The volcano of the Horn of Africa are set in motion by exploding in Eritrea for the making of the most expected Ethiopian ocean. It set in action as we have foretold in this site in previous articles. Many geophysicist and seismologist thought it will take millions of years to split the horn of Africa. But we have explained in serious of articles that it is in the end of the millions of years phase, and even in our time we will see the opening of the new ocean.
It is very simple to give a reality description of events but the true prediction we have been making will save thousands of live if the government of the region start evacuating the population and stop damming the region.
In the evening of June 12 2011, a series of earthquakes struck the Afambo, Eritrea area. The earthquakes were followed by 2 strong 5.7 earthquakes. This pattern will continue till the final breaking of the Horn from the rest of the continent of Africa.
UPDATE 21:36 UTC : Some more information on the volcanic complex :
Mallahle is the central of three NE-SW-trending stratovolcanoes in the Danakil horst SW of Dubbi volcano, and lies SSW of Nabro volcano.
These two volcanoes, along with Bara Ale and Sork’Ale, form the Bidu volcanic complex. The complex Mallahle stratovolcano is truncated by a steep-walled 6-km-wide caldera. Mallahle is formed of rhyolitic lava flows and pyroclastics. Basaltic lava flows blanket the slopes of the
volcano. Recent obsidian flows are found on the NW flank of Mallahle and older obsidian flows were erupted on the northern caldera floor.
Flank spatter and scoria cones are most numerous on the western side of the volcano. Extensive ignimbrite deposits associated with the collapse of Mallahle and Nabro volcanoes blanket the countryside.
UPDATE 21:28 UTC : These magnitudes can lead to serious damage if the epicenter is below or very near to Afambo (which is very nearby based on the seismological data) . We do not think that there will be injured people as the series started with moderate earthquakes and as people will stay on the streets after so many earthquakes. The current situation tends to become very dangerous.
UPDATE 21:23 UTC : A Mw5.7 has been also recorded at depth 9km in around the same area. No record of damage has yet been recorded.
UPDATE 21:03 UTC : Lucas Tavares reports in our Facebook page : I was studying about this volcanoes past hours. Maybe the shakes surrounds the Mallahle or Nabro Caldera, there is’nt any known eruptions of these volcanoes! Shakes are becoming stronger!
UPDATE 20:58 UTC : We have still no trace (as expected) of what is really going on. This last 5.4 earthquake can be damaging at this shallow depth when the epicenter is located below a village or town. As we are unsure of the exact epicenter (the error margin may be 10 to 30 km different than reported by the USGS).
UPDATE 20:56 UTC : The earthquakes are continuing with the last one as the strongest so far with a magnitude of 5.4 at a depth of 10 km.
UPDATE 20:33 UTC : We are more and more convinced that one of the nearby volcanoes went into an active status as the distance to the ridge fault is to big to create this kind of earthquakes. Additionally almost all the earthquakes are occurring near the volcano complex on the picture (courtesy Google Earth)
UPDATE 19:37 UTC : This unusual series of moderate earthquakes have also occurred a couple of months ago in the Gulf of Aden. The earthquakes are typical for separating irregular tectonic plates. The series in the Gulf of Adenhad their epicenter in the immediate area of the ridge fault.
Due to the close-by volcanoes, an eruption pattern of the Dubbi volcano is still possible. The pre-eruption pattern of both the Icelandic and Chilean volcanoes from the last few weeks is also present here. Compared to Iceland and Chile, Eritrea has other concerns than looking to beautiful eruptions. We will follow up these events and will come back to you as soon as we can get more data ? UPDATE 16:11 UTC : Other agencies are reporting totally different and less dangerous numbers : GFZ: 4.9 @ 43 km and EMSC 4.7 @ 200 km
Moderate shallow earthquake with an epicenter almost below Afambo.
Approx. 15 km from the Dubbi volcano. The peak of the Dubbi volcano is 1625 m. There have been four known eruptions. In 1400 lava was determined to have reached the Red Sea while in 1861 ash was thrown over 250 km from the volcano. Two further events were suspected between 1861 and the 20th century.
During the late afternoon and evening of June 12 2011 a series of moderate earthquake struck at first near Afambo in Eritrea and later 100 km more to the south in Ethiopia. At the moment of writing, we do not know whether these earthquake have a tectonic or a volcanic origin.
Other moderate earthquakes which occurred after the first earthquake which is described in detail
M 4.5 2011/06/12 21:37 Depth 15.0 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 5.7 2011/06/12 21:03 Depth 9.9 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 5.7 2011/06/12 20:32 Depth 10.1 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.8 2011/06/12 19:44 Depth 9.9 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.7 2011/06/12 19:37 Depth 10.1 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.5 2011/06/12 18:01 Depth 10.1 km ETHIOPIA M 5.0 2011/06/12 19:21 Depth 10.0 km ETHIOPIA M 4.7 2011/06/12 17:47:21 13.538 41.588 Depth 10.0 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.8 2011/06/12 17:18:10 13.381 41.764 Depth 9.9 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.3 2011/06/12 16:33:12 13.507 41.722 Depth 10.0 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.8 2011/06/12 16:24:44 13.436 41.682 Depth 10.0 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.7 2011/06/12 16:12:03 13.397 41.734 Depth 10.0 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION M 4.5 2011/06/12 16:09:30 13.443 41.696 Depth 2.9 km ERITREA – ETHIOPIA REGION
Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : 5.1
UTC Time : Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 15:37:05 UTC
Local time at epicenter : Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 06:37:05 PM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 10 km
Almost below Afambo, Eritrea
128 km (79 miles) WNW of Assab, Eritrea
Satellite images showed a large eruption occurring shortly after 2200 UTC June 12, close to 1 AM East Africa Time, in the Southern Red Sea Region. The eruption created a large ash cloud near the Eritrea-Ethiopia border region, eventually extending over 1,000 km (620 mi) into neighboring Sudan.
The erupting volcano is located within the Afar Triangle, in the larger Danakil Depression that holds many other active volcanoes. However, neither volcano thought potentially responsible for the eruption has seen activity in the past century, with Dubbi last erupting in 1861 and Nabro remaining quiet for thousands of years. No eruption of Nabro occurred in recorded history.
A series of earthquakes, including two at magnitude 5.7 struck the region in the hours preceeding the eruption. The tremors may be volcanic in origin.
^ News, BNO (June 13, 2011). “VAAC: Eruption underway at Dubbi volcano in Eritrea”. Channel 6 news. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
Ethiopian Regime staged Demonstration show up in DC August 5, 2010
Ethiopian Anti China Demonstration DC August 5, 2010
One people Two Flags
August 5, 2010 a manifestation was instigated and staged Demonstration in front of the White House and the State Department in Washington DC by a Dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie from Addis Ababa. It is a first of its kind in any independent country’s government record to lobby US Government in front of the Oval House in such a shameless manor but the Ethiopian Dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie. This is not a normal diplomatic Channel to address inter governmental issues. When it comes to US government there is the ambassador in Addis Ababa, or the African regional affairs head, in the last recur you can go to the under secretariat of the foreign affairs. However, the Dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawi for his declaration of War against Egypt by damming the Nile used his disarmed beleaguered weakened citizen to come out dressed in a blue T shirt with pre prepared slogans. This is a shame for a country that has been independent for over 3 thousand years. A country that existed long before the 1st European put his feet in America. It is put in stage by a government who boasts” winning 99%” of the vote in his recent rugged election, and supposedly has the support of its entire population. And it is not a proper channel to pressure the US government to act in its favor. The regime of Melese Zenawie acted as simple minority group inside the US asking to move the White House certain internal issue. Melese Zenawie proved his incapacity to discern where and when to act as an independent government but as a simple US internal pressure group. Melese demonstrated as a simple satellite puppet regime with no existing out right decision making apparatus. The Dictator once he eliminated the opposition parties, he is left with no more true working political institutions inside his regime but mere executors around him. Left for himself the new Pharaoh of Ethiopia forced his exiled Diaspora who escaped his regime’s atrocity to stage demonstration. These days Ethiopians seems not in peace at home and in Diaspora. Many were forced to go for the demo left with no choice but to be a puppet for a puppet regime. The regime is exporting its ideologies of hate even in the streets of Washington DC.
The next stage of the Ethiopian Dictatorial regime would be to export group fighting and Kampala’s world Cup type indecent even in the US streets, or in one of the many Ethiopian restaurants who were apparently were targeted as many feared would have taken place as a revenge of a worst dictatorial war mongering regime infected by Somalia Syndrome. The whole world was waiting to see the confrontation between those anti Ethiopian Dictatorial Regime groups manifesting in front of the Chinese Embassy at the same moment of staged demonstration in front of the White House. Gladly the situation was controlled by the security forces not to mix both groups. The result would have been chaotic. We hope the US government will consider not allow the same staged foreign regime manifestation and public demonstration of the Ethiopian oppositions to take place in the same day and on the same place. And to in force the government of Dictatorial regime of Ethiopia to use the proper channel rather than staged demonstrations. The government must be or be allowed to occupy the streets and the the arena of state at the same time extrapolating the democratic environment in the west. This will risk the lives of innocent civilians. The government of Ethiopia prohibits anti government manifestation in Addis Streets rather prefer to export to the US. A regime cannot be in exile and in government at the same time, risking the safety of those living in US as a genuine refugee.
3. Cease its support for tyranny in Ethiopia/Africa
4. Cease its support to Meles Zenawi’s regime in jamming the Voice of America,
Deutsche Welle, and Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT);
5. Respect the human rights of the Ethiopian people, Ethiopian workers employed in Chinese owned projects in accordance with accordance labor and environmental standards as well as the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
6. Stop bribing and corrupting Ethiopian officials to get no bid
Some see worsening rights situation in aid donor ‘darling’ Ethiopia
y Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
August 12, 2010|1:33 p.m.
The U.S. gives about $1 billion annually to Ethiopia. But even as U.S. and other international aid has surged in the last decade, activists charge that the government has become more authoritarian.
Reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Like many in the West, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn watched the country’s recent elections for signs that democracy was finally taking root.
When the results of the May vote were announced, all but two of 547 parliamentary seats went to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the coalition that has been in power here for nearly 20 years, or its allied parties.
“How do you win 99% of the vote?” Shinn said. “That’s un-American.” And yet, he said, “Ethiopia remains a darling of the donor community.”
The U.S. gives about $1 billion annually to Ethiopia, more than to any other country in sub-Saharan Africa except Sudan. But even as U.S. and other international aid to Ethiopia has surged in the last decade, activists charge that the government has become more authoritarian.
“There’s been an inverse ratio of rising donor aid and a worsening human rights record,” said Leslie Lefkow, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government has won a degree of favor from the West for sending troops to fight radical Islamists in neighboring Somalia, but reports of rights abuses and a string of draconian laws that have constricted political space have put donor countries in an awkward position.
“It’s a dilemma for the international donor community, which doesn’t want to walk away from Ethiopia because the needs are so great,” said Jennifer Cooke, the director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Recent allegations of aid corruption have caused further unease among donor countries.
A March report by Human Rights Watch alleged a countrywide pattern of local government leaders denying aid to opposition supporters. Eligibility for many major aid programs is determined by local government officials — almost all of whom belong to the ruling coalition or its affiliates.
One former Ethiopian aid worker, who didn’t want to be named out of fear of government retribution, told The Times that aid is leveraged by local leaders to consolidate power.
“Aid is a tool for development,” the aid worker said. “It is also a tool for politics.”
Ethiopian officials deny such claims. Communications Minister Bereket Simon said Human Rights Watch was “engaged in the continuous fabrication of allegations” and said Ethiopia “has put in place a transparent mechanism for the distribution of food aid.”
But Western donors appear to be taking the allegations seriously.
Claims that aid programs had fallen victim to political distortion prompted an investigation into U.S.-funded food programs in seven local districts in December 2009, said an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The probe “found no indication of political discrimination,” the official said.
A report released last week by a consortium of donors that includes the U.S., several European countries and the World Bank conceded that Western aid programs would benefit from more transparency and independent monitoring.
The Donor Assistance Group report said donor countries would work with the Ethiopian government “for continued strengthening of safeguards” against fraud.
Africa experts agree that walking away from Ethiopia is out of the question.
Almost a sixth of Ethiopia’s 85 million people depend on food aid. In an added geopolitical dimension, twin bombings in Uganda last month by the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Shabab underscored the importance of having U.S. allies in the troubled Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia’s rise to “donor darling” is due in large part to its savvy leader, Cooke said.
Meles, the former Marxist guerrilla leader who has ruled Ethiopia since 1991, “is good at talking the donor speak and the rhetoric of development,” she said.
Hailed by former President Clinton as part of a new generation of African leaders who would bring stability to the continent, Meles was invited to sit on then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa in 2004.
The commission argued that economic growth and democracy would come to Africa only after hunger, poverty and the spread of disease were stamped out — an expensive proposition that required a “big push” of new aid.
The year after he was named to the commission, security forces loyal to Meles killed nearly 200 people who were protesting that year’s election and arrested tens of thousands of opposition supporters, including Birtukan Mideksa, an opposition leader who is now serving life in prison for violating the conditions of a 2007 pardon.
The U.S. has been cautious in its criticism, although some say the Obama administration has been taking a tougher tone. In May, a top U.S. diplomat said the recent elections “were not up to international standards.”
Meles bristles at such statements and has suggested that Ethiopia could forgo its dependence on Western aid for a closer relationship with China, which has lent money for a dizzying number of development projects in recent years.
“If [the U.S.] feels the outcome of the elections are such that we cannot continue our relationship,” he warned in May, “that’s fine and we can move on.”
Melese of Ethiopia mastered the art of silencing oppositions, imprisoning all all dissents, and dumping elections. Melese’s has been in Failed and rogue State Index ranking behind many of the worst African dicttors.
Melese’s Ethiopia fullfill the 12 indactors of Failed States sinece the founding of the orgnaization
The Twelve Indicators
Click on an indicator to see some examples of measures that may be included in the analysis of that indicator. These are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. You can add more measures, as appropriate.
Social Indicators I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
Economic Indicators I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
Political Indicators I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State” I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors
Core Five State Institutions
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is Ethiopia’s first democratically elected leader. He is currently serving his third term, though his party’s victory in 2005 was widely disputed. While several opposition parties have formed a coalition ahead of the 2010 elections and small militia groups have sought to separate themselves from Ethiopia, Zenawi and his party remain firmly in control of the government.
The Ethiopian military was one of the few state institutions to remain relatively well-funded during Mengistu’s regime. While the military is well-trained and supplied compared to its neighbors, the Ethiopian army was largely unsuccessful in its attempts to halt the advances of Islamic insurgents in Somalia from 2006-2009. Thousands of troops remain stationed near the Eritrean border, as border disputes still have not been completely settled after the two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 2000. Ethiopian soldiers have been accused of committing widespread human rights abuses, particularly against women in rural areas.
The Ethiopian police have been accused of widespread corruption and frequent human rights abuses. The police have a history of crushing most political demonstrations, as well as a reputation as unprofessional and poorly trained.
While civilian courts remain relatively independent, criminal courts are weak, overburdened, and subject to political intervention. Many judges are largely unqualified, receiving little former training and reaching their posts by political appointment.
While attempts have been made at civil service reform, little progress has been made. Civil servants are underpaid, making them vulnerable to corruption; they are also poorly-trained and inefficient. Many departments are extremely under-funded, further hampering their ability to operate.
Prognosis Ethiopia has had difficulty shaking its past history of repressive governments. The first democratically elected government has held a tight grip on power through violence, intimidation, arresting opposition voices, censoring independent media, and restricting human rights monitoring by foreign groups. Ethiopia remains unable to provide food security to its population. The country is prone to drought and flooding. In the predominantly agricultural economy, yearly production is uncertain. The government still relies heavily on international aid for food supply. Ethiopia must focus on diversifying its economy to be able to provide relief to its population when natural disasters do strike as well as improving its woeful education and health services. The 2010 elections will be critical. The current government must allow opposition parties to run a fair campaign and hold a free election, or there will be a high probability of unrest.
January 2009: The Ethiopian Parliament passed a law that forbids any foreign NGO—or local NGO that receives at least 10% of its funding from abroad—from activities related to human rights or conflict resolution.
January 2009: Ethiopian peacekeeping forces began deploying in Darfur.
June 2009: The Ethiopian government announces a plan to build 5,000 kilometers of new railways, with the assistance of European Union funding.June 2009: Two days after rejecting a plea by the Somali government to redeploy troops, the Ethiopian government agreed to intervene after the request was supported by the African Union. The African Union currently has 4,000 troops stationed in Mogadishu; it remains to be seen how many troops Ethiopia will commit.
Failed states of the world 2009
Methodology Behind CAST
The CAST methodology presents a framework for early warning and assessment of societies at risk of internal conflict and state collapse. The model can be used to enable the international community to take preventive action to stem conflict, prepare for peacekeeping and stability missions, assess conditions for sustainable security and provide metrics or measures of effectiveness for post-conflict reconstruction. For an example of how the methodology has been used, please see our Iraq reports.
Freedom in Ethiopia in Down trends. A country which has been free for over 3 thousand years. A bastion of independence. This year record is worst than last year according to Freedom house report 2009. Melese Zenawie continue torturing killing the Ethiopians. His case is in the hand of the International court of Justice. It will not be long soon before he join Charles Taylor of Liberia . According genocide Watch Melese is a an emerging dictator to be scrutinized. The worst is that countries preaching and raising the Flags of Freedom and democracy continue with Melese business as usual. The world had experienced this misfortune in the past with Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Mobutu and paid heavy price. Read some of the reports below where Zenawi’s Ethiopia is heading :-
Political Rights Score: 5 *
Civil Liberties Score: 5 *
Status: Partly Free
Ethiopia received a downward trend arrow due to the narrowing of political space in advance of the 2010 elections, the government’s crackdown on the operations of nongovernmental organizations, and its passing of a draconian antiterrorism law.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government bolstered restrictions on political activity in 2009 as it prepared for federal and regional elections scheduled for 2010. Opposition party activists were arrested, and a new antiterrorism law gave the government broad authority to crack down on perceived opponents. Other legislation enacted during the year imposed strict controls on civil society organizations.
One of the few African countries to avoid decades of European colonization, Ethiopia ended a long tradition of monarchy in 1974, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a Marxist military coup. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled the country until a coalition of guerrilla groups led by forces from the northern Tigray region overthrew his brutal dictatorship in 1991. The main rebel group, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), formed a new regime, and its leader Meles Zenawi became interim president.
Under the EPRDF, democratic institutions and a new constitution were introduced. Most of the opposition boycotted elections held in 1995, claiming harassment of its supporters precluded a fair vote, and Meles became prime minister. He began a second five-year term after the 2000 elections, which the EPRDF also won easily. Opposition parties and some observers criticized the government’s conduct of the vote.
A border dispute with Eritrea, which had gained formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long guerrilla conflict, triggered a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was then established to draw a new border, but Ethiopia rejected its 2002 decision to assign the town of Badme to Eritrea.
In the 2005 elections for the powerful lower house of Parliament, the EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats, while the two main opposition parties took 161 seats, up from 12 in the previous Parliament. Notwithstanding their gains, opposition parties argued that fraud and interference in the electoral process had deprived them of outright victory. Street demonstrations led to violence and a harsh reaction by the authorities. At least 193 people were killed and more than 4,000 were arrested, including leading opposition figures, who were finally pardoned and released in 2007.
The opposition boycotted local elections in 2008, accusing the EPRDF of harassment. Opposition activities were further restricted in 2009, as the EPRDF prepared for the 2010 federal and regional elections. In June, 45 members of an unregistered political party were charged with trying to topple the government.
Ethiopia’s relations with neighboring countries were tense but stable in 2009. The border dispute with Eritrea remained unresolved, but Ethiopian forces completed their withdrawal from Somalia, ending a disastrous three-year campaign aimed at destroying Islamist rebel groups and propping up the war-torn country’s Transitional Federal Government.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia continued to face separatist movements in Oromiya and the Ogaden. Sporadic fighting persisted between government forces and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) guerrillas. The authorities have banned journalists from the region, preventing the outside world from accurately assessing the situation there.
Ongoing drought in parts of the country in 2009 led to a warning that five million people would be in need of food aid, in addition to the eight million who already received it. The drought also reduced Ethiopia’s hydroelectric power output, causing frequent outages in Addis Ababa and contributing to a growth rate of less than 2 percent according to the United Nations, which was far less than the 10 percent claimed by the government.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties
Ethiopia is not an electoral democracy. However, the presence of a significant elected opposition at the federal level since 2005 does mark a possible step forward in the development of the country’s democratic political culture.
The bicameral Parliament consists of a 108-seat upper house, the House of Federation, and a 547-seat lower house, the House of People’s Representatives. The lower house is filled through popular elections, while the upper chamber is selected by the state legislatures, with both serving five-year terms. The House of People’s Representatives selects the prime minister, who holds most executive power, and the president, who serves in a largely ceremonial capacity for six-year terms. The 1995 constitution has a number of unique features, including a federal structure that grants certain powers and the right of secession to ethnically based states. However, in 2003 the central government acquired additional powers to intervene in states’ affairs when public security is deemed to be at risk.
More than 60 legally recognized political parties are active in Ethiopia, but the EPRDF dominates political life. Government harassment has seriously impeded the ability of opposition parties to function, although some have used rhetoric that could be interpreted as advocating violence, or have failed to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with a democratic political culture.
A recent series of arrests of opposition figures appeared to signal a crackdown on political freedoms in advance of the 2010 elections. Unity for Democracy and Justice party leader Birtukan Mideksa, who had received a sentence of life in prison after the 2005 postelection violence and was pardoned in 2007, was rearrested in December 2008 after her pardon was revoked. In June 2009, 46 people were charged with plotting to overthrow the government on behalf of Ginbot 7, an unregistered party. In November, a court convicted 26 of the defendants after a trial that legal rights groups criticized as unfair. However, a high-profile opponent of the government, the singer Tewodros Kassahun, known as Teddy Afro, was released early from a two-year prison sentence in August 2009; he had been convicted for a hit-and-run automobile accident, but his supporters claimed that the case was politically motivated.
The government has taken a number of steps to limit corruption, including the imposition of asset-disclosure rules for state officials. However, graft remains a significant problem. Former prime minister Tamrat Layne and former defense minister Seye Abreha were convicted of corruption in 2007, but both had been released by the end of 2008, having already served several years in prison on other corruption charges.Ethiopia was ranked 120 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The news media are dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers. There are a number of independent newspapers, but they struggle financially and face intermittent government harassment. The only independent newspaper in the capital, Addis Neger, suspended operations in November, as staff said they feared prosecution by the authorities. A 2008 media law has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech. Although it barred government censorship of private media, the measure allowed prosecutors to seize material before publication in the name of national security and gave the government broader powers to pursue defamation cases. Journalists who fall foul of the government risk exile or imprisonment. In two separate cases in August 2009, journalists were given one-year prison sentences for spreading false information. Internet usage is confined mainly to major urban areas, and the government has blocked opposition-run websites.
Constitutionally mandated religious freedom is generally respected, although religious tensions have risen in recent years. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is influential, particularly in the north. In the south there is a large Muslim community, made up mainly of the Somali, Oromo, and Afari ethnic groups.
Academic freedom is restricted. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has accused universities of being friendly to the opposition, and their activities are closely monitored. In recent years, student protests against government policies have led to scores of deaths and injuries and hundreds of arrests. The government has tried to establish a more orderly and loyal academic community by creating 13 new state universities. Growing intolerance of dissent has dampened private discussion in the country, as even ordinary citizens face harassment or arrest for speaking out against the government.
Freedoms of assembly and association are limited. In January 2009, the House of People’s Representatives passed the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which is designed to restrict the ability of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to bypass government channels when they disburse funds. Foreign NGOs are defined as groups that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad. The measure also gives the government broad authority to restrict NGO activities it deems unhelpful, such as campaigning for human and political rights. All civil society organizations are required to reregister with the government under the new rules.
Trade union rights are tightly restricted. Government workers in “essential industries,” a term that is broadly defined, are not allowed to strike, and the Confederation of Ethiopian Unions is under government control. Some union leaders suspected of engaging in political activity have been removed from their elected offices or forced to leave the country. All unions must be registered, and the government retains the authority to cancel union registration.
The judiciary is officially independent, although there have been few significant examples of decisions at variance with government policy. Suspects are routinely held without warrants, and cases can take a long time to reach court. A draconian new counterterrorism law, passed by the government in July 2009, defines terrorist activity very broadly and gives great discretion to the security forces. According to Human Rights Watch, the law could be used to prosecute peaceful political protesters and impose the death penalty for offenses as minor as damaging public property. Conditions in Ethiopia’s prisons are harsh, and the International Committee of the Red Cross is not permitted to inspect federal facilities and police stations. Detainees frequently report being abused or tortured.
The government has tended to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters. Politics within the EPRDF have been dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Discrimination against other groups, especially the Oromo, has been widespread. According to the International Crisis Group, Ethiopia’s federal system of government, which grants autonomy to the dominant ethnic group in each region, has increased tensions between communities. Repression of the Oromo and ethnic Somalis, and government attempts to co-opt their parties into subsidiaries of the EPRDF, have helped to fuel nationalism in both Oromiya and the Ogaden.
The government has established a Women’s Affairs Ministry, and Parliament has passed legislation designed to protect women’s rights. In practice, however, women’s rights are routinely violated. Women have traditionally had few land or property rights, especially in rural areas, where there is little opportunity for female employment beyond agricultural labor. General deficiencies in education exacerbate the problems of rural poverty and gender inequality. According to the NGO Save the Children, Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Citing harassment by the ruling party, the opposition decided to boycott local elections in 2008. Also during the year, revised draft and actual laws regulating the press and civil society provided a reinforced legal basis for government oversight and control. The political climate was further polarized by ongoing tension in several restive provinces, relations with Eritrea, and Ethiopia’s military engagement in Somalia. A drought and rising food prices proved to be complicating factors.
One of the few African countries to avoid European colonization during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ethiopia ended a long tradition of monarchy in 1974, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a Marxist military coup. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam subsequently established a brutal dictatorship that lasted more than 15 years. He was overthrown in 1991 by a coalition of guerrilla groups led by forces from the northern Tigray region. The main rebel group, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), formed a new regime, and EPRDF leader Meles Zenawi became interim president.
During the ensuing transitional period, the EPRDF government fostered the emergence of democratic institutions, and a new constitution took effect in 1995. The EPRDF dominated that year’s elections, which were boycotted by most of the opposition, and Meles became prime minister. He began a second five-year term after the May 2000 elections, which the EPRDF won in a landslide victory over the weak and divided opposition. Opposition parties and some observers criticized the government’s conduct of the vote.
A dispute over the border with neighboring Eritrea, which had gained formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long guerrilla conflict, resulted in open warfare from 1998 until 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) was established in the wake of the bloody fighting to draw a new border. It announced its decision in April 2002, laying out a boundary that assigned the town of Badme to Eritrea. The commission’s judgments were supposed to be binding on both sides, but Ethiopia rejected the EEBC decision.
The May 2005 elections for the powerful lower house of Parliament resulted in a major increase in opposition representation. The EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats, while the two main opposition parties took 161 seats, up from 12 in the previous Parliament. The governing coalition also won elections for eight of nine regional parliaments. Notwithstanding their significant gains, opposition parties argued that interference and fraud in the electoral process had deprived them of outright victory. Street demonstrations led to violence, excessive use of force by the authorities, and widespread arrests. At least 193 people were killed and more than 4,000 were arrested, including leading opposition figures who were later charged with capital offenses. Under considerable pressure from human rights groups, the government ultimately pardoned and released those defendants in 2007.
At the end of 2006, Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia, routing Islamist groups that had taken control of Mogadishu and the southern parts of the country. The offensive enabled Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government to establish a presence in Mogadishu, but clashes between Ethiopian forces and Somali militias continued through 2007 and 2008. The prospect of renewed violence in the border dispute with Eritrea presented another area of concern. In November 2007, the EEBC demarcated the boundary by map coordinates in a ruling accepted by Eritrea but rejected by Ethiopia. The UN Security Council voted to end its peacekeeping mission in July 2008. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian military also sought to quell ongoing unrest in the eastern Ogaden region.
The government maintained its tight control over the country’s officially pluralist political institutions in 2008. Citing harassment by the ruling party, the opposition decided to boycott local elections during the year. Revised draft and actual laws regulating the press and civil society created the potential for expanded government interference, and there was violence and repression in several provinces with a significant opposition presence. These problems were exacerbated by rising food prices and a drought that threatened as many as eight million people, according to the United Nations.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties
Ethiopia is not an electoral democracy. However, the presence of a significant elected opposition at the national level since 2005 does mark a possible step forward in the development of the country’s democratic political culture. Prior national elections had resulted in allegations from opposition parties and civil society groups of major irregularities, including unequal access to media, lack of transparent procedures, a flawed election law, and a partisan National Electoral Board.
The opposition claimed fraud again in 2005, and European Union and other observers stated that the elections did not meet international standards, citing problems including faulty voter-registration lists and significant administrative irregularities. However, observers led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter concluded that despite its serious problems, the balloting essentially represented the will of the Ethiopian people.
The country’s legislature is bicameral, consisting of a 108-seat upper house, the House of Federation, and a 547-seat lower house, the House of People’s Representatives. The lower house is filled through popular elections, while the upper chamber is selected by the state legislatures. Lawmakers in both houses serve five-year terms. Executive power is vested in a prime minister, who is chosen by the House of People’s Representatives. The 1995 constitution has a number of unique features, including a federal structure that grants certain powers and the right of secession to ethnically based states. However, in 2003, the central government acquired additional powers to intervene in states’ affairs when public security is deemed to be at risk.
More than 60 legally recognized political parties are active in Ethiopia, but the political scene continues to be dominated by the EPRDF. Citing intimidation and arrests of its candidates, opposition parties boycotted local elections in April 2008, which predictably resulted in a large margin of victory for government supporters. Opposition parties have long argued that their ability to function is seriously impeded by government harassment, although observers also note that some opposition parties have at times used rhetoric that could be interpreted as advocating violence or otherwise failed to comport themselves in a manner consistent with a democratic political culture.
The government has taken a number of steps to limit corruption, but it has also been accused of participating in corrupt practices. In 2007, former prime minister Tamrat Layne and former defense minister Seye Abreha were convicted on corruption charges. Ethiopia was ranked 126 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The news media are dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers. Opposition and civic organizations have criticized slanted news coverage. The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2007 cited the Ethiopian government for backtracking on press freedom issues. It noted increased imprisonment of journalists, with many reporters going into exile by choice or coercion. This trend continued in 2008, as the government forced two more magazines out of circulation using laws against the disturbance of public order. Also during the year, Parliament adopted a new media law after years of debate. The measure barred government censorship of private media and the detention of journalists, but it allowed prosecutors to seize material before publication in the name of national security. Furthermore, it gave the government broader powers to pursue defamation cases against the media.
A number of privately owned newspapers exist, but they struggle to remain financially viable and face intermittent government harassment. In 2006, licenses were awarded to two private FM stations in the capital. Internet usage is confined mainly to major urban areas.
Constitutionally mandated religious freedom is generally respected, although religious tensions have risen in recent years. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is influential, particularly in the north. In the south, there is a large Muslim community, made up mainly of Somalis, Oromo, and Afari.
Academic freedom is restricted. In recent years, student strikes to protest police brutality and various government policies have led to scores of deaths and injuries as well as hundreds of arrests. Student grievances include perceived government repression of the Oromo ethnic group. Many students were killed, injured, or arrested during protests against the May 2005 election results.
Freedoms of assembly and association are limited. A number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, but they are generally reluctant to discuss issues and advocate policies that may bring them into conflict with the government. The government closely regulates NGO activities and has introduced draft legislation that it claims would provide heightened financial transparency among NGOs and enhance their accountability to stakeholders. This legislation was under final consideration by parliament at the end of 2008. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have severely criticized the proposed law, arguing that it would codify provisions designed to control and monitor civil society groups while punishing those that do not have the government’s favor.
According to the Workers’ Group of the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are severe restrictions on the rights of trade unions in Ethiopia. The labor laws authorize only one trade union in companies employing more than 20 workers. Government workers in “essential industries,” a term that is broadly defined, are not allowed to strike. The Confederation of Ethiopian Unions is under government control. The law governing trade unions states that a trade organization may not act in an overtly political manner, and some union leaders have been removed from their elected offices or forced to leave the country. All unions must be registered, and the government retains the authority to cancel union registration.
The judiciary is officially independent, although there have been few significant examples of decisions at variance with government policy. The efficacy of police, judicial, and administrative systems at the local level is highly uneven. Some progress has been made in reducing a significant backlog of court cases. Human Rights Watch in 2006 reported that the government used intimidation, arbitrary detentions, and excessive force in rural areas in the wake of the 2005 election-related protests.
The government has tended to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters. Politics within the EPRDF have been dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Democratic Front. Discrimination against and repression of other groups, especially the Oromo, have been widespread.
The government recently established a women’s affairs ministry, and Parliament has passed legislation designed to protect women’s rights in a number of areas. In practice, however, women’s rights are routinely violated. Women have traditionally had few land or property rights, especially in rural areas, where there is little opportunity for female employment beyond agricultural labor. Violence against women and social discrimination are reportedly common. Societal norms and limited infrastructure prevent many women from seeking legal redress for their grievances. While illegal, the kidnapping of women and girls for marriage continues in parts of the country. General deficiencies in education exacerbate the problems of rural poverty and gender inequality. According to the NGO Save the Children, Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa.
2009 Annual Report for Ethiopia
Restrictions on humanitarian assistance to the Somali Region (known as the Ogaden) continued. The government engaged in sporadic armed conflict against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and both forces perpetrated human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian troops fighting insurgents in Somalia in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Security forces arrested members of the Oromo ethnic group in Addis Ababa and in the Oromo Region towards the end of the year. Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest. A number of political prisoners were believed to remain in detention and opposition party leader Birtukan Mideksa, who was pardoned in 2007, was rearrested. A draft law restricting the activities of Ethiopian and international organizations working on human rights was expected to be passed by parliament in 2009. Ethiopia remained one of the world’s poorest countries with some 6.4million people suffering acute food insecurity, including 1.9 millionin the Somali Region.
The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission completed its mandate in October, despite Ethiopia failing to implement its ruling, and the UN Security Council withdrew the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the wake of Eritrean obstruction of its operations along the Eritrea/Ethiopia border.
Thousands of Ethiopian armed forces remained in Somalia to support the TFG in armed conflict against insurgents throughout most of the year. Accusations of human rights violations committed by Ethiopian forces continued in 2008. Insurgent factions stated that they were fighting to force Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia. A phased plan for Ethiopian withdrawal was included in a peace agreement signed by the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia-Djibouti and TFG representatives in late October. Ethiopian forces began to withdraw late in the year, but had not withdrawn from Somalia completely by the end of the year.
The government faced sporadic armed conflict in the Oromo and Somali regions, with ONLF members also implicated in human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian opposition parties in exile remained active in Eritrea and in other countries in Africa and Europe.
“Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men…”
Divisions split the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party, leading to the emergence of new opposition parties, including the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) led by former judge Birtukan Mideksa. She was one of more than 70 CUD leaders, journalists and civil society activists convicted, then pardoned and released in 2007.
Suicide bombers attacked Ethiopia’s trade mission in Hargeisa, Somaliland, on 29 October killing several Ethiopian and Somali civilians.
Prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners
A number of political prisoners, detained in previous years in the context of internal armed conflicts or following contested elections in 2005, remained in detention.
Bekele Jirata, General Secretary of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party, Asefa Tefera Dibaba, a lecturer at Addis Ababa University and dozens of others from the Oromo ethnic group were arrested in Addis Ababa and parts of the Oromo Region from 30 October onwards. Some of those detained were accused of financially supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
Sultan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, an independent mediator, who was arrested in Jijiga in August 2007 reportedly to prevent him from giving evidence to a UN fact-finding mission, remained in detention. Tried for alleged involvement in two hand grenade attacks in 2007, he was sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment in May 2008.
On 15 January Birtukan Mideksa, Gizachew Shiferaw and Alemayehu Yeneneh, then senior members of the CUD, were briefly detained by police after holding party meetings in southern Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested on 28 December after she issued a public statement regarding the negotiations that led to her 2007 pardon. Her pardon was revoked and the sentence of life imprisonment reinstated.
Many released prisoners faced harassment and intimidation, with some choosing to leave the country.
Human rights defenders and lawyers Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie were released on 28 March. They had been detained since November 2005 together with hundreds of opposition parliamentarians, CUD members and journalists. Unlike their co-defendants in the trial who were pardoned and released in 2007, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie remained in detention, having refused to sign a document negotiated by local elders. They mounted a defence and were convicted by the Federal High Court of criminal incitement (although the presiding judge dissented) and sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. When it became evident they would not be released, even after they appealed, they chose to sign the negotiated document, and were subsequently pardoned and released after serving 29 months of their sentence.
Charges of conspiring to commit “outrages against the Constitution” faced by Yalemzewd Bekele, a human rights lawyer who had been working for the European Commission in Addis Ababa, were dropped, without prejudice, before trial.
Abdirahman Mohamed Qani, chief of the Tolomoge sub-clan of the Ogaden clan in the Somali Region, was detained on 13 July after receiving a large public welcome when he returned from two years abroad. He was released on 7 October, and his relatives who had also been detained were reportedly released several days later.
CUD activist Alemayehu Mesele, who had suffered harassment since his release from prison in 2007, fled Ethiopia in early May after he was severely beaten by unknown assailants.
The editor of the Reporter newspaper Amare Aregawi was severely beaten by unknown assailants on 31 October in Addis Ababa. He had previously been detained by security officers in August.
In September, the government announced that it had released 394 prisoners and commuted one death sentence to life imprisonment to mark the Ethiopian New Year.
Freedom of expression
Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest.
At least 13 newspapers shut down by the government in 2005 were still closed. Independent journalists were reportedly denied licences to operate, although others did receive licences. Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega and Sisay Agena, former publishers of Ethiopia’s largest circulation independent newspapers, who had been detained with CUD members, were denied licences to open two new newspapers.
In February the Supreme Court upheld a decision to dissolve the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) and hand over its assets to a rival union formed by the government, also known as the Ethiopian Teachers Association. This action followed years of harassment and detention of union members. In December the union, under its new name, the National Teachers’ Association, had its application for registration as a professional organization rejected.
On World Press Freedom Day (3 May) Alemayehu Mahtemework, publisher of the monthly Enku, was detained and 10,000 copies of his publication impounded. He was released after five days without charge and copies of the magazine were later returned to him.
In November a Federal High Court judge convicted editor-in chief of the weekly Enbilta, Tsion Girma, of “inciting the public through false rumours” after a reporting mistake. She reportedly paid a fine and was released.
Human rights defenders
A draft Charities and Societies Proclamation was revised several times by the government in 2008, but remained threatening to the rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression.
Its provisions included severe restrictions on the amount of foreign funding Ethiopian civil society organizations working on human rights-related issues could receive from abroad (no more than 10 per cent of total revenues). It would also establish a Civil Societies Agency with sweeping authority over organizations carrying out work on human rights and conflict resolution in Ethiopia. It was expected to be passed into law by Parliament in early 2009.
Ethiopian troops in Somalia
Ethiopia maintained a significant troop presence in Somalia which supported the TFG until the end of the year. Ethiopian forces committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men, some inside the mosque, on 19 April. More than 40 children were held for some days after the mosque raid before being released .
Many attacks by Ethiopian forces in response to armed insurgents were reported to have been indiscriminate and disproportionate, often occurring in densely civilian-populated areas.
Internal armed conflict
The government continued counter-insurgency operations in the Somali Region, which increased after attacks by the ONLF on an oil installation in Obole in April 2007. These included restrictions on humanitarian aid which have had a serious impact on conflict-affected districts of the region. The government did not allow unhindered independent access for human rights monitoring.
Reports, dating back to 2007, of beatings, rape and other forms of torture, forcible conscription and extrajudicial executions in the Somali Region were investigated by a government-contracted body but not by an independent international body.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Reports of torture made by defendants in the trial of elected parliamentarian Kifle Tigeneh and others, one of several CUD trials, were not investigated.
Conditions in Kaliti prison and other detention facilities were harsh – overcrowded, unhygienic and lacking adequate medical care. Among those detained in such conditions were long-term political prisoners held without charge or trial, particularly those accused of links to the OLF.
Mulatu Aberra, a trader of the Oromo ethnic group accused of supporting the OLF, was released on 1 July on bail and fled the country. He had been arrested in November 2007 and reportedly tortured and denied medical treatment for resulting injuries while in detention.
While a number of death sentences were imposed by courts in 2008, no executions were reported.
In May the Federal Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings and sentenced to death former President Mengistu Haile Mariam (in exile in Zimbabwe) and 18 senior officials of his Dergue government. The prosecution had appealed against life imprisonment sentences passed in 2007, after they were convicted by the Federal High Court of genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated between 1974 and 1991.
On 6 April a court sentenced to death five military officers in absentia. They served under Mengistu Haile Mariam, and were held responsible for air raids in Hawzen, in the Tigray Region, which killed hundreds in a market in June 1980.
On 8 May a court in Tigray Region found six people guilty of a bus bombing in northern Ethiopia between Humora and Shira on 13 March and sentenced three of them to death.
On 21 May the Federal Supreme Court sentenced eight men to death for a 28 May 2007 bombing in Jijiga in the Somali Region.
On 22 May a military tribunal sentenced to death in absentia four Ethiopian pilots , who sought asylum while training in Israel.
Freedom of the Press 2009 – Ethiopia
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 25 (of 30)
Political Environment: 33 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 18 (of 30)
Total Score: 76 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
Conditions for press freedom improved slightly in 2008, following the government’s November 2005 crackdown on opposition political parties and the civil society groups and media outlets that were perceived to support them. A controversial draft law to regulate civil society was introduced during the year, and while it did not directly affect the press, it had a chilling effect on all nongovernmental actors and increased concerns about government persecution. Separately, the government reversed an earlier decision and granted licenses to two of the publishers arrested in 2005. While many Ethiopian journalists have gone into exile, arguably the most important figures remain in the country, providing some hope for a reinvigorated press. Currently, however, the critical perspectives held by many newspapers before the 2005 crackdown have yet to resurface.
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but this right is often restricted in practice. The Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation was passed into law in December 2008 after years of consultation and debate. The legislation is not exceptionally restrictive, but it has been criticized by the private media and press freedom groups for imposing constraints on the practice of journalism and harsh sanctions for violations. The most controversial provisions were included in the penal code that took effect in May 2005. Of greater concern are the selective approach the government takes in implementing laws and the lack of an independent judiciary. Journalists have few guarantees that they will receive a fair trial, and charges are often issued arbitrarily in response to personal disputes.Court cases can continue for years, and many journalists have multiple charges pending against them. Laws provide for freedom of information, although access to public information is largely restricted in practice, and the government has traditionally limited coverage of official events to state-owned media outlets, albeit with slight openings that began in 2006. In late October 2008, the prime minister abruptly announced a major cabinet reshuffle, including the closure of the Ministry of Information. The precise effects of this move were still unclear at the end of the year.
The broad political crackdown that began in November 2005, in which several dozen journalists and politicians were arrested on charges ranging from treason to subverting the constitution, continued to have negative implications for the media during 2008. Of the 15 journalists released during 2007, seven subsequently sought asylum abroad, and others such as Sisay Agena, Eskinder Nega and Serkalem Fasil have found it difficult to obtain licenses to resume their work. In August 2008, Amare Aregawi, editor of the English- and Amharic-language weekly Reporter, was imprisoned for an article on a labor dispute at a government-run brewery in Gonder. He also received anonymous threats after running a series of articles alleging that associates of billionaire businessman Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi had mismanaged his investments. On October 31, Aregawi was severely beaten outside his son’s school. There were several incidents of harassment and arrests related to media coverage of the politically charged hit-and-run trial of pop singer Teddy Afro, a government critic whose songs were seen as opposition anthems during the 2005 postelection period. The government continued to crack down on political reporting, especially involving the Ginbot 7 opposition movement. Several journalists remained imprisoned at year’s end, and reporters continued to be arrested on charges dating back several years. Two Eritrean journalists from Eri-TV who were reportedly arrested by Ethiopian forces in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 2006 continue to be held at an undisclosed location in Ethiopia. Foreign journalists and those working for international news organizations have generally operated with fewer restrictions than their local counterparts; however, they regularly practice self-censorship and face harassment and threats from authorities.
The state controls all broadcast media and operates the only television station. In 2007, a new broadcasting authority was created, and the first licenses were finally awarded to two private FM stations in the capital, Addis Ababa. In June 2008, the first private, foreign-language FM station, Afro FM, was granted a license; it will broadcast in English, French, and Arabic. Dozens of print outlets publish regularly and offer diverse views, although following the November 2005 crackdown only a limited number of newspapers – none of which challenge the federalist constitution or ethnic makeup of the government – were allowed to continue publishing without interruption. Since 2005, the most important new entrant in the print market has been the private paper Addis Neger. This paper now enjoys the highest circulation. Publishers Dawit Kebede and Wosonseged Gebrekidan were authorized to start two newsweeklies, the Awramba Times and Harambe, in 2008. However, both papers faced regular government intimidation, and the government brought up old charges against Dawit. In 2005, authorities had largely targeted the Amharic-language private press, banning or shutting down more than a dozen opposition-inclined papers that together accounted for more than 80 percent of Amharic circulation. Most newspapers struggle to remain financially viable and to meet the minimum bank balance that is required to renew their annual publishing licenses.
In past years, access to foreign broadcasts has occasionally been restricted. This pattern continued into 2008 with the jamming of Deutsche Welle and Voice of America (VOA) signals, though the government denies blocking the stations. The U.S. State Department reported that the sustained jamming of VOA’s Amharic and Afan Oromo services largely ended in March. Diplomatic ties with Qatar were broken over the Qatar-based satellite station Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the insurgency by the Ogaden Liberation Front in southern Ethiopia.
Owing to an extremely poor telecommunications infrastructure, internet access is limited primarily to the major urban areas; less than 0.5 percent of the population could make use of this medium in 2008, but its popularity is growing with the proliferation of internet cafes. As more citizens, faced with an increasingly restricted traditional media environment, turned to the internet for information, the government responded accordingly. There are reports that the government monitored e-mail, and starting in 2006, blocked access to opposition websites and blogs, including news websites run by Ethiopians living abroad. Since 2004 the government has been using a unique e-government platform. Known as WoredaNet, meaning a network of local districts, it connects different nodes of the government, from the central to the local level, and has been used extensively by political cadres to instruct local administrators through videoconferencing. The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation remained the only internet service provider during 2008.