Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2,000 Ethiopians flee to Kenya as army kills 9 civilians

The Ethiopian soldiers killed the civilians after mistaking them for members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front [Courtesy] At least 2,000 Ethiopian asylum seekers have fled to the north Kenyan town of Moyale, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said yesterday. Red Cross said the displaced people were hosted in four centres - Butiye, Somare, Cifa and Sessi. Some are staying with relatives and well-wishers, KRCS added. "The asylum seekers began streaming in on Saturday, March 10, 2018, around 10pm, majority of them being women and children," KRCS said in a statement yesterday, adding that it had provided humanitarian assistance. This emerged as residents of a town in Ethiopia's restive Oromia region yesterday disputed the government's characterisation of a deadly shooting that left nine civilians dead as an accident. Ethiopian State media said on Sunday that soldiers shot nine civilians near Moyale on the Kenyan border after mistaking them for members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front who were trying to sneak into the country. But two residents who spoke to AFP said the shooting took place in an area known for its opposition to the government, and came amid worsening relations between citizens and soldiers deployed to Moyale under a nationwide state of emergency declared last month. In Kenya, the County Government of Marsabit has provided the refugees with food and "more support is expected following the formation of a sub-county steering group that aims to effectively address the issue". Security was on Sunday reinforced in Moyale to deal with the arriving refugees, most of them women and children.  The refugees were accommodated at local schools with hopes the situation would calm down.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Abay Tsehaye Speaks on current Ethiopian Issues in Shire

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ethiopia's next leader faces tough challenge of reuniting the nation

Awol K. Allo is a lecturer at the Keele University School of Law. He writes on the issues behind the longstanding protests by Ethiopia's largest ethnic groups, the Oromos and Amharas. 
He writes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits the country on his Africa tour. 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
(CNN)Ethiopia is facing an upheaval of unprecedented magnitude. On February 15, the country's Prime Minister Hailemariam stepped down in a surprise move that plunged the country into uncertainty.
A day later, his government declared a nationwide state of emergency, the second such decree in less than two years.
Confronted by relentless and large scale ethnic protests, Hailemariam's government was forced to make highly unusual concessions.
    Early in January, the government announced a plan to widen the political space and foster national consensus, including the decision to release political prisoners.
    To fulfill that pledge, thus far, the government has released about 8,000 political prisoners, including prominent opposition figures, scholars and journalists jailed over the last two decades.
    However, as Hailemariam's abrupt resignation and the subsequent imposition of a martial law highlights, the crisis in the country is explosive and requires an urgent, robust and courageous response by all stakeholders.

    US influence

    The visit by America's top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, could not have come at a better time. According to the State Department Spokesperson, Tillerson is scheduled to discuss with countries on counter terrorism, peace and security, good governance, and trade and investment, all issues particularly relevant to the crisis in Ethiopia.
    Although the United States has long lost its reputation as a shining exponent of human rights and democracy in the region, the United States still wields enormous power over Ethiopia and can leverage its diplomatic power to help steer the country out of the crisis.
    Three decades of US policy on Ethiopia has not worked. The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which ruled the country with iron-first since it came to power in 1991, is on the verge of unraveling.
    The crisis facing the country, a very important geo-strategic partner of the US in the region, requires an urgent, robust and courageous response by all stakeholders.
    Tillerson must emphasise to Ethiopian authorities that security and human rights are not two mutually exclusive ideals but rather interdependent and mutually reinforcing. As the United States Embassy in Ethiopia stated recently stated, the response to the crisis can only be 'greater freedom, not less."
    Secretary Tillerson must meet with the opposition and the leadership of EPRDF's constituent members, particularly the the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) and listen to their concerns.

    Political dominance

    The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which controls seats in parliament and regional assemblies, is on the verge of unraveling, and it is woefully unprepared to meet the challenges facing the country.
    The party was created in 1989 by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a party that purportedly represents the Tigray ethnic group, about six percent of Ethiopia's estimated 106 million people.
    When the downfall of the military dictatorship of Mengistu Hailemariam became imminent, TPLF engineered a coalition to bolster its legitimacy.
    Like the EPRDF, the other three members of the coalition - the OPDO, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), and the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) - were created by TPLF.
    Over the last 27 years, TPLF used these forces, with little or no resistance, to rule the country with an iron fist.
    Tigrayan domination of the country's political and economic lives are the rallying cries of both the Oromos and Amharas, as competing interests between the coalition parties have plunged the country into the current crisis.

    The Oromo and Amhara protests

    Three years of relentless protests by the Oromos and Amharas, have irreversibly changed this master-servant relationship.
    In Oromia, the epicentre of the Oromo protests, protesters invoked historical marginalization of the Oromo people, emphasizing how their perspectives, experiences, and memories have been pushed to the margin and hidden from the mainstream Ethiopian perspectives.
    Their articulation of the issues and their large-scale mobilization forced the OPDO to reconsider its positions, and eventually challenge TPLF's hitherto unquestioned hegemony.
    Emboldened by the waning influence of the TPLF and the political awakening taking root in Oromia, the largest and wealthiest of Ethiopia's nine linguistic-based states, the OPDO is now upping the ante by demanding the chairmanship of the EPRDF and the office of the Prime Minister.  

    Ethiopia's next leader

    EPRDF is expected to name a new party leader when its 180-member Council convenes this week in a high stakes meeting. The decision, the most important and contentious vote in its nearly three decades of authoritarian rule, will be consequential both for the party and the country.
    If its candidate is not elected, OPDO will face fresh questions from the Oromo public.
    Oromos makeup more than almost 40 percent of Ethiopia's population but they have not had a political power commensurate with its size and immense contribution to the country's economy.
    There is already a strong sense within the Oromo community that the Ethiopian state and its institutions are hostile to the Oromo, a notion best captured in a 1978 essay titled "Ethiopia's Unacknowledged Problem -- The Oromo."
    Ignoring OPDO's quest to take the mantle of leadership requires an enormous amount of effort on the part of coalition partners not to recognize the particular nature of the crisis and what it takes to fix it.

    Transformative change

    Regardless of who may succeed Hailemariam, Ethiopia's next leader faces the challenging task of reforming and democratizing the EPRDF.
    The leader must also unite a deeply divided country behind a democratic and all-inclusive agenda.
    It would also mean repealing a slew of repressive legislation, including the anti-terrorism proclamation and the charities and societies law; reviving the press and civil society; reforming the electoral board and the security sector. 
    Despite widespread fears of uncontrollable violence, the crisis can also be an opportunity that can offer some promise of a hopeful transition. EPRDF has a trust deficit, but most Ethiopians are cautiously optimistic.
    If reformists within the EPRDF prevail in the ongoing power struggle and act with the utmost caution, putting country before an individual or party interest, Ethiopia has a real chance for a transformative change, and the US and all other stakeholders must do all they can to enable them.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2018

    Ethiopians strike over state of emergency paralyzed the capital

    ETHIOPIA - Businesses closed in Ethiopia's capital and its largest region on Monday to protest a state of emergency declared after the prime minister's resignation last month.
    Ethiopia 703x422
    PIC: Shops were shut and roads deserted in parts of Addis Ababa and in towns in the surrounding Oromia region, a hotbed of anti-government dissent since 2015. (AFP)

    Shops were shut and roads deserted in parts of the capital Addis Ababa and in towns in the surrounding Oromia region, a hotbed of anti-government dissent since 2015.

    "The strike is a response to our fear" of the state of emergency, a resident of the Oromia town Burayu who requested anonymity told AFP.

    Standing together with like-minded neighbours, the resident said: "If they see us in a group like this, the police will come and shoot us."

    Roads leading out of Addis Ababa were lined with parked trucks and buses whose drivers feared being assaulted by protesters if they defied the strike.

    "We won't drive down there because trucks can't pass, and we could be stoned," one truck driver said.

    Striking and closing roads are prohibited under the state of emergency, which was decreed on February 16 after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn's surprise announcement that he would step down after nearly six years in office.

    Dissidents have raised concerns over the decree's legality after the speaker of parliament changed the official results of a vote to formalise the six-month state of emergency last week.

    Ethiopia was previously under emergency rule from October 2016 until August 2017 after months of anti-government protests in Oromia and the neighboring Amhara region that left hundreds dead and resulted in tens of thousands of arrests.

    The strike was promoted on Facebook by Jawar Mohammed, the influential executive director of the banned US-based Oromia Media Network, who demanded the lifting of the "illegitimate and unnecessary" emergency decree. 

    The coordinating body of the state of emergency, known as the Command Post, "urged society to carry out their normal day-to-day activities by ignoring information being circulated via social media," state-affiliated Fana Broadcast Corporate reported.

    Despite the emergency decree, violence has continued in Oromia, with one person killed and seven injured in a clash between protesters and security forces in the town of Nekemte last Tuesday, Addisu Arega, a spokesman for the region wrote on Facebook.

    The four parties that make up the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition are expected to meet this week to pick a successor for Hailemariam, who will stay in office until that choice is made.