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Ethiopia is following the path of failed states in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East January 31, 2018

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Ethiopia is following the path of failed states in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.

Ethiopia faces a high risk of failure due to continued political and social instability in the country, the Fund for Peace reported in its Fragile States Index Annual Report 2017.

Over the past few years, months, weeks and days, security officers have killed anti-government protesters, resulting in more anti-government protests. The latest point in this vicious cycle occurred on January 20 when Ethiopian security forces shot and killed at least seven protesters. According to news reports, the protesters were celebrating a religious festival. Then they started chanting anti-government slogans and hurling stones at security officers, who responded by firing bullets.

Reports say the weekend clash was followed by a week of more violent clashes, which resulted in the death of at least 20 civilians.

Much of this bloodshed in Ethiopia is based on ethnic differences and territorial disputes between ethnic regions within the nation.

“Limited attention has been given to outbreaks of violence in Ethiopia, as anti-government protests, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regions, led to a declaration of a [10-month] state of emergency in October 2016,” the Fund for Peace wrote in its report. “The state of emergency was also used as a tool to crack down on political opponents and media.”

Activists say that more than 700 Oromia residents were killed when security officers clashed with people from the Oromo ethnic group during a thanksgiving festival in October 2016. A similar incident happened in October last year when security forces killed about 10 people who were protesting food shortages. In December, military officials reportedly killed 15 protesters in Oromia.

“Ethiopia’s overall Fragile States Index (fsi) score has been incrementally worsening over the past decade, moving from 95.3 in 2007, to a score of 101.1 in [last] year’s 2017 index, with Ethiopia—along with Mexico—being the most-worsened country over [2016],” wrote the Fund for Peace. Foreign Policy wrote on January 11 that “Ethiopia Is Falling Apart.”  Click here to read more….


 

Why GDP growth is totally wrong as a measure of economic and social success January 28, 2018

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

 

 

5 ways GDP gets it totally wrong as a measure of our success,  by  David Pilling, World Economic Forum 

GDP is flummoxed by the Internet. Wikipedia provides all human knowledge free of charge, but in GDP terms, it is worth zilch

GDP is flummoxed by the Internet. Wikipedia provides all human knowledge free of charge, but in GDP terms, it is worth zilch

Image: REUTERS/Gary Cameron


The beauty of gross domestic product is its single figure. It squishes all of human activity into a couple of digits, like a frog jammed into a matchbox. As this image of an unfortunate amphibian suggests, this condensing is also GDP’s flaw. How can the sum total of everything we do as human beings be so compacted? How can our activity be conflated with something as complex, nuanced and contested as our wellbeing?

GDP’s inventor Simon Kuznets was adamant that his measure had nothing to do with wellbeing. But too often we confuse the two. For seven decades, gross domestic product has been the global elite’s go-to number. Fast growth, as measured by GDP, has been considered a mark of success in its own right, rather than as a means to an end, no matter how the fruits of that growth are invested or shared. If something has to be sacrificed to get GDP growth moving, whether it be clean air, public services, or equality of opportunity, then so be it.

GDP is how we rank countries and judge their performance. It is the denominator of choice. It determines how much a country can borrow and at what rate. But GDP is well past its sell-by date, as people are starting to realise. However brilliant the concept, a measure that was invented in the manufacturing age as a means of fighting the Depression is becoming less and less capable of imparting sensible signals about complex modern economies.

Pointing out the defects of GDP and even tentatively suggesting alternatives is no longer controversial. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy commissioned a panel led by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel economist, to examine the issue. It was creating a dangerous “gulf of incomprehension”, Sarkozy said, between experts sure of their knowledge and citizens “whose experience of life is completely out of sync with the story told by the data”.

What is so gross about gross domestic product?

GDP is a gross number. It is the sum total of everything we produce over a given period. It includes cars built, Beethoven symphonies played and broadband connections made. But it also counts plastic waste bobbing in the ocean, burglar alarms and petrol consumed while stuck in traffic.

Kuznets was uneasy about a measure that treated all production equally. He wanted to subtract, rather than add, things he considered detrimental to human wellbeing, such as arms, financial speculation and advertising. You may disagree with his priorities. The point is that GDP makes no distinction. From the perspective of global GDP, Kim Jong-un’s nuclear warheads do just as well as hospital beds or apple pie.

Is that all that’s wrong with GDP, then?

No. Don’t get me started. In a short article like this, there’s not enough time to go into everything. But here are a few points, all of which are covered in much greater detail in my book, The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty and the Well-Being of Nations.

GDP is born of the manufacturing age. It measures “things you can drop on your foot”. Yet in advanced economies such as the US, up to 80% of production is in the service industry. GDP doesn’t do services – at least not very well. It is good at quantity, but lousy at quality. If the food or service improves in your local restaurant, GDP will not notice. Ditto, if an airline’s safety record improves. In fact, GDP might prefer a plane crash – so that it can build a new plane.

GDP is flummoxed by the Internet. If I buy my own cheap airline ticket, check myself in online and pick my own aisle seat, my convenience has gone up. But GDP has gone down. I am my own travel agent, a job that would once have been performed by a fully paid-up GDP-producing employee. Wikipedia provides all human knowledge free of charge. In GDP terms, it is worth zilch.

GDP deals in aggregates; GDP per capita in averages. In an age where a huge cause of social dislocation is inequality, GDP has nothing to say about distribution. Averages are misleading. Medians are better than means. A rise in average GDP could actually be retrograde, if it leaves 99% of people resentful at how the 1% is making good.

From GDP’s perspective, bigger is always better. In the real world, that is not always so. When the financial sector got bigger and bigger, it ended in financial crisis. When the US health service gets bigger and bigger, it means costs are out of control.

In general, GDP measures only cash transactions. In Europe that includes heroin and prostitution. However, volunteer work, housework or looking after an ageing relative count for nothing. GDP has skewed priorities.

In poor countries, the informal sector is practically invisible to GDP. Yet in much of the world, the informal economy counts for most. Monitoring economic activity from space, through satellite images of nightlights, might be more accurate than on-the-ground GDP, academic studies have found.

Is GDP really such a bad measure of wealth?

GDP is not a measure of “wealth” at all. It is a measure of income. It is a backward-looking “flow” measure that tells you the value of goods and services produced in a given period in the past. It tells you nothing about whether you can produce the same amount again next year. For that, you need a balance sheet – a measure of wealth. Companies have balance sheets as well as income statements. Nations don’t.

When Nigeria was busy selling high-priced oil to the world before the price crash, its GDP was soaring. But its wealth was falling. Oil deposits were used up, but cash was not reinvested in human, physical and technological capacities to ensure future income. Only wealth accounts could have drawn attention to that.

In January, the World Bank will release a groundbreaking study of comprehensive wealth for 141 countries between 1994 and 2014. It is well worth a read.

Should GDP be dethroned?

Yes. GDP is an ingenious measure. It tells us something. It should definitely not be scrapped – it is still far too valuable a policy tool for that. And GDP growth can provide the wherewithal for the other things we want in life: health, education, security, opportunity, goods.

But we need to pay more attention to other measures to complete the picture, some of which already exist and some of which we may have to invent. Measures of wealth, equality, leisure, wellbeing and net domestic product, adjusted for negatives like pollution, are places to start.

Everyone will have their favourite data point. One of mine is hours of sleep, which might be a proxy for work-life balance or stress. The number of hours of sleep in the US has been steadily declining from about eight hours in 1940 to 6.8 hours today. Now that’s a statistic I know how to act on.

Oromia: Ambo People gives Professor Merera Gudina Hero’s Welcome. Ambotti Simannaa Prof. Mararaaf Godhame January 28, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistDistinguished Political Science Professor Dr. Merera Gudina, renowed Oromo Scholar and Human rRights Advocator

January 28/2018

Today hundreds of thousands of people from Ambo, a city 125 km west of Addis Abeba, and its environs came to welcome veteran opposition party leader Dr. Merera Gudina. 

 Dr. Merera, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)  was released from prison last week after spending more than a year a prison. 

Since then, he has been busy receiving jubilant supporters from all walks of life.

 

But today, he went to his birth place, where he enjoys a massive support

 His supporters came in droves from every vicinity of the city of Ambo

The program at the Ambo stadium lasted only few minutes

And Dr. Merera used the time to thank the people and the police for peacefully coordinating the massive turnout to welcome him


Related article: Ethiopia’s Oromo leader meets German envoy over political developments, click here to read at African News

Fascist Ethiopia’s regime (TPLF) forces suppressing new protests in Amhara: gunfire, deaths reported January 25, 2018

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Ethiopia army suppressing new protests in Amhara: gunfire, deaths reported

ETHIOPIA

Local media portals are reporting violent protests in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region. The protest in the town of Kobo is against an earlier deadly crackdown that killed seven people in the town of Woldiya last Sunday.

The Addis Standard and Addis Gazetta portals report that the clashes started on Wednesday leading to the burning of government offices and other public properties.

The heavy military presence in the region and the sound of gunshots suggest that live bullets are being discharged. There are no official casualties reported from the incident even though journalists said three people have been killed.

Public protest and deadly crackdown undergoing in Kobbo, north east of Amhara, undergoing. Reports are coming out that Fed forces are using live ammunition against unarmed protestors.

The earlier protest which resulted in the Kobo round of protests was in Woldiya during the Epiphany celebrations, according to the United Nations human rights office, the military fired live bullets to prevent young people from chanting anti-government slogans.

Seven people are said to have died whiles dozens got injured in the ensuing clashes. Kobo is located about 50 km from Woldiya.

-Some reports indicate that there have been civilian deaths during protests that began yesterday in town, northern Wollo zone of the regional state. The incident follows the weekend killing of civilians in , 50 km from Kobo. pic.twitter.com/tLbpq7ZlPN

This pictures were posted on @addisgazetta and reportedly show the aftermath of the protests in , denouncing the killing . Also, according to journalist @Belay_Ma, “government offices were burnt”, “shops [are] closed” and “gunfire [can[ still be heard in the town.” pic.twitter.com/2uQoVW2WB0

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Amhara along with Oromia region were the main centers of anti-government protest that shook the country in 2015 and through the better part of 2016.

To quell the violent protests, Addis Ababa imposed a nationwide state-of-emergency in October 2016. The measure was lifted in August 2017. Parts of the country have been rocked by deadly protests since the measure was lifted.


Related from Oromian Economist sources:-

Uprising in Kobo, regime forces are using military helicopters


BBC: ስማቸው እንዲጠቀስ ያልፈለጉ የቆቦ ከተማ ቀበሌ 01 ነዋሪ፤ ከትናንት ጀምሮ በነበረው ግጭት አንድ ታዳጊን ጨምሮ በርካቶች መገደላቸውን ለቢቢሲ ተናግረዋል።

የሟቾችን ቁጥር በተመለከተ ያገኘናቸው መረጃዎች የተለያዩ ሲሆኑ ከሆስፒታል ምንጮች ለማረጋገጥ ያደረግነው ጥረት አልተሳካም።

እንደ ነዋሪዎች ከሆነ ግን ቢያንስ ሶስት እና ከዚያ በላይ ሰዎች ተገድለዋል። በጸጥታ ኃይል አባላት ላይም ጉዳት መድረሱን ነዋሪዎች ጨምረው ተናግረዋል።

ያነጋገርናቸው ሌላኛው የቆቦ ነዋሪ የግጭቱን መነሻ ሲያስረዱ፤ ”በወልዲያ ከተማ የተፈጸመው ግድያ ቆቦ ውስጥ ከፍተኛ ውጥረትን ፈጥሮ ነበር። ይህ በእንዲህ እያለ ንብረታችን ሊዘረፍ ወይም ሊወድምብን ይችላል ብለው የሰጉ ሰዎች ንግድ ቤቶቻቸውን በመዝጋት ንብረት ለማሸሽ ሞክረው ነበር። አንዳንድ ወጣቶችም ‘እዚህ ምንም ሳይፈጠር እንዴት ይህን ታደርጋላችሁ’ ብለው መጠየቃቸውን ተከትሎ ግርግር ተፈጠረ ከዚያም ወደ ግጭት አመራ” ሲሉ ያስረዳሉ።

በከተማዋ ተቃውሞ የተጀመረው ትናንት ከቀኑ 8 ሰዓት ጀምሮ እንደነበር እና ተቃውሞው ወደ ግጭት ተሸጋግሮ የንግድ ቤቶችን እና የመንግሥት መስሪያ ቤቶችን ማቃጠል የተጀመረው ግን 10 ሰዓት አካባቢ መሆኑን ከከተማዋ ነዋሪዎች መረዳት ችለናል።

ዛሬ ሐሙስ እሰከ ጠዋቱ 3 ሰዓት ድረስ ከተማዋ ምንም እንኳን ውጥረት ውስጥ ብትቆይም ግጭት አልነበረም የሚሉት ሌላው ነዋሪ ”ከ3 ሰዓት በኋላ ግን በርካታ ወጣቶች ዘለቀ እርሻ ልማት ወደሚባል ድርጅት በመሄድ በድርጅቱ ቅጥር ግቢ ውስጥ የነበሩ ትራክተሮችንና የእርሻ መሳሪያዎችን አወደሙ። ከዚህ በተጨማሪም የድረጅቱ ህንጻ ላይም ጉዳት ደርሷል” ሲሉ ያስረዳሉ።

እንደ ነዋሪዎቹ አባባል የእርሻ ድርጅቱ የጥቃቱ ኢላማ የሆነው ”ከአርሶ አደሩ በርካታ ሄክታር መሬት ተነጥቆ ለዘለቀ እርሻ ልማት ድርጅት ተሰጥቷል የሚል ቅሬታ በመኖሩ ነው” ሲሉ ተናግረዋል።

ከዘለቀ እርሻ ልማት ድርጅት በተጨማሪ ኪወ የእርሻ ልማት እና ባለቤትነቱ የሆላንዳውያን የሆነ ሌላ የእርሻ ልማት ድርጅቶች ላይ ጉዳት መድረሱን የኪወ እርሻ ልማት ባለቤት ለቢቢሲ ተናግረዋል


BBC:  ”ወንድሜን በአምስት ጥይት በሳስተው ነው የገደሉት”

በወልዲያ ከተማ በጥምቀት በዓል ማግስት የተከሰተውን ተቃውሞ ተከትሎ የፀጥታ ኃይሎች በወሰዱት እርምጃ በርካቶች ህይወታቸውን ማጣታቸው ይታወቃል።

መንግሥት የሟቾች ቁጥር ሰባት ነው ቢልም ያነጋገርናቸው የከተማዋ ነዋሪዎች ግን የሟቾችን እና የቁስለኞችን ቁጥር ከፍ ያደርጉታል።

ከከተማዋ ነዋሪዎች እንደሰማነው ከሟቾቹ መካከል አዛውንቶች እና እድሚያቸው በአስራዎቹ መጀመሪያ ላይ የሚገኙ ሁለት ታዳጊዎች ይገኙበታል።

ESAT: One of the thirteen people shot and killed by TPLF security forces on Epiphany day religious festival in Woldia, a town on a major transportation route in Northern Ethiopia, was shot five times.


VOA: በሞያሌ መከላከያ ፖሊስ አንድ ሰው ገድሎ ሦስት ማቁሰሉን የከተማው አስተዳደር አስታወቀ


UNPO: Ethiopia: HRLHA Calls for Genuine Solution to Crisis in Ethiopia January 25, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistUNPOHuman rights League of the Horn of Africa
 

Ethiopia: HRLHA Calls for Genuine Solution to Crisis in Ethiopia


Photo Courtesy of Andrew Heavens@Flickr

By  UNPO, Jan 23, 2018

On 21 January 2018, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) released an urgent action statement calling for more disclosure and action from Ethiopia’s government, in light of the recent release of political prisoners. Although praising the release of 115 federal inmates, including OFC Leader Dr. Merera Gudina, HRLHA views this as ‘picking a few individual grains out of a ton’. The government declared the release was to create a national consensus and widen the political space however, HRLHA states that this is not a likely result unless other more concrete measures are implemented. 

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has continued to deny the holding of political prisoners and the use of torture in centres such as Maikelawi detention centre, known as Ethiopia’s Guantanamo.

The situation is particularly severe in the Oromia Regional State, where political uprising has been met with military action and the region is under the complete control of the Federal Military Force ‘National Security Council’. Since this military takeover, many youth have been detained due to their participation in protests, an action that contradicts the government’s efforts to ‘create a national consensus’.

The HRLHA made a series of recommendations in this release calling for the government of Ethiopia to take steps towards full disclosure and transparency of the number of forcibly disappeared and political prisoners held in federal prisons, military camps and underground prisons. A recommendation for the government to invite all stakeholders to genuine and inclusive dialogue to promote a national consensus among Ethiopian citizens.

 

Read the urgent action statement from HRLHA here.

The entire document is also available in PDF format here: The Chronic, Political, Economical and Social Crisis in Ethiopia Needs A Genuine Solution

 

Ethiopia: Detention of Indigenous Leaders Continues January 25, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistOakland Institute

The Release of Ethiopian Political Prisoners: Stifled Voices amidst False Promises

  • “We must always remember the people outside of Addis, from marginalized communities, who are in jail for standing up and resisting government programs that took away their land.”

  • “Those who have been forgotten, whose voices are not being heard, and who are behind bars for speaking out on behalf of their people. People in Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, the Lower Omo Valley, and other places, who still remain invisible.”

For years, the Ethiopian government has denied that there are political prisoners in the country. This is despite its consistent use of the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle dissent and detain thousands of politicians, journalists, religious and indigenous leaders, and students.

“2015—Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at NY event on industrialization in Africa.”. On January 3, 2018 Prime Minister Desalegn announced that the government would release all Ethiopian political prisoners and close the notorious Maekelawi police station. Credit: UNIDO (CC BY-ND 2.0)
“2015—Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at NY event on industrialization in Africa.” On January 3, 2018 Prime Minister Desalegn announced that the government would release all Ethiopian political prisoners and close the notorious Maekelawi police station. Credit: UNIDO (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Thus, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s recent announcement that some political prisoners would be released, sparked a mixture of relief and confusion: relief that the government was finally acknowledging and releasing political prisoners in the country; and confusion over who would be freed, and what the announcement really meant.

Uncertainty Continues after Prime Minister Desalegn’s Announcement

“The government says it will close Maekelawi, but this closure doesn’t stop the current government from torturing people.”

This uncertainty has continued. A week after the announcement, prominent Ethiopian political prisoner Bekele Gerba was sentenced to an additional six months in jail for singing a protest song during his court proceedings. Gerba, the Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, was arrested in his home in December 2015, just months after spending four years in prison for meeting with Amnesty International researchers. Gerba was granted bail in October 30, 2017, but it was revoked two days later.

Then on January 15, it was announced that charges against 528 persons currently in detention would be dropped. Most of them, including prominent political prisoner Merera Gudina, appear to have been released on January 17.

Detention of Indigenous Leaders Continues

  • “The government says it will close Maekelawi, but this closure doesn’t stop the current government from torturing people. The torture that has taken place there was not only during the Derg, it’s under this regime too.”

However, this is not the time to celebrate given that thousands of others remain in jail. Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law and other draconian legislation like its civil society proclamation are still in place and widely used to intimidate and repress.

Most importantly, the repressive system is not just about barring political freedom; to a large extent, it is about ensuring the control of a minority over the resources of the country and the benefits of the economic development. Many political prisoners in Ethiopia are not just members of opposition political parties but ordinary citizens who oppose the grabbing of their land and natural resources by the government.

Many are members of indigenous communities such as the Anuak, Bodi, Mursi, and other marginalized groups who spoke up against land grabbing and for the rights of their people to decent livelihoods and life with dignity. Thousands are still being held by the regime in facilities across the country though the actual number is unknown given the general opacity surrounding such matters.

Closure of Maekelawi Prison Doesn’t Guarantee End of Torture

  • “There has been public resistance in Ethiopia, and I think this pressure made them release this statement. They want people to calm down. But what the people of Ethiopia need is freedom and absolute change in the political arena. They need something practical – not just theory and words. They need democracy, they need to have the right to use their land, they need their voices to be heard.”

“I hope they release my father, and that my family, and all the other families affected by this government, can finally come together again. I hope this will help heal the wounds of Ethiopia.”

We must also scrutinize the Prime Minister’s announcement to close the notorious Maekelawi police station. The government said this closure is because Maekelawi was used as a place of torture under the previous Derg regime, insinuating that torture no longer takes place there. But, as numerous studies have documented, torture is rampant at Maekelawi and prisons across Ethiopia and, as stated below by those who have suffered at the hands of this government, its closure does nothing to guarantee that these abuses will halt.

In the course of the Oakland Institute’s work on land rights and development issues in Ethiopia, we have met or come to know many of the victims of this repressive system. We reached out to several current and past Ethiopian political prisoners and their families to hear their perspectives on the recent announcements made by the government. We share and amplify their voices here, and echo their calls for justice. Given the ongoing threats to themselves and their families, names have been withheld to protect their identities.


 

Ethiopia: Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2018 January 21, 2018

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 Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

Attendees of Irreecha 2017 in Bishoftu, HRW 2018 world report.png

Attendees at the Irreecha festival in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 1, 2017. Irreecha is the most important festival for Ethiopia’s Oromo people. One year earlier at Irreecha hundreds died following security force mishandling of the large crowd. © 2017 Reuters /Tiksa

Ethiopia made little progress in 2017 on much-needed human rights reforms. Instead, it used a prolonged state of emergency, security force abuses, and repressive laws to continue suppressing basic rights and freedoms.

The 10-month state of emergency, first declared in October 2016, brought mass arrests, mistreatment in detention, and unreasonable limitations on freedom of assembly, expression, and association. While abusive and overly broad, the state of emergency gave the government a period of relative calm that it could have used to address grievances raised repeatedly by protesters.

However, the government did not address the human rights concerns that protesters raised, including the closing of political space, brutality of security forces, and forced displacement. Instead, authorities in late 2016 and 2017 announced anti- corruption reforms, cabinet reshuffles, a dialogue with what was left of opposition political parties, youth job creation, and commitments to entrench “good governance.”

Ethiopia continues to have a closed political space. The ruling coalition has 100 percent of federal and regional parliamentary seats. Broad restrictions on civil society and independent media, decimation of independent political parties, harassment and arbitrary detention of those who do not actively support the government, severely limited space for dissenting voices.

Despite repeated promises to investigate abuses, the government has not credibly done so, underscoring the need for international investigations. The government-affiliated Human Rights Commission is not sufficiently independent and its investigations consistently lack credibility.

Ethiopian government and security officials should act with restraint and take concrete steps to prevent injuries and deaths at this year’s Irreecha festival on October 1, 2017.

State of Emergency

Ethiopia spent much of 2017 under a state of emergency first imposed in October 2016 following a year of popular protests, renewed for four months in March, and lifted on August 4. Security forces responded to the protests with lethal force, killing over 1,ooo protesters and detaining tens of thousands more.

The state of emergency’s implementing directive prescribed draconian and overly broad restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly across the country, and signaled an increasingly militarized response to the situation. The directive banned all protests without government permission and permitted arrest without court order in “a place assigned by the command post until the end of the state of emergency” and permitted “rehabilitation”—a euphemism for short-term detention that often involves forced physical exercise.

During the state of emergency military were deployed in much larger numbers across Oromia and Amhara regions, and security forces arbitrarily detained over 21,000 people in these “rehabilitation camps” according to government figures. Detainees reported harsh physical punishment and indoctrination in government policies. Places of detention included prisons, military camps, and other makeshift facilities. Some reported torture. Artists, politicians, and journalists were tried on politically motivated charges.

Dr. Merera Gudina, the chair of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a legally registered political opposition party, was charged with “outrages against the constitution” in March. He joins many other major OFC members on trial on politically motivated charges, including deputy chairman Bekele Gerba. At time of writing, at least 8,000 people arrested during the state of emergency remain in detention, according to government figures.

Freedom of Expression and Association

The state tightly controls the media landscape, a reality exacerbated during the state of emergency, making it challenging for Ethiopians to access information that is independent of government perspectives. Many journalists are forced to choose between self-censorship, harassment and arrest, or exile. At least 85 journalists have fled into exile since 2010, including at least six in 2017.

Ethiopia: 2017 in numbers

Scores of journalists, including Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye, remain jailed under Ethiopia’s anti- terrorism law.

In addition to threats against journalists, tactics used to restrict independent media include harassing advertisers, printing presses, and distributors.

Absent a vibrant independent domestic media, social media and diaspora television stations continue to play key roles in disseminating information. The government increased its efforts to restrict access to social media and diaspora media in 2017, banning the watching of diaspora television under the state of emergency, jamming radio and television broadcasts, targeting sources and family members of diaspora journalists. In April, two of the main diaspora television stations—Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and the Oromia Media Network (OMN)—were charged under the repressive anti-terrorism law. Executive director of OMN, Jawar Mohammed, was also charged under the criminal code in April.

The government regularly restricts access to social media apps and some websites with content that challenges the government’s narrative on key issues. During particularly sensitive times, such as during June’s national exams when the government feared an exam leak, the government blocked access to the internet completely.

The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continues to severely curtail the ability of independent nongovernmental organizations. The law bars work on human rights, governance, conflict resolution and advocacy on the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities by organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funds from foreign sources.

Torture and Arbitrary Detention

Arbitrary detention and torture continue to be major problems in Ethiopia. Ethiopian security personnel, including plainclothes security and intelligence officials, federal police, special police, and military, frequently tortured and otherwise ill-treated political detainees held in official and secret detention centers, to coerce confessions or the provision of information.

Many of those arrested since the 2015/2016 protests or during the 2017 state of emergency said they were tortured in detention, including in military camps. Several women alleged that security forces raped or sexually assaulted them while they were in detention. There is little indication that security personnel are being investigated or punished for any serious abuses. Former security personnel, including military, have described using torture as a technique to extract information.

There are serious due process concerns and concerns about the independence of the judiciary on politically sensitive cases. Outside Addis Ababa, many detainees are not charged and are rarely taken to court.

Individuals peacefully expressing dissent are often charged under the repressive anti-terrorism law and accused of belonging to one of three domestic groups that the government has designated as terrorist organizations. The charges carry punishments up to life in prison. Acquittals are rare, and courts frequently ignore complaints of torture by detainees. Hundreds of individuals, including opposition politicians, protesters, journalists and artists, are presently on trial under the anti-terrorism law.

The government has not permitted the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate allegations despite requests from the UN body in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2015.

Somali Region Security Force Abuses

Serious abuses continue to be committed by the Somali Region’s notoriously abusive Liyu police. Throughout 2017, communities in the neighboring Oromia regional state reported frequent armed attacks on their homes by individuals believed to be from the Somali Region’s Liyu police. Residents reported killings, assaults, looting of property, and displacement. Several Somali communities reported reprisal attacks carried out by unknown Oromo individuals. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any efforts by the federal government to stop these incursions. Several hundred thousand people have been internally displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict.

The Liyu police were formed in 2008 and have a murky legal mandate but in practice report to Abdi Mahmoud Omar (also known as “Abdi Illey”) the president of the Somali Regional State, and have been implicated in numerous alleged extrajudicial killings as well as incidents of torture, rape, and attacks on civilians accused of proving support to the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). No meaningful investigations have been undertaken into any of these alleged abuses in the Somali Regional State.

Abdi Illey’s intolerance for dissent extends beyond Ethiopia, and family members of Ethiopian Somalis living outside of the country are frequently targeted in the Somali Region. Family members of diaspora have been arbitrarily detained, harassed, and had their property confiscated after their relatives in the diaspora attended protests or were critical of Abdi Illey in social media posts.

Key International Actors

Despite its deteriorating human rights record, Ethiopia continues to enjoy strong support from foreign donors and most of its regional neighbors, due to its role as host of the African Union and as a strategic regional player, its contributions to UN peacekeeping, regional counterterrorism efforts, its migration partnerships with Western countries, and its stated progress on development indicators. Ethiopia is also a country of origin, transit, and host for large numbers of migrants and refugees.

Both the European Parliament and US Senate and House of Representatives have denounced Ethiopia’s human rights record. The European Parliament urged the establishment of a UN-led mechanism to investigate the killings of protesters since 2015 and to release all political prisoners. In April, European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis visited Ethiopia, underscoring EU concern over Ethiopia’s human rights situation. Other donors, including the World Bank, have continued business as usual without publicly raising concerns.

Ethiopia is a member of both the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council. Despite these roles, Ethiopia has a history of non-cooperation with UN special mechanisms. Other than the UN special rapporteur on Eritrea, no special rapporteur has been permitted to visit since 2006. The rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others, all have outstanding requests to visit the country.


Attendees of Irreecha 2017 in Bishoftu, HRW 2018 world reportHirmaattota Ayyaana Irreechaa Onkoloolessa 1, 2017 Bishooftuu, Itoophiyaa. Ayyaanni Irreecha uummata Oromoo Itoophiyaatif ayyaana addaati. Ayyaana Irreecha waggaa tokko dura kabajame irraatti humnootni tikaa tuutaa uummata jeequurran kan ka’e namootni dhibbootan lakkayaman du’anii ture.

© 2017 Reuters /Tiksa


Qabinsa mirga namoomaaf haaromsa haalaan barbaachisu gochuu irratti Itoophiyaan bara 2017 keessa waa xinnoo dalagde. Inumayyuu mirgoota bu’uuraafi bilisummmaa laammiileeshii humnaan ukkaamsuu itti fufuuf jecha labsi yeroo muddamaa, haleellaa humnoota tikaafi seerota ukkaamsoo fayyadamaa turte.

Labsiin yeroo muddamaa ji’oota 10f turefi baatii Onkoloolessa 2016 keessa labsame hidhaa jumlaafi mana hidhaatti dararamuu fidee ture.  Mirgoota akka hiriira nagaa bayuu, mirga yaada ofii bilisaan ibsachuufi mirga ijaaramuu irrattis dhorkaaa hin barbaachisne kaayee ture.  Labsiin muddamaa sun gar-malee baldhaafi sirna malee kan dhimmi itti bayame ta’us mootummaa biyya bulchuuf yeroo tasgabbii silaa komii mormitootni kaasaa turan itti furu kenneefii ture.

Haata’u malee mootummaan Itoophiyaa gaaffilee mormitootaa kan akka cufinsa dirree siyaasaa, haleellaa gara jabeenyaa humnoota tikaafi humnaan qeyee ofiirraa buqqa’uufaa hin furre. Gaaffilee mormitootaa kana deebisuurra aangawoonni mootummaa jijjiirraa farra-malaammaltummaa, jijjiirraa kaabineefii haasawaa paartilee mormituu hafan wajjiin gochuuf, carraa hojii dargaggootaaf uumuufii ‘’bulchiinsa gaarii’’ fiduuf kutannoon akka hojjatan dhuma 2016 fi 2017ti beeksisanii turan.

Itoophiyaan ammas dirree siyaasaa akkuma cuftetti jirti. Walta’insi paartii biyya bulchuu teessoo mana maree bakka bu’oota uummataa naannoofi federaalaa 100% dhuunffatee jira. Dhorkaan guddaan dhaabbilee siviilii fi midiyaarra kaayame, dhabbilee mormituu ofiin dhaabbatan dadhabsiisuun, hidhaafi dararaan namoota mootummaa deeggaruu didan irra gahu dirree sagalee mormii garmalee dhiphisee/cufee jira.

Yeroo heddu yakkoota kana qorachuuf waadaa galus, mootummaan qorannoo amanamaa gochuu dhabuun ammas barbaachisummaa qorannoo idil-adunyaa cimsee agarsiisa.  Komishiniin mirga namoomaa Itoophiyaa hirkattummaa mootummaarraa bilisa waan hin taaneef qarannoon dhaabni kun godhu amanamummaa qabaatee hin beeku.

Labsii yeroo muddamaa

Harka caalaa bara 2017 Itoophiyaan labsii muddama jalatti dabarsite. Labsiin kun Onkoloolessa 2016 yeroo mormiin guddaan turetti labsamee ture. Labsichi Bitootessaa 2017 ji’a afuriif itti dabalamee haaromfamee, Hagayya 4, 2017 kaafame. Humnootni tikaa humna garmalee fayyadamuun namoota kuma tokkoo (1000) ol ajjeesaniiru. Namoota kuma kurnaniin lakkaayaman ammo hidhaatti guuraniiru.

Seerri labsi muddamaa hojiirra oolchuuf itti dabalamee baye biyyattii guutuu keessatti mirgoota akka yaada ofii bilisaan ibsachuu, hiriira nagaa bayuufi ijaaramuu irratti dhorkaafi ukkaamsaa garmalee baldhaa kaayee. Tarkaanfiin kunimmoo rakkinoota mudatan humna waraanaan furuuf kallattii mootummaan kaayame agarsiisa. Seerichi hanga labsiin kun ka’utti mormii heeyyama mootumma hin arganne mara dhorkuun iddoolee labsiin kun murteesseetti ajaja mana murtii malee namoota hidhuus heeyyamee ture. Itti dabaluunis ‘’haaromsa’’- hidhaa yeroo gabaaba kan hojii humnaa dirqiin hojjachuu of-keessaa qabu heeyyame.

Yeroo labsii muddamaa sanitti humnootni waraanaa baayyinaan naannolee Oromiyaafi Amaaraa keessatti bobbaafamuun akka istaatistiksii mootummichaatti namoota kuma digdamii tokkoo (21,000) ol seeraan ala kaampiiwwaan haaromsa garaagaraatti hidhanii turan. Hidhamtoonni hedduun adabbii qaamaa hamaaf saaxilamuu isaaniifi imaammata mootummaa fudhachuuf waadaa galuun dirqii ta’uu dubbataniiru. Iddooleen namoonni kun itti hidhaman: kaampii waraanaa, maneen hidhaafi maneen yeroo gabaabaaf ijaaraman keessatti ture. Hidhamtoonni dararaafi reebichi hamaan mana hidhatti nurra gayeera jedhanis muraasa miti.  Aartistoonni, hoggantoonni paartilee mormituufi gaazexeessitoonni yakka siyaasa bu’uura godhateen himataman.

Dr Mararaa Guddinaa, dura taa’aan paartii kongiresii federaalistii Oromoo- Paartii seeraan galmayee,’’baatii Bitootessaa keessa sirna heeraa mootummaa cabsuutiin himatame. Inni hoggantoota paartii koongiresii federelaastii Oromoo kan akka itti aanaa paartichaa Obbo Baqqalaa Garbaafaatti dabalamuun himanni siyaasaa bu’uureffate irratti baname. Yeroo gabaasni kun barraayetti, akka istaatistiksii mootummaatti namoota yeroo labsii muddama qabamannii hidhaman keessaa 8000 ammayyu mana hidhaa jiru.

Mirga yaada ofii bilisaan ibsachuufi mirga ijaaramuu

Miidiyaan marti to’annoo mootumma jalatti kufaniiru. Towannoon kun yeroo labsii muddamaattimmo garmalee jabaate. Sababa kanaaf lammiileen biyyattii odeeffannoo piroopaagaandaa mootummaarra bilisa ta’e argachuuf garmalee rakkisaa ture. Filannoon gaazexeessitoonni hedduun qaban yookan ofiin of-laguu ykn hojjatanii reebamuufi hidhamuu ykn ammo biyyaa bayuu qofa ture. Bara 2010 as qofa gaazexeessitoonni 85 Itoophiyaarra baqatanii bayaniiru. Kana keessaa yooxiqqaate gaazexeessitoonni 6 bara 2017 baqatanii bayan.  Gaazeexeessitoonni danuun kan akka Iskindir Naggaaffi Wubishat Tayyeefaa hanga ammaatti labsii farra shorrorkeessumman yakkamanii mana hidhaa tursiifamaniiru. Gazexeessitoota dararuun alattis dhaabilee beeksisaa, maxxansaafi raabsaa doorsisuun tooftaalee dhaabbilee miidiyaale bilisaaratti dhiibbaan godhamuudha. Dhabamsiifamuu dhaabbilee miidiyaa biyya keessaa irraa kan ka’e miidiyaan hawaasaafi dhaabileen televiziyoonaa diyaaspooraa odeeffanno daddabarsuu keessatti shoora ol-aanaa taphataniiru. Motummaan yaalii towannoo dhabbilee televiziyoona diyaaspooraafi midiyaalee hawaasa 2017 keessa jabeessuun, yeroo labsii muddamaatti televiziyoonota diyaaspora ilaalu dhorkee ture. Dabalataanis raadiyoofi televiziyoonota diyaaspooraa ugguruun akkasumas maatii gaazexeessitoota fi madden odeeffannoo doorsisaa ture.  Ebla, 2017 dhaabbileen televiziyoonotaa diyaaspoora lamaan- Oromiya miidiyaa Netwoorki (OMN) fi ESAT, labsii ukkaamsa farra shorrerkussummaatiin himatamaniiru. Daarektarrii OMN, Jawaar Mohaammedis ji’a Eblaa, 2017 keessa seera yakkaatiin himatameera.

Mootummaan yeruma mara qaqqabinsa aappii miidiyaalee hawaasaafi marsariitota ilaalcha mootumiichaa faalleessan ugguraa ture. Yeroolee murteessoo akka yeroo qorumsa biyyoleessaafaa miliqee bayuu qorumsaa sodaachuun mootummaan intarneeta guutumatti uggureera.

Labsiin dhaabilee arjoominaafi siiviiki bara 2009 baye (CSO) ammayyu humna dhaabbilee miti mootummaa bilisa ta’anii hudhee qabee jira. Labsichi hojiiwwaan akka mirga namoomaa, bulchiinsa gaarii, walitti bu’insa furuufi dhaabblee mirga dubartootaa, daa’iimmaniifi qaama miidhamtootaaf bajata 10% ol biyya alaati argatanii dhorkee jira.

Reebichaafi dararaa mana hidhaa keessatti

Hidhaan seeraan alaafi reebichi mana hidhaa keessaati godhamu ammayyu rakkoo guddaa Itoophiyaati. Humnootni tikaa mootummaa, poolisiin federaalaa, humnootni basaastuu wayyaa siviilii uffatan dabalatee, poolisiin addaa fi raayyaan ittisa biyyaa hidhamtoota siyaasa mana hidhaa ifaa fi dhoksaa keessaatti yeroo heddu reebuun odeeffannoo humnaan irraa fuudhaniiru.

Namoonni baayyeen hiriira mormii bara 2015/2016 manneen hidhaafi kaampilee waraanaa garaagaraatti hidhaman akkasumas kanneen yeroo labsii muddamaa 2017 hidhaman maneen hidhaa keessaatti reebichiifi dararaan irra gayuu dubbatu. Dubartoonni heddu maneen hidhaa kessaatti humnoota tikaatiin gudeedamuufi reebamuu himatu. Humnootni tikaa yakka akkana raawwatan seeratti dhiyaachuu isaanii ragaan muldhatu hin jiru. Namoonni dur humna tikaa keessa hojjatan manneen hidhaa keessatti reebichaafi dararaan ragaa funaanaa turuu isaanii raga bayaniiru.

Dhiimmootaa siyaasaa hamoo irratti walabummaan mana murtiifii adeemsi seeraa baayyee yaaddessaadha. Manneen sirreessaa Finfinneen alaa jiran keessaati hidhamtoonni hin himataman, mana murtiittis hin dhiyaatan. Namonni karaa nagaa sagalee mormii dhiyeessan yeroo heddu labsii farra shorreerkeessummaan yakkamu. Miseensa dhaabbilee mootummaan shorreerkeessitoota jedhee labseeti jechuunis ni himatamu.  Murtiin adabbii himannaa akkanaa irratti darbu hanga hidhaa umurii guutuutti. Himannaa addaan kutuun hin baramne. Hidhamtoonni yakki reebichaa mana hidhaa keessatti nurra gayeera jedhanii yeroo himatan manni murti irra deddeebiin gurra duuchatee bira darbaa jira. Namoonni dhibbootaan lakkayaman, hoggantoonni paartilee mormituu, hirmaattoonni hiriira nagaa, aartitstoonniifi gaazexeessitoonni labsi farra shorrorkeessummaan yakkamanii mana hidhaatti dararamaa jiru.

Qaamnii mootummoota gamtoomanii hidhaa seeraan alaa qoratu bara 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 fi 2015 irra deddeebiin himannaa kanarratti qorannoo gaaggeessuuf gaafatus mootummaan dhorkee jira.

Dhiittaa mirgaa Poolisiin Addaa Somaalee raawwatu

Poolisiin naannoo Somaalee dhiittaan mirgaa garmaleen beekamu ammas yakkoota hamaa dalaguu akkuma itti fufetti jira. Hawasni naannoo Oromiyaa daangaa naannoo Somaaleerra jiraatan irra deddeebiin humnoota poolisii addaa naannoo Somaleeti jedhamaniin haleelamuu himaniiru. Hawaasni daangaarra jiratan kun ajjeechana, lollii, saamichi qabeenyaafi qeyeerraa buqqayuun akka irra gaye himatu. Hawaasni Somaalees haleellaan haaloo bayumsaa humnoota Oromoo hin beekamneen irratti fudhatamu dubbatu. Hiyumaan raayitswoch yaalii mootummaan federaala haleellaa daangaarra kana dhaabuuf godhe homaayyu hin agarre. Namootni kuma dhibbootaan lakkaayaman sababa walitti bu’insa daangaarraatti deemaa jiruu kanaan qe’eefi qabeenya isaanirraa buqqayaniiru.

Poolisiin addaa naannoo Somaalee kun bara 2008 kan hundeeffame yoo ta’u itti gaafatama seeraa ifa hin taaneen socho’u. Garuummoo qabatamaan pirezideentii mootummaa naannoo Somaalee kan ta’e Abdi Mohamud Omariif abboomamu. Humnootni poolisii addaa kun yeroo garaagaraatti ajjeechaa seeraan alaa, reebichaafi dubartoota gudeeduun akkasumas uummata nagaa humna waraanaa Ogaaden deggaruun shakkaman rukutuun himatamu. Yakkoota gurguddoo humnootni kun naannoo Somaalee keessatti raawwatan jedhamanii himataman qorachuuf yaaliin hiika qabeessi godhame tokkoyyuu hin jiru.

Fedhiin Abdi Illeeyn mormitoota isaa ukkamsuuf qabu daangaa Itoophiyaa qofa keessatti kan daangeffame miti. Lammileen Somalee Itoophiyaa biyya alaa jiraataniis hiriira nagaa erga bayanii ykn barreeffamoota Abdi Illeey qeeqan miidiyaa hawaasa irratti yoo barreessan maatiin isaanii naanno Somalee jiraatan seeraan ala hidhamaniiru, reebamaniiru, qabeenyi isaaniis saaamameera.

Qooda dhaabbilee Idil-Adunyaa murteessoo

Qabinsi mirga namoomaa Itoophiya baayye badaa ta’ullee biyyattiin gargaarsa arjoota biyya alaafi gargaarsa biyyoota ollaa guddaa argachaa jirti. Saababiin gargaarsi kun itti fufee keessa muraasni: biyyattiin teessoo gamtaa Afrikaa ta’uusheefi taarsimoo naannawaa saniitti shoora murteessa waan taphattuuf, qaama nagaa eegsistuu mootummoota gamtoomanii waan taateef, waraanna farra-shorrorkeessitoota naannoo gaanfa Afrikaa keessatti sababa hirmaattuuf, dhimma baqattootaa irratti mootummoota dhiyaa faana michuummaan waan hojjattuufi guddina misooma gaalmeessite jedhamuufi. Itoophiyaan madda, karaafi buufata baqattoota hedduutis.

Paarlaamaan Awurooppaa, manni maree bakka bu’oota fi seenetiin Ameerikaa qabinsa mirga namoomaa Itoophiyaa balaaleffataniiru. Paarlaamaan Awuroppaa ajeechaa mormitoota bara 2015 eegale rawwate irratti qorannoon qaama mootummoota gamtoomaniin durfamuun akka godhamuuf hidhamtoonni siyaasa marti akka hiikaman waamicha godhee ture. Baatii Eblaa keessa bakka bu’aan dame mirga namoomaa gamtaa Awuroppaa addaa Istaavros Lambridinis Itoophiyaa deemee daawwachuun yaaddoo gamtaan Awurooppaa qabinsa mirga namoomaa Itoophiya irratti qabu mirkaneesseera. Dhaabbilen idil-adunyaa kanneen akka Baankii Adunyaa dhiittaa mirga namooma biyyattii irratti ifaan ifatti yaaddoo tokkollee otoo hin ibsiin hojii isaanii idilee itti fufanii jiru.

Itoophiyaan miseensa mana maree nageenyaafi mirga namoomaa Mootummoota gamtoomaniiti. Ta’ullee adeemsa addaa mootummoota gamtoomanii waliin hojjachuu akka diddeetti jirti. Erga raappoortarri addaa Eertiraa 2006 biyyattii seenee as gareen addaa mootummoota gamtoomanii tokkollee Itoophiyaa seenee qorachuuf heeyyama mootummaa hin arganne. Raapportaroonni reebichaa, mirga yaada ofii bilisaan ibsachuufi hiriira nagaa gaggeessuu biyyatti daawwachuuf yeroo garaa garaatti akka fedhan gaafatanii jiru.


Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: Double victory for Oromo athletes at the Tata Mumbai Marathon as Amane Gobena and Solomon Deksisa won both the women’s and men’s races. Gulume Tollesa successfully defended her title at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon with a course record of 2:29:37 January 21, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistOromo athletes Solomon Deksisa and Amane Gobena won Mumbai Marathon, 21 January 2017.png


Double triumph for Oromo Marathon athletes at the Tata Mumbai Marathon as Amane Gobena and Solomon Deksisa won at the IAAF Silver Label road race in 2:25:49 and 2:09:34 respectively on Sunday, 21st January 2018. They represent Ethiopia in the competition.

Meanwhile  Gulume Tollesa successfully defended her title at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon with a course record of 2:29:37.

Twenty-two-year-old Deksisa broke away from the rest of the field at the 35-km mark and kept his nose ahead for the reminder of the 42.195-km men’s event to lead a 1-2 finish for Ethiopia ahead of 29-year-old compatriot Shumet Akalnaw. Deksisa clocked 2 hours, 9 minutes, 34 secs, off the course record of 2:08:35, while his compatriot Shumet crossed the finish line in 2:10:00 after being in hot pursuit of the lead runner over the last seven kms without being able to catch up.

Kenyan Joshua Kipkorir, second last year, ended up third this year in 2:10:30. Oromo Athlete Shumi Dechasa for Bahrain  (2:12:24) is 4th.

Gobena won the women’s race  by a comfortable margin  in 2:25:49 ahead of defending champion Bornes Kitur of Kenya who registered  2:28:48. In third place was another Oromo athlete, Shumo Genemo (2:29:41). The overall winners of both full marathons reap $42,000 each. Birke Debele  (2:29:45) and  Kuftu Tahir (2:35:01) completed 4th and 5th respectively.

Deksisa, running his sixth marathon with a personal best of 2:06:22 that he had registered while finishing second in the Rooterdam Marathon in April 2016.


More  read at Indian Express: Mumbai Marathon: Solomon Deksisa, Amane Gobena make it double

More read at IAAF: GOBENA AND DEKSISA SECURE ETHIOPIAN DOUBLE IN MUMBAI

 

Leaked Documents Show That Fascist TPLF Ethiopia’s Ruling Elites Are Hiring Social Media Trolls (And Watching Porn) January 21, 2018

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Leaked Documents Show That Ethiopia’s Ruling Elites Are Hiring Social Media Trolls (And Watching Porn)

Over the past two months, a series of leaked documents from Ethiopia’s powerful political elites have been circulating online.

Among other revelations, the leaks show that the Ethiopian government has been paying online commenters to influence social media conversations in the ruling party’s favor. The documents include hundreds of pages of chat logs and email correspondence of Ethiopia’s top government officials, multiple government planning documents and top-secret meeting records.

The leaks have come at what may be a turning point in Ethiopia’s recent political crisis. Since mid-2015, thousands across Ethiopia rose up, demanding more political freedoms and social equality and a stop to government land grabs in the Oromia region, which represents Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. The government responsewas brutal: Hundreds have been killed, thousands have been arrested, and critical voices — both on and offline — have been systematically silenced.

Among the recent leaks, which began to circulate on Facebook in November 2017, one of the most revealing documents is a list of individuals who appear to have been paid to promote the ruling coalition on social media. The list shows the names of the so-called “social media commentators” along with their job titles and a precise amount of money that they apparently received for their online postings. Most of the people listed are government employees.

The list corroborates previous evidence that the Ethiopian government has been hiring online commenters to promote its agenda and harass its opponents.

Online communities in Ethiopia have been calling these paid commenters “cocas”, a colloquialism in Amharic (the most widely spoken language in the country) that can be translated as “contemptible cadres.” In Amharic, this term typically refers to people who sell themselves for easy money. But in this case, most of the commenters listed in the leaked directory are already on the government payroll.

Who is responsible for the leaks?

The origin of the leaks has been rumored and contested at several levels. The documents were originally sent to diaspora activists from the at least two Facebook accounts, both of which belong to government employees, in November 2017.

The first known leak, of the “coca” list, came from the Facebook account of Gebremichael Melles Gebremariam, an employee of the communications affairs office of the Tigray state. Gebremariam first denied sending the documents, claiming his account was hacked. But he then backtracked on this claim. It is now rumored that he has been dismissed from his job.

Soon after the initial leak, more documents began arriving in the inboxes of diaspora activists, this time coming from the Facebook account of the Director of the Federal Communications Affairs office, Haddush Kassu. Shortly thereafter, Haddush began to publicly shame those government officials who are implicated in the leaks. On January 18, he denigrated Deputy PM Debretsion Gebremichael in a public Facebook post.

It is unclear whether Haddush sent the documents himself have been hacked.

Social media ‘cocas’ push pro-government discourse

The revelations of political and state officials paying “cocas” to promote the ruling party agenda online correspond with a recent rise in polarization and hate speech on social media, alongside increased online persecution of independent journalists.

The leaked “coca” list reveals that at least thirteen commentators were each paid at least USD $300 (a large sum in Ethiopia, where average GDP per capita was USD $660 in 2016) for blog posts or Facebook messages that they wrote at the behest of the ruling coalition.

Among individuals named on the list are Daniel Berahane and Dawit Kebede, publishers of two Ethiopian internet news site HornAffairs and Awaramba Timesrespectively. The two journalists have long been accused of cheer-leading a pro-government information campaign especially during a heightened political tension.

In recent years, independent Ethiopian journalists reporting on government affairs, corruption and human rights have been arrested or exiled en masse. The resulting gap in news coverage has thus been filled by opposition activists and protesters who often work with diaspora-based media outlets to draw global attention to the brutal military crackdown on protesters that has killed more than 1200 people and has led to several mass arrests since mid-2015.

On the heels of the list came a separate leak of what appears to be a proposal to counter opposition groups using social media platforms. The Amharic-language document from the office of Ethiopia’s longtime governing coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF), enumerates solutions and strategies to curtail the influence of online diaspora-based activists.

The document also describes how officials have ordered paid commenters to attack people who call for democracy and to praise the ideologies of ruling coalition. The document encourages its members to post comments on the internet as if they were regular citizens.

Other documents show that Ethiopia’s spy agency, the Information Network Security Agency, known to surveil and censor journalists and political dissidents, issued a money order of USD $12,000 to send two of their employees to China for special training. The documents do not specify what kind of training the two employees were meant to receive, but this information has begun to come to light with the release of subsequent chat logs.

Five weeks after the list was leaked, another document surfaced showing a written exchange over Facebook Messenger between two high-level public servants —  Haddush Kassu and a high-level operative of Ethiopia’s spy agency, Zeray Hailemariam — who were furious about the leaks, and the disclosure of the paid commentators.

One said the leaks are threats to their security and pledged to seek help from  Information Network Security Agency to investigate the source of the leaks. The other blamed a “disgruntled regional communication officer” for leaking the names to diaspora-based political rivals.

At one point in the exchange, the operative of Ethiopia’s spy agency suggested that they should encourage a “brave solider” like Daniel Berahane “who is fighting every extremists”. In response, the official from government communications affairs confirmed their support for him and wrote back “we pay him 33,000 [about USD $1200] for two articles.”

The exchange between the two top government officials also sheds light on the power struggle at the helm of Ethiopian ruling party, where infighting has led leaders to hire figures like Daniel and Dawit to undermine political opponents or curry favor with diplomats and foreign organizations in Addis Ababa. Daniel and Dawit have been leading voices in the pro-government media backlash against opposition activists and diaspora media.

And what is the Minister of Communication and Information Technology up to?

Other revelations have pointed to the online habit of Ethiopia’s former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Dr. Debretsion Gebremicheal.

On December 16, 2017 member of the inner circle of the ruling party dumped screenshots of ten years browsing history of Dr. Debretsion Gebremicheal on his Facebook page. The details only lasted for about two days. It was removed sometime on December 18, 2017 without any explanation.

ደብረጽየን ለራሱም ለሴቶችም ክብር የሌለው ሰው ነው። ደሞ ገብረሚካኤል ሃክ ተደረገ በሉ። ሰው አስሬ ሃክ ይደረጋል እንዴ? ዋይ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.104275863701078.1073741825.100023559936070&type=1&l=a3df88c983 

Debretsion does not have a respect for woman as well as for himself. Okay, you can go ahead say my account was compromised. Does a person has to be hacked ten times? Hell no!

For Dr. Debretsion this looks especially bad because he could not even clean his browsing history or encrypt his online communications, which means it was much easier than usual for the hackers to steal his browsing history. It’s quite amateurish mistake for a person who brands himself as one of the country’s top ‘intelligence’ personnel.

Abebe Gelaw, a prominent diaspora based journalist pieced together a revealing fifteen-page expose after he scrutinized over two hundred pages of Dr. Debretsion’s embarrassing and salacious browsing history.

But one of the most interesting aspects of the story itself was the sourcing of the revelations. The documents are said to originate from various sources, some say disgruntled insiders leaked them, others say hackers are responsible. But from an incoherent drip of leaks a common outlook emerges that there is unprecedented power struggle happening among Ethiopia’s ruling elite.

Ethiopia: Oromia: The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress Professor Merera Gudina has been released. #OromoProtests January 17, 2018

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Professor Merera Gudina's speech after the court of Ethiopia denied him hearing. #OromoProtests

OMN: Dura Taa’aan KFO Dr. Mararaan Hidhaa Bahan (LIVE) Amajjii 17, 2018

Click here for Photos: Oromia erupts as Ethiopia govt frees Merera Gudina, Africa News.


Ethiopia releases opposition leader Merera Gudina | Africanews

Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina has been freed after more than a year in detention.

Merera becomes the first ‘political prisoner’ to be released since Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced on 3 January that the government will pardon several convicted politicians and those with cases in court in a bid to foster national cohesion.

Prison authorities told his family that he was released on Wednesday morning and allowed to go back home.

Merera, the leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, has been in prison since December 2016 and was facing multiple charges, including association with terrorist groups. He denied the charges.

Free at last! Jailed opposition leader in Dr Merera Gudina freed after more than a year in detention.

Influential media portal, Addis Standard tweeted a letter (issued in Amharic) which stated that the charges had been dropped ‘for the benefit of the public and the government’.

A letter announcing to discontinue the multiple criminal charges brought by federal prosecutors against Dr. has been issued by the attorney general Getachew Ambaye. It stated charges were dropped “for the benefit of the public and the government.” cc: @Belay_Ma

Earlier this month, the government said it would pardon and drop the cases against more than 500 prisoners.

The announcement followed more than two years of anti-government protests that have rocked the country, with demonstrators calling for political and economic reforms and an end to state corruption and human rights abuses.

Ethiopia had always denied that there were any political prisoners in the country, as alleged by human rights and opposition groups.


Prominent Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina has been released from prison after more than a year in detention. more at  aljazeera.com



Ethiopie, Merera Goudina libéré de prison


BBC: Merera Gudina, Ethiopia opposition leader, freed

Ethio
Image captionHuge crowds welcomed Mr Merera home

Jailed Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina has been freed after more than a year in detention.

The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was released on Wednesday morning and allowed to go home, where he was welcomed by thousands of people.

He has been in prison since December 2016 and was facing charges, including association with terrorist groups.

The Ethiopian government announced on Monday that it would drop charges against more than 500 suspects.

Human rights groups have long accused Ethiopia of refusing to allow opposition groups to operate freely.

The government has denied holding any political prisoners but says the releases will foster national debate and “widen the political sphere”.

Those being freed will first undergo two days of “rehabilitation training”, the government says.

At the beginning of January, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn announced the government would close Maekelawi – a detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa, allegedly used as a torture chamber.

Why was Mr Merera arrested?

Mr Merera was arrested in November 2016 at the airport in the capital, Addis Ababa, after he flew in from Brussels.

He had violated Ethiopia’s state of emergency by having contact with “terrorist” and “anti-peace” groups, state-linked media reported at the time.

That month, Mr Merera had criticised the state of emergency in an address to the European parliament.

The government imposed it in October 2016 to end an unprecedented wave of protests against its 25-year rule.

Map of protests and violence in Ethiopia in 2016

More than 11,000 people were arrested, mostly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which were at the forefront of anti-government protests.

Many in the two regions complain of political and economic marginalisation.

Who else will be freed?

It is still not clear which other politicians will be released.

Ethiopia says it will not free anyone convicted of using force to overthrow the government, destroying infrastructure, murder or causing physical disability.

However, it says it will pardon some of those convicted under the anti-terrorism law.

Critics and human rights groups have accused the government in the past of labelling its opponents, and some journalists, as terrorists.

Rights group Amnesty International says the release of Mr Merera and other prisoners should not be the last.

“Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights,” Amnesty’s Netsanet Belay said.

Presentational grey line

Five more high-profile Ethiopian prisoners:

Bekele Gerbadeputy chairman of the OFC – arrested together with Dejene Fita Geleta, secretary-general of OFC, and 20 others in connection with the 2015 Oromo protests that resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters.

Andargachew Tsegeleader of Ginbot 7 (designated a terrorist group by Ethiopia) – arrested in 2014 while on transit in Yemen and taken to Ethiopia, where he faces the death penalty after being convicted in absentia. A British national, human rights groups have been pushing for his release.

Andualem Aragievice-president of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party – imprisoned since 2011, and now serving a life sentence on terrorism charges.

Eskinder Negajournalist and blogger – imprisoned since 2011 after criticising the use of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Woubshet Taye, journalist and editor – imprisoned since 2011 and sentenced the next year to 14 years in prison for terror-related offences.

 


Ethiopia govt had no business arresting Oromo leader Merera Gudina – E.U. MP

ETHIOPIA

A member of the European Parliament, Ana Gomes, has reacted to the the move by the Ethiopian government to drop charges against leading Oromo politician, Merera Gudina.

According to Gomes, who frequently comments on political ongoings in Ethiopia, Gudina “should never have been jailed.”

The university don who is leader of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has been under detention for a little over a year. He was arrested in December 2016 after returning from an European trip during which time he addressed the E.U. parliament on the political situation back home.

Upon his arrest, the government said he was picked in connection with having flouted an October 2016 state of emergency imposed to quell spreading anti-government protests predominantly in the Oromia and Amhara regions.

He was eventually charged with terrorism but the offense was later downgraded to multiple criminal charges. The case like that of other political elements has been traveling at a slow pace with prosecutors seeking extensions and introducing fresh evidence.

The MEP also commented on Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist currently in jail. Eskinder Nega is a brave man, paying for freedom and justice for his country. He is still a political prisoner in Ethiopia. He must be liberated! She said in a tweet.

Nega and a Venezuelan writer and journalist Milagros Socorro have recently been honored by Oxam Novib (PEN Awards 2018). “Eskinder couldn’t receive the award because he is in jail for his journalism works,” blogger Befeqadu Hailu wrote.


Ethiopia has released a handful of prisoners – but nothing else has changed,  Mail & Guardian Africa

WHO: Tedros Adhanom raised eyebrows with his appointment of Robert Mugabe and new recruitment policies. But the real shocker was his choice of a Russian to head up agency’s tuberculosis fight. January 17, 2018

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The Mugabe appointment “was stupid, but this is a disaster,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group. Ahead of the appointment, TAG led an open letter from more than 40 civil society groups asking Tedros to use a transparent, competitive process to choose the next director of the Global TB Program, tasked with fighting the top infectious killer worldwide.

 #NoTedros4WHO

World’s doctor gives WHO a headache


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus raised eyebrows with his appointment of Robert Mugabe and new recruitment policies. But the real shocker was his choice of a Russian to head up agency’s tuberculosis fight.

 

Illustration by Eva Bee for POLITICO

 

Seven months into his tenure, the early moves of the WHO’s first African chief are stoking a backlash.

His supporters say Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus promised to shake the institution up. The critics, increasingly emboldened, say he’s undermining the World Health Organization’s effectiveness and putting its funding at risk.

The former Ethiopian health minister turned heads with his appointment of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador in October. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Tedros — as he prefers to be called by Ethiopian tradition — was eschewing the normal hiring process for U.N. agencies, looking to increase gender and geographical diversity as quickly as possible. That’s unsettled some in the Geneva headquarters and the constellation of activists and researchers who work with WHO, who fear an overly political approach is bringing a culture change at the cost of credibility.

The latest disruptive move is his appointment of a little-known Russian official to run the WHO’s tuberculosis program, using a fast-track process, one month after meeting with President Vladimir Putin at a major gathering on the topic in Moscow.

The Mugabe appointment “was stupid, but this is a disaster,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group. Ahead of the appointment, TAG led an open letter from more than 40 civil society groups asking Tedros to use a transparent, competitive process to choose the next director of the Global TB Program, tasked with fighting the top infectious killer worldwide.

Reward for being retrograde

The December nomination of Tereza Kasaeva (an official at the Russian health ministry) prompted an editorial in the medical journal the Lancet, which described it as triggering a “potentially disabling controversy.”

“The domestic situation there is horrible. It’s probably one of the worst outside of Africa on TB infections” — Eduardo Gómez, King’s College London

“Russia has a poor record on TB and HIV,” write the editors of the journal, which is widely seen as the voice of the global health establishment. “Her appointment may be regarded as rewarding a country that does not deserve to be rewarded … WHO’s reputation — indeed, its political leverage — depends on the agency’s technical credibility.”

Russia is widely regarded as retrograde in its approach to treating the infectious disease, having developed a raging outbreak after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Since 2000 or so, overall incidences are down and survival rates are up, but Russia is still a world leader on the proportion of infections that don’t respond to antibiotics; a recent study predicted one in three cases would be antibiotic resistant by 2040.

Kasaeva replaces Mario Raviglione, a leading TB expert with more than 25 years of experience fighting the bacterial infection.

Tedros says he’s just keeping a campaign promise to overhaul the agency in the wake of its high-profile failure to respond quickly to the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa. He is the first African to run the WHO — and the first director general chosen with a vote open to all member countries in May, overcoming what he called a “colonial mindset” among backers of his British rival.

Tedros’ advisers have defended his decision to name Mugabe a goodwill ambassador for noncommunicable diseases less than four months into the job as just a misguided effort to build bridges with a regional giant who, despite human rights violations and a long embrace of the tobacco industry, recently expressed openness to new commitments on health.

The offer was quickly retracted, but not before it triggered international condemnation. An opinion piece in the Washington Post even speculated that it was payback to Mugabe for securing the African Union’s support in the WHO election, or to China for its backing.

Tedros’ first appointments have already transformed the gender and geographic balance within the top ranks, even as they have raised concerns about a closed selection that downplays conventional expertise.

Of eight new directors chosen largely through a fast-track process, including Kasaeva, all but one are women.

Tedros is trying change the recruitment system to eliminate “unconscious biases that make it unfavorable for women to get the positions,” a top Tedros adviser, Senait Fisseha, said in an email. Until that can be accomplished, she said, he had made “limited appointments of diverse and highly qualified women” to move his vision forward.

That’s music to the ears of those who see an endless game of musical chairs that circulates people from one U.N. or international development agency to another. Often that means wealthy Western countries dictating to poorer countries how to deal with their problems in order to receive aid.

Vlad in Geneva

Diversity is a worthy goal, said Global Coalition of TB Activists CEO Blessina Kumar. But it shouldn’t come “at the cost of effectiveness and competency. You can’t trade one for the other,” she said.

“Merit was the first criteria for all appointments, while secondary consideration was given to gender and geographical diversity,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. “Dr. Tedros also sought to appoint qualified people with country-level experience, as a vital complement to the technical expertise that already exists within WHO. This will help to accelerate progress at the country level.”

Kasaeva’s appointment has proved politically volatile both for Russia’s speckled track record in combatting TB, and because it’s seen as playing into Putin’s hands, helping the Russian president project power on the global health stage while he neglects patients back home.

“The domestic situation there is horrible. It’s probably one of the worst outside of Africa on TB infections,” said King’s College London’s Eduardo Gómez, the author of “Geopolitics in Health: Confronting Obesity, AIDS, and Tuberculosis in the Emerging BRICS Economies.”

In 2012, Russia rejected a $127 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, stifling many of the groups on the ground. On top of that, the federal government cut domestic TB funding in recent years, according to Gómez.

Nonetheless, in mid-November, Russia pledged $15 million toward fighting TB worldwide during a major U.N. TB conference in Moscow. The foreign aid is a typical Putin move, said Gomez. “This is an opportunity to reassert Russia’s dominance in global health.”

Putin addressed the gathering and met with Tedros. A month later, on December 15, Tedros announced Kasaeva’s appointment in an internal WHO email.

“I can’t see what the upside is other than political payback,” Harrington said.

Backlash on Tedros

Defenders say Russia’s TB program is improving — driven in part by Kasaeva — and that she may be the best hope for getting the country to change.

Vadim Testov, a former WHO official now working on Russia’s TB program, said he’s seen the government’s commitment increase over time, and that it’s “ready to provide” financing to make Russia’s domestic TB fight successful. He noted that new regulations from Kasaeva’s team have led to a sharper decrease in TB cases over the last five years.

Kasaeva “will have influence on Russian officials” in her WHO position, Testov predicted.

Many aren’t sold on Tedros’ new approach and fear that global health will suffer — especially if the WHO’s biggest donors get spooked.

The backlash shows the risks from Tedros’ effort to upend the status quo. Defenders say the same-old same-old at the U.N. hasn’t served patients on Ebola, TB or a range of other issues.

“Whatever we’ve been doing for the last quarter century isn’t working that well,” said Salmaan Keshavjee, a Harvard TB expert who has worked on the ground in Russia with Partners in Health.

He argued that WHO recommendations have in the past been ill-suited to Russia’s circumstances and that homegrown experts from emerging, populous economies may be in a better position to solve their own problems and bring a new perspective to the global effort.

“If you want to hold the BRICS countries’ feet to the fire, they have to be involved in health architecture,” Keshavjee said.

Budget strings

But many aren’t sold on Tedros’ new approach and fear that global health will suffer — especially if the WHO’s biggest donors get spooked.

Though ultimately blocked, U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut back on foreign aid — announced on May 23, the same day Tedros was elected to lead the WHO — has alarmed many in the organization. The recent controversies drive some worry that other large donors like the U.K. or Germany might be tempted to draw the purse strings tighter.

The U.S. contributes almost a quarter of the WHO’s $4 billion-plus annual budget.

Tedros’ doctorate is in community health, and he served as Ethiopia’s health minister for seven years — winning wide praise for strides in expanding contraception, fighting malaria and, yes, controlling TB.

But it may be his experience as Ethiopia’s top diplomat from 2012 to 2016 that seems most apposite now. During that period, he kept his country in the West’s good graces (and the aid money flowing) despite growing concerns about the regime’s human rights violations, by stressing Ethiopia’s position as a stable, strategic partner in the war on terror.

Tedros’ team includes plenty of conventional choices; Jane Ellison, a Brit, served as something of an olive branch to the WHO’s No. 2 state donor after the U.K. strongly backed its own candidate in a campaign that turned nasty. Tedros also named a German to a long-sought top post after Berlin stepped up donations and raised Tedros’ profile by inviting him to the G20 summit.

A Moment Of Significance And Opportunity For Ethiopia January 15, 2018

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A Moment Of Significance And Opportunity For Ethiopia – OpEd

Graham Peebles, Eurasia Review,  14 January 2018


Since November 2015 unprecedented protests have been taking place in Ethiopia: angry and frustrated at the widespread abuse of human rights and the centralization of power in the hands of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) tens of thousands have taken to the streets. The ruling party’s response to this democratic outpouring has been consistently violent; hundreds have been killed and beaten by security forces, tens of thousands arrested and imprisoned.

In an attempt to gag the people, a highly repressive State of Emergency was imposed in August 2016. It failed, the protests continued, the movement strengthened. The regime then tried to inflame ancient ethnic differences amongst various groups by staging attacks using plain-clothed security personnel. In the border region of Oromo and the Ogaden Tesfaye Robela of the Ethiopian Parliament claims that over 10,000 people have been killed. ESAT News (the sole Ethiopian independent broadcaster) quotes the findings of a parliamentary report into the ethnic clashes, which concluded that: “based on interviews with victims of the violence, squarely puts the blame on Somali Region Special Police, local police and militia for perpetrating the killings.” The Liyu Police is controlled by the Ethiopian military.

Despite these attempts to extinguish the movement for change, the people of Ethiopia are continuing to demand freedom, justice and democracy; this time they will not be silenced. The minority powers within the ruling EPRDF coalition – The Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) have been empowered by the popular uprising and there are signs that they are at last standing up to the majority TPLF members. Under pressure from the OPDO and ASDM and in a further attempt to distract attention from the protests and undermine the protestors’ claims, on 3rd January the government put out a convoluted statement relating to political prisoners.

The Prime-Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that the regime would release “some political prisoners”, prisoners that for the last 27 years they have denied even existed. ESAT News (which is based in Europe and America) reports he went on to announce that, “members of political parties and other individuals would be released to widen the political and democratic space” and that “the government would review the cases of certain individuals affiliated with political parties, including party leaders, [and] in some cases, charges would be dropped or people would be released or pardoned, depending on investigation results.”

His words, which have been widely reported in mainstream media, were not only disingenuous they were ambiguous and inconclusive. He failed to acknowledge that those imprisoned for expressing political dissent had been falsely incarcerated; repeatedly stating they were behind bars because they were guilty of breaking the law.

Whilst the release of any political prisoners at all would be a move in the right direction, in its present form the policy, if indeed it is a policy and not simply a public relations exercise aimed at international benefactors, is an insult to the thousands languishing in prison for no other reason than they disagree with the ruling TPLF. The statement is inadequate and needs clarification: who will be considered for release and when? Does it include opposition politicians charged with fictitious terrorist offences under the universally condemned Anti-Terrorist Proclamation of 2009? Will this long-overdue gesture mean that politicians who have been forced to live in exile for fear of arrest and imprisonment can safely return home?

These and other pressing questions need to be raised by opposition groups and human rights organizations, and indeed Ethiopia’s major donors — America, Britain and the European Parliament, all of which have allowed the TPLF to trample on human rights and the people for decades. Intense pressure must be applied on the government to articulate its intentions and, for once in their tyrannical reign, do the right thing and release all political prisoners, including journalists, bloggers, protestors and activists of all kinds.

It was also announced by the PM that Maekelewi prison in Addis Ababa, which has been used as a torture chamber by the TPLF for years, will be closed down, and rather bizarrely, turned into a modern museum, unless common sense prevails and it is demolished. This is a positive development but is again short on detail, there has been no mention of what will happen to the inmates. All political prisoners held there should be released unconditionally, and an independent international monitoring group established to oversee the release and or transfer of all other detainees.

The current of change

Despite being enshrined as rights within Ethiopia’s liberally worded constitution, for over two decades all forms of freedom of speech and political dissent have been virtually outlawed. Anyone who openly disagrees with or questions the ruling party is seen as a threat, and persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and, commonly, tortured. The Anti-Terrorism Act, together with The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), both passed in 2009, are the primary tools of suppression within the regime’s Arsenal of Control.

Both laws have been widely criticized by Human Rights groups; responding to the CSP in 2012 Amnesty International said that, “The law has had a devastating impact on human rights work, both in terms of the practical obstacles it creates for human rights defenders, and in exacerbating the climate of fear in which they operate.” This is of course precisely what it was intended to do. Commenting on the Anti-Terrorist Proclamation when it was drafted, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that it provided “the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations…It would permit [indeed has facilitated] long-term imprisonment and even the death penalty for ‘crimes’ that bear no resemblance, under any credible definition, to terrorism.”

For 27 years the TPLF group within the coalition have dominated all life in the country and like all such tyrannical regimes they have ruled through violence and fear. But we are living in new times; the days of tyrannical regimes is all but over, those that persist are sustained by the polluted energies of the past and are on their death bed. The people of Ethiopia sense that this is their time, that change is not only possible, but is coming.

The government’s half-baked move to release a few political leaders will not appease anyone, but should embolden many. It reveals a crack in the democratic facade presented by the regime, which must be split open under the force of sustained political activism, civil disobedience and public protest.

The minority members of the coalition — the OPDO and ANDM — now have an opportunity, indeed a responsibility to act boldly, to stand up and take a lead. As representatives of the two largest ethnic groups in the country they are in a position to do a number of things: demand The Anti-Terrorism Act, and The Charities and Societies Proclamation be immediately repealed, compile a comprehensive list of all political prisoners (working in cooperation with Amnesty International or The Ethiopia Human Rights Project), and vigorously press for their immediate release. Then, providing opposition politicians are released and political groups outside the country — including Ginbot 7 — are allowed to operate freely, work vigorously to campaign for fair and open elections (such a thing has never taken place in Ethiopia) to be held sometime in late 2019. This is a moment of significance in the country. There is an unstoppable force for justice and freedom sweeping across the world and Ethiopia is firmly within that current of change.


 

IRIN: Feature: Ethiopian Oromo refugees face bribes, harassment in Kenya January 12, 2018

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 NAIROBI, 12 January 2018


A freelance journalist, focusing on humanitarian and development issues

Ethiopian Oromo refugees fleeing to Kenya to escape persecution say they are finding life on the streets of Nairobi no better than the insecurity they left behind, as they are targeted by bribes and harassment and forced into vast camps with few prospects or protections.

The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but have long complained of political and economic marginalisation at the hands of the country’s ruling party, which is dominated by a minority ethnic group, the Tigrayans.

Following 2016 protests demanding political reform, which resulted in a state of emergency and the deaths of more than 600 in the security crackdown, thousands of Oromo made their way to neighbouring Kenya seeking asylum and refuge.

But they did not escape the Ethiopian authorities. Human Rights Watch has reported “numerous cases of harassment and threats” against Oromo asylum seekers in Kenya by Ethiopian government officials.

The rights group has also documented “confessions” by Kenyan police officers in which they admit to being offered bribes by the Ethiopian embassy to detain and intimidate Oromo refugees.

“When I came to Kenya I thought that I would be protected and would be able to start a new life,” said former Oromo politician “Tolessa”, who requested his identity be protected.

“[But] what I’m facing here is no different from what I was facing at home,” he told IRIN. “My future here isn’t very bright.”

Full of “spies”

Oromo refugees also reported attempts by Ethiopian officials to recruit them as informants in Nairobi’s Oromo community, promising land, protection, money, and even resettlement to the United States or elsewhere, Human Rights Watch noted.

“There are a lot of Ethiopian spies here in Nairobi,” one refugee, a former Ethiopian intelligence officer, alias “Demiksa”, told IRIN.

Now a senior dissident, “Demiksa” related what had happened to him back in Ethiopia.

He said that after refusing orders to torture prisoners held in Addis Ababa’s infamous Maekelawi prison, he was accused of being an opposition collaborator, detained, and then tortured himself.

“They tied my hands up and hung me up on the wall with nails and beat me with electric cables around my ankles and on my back,” he told IRIN, fighting tears. “I couldn’t walk for three months,” he added.

“Demiksa” said he was spared capital punishment on one condition: kill or be killed. Handed photographs of two prominent Oromo activists, he was given a loaded gun and told to get into a car.

He accepted the mission – “I had no choice,” he told IRIN – but was able to escape en route to the hit, and then fled Ethiopia.

When he arrived in Nairobi, “Demiksa” was told to register at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya like all other Ethiopian exiles.

The long arm of Ethiopian security

But Oromo who fear being stalked by Ethiopian intelligence believe even Kakuma is not safe.

“Threats from Ethiopian security officials – working together with local [Kenyan] police – also extend to the refugee camps [in Kenya],” Human Rights Watch researcher Felix Horne told IRIN.

Horne said Oromo activists who have come from cities in Ethiopia fear camp life because of the lack of employment opportunities, the heat, and Kakuma’s physical proximity to Ethiopia.

But they have darker fears too.

Oromo refugees have reportedly been kidnapped from Kenya and taken back to Ethiopia, and there have been similar reports from Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, and Somaliland.

“This is not unique to Kenya,” Horne said. “The patterns of pervasive Ethiopian security presence utilising local security officials is similar in other countries where Ethiopians flee to.”

Tariku Debela, a political refugee living in Kampala who fled Kenya in April 2016, still remains a target for Ethiopian security forces. He told IRIN that his scars bear witness both to the torture he received in Ethiopia and an attempt on his life in Uganda.

“Some people came to my hotel room, drugged me, and then beat me up,” he explained to IRIN over the phone. “People living nearby heard what was happening and came to my rescue. One of [the attackers] was arrested.”

A Ugandan police investigation revealed “that the men who attacked me were sent from Ethiopia to kill me,” he added.

After imploring the UN refugee agency several times to offer him protection, Debela now stays in a UNHCR safe house, but doesn’t get much else in the way of assistance.

“UNHCR haven’t even tried to help me process my case for resettlement,” he told IRIN. “Since I am a political refugee, I shouldn’t have to stay here for the rest of my life.”

UNHCR has a mandate to provide protection to refugees, including political figures like “Demiksa” and Debela.

“The documentation issued to them by the government and UNHCR gives them the right to reside legally in Kenya and protects them from deportation to their country of origin or expulsion from Kenya,” Yvonne Ndege, senior communications officer at UNHCR, told IRIN.“There are some high-profile cases, such as the Oromo; sometimes their cases are expedited through the registration process,” she added.

But some say this policy exists only in theory.

“In practice, there is very little protection afforded to Oromo refugees,” Horne told IRIN.  “Individuals with serious security issues – some of whom are high-profile individuals – often receive no practical protection whatsoever from these agencies.”

Bribes, harassment, and detention

Kenya has an encampment policy – refugees are supposed to stay in one of two vast refugee camps that house 489,000 people: Dadaab and Kakuma. That means those found in urban centres without proper documentation are vulnerable to extortion and intimidation by the police.

Refugees IRIN spoke to in Nairobi mentioned regularly having to pay bribes to avoid harassment. The going rate is up to $200 for a permit to avoid being sent to Kakuma.

Life for those who can’t afford to pay is bleak. “Because I don’t have my papers I stay at home so that I can be safe from police,” teenager Fozia told IRIN.

Fozia fled Ethiopia following a brutal crackdown on students in her hometown in Oromia. After student protesters dispersed, she says police followed her home, then raped and beat her. She decided to flee.

Despite coming to Kenya as an unaccompanied minor, Fozia hasn’t been helped by the authorities. Without the ability to bribe registration officers at Nairobi’s government-run refugee registration centre, Shauri Moyo, she can’t officially register with UNHCR for refugee status determination.

“I was given a movement pass to Kakuma, but I feared going there, especially as a young girl,” she explained.

Neither can Fozia afford to bribe officials to gain an all-important exemption permit that would allow her to legally avoid going to Kakuma.

“Without that, I’m told by UNHCR to either go to Kakuma or register for exemption at Shauri Moyo,” she said.

Many other refugees face the same hurdles.

“I still haven’t received exemption,” another former Oromo politician and victim of torture in Maekelawi who preferred to remain anonymous, told IRIN.

“I’ve been ordered to bribe officers with $200 to gain exemption from camp,” the former politician said. “I don’t have that sort of money. I also stay indoors to avoid having to pay police officers that harass me.”

Following registration with Shauri Moyo, refugees can then apply for a government of Kenya “alien card” for asylum recognition. But several refugees told IRIN that this process also entails under the table payments – ranging from $300 to $485.

Such allegations of corruption and extortion are denied by Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat, known as RAS.

UNHCR “concerned”

Once refugees are able to access asylum, their cases are referred to UNHCR for refugee status determination, which is necessary for official recognition as a refugee.

But many refugees are having to wait years to even get an interview.

“I was supposed to have an appointment in March this year,” one woman complained. “You just turn up to their office [UNHCR], stand in line, and wait for your turn. Then they tell you that they can’t see you that day.”

She went on to explain how they typically just give you another appointment letter with a different date and year and tell you to wait.

“They didn’t even give me another appointment date last time – they just told me that they would call me,” she said. “I still haven’t heard anything yet [since her March appointment].”

Recognising these concerns, the UN refugee agency insisted it is committed to improving the registration system.

“UNHCR is concerned about the time being taken for asylum seekers and refugees to receive proper documentation,” UNHCR’s Ndege told IRIN, adding that it was working to streamline its registration processes.

But Horne from Human Rights Watch said neither UNHCR nor RAS are doing enough right now to protect vulnerable Oromo.

“Country guidelines on Ethiopia that officers use to assess asylum claims should be updated as they are over 10 years old and do not remotely reflect the current situation in Ethiopia,” he said.

Oromo opposition to rulers in Addis Ababa stretches back centuries. The current ruling party, the EPRDF, has used federalism to dilute that dissent, but it has persisted.

Charlie Ensor/IRIN
An Oromo activist in Nairobi, crosses his arms in an Oromo symbol of solidarity

In the unrest in 2016 and 2017, the Oromo were joined by the second largest ethnic group, the Amharas, in the demand for political reform – posing a significant challenge to the government.

Reform at last?

In a surprise announcement at the beginning of the month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced that his government would close Maekelawi prison and release political prisoners in a move he said would advance political dialogue with opposition groups.

“The regime realises that the political landscape is shifting rapidly and that they have to find a way forward to deal with ethnic tension and communal violence,” Ahmed Soliman, associate researcher at Chatham House, told IRIN.

But this all depends on how sincere the government is on reforming and its willingness to admit the violations it has committed – including in neighbouring countries.

As Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekele put it after Desalegn’s announcement: “A new chapter for human rights will only be possible if all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

(TOP PHOTO: Eastleigh, Nairobi. Home to Nairobi’s refugees. CREDIT: Charlie Ensor/IRIN)

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Ethiopia’s decision on ‘political prisoners’ in context January 11, 2018

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Ethiopia’s decision on ‘political prisoners’ in context

By , Al Jazeera, 10 January 2018

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]


On January 3, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made two major announcements: his government will release political prisoners and close down a notorious detention centre at the heart of Ethiopia’s capital,widely known as a torture chamber for dissidents and government opponents. Desalegn announced the decision as part of a wider package of reforms aimed at fostering national reconciliation and widening the democratic space.

Rights groups welcomed the announcement as “an important step toward ending long-standing political repression and human rights abuse in the country” while others saw the move as a significant concession to the relentless protests of the last two years by the Oromos and Amharas – the two largest ethnic groups in the country.

As local and international media began to scrutinise the rationale, implications and consequences of the announcement, most of the commentary focused on Ethiopia’s perceived admission that there are political prisoners in the country. US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce even issued a statement praising Ethiopia for “finally acknowledg[ing] that it holds political prisoners.”

Shortly after the announcement, however, the government distanced itself from this interpretation by emphasising the fact that the prime minister never used the term “political prisoners” in his initial statement.

Indeed, Desalegn only referred to “political leaders and individuals whose crimes have resulted in court convictions or have resulted in their ongoing prosecution under the country’s law,” in his statement and never gave a clear indication as to which prisoners will be eligible for release.

Ethiopia’s political prisoners

The Ethiopian government has always denied consistent and widespread reports by human rights groups that it holds political prisoners. Like his predecessor, the late Meles Zenawi, who adamantly denied politicising the legal system to stifle dissent and opposition, Desalegn has also repeatedly dismissed the suggestion that Ethiopia is holding political prisoners.

Shortly after he took power in 2012, Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton asked Desalegn if he intends to “confront” the legacy of political repression he inherited from Zenawi and take steps to release the “thousands of [political opposition] languishing in jail”. Desalegn said, “There are no political opposition that are languishing in prison.”

In May 2015, shortly before the country’s national election in which the ruling party won 100 percent of seats both at the national and regional levels, Al Jazeera’s Martine Dennisasked Desalegn about the imprisonment of “record number of journalists” to which he replied “these are not journalists …The moment you join a terrorist group, you become a blogger”.

There can be no justification to hold some political prisoners or journalists, bloggers and scholars while releasing high-profile leaders of political parties.

No sitting government would publicly admit to holding political prisoners, and – even after last week’s announcement – Ethiopian government still appears to be refusing to do so. But evidence suggests that very few governments in the world today hold more political prisoners than Ethiopia.

Since assuming power, the government frequently used the legal system to lock up members and leaders of the opposition. Indeed, the courts served as potent instruments of repression and power consolidation second only to the military-security apparatus.

Since the early days of the regime and particularly following the adoption of the country’s notorious anti-terrorism law in 2009, there has been a frightening politicisation of the legal system and the administration of justice. With or without disguise, Ethiopia used its courts and other institutions of justice to harass, intimidate, and eliminate political opposition from the political space.

In the early days of the regime, several members of opposition parties have been held in detention centres throughout the country without charges, particularly in the Oromia regional state. Actual or suspected members of the Oromo Liberation Front have been arrested in mass and detained without charges. More than two decades later, the whereabouts of several individuals including prominent Oromo politicians such as Nadhi Gamada and Bekele Dawano are still unknown.

Following the contested election in 2005, the government rounded up leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) who made significant electoral gains that denied the incumbent its majority. Since the government adopted its notorious anti-terror legislation, more than 1,000 people including opposition political leaders, journalists, bloggers, activists, scholars, and religious figures, have been charged with terror-related crimes. It is estimated that tens of thousands of individuals are currently in jail because of the government’s intolerance to dissenting views.

What makes these individuals political prisoners is not their innocence or guilt but the fact that their arrest, prosecution, and conviction were purely motivated by political ambitions as opposed to normative concerns with the rule of law and justice. In other words, the legal process is set in motion not for the determination of guilt and innocence but for political expedience, to pursue the dual goal of delegitimising political foes and physically eliminating them from the political space.

While the Ethiopian government still appears to be refusing the mere existence of thousands of political prisoners in the country, last week’s announcement, however incomplete, is a step in the right direction.

The closure of the infamous torture chamber commonly known as Maikalawi is another welcome development that signals a departure from the repressive practices of the past. But it needs to be noted that the prime minister did not admit that his government used the prison as a torture centre. He instead noted that the prison will be closed and turned in to a museum as result of its role in past atrocities.

Yet there are many credible reports (pdf) showing that opposition politicians, protest organisers, journalists, suspected dissenters and other voices critical of the government are taken to Maikalawi and subjected to torture or other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment under the rule of the current regime.

The real reasons behind the announcement

The decision to release political prisoners and close down the detention centre is a compromise between the four political parties that make up the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. But understanding the political considerations behind the announcement requires a proper understanding and appreciation of the two central issues: the constitutive and operational logic of the EPRDF and the nature of the crisis destabilising the country for well over two years.

EPRDF is the brainchild of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a Marxist-Leninist movement that fought to liberate the Tigray ethnic group, which comprise six percent of Ethiopia’s more than 100 million people. In the final days of Ethiopia’s civil war, the TPLF orchestrated the creation of three satellite parties – Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) – that ostensibly represent their respective ethnic groups.

The TPLF assembled these puppet organisations to consolidate its grip on power. They helped broaden TPLF’s appeal beyond Tigray and bolster its political legitimacy while also enabling it to smother real opposition from autonomous parties such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the All Amhara Peoples Organization (AAPO).

For 26 years, TPLF used this vassal configuration to dominate all aspects of the country’s political life, while mercilessly muzzling dissenting voices both from within and outside the party. The discontent and suffering that have been simmering underground for decades exploded into the open in November of 2015 when Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country, took to the streets in protest.

In July of 2016, the Amharas, the second-largest ethnic group in the country, joined the protest, creating a nationwide protest movement that reconfigured the political landscape and brought the government to its knees.

The protests not only exposed the structural anomalies at the heart of Ethiopia’s political system, but also brought about a significant reconfiguration of the asymmetric relationship between the four parties that make up the EPRDF. TPLF lost its absolute power within the coalition as its junior partners began to reinvent themselves and side with their respective people.

This is particularly evident in Oromia, where the new leadership of the region refused to play second fiddle. OPDO began to flex its muscles, knowing full well that as the party with the most seats in parliament, and the largest population, it can cripple the government. In a major break, the new leaders of OPDO began protesting the disproportionate and indiscriminate policing, harassment, imprisonment, and torture of Oromos by security forces.

In a joint press statement of the four parties that make up the ruling coalition, Lemma Megersa, the leader of OPDO and the president of Oromia regional state, characterised Maikalawi as “a site in which our citizens have been castrated for years“. Megersa, a transformational figure with a distinct ability to appeal to people across competing nationalist narratives and fault lines that divide Ethiopian politics, went on to argue that “while it is one thing to close it down, it is important that we look at the justice sector more broadly, from investigation to prosecution, trial, and sentencing.”

While the proposed package of reforms are in the interests of the OPDO and ANDM, it is not clear to what extent the other parties, particularly the TPLF, which still controls the intelligence, the military and the federal police, is genuinely committed to enforcing measures, which, if fully implemented, would ultimately reduce its influence within the coalition, the government and the state more generally.

TPLF’s hegemonic status depends on fostering hostility and division, not national reconciliation and democratisation. Indeed, just three days after the announcement, the Federal Police announced a “deep investigation” into “Qeerroo Oromo” (Oromo youth) movement, a decision which collides head-on with the party’s stated goals of national reconciliation and democratisation.

The government acknowledges the unprecedented nature of the crisis facing the country and rightly identifies national reconciliation and widening the democratic space as two of the most significant policy objectives necessary to save the country from plunging into the abyss. However, the government cannot pursue these goals while at the same time proposing measures in conflict with these imperatives.

The government must come to terms with the transformations of the last two years and open up the political process for all voices that seek a hearing and bodies that seek visibility. This means adopting the broadest possible definition of political prisoners and releasing all those whose arrest, detention, prosecution, and conviction have been driven by political considerations.

There can be no justification to hold some political prisoners or journalists, bloggers and scholars while releasing high-profile leaders of political parties. If there is any lesson the government can learn from the protests of the last two years, it is that more repression will only escalate the crisis, not contain or avert it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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Geneva press Club: Fear of State Collapse and Prospect of Democratic Transition in Ethiopia January 11, 2018

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Mohammed Al-Amoudi transferred to maximum security prison January 11, 2018

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Al Amoudi


Mohammed Al-Amoudi transferred to maximum security prison

Tesfa News ESAT News, January 10, 2018

The Ethiopian born Saudi tycoon, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi and all the remaining detainees that were held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel have been transferred to Al-Ha’ir prison, a maximum security prison south of Riyadh.

The Middle East Monitor quoted the Arabic Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site as saying authorities have transferred the remaining detainees being held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel to Al-Ha’ir prison because they have refused to pay large payments, 70% of their wealth, to secure their freedom.

The report said nearly 60 detainees were transferred to the most high security prison in the Kingdom. The prisoners include Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal as Prince Turki Bin Abdullah and a number of government officials who refused to make the large financial payments for their release.

Among those transferred to the maximum security prison is Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi whose worth is 10.6 Billion dollars and owns businesses in hundreds of millions of dollars in Ethiopia. He works works closely with the TPLF oligarchy that granted him thousands of hectares of agricultural land and several prime plots in the capital Addis Ababa. He hit jackpot with gold in Ethiopia and has been mining gold for over two decades. His agricultural and construction projects stretch all across the country.

Early in November Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the arrest of about 200 princes and businessman accused of high level corruption.

But the purge was also seen as a move to raise money for the cash strapped Kingdom’s treasury. Authorities aimed at raising 100 billion dollars in return for the release of the suspects.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah had been released after paying more than $1 billion for his release. And a few others had reportedly reached settlement for their freedom.

The Ritz-Carlton hotel is now available for booking starting next month, according to its website.


 

How to bring down a dictator | The Economist Film January 10, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistThe Economist on #OromoProtests

“Foreign government don’t have friends, only interests.”

“Democracy is like love you need to make it everyday.”

 

FT: Ethiopia regime caught between will to survive and call for change January 9, 2018

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Ethiopia regime caught between will to survive and call for change


Real reform unlikely as it would mean self-destruction for government, critics say

#OromoProtests at a point of no returns

After anti-government protests erupted two years ago, Ethiopia’s government adopted its traditional approach to dealing with dissent: hundreds of people were killed in clashes with security forces, tens of thousands were detained and a state of emergency was imposed. But the unrest continued to fester and has escalated in the five months since emergency rule was lifted, once more threatening the stability of the nation and the prospects of one of Africa’s best-performing economies. Now the rattled government is trying a different tactic — making conciliatory gestures to those who oppose its autocratic rule.  Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister, announced last week that the government would release political prisoners and close a notorious prison as the first steps in a process to “foster national reconciliation”.  Analysts say the highly unusual measure was prompted by a belated realisation in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that the unrest posed a serious threat to its 26-year hold on power. But the way the crisis has been handled also exposes unprecedented cracks in the unity of the four-party ruling coalition. “[While] on the one hand . . . the situation of our country is delightful, the conflicts . . . pose serious danger to our national survival Regime executive committee press release “The EPRDF has always had divisions but it’s been very insular and everything has been contained,” says Ahmed Salim, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence. “For the first time we’re seeing some of these machinations play out publicly because of the anti-government protests.” The decision to release prisoners, which has yet to be implemented, was taken by the EPRDF’s 36-member executive committee at a 17-day retreat last month. In a rare bout of self-criticism, the executive committee blamed the crisis on poor leadership at all levels of the coalition and a lack of democracy. The EPRDF controls all the seats in parliament and all the main opposition parties have been outlawed or emasculated, the country has few independent civil society organisations and the media is muzzled. The committee concluded that while “on the one hand . . . the situation of our country is delightful”, according to an official translation of a press release, “the conflicts being ensued in different parts of the country . . . posed serious danger to our national survival”. The “conflicts” erupted in 2015 over opposition to government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. They escalated into a more general anti-government movement as discontent rose, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, where people complain about decades of marginalisation by the ruling Tigrayan elite. Ethiopia’s prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the move to free prisoners would ‘foster national reconciliation’.

More recently, the protests have centred on clashes between people in Oromia and the Somali federal state, prompting fears among analysts that the unrest could become increasingly ethnic. “It’s a realisation by the [EPRDF], perhaps a little too late, that they need to shift course in their approach to the growing anti-government sentiment,” Mr Salim says. “It’s a tacit acceptance they’ve got it all wrong.” After its meeting, the EPRDF committee expressed “its earnest remorse for putting the ongoing quarter century [of] development in jeopardy”. Over the past decade, Ethiopia, an impoverished nation of 100m, has recorded average economic growth of more than 8 per cent, while attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment as it positioned itself as a centre of low-cost manufacturing. Awol Allo, an Ethiopian political analyst at Keele University in the UK, describes the prisoner announcement as a “major step in the right direction for the EPRDF”. However, activists’ long-held scepticism of the regime’s reform promises would remain until there was tangible progress, he says. Arguably the greater threat to the coalition’s survival comes not from the streets but from within its ranks, he says, particularly the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation and Amhara National Democratic Movement parties. “These parties are becoming increasingly vocal and demanding greater democracy,” he says.   The Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups account for more than 60 per cent of the population, but the EPRDF is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Tigrayans comprise only 6 per cent of the population but the TPLF led the armed struggle that in 1991 toppled Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorship.  The fourth party in the EPRDF is the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, which is led by Mr Hailemariam, the prime minister Mr Salim says the EPRDF is “clearly not united” but that it is premature to predict what will happen. “Complete collapse is the most unlikely scenario but they’re experiencing threats that are existential,” he says.  The coalition’s challenge is to find a balance between survival and satisfying demands for change, says Befeqadu Hailu, a prominent Ethiopian blogger. “If the EPRDF does real reform and introduces proper democracy it will perish, because it’s reated so many grievances in every citizen’s head it will either split or be voted out,” he says. “But if it doesn’t do reform, the crisis will get worse.”


 

Oromia: Crackdowns on Qeerroo? Good Luck Intimidating the Tiger! #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution January 8, 2018

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#OromoProtests, Oromo students movement for freedom

 

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Qeerroo: Hawwii Tazarraa New Oromo Music 2018 January 6, 2018

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Ethiopian Government’s Promise to Release Political Prisoners & Close Notorious Jail Meaningless Without Political Freedoms January 5, 2018

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“For years, while donor countries like the US have turned a blind eye, thousands of Ethiopians have languished behind bars simply for speaking up against so-called development policies and related human rights abuses, all perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime. The acknowledgement of these political prisoners, their release, and the closure of the horrific Maekelawi police station, if actually carried through, are all long overdue, but not enough.”

Ethiopian Government’s Promise to Release Political Prisoners & Close Notorious Jail Meaningless Without Political Freedoms

The Oakland Institute, January 4, 2018

Kibish, Ethiopia. Credit: The Oakland Institute.

Media Contact: Anuradha Mittal
amittal@oaklandinstitute.org
+1 510-469-5228

Oakland, CA—Until yesterday, the Ethiopian government refused to even acknowledge the presence of scores of political prisoners in the country. Then on January 3, 2018, the government announced that it would release all of its political prisoners and close the notorious Maekelawi police station. The surprise announcement came after years of political suppression that saw the deaths of over 1,000 people and the arrest of over 26,000 in 2016-2017 alone, as well as the imposition of a 10-month state of emergency.

According to Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, “For years, while donor countries like the US have turned a blind eye, thousands of Ethiopians have languished behind bars simply for speaking up against so-called development policies and related human rights abuses, all perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime. The acknowledgement of these political prisoners, their release, and the closure of the horrific Maekelawi police station, if actually carried through, are all long overdue, but not enough.”

The Oakland Institute has exposed human rights abuses linked to land grabs and failed development policies across Ethiopia for over a decade. This has included forced displacement, unlawful arrest, the stifling of basic human rights, and more. Journalists, opposition party members, religious and indigenous leaders, students, and land rights defenders have been imprisoned simply for speaking out against injustice in the country. The Institute has been closely involved in the cases of various land rights defenders and political prisoners, and has campaigned against Ethiopia’s draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

“For years, the Ethiopian government has used its anti-terrorism law to criminalize basic human rights, stifle dissent, and lock up anyone who critiques its policies and actions,” explained Lewis Gordon, Executive Director of the Environmental Defender Law Center and editor of a joint report with the Oakland Institute about the law. “While today’s announcement has the potential to be a positive step forward for many in Ethiopia, it is also imperative that the government repeal the use of this repressive piece of legislation.”

While yesterday’s news has been heralded by many, questions remain about how the government intends to enact these sweeping changes.

“Who is considered a political prisoner? How and when will these releases take place and under what conditions? Going forward, what kinds of political freedoms will be allowed? The right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the media? How will the perpetrators of crimes that have been committed against Ethiopian citizens be held accountable? These are all details that have not yet been released,” Mittal stated. “In the absence of these details, we remain cautious about this announcement.  We will remain vigilant in the days and weeks to come, and hold the Ethiopian government accountable to swiftly and fully follow through on its promises.”

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Learn more about Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in our report: Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent.

Financial Times coverage of Mr. Okello’s sentence (registration required).

Obok’s letter to the Financial Times in response to their report.


Related (Oromian Economist sources):-

BBC: Ethiopia PM ‘misquoted’ over prisoners

Foreign Affairs Committee: Chairman Royce Statement on Ethiopia Political Prisoners Announcement,Press Release

The New York Times: Ethiopia Says It Will Close Notorious Prison and Free Some Inmates 

BBC Afaan Oromoo: ‘Nama malee manni nama hin dararu’ – Maa’ikalaawii

OPride: Ethiopia needs deeper reforms beyond release of jailed politicians and closure of Maekelawi

OPride: Here is what Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said and what he didn’t say

 

QZ: Ethiopia will have to do a lot more than release political prisoners to end repression

OP-ED: RACE TO THE BOTTOM: ETHIOPIA’S ACCELERATING CRISIS January 2, 2018

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An economy in free fall, ever-deepening repression, a deteriorating security, inter-ethnic violence, and a vicious infighting within the ruling party – Ethiopia is on the cusp of political explosion.


Addis Abeba, December 31/2017 – The Executive Committee of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) just concluded a high stakes meeting widely expected to offer a pathway out of the current crisis. The press release put out by the party after the 18-days long meeting is full of invectives, outrageous falsehoods, and deliberate reversal of historical facts designed to give an appearance of coherence and solidity to a regime in complete shambles.

Ethiopia has largely been seen in Western capitals as “an Island of stability in a troubled region”.  The inability and unwillingness of the government to address the popular demands of the protests of the last three years degenerated into a far more complex and dangerous turmoil, morphing into a wholesale political crisis.

According to the 2017 Fragile States Index by the US think thank Fund for Peace, Ethiopia is the 15th most fragile state in the world, down from 24th in 2016. And also according to the forthcoming 2018 Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI), which evaluates and analyses the political, economic, and governance transformations of 129 developing countries, Ethiopia is on a downward trend. It ranks 113th on the state of political and economic transformation, down from 111th in 2016. The country is teetering on the brink of a bottomless abyss. But what are the key reasons and how can this sharp increase in the vulnerability of the state to collapse reversed?

Since the sudden demise of its all too powerful Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, in 2012, the country has been in tumult, unable to deal with the political crisis generated by escalating levels of ethnic discontent, violent political repression, and crippling economic conditions. A strategic thinker known for being duplicitous, savage, and decisive, Meles was a master manipulator with an absolute grip on the country’s political and economic policies. His successor, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, had neither the adept strategic maneuver nor the far-reaching control Meles had over the party, the state, as well as the military and security apparatus.

Rupture in the Ruling Coalition

The ruling party, EPRDF, a coalition of four unequal ethnic based parties, is on the brink of unraveling. Alarmed by the pace of changes sweeping the political landscape and the central government’s increasing strategic and tactical incompetence, some of its members are beginning to publicly contradict each other, a rupture that marked a make or break moment for the party and the government. EPRDF is a vassal configuration held together through ideological machinations and a range of repressive tactics. Its members are: The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), The Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), The Amhara National Democratic Movement, and The Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement.

The most dominant mother party, TPLF, used the vassals to bolster its legitimacy and squelch opposition from autonomous parties. While the vassal parties were allowed a measure of autonomy on internal matters, the mother party ensured the durability of the vassal configuration by ensuring that vassal parties do not build a social capital and internal party infrastructure that will one day allow it to free itself from this titular arrangement.

Since the death of Meles Zenawi, the vassal configuration has been in tatters, as former vassals began to assert themselves and demand a fair and equal distribution of political power within the party and the state. This is particularly evident within the Oromia regional state, where the region’s governing party, the OPDO, has been publicly expressing its disenchantment with the status quo.

The Violence on the Eastern Front

Elements within the TPLF who saw the OPDO as the greatest threat to their power turned to sabotage to reassert control of the vassal that is abandoning them to side with their sizable constituency. According to several sources, the violence along the border between Oromia and Ethiopian Somali regional state, while executed by Liyu Police, a paramilitary force with a dubious mandate, was indeed, instigated by TPLF generals. The border conflict has claimed the lives of hundreds and displaced more than half a million people.

For over a decade now, the government has been hiding behind the rhetoric of national security and narrative of development to shut down critical conversations of considerable political significance. These narratives have run out of steam and no longer provide the cement capable of holding together the crumbling social and political fabric in the country.

Nation-wide protests

As years of pain and suffering turned into rage, Ethiopians poured into the streets to demand that the government respects its own Constitution, and political repression. The Muslim community began protesting in December 2011 demanding religious freedom and an end to the government’s intervention in the affairs of their religion. In November 2015, the Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country who make up around a third of the population, started one of the most consequential protests, essentially redefining the terms of engagement between the state and society. In July 2016, the Amharas, the second largest ethnic group in the country, joined the protest, intensifying the pressure against the government.

Although the nature of the grievances and the demands of these protest movements are not exactly the same, these protests were essentially reflections of decades of humiliation and hopelessness by their respective communities, exacerbated by the government’s contempt to long overdue questions of representation, autonomy, equality, and justice.

The government’s brutal response – complete with a show of force – was to securitize the demands and denigrate protesters as terrorists and anti-peace elements – a common tactic used by the Ethiopian government to justify violent suppression of peaceful opposition. As a consequence the tone and substance of the conversations on the Ethiopian streets suddenly shifted, with protesters demanding a radical transformation of the system. The ruling party has become the symbol of national decay and bankrupt hopes. Shaken to its core, it declared a state of emergency on October 8, 2016, to reassert control. By the time the emergency was lifted, in August 2017, hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands were detained.

The Executive Committee Meeting

The highly anticipated Executive Committee meeting was widely expected to pass major decisions on the future direction of the party and the country by offering credible and tangible pathways for democratizing the party and the state. If the press statement is to be taken as an accurate reflection of what has been agreed in the meeting and where the party is headed, the status quo seems to have won the day.  The substance and tone of the statement is in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the Ethiopian people who have staged relentless protests for more than three years and paid a considerable price.

The country is on the verge of explosion and the government has now reached a turning point. It faces a choice between opening up the political process and tumbling into the abyss.

The West also faces a choice between supporting an all-inclusive transition or the complete unraveling of a geopolitically significant state with a colossal repercussion for its people and the region. Indeed, some diplomats with extensive experience of the country and the region have been moving away from the morally and politically questionable position they supported and defended for over two decades. Ambassador Herman J. Cohen, former US Assistant Secretary of States, who played a key part in the last political transition in Ethiopia, recently called on the government to “seriously consider requesting US Government mediation to organize a conference among all parties that will produce new democratic dispensation – before law and order collapse completely”.

Western governments who have been criticizing the government in private and behind closed-doors must take their criticisms a step further and demand concrete action. Most of all, they must demand that the government stops instigating inter-ethnic violence, release all political prisoners, listen to the plight of its people, and take radical steps to halt the race to the bottom.


ED’s Note: Awol Allo, is Lecturer in Law at Keele University, Great Britain. He tweets at @awol_allo and can be reached at a.k.allo@keele.ac.uk

 


 

DW: Ethiopia: Crisis in the land of the economic miracle January 1, 2018

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While a small number of government-connected oligarchs are accumulating more and more wealth, most Ethiopians are not experiencing the so-called economic miracle, with nearly six million people dependent on food aid.

Ethiopia: Crisis in the land of the economic miracle

Unrest has plagued Ethiopia for the past two years. So what’s going on? The reasons are complicated.

Dire Dawa town in Äthiopien (Hailegzi Mehari)

Journalist Martin Plaut considers this to be the beginning of the problems facing modern Ethiopia. “The TPLF and Meles Zenawi were never prepared to allow democracy and real federalism,” he told DW. But the focus on ethnic differences in the constitution has not been without consequence:“As soon as you increase the focus on ethnicity and make ethnicity the basis of the state, you basically stoke up ethnic tensions,” said Plaut.

Ethiopia's Abay new motor show in Addis Ababa (Getty Images/AFP/J. Cendon)Ethiopia’s economy is booming with car assemblies like this one (pictured above) but many still live below the poverty line

Unequal distribution of economic resources

For some observers, the deadly clashes over the past few weeks would appear to be harbingers of an ethnically-motivated civil war. It seems like ethnic tensions are being expressed with increasing intensity. But the causes are complex.

Over the past few years, one issue in particular has repeatedly exacerbated the ethnic tensions in Ethiopia: the side effects of rapid economic growth. Since 2000, gross domestic product has increased almost tenfold, raising questions over who actually benefits from this increase in prosperity.

For example, the violent expropriation of many Oromo people following the spread of the economic boom in the capital Addis Ababa is considered one of the triggers for the ongoing unrest. While a small number of government-connected oligarchs are accumulating more and more wealth, most Ethiopians are not experiencing the so-called economic miracle, with nearly six million people dependent on food aid.

Read more:‘Ethiopia needs to open up civic space’, UN rights chief:

Although the economic boom has led to the emergence of a small, but growing, middle class, this hardly diffuses the situation. On the contrary, economic success and access to better education only increase the desire for political participation, which so far has been denied to those who wish to work their way up in the authoritarian system.

The consequence of these upheavals is conflict at all levels: civil society pushes back against the authoritarianism of national, regional and local rulers; regional populations want more independence from Addis Ababa and at the center of power, reformers fight against those who wish to defend the status quo. The military and regional police forces are becoming increasingly involved in political decisions.

Germany Berlin - Ethiopians demonstrate againt human rights abuse (DW/Y. Hailemichael)At the peak of protests, Ethiopians world over including those living in Germany called for political reforms back home

Pursing federalism as a solution

Is Ethiopia at risk of state collapse? Plaut thinks this kind of speculation is premature, because there is a clear solution available: “There is a way of solving it, which would be to genuinely allow a federal state.” For this to occur, however, the TPLF must be willing to give up their absolute hold on power and make way for a true multi-party system.

The vice-chairman of the Medrek coalition, Beyene Petros, also doesn’t think Ethiopia is likely to fall apart any time soon. “I am fully confident that Ethiopia will remain intact; this is by the desire and choice of the Ethiopian population,” he told DW. What is needed, however, is an overhaul of the political system: “The EPRDF regime is simply not compatible with the cultural and political situation in Ethiopia.”

What Ethiopia needs at this stage is a national conference involving all political parties and civil society. If so, the bad news coming out of the country could come to an end.


 

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