Oromiya, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Sidama have been subjected to mass murder, torture and rape” by the Ethiopian government and their allies. Mr Mursal explained that due to the famine and the cholera epidemic in the Ogaden region, entire villages of Somalis are being wiped out and yet the Ethiopian government continues to prioritise economic development over fundamental human rights. Following Mr Mursal’s speech, a clip of Mr Peebles’ short documentary entitled Ogaden: Ethiopia’s Hidden Shame was shown in which Somali women give first-hand accounts of the sexual violence and torture they endured at the hands of Ethiopian security forces.
The second panel focussed more exclusively on women’s rights and sexual violence. Mrs Rodrigues reminded the audience that Ethiopia is hardly a unique case when it comes to sexual abuse and rape being used as a weapon of war. She called for accountability measures to be enacted by the Ethiopian government to guarantee that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice, but also to provide physical and psychological care for victims of sexual trauma. Significantly, Mrs Rodrigues emphasised that there must be liability where foreign aid is concerned, and she urged the European Union to put Ethiopia at the top of its agenda.
MEP Julie Ward (S&D) succinctly but powerfully intoned that “The root cause of violence against women and girls is inequality.” In considering the effects of how widespread sexual violence has contributed to the devastation of marginalised communities in Ethiopia, Ms Ward stressed that as a war tactic, mass rape is constitutive of genocide and ethnic cleansing. She further declared it “absolutely wrong that EU aid money should be in any way complicit in these human rights violations and crimes of sexual violence”.
Oromo medical doctor Dr Baro Keno Deressa reiterated Ms Ward’s statements about rape being used as a tool of war in Ethiopia, where sexual violence is used strategically to terrorise and ultimately destroy marginalised communities. He maintained that “it is a violation of human rights when women are not given the right to plan their own families”. Moreover, women from these regions are deliberately excluded from the women’s empowerment programmes touted by the Ethiopian government as a model of their progress. Both Dr Deressa and Ms Mariam Ali, an activist currently studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, asserted that rape has become institutionalised in Ethiopia.
In closing the second panel, Ms Ali provided a summary of facts about the situation in the Ogaden region, including that the Ethiopian army’s blockade has kept independent journalists and medical officials from entering the region. The population is being starved by a “man-made famine”, and Ms Ali affirms that women are subjected to near-constant rape and torture. Ms Ali ended her speech by addressing these brutal human rights violations with a Somali proverb, “Dhiiga kuma dhaqaaqo?” which translates to “Does your blood not move?”
Mrs Rodrigues and Ms Duval gave the final remarks, addressing both the general human rights situation in Ethiopia and the particular burden born by women from marginalised regions. Mrs Rodrigues underlined once again that action must be taken to see that international funds are solely being used in a fashion that supports human rights and ensures women’s rights. Overall, the conference provided a distinct opportunity for representatives of marginalised groups in the regions of Oromiya, Ogaden, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Sidama to speak directly to Members of the European Parliament and recount their experiences to a wider audience of human rights activists and civil society actors. A fruitful exchange of views following the official programme brought this important event to a close and allowed representatives from the media, academia, political decision-makers, as well as representatives of civil society and diplomatic missions to engage in a lively discussion.
Click here to find the conference declaration and here to find more photos of the event
International Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Crafted in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II, the Declaration gave the world the vision it needed to stand up to fear and the blueprint it craved to build a safer and more just world. Its single premise is: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Human Rights Day Message:United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s message for Human Rights Day 10 December 2014.
In observing Human Rights Day, its important to highlight the horrific going on in 2014 in our world. The following document is the summary of horrific repression going on against Oromo people by tyrannic Ethiopian regime:
” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” class=”alignleft wp-image-4426″ src=”https://qeerroo.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/hrlha.jpg?w=151&h=151″ alt=”HRLHA” style=”margin: 0px 7px 2px 0px; padding: 4px; border: none; float: left; display: inline;”>February 26, 2017The Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Ethiopian Federal government’s killing squad have been engaged in a cruel war for the past six months against the Oromo nation in fifteen districts of Oromia. The Oromia districts that have been invaded by the two aforementioned forces are in east and east- west Hararge Zone, Eastern Oromia, Guji, Borana and Bale, South Oromia zones, Southern Oromia of Oromia Regional State.
An Ethiopian government directive under a state of emergency contains overly broad and vague provisions that risk triggering a human rights crisis, Human Rights Watch said in a legal analysis. The government should promptly repeal or revise all elements of the directive that are contrary to international law. 31 October 2016.
“Internet mobile irrati fayadamuuf mali argameera… akkas agodhani qeeroon Setting..more network….mobile network… access network name…. harka mirgara + kan jedhu tuqu… name kanjedhu … et.wap… APN… et.wap…. proxy…10.204.189.211… port…9028…. authentication… PAP or CHAP kan jedhu guutu… kana booda qeerroon mirgaan galte Mobile jam Tplf irraa hanu… sanan fayadama jira amaan kana.” #OromoRevolution.
For those following the Feyisa Lilesa and #OromoProtests in Ethiopia: Sifan Hassan on his demonstration – “He’s my hero.”
Bush fire is ravaging, since yesterday afternoon, places in the cuqqaalaa mountain ranges of the Liiban Cuqqaalaa district in East Shawa zone, in central Oromia. I did also receive this alert yesterday afternoon from other ground sources -but didn’t post while trying to triangulate grounded evidence. Part on these mountain ranges are ancient monasteries of the orthodox church which are home to some of the most revered medieval period christian collections and documents on a small island turf of the church’s remains. We call up on the local authorities to urgently extend their support to the local community in putting off this bush fire. Via Abbaacabsaa Guutamaa
This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 21 March 2017.
A total of 183 deaths were recorded from July to December 2016 following clashes between protestors and security agents in three countries – Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali.
In each of the three countries, security agents used excessive force to disperse protestors who were demonstrating against specific issues in their respective countries. The police brutalities resulted in several deaths. A death toll of 150 was recorded in Ethiopia, 32 in DRC and one in Mali.
To date, not one security agent has been prosecuted for any of the killings in the three countries.
Unfortunately, this is just one of the many violations perpetrated against protestors, journalists and media organisations in Africa as reported in the maiden edition of the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report by the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) compiled for the period July to December 2016.
The periodic Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report is an intervention by AFEX that seeks to monitor and report on FOE violations (including violations against freedom of assembly and association) and other developments in Africa for the timely intervention by appropriate stakeholders.
Over the six-month period, 63 incidents of violation were recorded in 19 countries across the African continent. State security apparatus were the main perpetrators of the violations. Together, they were responsible for 57 percent (36) of the 63 violations.
State security agents were not only responsible for the killing of the 183 protestors in the three countries; they were also the perpetrators of all 19 incidents of arrests and detentions in 10 of the 19 countries covered in the report. in addition, five out of six media organisations were shut down by state security agents.
State officials were also found to be perpetrators of media and FOE rights violations both online and offline. Of the 63 violations, 10 were carried out by/on the orders of state officials. Thus, state actors were generally the main perpetrators of the various violations reported in the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report.
Sadly, only seven out of 63 recorded violations received some form of redress actions.
For the full report on the types of violations cited, other perpetrators, the 19 countries monitored and the targets of the violations, click here.
It is time to face up to deep-rooted barriers to development
“In order to advance, we need to examine more closely not just what has been achieved, but also who has been excluded and why.” – Selim Jahan
“By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all.” – Helen Clark
Beyond averages—using the family of human development indices
Human development is about improving the life chances of individuals. However, the measures used to monitor progress in human development often cover only countries and not individuals or groups. Disaggregated measures are therefore needed that show who is deprived, where they live and the nature of their deprivations. National, subregional and regional Human Development Reports have identified deprivations by analysing data disaggregated by age, gender, subnational units, ethnicity and other parameters. Disaggregating and analysing the family of human development indices— the Human Development Index (HDI), the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), the Gender Development Index (GDI), the Gender Inequality Index (GII) and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)— are early steps towards quantifying the scale of deprivations globally.
Collective capabilities—helping marginalized groups
Human development is not only a matter of promoting the freedoms that individuals have and have reason to choose and value. It is also a matter of promoting the freedoms of groups or collective entities. Individuals are not the only unit of moral concern; structures of living together are, too. The failure to explicitly include them in evaluating the state of affairs leads to the loss of important information.
Ethiopia ranks 174th out of 188 countries in the latest UNDP Human Development Report (published 21st March 2017). Ethiopia’s Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2015 is 0.448, which put the country in the low human development category. According to the report, Ethiopia’s 2015 HDI of 0.448 is below the average of 0.497 for countries in the low human development group and below the average of 0.523 for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Top 10 countries on the Human development index are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland and Canada.
Farmers, traders and consumers across East and Southern Africa are feeling the impact of consecutive seasons of drought that have scorched harvests and ruined livelihoods.
Ethiopia:The strongest El Niño phenomenon on record led to an extreme drought in 2016, with 10.2 million in need of food aid. A new drought means 2017 could be just as dire, throwing an additional 5.7 million people into crisis. Farmers and herders found their resilience tested to the limit last year. They have very limited resources left to cope with the current crisis. More at IRIN: Drought in Africa.
2016 was a challenging year for Ethiopia. But 2017 could be equally dire, as the country has been hit by a new drought. As 2.4 million farmers and herders cannot sustainably practice their livelihoods and reinvigorate their already drought-stricken farms, the new drought is throwing an additional 5.7 million people into crisis.
At the launch of the Humanitarian Requirements Document, UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien called for US$948 million to meet people’s survival and livelihoods needs in 2017.
“We need to act now before it is too late,” he said. “We have no time to lose. Livestock are already dying, pastoralists and farmers are already fleeing their homes in search of water and pasture, and hunger and malnutrition levels will rise soon if assistance does not arrive on time.”
Source: 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document
Back-to-back cycles of poor or non-existent rainfall since 2015, coupled with the strongest El Niño on record, led to Ethiopia’s worst drought in decades. The new drought has hit southern and eastern regions, and pastoralists and farmers are fleeing their homes to find water and pasture.
The new drought extends beyond Ethiopia’s borders—in Kenya and Somalia, it has already pushed 1.3 million people and 5 million people into hunger, respectively. Severe water and pasture shortages in Somalia have resulted in livestock deaths, disrupted livelihoods and caused massive food shortages.
Feyisa Lilesa, who is now living in the United States following his performance at the Rio Olympics, won the United Airlines NYC Half on Sunday. Again, the Olympic marathon silver medallist, who is Ethiopian, crossed his wrists above his head, forming an “X,” in solidarity with the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. It’s not the first, or second, time that Lilesa has performed such a gesture.
Excluding Sunday’s performance, Lilesa has on two previous notable occasions performed what is part of the Oromo protests since the Olympics including at the Honolulu Marathon and the Houston Half-Marathon. The 27-year-old did not return to Ethiopia after the Olympics fearing for his life because of the finish line act. The long-distance specialist is currently residing in Flagstaff, Ariz. with his family recently relocating to the United States on Valentine’s Day.
According to CNN, there have been protests across Ethiopia “since April of 2014 against systematic marginalization and persecution of ethnic Oromos.” The protests can be sourced to the territorial limits of the capital city Addis Ababa extending into neighboring Oromo villages displacing residents. In 2016, Ethiopian security forces “killed hundreds and detained tens of thousands of protesters in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara regions,” according to Human Rights Watch. The government told Lilesa that it would be safe to return home.
As seen a recent feature in the New York Times, Lilesa has received a green card as a permanent resident in the United States “for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and sports.” Lilesa’s finish line protests have led other runners, including several in Canada, to cross their wrists above their head at the finish line of races.
On Sunday, Lilesa and Scotland’s Callum Hawkins were side-by-side entering the finishing stretch towards Wall Street. Lilesa won by four seconds in 1:00:04, his first victory since the 2016 Tokyo Marathon. In the women’s race, there was also a tight finish as American Molly Huddle completed the NYC Half three-peat bettering Emily Sisson in 1:08:19 to 1:08:21. The two are training partners and reside in Providence, R.I. (Huddle is married to former Canadian middle-distance specialist Kurt Benninger.)
““I never would have thought I could come back here and win three times,” Huddle said in a New York Road Runners (NYRR) release. “I remember the first win was such a surprise for me, and last year we ran so fast. I just feel really lucky to have won a third time. Every time is really difficult with an international field. New York Road Runners brings in some of the best of the best. Some people are in marathon buildups but some people were really gearing up for this race. I feel like it was a really cool win, and just contributes to my enthusiasm for New York.”
Rachel Cliff (1:12:07) for eighth and Eric Gillis (1:03:49) in 16th were the top Canadians in the race that featured more than 20,000 runners.
1. Col. Gebremedihin Gebre, Shhinelle Zone Coordinator and deputy commander of Somali Special Forces
2 Col. Fiseha, chief of intelligence of somali regional government, specializing particularly in Oromos and Oromia issue, also heads and supervises Fefem zone security
3. Col. Gitet Tesfaye , coordinates and leads disputed borders issue and security
4. Major Desalegn Haddish, Babile front intelligence chief
5 Major Abraha Sisay, heads training of mercenaries and somali recruits at Bobas training center
6 Brigadier General Hadgu Belay, advisor to the president of Somali region on security and organizational affairs on security at regional government level
7 Col. Gebretensae, heads and coordinates Somali militias organization Oromo mercenaries working with the TPLF officials
1. Lieutenant Hassan Ali, former member of defense forces of Ethiopia, now commands a Liyu Police unit consisting 120 members at attacking Erer district( wereda)
2. Captain Mohammed Ibrahim, with a unit of 120 members at Babile front( WEREDA)
3 Sergeant Usman Mohammed, Garalencha district
4 Sergeant Jibril Ahmed spies on Oromo militia in Gursum district, to Fafam direction
5 Sergeant Mohamed Usman, Raqe, Meyu Muluke areas military operations
6 Sergeant Fuad Aliyi, Chinaksen district
* The Liyu Police and Somali region militia are organized in 26 regiment each consisting up to 500 personnel.
Hello dear esteemed managerial staffs, Risk-taking and Committed Journalists and Thoughtful and Truthful Reporters of Global Media Outlets!
Today, I kindly call up on and humanely urge you, to search, research and report on the case of drought weakening and dismantling almost all parts of Eastern Africa. Literature and memories have it that, though the intensity and severity might differ, almost all countries in this part of the world is facing some amount of pressure from drastic factors of Climate Change. Particularly, these regions are suffering from A Very Rapid Desertification locally and irreversible Global Warming universally since the last three decades. It is very sad that, we have multitudes of witnesses and plentiful of testimonies also that the deep-rooted Poverty, ever growing and rampant Corruption and other pertinent problems of Good Governance make the issue under a multidimensional media’s spotlight. This is why, this area is literally dubbed ‘a hell on the face of the planet earth’.
Recently, I, personally, observed the case of Borana, Gabra, Garri, Guji, Gedio, Sidama, Western Arsi and Eastern Shawa communities in Central and Southern Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and South-Western Somalia. More or less, people of these areas lived up experiencing droughts in the past. In these vicinity all in pastoral, agro-pastoral and agricultural settings they saw the taste of desert somehow. I also, personally have seen it. Bitterly faced it. Kept living being affected by it. I admit that I have seen peoples’ livelihood shifted, villages abandoned, children drawn out of schools, old men engaged in hard and unsafe work, pregnant women traveling long journeys in search for a can of drinking water and lives perished in vain and lost in the perching wilderness- all because of severe drought. Nevertheless, unlike the drought we are accustomed to know, this year round it is different completely. There is no place unaffected. No loopholes to take refuge for the herds and shepherds.
For instance, in the case of Borana Zone there has been no rain for the two consecutive normal rainy seasons. No fodder and water for animal consumption in any part of this area let it be Liban, Dirre, Malbe, Golbo, Sakhu or Waso. Now as we speak, in Borana, the drought is so much severe than its former status that let alone livestocks, human lives are at stake and at unredeemable risk if we fail to react as soon as we can. FYI, a rumor is being aired that quite a number of people have been died of hunger in Sakhu (Marsabit) county, around Magado in Dirre Woreda, Chari in Elwaye Woreda and some are on their deathbed around remote parts of the province where trucks can not easily travel and distribute the life’s essentials like water and food. The case of Liban areas, that is the worst case scenario though we need more details to cover much on the matter later on.
Anyway, this challenge has persisted long enough (more than consecutive 8 months now) in this area to render all community members helpless and hopeless; whether they are/were rich or poor, young or old, men or women, educated or non-educated. In these all periods of drought, the urban elites and youth groups from these communities have tried their best in easying the matter. They tried their best. They have raised funds at different levels and tried to help the drought stricken community members. Their vigor and hope is now fading. Therefore, they are pleading with the Global Communities. They say in unison, “We appreciate all efforts done by our fellow humans to help our pastoral community, in standing by our side and restoring the livelihood of rural dwellers which is very worse in comparison to towns’. Not only in the past, but also we have seen many individuals and groups supporting the rural people along with us. However, the drought is still being more severe than any time before. Despite the willingness of many Voluntary Aid Organizations and Emergency Projects to share what they have there is a huge gap in provision. We all know that, the Humanitarian Aids Organizations aim to save the lives and give us supplementary and temporal handouts at least. Unfortunately, most of them could not manage to do that because of the lack of tangible information on the ground. Leaders tend to talk about Resilience and Sustainability than our immediate need right now. We want sustainability as any other nations in the world. But now, our urgent need is food, water and medicine for survival.” They also asserted, “The governments, various social groups and stakeholders shall not keep silent on us because we’re on the brink of death. Mass death!’
For the second time in less than six months, the Ethiopian ruling party EPRDF-dominated parliament has declared a three-day nationwide mourning. This time it is for the victims of a devastating collapse of a mountain of solid waste located 13 km southwest of the capital Addis Abeba on Saturday, March 9.
As late as Wednesday and Thursday more excavators were arriving
The story of the growing numbers of Ethiopians (115 as of yet) who died buried under a pile of Addis Abeba’s solid waste first broke nearly 12 hours after it struck. For such a story about Ethiopia’s “forsaken” [“we are the forsaken; why would anyone care, right?”], it was neither surprising nor unexpected.
In the shadow of death
Officially known as “Reppi” landfill (commonly called by its local name Qoshe in Amharic) the area is a mountain of an open dumpsite where millions of tons of solid waste collected from the sprawling capital, home to some four to five million inhabitants, has simply been disposed off for more than half a century.
Established 54 years ago, and occupying 37ha surface area, Qoshe is not your ideal landfill. For starters, its surroundings on all four sides is home to both plastic makeshift shelters and poorly constructed mud & wood houses that shelter hundreds of people, a figure by far bigger than what the government admits as ‘houses’ with registered title deeds; and unlike repeated media reports that followed the tragic incident, the residents of the plastic makeshift and mud & wood houses are not all rubbish scavengers. “I work at the Ethiopian electric power corporation,” said Alemayehu Teklu, a father of four who, as of this writing, is still looking for his three children and his wife. “Only my first born son survived because he was not at home the night the garbage mountain caved in.”
Alemayehu and his family resettled in the area ten years ago when several shanty towns were demolished in many parts of Addis Abeba city to give way to new high rising buildings. “We had a two bedroom old house near Kazanchis that belonged to the families of my wife. The Kebele administrators had told us we should evacuate in two months but our house was demolished within three weeks after we were served with the notice,” Alemayehu said, “we were paid 70,000 birr [roughly $2, 500 in today’s exchange rate] as value for our house and were told we would be given a plot in one of the outskirts of the city. No one ever responded to our repeated pleas afterward and I settled my family here after buying the plot for 10, 000 birr.” Struggling to contain his tears, Alemayehu said: “we are the forsaken; why would anyone care, right?”
The people living around Qoshe are not only waste pickers who come from the city
The massive scale of decades-old evictions of the poor from the center of the city, which is, by all measures, a corruption-infested practice by city administration officials, means there are countless stories similar to Alemayehu’s. None of the dozen interviewees approached by Addis Standard say they become residents of an area surrounding a mountain of waste by choice. These include Mintiwab Gushe, a mother of four who lived in the area for the last 35 years, gave birth to all her children in the same mud & wood house they now remain buried under. Mintiwab is unable to compose herself to talk. And others, such as Gurmu Kidane and his now missing family of two have come to Qoshe as recently as June 2016, when more than 200 special police task force units have started demolishing houses in Nefas Silk Lafto Kifle Ketema in western Addis Abeba, which city authorities claimed were built illegally since 2005. “My family and I came here after losing our house because my sister who got a new condominium unit and had rented her house here in Qoshe gave it to me so I can shelter my family,” said Gurmu. He owns a cement mixer and lives off renting it to construction sites. His 16 years old daughter and his wife are now among the missing.
But the area surrounding Qoshe is not just home to the 200 or so households known to the city Administration; there are at least “500 households most of which also rent additional quarters to tenants,” said a young man who wants to remain anonymous. Here is where the story of Hadya Hassan, 72, fits. She rented her house to 13 different people who came from different parts of the country in search of labor. They are unregistered anywhere hence unknown to city officials. “We have been submitting requests to be relocated to our respective Kebele officials for years. Today, they came to see us mourn,” Hadiya told Addis Standard.
A sign posted at a tent erected to mourn the victims show the presence of unregistered tenants
Hauntedby collect and dump
Until 2014, Qoshe has consolidated its notoriety as the only open dumpsite that outlived its original purpose. For 54 years, it served as a dumpsite while having no facilities such as fences, drainage systems, odor control, or recycling methods.
“The present method of disposal is crude open dumping: hauling the wastes by truck, spreading and leveling by bulldozer and compacting by compactor or bulldozer,” admitted a research overview paper commissioned by the Addis Abeba City Administration in 2010 and was delivered to the UN Habitat. It also estimated that about 200,000 tons of waste was annually produced in Addis Abeba alone, of which 76% is generated from domestic households.
The ten-years-old commissioned review is an early sign that city authorities have long been haunted by the black mountain of dumpsite they have created half a century ago and have subsequently failed to manage properly. Nor have they been short of policy recommendations from think-tank organizations funded by foreign governments. “Adequate planning of waste management is essential if communities and regions are to successfully address the challenge of a sustainable development, including resource conservation, climate protection, and pollution prevention,” reads one such action brief written in 2010 and was partially funded by the German government’s ministry of education.
The Addis Abeba City Government Cleaning Management Agency, an agency accountable to the city administration, began taking the ensuing disaster at Qoshe a little more seriously around 2009, according to an official in the agency who spoke to Addis Standard but wants to remain anonymous because “now is a sensitive time.”
“At that time, authorities have begun to discuss selecting alternative sites and the closure and eventual transformation into a public park of Qoshe. Project proposals were submitted to several donors to conduct feasibility studies to open a modern dumpsite, which would also be used to generate green energy,” he said. Several donors, including the US, have responded positively and have provided large amounts of grants to the city administration,” he said, without mentioning the exact amount of money. “It was a lot.”
This was followed by a binge of workshops, both by the city administration and donors, research works, study tours to foreign capitals for high-level city officials including the Mayor, Diriba Kuma, and proposals on alternative sites and type of a state-of-the-art dumpsite.
As the spree of talks and workshops began to take shape, in a process the details of which is shrouded in backdoor negotiations, in 2012 the Addis Abeba city administration decided to obtain 136ha land in Sendafa, some 30km northeast of Addis Abeba, and is home to hundreds of farmers. As of now, Addis Standard is not able to verify the availability of documents, if any, detailing the process and eventual decision by the city administration to acquire this plot of land in Sendafa.
Be that as it may, with a US$337 million grant secured from the French government, and a project office assigned to do the job – Addis Abeba Waste Recycling & Disposal Project Office – the city administration looked poised to turn Sendafa Sanitary Landfill become everything Qoshe was not in more than 50 years of its history.
Sendafa Sanitary Landfill had a US$27.6 million initial budget; it is supposedly guided by an elaborated Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report; it had a 40 million birr [roughly US$1.8 million] compensation scheme for the farmers to be displaced by the project; it was benefiting from the rich experience of VINCI Grands Projets, a French construction company (coincidence?); it was to be assisted by four separate waste transfer stations for preliminary treatment of waste; and city officials determined to change the city’s face defiled by the solid waste its residents keep on producing and dumping carelessly. Sendafa Sanitary Landfill had everything to become a modern-day landfill.
Simultaneously, city administration officials have assigned a US$158 million for a project to turn Qoshe into a 50mw waste-to-energy plant and have awarded the contract to the UK-based Cambridge Industries; this was to be followed by yet another ambitious work to turn Qoshe into a green public park. This plan to green Qoshe was receiving institutional guidance, including from the Addis Abeba University (AAU) and the Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center and Network (HoARE&N).
If the French government came to the financial rescue of the Sendafa Sanitary Landfill, turning Qoshe into a waste-to-energy plant and a green park is enjoying a large sum of donors’ money Ethiopia is receiving in grants as part of its newly designed Climate–Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) planned to last for 20 years at cost of US$150 billion. One of the four pillars stated in this new lucrative project is the government’s wish to expand “electricity generation form renewable energy for domestic and regional markets.” Among the major contributors to this project are the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) and OECD countries.
However, reminiscent of delays the Sendafa Sendafa Sanitary Landfill experienced, the Qoshe waste-to-energy project has already missed its opening deadline several times.
What really went wrong?
Delayed as it may, Sendafa Sanitary Landfill opened in February 2016; Qoshe took its first break in 53 years. But six months into its service, Sendafa Sanitary Landfill imploded, leaving Addis Abeba to explode with its waste.
At the heart of the matter is the US$27.6 worth landfill which looked nowhere close to its plans on paper. “VINCI Grands Projets was paid may be half of the initial amount it won the contract for and even that, it was done in bits and pieces with several delays. The company was also not able to receive the hard currency it needed to import some of the equipment it badly needed” said a project team member at the Addis Abeba Waste Recycling & Disposal Project Office, who also spoke to Addis Standard on conditions that he remains anonymous. “And yet authorities from the city administration have rushed the opening of the landfill before it was fully completed.”