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PBS Newshour :How my reporting trip to Ethiopia came to an abrupt end August 18, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Famine in Ethiopia, The study of Evil, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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Column: How my reporting trip to Ethiopia came to an abrupt end


BY FRED DE SAM LAZARO, PBS Special Correspondent,  18 August 2016
Women wait to receive food at a distribution center in Gelcha village
Women wait to receive food at a distribution center in Gelcha village, one of the drought stricken areas of the Oromia region in Ethiopia, on April 28. Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Women wait to receive food at a distribution center in Gelcha village, one of the drought stricken areas of the Oromia region in Ethiopia, on April 28. Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

We came to Ethiopia to report on the country’s response to a historic drought. We left with a very different story and a taste of how hard it is for journalists, even those covering what should have been a mostly positive story.

For years, Ethiopia has struggled to shed its association with vast human suffering earned during the epic famine three decades ago.

Gleaming high rises in the capital, Addis Ababa, are testament to what today is one of Africa’s most robust economies. An infrastructure building boom has connected the farthest reaches of this sprawling nation of 100 million people, many of them now covered by a government social safety net.

As a result, even though Ethiopia’s current drought has been far more severe than that in the ‘80s — one-fifth of its population suffers moderate to severe food insecurity — there’s very little of the classic, horrible imagery: the emaciated faces of children with distended bellies, which became the backdrop of those historic famine relief rock concerts.

More hours went by before we finally got our “hearing” before five unidentified men. … Each of us was interviewed separately about exactly what our story was, why we chose to go where we did.

We went to Ethiopia to tell this new story, that drought does not have to lead to famine. Many experts say planning and good governance can greatly mitigate human suffering. Ethiopia’s government has won some kudos for its drought response this time, yet its abysmal record on human rights, its harsh treatment of journalists and political dissidents can hijack attempts to tell this story. And in our case, it did just that.

For foreign correspondents, obtaining a journalist visa requires extensive paperwork, documenting the serial numbers of all equipment down to cell phones, a detailed account of every place to be visited and, once approved — if approved — stern warnings not to deviate from it.

The treatment of Ethiopian journalists is far harsher: some 60 of them have fled into exile since 2010, according to the international group Human Rights Watch.

The morning after we arrived in Addis, armed with all required permits and paperwork, we set off for the Oromia region south of the capital, shooting images of the extensive housing and road projects under construction or newly completed, some images of farmland and finally a small farm whose owners were being trained in business skills while cultivating new specialty crops to help cope with climate vagaries.

It was here where we were summoned by Ethiopia’s “security services” to the police station. It is amusing to reflect now that our first reaction was annoyance: this would rob videographer Tom Adair of the afternoon’s best light. If only that was all we would lose.

About two hours into our wait in a dimly lit office, we were told to surrender all electronic equipment, including cell phones, and our passports. No explanation was offered, only the threat of arrest if we continued to insist, as we did, that our paperwork was in order, that it is illegal to confiscate a passport, especially without a receipt.

“Report to Immigration tomorrow, and you can collect it,” we were instructed by a plainclothesman who never introduced himself. That meant a six-hour journey back to the capital and to a building teeming with Ethiopians and foreigners alike, applying for passports or visas. In our case, our chance to get our equipment and documents returned.

More hours went by before we finally got our “hearing” before five unidentified men. They’d combed through every corner of our luggage in pursuit of hidden cameras or memory cards and demanded to see every inch of footage we’d shot. Each of us was interviewed separately about exactly what our story was, why we chose to go where we did.

An emaciated cow walks through a dry field in Ethiopia's famine

An emaciated cow walks through a dry field in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

An emaciated cow walks through a dry field in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Our explanation was simple: Oromia was hard-hit by the drought. It is where we planned to film food distribution and other retraining programs run by the government and by Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, the largest nongovernment aid group operating in Ethiopia. A CRS official accompanying us was also detained through this ordeal. This was mystifying since his agency, far from being subversive, is a key government partner in relief work.

As it turns out, Oromia is also one of several regions that have seen political unrest and protests — unrelated to the drought — which the government has put down violently. In the days just before we arrived, Human Rights Watch reported 100 deaths at the hands of riot police in the Oromia region.

It’s fair to assume that the security services were looking for footage or evidence of any encounters we might have had with protests or protesters, highly improbable given that we’d barely arrived in the country. A glance in our passports could attest to that.

Finally, 24 hours after they were taken, our passports and gear were returned with the only “official” explanation we would get.

“You did not get permission from Security,” we were advised, even though no such requirement is published anywhere.

Oromia was now off limits and interviews already scheduled with government ministers about the drought were now canceled.

In Ethiopia, “Security,” the National Intelligence Service, appears to hold the biggest sway, enforcers for a government hell bent on controlling the flow of public information and the images it sends out to the world.

Internet service was shut down throughout the country in the period just before we arrived, presumably to muzzle social media and to prevent protest images from being exported, a virtually impossible task in this day and age. Nevertheless, footage of the protests were broadcast and distributed.

Given that weeks of careful planning (to say nothing of the hefty travel costs) were wiped out by the whims of a paranoid security apparatus, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to return and tell this important story any time soon.


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DW: Ethiopian anti-government protests set to continue. #OromoProtests August 18, 2016

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#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in Ethiopia#OromoProtests, #GrandOromiaProtests, 6 August 2016, all over Oromia. Dhaadannoo. p4#OromoProtests iconic picture


Ethiopian anti-government protests set to continue


DW, 18 August 2016


Since November 2015, Ethiopia has been experiencing a wave of anti-government protests unleashed by fears by the Oromo people that the government was planning to seize their land. Hundreds of people have been killed.

Oromo protesters in Addis Ababa

In early August, anti-government demonstrations rocked the Oromia and Amhara regional states of Ethiopia. Thousands of demonstrators went on to the streets calling on the government to stop killing protesters, release those arrested, implement political reform, and respect justice and the rule of law. However, the response from government security forces, which used live ammunition against protesters, led to the death of about 100 unarmed people.

Although the government security apparatus reported that the demonstrations had been contained, “the current political situation has become volatile. Things are fast changing and developments have become increasingly unpredictable,” according to analyst Tsegaye R. Ararssa. Activists are said to be busy devising alternative methods of protest that range from weakening government institutions through staying at home and not operating businesses to organizing a Diaspora-based “grand solidarity rally.”

Change of tactics

In the town of Gondar in the state of Amhara, where the first demonstration took place, residents resorted to a new mode of protest – staying at home. A resident of the town, talking on condition of anonymity, told Deutsche Welle that from last Sunday to Tuesday the streets were deserted. Workers stayed at home and stores remained closed.

Asked why the public had opted for this type of protest, the man said “it is clear that society has demanded an answer from the government, but the response was one of bullets in return, so the public decided to launch a stay-at-home strike.”

For Tsegaye, this peaceful method of protest demonstrates “a complete rejection of the regime by the people. It also blunts the regime’s false claims that the protests were violent. The stay-at-home protest is an indication of the increasing maturity of civil disobedience in Ethiopia.”

An angry man leading a group of protestersProtesters are now leaving the streets and staying at home

Internet restrictions

Residents in both the Oromia and Amhara regions say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get an internet connection and access to social media tools has been blocked. “The only way to get through is by using proxy servers,” one resident of Gondar told DW.

In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Ethiopia’s Communications Affairs Minister Getachew Reda claimed that that social media had been used “to churn out false information after false information, mostly seditious remarks, trying to agitate people against security forces and also against fellow brothers and sisters.” The administration therefore decided to gag “the kind of vitriol running over social media,” he said.

However, political pundits argue that the state move to censor the internet places a strain on political discourse and the sharing of information. Despite the fact that the country has less than three percent of internet access, there are growing numbers of news and opposition websites which the regime is notorious for blocking.

Aid from the West

The Ethiopian government receives some 3.5 billion dollars (3 billion euros) annually from international donors and has remained a key strategic partner of the West, particularly the US and the EU, in the ‘war against terror.’ However, analysts argue this financial support has been toughening the regime’s resolve to silence dissenting voices. The western approach of tiptoeing around human right violations in the country and its continued support for the regime has been stirring up anger among sections of the public.

Tsegaye says that US and EU “support of the regime – which they know is clearly undemocratic – is the very cause of the state terrorism we observe in the region.”

A recent editorial in The Washington Post argues that the Obama administration, beyond releasing their “deeply concerned” statements, should put pressure on the regime to allow for “credible investigation into the killings.” Following the demonstrations in the two regions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged the Ethiopian government to “give access to international observers in the affected areas to establish what really happened.”

In an interview with DW, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the commissioner, said restrictions on internet access, the blocking of social media and lack of civil society organizations in the country have made it difficult to verify reports of deaths and casualties.

a group of Oromo activists demonstrating in BerlinOromo activists took to the streets of Berlin in November 2015

Mohammed Said, public relations officer with Ethiopia’s Communications Affairs Office, told DW that the government had its own system of checks and balances and the country’s own Human Rights Commission was doing its job in investigating and publicizing the human rights situation in the country.

For analyst Tsegaye, this shows that the regime “is still in denial of the injustice its policies have resulted in.” The Ethiopian government now has the opportunity to change its approach – otherwise, Ravina said, “if the situation is left to fester, there will be more outbursts, more unrest, more protests and perhaps more violence.”


Read more at:- Ethiopian anti-government protests set to continue


 

HP: Ethiopia’s Bloody Crackdown: The Case for International Justice. #OromoProtests August 18, 2016

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Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally, 16 August 2016 Held in London 13

The Huffington Post

Ethiopia's Bloody Crackdown. The Case for International Justice

Click here to read: Ethiopia’s Bloody Crackdown: The Case for International Justice.

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Minnesota (Little Oromia), USA, 18 August 2016 August 18, 2016

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#OromoProtests, #AmharaProtests, #OgadenProtests Joint Solidarity Rally in Minnesota, 18 August 2016.

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally, 18 August 2016 Held in Little Oromia, Minnesota, USAGrand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally, 18 August 2016 Held in Little Oromia, Minnesota, USA. p2

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally, 18 August 2016 Held in Little Oromia, Minnesota, USA. p1

Ethiopia: A country in turmoil (ZDF heute-journal) : A country in turmoil (ZDF heute-journal from 08/12/2016). #OromoProtests August 18, 2016

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In Ethiopia unrest and protests against the government. This goes with a heavy hand against it. At the center of the conflict is the distribution of farmland.

Seit einigen Tagen weiten sich in Äthiopien Unruhen und Proteste gegen die Regierung aus. Diese geht mit harter Hand dagegen vor. Im Mittelpunkt des Konflikts steht die Verteilung von Ackerland.

 

Germany: Human Rights Commissioner on the unrest in Ethiopia: Press release. #OromoProtests August 18, 2016

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stop killing Oromo People

Logo, Germany foreign Affairs

Pressemitteilung

Menschenrechtsbeauftragte zu den Unruhen in Äthiopien

Erscheinungsdatum17.08.2016

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Menschenrechtspolitik und Humanitäre Hilfe, Bärbel Kofler, erklärte heute (17.08.):

Zusatzinformationen

Die Unruhen in Äthiopien, die sich inzwischen von der Region Oromia auf die Region Amhara sowie Addis Abeba ausgeweitet haben und zuletzt in einem blutigem Wochenende gipfelten, bei dem schätzungsweise  50 Menschen bei Zusammenstößen mit Sicherheitskräften getötet wurden, verfolge ich mit großer Sorge. Ich mahne alle Beteiligten an, in einen inklusiven Dialog einzutreten und bedingungslos auf Gewalt zu verzichten. Mein Beileid spreche ich den Angehörigen der Verstorbenen aus und wünsche den Verletzten eine baldige Genesung.

In der äthiopischen Verfassung garantierte Rechte wie freie Meinungsäußerung und friedliche Versammlungsfreiheit müssen gewahrt bleiben. Einsätze der Sicherheitskräfte gegenüber Demonstranten dürfen den Grundsatz der Verhältnismäßigkeit nicht brechen.

Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass Umverteilung von Land für Entwicklungs- und Investitionszwecke, sowie die Neugliederung von Verwaltungsbezirken partizipativ, transparent und sozialverträglich umgesetzt werden muss. Hierbei ist es wichtig, dass legitime Forderungen von ethnischen Gruppen und Oppositionskräften berücksichtigt werden. Die in Äthiopien erreichten wirtschaftlichen Fortschritte müssen allen Bevölkerungsteilen gleichermaßen zu Gute kommen. Ich appelliere daher an die Regierung, unter Nutzung der lokalen Kräfte und Stärkung der föderalen Struktur in einen konstruktiven Dialog mit der gesamten Bevölkerung einzutreten. Nur so kann die Lage auf Dauer beruhigt und ein friedvolles Leben gesichert werden.

 

Hintergrund

Seit November 2015 kommt es in der Region Oromia und neuerdings auch in der Region Amhara immer wieder zu Demonstrationen und Protesten gegen die Zentralregierung und die strukturelle Benachteiligung der Provinzen und deren ethnischen Bevölkerungen. Der äthiopische Staat reagierte darauf mit Zensur, Einschüchterung und gewaltsamen Vorgehen der Sicherheitskräfte. Wie auch bei früheren Protestaktionen hatte die Regierung zunächst die sozialen Medien und Nachrichtendienste und schließlich das gesamte Internet landesweit gesperrt.

Bestätigte  Zahlen über die Opfer gibt es nicht. Es kann jedoch als gesichert gelten, dass im Zeitraum  November 2015 bis Mai 2016 mehrere hundert Menschen ums Leben kamen (bis zu 400 laut AI und HRW). Die äthiopische Regierung bestätigt diese Zahlen nicht.

Neben der unruhigen Region Oromia hat sich Gondar (Amhara Region) seit einigen Wochen zu einem weiteren Brennpunkt Äthiopiens entwickelt. Aus der blutigen Festnahme einiger Aktivisten der Welkait-Volksgruppe am 14. Juli ist binnen weniger Wochen eine größere Protestbewegung entstanden, deren Ende noch nicht abzusehen ist.


press release (Google translated)

Human Rights Commissioner on the unrest in Ethiopia

Release date  17  August /2016

The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Bärbel Kofler, stated today (17:08.):

additional information

The unrest in Ethiopia who have now spread from the Oromia region of the Amhara and Addis Ababa and recently culminated in a bloody weekend in which an estimated 50 people were killed in clashes with security forces, I have been following with great concern. I urge all parties to engage in an inclusive dialogue and unconditionally to renounce violence. My condolences to the families of the deceased, I and wish those injured a speedy recovery. In the Ethiopian Constitution guaranteed rights such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly freedom must be respected.Appearances of the security forces against protesters must not break the principle of proportionality. I am convinced that redistribution of land for development and investment purposes, as well as the reorganization of administrative districts must be participatory, transparent and socially acceptable measures. It is important that legitimate demands of ethnic groups and opposition forces are taken into account. The arrived in Ethiopia’s economic progress must come to Good all populations equally. I therefore appeal to the Government to engage using local forces and strengthening the federal structure in a constructive dialogue with the entire population. Only so the location can assured permanent and peaceful lives are saved.

 

Background Since November 2015, in the region of Oromia and recently also in the Amhara region repeatedly to demonstrations and protests against the central government and the structural disadvantage of the provinces and their ethnic populations. The Ethiopian government responded by censorship, intimidation and violent actions of the security forces. As with earlier protests, the government had first social media and news services, and finally the entire Internet nationally banned. Confirmed figures on the victims do not exist. However, it can safely be assumed that in the period from November 2015 to May 2016, several hundred people were killed (up to 400, according to AI and HRW). The Ethiopian government does not confirm these numbers. In addition to the troubled region of Oromia to Gondar has developed (Amhara Region) for a few weeks to a further focal point of Ethiopia. From bloody arrest of some activists Welkait ethnic group on July 14 a larger protest movement has arisen within a few weeks, the end is not yet in sight.


Read more at Pressemitteilung Menschenrechtsbeauftragte zu den Unruhen in Äthiopien


 

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Johannesburg South Africa, 18 August 2016 August 18, 2016

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#OromoProtests #AmharaProtests #OgadeniaProtests joint global solidarity rally in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Grand #OromoProtests Global solidarity joint Ethiopians Rally Held in South Africa on 18 August 2016 p2

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global solidarity joint Ethiopians Rally Held in South Africa on 18 August 2016 p1

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global solidarity joint Ethiopians Rally Held in South Africa on 18 August 2016

 

Seattle Weekly: Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Sheattle, 16 August 2016 August 18, 2016

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Grand #OromoProtests Global solidarity joint Ethiopians Rally Held in Sheattle, USA on 16 August 2016

Ethiopian Immigrants March Against Brutal Regime


Seattle Weekly, 16 August 2016


The government has recently killed and disappeared hundreds of people.

 

A couple hundred members of Seattle’s Ethiopian immigrant community marched through downtown’s streets Tuesday afternoon in protest against U.S. support for the brutal Ethiopian regime.

“Back in Ethiopia, we have a dictatorial regime which has committed mass crimes against its own people,” said attorney Daniel Ajema, a marcher who identified himself as an organizer. “We’re here in solidarity with the people back home, and would like to support them and show our support.”

He’s not exaggerating. In their “Democracy Index” last year, the Economistgave Ethiopia’s government their lowest classification: an authoritarian regime, with an “Electoral Process and Pluralism” score of zero out of ten. Since November, according to the Human Rights Watch, government forces have killed hundreds of largely peaceful protesters and “disappeared” hundreds more.

Ajema said that the protest was specifically aimed at urging President Obama and philanthropist Bill Gates to try to lean on Ethiopia’s national government to do better on human rights and democracy. “We are here to voice our concern and our anger against the enablers of the regime,” he said. The Gates foundation currently has 150 projects worth more than $500 million in Ethiopia, according to the South African Broadcasting Service. The official U.S. relationship with Ethiopia is a friendly one: Ethiopian troops have battled the terrorist army al-Shabaab in neighboring Somolia, and last year our government sent theirs more than half a billion dollars in aid.

Ajema says both the U.S.’s and Gates Foundation’s money helps finance the regime, and he says both Gates and the president should insist on putting human rights ahead of political expediency.

“They’re not doing a whole lot of checking on good governance and democratic rights,” Ajema said. “They’re just blindly giving money to the government.”

Click hear to read  more at Sheattle Weekly

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Melbourne, Australia, 18 August 2016 August 18, 2016

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Wayyaaneen haa dhabmtu!

Grand #OromoProtests Global solidarity Rally Held in Melbourne, Australia, 18 August 2016.

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