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Friday August 29th 2014

‘Asii fi Achi’ Archive

A Large-Scale Attack against Refugees in Kenya

(URJII ONLINE)

The Kenyan police and security agents have arbitrarily arrested and detained around 6000 refugees who are originally from neighbourning Horn of African countries; and have continued hunting for more, reported HRLHA reporter in Nairobi, Kenya on April 13, 2014.

This indiscriminate action against all immigrants who have been in the country began on Friday April 2, 2014; and has mainly targeted the immigrants living in Eastleigh District of Nairobi, a neighbourhood largely dominated by Somalis and Oromo immigrants and is often referred to as district of immigrants.  More than 400 Oromos and other Ethiopian immigrants have been arrested in these crackdowns. The crackdowns against immigrants by Kenyan Police and security began is said to been in response to the three bomb blasts in Eastleigh/ Nairobi and Mombasa in late March 2014, which killed about 12 people and injured 8 others. According to HRLHA’s informant, more than two thousand asylum seekers and refugees have been detained in the Kasarani football stadium in the Capital, a location described as a temporary police station, while some are being held at the Pangani police station.

Among hundredths of Ethiopian Oromos arrested in Nairobi, HRLHA has managed to obtain the following names:

No Name No Name Status
1 Abdi Mohammed Ahamed 26 Arif   Amin  Abdallaa Asylum Seeker
2 Suleyman Nuure Mohammed 27 Ismail  Iliyas  Kamaal Asylum Seeker
3 Ibsaa Safuan Mohammed Najash 28 Arif  Abdulwad  Abdalle Asylum Seekrd
4 Rudwan Abubakar Ali 29 Ibsaa Jemal Mohammed Asylum Seeker
5 Iliyas Kamal Usma’il 30 Fariya Mohammed Asylum Seeker
6 Abdisaa Mohammed Kalif 31 Mommed Nasir  Yusuf Asylum Seeker
7 Jemaal Sani Mohammed 32 Mommed Nasir  Yusuf Asylum Seeker
8 Anwar Muktar Ahamed 33 Ilillii   Abrahim Asylum Seeker
9 Nabil Abdulaxif 34 Sa’ada  Aqil Asylum Seeker
10 Tumsaa Robaa Qaxxisoo UN.mndt file NETH033036/1 35 Abdoo Nahawi Asylum Seeker
11 Imane Ahamed Yusuf UN file #NETH038280 36 Rihanaa Mohammed Mussaa Asylum Seeker
12 Jbny Najib Abubakar 37 Mistar Jamaal Asylum Seeker
13 Roba  Yusuf Abdalle 38 Guuled  Sheka Asylum Seeker
14 Adam Roba 39 Ifa Abdulahi Hassan file No.NETH035846/1
15 Mohammed  Osman Roba 40 Mahadi  Idiris Asylum Seeker
16 Fuad Aliyi Mumme 41 Azizaa Asylum Seeker
17 Nasri Ibrahim Jibro 42 Yusuf Yahya Ahamed/Somli

Asylum Seeker18Faami Sharif Ali 43Abdi Abduraman KabirAsylum Seeker19

Jemal  Abdo Osman

 

44Zakariya Mohammed OumerAsylum Seeker20Gatiso  Phetroos Eroke 45Yassin Ahamed/OromoAsylum Seeker21Sani   Ahamed  Yusuf 46Haaji Shariif AliAsylum Seeker22Xeha   Mohammed 47Abdusamad AmeWith Family23Ashrafuu  Ali Mussaa 48Mubina AbdusamadWith Family24Mohammed  Osman Mussaa 49Caaltuu AbdusamadWith Family25Zanabe  Hobe  Negiso

 

 

The HRLHA has also learnt that the Kenyan police and security forces are extorting valuable materials and also committing physical and mental abuses during the arrests. Besides, the Kenyan authorities have disclosed to different media agents that they are intending to deport all UNHCR unregistered asylum seekers; and have already deported 82 Somali refugees based on a pretext that they entered into Kenya without legal document.

The HRLHA would like to reiterate that deportations of regugees to their countries of origin against their wills is in breach of  Kenyan and international laws.  In case those Ethiopian-Oromo and other refugees have been deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and sentences them to up to life in prison, and often impose death penalty. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other unofficial or secret detention centres. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Kenya is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly. By deporting the four refugees and others, the Kenyan Government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.

Kenya: Arrest and Disappearance of Ethiopian Oromo Refugees

(URJII ONLINE)

Usual as it has been in the past twenty or so years, four Oromo refugees have been arrested or kidnapped in Nairobi, Kenya on the first of this month of February, 2014, and taken to an unknown destination. Below is an URGENT ACTION issued by the HRLHA regarding the current situation around the lives and whereabouts of the four Oromos who have been taken away by Kenyan Security agents:

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) expresses its deep concern regarding the safety of four Oromo refugees from Ethiopia who were arbitrarily arrested by Kenyan anti-terrorist squad from Isili  area in Nairobi  on different dates of operations  and taken to unknown destinations.

               According to information obtained through HRLHA correspondent in Nairobi, Mr. Tumsa Roba Katiso, (UNHCR attestation File#: NETH033036/1) was arrested by members of Kenyan anti-terrorist squad, who arrived at the scene in two vehicles, on February 1, 2014 at around 10:00 AM from 2nd Street in the Isili locality in Nairobi on his way home from shopping. The other three refugees, Mr. Chala Abdalla, Mr. Namme Abdalla, and the third person whose name is not known yet were picked up from their home which is located in the same Isli area in Nairobi, Kenya on February 3, 2014 by members of the same anti-terrorist squad of Kenyan. The whereabouts of those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees is unknown until the time of compilation of this urgent action.

The HRLHA is highly suspicious that those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees might have been deported to Ethiopia. And, in case those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees have been deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and sentences them to up to life in prison, and often impose death penalty. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other unofficial or secret detention centres. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Kenya is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly. By deporting the four refugees and others, the Kenyan Government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.

  1. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) to which Kenya acceded in 1997, Kenya has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:

    No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. We strongly urge the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations it has signed

Background Information:

The Kenyan Government is well known for handing over refugees to the Ethiopian Government by violating the above mentioned international obligations. It is very disheartening to recall that Engneer Tesfahun Chemeda, who died on August 24, 2013 in Ethiopia’s grand jail of Kaliti due to torture that was inflicted on him in that jail, was handed over to the Ethiopian Government Security Agents in 2007 by the Kenyan Government.

               Tesfahun Chemeda was arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces, along with his close friend called Mesfin Abebe, in 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, where both were living as refugees since 2005; and later deported to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government detained them in an underground jail in a military camp for over one year, during which time they were subjected to severe torture and other types of inhuman treatments until when they were taken to court and changed with terrorism offences in December 2008. They were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010.  (Mesfin’s death sentence was later commuted.)

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and security of the above listed refugees who were recently arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces; and for those who are still living in Kenya. It urges the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations, and unconditionally release the arrested refugees, and refrain from handing over to the government of Ethiopia where they would definitely face torture and maximum punishments. It also urges all human rights agencies (local, regional and international) to join the HRLHA and condemn these illegal and inhuman acts of the Kenyan Government against defenseless refugees. HRLHA requests the governments of the Western countries as well as international organizations to interfere in this matter so that the safety and security of the arrested refugees and those refugees currently staying in Kenya could be ensured.



Dictatorship and its Evolution: Contrasting Burma with Ethiopia



By Messay Kebede: 

Since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of the opposition to the military rule, Burma’s (Myanmar) political evolution has become an important discussion topic for political observers and analysts. Detecting a promising shift toward democratic opening, Hillary Clinton recently visited Burma and held talks with political leaders. The hope is that, after decades of a dictatorial military rule and deferred promises of democratization, Burma is finally engaging in the serious path of political reforms and transition to democratic government. On the other hand, Ethiopia, which had a fleeting experiment with free and fair elections in 2005, is going through the reverse process of a repressive and dictatorial government whose notable outcome was the holding of an election in 2010 that was anything but fair and free and resulted in the regime claiming 99.66 % of parliamentary seats. The purpose of my analysis is to compare the two countries with the hope of clarifying the reasons why they took divergent political paths and assessing the implications of Ethiopia’s democratic retreat, together with the political options offered to opposition forces as well as to the ruling party.

Many Similitudes

Lest of being accused of comparing oranges with apples, I must begin by showing that the two countries are indeed comparable. Notably, one immediate and weighty counterargument would be to say that the Ethiopian regime has all the characteristics of a civilian government while that of Burma is a military rule, itself the result of a coup in 1958 against the then legitimate civilian government. I grant the difference but also remind that, while open military regimes indeed materialize the hegemony of military elites in the form of a direct or indirect rule––the latter often done through the conversion of military rulers to civilian politicians––there is an intermediate form in which the military elite forms a tight coalition with a ruling civilian elite. My contention is that the latter applies to Ethiopia, there being no doubt that both the history of the TPLF as a guerrilla organization and the privileged treatment that the Meles’s government accords to the military produce a de facto alliance between the civilian leadership and the repressive apparatus of the regime. Since the regime has lost any legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Ethiopians, the use of military and police forces alone ensures its survival.

There is more to the matter than the above similarity. Though belonging to different continents and histories, Ethiopia and Burma share many striking similarities. To begin with, not only in a way similar to Burma Ethiopia was subjected to a repressive military rule for an extended period subsequent to a coup that overthrew a civilian government, but also the military rule in both countries was coupled with the implementation of a socialist policy. Just as the Derg traded its initial nationalist platform for a socialist agenda, so too the military junta that ruled Burma announced in 1974 the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

As a result, both countries suffer from a legacy of economic mismanagement imparted by the nationalization of the means of production and the subsequent spread of corruption and lack of accountability. What is more, after the disavowal of socialism, a skewed policy of privatization of state-owned enterprises has led in both countries to the formation of conglomerates owned by ramifications of the ruling parties or their closest cronies. Just as in Ethiopia privatization meant the corrupt practices of passing ownership to extended organs of the TPLF, in Burma, too, denationalization changed state property into the private property of generals or their cronies. Unsurprisingly, the prevention of a healthy and open competition and the drainage of the financial resources by the monopolistic and corrupt practices of the conglomerates failed to improve economic outputs so that real economic progress has remained elusive in both countries.

Another noticeable similitude is that both countries have suffered and still suffer from ethnic quarrels and insurgencies. Like Burma, Ethiopia is an ethnically diverse country with a history of armed insurgencies fuelled by a longstanding grudge against a dominant ethnic group. In Burma, ethnic groups have complained about the dominance of Burmans, who constitute 60% of the population, and the policy of Burmanization that resulted in minority groups being economically and culturally marginalized. We know that the source of ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia is the complaint about the dominance of the Amhara and the policy of Amharization. In the face of ethnic insurgencies, the central state in both countries has assumed the responsibility of defending national unity through the formation of a strong military force.

In terms of ethnic conflicts and their outcomes, there are, however, notable differences. Contrary to Burma, the Amhara dominance was not the hegemony of a majority, since the Oromo ethnic group can claim to be as populous (if not more) as the Amhara, not to mention that today’s dominance of a Tigrean group has plunged Ethiopia into the uncharted course of the ascendency of a minority group. Above all, the military in Burma were able to contain ethnic insurgencies, whereas armed insurgent groups defeated and destroyed the Ethiopian army. The clear outcome of this was that in Ethiopia the military junta lost power and was replaced by a guerrilla elite while Eritrea became independent. But as stated earlier, some such difference does not remove the fact that the TPLF’s rule is the result of one military force replacing another military force.

Most characteristically, the existing regimes in Burma and Ethiopia are similar in the way they react to electoral defeats. Both like to brag about the opening of the political field, which however they are quick to repudiate at the slightest challenge. Thus, in 1990 the military regime in Burma announced the holding of the long promised free election whose outcome was that the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory. The reaction of the military leaders was typical: they refused to hand over power to the victorious party and put Suu Kyi and other leaders under house arrest.

Restarting the opening process, Burma’s military rulers announced in 2003 a seven-step roadmap to democracy that would culminate in the holding of free elections. The promised elections were held in 2010, but which were far from being free and fair since, in addition to the electoral process being marred with widespread frauds and irregularities, the National League for Democracy was banned from participating and its leader still under house arrest. Even so, the ruling junta announced a complete victory by stating that the party representing it, the Union
Solidarity and Development Party, had won 80% of the votes.

We remember a similar scenario in Ethiopia. The relatively free and fair election held in 2005 resulted in the opposition gaining a substantial victory. The reaction of the TPLF was the rejection of the results, the imprisonment of the main leaders of the opposition, and the violent crackdown on protesters. A blatant intensification of repression followed, even as the holding of free elections in 2010 was reaffirmed. The promised elections were held amidst intimidation, repression, and restrictive rules. The ruling party unashamedly claimed to have won 99.66 % of parliamentary seats even if opposition parties and external observers spoke of votes being rigged and voters and candidates being intimidated and harassed.

It should be noted that the upgrading of repressive policy had comparable effects on the opposition forces. In both countries, opposition groups have failed to either force the existing ruling elites into dialogue or ease in any way the repressive policy. This failure has led to fragmentations over the right approach, some opposition groups turning more and more to armed struggles while others prefer to rely on the likelihood of a popular uprising. Thus, powerlessness has resulted in the split within the National League for Democracy, some groups having decided not to boycott the elections and work with the ruling party. Though Ethiopian opposition groups present a different aspect, still the inability to force change on the regime has caused splits and strategic reassessments.

Main Differences

As concerns differences, a notable factor appears in the relations of both countries with the West. Since 1996, Burma is under international sanctions organized by Western countries, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Such is not the case with Ethiopia, since despite widespread violations of human rights, Western governments have been reluctant to economically punish the Woyanne regime, mainly because the regime is considered as an ally in the fight against terrorism and appears as the only stable state in a highly volatile region. However, the difference is somewhat decreased when we note that the international sanctions against the Burmese regime are far from being efficient, given that the sanctions were not strictly enforced and that the two neighboring countries, namely, China and India as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, proved reluctant to support Burma’s economic and political isolation.

Where the difference becomes major is that the military regime in Burma, admitting its undemocratic nature, proposed in 2003 a roadmap that traces out a step-by-step progression to democratic government, which, it is true, many observers found painstakingly slow and unreliable. By contrast, the Woyanne regime has never been sincere enough to recognize its lack in democratic credentials, and so never offered any transitional arrangement on the grounds that Ethiopia is provided with a blossoming democracy since the overthrow of the Derg and the capture of state power by the TPLF. Some such attitude allows the holding of a bizarre discourse in which the regime interprets its crackdown on political dissents, not as an opposition to democracy, but as the defense of the democratic order against nondemocratic forces.

From the above disparity follows the Ethiopian regime’s constant game of deception, which blocks the need for a transitional process and whose consequence is the establishment of a political deadlock cornering many Ethiopians into rejecting the idea of evolution of the regime, thereby giving them no other choice than passivity or the resource to violent methods. Needless to say, to the extent that the impasse deprecates nonviolent opposition, it promises nothing but uncertain outcomes for Ethiopia as well as for those who control power.

Burma’s Incentives for Change

To understand why Burma engaged into a transitional process, it is necessary that we delve into the reasons why the military junta thought that gradual democratization is the best option for all. I have already indicated that the decision to open the political competition was not caused by the pressure of opposition forces. Then, what could impel a well-established dictatorship to open a political system that so durably and efficiently defended its hegemony? It must be said here that analysts differ in their explanation of the change of political direction.
Many observers maintain that the planned democratization is simply a fake promise designed to perpetuate military rule under civilian disguises. Others, however, are more cautious, arguing that there are some compelling reasons for democratization, however slow and unsteady the process may be. For such commentators, economic interests are the driving force behind the timid push for democratization. The first commanding point is the geographical situation of Burma, notably that it is part of a region that is going through an unprecedented economic boom. The realization that Burma, far from participating in the boom, is falling behind is incentive enough for the military to think about change.

The awakening includes the recognition that the dictatorial system in place stifles free and fair competition and encourages corruption and embezzlement, and so stands in the way of economic improvement. A dynamic market economy requires that the political apparatus be unlocked so that excluded and educated people inject their expertise, their dream of prosperity, and their social ambition into the economic system. In other words, political opening became appealing to the ruling junta in Burma, not because of internal threats to the dictatorial system, but because of the understanding that economic progress is conditional on political reforms.

A related incentive to political change toward democratization is the need to lift the economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and international financial institutions. What this means is that, once the military junta had decided to engage the country in the path of economic development, the lifting of international sanctions through slow but palpable political changes became an integral part of the new direction of the country.

Political opening became all the more attractive because of the involvement of many army generals in the sector of private business following the privatization of state-owned enterprises. The corrupt practice of privatization, which favored senior officers, had the unintended consequences of creating a business-military group with some leaning for a healthy private economy. This group of generals, retired or not, was likely to use its influence and power to bring about those changes necessary to accelerate the pace of personal enrichment. Stated otherwise, the fact that many generals privately owned businesses encouraged the gradual shift of their interests from political power to the management of their businesses.

One other reason for political overture advanced by some observers is the development of a generational conflict within the military. As the senior officers who established the dictatorial system became old, younger officers aspired to replace them. The best way to avoid generational conflicts that would undermine the unity of the armed forces is to transit to a civilian government, while protecting the interests of the military as well as of the old and retiring guard. A civilian government friendly to the military could be established if the military initiate and control the democratization process. Since the people owe democratization to the military, they would express their gratitude and their recognition of the military as the protector of democracy by favoring the party representing military interests.

Meles’s Kryptonite

Insofar as the Burmese evolution is triggered by the understanding that the establishment of a free market economy cannot come about without political reforms, it provides an important lesson for Ethiopia’s ruling clique. Meles’s government survival depends on its ability to control the repressive forces of the state. This ability, in turn, depends on Meles’s success in keeping the repressive forces materially satisfied and using them in a moderate way, given that an excessive recourse to the violent means of the state to suppress recurring riots caused by economic crises would be troubling to them. These two conditions point to nothing else but the need to realize a steady economic growth in the country. Meles understands this quite well, as evidenced by his flirtation with the idea of developmental state. To quote Addis Fortune, “having rejected democracy, the Revolutionary Democrats only have their ability to deliver economic growth as their source of legitimacy.”

Meles’s dream to bring about a developmental state must confront one undeniable fact: neither the pursuit of one’s interests nor the gratitude and the loyalty or fear of clients, still less moral exhortations, can nurture a sustained achieving drive, alone able to launch Ethiopia in a real path of economic development. A sustained productive appetite requires the challenge of a social system rejecting the ascriptive protection of clients, cronies, and ethnic associates, that is, it demands the exposure of the business community to the constant challenge of a competitive market. And since economic progress is necessary to remove the threat of popular uprisings, it springs to mind that political reforms should be an essential component of the survival strategy of the Woyanne regime.

My guess is that Meles dismisses the idea of political opening because he has in mind the Chinese model of economic growth without democratic opening. Yet, he should realize that the Chinese model is off the table for Ethiopia. To start with, Ethiopia is saddled with conflicts of all kinds, especially with ethnic rivalries, mostly nurtured by the TPLF itself. The proliferation of competing elites representing various ethnic groups places Ethiopia far away from the homogeneous nature of the Chinese elite. One of the consequences of the Maoist class war has been the elimination of elite diversity in favor of a uniformized leadership structure. Such is not the case in Ethiopia where elites have tended to disperse around competing interests, made particularly exclusive by identity politics. Witness even the EPRDF is a coalition of diverse ethnic groups, and so has nothing to do with the monolithic character of Chinese political elite fashioned by decades of ideological uniformity, Spartan alignment, and an internalized sense of hierarchical discipline.

Nothing that resembles even remotely the Chinese uniformization characterizes the formation of modern elites in Ethiopia. The Chinese characteristic of the political class, the military elite, and the bureaucracy being for decades under the control of a disciplined, united, and omnipresent political party is to be found nowhere in Ethiopia. Again, take the EPRDF. In addition to being an alliance of disparate groups, the main uniting force of the political front, namely, the TPLF, assuming that it has been somewhat disciplined, fragmented in 2001. The split and its subsequent developments opened the door to an influx of arrivistes, yes-men, and opportunists of all varieties. The consequence was that recruitments into the political, economic, and bureaucratic elites were based more on loyalty to Meles and his close associates than on ideological commitment and competence. All these people associated with the ruling clan for the unique purpose of personal enrichment through political protection and illicit means. It is therefore a divagation to assume that economic progress can be achieved with so many corrupt, incompetent, and self-serving people infecting the entire political and economic apparatuses.

The Transitional Process

However compelling the need for political opening has become to accelerate Burma’s economic progress and the very interests of the Burmese military, it must not be made to seem that the military are ready to hand over power to an elected body. As already indicated, the democratization process must promote their long-interests, and so must remain under their control for a foreseeable future. How could it be otherwise when we know the corrupt source of their enrichment and the absence of a serious threat to their continued rule? For them, democratization must guarantee, not their marginalization, but their integration into the emerging system and the preservation of their privileged place.

The means to ensure the above result is to place restrictions on the democratization process such that the military still command a political leverage that gives them assurance against political exclusion. In effect, the 2008 Constitution reserves 25 percent of legislative seats and all government posts associated with defense and security to the members of the military. In addition, the Constitution allows autonomy to the military in their own affairs, just as it puts them in charge of the protection of the Constitution, security, and unity of the country.
No mistake about it, the military still have extensive power and the political opening allows anything but a fair and free contest. Nonetheless, compared to the Woyanne regime, it has the advantages of clarity and the avoidance of deception and betrayal of one’s own Constitution, such as it happens to Meles’s government every time it transgresses the promised respect of the democratic rights of all Ethiopians. Above all, the Burmese Constitution has the advantage of promising a gradual democratization while the Woyanne’s attitude of denying rights permitted by the Constitution blocks political evolution, giving Ethiopians no other option than violent uprisings.
Granted that good reasons exist to characterize the transition process set by the military as nothing but a sham, a disguised means to preserve the status quo, the fact remains that other Asian countries have progressed into multiparty systems after decades of military or civilian dictatorships. All these countries have started with slow and incremental reforms whose effect was to create a growing middle class that became interested in supporting deeper economic reforms and political changes.

It is worth noticing here that opposition forces in Burma have evolved toward the acceptance of a transitional phase and abandoned their “full democracy now or nothing” approach by participating in the electoral contest of 2010, despite the many restrictions imposed by the military. Most significantly, after her release, Suu Kyi admitted the need for a transitional phase when she said: “I don’t want to see the military falling. . . . I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism.” Even if we assume that the military want to consolidate their power rather than to support democratization, it is undeniable that the opening of the political system and the participation of opposition forces can lead to gradual change reconciling the interests of the military with those of the nation.

Contrary to what is in gestation in Burma, the Woyanne retractions of democratic rights as a result of election defeat in 2005 creates nothing but a deadlock and a further deterioration of the political and economic life of the country. The only way out is political opening, as shown by the evolution of the Burmese military rulers, who came back to political opening after effecting a similar crackdown on the winning opposition party. The lesson that the Woyanne should learn is that the retraction of democratic rights is a recipe for economic mismanagement and stagnation and hence is not even in line with their own long-term interests.

The initiation of political opening is, moreover, the best way to argue for and make acceptable the setting of some rules to avoid a total loss of power. The deal should be the opening of the political system in exchange for some guarantees against marginalization, which is exactly what the military in Burma have proposed. Everything is possible in due time, and the Woyanne regime should use its hegemony to do what is possible instead of using its power to repress the opposition. The good usage of power is not repression, but the implementation of reforms that have the long-term outcome of integrating its own sectarian interests into the national interests. Since this process of integration is the sure way of avoiding revolutionary uprisings, which sound the end of reformism in favor of the overthrow of the existing regime, my question is: Why wait until things get out of hands with animosity reaches a boiling point even as solutions able to reconcile all interests can be worked out?

Opposition parties as well as the ruling party should know that their goals must be based on what is achievable. To do otherwise is to raise problems that they cannot solve for the simple reason that solvable problems are those that already implicitly contain their solutions. To project goals that do not contain their solutions is to plunge into a destructive utopianism, as illustrated by the mistakes and subsequent demise of the Ethiopian leftist forces after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974. Meles’s government cannot stifle the deep discontent of Ethiopians and the challenge of opposition parties; as things stand now, the latter (I am speaking of those committed to a nonviolent strategy) cannot force the ruling party to play the game of fair and free election. What remains but that which protrudes as reasonable and feasible by default, namely, the path of mutual accommodation.

Source;   http://nazret.com/blog/index.php/2011/12/22/dictatorship-and-its-evolution-contrasting-burma-with-ethiopia?blog=15

Ethiopia – Appeal to the Development Assistance Group (DAG) from Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway

Urjii 20, Dec 2011

 The Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway, released an appeal  demanding  the International Civic Organizations,  International Diplomats  and others to cooperate with  them to fight against  the TPLF Government to stop the land grab ruining the lives of million citizens in Oromia, Ogaden, Gambela, Benshangul and others.

The following is  an appeal  from the Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway sent  to  he Development Assistance Group (DAG)

Oromo community of South Rogaland

                        Postboks 638,
 4305 Sandnes, Norway                                                                              Email: oromorogaland@oromain.net

To To DAG Co-Chairs

C/o Victoria Chisala

DAG Secretariat

Programme Coordinator

Tel: +25111 5 44 42 56

Email: Victoria.Chisala@undp.org

13 December 2011

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing this letter to bring to your attention the ever-growing confiscation of land from peasants in the regional states of Oromia, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) and Ogaden by the government of Ethiopia for leasing to foreign investors.

In a country where agriculture is a means of subsistence for the life of more than 80% of the population and the main stay of the country’s economy, the Prime Minister Meles government took a reckless decision of leasing millions of hectares of arable land to foreign investors  producing crops for the latter’s own nation’s food need.

While several million people of Ethiopia rely on food aid, officials of the government indicated they on their way to transfer 3.6 million hectares of allotted land to foreign investors from India, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Netherlands, UK, Germany and others.

Dear sir/Madam

In the rush to dispossess this vast arable land, more than one million hectares have already been given away to giant foreign corporations almost exclusively in the regional States of Oromia, Southern Peoples Nations and Nationalities and Gambella. Reports indicate that more than 2.8 million people have already been evicted. In same manner these reports asserted that vast areas of protected forests, with the wildlife that made their homes here for centuries, were burned down altogether for the same purpose. From this reckless government repressive initiative, only few politically affiliated investors and foreign corporations are set to make huge profit by producing food crops and flowers which are exported back to wealthy markets while millions of evicted farmers and their fellow citizens are starving each year and receive food aid[1].

In various media interview Prime Minister Meles glorified his discriminatory land use policy which divides the country in to south and north[2]. In so doing he argued his government is applying these two extremes because of landscape and availability of “idle” land. The TPLF government is favouring the north, its base, by giving absolute land security to citizens while the peoples in the South are treated differently by calling the area ‘a zone of no man’ even though it is in reality inhabited by the indigenous people.

Actually, marginalizing the south has always been systematic especially when it comes to land use. After analysing the imperial political system, one of the famous historians on Ethiopia, John Markakis, noted nearly 50 years ago that:

“The southern peasantry, which found itself on a land claimed by the state, lost whatever rights it held traditionally over the land. The people were transferred in to gabbars [a term denoting servant or simple subject] of the state” while those in the North had secure rights over their land.”[3]

Despite the massive suppression that went on during the socialist era, the 1974 land reform that followed the revolution seemed to have somehow redressed the problem of land use, though the TPLF led government bowed down on reversing things in this regard.

Under the current system the peasants are not only denied to use the land for farming but also forced to stay away from the land. Unlike the imperial regime that allowed them at least working as serfs on the confiscated land, this time the central government chose to lease out the land to foreign investors who produce crop and flowers for export. In doing so the existing regime is using land as means of political manoeuvre. In fact, there are corroborating reports that suggest retaliatory goals perused by the government against its critics, including the peasantry in Ethiopia. [4] As 13 million people needed and receive food aid every year and while the income from this act of leasing out land is insignificant there is no any credible economic explanation for it. As they were given a five-year tax relief and since they are allowed to own it on lease for a period ranging from thirty to ninety nine years for about a dollar/hectare, there is no economic justification for leasing out the land in Ethiopia as such’[5] The land grabbing simply is part of a project to repress and silence the people through starvation and by creating dependency on all fronts.

Dear sirs/ Madam

As just indicated, currently leasing land for no credible national economic gain and against the will of the people continued to serve no more than the purpose of repression and marginalization of the peasantry.  Human Rights watch, Amnesty Intentional, other researchers and the civic society were asserting that land grabbing has been used as a means of repression. [6] The Development Assistance Group (DAG) gave a response to this report, in October 2010, asserting that:

“The objective of development partners in Ethiopia is to provide assistance that supports effective development and poverty reduction and that reaches its intended beneficiaries.  Respect for human rights is central to our work and to sustainable development. And some members of the DAG include human rights issues regularly in their dialogue with Government.”

After nearly two years, however, reports by Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based on field report, have shown the intensity of repression including but not limited to the act of using aid by the Ethiopian government to suppress and sideline the opposition in to submission. This  video documentary by John Viddal, in which an investor was proudly telling that he doesn’t even know the territorial border of the land he took against the eviction of the indigenous people, could tell the gravity of the problem. In this evidence based story he managed not only to tell the fact that those peasants were evicted against their will but has also shown evidence of the burned villages that turned to ashes. After that he interviewed the evicted people and demonstrated the level of hopelessness and desperation of the people[7]. This only shows that the land grabbing policy is serving the interest of foreign investors.

Dear Sir/Madam

Based on above outlined facts we feel that DAG seems to have contributed directly or indirectly by laying out justifications and hiding the reality of suppression by providing unattainable promises and principles that it never tried to implement.

The land grabbing issue in Ethiopia is seriously worrying and has already created a sense of insecurity and an undesirable situation where public unrest and violence could be triggered any time soon.

We believe that DAG and its members can play critical positive roles to change the course of such worrying human insecurity. Hence we appeal and ask the Development Assistance Group (DAG) in Ethiopia and its members:

  1. To monitor  the assistance given  to the current regime in Ethiopia while credible reports assert that aid is used as a means suppression by the regime,
  2. To condemn and influence foreign investors who participate in the scramble of land and the destruction of environment in Ethiopia,
  3. To use its influence and ensure the observance of human rights in Ethiopia in all its regular engagements with the regime.
  4. To use all diplomatic and economic leverages at your disposal to exert pressure on and ensure that foreign companies in Ethiopia, their Ethiopian partners, and the Ethiopian government adhere to international environmental standards and obligations;
  5. To stand for justice and expose the TPLF led repressive agenda in every forum about the use of political power to impoverish and retaliate against citizens, among others through the policy of land grabbing,
  6. To seek the cessation of contracts between greedy multinational corporations that cooperated in the eviction of helpless peasants in Ethiopia by diverting food crops from the hungry mouth in Ethiopia to export to reach their nations,

Finally once again we appeal to you and international community to intervene and take immediate action to avert political crises that could engulf the Horn of Africa as consequences of such reckless acts of Meles’ regime.

Yours Sincerely,

Dugassa Nemie

Chair man of Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway

CC: African Development Bank 2. Austrian Development Cooperation 3.Belgium Embassy 4.      CIDA 5.Denmark Embassy 6.DFID 7.European Commission 8. Finland Embassy  9.      French Embassy 10.German Embassy 11. GTZ-Ethiopia 12. IMF 13. Indian Embassy 14. Irish Aid 15. Italian Cooperation 16.Japan Embassy 17. JICA 18. KfW 19. Netherlands Embassy 20.Norwegian Embassy  21. SIDA 22. Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) 23.Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TICA) 24. UNDP 25. USAID 26     World Bank


[1] See a short report and video footage by John Vidal available at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/ethiopia-centre-global-farmland-rush accessed on 28/11/2011.

[2] Watch video  clip  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4CNqAgPc_c&feature=related

[3] Markakis, J. “Ethiopia: Anatomy of A Traditional Polity.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, (1974) P. 112.

[4] See Human Rights watch report on “Development Without freedom: How human rights underwrites repression in Ethiopia,” 2010; and recent BBC news night broadcast on: “Ethiopia ‘using aid as weapon of oppression,” available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9556288.stm, accessed on 06 Dec 2011.

[5] See the finding of a report commissioned by the UNDP on “Illicit Financial Flows from the Least Developed Countries: 1990–2008” available athttp://www.beta.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Poverty%20Reduction/Trade,%20Intellectual%20Property%20and%20Migration/FINAL%20_IFFs_from_LDCs.pdf (accessed on 06 Dec 2011).

[6] See a report by Jonathan MCKEE on “ETHIOPIA: COUNTRY ENVIRONMENTAL PROFILE,” 2007.

[7] watch a video clip http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/ethiopia-centre-global-farmland-rush

Ethiopia – Appeal to HRLHA, From Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway

Urjii 20, Dec 2011

The Scrabble for the  land in Ethiopia by  Trance National Companies and  rich foreign states in the past four years had already  evicted more than 3million  people in Oromia, Gambela, Benshagule and other areas. To halt the land robbery of TPLF Government many international Civic Society Organizations and medias were demanding the donor organizations and Countries to put pressure on TPLF Government. However no measure has been taken to freeze this genocidal act of TPLF led Ethiopian Government action.

The Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway, released an appeal  demanding  the International Civic Organizations,  International Diplomats  and others to cooperate with  them to fight against  the TPLF Government to stop the land grab ruining the lives of million citizens in Oromia, Ogaden, Gambela, Benshangul and others.

The following is  an appeal  from the Oromo community of South Rogaland, to Civic Society Organizations

Oromo community of South Rogaland Postboks 638,

4305 Sandnes, Norway  
                                                                            Email: oromorogaland@oromain.net

 

To Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa/HRLHA

210-761 Jane Street

M6N 4B4 Toronto, ON

Canada

Tel; (416) 767 8784 or (647) 280 7062

E-Mail; hrldirector@mail.org

19 December 2011

Dear Sir/Madam,

Over the past years  scramble for vast tracks of agricultural lands in Ethiopia by foreign transnational companies and  foreign governments have been made thousands of families homeless and exposed them to  malnutrition, famine, starvation  and poverty.  Much of this  land is located in Oromia regional state with fast increasing populations suffering from hunger and under-nourishment.

Today, the family farming land which our people used for centuries to produce different crops to meet their dietary needs has been taken by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led Government of Ethiopia and leased to the foreign transnational companies and states to produce food for exports.

This massive land grabs targeting tens of millions of acres of the Oromia, Gambella, Ogaden, Benishangul-Gumuz and Southern Nations, Nationalities and peoples(SNNPR) regional states and arable land for the benefit of private investors and for the interests of foreign states, violate the rights of our people by depriving their rights of livelihoods, restricting their access to natural resources, and exacerbate poverty, hopelessness, insecurity and loss of their cultural identity. It will also accelerate eco-system destruction and the climate crisis which affect the future generations.

We  Oromo Community in Rogaland, Norway  call on the Ethiopian Government to respect the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Proclamation No 1/1995, article 40/3 “Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and Shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange” and immediately halt all massive land grabs current or future and return the plundered land to the owners.

Finally, we  appeal  to Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa(HRLHA) to support our struggle of   fighting against land grabs in Ethiopia by putting pressure on the Government of Ethiopia to respect the right to property of Oromo nations and others  granted in Ethiopian constitution of 1995.

Sincerely

Yours Sincerely

Dugassa Nemie

Chair man of Oromo community of South Rogaland, Norway

Thousands of Eritreans flee forced conscription


URJII 26 September, 2011

 

 

Eritrean soldiers. File photo.

Image by: AFP

For 12-year-old Eritrean refugee Ablel, the decision to flee his country was relatively simple.

“I didn’t want to be a soldier,” he says with a shy smile, revealing a mouthful of crooked teeth.

Getting out, however, was a harder challenge. He is one of thousands of youngsters risking death to sneak across Eritrea’s heavily militarized border every month into neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia.

Most, like Ablel, are running from open-ended military conscription imposed by the autocratic, isolated and impoverished government of the Red Sea state.

“The ones who become soldiers, even they are escaping, so why would I want to be in military service?” Ablel said, sitting in Ethiopia’s Endabaguna refugee camp.

He escaped Eritrea on foot in June, leaving without telling his family — a common practice in a country where family members are reportedly often jailed after a relative leaves, accused of involvement in helping their escape.

Ablel said he left because authorities closed his school to use the land for military training, with a new school not due to open for two years.

“I couldn’t wait,” he said.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of mass arrests of hundreds of politicians, journalists and suspected spies by Asmara. Experts say the country’s human rights record has deteriorated in the past decade.

The United Nations refugee agency said nearly 3,000 Eritreans flood into Sudan and Ethiopia every month from Eritrea, a country of some five million people and about the size of England.

“(They’re escaping) gross human rights violations, including forced conscription into the army,” UN spokesperson Kisut Gebre Egziabher told AFP.

National service is compulsory for all citizens — male and female — at the age of 16, completing their final year of school in military camp.

Conscripts earn about $3 per month for the first 18 months and the service can last for decades. Many end up working as indentured labourers building roads or in the country’s newly opened foreign-run mines.

Amanuel Giorgio, Eritrea’s first secretary to the UN, said national service is an obligation and denied the program is connected to human rights abuses.

“I don’t know how national service is in any way related to human rights,” he told AFP.

Eritrea is one of the least developed countries in Africa, with a per capita GDP of $369 and one of the worst human rights records in the world, according to the UN.

The regime of former rebel Issaias Afewoki is propped up by a compulsory two percent remittance tax extracted from Eritreans living abroad, which the UN estimates to be 1.2 million people.

Newly arrived refugees in Ethiopia’s north say there is little industry and therefore few jobs available. The country’s only university was shut down in 2006, with military-run colleges opening instead.

“The only option for a farmer, for a soldier or for a student is to leave the country,” said Eritrean refugee Isaak. “If you are lucky you will make it across. If not they will shoot you.”

Fellow refugee, 18-year-old Samson, said he was frightened of dying at the border, but said he had no choice but to leave Eritrea.

“I didn’t want to join the military service,” the acne-riddled teenager said. “When I heard the rumour that some people were killed by soldiers (at the border) I was so scared. Still, when I reached the border I could not believe it, I feel so lucky.”

The effect of losing so many young men is far-reaching, according to Human Rights Watch Africa researcher Ben Rawlings.

“The best brains are leaving,” he said. “I think it’s having a terrible effect on Eritrea.”

Last month, Eritrea applied to rejoin the East African peacekeeping bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Afewoki visited Uganda, suggesting that the closed country is trying to end its regional isolation.

But author Michela Wrong says the move is not likely improve relations for the country viewed as a “troublemaker” in the region.

“It’s too little, too late,” said Wrong, who wrote a book about Eritrea’s 30-year long war for independence with Ethiopia.

The UN recently called for tighter economic sanctions after releasing a report linking Eritrea to a failed bomb plot at the African Union and of supporting Somalia’s extremist Shebab rebels, claims Asmara rejects.

Eritrea became “very alarmed at the level of hostility that is being shown in the international community and also in the region,” Wrong said.

A former colony of Italy and then part of Ethiopia, Eritrea fought a 30-year war with Ethiopia and only gained independence in 1991.

A subsequent border conflict with Ethiopia from 1998-2000 still simmers, which analysts say Asmara uses as an excuse for its continued iron-rule.

“There’s no sign of any improvement of basic freedoms in the country,” Rawlings added. “At the moment, the future looks bleak.”

 

UNHCHR Grills Ethiopia on Anti-Terror Law

URJII, July 16, 2011.

This week, the Human Rights Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reviewed Ethiopia’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including its press freedom record. Peppered with questions about an indefensible record of abuse–jailing the second largest number of journalists in Africa and leading the continent in Internet censorship–representatives of the Ethiopian government responded with cursory talking points and bold denials in contradiction of the facts.

Several committee members raised concerns about Ethiopia’s detention of several journalists on suspicion of terrorism, which is broadly defined in the country’s far-reaching antiterrorism law. (CPJ research shows a total of six journalists are being held.) “When we get reports that journalists get themselves arrested on grounds of violation of this particular proclamation, when seeking to enter the Ogaden or, even perhaps more recently, when engaging in Internet blogs purporting to criticize potential contributory responsibility of the government to the current drought,” said Sir Niger Rodley, “there does seem to be real problems of sweep and scope in that legislation.” Under the law, journalists risk lengthy prison sentences if the government deems their work favorable to groups and causes labeled as terrorists, including armed rebellions and banned opposition party Ginbot 7.

The government’s high-profile imprisonment of Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, two Swedish journalists arrested in eastern Ethiopia while covering the activities of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, which the government designated as a terrorist group, drew a lot of questions, particularly from committee member Krister Thelin. After being repeatedly pressed about the fate of the journalists and details of the legal procedures following their arrests, a flustered Ambassador Fisseha Yimer Aboye, head of the Ethiopian delegation, told the committee that no further information would be provided. Rodley pressed the delegation to explain the legal procedures surrounding the arrests of two other journalists, Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu, on suspicions of terrorism.

Christine Chanet, another committee member, told the Ethiopian delegation: “It’s a very vague definition that you have of terrorism. It seems the definition of terrorism is too vague, which allows the criminalization of acts that are not really acts of terrorism.” Chanet described the Ethiopian anti-terrorism legislation as “an issue of particular concern” because it “opened the door” to potential violations of rights under the International Covenant.

Then came the Ethiopian response. “Now, the fact that we have an anti-terrorist law, I can’t see how that could have a chilling effect on the media because the United Kingdom has an anti-terror law. I don’t think that has any chilling effect on the British reporters,” said Genenew Assefa, a senior political advisor with the Ethiopian Office of Government Communication Affairs. “The mere fact that we have such laws does not necessarily imply that it would somehow curtail our liberties that are guaranteed under our constitution.” Assefa added: “From the outset, my government and I share the view that without an independent media, citizens cannot make informed decisions.” In fact, the May 1991 words of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reflected this thinking as Zenawi, then a victorious guerrilla leader, chased from power the brutal Marxist Derg junta. “Now is the beginning of a new chapter. It is an era of unfettered freedom,” Zenawi promised Ethiopians.  In 1992, a new law allowed for a free press for the first time in the nation’s history.

Then, Assefa lashed words of contempt at Ethiopia’s independent private press. “Unfortunately, for a good 10 years, in our democratic experience, the media did not, the private media that is, did not play such a role. There were serious problems of inaccuracy, irresponsibility, and shared naked political advocacy,” he said. “For 10 years, my government tolerated this because it was the beginning democracy.” In fact it was far from “tolerance.” In 1994, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that “for the second year running, Ethiopia held more journalists in prison than any other country in Africa.”  A March 1995 CPJ report noted that while the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had “substantially  increased press freedom and improved the human rights situation shortly after coming to power,” the government had also “detained, imprisoned, and fined dozens of journalists” to silence critical reporting.

Referring to the more than 20 Amharic-language newspapers that authorities shut in 2005 for editorials criticizing the government’s brutal crackdown on post-election protests, Assefa said he challenged the committee members review the papers’ headlines. “They would not be tolerated to operate in any democratic country,” he asserted. “Citizens were not being informed. They were being almost forced to rise up and tear up the system.”

In fact, during the protracted politicized trials of 15 editors of the Amharic press, Ethiopian public prosecutors failed in their attempt to link newspapers headlines and editorials, strident as they were, to any violence, obtaining convictions only after the journalists waived defense and pleaded guilty to anti-state charges in anticipation of a conditional pardons. With videos of the sessions available on the Internet, Committee Vice Chairman Yuji Iwasawa expressed concern about Ethiopia possibly preventing domestic Web users from accessing the recordings. “We have allegations that the broadcasting of Voice of America and Deutsche Welle is jammed in Ethiopia. Let’s hope that our webcast is available in Ethiopia to the viewers, not only the live webcast but the video archives.”

Article: By Mohamed Keita (CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator)

Source: CPJ Website

WikiLeaks: Meles Zenawi Attempts to Assassinate the Eritrean President

URJII 17,Dece 2010
  • Afeworki ‘cheated death after aircraft that was offered by Ethiopian president to fly him back to Asmara burst into flames’. Eritrea’s strongman Isaias Afeworki was nearly assassinated while on his way back to Asmara after a family holiday in Kenya, WikiLeaks reported, quoting secret American diplomatic cables.

The secret cables posted online by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks accuse Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, a one time ally of Afeworki in Addis Ababa’s struggle to overthrow Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorial rule, for the failed assassination attempt. The classified cables, attributed to American ambassador to Asmara, Ronald McMullen, claim the 62-year-old Afeworki is an “austere and narcissistic” dictator who believes Addis Ababa and Washington  harbour a plot to assassinate him and hardly travels in a motorcade.

“He is paranoid and believes Ethiopian PM Meles tried to kill him and that the United States will attempt to assassinate him,” McMullen wrote to his superiors in Washington on November 5, last year. The cables revisit an incident in 1996 when President Zenawi offered one of his helicopters to fly President Afeworki to Asmara, only for it to burst into flames shortly after take off from Addis Ababa. Fortunately, the pilot was able to turn back and land safely in the Ethiopian capital, where a livid Afeworki told Zenawi to his face that he had plotted to kill him.

“Isaias and Meles, brothers in arms during the 1980s, are now blood enemies. Why? In 1996, while returning from a vacation in Kenya, Isaias, his family and his inner entourage stopped in Addis, where Meles offered to fly them back to Asmara in one of his aircraft,” the cables report. “Isaias accepted the offer; en route the aircraft caught fire, but managed to turn back and land safely in Addis. According to someone who was on the aircraft, an infuriated Isaias accused Meles to his face of trying to kill him and his family. Isaias has not trusted Meles since, according to this source,” the story goes. The Eritrean leader also believes the Americans are out to kill him by bombing his residence. “Isaias thinks the United States will attempt to kill him by missile strike at his residence in the city of Massawa, according to late 2007 information from the Force Commander of UNMEE (United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea),” the US envoy told his bosses in Washington. Afeworki’s paranoia is further demonstrated in his habits and mannerisms.

“Isaias has an aversion to talking on the telephone and frequently sleeps in different locations to foil a coup or assassination attempt,” the cables note. “During the winter months he spends most of his time in Massawa rather than in Asmara. When dining in restaurants, Isaias will often switch plates with a subordinate, apparently to avoid being poisoned,” the report quotes the Qatari ambassador to Asmara. The cables describe the Eritrean leader as a man who keeps grudges and hardly forgives those who cross his path. They report an incident when he had a spat with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh and has since declined to take part in efforts to end a border dispute between the two nations.

“A senior party official said Isaias and Djibouti President Guelleh had agreed during a 2008 telephone conversation to try to resolve at the presidential level issues related to the June border clash,” the cables state. “According to this senior Eritrean official, Isaias was livid when Guelleh supposedly shortly thereafter lambasted Eritrean aggression in a media interview. Isaias reportedly felt personally betrayed by President Guelleh, and has been obstinate about resolving the Djibouti-Eritrea border dispute ever since.”

According to Mr McMullen, President Afeworki is just another African despot who detests democracy and is hell-bent on ruling the volatile horn of Africa nation for life. “Isaias, 62, told a visiting German parliamentarian in late 2008 that he is healthy and expects to live another 40 or 50 years,” the cables reveal.

Egypt “Amazed” by Ethiopia’s Nile Remarks

Urjii- Nov 24, 2010,

ABU DHABI/CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt said it was “amazed” by Ethiopia’s suggestion on Tuesday that Cairo might turn to military action in a row over the Nile waters, saying it did not want confrontation and was not backing rebels.

Egypt, Ethiopia and seven other countries through which the river passes have been locked in more than a decade of contentious talks driven by anger over the perceived injustice of a previous Nile water treaty signed in 1929.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Reuters on Tuesday that Egypt could not win a war with Ethiopia over the River Nile and that Cairo was supporting rebel groups in an attempt to destabilise the Horn of Africa nation.

“I’m amazed … by the language that was used. We are not seeking war and there will not be war,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told Reuters during a visit to Abu Dhabi.

His ministry said in a statement issued in Cairo: “The charges that Egypt .. is exploiting rebel groups against the ruling regime in Ethiopia are completely devoid of truth.”

Egypt, almost totally dependent on the Nile and threatened by climate change, says the Nile waters feed a farm sector accounting for a third of all jobs. Cairo is wary of dam construction in upstream countries that could affect flows.

Ethiopia has built five huge dams on the Nile in the last decade and has begun work on a $1.4 billion hydropower facility.

Under the original pact Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water a year, the lion’s share of the Nile’s total flow of around 84 billion cubic metres, despite the fact that some 85 percent of the water originates in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya signed a new deal to share the waters in May.

In the statement that was e-mailed to Reuters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said it was “regrettable” that Ethiopia and other states had sought a new agreement.

“Egypt is firmly behind its legal and political positions on the issue of the Nile water,” Zaki said, adding that Egypt had pursued dialogue and cooperation on the use of the Nile’s water.

The five signatories of the new deal have given the other Nile Basin countries one year to join the pact before putting it into action. Sudan has backed Egypt while Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi have so far refused to sign.

The Egyptian spokesman added “We understand the frustrations of the Ethiopian party over the difficulties facing the Nile Basin agreement and initiative.”

Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam held talks in Cairo on Tuesday with Burundi officials on irrigation and other cooperation, his ministry said in a statement.

The Arab world’s most populous nation fears population growth may outstrip water resources as early as 2017.

Ethiopian PM Warns Egypt off Nile War

Urjii Nov 23, 2010,

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Egypt could not win a war with Ethiopia over the River Nile and is also supporting rebel groups in an attempt to destabilise the Horn of Africa nation, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in an interview.

Egypt, Ethiopia and seven other countries through which the river passes have been locked in more than a decade of contentious talks driven by anger over the perceived injustice of a previous Nile water treaty signed in 1929.

Under the original pact Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic metres a year, the lion’s share of the Nile’s total flow of around 84 billion cubic metres, despite the fact some 85 percent of the water originates in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya signed a new deal to share the waters in May, provoking Egypt to call it a “national security” issue.

Meles said he was not happy with the rhetoric coming from the Egyptians but dismissed the claims of some analysts that war could eventually erupt.

“I am not worried that the Egyptians will suddenly invade Ethiopia,” Meles told Reuters in an interview. “Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story. I don’t think the Egyptians will be any different and I think they know that.”

The five signatories of the new deal have given the other Nile Basin countries one year to join the pact before putting it into action. Sudan has backed Egypt while Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi have so far refused to sign.

“The Egyptians have yet to make up their minds as to whether they want to live in the 21st or the 19th century,” Meles told Reuters in an interview, referring to the fact the original treaty was negotiated by colonial administrators

“So the process appears to be stuck.”

“FISH IN TROUBLED WATERS”

Stretching more than 6,600 km (4,100 miles) from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean, the Nile is a vital water and energy source for the nine countries through which it flows.

Egypt, almost totally dependent on the Nile and threatened by climate change, is closely watching hydroelectric dam construction in the upstream countries.

Ethiopia has built five huge dams over the last decade and has begun construction on a new $1.4 billion hydropower facility — the biggest in Africa.

Meles accused Egypt of trying to destabilise his country by supporting several small rebel groups but said it was a tactic that would no longer work.

“If we address the issues around which the rebel groups are mobilised then we can neutralise them and therefore make it impossible for the Egyptians to fish in troubled waters because there won’t be any,” he said.

“Hopefully that should convince the Egyptians that, as direct conflict will not work, and as the indirect approach is not as effective as it used to be, the only sane option will be civil dialogue.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in July called for a scheduled November meeting of the nine countries to be attended by heads of state. Meles said that would not happen now.

The last meeting of all sides ended in stalemate and angry exchanges between water ministers at a news conference in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“Ask the Egyptians to leave their culture and go and live in the desert because you need to take this water and to add it to other countries? No,” Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam told Reuters at that meeting.

 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »

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