Friday, September 20, 2013

Ethiopian Regime Repression » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts,


by GRAHAM PEEBLES
They speak of democracy, but act violently to suppress dissenting voices and control the people through the inculcation of fear: they ignore human rights and trample on the people, they are a tyrannical wolf in democratic sheep’s clothing, causing suffering and misery to thousands of people throughout Ethiopia. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government repeatedly scoffs at international law and consistently acts in violation of their own Federal constitution – a liberal document written by the regime to please and deceive their foreign supporters. They have enacted laws of repression: the widely condemned Charities and Societies (ATD) law (CSO law) and the Anti Terrorism Declaration, which is the main tool of political control, together with
The ‘Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation’ they form a formidable unjust arsenal of government control. Freedom of the media (which is largely ‘state-owned’) is denied and political dissent is all but outlawed.
Against this repressive backdrop, the Semayawi (Blue) party, a new opposition group, organized peaceful protests on the 2nd June in Addis Ababa. Ten thousand or so people marched through the capital demanding the release of political prisoners, “respect for the constitution” and Justice! Justice! Justice! It was (Reuters 2/06/2013 reported), an “anti-Government procession…. the first large-scale protest since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 200 people”, a ‘disputed election’ result that was discredited totally by European Union observers and denounced by opposition groups and large swathes of the population.
The Chairman of the Semayawi Party, Yilekal Getachew, told Reuters, “We have repeatedly asked the government to release political leaders, journalists and those who asked the government not to intervene in religious affairs”. In keeping with the recent worldwide movement for freedom and social justice, he stated that, “if these questions are not resolved and no progress is made in the next three months, we will organize more protests. It is the beginning of our struggle”. To the disappointment of many and the surprise of nobody, the government has made no attempt to ‘resolve’ the questions raised, and true to their word a second demonstration was planned for 1st September in Addis Ababa. In the event, as the BBC report, around “100 members of Ethiopia’s opposition Semayawi (Blue) party were arrested and some badly beaten”, and “equipment such as sound systems were confiscated”, ahead of the planned rally, which was banned by the EPRDF. Government justification formed, and a cock and bull story was duly constructed with Communication Minister Shimeles Kemal stating “the venue [for Semayawi’s event) had already been booked by a pro-government group condemning religious extremism”.
Non-interference in religious affairs is one of the key demands of the Semayawi party, a demand based upon the constitutional commitment of religious independence from the State, which Muslim groups claim the government has violated. Enraged by government interference in all matters religious, the Muslim community have organised regular small-scale protests and sit-ins in the capital for the last two years. In early August, Reuters 8/08/2013 reported “Demonstrators chanted "Allahu Akbar" and hoisted banners that read "respect the constitution", referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council”. Around 40% of Ethiopia’s population (around 85 million) are Muslim, for generations they have lived amicably with their Orthodox Christians neighbours, who make up the majority in the country; they are moderate in their beliefs and peaceful in their ways. The EPRDF in contrast are violent, intolerant and ideologically driven; ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ being the particular tune to which the democratic dictatorship hums and drums its partisan rule.
“Name-Calling”
The government’s response to the peaceful demonstrations, has unsurprisingly been intolerant and dismissive; their comments inflammatory and predictable, stating Mail@Guardian 14/07/2013 record, "most of these demonstrators are Islamic extremists”, and showing their own ‘extreme’ tendencies, authoritively declaring that “the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by "extremists" [this time] overseas”. Duplicitous nonsense, which serves to distract attention from the underlying issues being raised and the imperative (and legal requirement) for the government to act in accordance with its own constitution.
Along with such disingenuous comments the regime has responded to the protests in a repressive manner; imprisoning Muslims calling for justice, causing Amnesty International 8/08/2013 to be “extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia… of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters”, Amnesty demand that the “on-going repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now”. Despite the fact that the protests have been peaceful and good-natured the regime has consistently described the protesters as violent terrorists, in February the ‘Holy War Movement’ was shown on State Television, it presented protestors and those arrested (including journalists), as terrorists. And in a clear violation of people’s constitutional right to protest, the regime has threatened to take firm action against further protests.
Whilst the majority of actions during the last two years have been without incident, protests in Kofele in the Oromia region on 8th August ended in “the deaths of an unconfirmed number”, there have also been reports of large numbers of people being arrested in Kofele and Addis Ababa, including two journalists. Following the Kofele deaths Amnesty called for “an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the events in Kofele, as well as into the four incidents last year which resulted in the deaths and injuries of protestors”. Legitimate demands which the regime has duly ignored.
The EPRDF does not tolerate any independent media coverage within the country and indeed does all it can to control the flow of information out of Ethiopia and restrict totally dissenting voices. And they don’t care who the journalist is working for, key allies or diaspora media; In October 2012 a reporter from the Voice of America (VOA) covering a protest in Anwar Mosque in Addis was arrested and told to erase her recorded interviews, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report. This was not the first time a VOA journalist had been detained. “They are criminalizing journalism,” said Martin Schibbye a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed [in 2011] along with a colleague for more than 14 months in Ethiopia”, for entering the Ogaden region. A heavily militarized area where wide ranging human rights violations constituting crimes against humanity are taking place, which has been hidden from the International media and aid organisations since 2007. Fearing imprisonment, many journalists have left Ethiopia, CPJ report that in 2012, along with Eritrea, it was were Africa’s ‘top jailer’ of journalists”, coming in eighth worldwide.
Unjust Laws of Control
In July last year, hundreds of protesting Muslims peacefully demanding that the government stop interfering in their religious affairs and allow them to vote freely for representatives on the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Most were released, but 29 members of the protest committee were charged on 29th October under the universally criticized Anti Terrorist Declaration (ATD), accused of “intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause” by force, and the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of terrorist acts.” Their arrest has been slammed by human rights groups as well as the United States Commission on religious Freedom, who “are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s government is seeking to silence peaceful religious freedom proponents by detaining and trying them in secret under trumped-up terrorism charges.  They should be released now and their trials halted”. The men claim to have been “tortured and experienced other ill-treatment in detention”.
The ambiguous ATD was introduced in 2009 and has been used by the Ethiopian government, “to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) state. It violates dues process, which like a raft of other internationally recognized and legally binding rights, is enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. The legislation cause outrage amongst human rights groups and the right minded when it was proposed. HRW (30/06/2009) said of the draft law, (which un-amended found its way onto the statute books) that it would “permit the government to repress a wide range of internationally protected freedoms”, – precisely the reason for it’s introduction, and it provides “the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy”.
The unjust law allows for long-tem imprisonment and the death penalty for so called crimes that meet some EPRDF definition of terrorism, and denies in some cases a defendants right to be presumed innocent – the bedrock of the international judicial system. Torture is used without restraint by the military and police, under the ATD evidence obtained whilst a prisoner is being beaten, hanged, whipped or drowned is admissible in court, this criminal act contravenes Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (ratified by Ethiopia in 1994), which ‘requires that any statement made as a result of torture is inadmissible as evidence’. Terrorism is indeed an issue of grave concern in Ethiopia, it is not rooted in the Muslim community, the media, the Blue Party or the Universities, it is State Terrorism that stalks this land, that kills and falsely imprisons, tortures and rapes the innocent, it is the EPRDF; the rebel group that ousted a communist dictator in 1991 only to take up his tyrannical mantle, who manipulate the law to serve their repressive rule and who violates a plethora of human rights, consistently and with impunity. Ethiopia’s donors and international friends, (primarily America and Britain) have other, larger fish on their minds, and even though they give the country over a third of its federal budget they seem unconcerned by the criminality being committed, much of which is taking place under the cloak of development. Violent rule however is a storm that is imploding throughout the world, the people, who have suffered long enough, sense their collective strength and are awakening.
Need for Unity
Although completely contrary to the EPRDF’s pledge of Federal Federalism, divide and rule is the effective methodology of division employed by the regime. In a country with dozens of tribal groups, various ethnicities and different religious beliefs (Islam and Christianity), unity is the key to any popular social revolution, much needed and ardently longed for by millions throughout the land. We are witnessing a worldwide protest movement for change; age-old values of freedom, equality and social justice, brotherhood and peace are the clarion call of many marching and protesting. And so it is in Ethiopia, the Blue party and other opposition groups, the Muslim community and the students on the streets demanding Justice! Justice! Jusitce! are in harmony with the rhythm of the times. Out of step and blind to the needs of the people and their rightful demands, the ruling party acts with violence to drown out their voices and suppress their rights: in Addis Ababa, where thousands marched in June, in Oromia and the Ogaden, where the people seek autonomy, in Amhara, where thousands have been displaced, in Gambella and the Lower Omo Valley, where native people are being driven off their ancestral land into state created villages, women raped and men beaten.
Unity is the song of the day, rich with diversity united in intent, the collective will of the people of Ethiopia and indeed throughout the world is an unstoppable force for change. All steps need to be taken to remove the obstacle to the realization of unity throughout the country, ethnic prejudices and tribal differences; all need to be laid aside. The Ethiopian regime may succeed in subduing the movement for change that is simmering throughout the country, however with sustained unified action, peacefully undertaken and relentlessly expressed, freedom and social justice, longed for by millions throughout the country, will surely come.
Graham Peebles is director of the Create Trust. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Selassie: a very modern monarch | The Voice Online

Selassie: A Very Modern Monarch
On the anniversary of the end of his rule, we examine how Haile Selassie helped bring Africa into the 20th century
By Jermaine Haughton

‘FATHER OF AFRICA’: Under Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopa became a charter member of the United Nations.
HAILE SELASSIE (1892 – 1975) was deposed as Emperor of Ethiopia 39 years ago in a military coup, ending his more than half a century reign over the only African nation never to be officially colonised.
Standing at a diminutive 5ft 4ins, Selassie was both Napoleonic in stature and resilience, defiantly seeing off the five-year fascist occupation of Ethiopia during the Second World War, belligerent in his determination for a strong and powerful united Africa and its diaspora.
Selassie – heir to a dynasty which claimed origins dating back to King Solomon – was denounced by his critics as an undemocratic pampered leader who enjoyed life’s finer luxuries and who allegedly transferred billions of pounds of public funds into private overseas bank accounts.
ILLITERATE
But his supporters will conversely argue that he was responsible for leading a largely illiterate, rural and feudal country with 2,000 languages and dialects into the 20th century. To followers of the Rastafari movement, he was God incarnated.
Most notable was Selassie’s contribution to African unity and the Pan-African movement.
A fellow African who met the emperor at the United Nations Security Council session in Addis Ababa in 1972 surmised: “Haile Selassie is one of the world's great men. He did a lot for his country and early became a respected voice for Africa and for the third world."
Indeed, in 1935, he was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year.
Ras Habte Wold, from West Midlands-based research group Rastafari Heritage, spoke of the emperor’s impact on Africa. He said: “He modernised Ethiopia and brought her out of the dark ages into the modern world. His efforts led Ethiopia to join the League of Nations in September 1923.
“He, through the ‘Power of the Holy Trinity’ [which translates as Haile Selassie in Amharic language] shone a bright light of liberation that inspired black people across the world to shake off the yoke of captivity and ‘down-pression’ and to stand as free men. This light which he shone amongst his own African people would also light up the lives of all peoples, tongues, colours and nations.
“The Emperor is called the ‘Father of Africa’ for his work towards bringing unity amongst the African countries which had disputes, being a founder member of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity), and then wider afield championed world peace across the globe.”
SOPHISTICATED
It was Selassie who established one of Ethiopia’s first universities, now Addis Ababa University, which taught political economy and law among other subjects, as well as enabling the Ethiopian military to learn the sophisticated training techniques of allies like the United States – which were to be used against him in the military coup in 1974.
His Pan-Africanism ideology was influential across the globe, reflected in the civil rights movement in the US and in South Africa. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent.
‘FATHER OF AFRICA’: Under Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopa became a charter member of the United Nations.

COVER STAR: The leader was honoured by Time magazine in 1935
Alongside other important thinkers such as Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, Selassie’s influence was important for the creation of the African Union (AU) in 2001, consisting of every African state barring Morocco – making it the largest and most influential Pan-African organisation in the world.
With economic growth among Africa’s larger nations such as Angola, Ghana and Nigeria up to around four per cent, the AU is in a special strategic position both politically and geographically. It therefore suggests that the AU can play an important role in brokering important decisions for its people and overseas.
UNIFICATION
Toyin Agbetu, founder of the Pan-African human rights organisation Ligali, argued that the unification of African people is more urgently needed within governments rather than in local communities: “The unification of Africa has been going on for many years at a trade level, with people freely selling and buying goods from different countries – sharing their experiences, language and customs. On the other hand, there is a lack of unification on a political and economic level, partly due to the living legacy of the way Africa was divided by colonial powers. The African Union has great potential to improve the standing of the continent. Work still needs to be done though. In the past, the AU has been used as a talking shop for politicians, while there are people who are doing some great work under the radar, who don’t make the headlines.”
However, Agbetu adds that it is the education of the people which is needed to drive greater cooperation among African nations.
“People can create that change. We cannot wait for others to decide our futures. We all have to embrace political literacy and create leaders who can make the change we want. So far, many African countries have struggled to translate their personal relationships institutionally.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sudan, Ethiopia hold joint defence meeting on cross-border issues - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

September 5, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Sudanese defence ministers, experts and chiefs of staff held a three-day cooperation meeting with their Ethiopian counterparts in Addis Ababa.
According to the Ethiopian ministry of foreign Affairs, the meeting was held from 31 August to 2 September and concluded after the defence ministers of both countries endorsed the outcome of the meeting.
The joint committee commended the joint efforts undertaken by both Sudan and Ethiopia to curb cross-border crimes, including arms smuggling, illegal trade and contraband, as well as human trafficking.
During the meeting, members reviewed the existing action plan in place to be fully implemented by 2015, as well recommending better ways to boost common security efforts.
“The committee was concerned with assessment of aspects of cooperation between the two countries, based on the defence protocol signed by Sudan and Ethiopia in May 2009”, said Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, spokesman of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).
Defence cooperation activities currently in place between Ethiopia and Sudan include conducting joint field patrols, information exchange, as well as monitoring anti-peace elements operating along the shared border.
In addition, both countries undertook to continue military training on peace keeping activities and implement programs based around experience-sharing activities.
The two sides also reached an agreement to increase the level of intelligence shared and to conduct more joint field patrols in order to enhance border security.
It was decided that the next joint defence technical committee meeting would be held in February next year in Khartoum.

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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.