Tuesday, August 28, 2012
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Friday, August 24, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
rica Briefing N°8922 Aug 2012
The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who had not been seen in public for several months, was announced on 20 August 2012 by Ethiopian state television. The passing of the man who has been Ethiopia’s epicentre for 21 years will have profound national and regional consequences. Meles engineered one-party rule in effect for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and his Tigrayan inner circle, with the complicity of other ethnic elites that were co-opted into the ruling alliance, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The Front promised freedom, democracy and ethnic devolution but is highly centralised, tightly controls the economy and suppresses political, social, ethnic and religious liberties. In recent years, Meles had relied ever more on repression to quell growing dissent. His successor will lead a weaker regime that struggles to manage increasing unrest unless it truly implements ethnic federalism and institutes fundamental governance reform. The international community should seek to influence the transition actively because it has a major interest in the country’s stability.
Despite his authoritarianism and poor human rights records, Meles became an important asset to the international community, a staunch Western ally in counter-terrorism efforts in the region and a valued development partner for Western and emerging powers. In consequence, Ethiopia has become the biggest aid recipient in Africa, though Meles’s government was only able to partially stabilise either the country or region.
Ethiopia’s political system and society have grown increasingly unstable largely because the TPLF has become increasingly repressive, while failing to implement the policy of ethnic federalism it devised over twenty years ago to accommodate the land’s varied ethnic identities. The result has been greater political centralisation, with concomitant ethnicisation of grievances. The closure of political space has removed any legitimate means for people to channel those grievances. The government has encroached on social expression and curbed journalists, non-governmental organisations and religious freedoms. The cumulative effect is growing popular discontent, as well as radicalisation along religious and ethnic lines. Meles adroitly navigated a number of internal crises and kept TPLF factions under his tight control. Without him, however, the weaknesses of the regime he built will be more starkly exposed.
The transition will likely be an all-TPLF affair, even if masked beneath the constitution, the umbrella of the EPRDF and the prompt elevation of the deputy prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, to acting head of government. Given the opacity of the inner workings of the government and army, it is impossible to say exactly what it will look like and who will end up in charge. Nonetheless, any likely outcome suggests a much weaker government, a more influential security apparatus and endangered internal stability. The political opposition, largely forced into exile by Meles, will remain too fragmented and feeble to play a considerable role, unless brought on board in an internationally-brokered process. The weakened Tigrayan elite, confronted with the nation’s ethnic and religious cleavages, will be forced to rely on greater repression if it is to maintain power and control over other ethnic elites. Ethno-religious divisions and social unrest are likely to present genuine threats to the state’s long-term stability and cohesion.
The regional implications will be enormous. Increasing internal instability could threaten the viability of Ethiopia’s military interventions in Somalia and Sudan, exacerbate tensions with Eritrea, and, more broadly, put in question its role as the West’s key regional counter-terrorism ally. Should religious or ethnic radicalisation grow, it could well spill across borders and link with other armed radical Islamic groups.
The international community, particularly Ethiopia’s core allies, the U.S., UK and European Union (EU), should accordingly seek to play a significant role in preparing for and shaping the transition, by:
- tying political, military and development assistance to the opening of political space and an end to repressive measures;
- encouraging the post-Meles leadership to produce a clear roadmap, including transparent mechanisms within the TPLF and the EPRDF for apportioning the party and Front power Meles held and within parliament to lead to an all-inclusive, peaceful transition, resulting in free and fair elections within a fixed time; and
- helping to revive the political opposition’s ability to represent its constituencies, in both Ethiopia and the diaspora.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Thousands of wailing Ethiopians turned out Wednesday to greet the body of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as an official national mourning period began after his death in a Brussels hospital.
A military band played as the coffin, draped in the national flag, was taken from an Ethiopian Airlines flight in the early hours of the morning, a ceremony also attended by political, military and religious leaders as well as diplomats.
Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 47, who has also been foreign minister since 2010, will take over interim power, officials said. He wept as the body was carried to the hearse.
Meles died overnight Monday to Tuesday following a long illness. The 57-year-old had not been seen in public since the G20 summit in Mexico in June.
His two daughters and widow Azeb Mesfin, dressed in black, walked ahead of a military band as Azeb wailed loudly. People carried candles and portraits of Meles, following a convoy of cars accompanying the body.
The coffin was taken to the prime minister's official residence at the national palace, where Meles's body is lying in state until the funeral, said national television, which broadcast live footage from Addis Ababa streets as the coffin passed slowly.
Several hundred mourners gathered to pay their respects at the palace.
Much of the capital appeared to return to normal later Wednesday, although in shops and offices across the city, coverage of the leader's death blared from televisions and radios. No date for the funeral has been set.
Meles Zenawi's wife Azeb Z mourns the death of her husband at Bole International International Airport in Addis Ababa on August 21. Thousands of wailing Ethiopians turned out Wednesday to greet the body of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as an official national mourning period began after his death in a Brussels hospital
Newspaper headlines were solemn, with the Amharic-language daily Addis Zemen announcing "Ethiopia has lost its great leader."
"I am very, very sad he passed away.... I think we (have never had a leader) like Meles," said travel agent Tezeru Tilahun, 57, holding back tears. "I can't say anything because I am very, very sad."
Meles, a regional strongman in the volatile Horn of Africa, was a former rebel who ruled with an iron fist for more than two decades.
He came to power in 1991 after toppling the brutal dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, set Ethiopia on a path of rapid growth and played a key role in mediating regional conflicts, but also drew criticism for cracking down on opponents and curtailing human rights.
US President Barack Obama led tributes to Meles, who he said deserved "recognition for his lifelong contribution to Ethiopia's development", while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed Meles's "exceptional leadership".
Meles was a key Western ally in a region home to Al-Qaeda-linked groups.
But while world leaders praised his legacy, rights groups said his death offered a chance to end a brutal crackdown on basic freedoms.
He was regularly singled out as one of the continent's worst human rights predators, and Amnesty International called on the country's new leaders to end his government's "ever-increasing repression".
Human Rights Watch called for the next administration to repeal a much-criticised 2009 anti-terrorism law, under which several opposition figures and journalists, including two Swedes, have been jailed for lengthy terms.
Meles -- who also had strong trade links with China -- was credited with Ethiopia's economic boom in the past decade, with growth shooting from 3.8 percent in the 1990s to 10 percent in 2010.
His death also leaves a major power gap in the region, with Ethiopia playing a key role in the fortunes of many of its neighbours.
Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia for a second time last year -- after a US-backed invasion in 2006 -- and Ethiopia is supporting the fight against Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.
Meles's death could also potentially see changes in the relationship with arch-foe Eritrea, which split from Ethiopia in 1993 before the two spiralled into a bitter 1998-2000 border war in which tens of thousands died.He also played a key role in brokering peace efforts between newly independent South Sudan and its former civil war foe Sudan.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Dr. Marty Nathan
We learned of Qirchu, the Beggars' Village, from a woman I'll call Miriam, whom we met in front of St. Gabriel's Church on the square in downtown Hawassa, Ethiopia.
My assistant Dagim and I had begun to interview children and women who begged on the streets of Hawassa, prompted by the stark image of homeless children sleeping in the gutters of the city's broad boulevards.
Beggars have traditionally gathered on the premises of Ethiopia's Orthodox churches, where they are given food and clothes, particularly at holiday times, and are able to appeal to the parishioners on their way to services. The church reaches back to the fourth century and has a unique, Ethiopian-centered doctrine and ritual that sets it apart from Christianity throughout the rest of the world.
Meserat looks through her medicine supply in her streetside home.
Miriam had come eight years before from a town more than 300 kilometers from Hawassa, having been told by friends that she should get tested for HIV after her husband left her and her two children. She came and found she was HIV positive, but at that time treatment was not available for the Ethiopian poor.
She also found no home and was forced to beg and to live with her then 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter in a shelter constructed of sticks, burlap and cardboard in front of the church.
For seven years she was part of a community of beggars dominated by women and their children until 2011, the 50th anniversary of the founding of Hawassa by Haile Selassie. In the spirit of community pride and beautification, the St. Gabriel beggars, with their few earthly goods, were loaded into trucks one midnight and brought to Qirchu, a long tin-roofed one-story structure with straw mats hung vertically that divided it into apartments and formed the outer walls.
There they were unloaded and took up residence.
Etagu, with child, standing before her makeshift home.
We searched for Miriam at her home in order to take her for care at the Hawassa Referral Hospital, where I was working in the Internal Medicine Department. We were surprised by the size of the development. There were probably one hundred people living in Qirchu, with up to 11 people in an apartment space. It stood on the perimeter of the smaller St. Trinity Church next to the cemetery.
There was one outhouse and no running water. People bought water from the church and most bathed in the outhouse for privacy. Otherwise, the church had little to do with the beggars and one woman said that they had been brought there so that the city as a whole could forget about them.
It was here that our study of street women was most concentrated. We had previously interviewed women that we had met along the street called Menaharia, or Bus Station, named for its main feature. One was a young mother begging with her coughing 38-day-old infant and 5-year-old son, her 10-year-old daughter left to beg on her own in their nearby rural community. She had been forced to beg after making and selling the flatbread enjera could not support her family.
Another woman had suddenly been widowed when an accident in the gold mines killed her husband. She had never been notified nor compensation paid by the company, and could not afford to support herself and the new baby her husband had never seen.
She lived with the now-toddler in a makeshift shelter in the market that she rented for 3 birr (about 20 cents) per night.
But Qirchu was a beggars' community, and when we visited we were confronted and challenged by one of the men who lived there: What were we going to do for the inhabitants? Since our study was profoundly ad hoc, I had no answer at that moment, but knew that I needed to formulate one.
We asked women if they would be willing to talk to us. They agreed and our first two interviews were done in the muddy courtyard in front of the row of dwellings. Stools were set up and about 30 people gathered around (to our dismay) to hear the interview of two young mothers in their 20s - friends, neighbors and themselves former street kids.
It was in this set of interviews that I began to understand something of the continuity of street life. Zeritu had been born in a cardboard shelter on the pavement in front of St. Gabriel's Church, the daughter of two beggars, both of whom still beg there. She had two sisters and a brother, with only one sister still living, the other two having died of AIDS.
She had begged as long as she could remember: with her parents, as a lone street child and then with her own children after she married. Finally, two years ago, she was able to stop because her husband found low-paying work as a carpenter and she began to wash and cook for some of the other families in Qirchu.
Megdas and Handa, two children in Hawassa, Ethiopia, that Nathan interviewed.
She has dreams. Not only will all three of her daughters go to school and get an education, but she will build a house for herself and her elderly parents.
We visited her tiny but neat one-room home with its straw mat walls and swept dirt floor. We used it to house our clinic for sick community members that I treated or triaged.
Her friend Meselech had grown up with her on the street, though she had not been born there. She had run away from beatings and neglect by her stepmother after her birth mother had died when she was two years old. She had been homeless on the streets of Hawassa since she was nine, supporting herself by begging and selling sugar cane.
She had recently married and had a child, but unlike Zeritu, she was unable financially to leave the street.
Her entrapment in begging was the norm, Zeritu's escape the exception.
In our interviews with 25 women, we found that most had little or no education, most came from the countryside and most ended up on the street when they lost husbands through death or divorce, or ran away from abusive, usually alcoholic husbands.
Some begged despite being married. Either their husbands were disabled and themselves were beggars or they worked but could not make enough to support wife and children. Most women had tried to find work but either there was none available or it paid too little for survival.
Some of the last women we interviewed were elderly.
Megdas, left, and Etagu.
One had been on the street for 38 years and her grown daughter was also a beggar who lived in Qirchu. The elderly said they were "always" hungry, that they were rarely able to beg more than 50 cents per day and they were sustained with one meal of bread and coffee in the morning.
Their hopes had shrunken to merely a place to live with dignity and food to eat.
A city's plans
A Hawassa, Ethiopia, woman named Almaz.
Coincidental with our interviews, the city of Hawassa was developing plans to deal with the rising number of street people, which they had estimated to be over 600, but which others thought to be in the thousands. A written plan was drawn up to train the street people to break and lay rocks for the cobblestone streets, to shine shoes and to work as bellhops in the city's hotel industry. Children were to be sent back to their homes in the countryside and there was a vague allusion to adoption for some.
We made it a point to speak to women about their options in the Ethiopian economy. One woman stated, "I will do any job, cleaning toilets, it doesn't matter. I want to work and make a living." But women and children have looked hard for work and not found it.
The streets are filled with shoe-shine boys who must beg to stay alive since the work cannot produce a living. Unfilled bellhop jobs are not to be found. Further, hard manual labor cannot be done by children or pregnant or nursing mothers. And in the plan there was no mention of childcare for the begging mothers who are to be put to work.
The plan seems to have fallen apart long before its implementation. It budgeted several million birr to perform the trainings and education, but virtually nothing has been offered by the local businesses and NGOs that were expected to foot the bill.
We wrote a response to the plan based on our interviews. In it we suggested that, since the problems were systemic, that even should the money be raised, the plan was unlikely to stem the tide of migrants to the city's streets.
We suggested alternatives that might start to meet the problems. We recommended that school supplies for children be funded by the government permitting more to stay in school; that food subsidies that were in place in the former regime be re-instituted; that housing for the poor be built in cities such as Hawassa; and that wages for workers be allowed to rise, so that working families need not beg.
We met with the mayor, who said he was too busy to read our report and suggested we were meddlers in affairs that did not concern us.
Did they concern us? Yes. These women and children had shared their pain and their dreams and had taught me in no uncertain terms that their aspirations and their worth were equal to mine. Their passions and concerns for their families, their humor and demand for dignity rang true and familiar.
What differed was their pain, suffering and absence of resources. I recognized that we of the global north ignore their plight at our moral peril.
I am not a development expert, but I know that my country and the World Bank it influences have demanded of developing countries that, in exchange for loans, they eliminate any social safety net for their poor. Those agencies have demanded that necessities - food, housing, medical care - be paid for by those who cannot pay, but who are supposed to benefit from the trickle down of investment. In the main it has not trickled down and despite expanding economies the poorest have become even poorer and hungrier.
This is not sustainable for Miriam, Zeritu, Meselech, Biruk, Ashenafi or Ganda. They teeter on the edge of survival in a world that can and should offer them more.
Marty Nathan, M.D., of Northampton is assistant professor of medicine at Tufts University, a family practitioner at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield, and a 2011 Fulbright Specialist at Hawassa Referral Hospital in Hawassa, Ethiopia.
About the Bloger
Prof Muse Tegegne
- Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change & Liberation in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva. A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies. He wrote on the problematic of the Horn of Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.