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ETHIOPIA: ADDIS STANDARD: THE INTERVIEW: “THERE ARE GOING TO BE PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO EMBRACE THIS CHANGE AND PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO RESIST IT,” MIKE RAYNOR, US AMBASSADOR TO ETHIOPIA July 3, 2018

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Ambassador Mike Raynor joined the State Department in 1988, and is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor. He has been Director of the Bureau of Human Resources’ Office of Career Development and Assignments since September 2016. From August 2015 to August 2016, he served as Assistant Chief of Mission in Kabul, with responsibility for the embassy’s foreign assistance, counter-narcotics, and law enforcement portfolios as well as its consular, management, and security functions. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Benin from 2012 to 2015. From 2010 to 2012, he served as Executive Director of the Bureau of African Affairs, following two years as the Deputy Executive Director. He has spent much of his career in Africa, including as management officer in Harare, Windhoek, Conakry, and Djibouti, and as General Services Officer in Brazzaville. He also served as Zimbabwe desk officer in the Bureau of African Affairs, Special Assistant and Legislative Management Officer in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, and Consular Officer in Luxembourg.  Ambassador Raynor arrived in Ethiopia to assume his role in September 2017. 

Addis Standard’s Ephream Seleshi sat down with Ambassador Raynor for this exclusive interview, only the second Ambassador Raynor has given to media since he moved to Ethiopia. Excerpts:


Addis Standard: [Given how things have changed within the last three months]  do you think Ethiopia has avoided danger or just delayed it?

Ambassador Raynor: I wouldn’t have really characterized it that way. What I would say is that Ethiopia has created amazing opportunities. I think I understand your question and if I take us back to when former prime minister Hailemariam [Desalegn] announced his resignation and, by the way, I just want to say that that was an extraordinary moment in Ethiopian history and, frankly, in world history, that he took that moment to articulate a vision that governance is not about having power or holding onto power but to do what you think is right for your country and people; and at that moment he decided that the right thing to do was to step back in a way that he thought would accelerate reforms and I thought that was an amazing gesture and I thought it created amazing opportunities and that’s what I mean when I say that it seems to be a moment of opportunity. After that resignation we watched how the EPRDF decided what to do with that opportunity, watched the people of Ethiopia debate what to do with that opportunity and to us it has created a moment of great opportunity and real change and that’s something we find very exciting.

AS: [The release of thousands of prisoners is one of the changes EPRDF is conducting since the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam. But the issue of justice to those wronged by the same government is missing from the reformed EPRDF.] Will your country put efforts to help or even pressure the Ethiopian government to give justice for these prisoners? 

One of the most consequential things that has happened in recent months has been the release of so many prisoners, I mean thousands of prisoners. That there were thousands of prisoners to be released is, of course, an extraordinary thing in its own right. But I’ll say that I have met with a number of them and it’s been a really inspirational thing. And what I have found consistently with the ones I’ve met, and obviously I’ve only met a small subset but it included some very prominent thinkers in terms of the political opposition and as you said people who paid an extraordinary price for the courage of their convictions, and the thing that struck me about them is that they were looking ahead. They were looking to where they wanted this country to go. They were talking to us about what they thought we might be able to do to support that and they were talking about what they themselves were planning to do. Issues of justice for them, you know, that’s a difficult issue. I feel I’d be a little presumptuous to say exactly how that should play out and that’s something that I think is very specific to individual cultures, individual people, individual histories. I think it is something that needs to be discussed openly and I think it is something that the Ethiopian people and the government need to think about and figure out the right way forward. Where on the spectrum Ethiopia falls in terms of justice, in terms of reconciliation, I think these are very specific questions that only Ethiopians can answer.

AS: How did the protests of the past four years affect the US’ engagement with Ethiopia both diplomatically and in terms of development projects that are funded by the US?

I can probably speak best about the nine months I’ve been here. And so if I may, I’ll just constrain my answer to my own personal experience. I arrived at a moment when the previous state of emergency had just been lifted. It was the aftermath of a period of great unrest in the country. And I found the country to be rather pessimistic, the people to be rather pessimistic, rather shaken by what they had been going through over the previous months. As a representative of the US government, I had to figure out what to do with that reality. We decided a couple of things. One is that we decided that we’d reinforce the fact that we’re friends with this country and we are friends with the people of this country. And we want what’s best for this country as a partner. We want it for the sake of Ethiopia, but we also want it for the sake of the US. We have very strong areas of collaboration; the development of this country, the economic growth of this country, the education, the food security also our partnership in helping to create political and peace-keeping solutions to some of the strains the region faces as well. It’s been a long standing partnership and a longstanding and important relationship. But we felt that it was being undercut by the fact that the Ethiopian people were growing increasingly dissatisfied with their own governments. So, these were conversations we had very frankly with the government of Ethiopia. You’ll have seen that the day after Prime Minister Hailemariam resigned and the re-imposition of the state of emergency, the day after that we put out a public statement that was quite forceful in expressing concern, because we felt Ethiopia had reached a moment of opportunity and we wanted to express our hope that Ethiopia would benefit from that opportunity. So in the context of a longstanding and important relationship and a true friendship with this country we were doing what we could to encourage what we felt was necessary for this country to be stable and prosperous going forward which was greater political freedoms.

AS: Fast forward to the past three months, many are convinced that the US was one of those countries that have unambiguously supported the nomination of Dr. Abiy Ahmed to the position of prime minister of Ethiopia. Why was that?

Let me say that we didn’t exactly do that. One of the things we have to do is respect the fact that it is up to Ethiopians to decide what their leadership is going to be. What we did was articulate a vision for the kind of outcome we wished for Ethiopia which was an outcome that felt credible to the people that felt inclusive to the fullest extent that current political realities would have allowed. So that was the context within which we watched, with great interest, the EPRDF choose Dr. Abiy as the new prime minister and we regarded that as  an expression of the Ethiopian people through their own engagement but also the EPRDF in its selection process as an expression of the desire for change and we welcomed that.

AS: So, in a way, your country believed all of these, the desire for change, the opening up of new opportunities and the people’s will was encapsulated by the nomination of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia?

I think that is very, very well put. We spend a lot of our time dealing with the government and other partners, but we also spend a lot of our time talking to Ethiopians. Ultimately, as much as anything, my job here is to build those connections, to build those bridges between the American people and the Ethiopian people and in doing so we felt and we perceived the desire for change. And I think in the aftermath of the selection of Prime Minister Abiy, we’ve seen what felt like a fundamental reset in the atmosphere of this country, one of more optimism and hope and one of more enthusiasm. To us, once again, this seems to be an expression, to some extent, the desire of the people for change being perceived to be becoming a reality.

AS: But there were [still are] many who were discontented at the nomination and selection of Prime Minister Abiy. It is believed that most of these people are wither members of the TPLF or its sympathizers; in fact there were rumors that some have written to the US government opposing this. Can you confirm and if so, what was your reaction?

First I have to say I did not receive any communications from the TPLF of any kind, much less one expressing any particular opinion about that. I think the question sort of suggests a greater role of the United States in this process than we would have played. Again, we were observing this process play out. We articulated a general vision of our desire or improved governance, for improved rights, for improved inclusiveness and then we stepped back and we watched that process play out. You mentioned that certain elements of Ethiopian governance and society are less comfortable with changes than others. I think that’s fair and that’s natural. Change is stressful. Even positive change can require adjustment from people. And people who are uncomfortable with this change, I think that’s part of human nature and I think what’s happening and what’s important to be happening is that that’s provoking dialogue, that’s provoking discussions within the EPRDF, within the society more broadly about where this change is going to take people and for us that feels healthy, that feels democratic. So, it’s something we welcome.

AS: But given the entrenched interest of those who are discontent with the change many express concern that it could pose a danger to the opportunities that we now see. Do you share this concern?

I don’t perceive danger. As I said I perceive dialogue and discussion and I perceive people working through how they feel about what’s happening in this country. To be honest with you, the winds of change in this country, the dynamism and the momentum that [Prime Minister] Abiy has already created seem quite strong. We are not perceiving any efforts or anything we regard as fundamentally putting this trajectory at risk. That said, obviously there are going to be different views, and there are going to be people who are going to embrace this change and people who are going to resist it. I think part of the democratic process is to discuss all of these things, work through them, try to get as much buy in as the government can for the changes they are pursuing. I think [what is] an important element of democracy is the winners win but they still represent everyone in the country, even people who might feel like they lost. So everything the government can do to embrace the totality of what’s happening in this country and to be as responsive and representative of as many people as possible, I think would be a healthy thing. But again, we see that happening in the context of the trajectory of very positive and very dynamic change.

AS: Do you believe elections are due then?

Well, they’re due on their schedule. I think we are due municipal elections some time fairly soon in the next year or so and certainly we are due the general elections in 2020. One of the things we’ve seen with Prime Minister Abiy is that he has set a tone of political inclusiveness. He’s reaching out to the diaspora, he’s reaching out to the opposition, he’s reaching out to people that had previously been branded as terrorists many of whom had taken up residence in the United States. So, how that plays out between now and 2020 is something, I think, we’ll be very interested to watch. But we very much welcome the tone of political inclusiveness, the notion that the political opposition isn’t the enemy- they’re the competition. I think that is a very healthy construct and I think it’s something that creates real possibility for more inclusive political process leading up to the 2020 elections.

AS: Currently the Ethiopian parliament is 100% controlled by the ruling EPRDF and there are sweeping changes being approved by the same parliament. Don’t you think that puts the Ethiopian people at a major disadvantage, that they might not have a voice in some of these changes being undertaken by the parliament?

I think it remains to be seen how it plays out. But, I have to say that although I understand that there is a lot of Ethiopians who feel any solution that is within the EPRDF is suspicious, I have to say that we are seeing enormous change within the ERPDF. Prime Minister Abiy is within the EPRDF and he’s articulating a vision of reform and political inclusiveness that, I think, really creates opportunities that can go well beyond EPRDF. And so I think, change is a process. I think change need not be destabilizing or disruptive. I think it can sometimes take time and I think it can sometimes take more time than some people would like. But I think we have to acknowledge that we have seen enormous change in a very brief amount of time since Prime Minister Abiy was selected. That, to me, creates possibilities for further political reform to come.

AS: How will these changes or reforms affect the US’ involvement particularly in supporting the civil society, human rights organizations and media freedom in the country?

Well, we have long had the position that we wished for greater freedom for civil society. An engaged, dynamic civil society informs governance as well or better than any other single element of society. We feel that by cutting itself off from as dynamic a civil society as possible, through the CSO law for example, the Ethiopian government has robbed itself of resources that could have informed and improved governance decisions. We very much would welcome in the coming days efforts to address the constrains on civil society. We have many civil society partners here but I’ll tell you that relative to other countries where I have served we have fewer and they are less empowered than we would like to see. We are hoping that changes in the days ahead.

AS: Tensions are flaring up in many parts of Ethiopia; the inter-ethnic dynamics is experiencing strains. What would you say should be done to avert the kinds of violence we saw in recent weeks in places like Hawassa and Sodo in the south?

Thank you, it’s a really important question and it’s a central question. Frankly it is one we are grappling with trying to get our own understanding of. We are outsiders and what we are seeing are dynamics that have existed in some form or another for centuries in some cases. We are very saddened by the ethnic unrest that has flared in numerous areas of Ethiopia. It’s not new, unfortunately, but it seems to persist and there has been a flare up of late. Anytime we see Ethiopians against Ethiopians causing destruction, causing harm, causing death, it feels like a very sad thing and it feels like it’s not taking the country forward. I think it is something that the government has to engage on, it is engaging on. My only thought is that perhaps civil society, community leaders, religious leaders can encourage a bit of patience, can encourage a bit of hope, can encourage a bit of pride, if I may put it, in the fact that Ethiopia is an amazing country and the Ethiopian people are amazing people. And if they can accentuate the strength that Ethiopia has and the strength and the bonds that Ethiopians have and perhaps they can say “this is not a great time to be tearing the country or each other apart. This is a time to be coming together. This is a time to be supporting the change underway. This is a time to be supporting each other.” I don’t have the standing to give that message in the way that Ethiopian civil society and leaders do. But I think it is an important aspect of what’s going on now to encourage that sort of frame of mind.

AS: Lets move to recent developments between Eritrea and Ethiopia. How does your country view Ethiopia’s willingness to fully implement the Algiers agreement and the EEBC’s ruling?

Well, it was yet another extraordinary thing that Prime Minister Abiy has done. It was a fundamental reset, as, again, he has done in many other aspects of his announcements on political, economic areas as well. It created, again, opportunity where it seemed like it might not exist and people wondered when it might happen. So it was an enormously important gesture. Both his initial speech when he was sworn in at parliament when he expressed in general terms his desire for reconciliation with Eritrea and more recently his announcement of respect for the Algiers Agreement, a really consequential development which has since been reciprocated by the government of Eritrea’s decision to send a delegation to Ethiopia for talks. The United States has put out a public statement from the White House embracing this development and encouraging next steps. It is a really consequential issue. This disagreement, this problem between these two countries has been good for neither of these countries, it has not been good for the region. If these countries can get past it, it’ll be good for their economies, it’ll be good for their societies, it’ll be good for the stability of the region. So if we can get there, it’ll be hugely consequential and we strongly encourage both governments to persist in trying to reach that outcome.

AS: Obviously, there will be a lot of diplomatic shuttle to further consolidate these changes. Is the US planning to be a part of it?

Well, we have said to both parties, and publicly, and continue to say that we are available to play that role. Back in the day of the Algiers Agreement the United States was formally a guarantor; we had a structural role established at the point that the agreement was made. We have encouraged this outcome for sometime with both governments and in doing so we have said ‘If you collaboratively feel there is a role that the US can constructively play, we’ll do everything we can to support that’. We have not been asked in any form or way to play any sort of role in that process. But if we are, we would look very strongly at doing everything we can to respond favorably.

AS: Do you think there should be further measures the Ethiopian government could take in order to avoid the odds against any conflict between the two countries during this period of transition? 

I think at this point the two parties need to sit down. If such steps are identified then we would hope that both countries would do what they could to build confidence and to do so in a way that seems responsive to the other party’s concerns. In terms of what those specific steps might be, it would be premature and presumptuous for me to suggest anything. I think that has to be an outcome of discussions between the two governments.

AS: Many analysts are asserting that the increase in pressure from the US played a role in pressuring Ethiopia to make this decision. What are your comments about that?

While that might seem flattering in a way, I think it overstates things. I think we’ve played a constructive role. As I said, we’ve had engagements with both countries for a number of months now encouraging this outcome. That predates Prime Minister Abiy, but certainly includes the time and period he came to power. But, I think Dr. Abiy came to power with very clear ideas of what he wanted to do and what his priorities would be. From the moment he addressed the parliament upon being sworn in, he had articulated reconciliation with Eritrea as being among those priorities. What you’re seeing here is the Ethiopian government driving this process and deciding to make it a priority.

AS: Your top Africa diplomat, Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, has been to Eritrea and discussed with the Eritrean government and did the same here in Ethiopia. What was the immediate purpose of his visit?

Exactly what I said-encouraging both sides to look for possible ways to come together. Pure and simple.

AS: Is the US engaged with Eritrea in trying to bring about democratic change in the country?

We are very much interested in having Eritrea become a constructive actor in the region and a good neighbor. We are very hopeful that this can be an outcome of this process. We are looking very much to encourage both sides to find common ground to move to a place where both countries are engaging with each other and with the region in ways that build up the region and themselves. That, I think, is a really possible outcome thanks to these recent developments.

AS: In his speech on Eritrean Martyr’s day on June 20 President Isaias Afeworki placed a lot of the blame for the acrimony between Ethiopia and Eritrea on, among others, the ‘defunct policies’ of the US government. What’s your reaction to that?

I am really not going to react to that. The president of Eritrea is, certainly, free to speak his mind. He did so in the context of expressing a desire to come together with Ethiopia to find a way forward. To us that’s the important part of his message and the important part of where we are right now.

AS: Does that mean the US sees a democratic Eritrea with Isaias Afeworki at its helm?

At this point I’d have to refer you to my counterpart in Eritrea if you’d like the conversation to be about US policy towards Eritrea. I represent our government in Ethiopia and I don’t really have a whole lot to add to what we’ve already been discussing in that regard. I am not going to talk about bilateral relations between the US and a country I’m not accredited to. But I’ll say, once again, that we are extremely encouraged to see these two parties talking to each other and planning to get together. That is really the main takeaway and an exciting one.

AS: What kind of Ethiopian influence does the US want to see in East Africa?

I think we see it. We see in Ethiopia as a country that engages in multiple ways to try to bring stability and harmony and commonality of purpose to a really volatile and troubled region. It’s an important role that Ethiopia plays politically and it’s an important role that Ethiopia plays in terms of its peace-keeping engagements. We are proud to support Ethiopia in those efforts. We confer with them frequently on next steps. But in terms of the broad desire the US has with regards of the Ethiopian region, it is to find ways to support what Ethiopia already does, which is try to be a very constructive actor in a challenging area.

AS: Ethiopia recently signed an agreement with DP World and Somaliland to acquire 19% of the port of Berbera. How does the US see that?

We don’t really have a view on that. Ethiopia has to figure out what makes sense for its own interests and for the relationships it maintains in the region. But it is not the sort of thing  that the US government would stake out a particular position on.

AS: How does the US react to the recent geopolitical shifts in alliances happening in the Horn of Africa due to the Qatar crisis?

Again, it is something that goes a little bit beyond my direct engagement. But I think as with all engagement between nations, everyone benefits when that engagement is transparent and when it reflects mutual interest. And I hope that as the countries of the Horn including Ethiopia engage with Gulf States as any other states that’ll play out in a way that helps bring about a region that is harmonious, stable, prosperous and has as much of a commonality of purpose as possible. How that plays out in terms of the Gulf States in the region is something I really can’t speak to in much more detail.

AS: There are many military outposts in the Horn of Africa, especially in Djibouti. Do you think Ethiopia should have a say in the decisions to establish military installations in its vicinity?

I think any neighbors need to be in a position they can talk to each other about developments in the countries that might impact each other. I think that happens. I think Ethiopia has frank and ongoing relationships with all of its neighbors and I imagine that part of those discussions touch on the area you are referring to.

AS: Lets’ get back to Ethiopian politics. How does the US view the struggle by the Ethiopian youth, especially the youth in Oromia and Amhara regional states, that brought in the new administration and the political change we are witnessing today?

I think we are not the first to figure out that one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities in front of Ethiopia right now is a very large, very dynamic, very motivated youth population. Depending on how you define youth, doesn’t matter, we’re still talking about tens of millions of people. And I think you’re right. I think that one of the reasons that Prime Minister Abiy is in power today is because he was listening to the youth and he was learning from the youth and he was thinking about how to be responsive to the youth. So, I think it  is one of the biggest challenges Ethiopia faces right now. You’ve got a young population that wants to be politically empowered, that wants to be economically empowered. But I think if you unleash the potential of Ethiopia’s youth, you’ll strengthen this country immeasurably.

AS: There are many Ethiopian activists in the United States such as Jawar Mohammed, who actively affected many of the outcomes that we’re seeing now. First, what do you think of the roles played by these activists? And because many of these activists have been a thorn in the side of previous Ethiopian administrations, has there ever been a request for any one of them to be deported to Ethiopia, as some people in Ethiopia have publicly suggested?

Again this is one of the areas where what Prime Minister Abiy is doing is extraordinary in its vision and its potential for impact. I grew up in the Washington DC. area and I know that the Ethiopian population in the United States is extremely smart, dynamic, thoughtful, successful and interested and committed to the welfare of Ethiopia. So, what we have here, again I’m gonna get back to it, is opportunity. Dr. Abiy is reaching out to these people. He’s encouraging them to bring their expertise, their resources, the values they have developed both as Ethiopians and as Americans to bear on this country’s development. It’s a really exciting possibility and it’s a really an aspect of the Ethiopian strength that, I think, can be tapped more fully. So, it’s another aspect of everything going on today that we are encouraged by.

AS: Finally, what message would you pass to the people of Ethiopia?

Thank you. I guess I’d say a couple of things. First I’d say that myself as a person and the country I represent, the United States, feel really excited and hopeful right now about Ethiopia. We are really inspired by the pace of change and by the scope of change. They’re going to face a lot of challenges, the Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian government. This is a very big, very rich, very complicated, very dynamic country. It’s not going to be easy to address some of the political challenges, some of the economic challenges, some of the security challenges, some of the justice challenges that we have been talking about throughout this. But, I guess I’d say a couple of things. For everything that we, as Americans, worry about Ethiopia’s future, we’ve heard Dr. Abiy articulate a vision and a path toward resolution. And that, I think, is important. I think we feel that we’re hearing in Ethiopian leadership a government that understands the will of the people, understand the needs of its people and is working to address those. That’s encouraging from where we sit. I guess the last thing I’d say is that I’d ask the Ethiopian people to think about what they might be able to do to support. Back in the 1960s we had a president named John F. Kennedy and he had a very famous quote: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’. That’s a quote that Americans love because it talks about the shared responsibility, the reciprocal relationship between the governed and the governing. I think this is an interesting moment for Ethiopians to think about things in terms like that. To think about not just the grievances they might have, the frustrations they might have, the historical divisions they might feel and want to express but to put all of that aside and say ‘this is an amazing moment of opportunity, that I don’t think any Ethiopians saw six months ago!’. And to think about how they can contribute to this opportunity and to move their country forward. AS


 

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U.S. ‘strongly disagrees’ with Ethiopia state of emergency February 17, 2018

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

U.S. ‘strongly disagrees’ with Ethiopia state of emergency, Africa News

U.S. 'strongly disagrees' with Ethiopia state of emergency

ETHIOPIA

The United States embassy in Ethiopia said on Saturday it disagreed with the government’s decision to impose a state of emergency to calm political unrest the day after the prime minister’s surprise resignation.

The statement came after the council of ministers imposed yet another six months nationwide state of emergency last night, which defence minister Siraj Fegessa, said would include a ban on protests and publications that incite violence.

‘‘We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression,’‘ the statement said.

We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression.

The prime minister’s resignation followed a wave of strikes and demonstrations successfully demanding the release of more opposition leaders.

‘‘We recognise and share concerns expressed by the government about incidents of violence and loss of life, but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less,’‘ it said.

Under a previous state of emergency, declared in October 2016 and lasting 10 months, thousands of Ethiopians were arrested by the military.

The current state of emergency has to be approved by the national parliament, which is currently on recess, giving the council 15 days to enforce the emergency rule until parliament reconvenes.

The statement urged the government in Ethiopia “to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy.”


Related:-

Ethiopia’s authoritarian regime backtracks on reforms. With an economic record at risk, Ethiopia is sacrificing democracy, FT

What triggered unrest in Ethiopia? Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime, Counter Punch

Obboo Baqqalaa Garbaa: Labsiin Yeroo Hatattamaa Qabsoo Uummataa Hin Dhaabu, VOA Afaan Oromoo

Dhaamsa Dr Maraara Qeerroo Hundaaf Guyyaa hardhaa, Kichuu

ANALYSIS: AMID A REVOLUTIONARY STUPOR, ETHIOPIA’S RULING PARTY DUMPS ITS LEADER, AS

Ethiopia 2024 dollar bond hits 6-mth low after PM resigns, Reuters

Reform or repression? Ethiopia ‘faces watershed moment’ after PM resigns, Democracy Digest

Why is Ethiopia in upheaval? This brief history explains a lot, WP

Ethiopia’s Counterproductive State of Emergency, Atlantic Council

 

Oromo scientist, Gebisa Ejeta, a distinguished professor in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University and the 2009 World Food Prize laureate, received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further his team’s research on stronger varieties of sorghum November 20, 2017

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Purdue poised to improve sorghum for millions with $5 million grant

 

The foundation’s grant is the second for Gebisa Ejeta, a distinguished professor in the Department of Agronomy and director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security. Ejeta, the 2009 World Food Prize laureate, was recognized for his work in developing and distributing high-yielding varieties of sorghum that are also drought-tolerant and resistant to striga, a parasitic weed that robs maize, sorghum, rice, pearl millet and sugarcane of necessary nutrients. Striga can devastate a crop and impacts more than 100 million people in Africa.

Over the last four years, Ejeta, along with his students and research collaborators, uncovered the basic genetic and biological processes that control striga resistance in sorghum. They identified a gene involved with the release of a chemical from sorghum roots that signals striga seed to germinate and attach to those roots.

That has led to the creation of new sorghum varieties that combine striga- and drought-resistance more readily using molecular technology. So far, 961 tons of seed have been distributed to more than 400,000 farmers in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

“With more high-throughput phenotyping and the ability to sequence a large slate of genotypes, we identified an important gene that is foundational for imparting striga resistance,” Ejeta said. “It helps to move that gene with confidence and consider new ways of exploiting that gene. Some of that we’ve already been working on.”

This next phase of the program will focus on advancements in biological research, specifically identifying more genes involved in imparting broad-based and durable striga resistance in sorghum and other crops.

“We would have multiple genes that we can move around and pyramid together, so there is no risk of one gene breaking down in the future,” Ejeta said.

The new project will expand to support researchers in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali to develop a breeding pipeline for more high-yielding, nutritious, disease-resistant and drought-tolerant varieties of crops. The project plans to support private seed systems that will distribute high-quality hybrid sorghum seeds more effectively in those countries.

“This creates opportunities for farmers and small businesses to engage in gainful employment and develop the agricultural industry in these countries,” Ejeta said.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-532-0233, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Source: Gebisa Ejeta, 765-496-2926, gejeta@purdue.edu 


Click here to read more from source of this article, Purdue University site.


 

U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) urges his colleagues to vote on H.Res. 128 to address human rights abuses in Ethiopia on the House of Representatives floor November 3, 2017

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U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) urges his colleagues to vote on H.Res. 128 to address human rights abuses in Ethiopia on the House of Representatives floor on 1st November 2017.

 

https://twitter.com/addisstandard/status/926071114190721024


U.S. legislator: Ethiopia’s lobbying must not stop human rights measure

By AT editor – 2 November 2017
U.S. legislator: Ethiopia’s lobbying must not stop human rights measure


A United States legislator is again pressing for a vote on House Resolution 128, a measure calling for human rights protections and inclusive governance in Ethiopia that was supposed to be up for a vote last month. It was postponed by what supporters say is suppression by the Ethiopian government.

“It has been brought to my attention that the Ethiopian government has threatened to cut off security cooperation with the United States should we proceed with House Resolution 128,” said Representative Mike Coffman, R-CO, from the floor on Wednesday. “I am particularly dismayed that rather than solving their problems and moving towards becoming a more democratic country, the Ethiopian government has chosen instead to hire a D.C. lobbying firm at a cost of $150,000 a month.”

Coffman’s appeal follows a Human Rights Watch letter, signed by other human rights organizations, that was sent last month to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and key elected representatives.

“The Ethiopian government vigorously fought all previous attempts to hold it accountable for abuses of human rights and democratic norms, and it has opposed the current measure from its inception,” said Yoseph Badwaza, a senior program officer for Africa at Freedom House. “In January 2017, it hired a Washington-based lobbying firm in an effort to kill H. Res. 128 and its companion resolution in the Senate.”

Coffman said the resolution “calls on the Government of Ethiopia to take clear decisive steps towards becoming more inclusive, more democratic and more respectful of the basic human rights of its own people.”

Specifically, it condemns the excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces and the killing of peaceful protesters; the arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders, and the Ethiopian government’s abuse of the anti-terrorism proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent. Coffman’s comments came as Ethiopia again denied the release of Oromo leader Bekele Gerba, despite a court ruling Monday that he was to be freed on bond.

The U.S. resolution also calls on Ethiopia to admit U.N. human rights observers and includes language to support targeted sanctions against Ethiopians responsible for gross human rights violations.

Coffman said that if the Ethiopian government wants to correct any negative perceptions about the country in the U.S., the solution isn’t a public affairs campaign but rather an end to the repression of the Ethiopian people.


HRW: joint letter from 9 organizations urging US Congress to vote HR 128 & show respect for human rights in #Ethiopia

 

 

News Item: Smith Resolution on Ethiopian Human Rights Advances From Committee, 27 July 2017

HRW: joint letter from 9 organizations urging US Congress to vote HR 128 & show respect for human rights in #Ethiopia October 14, 2017

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US Congress: Vote on H.Res 128

Support Respect for Human Rights in Ethiopia

Oromo Studies Association 2017 Annual Conference: Gadaa as an organizing theme of Oromo life July 29, 2017

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WALGAHIIIDILEE OSA BARA 2017 WASHINGTON DC

 

Oromo Studies Association 2017 Annual Conference: Gadaa as an organizing theme of Oromo life: Tradition, knowledge and contemporary significance

OSA 2017-Annual-Conferece-Program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from a Speech made by the Outgoing Chair of OSA Board of Directors, Prof. Mekuria Bulcha, at the Opening of the 31st OSA Annual Conference on July 28, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

OSAOn behalf of OSA Board of Directors and its Executive Committee, I want to welcome you all to this evening’s events. It is with a great sense of satisfaction that I stand before you to open the 31stAnnual OSA conference. The first time I came to Washington was 33 years ago in 1984 to attend the annual conference of Oromo Union in North America. In early July the same year, we had also an international Oromo conference in Berlin organized by the Union of Oromo Students in Europe. Bonnie Holcomb and the late Mammo Dibaabaa attended the conference from the US. The late Sisai Ibssa sent a paper to be read at the conference. It was then that we started to think about organizing an Oromo studies association. Few years later, OSA was formally organized. Since then, I have been coming almost every year, sometimes twice a year, to this country because of Oromo studies.

By and large, we have been conducting Oromo studies for more than three decades without financial support or institutional backing. Given the circumstances, I never imagined that we could write so many articles and books on Oromo history, culture, and language. When I say many books and articles, I am talking in relative terms reflecting on the knowledge that existed about the Oromo people when we started. If we take the gadaa system, for example, we had only Professor Asmerom Legesse’s classic book, Gadaa: Three Approaches to African Society published in 1973. Today, we have several books, doctoral dissertations, and journal articles on the gadaa system and many other topics concerning the Oromo society. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were very few articles published on Oromo history in international journals. Today, there are many books on the subject, most of them written by Oromos themselves. New ones keep on coming.

Although what has been achieved is what we had never imagined, what we have done so far is not more than a scratch on the surface. There are great gaps in our knowledge about Oromo history, Oromo language, and Oromo culture that are waiting to be filled. Without adequate knowledge about our past, we cannot make an adequate assessment of our present concerns, or have a clear vision of our future as a nation.

That said, Oromo studies should not limit itself to Oromia or the Ethiopian region. It must  go beyond the present Ethiopian borders, look into the cultural and historical affinities the Oromo seem to have, particularly with the peoples of Nubia and ancient Egypt. It is interesting to note that culturally, significant similarities in hair style, dress, etc. that  resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics motifs are still found among the Oromo. There are many artifacts and outfits used by Oromo abba gadaas and qaalluuswhich resemble the outfits that decorate the statues of Egyptian pharaohs. The resemblance between the ancient Egyptian concept of maat and Oromo concept of nagaa, both of which reflect ethics that regulate order and harmony provide execiting area for scholarly investigation regarding the probable affinity between the philosophies and cultures of the two peoples.

In addition, there are intriguing linguistic elements that indicated similarities between Afaan Oromooand the ancient language of the Berbers of North Africa. In short, there are historical, cultural, and linguistic factors which suggest Oromo affinity with the ancient peoples of Northeast Africa, countering the controversial theory about Oromo migration from the south in the sixteenth century in Ethiopia.

When we turn south, the interaction of the Oromo people with the inhabitants of East Africa is not less interesting. As brilliantly presented in Professor Gufu Oba’s new book, Herder Warfare in East Africa, the Oromo influence in the region from 1300 to 1900 seems to have been very substantial. Starting from Jubaland in southern Somalia and stretching south to Tanzania, the Oromo role in the history of the region was very significant.

That colonialism alienates the colonized from their true history is well-known among scholars. Hence, it is needless to stress here that distortion of history and suppression of information about Oromo society has been the policy of Ethiopian regimes for more than a century. Ethiopianist scholars have also contributed much to the distortion and cover ups. Consequently, there are important areas in Oromo culture and history that remain barely touched by researchers to this day. For example, very little study is done on Oromo social and environmental ethics. The Oromo moral and philosophical principles of Safuu and Nagaa which offer a unique model for passing over life on to future generations are waiting for exploration by scholars. The usefulness of Oromo philosophies, eco-knowledge, and social ethics in these times of glaring lack of environmental ethics, religious fanaticism, right wing political extremism, and lack of respect for human lives should be appreciated and mediated to the rest of the world.  The recognition of the gadaa system and the irreecha festival by UNESCO as intangible heritages of humanity in 2017 can be used as an opportunity to share with the world from the pool of traditional Oromo knowledge mentioned above.

In short, opportunities are abound for those who are interested in Oromo studies. As indicated above, there are numerous untouched areas to investigate. However, there are many challenges to be confronted as well. Acquisition of institutional and financial support requires hard work from OSA members.

The future of Oromo studies depends on our ability to recruit young scholars for research in Oromo language, history, and society. Therefore, building networks with researchers at home is very important.  Our cooperation with non-Oromo scholars engaged in African studies is also crucial. As a diaspora organization, OSA cannot do everything, but a lot more can be done.

Much more can be said about available research opportunities that OSA has as well as challenges that are confronting it. But, since we have many panels and round table discussions on dozens of topics in the next two days, I will not take more of your time with what should be done, I will use the few minutes I have to thank those who have been working hard to discharge their duties as members of the Board of Directors and OSA Executive Committee since August last year. ….. Last, but not least, I would also like to thank the local organizing committee who made this splendid evening possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and please enjoy your dinner and the rest of the evening.

Smith Resolution on Ethiopian Human Rights Advances From Committee July 27, 2017

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News Item: Smith Resolution on Ethiopian Human Rights Advances From Committee

27 July 2017

Today, the full House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a resolution, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), highlighting the human rights violations of the Ethiopian government, and offering a blueprint to create a government better designed to serve the interests of the Ethiopian people.

The resolution, which passed without objection, also calls on the U.S. government to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions, targeting the individuals within the Ethiopian government who are the cause of the horrific abuses.

The State Department’s current human rights report on Ethiopia notes, “[t]he most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.”

H. Res. 128, is like a mirror held up to the Government of Ethiopia on how others see them, and it is intended to encourage them to move on the reforms they agree they need to enact,” said Smith, Chair of the House panel on Africa. “For the past 12 years, my staff and I have visited Ethiopia, spoken with Ethiopian officials, talked to a wide variety of members of the Ethiopia Diaspora and discussed the situation in Ethiopia with advocates and victims of government human rights violations.  Our efforts are not a response merely to government critics, but rather a realistic assessment of the urgent need to end very damaging and in some cases inexcusable actions by the government or those who act as their agents.”

H. Res. 128, entitled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” condemns the human rights abuses of Ethiopia and calls on the Ethiopian government to:

  • lift the state of emergency;
  • end the use of excessive force by security forces;
  • investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
  • release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights;
  • respect the right to peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press;
  • engage in open consultations with citizens regarding its development strategy;
  • allow a United Nations rapporteur to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia;
  • address the grievances brought forward by representatives of registered opposition parties;
  • hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing and detaining innocent civilians who exercised their constitutional rights; and
  • investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison, the deaths of persons in attendance at the annual Irreecha festivities at Lake Hora near Bishoftu on October 2, 2016, and the ongoing killings of civilians over several years in the Somali Regional State by police.

It is important to note that this resolution does not call for sanctions on the Government of Ethiopia, but it does call for the use of existing mechanisms to sanction individuals who torture or otherwise deny their countrymen their human and civil rights,” said Smith.

Smith has chaired three hearings on Ethiopia, the most recent of which looked into the deterioration of the human rights situation in Ethiopia and was titled “Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights.”

 


Itoophiyaa keessatti akkaataa qabiinsa mirga dhala namaa fooyyeesuudhaa wixineen seeraa miseensonni mana maree Yunaaytid Isteets dhiheessan manichaaf akka dhihaatu fi sagaleen irratti kennamu koreen dhimmoota biyyoota alaa waligalteera gahe.

The Hill: USA doesn’t need Ethiopia in its war on terror in the Horn of Africa May 6, 2017

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    US doesn’t need Ethiopia in its war on              terror in the Horn of Africa

 Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the Middle East and Africa to       “reaffirm key U.S. military alliances” and engage with strategic partners.” Mattis only visited   the tiny nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. maintains its largest military   base. Ethiopia was conspicuously absent from the “strategic partner” lineup.

Forbes: Ethiopia’s Cruel Con Game March 3, 2017

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The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion. The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion.


Ethiopia’s Cruel Con Game

Forbes Opinoin, GUEST POST WRITTEN BY David Steinman, 3 March 2017


Mr. Steinman advises foreign democracy movements. He authored the novel “Money, Blood and Conscience” about Ethiopia’s secret genocide.


In what could be an important test of the Trump Administration’s attitude toward foreign aid, the new United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien have called on the international community to give the Ethiopian government another $948 million to assist a reported 5.6 million people facing starvation.

Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the recent 28th Summit of the African Union, Guterres described Ethiopia as a “pillar of stability” in the tumultuous Horn of Africa, praised its government for an effective response to last year’s climate change-induced drought that left nearly 20 million people needing food assistance, and asked the world to show “total solidarity” with the regime.

Women and children wait for care at an outpatient treatment center in Lerra village, Wolayta, Ethiopia, on June 10, 2008. (Jose Cendon/Bloomberg News)

Ethiopia is aflame with rebellions against its unpopular dictatorship, which tried to cover up the extent of last year’s famine. But even if the secretary general’s encouraging narrative were true, it still begs the question: Why, despite ever-increasing amounts of foreign support, can’t this nation of 100 million clever, enterprising people feed itself? Other resource-poor countries facing difficult environmental challenges manage to do so.


Two numbers tell the story in a nutshell:

1. The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion.

2. The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion.


The latter figure is based on the UN’s own 2015 report on Illicit Financial Outflows by a panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and another from Global Financial Integrity, an American think tank. These document $2-3 billion—an amount roughly equaling Ethiopia’s annual foreign aid and investment—being drained from the country every year, mostly through over- and under-invoicing of imports and exports.

Ethiopia’s far-left economy is centrally controlled by a small ruling clique that has grown fantastically wealthy. Only they could be responsible for this enormous crime. In other words, the same Ethiopian leadership that’s begging the world for yet another billion for its hungry people is stealing several times that amount every year.

America and the rest of the international community have turned a blind eye to this theft of taxpayer money and the millions of lives destroyed in its wake, because they rely on Ethiopia’s government to provide local counterterror cooperation, especially with the fight against Al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia. But even there we’re being taken. Our chief aim in Somalia is to eliminate Al-Shabab. Our Ethiopian ally’s aim is twofold: Keep Somalia weak and divided so it can’t unite with disenfranchised fellow Somalis in Ethiopia’s adjoining, gas-rich Ogaden region; and skim as much foreign assistance as possible. No wonder we’re losing.

The Trump Administration has not evinced particular interest in democracy promotion, but much of Ethiopia’s and the region’s problems stem from Ethiopia’s lack of the accountability that only democracy confers. A more accountable Ethiopian government would be forced to implement policies designed to do more than protect its control of the corruption. It would have to free Ethiopia’s people to develop their own solutions to their challenges and end their foreign dependency. It would be compelled to make the fight on terror more effective by decreasing fraud, basing military promotions on merit instead of cronyism and ending the diversion of state resources to domestic repression. An accountable Ethiopian government would have to allow more relief to reach those who truly need it and reduce the waste of U.S. taxpayers’ generous funding. Representative, accountable government would diminish the Ogaden’s secessionist tendencies that drive Ethiopia’s counterproductive Somalia strategy.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn attends the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017. (ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)

But Ethiopia’s government believes it has America over a barrel and doesn’t have to be accountable to us or to its own people. Like Mr. Guterres, past U.S. presidents have been afraid to confront the regime, which even forced President Barack Obama into a humiliating public defense of its last stolen election. The result has been a vicious cycle of enablement, corruption, famine and terror.

Whether the Trump Administration will be willing to play the same game remains to be seen. The answer will serve as a signal to other foreign leaders who believe America is too craven to defend its money and moral values.

 

Calling your Representative about House Resolution 128 Supporting Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia March 1, 2017

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The Hearing on House Resolution 128. Thursday March 9, 2017 at 2:00 PM. #OromoRevolution #OromoProtests


Calling your Representative about House Resolution 128


 

Calling your Representative about House Resolution 128 Supporting Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia

General Tips and Information

  1. Phone calls can be left with your representative after business hours. Both messages and live calls will be logged, tallied, and made a part of a record that representatives use to determine what issue their constituents think are important.
  2. Please call your representative only! Your tally will not be marked down unless you can give a city and zip code from the state, or are calling from an in-state area code.
  3. Call as frequently as possible in order to get your voice heard.
  4. Clearly tell your representative what you would like him/her her to do for you. Be simple and direct.
  5. Be nice.

Step by Step Guide to Calling your Representative about House Resolution 128

STEP 1:  Dial the Capitol Switch Board at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to you to your representative’s office. You can also get your representatives direct number by clicking on this link:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

STEP 2:  A legislative assistant will likely answer the phone. State a variation of the following:

  • Give your name, city, and zip code, and say “I don’t need a response.” That way, they can quickly confirm you are a constituent and tally your call without taking the time to input you into a response database (omit “I do not need a response” from your comments if you want a formal response).
  • State that you are calling about House Resolution 128.
  • Ask for the name of the person logging the call.

Examples: 

Option 1– Hi, my name is __________, I’m a constituent from ________ ( state ), zip code_______ I don’t need a response.  I am calling to urge Representative _________________ to cosponsor or support House Resolution 128 to pressure the Ethiopian government to allow peaceful protests in the Oromia region, to release jailed protesters, and to institute democratic reforms in a country. Thank you for your time.

or

Option 2– Hello, my name is ________ and I am calling to urge Representative ____________   to cosponsor or support House Resolution 128 called “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia”.

I am concerned about the human rights violations currently being committed by the Ethiopian government against students, protesters, and political opponents in the Oromia region and in other parts of Ethiopia. Since November of 2015, the Ethiopian government has killed hundreds of Oromo protesters and jailed thousands of others for peacefully resisting its plan to confiscate and displace thousands of Oromo farmers. In addition, freedom of expression and association have been severely limited in Ethiopia. In October of 2016, the Ethiopian government issued a State of Emergency which limited cell phone and social media use in the country in order to reduce the likelihood that information about its atrocities gained international attention.  Without a strong rebuke from the U.S. government, Ethiopia will continue kill and forcefully detain peaceful protesters and dissenting voices in the country.

STEP 3: Repeat!

The NY Times: OLYMPICS: Feyisa Lilesa, Marathoner in Exile, Finds Refuge in Arizona February 25, 2017

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Feyisa Lelisa  Rio Olympian and world icon of #OromoProtests

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The young boy was getting reacquainted with his father after an absence of six months and climbed on him as if he were a tree. The boy kissed his father and hugged him and clambered onto his shoulders. Then, when a protest video streamed on television, the boy grabbed a stick, and the lid of a pot to serve as a shield, and began to mimic a dance of dissent in the living room.

There is much joy and relief, but also continued political complication, in the modest apartment of Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian marathon runner who won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics and gained international attention when he crossed his arms above his head at the finish line in a defiant gesture against the East African nation’s repressive government.

Afraid to return home, fearing he would be jailed, killed or no longer allowed to travel, Lilesa, 27, remained in Brazil after the Summer Games, then came to the United States in early September. He has received a green card as a permanent resident in a category for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and sports.

On Valentine’s Day, his wife, Iftu Mulisa, 26; daughter, Soko, 5; and son, Sora, 3, were reunited with him, first in Miami and then in Flagstaff, where Lilesa is training at altitude for the London Marathon in April. Their immigrant visas are valid until July, but they also hope to receive green cards.

Continue reading the main story

“I’m relieved and very happy that my family is with me,” Lilesa said, speaking through an interpreter. “But I chose to be in exile. Since I left the situation has gotten much, much worse. My people are living in hell, dying every day. It gives me no rest.”

Lilesa’s Olympic protest was against Ethiopia’s treatment of his ethnic group, the Oromo people, who compose about a third of the country’s population of 102 million but are dominated politically by the Tigray ethnic group.

Last month, Human Rights Watch reported that, in 2016, Ethiopian security forces “killed hundreds and detained tens of thousands” in the Oromia and Amhara regions; progressively curtailed basic rights during a state of emergency; and continued a “bloody crackdown against largely peaceful protesters” in disputes that have flared since November 2015 over land displacement, constitutional rights and political reform.

Photo

Feyisa Lilesa’s gesture as he finished second in the Olympic marathon was made to protest Ethiopia’s treatment of his ethnic group, the Oromo people. CreditOlivier Morin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Ethiopian government has said that Lilesa could return home safely and would be considered a hero, but he does not believe this. He lists reasons for his suspicions, and they are personal: His brother-in-law, Tokkuma Mulisa, who is in his early 20s, has been imprisoned for about a year and reportedly tortured, and his health remains uncertain. His younger brother, Aduna, also a runner, was beaten and detained by the Ethiopian military in October.

Aduna Lilesa, 22, said he was training in Burayu, outside the capital, Addis Ababa, on Oct. 16 when soldiers approached him. They hit him in the head with the butt of a rifle, kicked him and threatened to shoot him, he said, while demanding information about Feyisa.

Fearing for his life, a gun pointed at him, Aduna said he lied and told the soldiers what he thought they wanted to hear about his brother: “He is a terrorist; he is no good.”

Since the Olympics, Aduna said, his wife has been suspended from her job with Ethiopian government radio. He is living with Feyisa in Flagstaff until mid-March, when he will return home to his wife and young son. “It is not safe, but my family is there,” Aduna Lilesa said. “If I live here, they will be confused.”

Unease extends, too, to the Ethiopian running community.

When Feyisa Lilesa runs the London Marathon, one of his primary challengers figures to be Kenenisa Bekele, a three-time Olympic champion on the track and a fellow Oromo who is considered by many the greatest distance runner of all time. The two runners were never close and tension between them increased last September in Berlin, where Bekele ran the second-fastest marathon time ever.

Before that race, Bekele said in an interview with Canadian Running Magazine, speaking in English, which is not his first language, that “anyone have right to protest anything” but “you need to maybe choose how to protest and solve things.”

Asked specifically about Lilesa’s Olympic protest, Bekele said it was better to get an answer from him. Asked about other Ethiopian runners who have made similar crossed-arm gestures, Bekele said that sport should be separate from politics, that everyone had a right to protest in Ethiopia and that the government was trying to “solve things in a democratic way.”

Bekele has received some criticism for not being more forceful in his remarks, and on social media in Ethiopia there is a split between supporters of the two runners. “Many people are being killed,” Lilesa said of Bekele. “How can you say that’s democratic? I’m very angry when he says that.”

Continue reading the main story

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Lilesa playing with his son, Sora, at the family’s new apartment in Flagstaff, where Lilesa is training for the London Marathon in April. CreditMatthew Staver for The New York Times

His own social awareness, Lilesa said, began when he was a schoolboy, living on a farm in the Jaldu district, sometimes spelled Jeldu, west of Addis Ababa. Security forces used harsh tactics to break up student protests, he said, and sometimes his classmates simply disappeared. He belongs to a younger Oromo generation emboldened to resist what it considers to be marginalization by Ethiopia’s ruling party.

“Before, people would run away; they feared the government, the soldiers,” Lilesa said. “Today, fear has been defeated. People are standing their ground. They are fed up and feel they have nothing more to lose.”

When he was named to Ethiopia’s Olympic team last May, three months before the Summer Games, Lilesa felt it was urgent to make some kind of protest gesture in Rio de Janeiro. But he did not tell anyone of his plans. If he told his family, they might talk him out of it. If the government found out, he might be kicked off the Olympic team or worse.

He continued to visit Oromo people detained in jail and to give money to Oromo students who had been dismissed from school and left homeless. He was wealthy for an Ethiopian, independent, and he sensed that the government monitored some of his movements.

He worried that he could be injured or killed in a staged auto accident. Or that someone might ambush him when he was training in the forests around Addis Ababa. When the doorbell rang at his home, he went to the second floor and peered outside before answering.

“I was really fearful,” Lilesa said. “Being an Oromo makes one suspect.”

On the final day of the Olympics, his moment came. As he reached the finish of the marathon, in second place behind Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and ahead of Galen Rupp of the United States, Lilesa crossed his arms. It was a familiar Oromo gesture of protest and one that carried great risk, both to his career representing Ethiopia and to his family.

“Giving up running for Ethiopia was the least I could do, because other people were giving up their lives,” Lilesa said.

Iftu Mulisa, his wife, was watching at home in Addis Ababa with 15 or 20 relatives and friends. There was loud cheering and celebrating, and then Lilesa crossed his arms. The cheering was replaced by silence and confusion and fear.

Photo

After the Olympics, Lilesa was not certain he would see his family again. But on Valentine’s Day, they flew to Miami to join him. CreditWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

“Everyone was asking: ‘Does he come home? Does he stay? What happens next?’” Mulisa said. “It was so shocking. He hadn’t told anyone.”

For two or three days, Lilesa said, he did not answer the phone when his wife called.

“I had put them in this position and I just didn’t know what to say to her,” he said.

Still, he felt he had made the right decision.

“I needed to do this,” Lilesa said. “I thought of it this way: When a soldier enlists, you know the risks, but because you swore to defend the country or the law, you don’t think about the consequences.”

When he finally spoke to his wife, Lilesa said, he tried to calm her and tell her everything would be O.K. But the uncertainty was difficult.

“He had never been gone more than a week or two,” Mulisa said. “Having young kids made it more difficult. They missed him and asked questions I couldn’t answer. But I was hopeful we would be reunited one day.”

In a diplomatic whirlwind, Lilesa secured an immigrant visa to the United States and eventually moved to Flagstaff, a training hub at nearly 7,000 feet where athletes often go to enhance their oxygen-carrying capacity. He was invited there by a runner from Eritrea, which neighbors Ethiopia.

Even in the best of situations, distance running can be an isolating life of training twice a day and sleeping. Lilesa kept in touch with his family through video chats, but they were disrupted for a period when the Ethiopian government restricted internet access.

In Ethiopia it is the traditional role of the wife or maid to prepare the food, to do the domestic chores. Without his family, Lilesa said, he sometimes ate only once or twice a day, too tired to cook dinner, hardly recommended for marathoners who routinely train more than 100 miles per week.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Lilesa with his wife, Iftu Mulisa, and their children, Sora, 3, and Soko, 5. “I’m relieved and very happy that my family is with me,” he said. CreditMatthew Staver for The New York Times

“I had to fend for myself in a way I’ve never done in my life,” he said.

Perhaps the most difficult moment, Lilesa said, came when he was still in Rio de Janeiro after the Games and learned of the death of a close friend, Kebede Fayissa. He had been arrested in August, Lilesa said, and was among more than 20 inmates to die in a fire in September under suspicious circumstances at Kilinto prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Opposition figures have said that the bodies of some prisoners had bullet wounds.

“I didn’t even know he had been arrested and there I was in Brazil, finding about his death on Facebook,” Lilesa said of Fayissa. “He had helped me so much at different times of my life.”

Eventually, Mulisa and their two children received immigrant visas to enter the United States and left Addis Ababa in mid-February for Frankfurt, Germany, then Miami, where Lilesa greeted them at the airport. The scariest time, Mulisa said, came when she walked down the Jetway to the plane, afraid the Ethiopian government would prevent her from leaving at the last minute.

Most likely, Lilesa said, his family was permitted to leave because to do otherwise would have generated negative publicity. In Miami, there was more emotion than words, Mulisa said, as the children hugged their father and she told him, “I didn’t think I would see you so soon.”

While he will surely not be chosen to compete for Ethiopia at the Olympics and world track and field championships while in exile, Lilesa can still make hundreds of thousands of dollars as an independent, elite marathon runner. Since the Olympics, he has run a marathon in Honolulu and a half marathon in Houston. A GoFundMe campaign for him and his family, started by supporters, raised more than $160,000. The London Marathon is two months away.

He now has a voice as strong as his legs. Lilesa has met with United States senators, addressed members of the European Parliament in Brussels, written an op-ed essay in The Washington Post and spoken with numerous reporters, trying to spread the story of the Oromo people.

If the political situation changes in Ethiopia, he said, he and his family will move home. He does not expect that to happen soon. In the meantime, he hopes that his wife and children will be permitted to make yearly trips there to visit relatives. For himself, he said he had no regrets.

“This has given me more confidence, more reasons to try harder, more reasons to compete so that I can use this platform to raise awareness,” Lilesa said. “I’m constantly thinking, what else can I do?”


How should the US react to human rights abuses in Ethiopia? February 16, 2017

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H.Res.128 – Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.115th Congress (2017-2018)


How should the US react to human rights abuses in Ethiopia?

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, 16 February 2017

 

The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.

The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.

 One member of Congress is hoping for a “serious policy review” by the Trump administration of the United States’ relationship with Ethiopia, citing human rights abuses by the government there.

“To truly stop violence abroad, Ethiopia must stop violence at home,” Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the House subcommittee on Africa and global human rights, stated at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.

“Since 2005, untold thousands of students have been jailed, have been shot during demonstrations or have simply disappeared in the last 11 years,” Smith stated Feb. 15. “Ethiopia’s next generation is being taught that the rights that democracy normally bestows on a country’s citizens don’t apply in their country.”

Smith and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced a House resolution (H. Res. 128) Wednesday “highlighting the crisis in Ethiopia due to government violations of the human rights of its citizens,” Smith stated.

“With this resolution, we are showing that the United States remains committed to universal respect for human rights, and that we will not tolerate continued abuse of those human rights by Ethiopian security forces,” Coffman said.

There has been a “steady erosion” of democracy in Ethiopia since 2005, the congressmen maintained.

Government dissidents have been jailed, citizens have been tortured and killed by the government’s security forces, and freedom of the press has been infringed upon. Ethnic groups have been the victims of violence perpetrated by the government.

Peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country were met with hundreds of killings and tens of thousands of arrests by security forces in 2016, Human Rights Watch said in its recent report on the country. Citizens released from jail claimed they were tortured while in custody.

“Instead of addressing the numerous calls for reform in 2016, the Ethiopian government used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to suppress largely peaceful protests,” Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated in the report released in January.

One protest in the Oromia region resulted in the police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and rounds fired into the air to break it up, claiming that the crowd was getting out of hand. An ensuing stampede killed 50. The Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia, on which Catholic leaders sit, called for prayer and peace amid the protests and asked government leaders to listen to the people.

The recent protests in the Amhara region of the country have showed a sense of “identity” on the part of embattled citizens, and their “need to survive,” Tewodrose Tirfe of the Amhara Association of America, a refugee who came to the U.S. in 1982, noted.

“The U.S. and the West cannot sympathize with a government that kills people,” Seenaa Jimjimo, a human rights advocate who was born and grew up in Ethiopia, insisted in her statement at Wednesday’s press conference.

Amidst protests, a state of emergency was declared by the state in October and is “being used as a method to crack down even further on basic human freedoms,” Coffman said.

Thus, the resolution is the “first step by our representatives to let the Ethiopian government know that the U.S. policy is changing, that their continued human rights violations on innocent civilians will not be tolerated,” Tirfe stated.

“We invoke the Global Magnitsky Act,” Gregory Simpkins, staff director of the House subcommittee on Africa, said on Wednesday of the law which enables sanctions against specific “entities and persons who violate the human rights of people.”

Ethiopia has acted as a key ally in fighting international terrorism, Smith noted, but if it fails to protect human rights at home then extremism could fester within its own borders.

“What Congressman Smith and I are asking is for the Congress of the United States to join together and pass this resolution condemning the Ethopian government for its human rights abuses,” Coffman stated.

“And I think it’s important for all Americans to care about human rights to encourage their member of Congress to co-sponsor this resolution so that we can pass it in the Congress.”


Related:-

Mana-maree Yunaayitid Isteetsitti, dura-taa’aa Koree-birkii Dhimma Fayyaa fi Mirgawwan Dhala-namaa Sadarkaa Addunyaa fi Dhaabbatoota Sadarkaa Addunyaa ka ta’an – bakka-bu’aan Niwujeersii, Kiris Ismiiz, har’a “Seeraa Haaraa Mirgawwan Dhala-namaa Itiyoophiyaa Lakkoobsa 128 ” kaleessa yeroo gazexeessotaaf ibsa kennanitti ifa godhaniiru.

Wixineen seeraa kun, “Kabajaa mirgawwan dhala-namaaf kennamu deggeruu fi Itiyoophiyaa keessatti bulchiinsi hunda hammate akka jiraatu jajjabeessuu” ka jedhu.

Gabaasa guutu kana cuqaasuun dhaggeeffadhaa


Congressman Chris Smith submit again His Resolution HR861 of Ethiopia Govt Human Rights Violation

VOA: U.S. Concern Over Ethiopia September 26, 2016

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The United States is very concerned over the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the instability in the Oromia and Amhara regions.

The United States is very concerned over the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the instability in the Oromia and Amhara regions, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview. Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield called the response by the government to protests an “intense and somewhat harsh crackdown:”

“We have had discussions with the Ethiopian government encouraging that they have dialogue, and that they open the possibly for press freedom, civil society’s ability to function, and that many of the people who have been put in jail be released.”

In Oromia anti-government protests began in November 2015, and they have also occurred in the northern Amhara region.

Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said the United States believes that the situation in the country could deteriorate and that the Ethiopian government is aware of that possibility as well.

“We’ve met with Prime Minister Hailemariam [Desalegn] in New York, and we have encouraged him to look at how the government is addressing this situation.”

“We think,” she said, “it could get worse if it’s not addressed – sooner rather than later.”

Guest Column: Ethiopia: Protests in Oromia, Amhara Regions Present ‘Critical Challenge’ – U.S. August 22, 2016

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department of state

Ethiopia: Protests in Oromia, Amhara Regions Present ‘Critical Challenge’ – U.S.


By Tom Malinowski, Guest Column, 21 August 2016


The Obama administration’s top official promoting democracy and human rights,Tom Malinowski, says the Ethiopian government’s tactics in response to protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country are “self-defeating”.  Writing ahead of the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Nairobi for talks on East African issues, including security, Malinowski says Addis Ababa’s “next great national task is to master the challenge of political openness.”

The United States and Ethiopia have years of strong partnership, based on a recognition that we need each other. Ethiopia is a major contributor to peace and security in Africa, the U.S.’s ally in the fight against violent extremists, and has shown incredible generosity to those escaping violence and repression, admitting more refugees than any country in the world. The United States has meanwhile been the main contributor to Ethiopia’s impressive fight to end poverty, to protect its environment and to develop its economy.

Because of the friendship and common interests our two nations share, the U.S. has a stake in Ethiopia’s prosperity, stability and success. When Ethiopia does well, it is able to inspire and help others. On the other hand, a protracted crisis in Ethiopia would undermine the goals that both nations are trying to achieve together.

The recent protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions present a critical challenge. They appear to be a manifestation of Ethiopian citizens’ expectation of more responsive governance and political pluralism, as laid out in their constitution.

Almost every Ethiopian I have met during my three recent trips to the country, including government officials, has told me that as Ethiopians become more prosperous and educated, they demand a greater political voice, and that such demands must be met. While a few of the protests may have been used as a vehicle for violence, we are convinced that the vast majority of participants were exercising their right under Ethiopia’s constitution to express their views.

Any counsel that the United States might offer is intended to help find solutions, and is given with humility. As President Barack Obama said during his July, 2015 visit to Addis Ababa, the U.S. is not perfect, and we have learned hard lessons from our own experiences in addressing popular grievances.

We also know Ethiopia faces real external threats. Ethiopia has bravely confronted Al-Shabaab, a ruthless terrorist group based on its border. Individuals and groups outside Ethiopia, often backed by countries that have no respect for human rights themselves, sometimes recklessly call for violent change.

  Ethiopia rightly condemns such rhetoric, and the United States joins that condemnation. But Ethiopia has made far too much progress to be undone by the jabs of scattered antagonists who have little support among the Ethiopian people. And it is from within that Ethiopia faces the greatest challenges to its stability and unity. When thousands of people, in dozens of locations, in multiple regions come out on the streets to ask for a bigger say in the decisions that affect their lives, this cannot be dismissed as the handiwork of external enemies.

Ethiopian officials have acknowledged that protestors have genuine grievances that deserve sincere answers. They are working to address issues such as corruption and a lack of job opportunities. Yet security forces have continued to use excessive force to prevent Ethiopians from congregating peacefully, killing and injuring many people and arresting thousands. We believe thousands of Ethiopians remain in detention for alleged involvement in the protests – in most cases without having been brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime.

These are self-defeating tactics. Arresting opposition leaders and restricting civil society will not stop people from protesting, but it can create leaderless movements that leave no one with whom the government can mediate a peaceful way forward. Shutting down the Internet will not silence opposition, but it will scare away foreign investors and tourists. Using force may temporarily deter some protesters, but it will exacerbate their anger and make them more uncompromising when they inevitably return to the streets.

Every government has a duty to protect its citizens; but every legitimate and successful government also listens to its citizens, admits mistakes, and offers redress to those it has unjustly harmed. Responding openly and peacefully to criticism shows confidence and wisdom, not weakness. Ethiopia would also be stronger if it had more independent voices in government, parliament and society, and if civil society organizations could legally channel popular grievances and propose policy solutions. Those who are critical of the government would then have to share responsibility, and accountability, for finding those solutions. Progress in reforming the system would moderate demands to reject it altogether.

Ethiopia’s next great national task is to master the challenge of political openness, just as it has been mastering the challenge of economic development. Given how far Ethiopia has traveled since the days of terror and famine, the United States is confident that its people can meet this challenge – not to satisfy any foreign country, but to fulfill their own aspirations. The U.S. and all of Ethiopia’s friends are ready to help.

Tom Malinowski is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C., and Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 19 August 2016 August 19, 2016

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Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C., USA, 19 August 2016. p4

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C., USA, 19 August 2016. p5

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C., USA, 19 August 2016. p3

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C., USA, 19 August 2016. p1

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Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 19 August 2016

 

Grand #OromoProtests Global Solidarity Rally Held in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 19 August 2016

Time: Hillary Clinton’s First National Splash: LIFE Magazine in 1969 July 25, 2016

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This week’s Democratic National Convention will be far from the first time that Hillary Clinton will find herself the center of attention. As the crowning moment—so far—of a life in politics, her presumed nomination as the party’s nominee for president will put her in a familiar spot beneath the nation’s spotlight. In 1969, however, things…

via Hillary Clinton’s First National Splash: LIFE Magazine in 1969 — TIME