Archives for 

Ethiopia ኢትዮጵያ

“Politically Incorrect”: Gamella Refugee Riots, South Sudan and the Anti-China Plot

The fantasy of liberal ‘political correctness’ was shattered this week when a raging mob of South Sudanese refugees rioted in the western Ethiopian region of Gambella and killed at least 14 people.
The rampage was sparked by a road accident in which an NGO vehicle crashed into and killed two young girls. The victims were Nuer and the car was driven by what some have termed a “highlander”, or an individual from the central mountainous regions around which the Ethiopian state historically crystallized, and this caused the majority-Nuer South Sudanese refugees to explode into an orgy of violence and carry out their killings. While the official death toll is slightly over a dozen people, another report cautions that it “could rise further since the refugees chased the victims to the forest, where they mutilated the bodies”. 41 refugees have since been arrested, but it’s unclear whether any more murder suspects still remain at large.
Breaking The Narrative
None of this was ever supposed to happen, well, according to Western Liberals and Cultural Marxists at least. In their ‘picture-perfect’ view of the world, only “racists”, “fascists”, and “white supremacists” would ever dare allege that overwhelming refugee influxes could destabilize host countries, but lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. The western area of the country is hosting 270,000 mostly-Nuer South Sudanese refugees, despite only having an indigenous population of about 300,000. This has contributed to Ethiopia becoming the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, and it also means that there are almost more refugees in Gambella than there are locals. Seeing as how most South Sudanese refugees are Nuer, this has destabilized the already tense ethnic balance in this part of Ethiopia and can be said to have demographically reengineered it to a large degree. Under such pressure, it’s little wonder that all that it took was a small-scale vehicular accident to put the region on the edge of civil war.
Political Sabotage
Not even a week prior to the refugee riots, South Sudanese rebels invaded Gambella, killed over 200 people, and kidnapped around 100 children, prompting the Ethiopian military to stage a cross-border operation in attempting to free them. This incident shook regional stability and showed that South Sudan’s conflict was increasingly spilling over the Ethiopian border, and no longer just in humanitarian terms, but militant ones, too. The timing of both of these attacks – the rebel and refugee ones – appears to have coincided with South Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar’sreturn to the capital of Juba in order to implement the peace process that was agreed to in August. Tellingly, Machar, an ethnic Nuer, was in Gambella at this time en route to returning to his home country from the talks in Addis Ababa, and the Nuer refugee riots and preceding rebel raid might have been timed to sabotage his return at the last minute.
The Anti-China Plot
To expand on that idea, it actually makes sense if considered from a global strategic standpoint. South Sudan’s civil war has served the tangential purpose of unleashing a couple hundred thousand “Weapons of Mass Migration” against Ethiopia, which itself is a very ethnically diverse and demographically fragile state. In a sense, South Sudan’s post-independence destabilization can be seen as also achieving the goal of putting long-term asymmetrical pressure on Ethiopia through the planting of hundreds of thousands of identity-conflict “time bombs”, which is essentially what some of the Nuer refugees are regretfully beginning to function as. The reason that Ethiopia is being targeted with such uncouth weapons of war is because of its pivotal role in China’s global One Belt One Road network, particularly through the Chinese-built Djibouti-Ethiopia Railroad and the Chinese-financed LAPSSET Corridor from Kenya’s Lamu port to Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa. Taken together, these two access routes will allow Ethiopia to unleash its full economic potential and become one of China’s closest multipolar allies, provided of course that a series of internal crises doesn’t offset that first.
Hybrid Warfare
For these reasons, the US would like to stir up identity conflict within the diverse state in order to incite another civil war there, but this time one which would result in the fragmented Identity Federalism of the country or its formal dissolution into a scattering of tribal- and ethnic-based states. The grand strategic purpose of China’s ambitious multipolar transnational connective infrastructure projects would thus neutralized in comparison to their original intent, fully in line with the “Law Of Hybrid War” which states that the US is seeking to provoke such identity conflicts for these very same purposes. In response to this Hybrid War threat, the Ethiopian government has tried hard to foster a strong sense of civilizational patriotism in order to unite its disparate ethnic and regional identity groups, but the threat remains that local differences could still be exploited by foreign factors in order to spark an uncontrollable conflagration of chaos.
Setting The Stage
The author wrote about the latest attempt to use identity conflict as a trigger for a nationwide crisis at the end of last year when the Oromo, the largest ethnic plurality in the country, staged a series of high-profile riots in response to the government’s controversial use of eminent domain. Prior to that, the author also wrote two related pieces, one for Katehon and the other for The Saker, about how the GCC is planning to use Eritrea as a launching pad for anti-Ethiopian activity in the future, predictably through the provocation of internal identity conflict. The former article specifically warned that the “current tribal violence in South Sudan (could) motivate a spillover effect into the neighboring Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (home to 45 different ethnic groups) or Gambella Region that ‘naturally’ creates the state-fragmenting process”, and as fate would have it, part of that forecast has already come true with the South Sudanese refugee rampage in Gambella and the preceding cross-border kidnapping raid. Although the situation presently appears to be under control, it can’t be certain that a repeat of either of these two conflict triggers will occur, especially considering that the nearly 300,000 refugees in Gambella could once more fall victim to manipulative crowd control techniques in turning them into “Weapons of Mass Migration” for indirect use against China.
Concluding Thoughts
To wrap up the article, it’s important to return back to its title and speak about how the weaponization of South Sudanese refugees against Ethiopia disproves one of the foundational tenets of modern-day “political correctness”. It would never be countenanced by Western Liberals and Cultural Marxists, let alone admitted after the fact of its provable occurrence, that refugees could be used to destabilize their host country, let alone when the evidence of this happening is of African-on-African aggression. The post-modern employment of “Weapons of Mass Migration” is a very real phenomenon that the author investigated in a twopart series earlier in the year, but in this specific context, it’s being leveraged against China’s New Silk Road interests in the Horn of Africa.
The “political incorrectness” of what happened in Gambella doesn’t take away from the destabilization that it caused, and ignoring the on-the-ground facts in favor of maintaining ideological “clarity” and “consistency” results in nothing more than the creation of an imagined reality that’s completely divorced from actual events. Moreover, denying that “Weapons of Mass Migration” exist actually ‘legitimizes’ “Israel” and enables the use of such unconventional strategies against other multipolar countries as well. Therefore, it must be underscored that the sooner that observers come to recognize the use of this enhanced form of post-modern weaponry, whether waged indirectly against Russia by using Arab refugees in Europe or against China through the utilization of South Sudanese ones in Ethiopia, the sooner that they can collectively put their energy together in exposing other similar such plots and devising appropriate countermeasures in responding to them.

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Andrew Korybko, Global Research, 2016

Zenawi’s nightmare scenario and unpublished white paper is Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen

Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen

Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.

The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.

Fourteen years later, reality has exceeded Zenawi’s nightmare scenario; not only has every one of his fears come to pass, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman bin Saud are working hand-in-glove on regional security issues — notably in Yemen and Libya — which has raised the stakes of the long-running Egypt-Ethiopia rivalry. If the worsening tensions in the Horn of Africa erupt into military conflict, as seems increasingly possible, it wouldn’t just be a disaster for the region — it could also be a catastrophe for the global economy. Almost all of the maritime trade between Europe and Asia, about $700 billion each year, passes through the Bab al-Mandab, the narrow straits on the southern entrance to the Red Sea, en route to the Suez Canal. An endless procession of cargo ships and oil tankers passes within sight — and artillery range — of both the Yemeni and African shores of the straits.

Can Europe Connect the ISIS Dots?
The Brussels attacks expose yet again the bureaucratic walls that prevent European agencies from sharing intelligence on terror threats.

Zenawi’s nightmare scenario, in other words, may soon become the world’s — and no one has a white paper to prepare for it

Zenawi’s nightmare scenario, in other words, may soon become the world’s — and no one has a white paper to prepare for it.A crisis in the Horn of Africa has been a long time in the making. The regional rivalries of today date back to 1869, when the Suez Canal was opened to shipping, instantly making the Red Sea one of the British Empire’s most important strategic arteries, since almost all of its trade with India passed that way. Then as now, the security of Egypt depended on control of the Nile headwaters, 80 percent of which originate in Ethiopia. Fearful that Ethiopia would dam the river and stop the flow, Egypt and its colonial masters attempted to keep Ethiopia weak and encircled. They did this in part by divvying up rights to the Nile’s waters without consulting Addis Ababa. For example, the British-drafted Nile Waters Agreements, signed in 1929 and 1959, excluded Ethiopia from any share of the waters. As a result, Egypt and Ethiopia became regional rivals, intensely suspicious of each other.

The Nile remains a high-profile source of tension between the two countries to this day; Sisi’s state visit last year to Ethiopia failed to achieve much, in large part because of Egypt’s unease over a huge Ethiopian hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile. But another important source of friction between the two countries has centered for some time on two of Ethiopia’s volatile neighbors — Eritrea and Somalia — which Cairo has long viewed as useful partners to secure its interests along the Red Sea littoral. Ethiopia has shown it will resist what it views as Egyptian encroachment near its borders. From 2001 to 2004, for instance, Ethiopia and Egypt backed rival factions in Somalia, which prolonged that country’s destructive civil war.

These fractures in the Horn of Africa have been deepened by Saudi Arabia’s reassessment of its security strategy. Worried that the United States was withdrawing from its role as security guarantor for the wider region, it resolved to build up its armed forces and project its power into strategic hinterlands and sea lanes to the north and south. In practice, that has meant winning over less powerful countries along the African coast of the Red Sea — Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia — a region that Ethiopia has sought to place within its sphere of influence.

The Saudi presence along the African Red Sea coast has grown more sharply pronounced since its March 2015 military intervention in Yemen, which drew in Egypt as part of a coalition of Sunni Arab states battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The coalition obtained combat units from Sudan and Eritrea, and scrambled to secure the entire African shore of the Red Sea. Then in January of this year — under pressure from Saudi Arabia — Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan all cut diplomatic ties with Iran. By far the most significant of these was Sudan, which has had long-standing political and military ties with Tehran. For years, Iranian warships called at Port Sudan, and Iranian clandestine supplies to the Palestinian militant group Hamas passed freely along Sudan’s Red Sea coast (occasionally intercepted by Israeli jet fighters). Now Sudan is part of the Saudi-led coalition pummeling the Iran-backed Houthis.

But the most important geopolitical outcome of the Saudi-led Yemen intervention has been the rehabilitation of Eritrea, which capitalized on the war to escape severe political and economic isolation. After it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea fought wars with each of its three land neighbors — Djibouti, Sudan, and Ethiopia. It also fought a brief war with Yemen over the disputed Hanish Islands in the Red Sea in 1995, after which it declined to reestablish diplomatic relations with Sana’a and instead backed the Houthi rebels against the government.

After the Ethio-Eritrean border war of 1998-2000, Eritrea became a garrison state — with an army of 320,000, it has one the highest soldier-to-population ratios in the world — and Ethiopia led an international campaign to isolate it at the African Union, United Nations, and other international bodies. This was made easier by Eritrea’s increasingly rogue behavior, including backing al-Shabab militants in Somalia. The imposition of U.N. sanctions in 2009 brought the country to the brink of financial collapse.

But the war in Yemen gave Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki a get-out-of-jail-free card. He switched sides in the Yemen conflict and allied himself with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners. As a result, the Eritrean president is now publicly praised by the Yemeni government and welcomed in Arab capitals. His government is also reaping handsome if secret financial rewards in exchange for its diplomatic about-face.

But the fact that Eritrea has decisively escaped Ethiopia’s trap does not mean it has suddenly become a more viable dictatorship. On the contrary, the renewed geostrategic interest in the country and its 750-mile Red Sea coast make the question of who succeeds Afewerki, who has been in power for a quarter century, all the more contentious — especially since Ethiopia has long sought to hand pick a replacement for the Eritrean president. Already, Ethiopia mounts regular small military sorties on the countries’ common border to let Eritrea know who is the regional powerbroker. It would not take much for these tensions to explode into open war.

Saudi Arabia’s revamped security strategy has also meant a sudden influx of Arab funds into Somalia. The Saudis promised $50 million to Mogadishu in exchange for closing the Iranian embassy, for example, while other Arab countries and Turkey have spent lavishly to court the allegiance of Somali politicians. This is partly intra-Sunni competition — Turkish- and Qatar-backed candidates pitted against those funded by the Wahhabi alliance — but it also reflects Somalia’s increasing geopolitical importance. In the country’s national elections scheduled for September, Arab- and Wahhabi-affiliated candidates for parliament could very well sweep the board.

All of this has made Ethiopia very nervous — as it should. The tremors of the region’s shifting tectonic plates may not directly cause a major crisis. The more probable outcome is deeper divisions between Egypt and Ethiopia, which could cause a proliferation or deepening of proxy disputes elsewhere in the region, such as the two countries’ competing efforts to shape the future leadership of Eritrea and Somalia.

Still, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility of a dramatic security crisis stemming from the shifting regional balance of power. It could come in the form of renewed fighting over Eritrea’s still-disputed land borders, or spinoffs from the war in Yemen, such as the eruption of maritime terrorism. That would lead to a dramatic escalation of the militarization of the region. It would also threaten to entirely close the region’s sea lanes — the ones that are so central to global commerce.

Unfortunately, the international community is sorely unprepared for such an outcome. A well-established, multi-country naval coalition patrols the sea lanes off Somalia’s coast to combat piracy, but no international political mechanism currently exists to diffuse a regional crisis. In the relevant bureaucracies that might be called upon in an emergency — from the United Nations to the U.S. State Department — Africa and the Middle East are handled by separate divisions that tend not to coordinate. The EU’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Alex Rondos, has taken the lead in developing an integrated strategy for both shores of the Red Sea, but the EU’s foreign policy instruments are ill-suited to hard security challenges such as this that span two continents.

For its part, the African Union has developed a sophisticated set of conflict management practices for its region. It has taken a hard line against coups and pioneered the principle of non-indifference in the internal affairs of member states — foreshadowing the doctrine of “responsibility to protect.” Its summits serve as gatherings where peer pressure is used for the informal management of conflicts, with more success than is usually recognized. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional alliance of Gulf monarchies that would inevitably be involved in a major regional dispute of this kind, should learn from these African best practices. That would require a dramatic change in the mind-set of Arab royal families, which assume that their relationship with Africans is one of patron and client. Too often, the Africans reinforce that mind-set by acting as supplicants. For example, when the African Union sent a delegation to the Gulf countries in November, the agenda wasn’t strategic dialogue or partnership — it was fundraising.

But to prevent Zenawi’s “nightmare scenario” from coming to fruition, the Africans and the Arabs need to recognize the Red Sea as a shared strategic space that demands their coordination. A sensible place to start would be by convening a Red Sea forum composed of the GCC and the AU — plus other interested parties such as the United Nations, European Union, and Asian trading partners — to open lines of communication, discuss strategic objectives for peace and security and agree on mechanisms for minimizing risk. The fast-emerging Red Sea security challenge is well suited to that most prosaic of diplomatic initiatives — a talking shop.

The problem is, all these actors tend to start talking only after a crisis has already exploded. Here’s a timely warning.

Image credit: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

Ethiopians in Israeli Army ambivalent integration

BY MITCH GINSBURG

original title – Mixed results for army’s Ethiopian integration program

IDF tells Knesset committee incarceration rates were down but that dishonorable discharge figures are rising.

The incarceration rate of Israeli soldiers of Ethiopian heritage has dropped considerably during the first half of 2014 as opposed to the same period in 2013, the army told a Knesset oversight committee on Sunday

The overall figures, however, are still troubling, the army conceded, with the community still severely over-represented in army prisons and the dishonorable discharge rate hovering at 22.8 percent for men and 10.6% for women – both figures that have risen slightly over recent years and which are well above the national averages of 16.5% and 7.5% respectively.
————–
“Although the figures do show a slight improvement, the gaps are still large and in certain realms there has even been a regression,” said MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor), a colonel in the IDF reserves and the chair of the subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that heard the IDF report on Sunday. The committee is closely monitoring the army’s progress in integrating the Ethiopian community successfully into its ranks.

Motivation to serve in the IDF is high among the 130,000 or so Israelis of Ethiopian heritage, IDF data indicated, with 89% of teenage boys and 57% of teenage girls joining the army.
———–

The discrepancy between the desire to serve at the onset and the service record upon discharge has spurred the army into action. Early in 2013, the army’s first female major general, the recently retired commander of the IDF’s Manpower Division, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, set aside funds, despite across-the-board cuts in the army’s budget, for the establishment of a department devoted solely to the advancement of soldiers of Ethiopian heritage.

The army now runs a 24-hour call center in Hebrew and Amharic for soldiers, pre-draft teens and parents. It streamlined the process of requesting financial aid by requiring only the recommendation of an officer and an NCO, and not the bevy of bank statements required of other soldiers requesting assistance. It mandated yearly home visits by direct commanders, beginning no later than eight weeks after a soldier’s draft date. And, among a score of other measures, it launched a pre-army program solely for Israelis of Ethiopian heritage, AMIR, and began administering an alternative set of evaluation tests which gauge cognitive capacity rather than aptitude.

Maj. Hila Halpern, the commander of the new department, told the MKs that the new testing method had proven effective, enabling the army to post soldiers from the community to more challenging and interesting positions in the Air Force and the Intelligence Corps, among other units, and led to the corresponding drop in the incarceration rate, which fell over the past year from 10.8% to 9.1% – though the reduced figure is still more than double the community’s representation in the army at large.

The incarceration rate of Israeli soldiers of Ethiopian heritage has dropped considerably during the first half of 2014 as opposed to the same period in 2013, the army told a Knesset oversight committee on Sunday.

The overall figures, however, are still troubling, the army conceded, with the community still severely over-represented in army prisons and the dishonorable discharge rate hovering at 22.8 percent for men and 10.6% for women – both figures that have risen slightly over recent years and which are well above the national averages of 16.5% and 7.5% respectively.

“Although the figures do show a slight improvement, the gaps are still large and in certain realms there has even been a regression,” said MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor), a colonel in the IDF reserves and the chair of the subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that heard the IDF report on Sunday. The committee is closely monitoring the army’s progress in integrating the Ethiopian community successfully into its ranks.

Motivation to serve in the IDF is high among the 130,000 or so Israelis of Ethiopian heritage, IDF data indicated, with 89% of teenage boys and 57% of teenage girls joining the army.

The discrepancy between the desire to serve at the onset and the service record upon discharge has spurred the army into action. Early in 2013, the army’s first female major general, the recently retired commander of the IDF’s Manpower Division, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, set aside funds, despite across-the-board cuts in the army’s budget, for the establishment of a department devoted solely to the advancement of soldiers of Ethiopian heritage.

The army now runs a 24-hour call center in Hebrew and Amharic for soldiers, pre-draft teens and parents. It streamlined the process of requesting financial aid by requiring only the recommendation of an officer and an NCO, and not the bevy of bank statements required of other soldiers requesting assistance. It mandated yearly home visits by direct commanders, beginning no later than eight weeks after a soldier’s draft date. And, among a score of other measures, it launched a pre-army program solely for Israelis of Ethiopian heritage, AMIR, and began administering an alternative set of evaluation tests which gauge cognitive capacity rather than aptitude.

Maj. Hila Halpern, the commander of the new department, told the MKs that the new testing method had proven effective, enabling the army to post soldiers from the community to more challenging and interesting positions in the Air Force and the Intelligence Corps, among other units, and led to the corresponding drop in the incarceration rate, which fell over the past year from 10.8% to 9.1% – though the reduced figure is still more than double the community’s representation in the army at large.

Bar-Lev scolded the army at the outset for sending him a copy of the new figures “eight and a half minutes” before the start of the session, and insisted that the drop in the number of male officers and the rise in the number dishonorable discharges suggested the army was taking credit for the improvements but deeming as inexplicable the setbacks. “You keep finding the coin under the beam of the flashlight,” he said.

There are currently 10 times more soldiers of Ethiopian heritage being dishonorably discharged than attending officers’ training school, he added.

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) asked Halpern what had become of the committee’s earlier recommendation to change the way soldiers from the community are put on trial, with an emphasis on higher-ranking officers meting out justice. “That is the sort of change we are looking for,” said Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet. Halpern replied that the army was still weighing the matter.

Ziva Mekonen Degu, the executive director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, lamented the army’s “segregationist” approach, adding that the solution to the problem can’t be based on skin color alone.

MK Penina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) told The Times of Israel in May that the Amir course, which is solely for members of the community, “is an embarrassment and a disgrace and a certificate of poverty.” Can you imagine this happening in the US Army, she asked, “a course only for African-Americans?”

Seated at the head of the committee’s large oval table, Bar-Lev ignored the charges of segregation and instead asked the army to prepare a plan for the successful re-entry of the soldiers into the civilian world. “In the end, most of the years that these young men and women serve the state are after their discharge,” he said, adding that bridging the gaps for these teens “is a social and security imperative of the first order.”

 

China colonizing Africa through its dictators in Ethiopia

It is a dramatic increase in China’s investment in Ethiopia as spring board for African recolonization . By some estimates, it’s more than doubled in the past five years to more than two billion dollars and bribing the leaders to control one of the ancient independent country. This fuel the country’s recent dramatic foreign pumped growth in the cities making the rich rich and the poor to live in the feudal period creating wide parity.



Egypt & Ethiopia End of the Road on the Nile Dam

The Original Title 

No Room for Debate on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam? by Lori Pottinger

GERD is being built in Ethiopia near the Sudan border

International Rivers has been caught in the crossfirebetween Ethiopia and Egypt as they struggle over a large dam being built on the Nile River by Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s government turned its sights on International Rivers after we published a leaked report by the international panel of experts charged with reviewing project documents for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Oursummary of their report describes a number of outstanding concerns raised by the non-binding panel, including the inadequacy of the hydrological-impacts study (a key document for understanding how the dam will affect people and ecosystems downstream).

In response, Ethiopia’s “national panel of experts” (which includes two of the 10 members of the Panel) issued a histrionic statement that claims our organization is backed by “Egyptian financiers,” seeks to prevent Ethiopia from developing, and other provocative and groundless charges. Unhelpfully, their statement does not actually address the concerns raised by the International Panel of Experts (IPoE), nor our summary of them. You can read the IPoE reportand come to your own conclusions.

Ethiopia’s wild allegations have been quite popular with a certain category of internet attack dogs, and these folks aren’t likely to be swayed by what we say here. However, we can state unequivocally: International Rivers does not take funding from any government institution, including Egypt. We are not “taking sides” – we are impartial when it comes to critiquing destructive river projects and poor river management around the globe, including inEgypt and Sudan. The Nile is just one of many basins where conflicts are arising from engineering rivers for a narrow purpose with a limited group of beneficiaries, while a much larger group of people is left to suffer the consequences. These conflicts are exacerbated when transboundary rivers are “developed” for hydroelectricity in isolation and in secrecy. Readers can learn more about our cautions regarding the myriad of dams and diversions planned by many riparian nations along the Nile in our 2003 paper Can the Nile States Dam Their Way to Cooperation?, which presciently noted that poorly planned large dams could worsen tensions over the Nile.

We recognize Ethiopia’s interest in updating the Nile Basin Treaty, support economic development that winnows Ethiopia’s poverty rates, and acknowledge that the Ethiopian Government must chart its own course of development. Our experience as an organization with expertise in hydropower and rivers, and as part of a global civil society movement of dam-affected peoples, leads us to conclude that maintaining healthy rivers and the ecosystems and communities they support is key to long-term prosperity. Our experience studying mega-dams in Africa reveals these projects have consistently failed to reduce poverty, and have been a costly and ineffective solution for increasing access for the millions of people on the continent without reliable access to electricity. We believe a greater focus ondecentralized energy solutions will more quickly, cheaply and effectively begin to close the yawning gap of Africa’s energy poverty.

The GERD Panel concluded a year ago that more studies – some of them quite substantial, but also standard practice for a project of this magnitude – must be undertaken to fully assess GERD’s impacts.  Drawing upon this evaluation by an international team of technical experts, International Rivers has called for a halt to the hurried construction so that critical information on the project’s impacts can be assessed and steps to reduce impacts agreed upon by all nations involved in the dispute.

To the government of Ethiopia, we respectfully submit that the greatest threat to the GERD project is not International Rivers’ publicizing the Panel’s report, but rather the escalation of tensions resulting from the dam’s poor planning process. Such a monumental project should be accompanied by an equally monumental effort to gain acceptance from people who will be affected by it, and a commitment to adopt best practices for managing this important shared river. The next step is to begin the robust studies as called for by the Panel of Experts.

At this writing, Egypt and Ethiopia remain at an impasse while construction of the dam proceeds at a rapid pace. This serious conflict – borne of decades of mistrust between the two nations and controversial treaties over the use of Nile waters – is being enflamed by Ethiopia’s rushed and secretive process. This is what threatens the viability and success of this project. We urge the Nile states to find constructive ways to forge national and regional development strategies that ensure the long-term health of this critically important river, and build resilience to climatic uncertainty.

—————

GERD Panel of Experts Report: Big Questions Remain

 

 

Construction on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam(GERD) – Africa’s biggest hydropower dam – began based on piecemeal preliminary studies and design documents, with only a very basic analysis of how the project would affect downstream neighbors, according to the 2013 final report by an international panel of experts established to evaluate the scheme. The megadam is being built on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, near the Sudan border, and has created conflict with Egypt over its downstream impacts; the experts’ study confirms Egypt’s concerns that the project’s impacts could be significant and are not well understood.

The Ethiopian government reported last year that the panel’s report “showed that the Dam offers high benefit for all the three countries and would not cause significant harm on both the lower riparian countries”, while Egypt has repeatedly said the report calls for more analysis of downstream impacts. Because the report was not made public, neither side could be vetted. Egypt has called for mediation if further studies are not allowed; at this writing, Ethiopia had refused, and was continuing with dam construction.

In March 2014, International Rivers received a leaked copy of the report.  The report documents numerous problems with existing analysis and a lack of analysis on a number of critical issues. The panel recommends further investigation into the dam’s hydrological impacts, including on downstream countries’ water supplies and power generation; risks from climate change, and geotechnical issues. The panel recommends “a full transboundary environmental and social impact assessment … conducted jointly by the three countries.”

The 10-member panel included two members from each of the three riparians (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan), plus four international experts agreed upon by the governments. A geotechnical expert group was added later. The main panel met for about a year, and had four field visits to the dam site. While the panel’s members were granted access to many key project documents (all of which remain confidential at this time), some key reports were not shared with them, including the critical geotechnical assessments for the main and saddle dams, and project cost-benefit analyses.

One international dam expert who has seen the report states that it shows that construction on the project is proceeding on “an aggressively accelerated schedule” with little room for adjusting key elements of dam design to reduce harm or prevent problems. A number of key studies for the project are described by the panel as being outdated or in process. While references are made to some specific international standards being adhered to, overall, the process described seems chaotic and incomplete. It is also clear that there is precious little oversight on Africa’s largest dam project to date. While the international panel has brought a type of oversight, it may be too little, too late – and with too little teeth; it seems the panel does not have a continuing role in ensuring best practices as construction proceeds.

The panel’s report is almost a year old at this writing, yet its members have been mostly silent since their report was completed (as far as we know, none of the panelists have made public statements about the project). The Egyptian and Ethiopian governments continue the war of words, while at the same time construction on the megadam proceeds, and questions raised by the panel remain unanswered.

Going forward, International Rivers recommends construction on the project be halteduntil all necessary studies recommended by the panel are completed, and a process is in place for ensuring public accountability on the project. Given the panel’s findings, Egypt’s call for mediation in the process is reasonable, and donor governments and international bodies should support such a process.

The following summarizes some of the panel’s key findings and recommendations:

 

  • Quality of project documents: The present design criteria are “quite general, and do not include project- and site-specific conditions … The most essential geotechnical, seismological, hydro-geological, hydrological, hydraulic and structural design data should be compiled into a consolidated report and not scattered in numerous design reports.” The project’s main design report is outdated and does not reflect numerous and significant design changes to the project.
  • Safety: “The stability of the main dam and other main structures should be verified under consideration of additional geological and geotechnical findings.”  The panel believes more analysis may be necessary, but without having access to all information on this aspect of the project, cannot be sure. Nonetheless, they do question some assumptions on the project’s “shear strength” and raise concerns about sliding, seepage and other safety issues. “In view of the on-going construction works . . . highest priority shall be given to clarify [dam safety issues] as soon as possible. Structural measures might be needed to stabilize the foundation to achieve the required safety against sliding.” The panel also suggests design modifications for the saddle dam and further studies on the spillway dimensions. The panel recommends that the discharge of the “Probable Maximum Flood” used in the dam design be increased.
  • Downstream changes to water flow: First and foremost, “The (hydrological study) is very basic, and not yet at a level of detail, sophistication and reliability that would befit a development of this magnitude, importance and with such regional impact as GERD.” Project studies looked only at the GERD site. “No upstream developments are taken into account, and no downstream flow records … are given as would be needed to assess downstream impacts.” The panel notes that, “given the proposed upstream cascade development of similar magnitude than the GERD, the upstream flow records could be of significant importance.” The panel notes that the hydrological report uses questionable estimates of evaporation from the reservoir (a key issue in how much water the dam will “use”), and recommends further assessments of evaporation. It also notes that the project did not quantify water losses through deep percolation during reservoir filling. Regarding GERD’s impact on Egypt’s water supply, the panel found that “mass balances represented in the report of water between the GERD and the High Aswan Dam could not be reconciled given the information presented.” The GERD also allows for greater expansion of irrigated cropping in Sudan, which could further reduce flows to Egypt; the panel recommends a detailed study on this issue.
  • Environmental impacts: Surprisingly little information is included on impacts on local people, ecosystems, fisheries or biodiversity. The official Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report was “strictly limited to the impact zones located upstream of the dam site in Ethiopia.” Downstream environmental impacts were not considered as being significant, and therefore several related socio-economic impacts are not addressed. Dam height was chosen without consideration of downstream environmental and socio-economic impacts. The panel recommends a full transboundary impact assessment be done.
  • Climate risks: The panel notes that the project did not assess the project’s sensitivity to climate change. A project of this scale and with such heavy reliance on rainfall patterns requires a better understanding of future hydrologic conditions to ensure the highest degree of flexibility and resiliency in its design and operation. The panel recommends a study that looks at the potential influence of climate change on the flow regime at GERD and further downstream.
  • Sediment and water quality issues: The project did not include an analysis of sediment deposition in the reservoir (a troublesome issue for dams on the muddy Nile). The panel notes that sediment flows downstream of the dam will be substantially reduced, with implications for floodplain farming productivity, navigation, Sudan’s brick industry, riverbank erosion, and biodiversity. The panel also recommends additional studies on water quality changes from the project, particularly on methane gas production and the depletion of dissolved oxygen levels in water releases that could harm fisheries and biodiversity downstream.
  • Dam operations: Very little information on how the dam will be operated was given. At a basic level, both present and future needs for “peaking power versus base power needs to be assessed in more detail,” and “needs to be taken into account in (project) planning and sizing.” The report requests verification of the 6,000MW installed capacity. Furthermore, the Panel does not indicate if the dam was designed in a way to accommodate “environmental flows” (which can be used to mitigate impacts of a dam on a river). In all likelihood this was not considered as the panel writes that “it is not clear whether the present design considers (capacity, functionality) the minimum mean flows of the dry months release to the downstream countries” without use of power generation facilities or the spillway.  It is also clear that consideration of operation of the GERD in coordination with water systems in Egypt and Sudan was at a very preliminary stage during the writing of this report. The report strongly recommends additional studies of the GERD “in the context of the Eastern Nile System” in order to “quantify the downstream impacts in detail with confidence.”

More information:

Download the full report

Ethiopian Government’s official response to the Panel’s findings

Egypt-Ethiopia Nile Dam Talks Hit Dead End

Read our blog on the controversy generated by leaking this report

Ethiopian Regime Repression

by GRAHAM PEEBLES

They speak of democracy, but act violently to suppress dissenting voices and control the people through the inculcation of fear: they ignore human rights and trample on the people, they are a tyrannical wolf in democratic sheep’s clothing, causing suffering and misery to thousands of people throughout Ethiopia. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government repeatedly scoffs at international law and consistently acts in violation of their own Federal constitution – a liberal document written by the regime to please and deceive their foreign supporters. They have enacted laws of repression: the widely condemned Charities and Societies (ATD) law (CSO law) and the Anti Terrorism Declaration, which is the main tool of political control, together with
The ‘Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation’ they form a formidable unjust arsenal of government control. Freedom of the media (which is largely ‘state-owned’) is denied and political dissent is all but outlawed.

Against this repressive backdrop, the Semayawi (Blue) party, a new opposition group, organized peaceful protests on the 2nd June in Addis Ababa. Ten thousand or so people marched through the capital demanding the release of political prisoners, “respect for the constitution” and Justice! Justice! Justice! It was (Reuters 2/06/2013 reported), an “anti-Government procession…. the first large-scale protest since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 200 people”, a ‘disputed election’ result that was discredited totally by European Union observers and denounced by opposition groups and large swathes of the population.

The Chairman of the Semayawi Party, Yilekal Getachew, told Reuters, “We have repeatedly asked the government to release political leaders, journalists and those who asked the government not to intervene in religious affairs”. In keeping with the recent worldwide movement for freedom and social justice, he stated that, “if these questions are not resolved and no progress is made in the next three months, we will organize more protests. It is the beginning of our struggle”. To the disappointment of many and the surprise of nobody, the government has made no attempt to ‘resolve’ the questions raised, and true to their word a second demonstration was planned for 1st September in Addis Ababa. In the event, as the BBC report, around “100 members of Ethiopia’s opposition Semayawi (Blue) party were arrested and some badly beaten”, and “equipment such as sound systems were confiscated”, ahead of the planned rally, which was banned by the EPRDF. Government justification formed, and a cock and bull story was duly constructed with Communication Minister Shimeles Kemal stating “the venue [for Semayawi’s event) had already been booked by a pro-government group condemning religious extremism”.

Non-interference in religious affairs is one of the key demands of the Semayawi party, a demand based upon the constitutional commitment of religious independence from the State, which Muslim groups claim the government has violated. Enraged by government interference in all matters religious, the Muslim community have organised regular small-scale protests and sit-ins in the capital for the last two years. In early August, Reuters 8/08/2013 reported “Demonstrators chanted “Allahu Akbar” and hoisted banners that read “respect the constitution”, referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council”. Around 40% of Ethiopia’s population (around 85 million) are Muslim, for generations they have lived amicably with their Orthodox Christians neighbours, who make up the majority in the country; they are moderate in their beliefs and peaceful in their ways. The EPRDF in contrast are violent, intolerant and ideologically driven; ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ being the particular tune to which the democratic dictatorship hums and drums its partisan rule.

“Name-Calling”

The government’s response to the peaceful demonstrations, has unsurprisingly been intolerant and dismissive; their comments inflammatory and predictable, stating Mail@Guardian 14/07/2013 record, “most of these demonstrators are Islamic extremists”, and showing their own ‘extreme’ tendencies, authoritively declaring that “the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by “extremists” [this time] overseas”. Duplicitous nonsense, which serves to distract attention from the underlying issues being raised and the imperative (and legal requirement) for the government to act in accordance with its own constitution.

Along with such disingenuous comments the regime has responded to the protests in a repressive manner; imprisoning Muslims calling for justice, causing Amnesty International 8/08/2013 to be “extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia… of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters”, Amnesty demand that the “on-going repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now”. Despite the fact that the protests have been peaceful and good-natured the regime has consistently described the protesters as violent terrorists, in February the ‘Holy War Movement’ was shown on State Television, it presented protestors and those arrested (including journalists), as terrorists. And in a clear violation of people’s constitutional right to protest, the regime has threatened to take firm action against further protests.

Whilst the majority of actions during the last two years have been without incident, protests in Kofele in the Oromia region on 8th August ended in “the deaths of an unconfirmed number”, there have also been reports of large numbers of people being arrested in Kofele and Addis Ababa, including two journalists. Following the Kofele deaths Amnesty called for “an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the events in Kofele, as well as into the four incidents last year which resulted in the deaths and injuries of protestors”. Legitimate demands which the regime has duly ignored.

The EPRDF does not tolerate any independent media coverage within the country and indeed does all it can to control the flow of information out of Ethiopia and restrict totally dissenting voices. And they don’t care who the journalist is working for, key allies or diaspora media; In October 2012 a reporter from the Voice of America (VOA) covering a protest in Anwar Mosque in Addis was arrested and told to erase her recorded interviews, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report. This was not the first time a VOA journalist had been detained. “They are criminalizing journalism,” said Martin Schibbye a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed [in 2011] along with a colleague for more than 14 months in Ethiopia”, for entering the Ogaden region. A heavily militarized area where wide ranging human rights violations constituting crimes against humanity are taking place, which has been hidden from the International media and aid organisations since 2007. Fearing imprisonment, many journalists have left Ethiopia, CPJ report that in 2012, along with Eritrea, it was were Africa’s ‘top jailer’ of journalists”, coming in eighth worldwide.

Unjust Laws of Control

In July last year, hundreds of protesting Muslims peacefully demanding that the government stop interfering in their religious affairs and allow them to vote freely for representatives on the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Most were released, but 29 members of the protest committee were charged on 29th October under the universally criticized Anti Terrorist Declaration (ATD), accused of “intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause” by force, and the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of terrorist acts.” Their arrest has been slammed by human rights groups as well as the United States Commission on religious Freedom, who “are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s government is seeking to silence peaceful religious freedom proponents by detaining and trying them in secret under trumped-up terrorism charges.  They should be released now and their trials halted”. The men claim to have been “tortured and experienced other ill-treatment in detention”.

The ambiguous ATD was introduced in 2009 and has been used by the Ethiopian government, “to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) state. It violates dues process, which like a raft of other internationally recognized and legally binding rights, is enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. The legislation cause outrage amongst human rights groups and the right minded when it was proposed. HRW (30/06/2009) said of the draft law, (which un-amended found its way onto the statute books) that it would “permit the government to repress a wide range of internationally protected freedoms”, – precisely the reason for it’s introduction, and it provides “the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy”.

The unjust law allows for long-tem imprisonment and the death penalty for so called crimes that meet some EPRDF definition of terrorism, and denies in some cases a defendants right to be presumed innocent – the bedrock of the international judicial system. Torture is used without restraint by the military and police, under the ATD evidence obtained whilst a prisoner is being beaten, hanged, whipped or drowned is admissible in court, this criminal act contravenes Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (ratified by Ethiopia in 1994), which ‘requires that any statement made as a result of torture is inadmissible as evidence’. Terrorism is indeed an issue of grave concern in Ethiopia, it is not rooted in the Muslim community, the media, the Blue Party or the Universities, it is State Terrorism that stalks this land, that kills and falsely imprisons, tortures and rapes the innocent, it is the EPRDF; the rebel group that ousted a communist dictator in 1991 only to take up his tyrannical mantle, who manipulate the law to serve their repressive rule and who violates a plethora of human rights, consistently and with impunity. Ethiopia’s donors and international friends, (primarily America and Britain) have other, larger fish on their minds, and even though they give the country over a third of its federal budget they seem unconcerned by the criminality being committed, much of which is taking place under the cloak of development. Violent rule however is a storm that is imploding throughout the world, the people, who have suffered long enough, sense their collective strength and are awakening.

Need for Unity

Although completely contrary to the EPRDF’s pledge of Federal Federalism, divide and rule is the effective methodology of division employed by the regime. In a country with dozens of tribal groups, various ethnicities and different religious beliefs (Islam and Christianity), unity is the key to any popular social revolution, much needed and ardently longed for by millions throughout the land. We are witnessing a worldwide protest movement for change; age-old values of freedom, equality and social justice, brotherhood and peace are the clarion call of many marching and protesting. And so it is in Ethiopia, the Blue party and other opposition groups, the Muslim community and the students on the streets demanding Justice! Justice! Jusitce! are in harmony with the rhythm of the times. Out of step and blind to the needs of the people and their rightful demands, the ruling party acts with violence to drown out their voices and suppress their rights: in Addis Ababa, where thousands marched in June, in Oromia and the Ogaden, where the people seek autonomy, in Amhara, where thousands have been displaced, in Gambella and the Lower Omo Valley, where native people are being driven off their ancestral land into state created villages, women raped and men beaten.

Unity is the song of the day, rich with diversity united in intent, the collective will of the people of Ethiopia and indeed throughout the world is an unstoppable force for change. All steps need to be taken to remove the obstacle to the realization of unity throughout the country, ethnic prejudices and tribal differences; all need to be laid aside. The Ethiopian regime may succeed in subduing the movement for change that is simmering throughout the country, however with sustained unified action, peacefully undertaken and relentlessly expressed, freedom and social justice, longed for by millions throughout the country, will surely come.

Graham Peebles is director of the Create Trust. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org

AMAN THE ETHIOPIAN ELITE A RARE RUNNER

————————–———–

POSATHLETECOUNTRYMARK
1MohammedAMANETHETH1:43.31 SB
2Nick SYMMONDSUSAUSA1:43.55 SB
3AyanlehSOULEIMANDJIDJI1:43.76

View the full results for Men’s 800 Metres Final

History, of sorts, was made when Mohammed Aman became the first Ethiopian to win a world outdoor 800m title as he kicked hard coming off the final bend to snatch the gold medal on Tuesday night (13).The spectacular victory in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium supersedes his 2012 World indoor 800m title and came against a terrific field. To make the result even sweeter his winning time of 1:43.31 is his fastest of the season.Until now his countrymen have dominated 5000m, 10,000m and Marathon podiums but Aman, a sprinter turned middle distance star, has ignited a new flame of belief amongst the youth of his country.Still, only 19 years of age and the youngest man to win a medal in his event, let alone a gold, Aman understands the significance of his accomplishment.“Ethiopians are known for marathons and for long distance and now middle distances so I am very happy,” said Aman, who learned English in high school and practices by watching movies and reading.“Anything is possible. I train in Ethiopia and also I have a good Ethiopian coach (Negusse Gechamo). I train in Entoto, Sendafa and also around Addis. I train with the national team. There are many national team members in Addis.”The race itself was exemplary championship running as Aman escaped from a box created by the two Americans, Duane Soloman and Nick Symmonds, and ran down the latter to steal the gold medal in the last 20 metres.Asked if he was confident or nervous coming into the final, the native of Assela, a small town south east of Addis Ababa, which is coincidently is Haile Gebrselassie’s home town, he smiled.“I don’t know. I had the confidence, I won four Diamond League races and so I am very confident,” he admits. “But it’s the World Championships so there’s a bit more stress. It’s a championship, you have to be careful to win this one.

“The truth is I didn’t think too much about the race last night.  I slept. My coach called me and said: ‘what are you doing? ’ I didn’t think about the race, I just focused on getting rest.”

This is the man who inflicted two rare defeats upon the mighty David Rudisha, the only ones he suffered in 2011 and 2012, who is resting a knee injury, beating the Kenyan World record holder in Zurich last year and in Milan the year before.

Unfortunately for the teenage Ethiopian, the absence of the world record holder and Olympic champion has been noticed by some aficionados who erroneously believe that his gold medal has been somewhat devalued.

Moments after the semi-finals in Moscow, Aman responded to these comments.

“I am very sad for him because injuries are very hard on athletes,” he said. “I am very sorry for him, but I don’t do sport for Rudisha, though, I do it for me. I didn’t say that because Rudisha is not involved, that the gold is for me. I didn’t say that because there are some very strong athletes here.”

 

Aman will have to wait until Thursday to gets his hands on his prize. Moscow 2013 organisers have scheduled his awards ceremony then because there is no evening session on Wednesday.

The impending celebration will also have to wait as he plans to wrap up his 2013 Diamond Race title in Brussels on 6 September before heading home.

“After Brussels I will go directly to see my mum,” he said with a huge smile.

“She saw me run in Daegu and then London. She expects me to win and I didn’t. Now it is my time so I will go directly to my mum and see my family and celebrate there. My mum, my dad and also other Ethiopians we have traditional ways to celebrate with a party.”

Aman has a firm grip on the Diamond Race. Victory in Brussels would cap off one brilliant season for a history making Ethiopian, and perhaps make it an even bigger party in Assela early next month when he finally returns home.

Paul Gains for the IAAF

Gambella’s Life in land Grabbing

By Graham Peebles

To many people land is much more than a resource or corporate commodity to be bought developed and sold for a profit. Identity, cultural history and livelihood are all connected to ‘place’. The erosion of traditional values and morality (which include the observation of human rights and environmental responsibility) are some of the many negative effects of the global neo-liberal economic model, with its focus on short-term gain and material benefit. The commercialization of everything and everybody has become the destructive goal of multi-nationals, and their corporate governments manically driven by the desire for perpetual growth as the elixir to life’s problems.

Land for profit

Since the ‘food crisis in 2008’ agricultural land in developing countries has been in high demand. Seen as a sound financial investment by foreign brokers and agrochemical firms, and as a way to create food security for their home market by corporations from Asia and the Middle East in particular.

Three quarters of worldwide land acquisitions have taken place in Sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty ridden and economically vulnerable countries (many run by governments with poor human rights records) are ‘encouraged’ to attract foreign investment by donor partners and their international guides. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and donor partners, powerful institutions that by “supporting the creation of investment-friendly climates and land markets in developing countries” have been a driving force behind the global rush for agricultural land, the Oakland Institute (OI) report in Unheard Voices (UV)[i].

Poor countries make easy pickings for multi-nationals negotiating deals for prime land at giveaway prices and with all manner of government sweeteners. Contracts sealed without consultation with local people, which lack transparency and accountability, have virtually no benefit for the ‘host’ country (certainly none for indigenous groups), and as Oxfam[ii] make clear “have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods”.

Ethiopia is a prime target for investors looking to acquire agricultural land. Since 2008 The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government has leased almost 4 million hectares, for commercial farm ventures. Land is cheap – they are virtually giving it away, tax is non-existent and profits (like the food grown) are smoothly repatriated. Local people are swept aside by a government unconcerned with human rights and the observation of federal, or international, law. A perfect environment then, where shady deals can be done and large corporate profits made. In their desperation to be seen as one of the ‘growth gang’ and “to make way for agricultural land investments”, the Ethiopian government has “committed egregious human rights abuses, in direct violation of international law,” OI state.

Forced from home

Bordering South Sudan the fertile Gambella region (where 42% of land is available), with its lush vegetation and flowing rivers, is where the majority of land sales in the country have taken place. Deals in the region are made possible by the EPRDF’s ‘villagisation programme’. This is forcibly clearing indigenous people off ancestral land and herding them into State created villages. The plan has been intensely criticised by human rights groups, and rightly so – 1.5 million people nationwide are destined to be re-settled, 225,000 (over three years) from Gambella.

More concerned to be seen as corporate buddy than guardian of the people, the Ethiopian government guarantees investors that it will clear land leased of everything and everyone. It has an obligation, OI says, to “deliver and hand over the vacant possession of leased land free of impediments”, swept clear of people, villages, forests and wildlife, and fully plumbed into local water supplies. Bulldozers are destroying the “farms, and grazing lands that have sustained Anuak, Mezenger, Nuer, Opo, and Komo peoples for centuries”, Cultural Survival (CS)[iii] records: and dissent, should it occur, is brutally dealt with by the government, that promises to “provide free security against any riot, disturbance or any turbulent time”. (OI) ‘Since you do not accept what government says, we jail you.’” The elder told from Batpul village told Human Rights Watch (HRW) [iv]. He was jailed without charge in Abobo, and held for more than two weeks, during which time “they turned me upside down, tied my legs to a pole, and beat me every day for 17 days until I was released”.

Hundreds of thousands of villagers, including pastoralists and indigenous people are being forcibly moved by the regime, HRW reports, they are “relocating them through violence and intimidation, and often without essential services,” such as education (denying children ‘the right to education’), water, and health care facilities – public services promised to the people and championed to donor countries by the government in their programme rhetoric.

Murder, rape, false imprisonment and torture are (reportedly) being committed by the Ethiopian military as they implement the federal governments policy of land clearance and re-settlement in accordance with its villagisation programme. ”My village was forced by the government to move to the new location against our will. I refused and was beaten and lost my two upper teeth”. This Anuak man told the NGO Inclusive Development International (IDI)[v], His brother “was beaten to death by the soldiers for refusing to go to the new village. My second brother was detained and I don’t know where he was taken by the soldiers”.

To the Anuak People, who are the majority tribal group in the affected areas, their land is who they are. It’s where the material to build their homes is found it’s their source of traditional medicines and food. It’s where their ancestors are buried and where their history rests. By driving these people off their land and into large settlements or camps, the government is not only destroying their homes, in which they have lived for generations, it is stealing their identity. Indigenous people tell of violent intimidation, beatings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in military custody, rape and extra-judicial killing. State criminality breaching a range of international and indeed federal laws, that Genocide Watch (GW)[vi] consider “to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres”, against the Anuak, as well as the people of Oromia, Omo and the Ogaden region.

The Ethiopian government is legally bound to obtain the ‘free, informed and prior consent’ of the indigenous people it plans to move. Far from obtaining consent, Niykaw Ochalla in Unheard Voices, states that, “when [the government] comes to take their land, it is without their knowledge, and in fact [the government] says that they no longer belonged to this land, [even though] the Anuak have owned it for generations”. Consultation, consent and compensation the ‘three c’s required by federal and international law. Constitutional duties and legal requirements, which like a raft of other human rights obligations the regime dutifully ignores. Nyikaw Ochalla confirms that “there is “no consultation at all”, sometimes people are warned they have to move, but just as often OI found the military “instruct people to get up and move the same day”. And individuals receive no compensation “for their loss of livelihood and land”. In extensive research The Oakland Institute “did not find any instances of government compensation being paid to indigenous populations evicted from their lands”, this despite binding legal requirements to do so.

‘Waiting here for death’

The picture of state intimidation in Gambella is a familiar one. Refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, recount stories of the same type of abuse, indeed as do people from Oromia and the Lower Omo valley. Tried and tested Government methodology used to enforce repressive measures and create fear amongst the people. “The first mission for all the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us”, a former commander of the Liyuu police told me. And to achieve this crushing end, they are told “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals”. From a wealth of information collated by HRW and the OI, it is clear that the Ethiopian military in Gambella is following the same criminal script as their compatriots in the Ogaden region.

We were at home on our farm, a 17-year-old girl from Abobo in Gambella (whose story echoes many), told HRW[vii] “when soldiers came up to us: ‘Do you accept to be relocated or not?’ ‘No.’ So they grabbed some of us. ‘Do you want to go now?’ ‘No.’ Then they shot my father and killed him”; a villager from Gooshini, now in exile in South Sudan, described how those in his settlement “that resisted…. were forced by soldiers to roll around in the mud in a stagnant water pool then beaten”.

The new settlements that make up the villagisation programme, are built on land that is “typically dry and arid”, completely unsuitable for farming and miles from water supplies, which are reserved for the industrial farms being constructed on fertile ancestral land. The result is increased food insecurity leading in some cases to starvation. HRW documented cases of people being forced off their land during the “harvest season, preventing them from harvesting their crops”. With such levels of cruelty and inhumanity the people feel desperate as one displaced individual told Human Rights Watch, “The government is killing our people through starvation and hunger . . . we are just waiting here for death”.

And should families try to leave the new settlement (something they are discouraged from doing) and return to their village homes, the government destroys them totally, burning houses and bulldozing the land. “The government brought the Anuak people here to die. They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back,” HRW record in ‘Waiting Here for Death’[viii]. People forced into the new villages are fearful of government assault, parents “are afraid to send their children to school because of the increased army presence. Parents worry that their children will be assaulted”. (UV)

In the face of such government atrocities the people feel powerless; but like many suffering injustice throughout the world, they are awakening demanding justice and the observation of fundamental human rights. “We don’t have any means of retrieving our land” Mr.O from the village of Pinykew in Gambella, told The Guardian (22/01/2013)[ix]. “Villagers have been butchered, falsely arrested and tortured, the women subjected to mass rape”. Enraged by such atrocities, he is bringing what could be a landmark legal case against Britain’s Department for International Development (DfiD). Leigh Day & Co, solicitors based in London, have taken the case, “arguing that money from DfiD is funding the villagisation programme”, that “breaches the department’s own human rights policies.” DfiD administer the £324 million given by the British government to Ethiopia, making it the biggest recipient of aid from the country. They deny supporting forced re-location, but their own documents reveal British funds are paying the salaries “of officials implementing the programme and for infrastructure in new villages”, The Daily Mail 25/05/2013 [x] reports. Allegations reinforced by HRW, who state that “British aid is having an enormous, negative side effect – and that is the forcible ending of these indigenous people’s way of life.” (Ibid)

In an account that rings with familiarity, Mr.O, now in Dadaab refugee camp, says he was forced from his village at gunpoint by the military. At first he refused to leave, so “soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) beat me with guns.” He was arrested, imprisoned in military barracks and tortured for three days, after which time he was taken to the new village, which “did not have water, food or productive fields”, where he was forced to build his house.

Government duplicity donor complicity

The government unsurprisingly denies all allegations of widespread human rights abuse connected with land deals and the ‘villagisation programme’ specifically. They continue to espouse the ‘promised public service and infrastructure benefits’ of the scheme that “by and large” OI assert, “have failed to materialise”. The regime is content to ignore documentation provided by human rights groups and NGOs and until recently had refused to cooperate with an investigation by the World Bank into allegations of abuse raised by indigenous Anuak people. The Bank incidentally that gives Ethiopia more financial aid than any other developing country, $920 million last year alone. Former regional president Omod Obang Olum oversaw the plan in Gambella and assures us resettlement is “voluntary” and “the programme successful”. Predictable duplicitous comments that IDI said “are laughable.”

An independent non-profit group working to advance human rights in development, IDI, has helped the Anuak people from Gambella “submit a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel implicating the Bank in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ethiopian Government“. The complaint alleges, “that the Anuak people have been severely harmed by the World Bank-financed and administered Providing Basic Services Project (PBS)”. A major development porgramme which is described as “expanding access and improving the quality of basic services in education, health, agriculture, water supply and sanitation”, OI report[xi]. However IDI make clear that “villagisation is the principle vehicle through which PBS is being implemented in Gambella”, and claim “there is “credible evidence” of “gross human rights violations” being committed in the region by the Ethiopian military. Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that donors are “paying for the construction of schools, health clinics, roads, and water facilities in the new [resettlement] villages. They are also funding agricultural programs directed towards resettled populations and the salaries of the local government officials who are implementing the policy”. (Ibid)

IDI’s serious allegations further support those made by many people from the region and Mr.O in his legal action against the DfID. The Banks inspection panel have said the “two programmes (PBS and villagisation) depend one each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.” The panel found “there is a plausible link between the two programmes but needs to engage in further fact-finding”. It is imperative the bank’s Inspection Panel have unrestricted access to Gambella and people feel safe to speak openly about the governments brutality.

All groups involved in land sales have both a moral duty – a civil responsibility – and a legal obligation to the people whose land is being leased. The Ethiopian government, the foreign corporations leasing the land and the donors – the World Bank and DfID, who, through PBS are funding the villagisation programme.

The Ethiopian government is in violation of a long list of international treatise that, in- keeping with their democratic pretentions, they are happy to sign up to, but less enthusiastic to observe. From the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and all points legal in between. Investors if not legally obliged, are certainly morally bound by the United Nations (UN) “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework,[xii] which, amongst other things, makes clear their duty to respect and work within human rights. Donor’s responsibility first and last is, to the people of Ethiopia, to ensure any so-called ‘development’ programmes (that commonly focus on economic targets), support their needs, ensures their wellbeing and observes their fundamental human rights.

To continue to turn a blind eye to widespread government abuse, and to support schemes, whether directly or indirectly, that violate human rights and cause suffering to the people is to be complicit to State criminality that is shattering the lives of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people, in Gambella and indeed elsewhere in the country.

Endnotes

[i] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/unheard-voices-human-rights-impact-land-investments-indigenous-communities-gambella
[ii] http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/land-and-power-the-growing-scandal-surrounding-the-new-wave-of-investments-in-l-142858
[iii] http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/ethiopia-stop-land-grabbing-and-restore-indigenous-peoples-lands/ethiopia-stop-land
[iv] http://www.hrw.org/node/109149
[v] http://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/ethiopia-gambella-villagization-program/
[vi] http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html
[vii] http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/28/ethiopia-army-commits-torture-rape
[viii] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ethiopia0112webwcover_0.pdf
[ix] http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/jan/22/ethiopia-resettlement-scheme-lives-shattered
[x] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2330911/UK-foreign-aid-Ethiopian-sues-Britain-claiming-1-3billion-programme-supports-Stalinist-regime-sent-worlds-biggest-refugee-camp.html#ixzz2UQj1KeIn
[xi] Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, PBS, http://www.dagethiopia.org/ndex.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=14&Item#sthash.5onLgZIf.dpuf (accessed May 2013).
[xii] http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/…/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf

– See more at: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/29243-land-in-gambella.html#sthash.KSyJ2R3d.dpuf

Adoption- When the joy of adoption turn Sore, The case of Hanna Ethiopian Motherless Child & her adoptive brother

MOUNT VERNON — A boy of about 12 has post-traumatic stress disorder because of the way his adoptive family treated him, a mental health therapist testified Wednesday.

Larry and Carri Williams adopted the boy from Ethiopia in 2008, along with a girl believed to be older than him. Three years later, the girl, Hana, collapsed in the family’s Sedro-Woolley backyard and died, reportedly of hypothermia hastened by malnutrition and a stomach infection.

The Williamses are each charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in Hana’s death, and first-degree assault in connection with alleged abuse of her brother. They have pleaded not guilty.

Wednesday was the third day of testimony in the trial, and the sole witness was Dr. Julia Petersen, a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Hospital. Petersen works exclusively with children who, like her, are deaf or hard of hearing.

The adopted Williams boy testified Monday through an interpreter.

He started meeting with Petersen in December, when he had been in foster care for more than a year. One of the goals of those sessions was to address behavioral problems his foster parents reported, including tantrums and opposition.

Petersen said the boy fit the diagnostic criteria for acute PTSD based in part on his nightmares about being physically harmed and the fact he was constantly afraid of making mistakes or expressing himself lest he be “punished.” His behavior problems would come up when his PTSD was triggered, she said.

He said multiple times in therapy sessions he felt like he wasn’t supposed to talk about what happened in the Williams home, but that he didn’t want to go back there, Petersen said.

“The issue of safety came up a lot,” Petersen said through a sign-language interpreter. She noted she tried to let him know he would be “protected in what he told me.”

Discipline the boy experienced in the Williams home, plus seeing Hana in pain and dying, is traumatic enough to lead to PTSD, Petersen said. The boy’s experiences in Ethiopia and in foster care do not appear to be the reason for it, she said.

Defense attorney Rachel Forde, who represents Larry Williams, questioned that conclusion.

“Hypothetically speaking, (your patient) being abandoned by his parents and left in a field, rescued by police and dropped off in an orphanage — in a hypothetical where those things are true, it’s your belief that those just made (him) sad?” she asked Petersen.

The boy never said he was abandoned or expressed anxiety or fear over that experience — just sadness and grief, Petersen said.

Forde also asked whether Petersen’s diagnosis would change if the therapist learned some of the boy’s symptoms began when he arrived at the Williams home. The therapist resisted drawing conclusions based on hypotheticals and said she would need to speak to the child, know the context and look at the “big picture.”

Records from Seattle Children’s Hospital show the Williamses brought their adopted son there in 2008, but did not return for the recommended annual follow-up visits.

Also at issue Wednesday was whether two of the biological Williams children will testify. Both plan to assert their Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions on the stand.

Their adopted brother said Monday one of the older boys took part in some of the beatings he described getting in the Williams home. This testimony made that biological son even more wary of speaking in court, his attorney said.

Judge Susan K. Cook has not yet ruled as to whether the biological sons will have to testify. She asked the attorneys for both sides to review case law on the matter and get back to her.

10 things that make Ethiopia extraordinary and 10 things that makes Ethiopia Extraordinarily sad !

Fairy tale castles, superb coffee and the Ark of the Covenant (OK, possibly) are just some of the unexpected attractions of this African country

By Oliver Robinson, for CNN 20 July, 2013Ethiopian vista

Freebies on an Ethiopian road trip: the extraordinary views around every corner.

What sets Ethiopia apart from its African neighbors?

The excellent coffee?

The fact that it was never colonized?

Or that Rastafarians regard it as their spiritual home?

Or could it be the smooth, well-maintained roads, so rare on the continent, that make exploring the country by car such a joy?

After a 1,430-kilometer drive through Ethiopia’s Northern Circuit — up mountains, through Martian-like landscapes, into lost kingdoms of yore — we found 10 crucial things that define the country.

1. The best Italian restaurant in the world (according to Bob Geldof, anyway)

The buzzing bedlam of Mahatma Gandhi Street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, is the setting for Castelli’s — arguably the best Italian restaurant this side of Bologna.

An Italian soldier, Francesco Castelli, founded the modest-looking eatery at the end of WWII. Since then it’s gained a global profile thanks to endorsement from celebrity diners such as Bob Geldof, Bono and Brad and Angelina.

But, high-profile praise aside, it’s the food that makes Castelli’s worth a visit before setting off from Addis into the Ethiopian wilds.

Ristorante Castelli, Mahatma Gandhi Street, Addis Ababa; +251 1 563 580, +251 1 571 757

2. Italian-style coffee

Like great Italian food, coffee is one of the legacies of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia during WWII.

While Mussolini’s men proved inept colonists (the Allies defeated them in 1943), their tenure in the country did at least ensure that an Italian-style espresso machine was installed in most cafes, restaurants and — weary travelers will be pleased to know — even dilapidated roadside shacks.

Ethiopians love their coffee and take pride in the fact that the plant’s invigorating effects were first discovered in the Oromia region of the country (see the 2006 documentary Black Gold).

3. Chinese roads

Ethiopian roadMade in China. Actually made by China. The country is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Ethiopia’s infrastructure.Aside from coffee and pasta, Ethiopia excels in roads.

Other African nations have roads — it’s just that few are a patch with those in Ethiopia.

The quality tarmac comes courtesy of huge Chinese investment — in 2009, it was estimated that China had poured $900 million into Ethiopia’s infrastructure, a figure that’s since increased exponentially.

Anyone who’s driven into Ethiopia from Kenya, via the perilous Marsabit route (fraught with bumps, brigands and bandits) will attest what a difference a nice road makes.

Ethiopia’s incredible mountain-top highway vistas don’t hurt, either.

Zanzibar: A very cultural beach holiday

4. Tanks … lots of them

Ethiopia tankSwords into ploughshares … or tanks into unusual climbing frames for kids, in the case of Ethiopia.Don’t worry: unless you get horribly lost and venture into Somalia, the tanks you’ll see along the roadside are burned-out remnants of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000).

Seen throughout the country, these defunct war machines stand as forbidding reminders of Ethiopia’s troubled past — and double as fun climbing frames for local children. (Next door Eritrea is the place to see if you really dig disused materiel.)

5. Underground churches

LalibelaLalibela’s monolithic churches still impress nine centuries later.Ethiopia sags under the weight of its cultural treasures, such as those at the UNESCO World Heritage site Lalibela.

In the late 12th century, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela had 13 churches — Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations — carved out of solid rock.

His achievement (meaning that of his stonemasons and slaves) is still incredibly impressive nine centuries on.

Lalibela — the first major point of interest on the Northern Circuit — is a 10-hour journey from Addis Ababa.

Head north up Route 1, passing through Debre Birhan, Kombolcha and Dessie. At Weldiya, leave the highway and follow the road west to Gashena.

At Gashena, take the road north to Lalibela.

6. Martian landscapes

Danakil Depression“The cruelest place on Earth?” Pretty, though.Located in the tumultuous Afar region on the Eritrean border, the Danakil Depression is strewn with volcanoes and salt lakes and is one of the hottest places on the planet.

So why visit what National Geographic calls “the cruelest place on Earth?”

Well, this also happens to be one of the most arresting natural sights you’ll see in Africa — or anywhere else.

With an unforgiving landscape that’s difficult to navigate, it’s also one of the few places in Ethiopia where you shouldn’t travel alone: most people go with an escort or in a convoy.

Tours can be arranged in Abbis. Reputable agency Ethiopia Travel and Tours (info@ethiotravelandtours.com) charges around $550 for a four-day trip.

7. Men-only monasteries

Debre DamoDebre Damo houses some of the most ancient Christian scripture in Africa. Gentlemen: you’ll have to describe it to the ladies.Just off the main road between Lalibela and Aksum lies Debre Damo, a monastery that can be reached only by scrambling up a 15-meter-high cliff face.

There is, however, a discriminatory door policy: only men are permitted to make the perilous ascent to the monastery.

That rule doesn’t apply just to female humans — even livestock of the fairer sex apparently risk distracting the monks from holy contemplation.

Gents who brave the climb can enjoy stunning vistas, as well as a chance to eye some of the most ancient Christian scripture in Africa.

Be warned that unofficial “guides” will try to extort inflated fees for their services before letting you back down the cliff — negotiate the charge beforehand.

It’s practical to visit Debre Damo en route to Aksum.

The monastery lies just outside the small town of Bizet, 12 hours’ drive north of Addis and about 50 kilometers west of Adigrat, the last stop on Route 1 before turning west on to Route 15.

Follow the road to Bizet and keep a keen eye out for the turn to Debre Damo on the right.

25 of Africa’s best beaches

8. The Ark of the Covenant

AksumFinal resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? Nice if you could get past the tracksuit guys and see it.The Lost Ark? In Ethiopia?

Someone should have told Indiana Jones that before he set off for Cairo.

According to enthusiastic local sources, the historic town ofAksum — focal point of the Aksumite Empire (AD 100-940) — is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

The catch? No one’s actually allowed to see it.

The closest you can get is by paying a few dollars to one of the tracksuit-clad men posturing as guards outside the temple where the ark is purportedly kept.

Luckily, Aksum is home to plenty of ancient tombs and other monuments, which makes the drive to one of Ethiopia’s northernmost towns worthwhile — ark or not.

Though Aksum can be reached by a small road west of Mek’ele, people wanting to visit Debre Damo monastery as well should take Route 1, turning west on to Route 15 at Adigrat, and join Route 3 at Adwa.

9. Roadside Rastafarians

Rasta child, EthiopiaRastafarian kids in Ethiopia, regarded as the movement’s spiritual home.The Rastafari movement is most often associated with Jamaica, but it was the Ethiopian Haile Selassie who inspired the religion.

Ethiopians are proud of their former ruler’s supposed status as Jesus incarnate and some have adopted the dress and lifestyle habits of their Jamaican counterparts — which makes meeting them in the Simien Mountains all the more bizarre.

The roadside Rastas you’re likely to meet are a friendly bunch, who’ll happily talk you through points of interest in the area (often relating to high cliffs off which Italian soldiers were thrown), as well as hawking red, green and yellow hats and accessories.

10. A fairy tale kingdom

Ethiopian castleEthiopian fairy tale: an imperial castle in Gondar.British and Dutch colonial buildings attract the most architectural attention in east Africa, but Ethiopia again stands out as the only country on the continent with its own fairy tale castles.

Aside from a few eye-catching art deco buildings left over from the Italian occupation, the castles of Fasilides, Iyasu and Mentwab, in the former imperial capital of Gondar, are the structures that stay in the mind.

Gondar is a five-hour drive southwest of Aksum. Follow Route 3 through the Simien Mountains.

A good stopping point is Debark, with its mountain vistas.

What defines Ethiopia to you? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Leave a message…
  • Avatar
    Prof. Muse Tegegne • a few seconds ago

    My 10 Extraordinarily sad  things about Ethiopia :-

    1. Dictatorial Regime,

    2. Land Grabbing while the people are starving,

    3. No Free Press,

    4. All journalists in prison,

    5. No Free & Fare Election,

    6. All land is nationalized like soviet era,

    7. Most of the educated elites are in exile,

    8. Young girls are sold as slaves to the middle East and tortured,

    9. one party system,

    10. All rivers are unnaturally dammed..

  • Avatar
    Alex Tessema • 6 hours ago

    Good presentation of Ethiopia except some of them are not described well. There are a lot of stuffs to talk about the country. It is one of the oldest and beautiful country in Africa with its own unique tradition, nice culture and old history. You could at least mention about that it is the origin of man kind, for eg. you could mention about Lucy. The people’s beauties, specially the ladies beauty, could be mentioned too. You used wrong picture of the roads to describe what chines did. You could show other modern ring roads, bridges and highways to present the correct pictures of the roads. you could state more about Lalibela, Axum, Gonder, or how the economy is changing now etc The other thing is Ethiopia is the origin of coffee not Italy. So don’t relate Ethiopia’s coffee with Italy except their espresso machines.

    I suggest to the word to explore this beautiful country, because most people don’t know about Ethiopia while the country is rich with many historical, cultural and amazing places in the world which need to be visited. The country is just not rich to show what it has to the world.

    But something is better than nothing. CNN at least tried to show the picture of Ethiopia to the world, even if there are many more! Go CNN!

    Visit Ethiopia and do your own judgement!

10 things that make Ethiopia extraordinary and 10 things that makes Ethiopia Extraordinarily sad !

Fairy tale castles, superb coffee and the Ark of the Covenant (OK, possibly) are just some of the unexpected attractions of this African country

By Oliver Robinson, for CNN 20 July, 2013Ethiopian vista

Freebies on an Ethiopian road trip: the extraordinary views around every corner.

What sets Ethiopia apart from its African neighbors?

The excellent coffee?

The fact that it was never colonized?

Or that Rastafarians regard it as their spiritual home?

Or could it be the smooth, well-maintained roads, so rare on the continent, that make exploring the country by car such a joy?

After a 1,430-kilometer drive through Ethiopia’s Northern Circuit — up mountains, through Martian-like landscapes, into lost kingdoms of yore — we found 10 crucial things that define the country.

1. The best Italian restaurant in the world (according to Bob Geldof, anyway)

The buzzing bedlam of Mahatma Gandhi Street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, is the setting for Castelli’s — arguably the best Italian restaurant this side of Bologna.

An Italian soldier, Francesco Castelli, founded the modest-looking eatery at the end of WWII. Since then it’s gained a global profile thanks to endorsement from celebrity diners such as Bob Geldof, Bono and Brad and Angelina.

But, high-profile praise aside, it’s the food that makes Castelli’s worth a visit before setting off from Addis into the Ethiopian wilds.

Ristorante Castelli, Mahatma Gandhi Street, Addis Ababa; +251 1 563 580, +251 1 571 757

2. Italian-style coffee

Like great Italian food, coffee is one of the legacies of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia during WWII.

While Mussolini’s men proved inept colonists (the Allies defeated them in 1943), their tenure in the country did at least ensure that an Italian-style espresso machine was installed in most cafes, restaurants and — weary travelers will be pleased to know — even dilapidated roadside shacks.

Ethiopians love their coffee and take pride in the fact that the plant’s invigorating effects were first discovered in the Oromia region of the country (see the 2006 documentary Black Gold).

3. Chinese roads

Ethiopian roadMade in China. Actually made by China. The country is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Ethiopia’s infrastructure.Aside from coffee and pasta, Ethiopia excels in roads.

Other African nations have roads — it’s just that few are a patch with those in Ethiopia.

The quality tarmac comes courtesy of huge Chinese investment — in 2009, it was estimated that China had poured $900 million into Ethiopia’s infrastructure, a figure that’s since increased exponentially.

Anyone who’s driven into Ethiopia from Kenya, via the perilous Marsabit route (fraught with bumps, brigands and bandits) will attest what a difference a nice road makes.

Ethiopia’s incredible mountain-top highway vistas don’t hurt, either.

Zanzibar: A very cultural beach holiday

4. Tanks … lots of them

Ethiopia tankSwords into ploughshares … or tanks into unusual climbing frames for kids, in the case of Ethiopia.Don’t worry: unless you get horribly lost and venture into Somalia, the tanks you’ll see along the roadside are burned-out remnants of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000).

Seen throughout the country, these defunct war machines stand as forbidding reminders of Ethiopia’s troubled past — and double as fun climbing frames for local children. (Next door Eritrea is the place to see if you really dig disused materiel.)

5. Underground churches

LalibelaLalibela’s monolithic churches still impress nine centuries later.Ethiopia sags under the weight of its cultural treasures, such as those at the UNESCO World Heritage site Lalibela.

In the late 12th century, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela had 13 churches — Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations — carved out of solid rock.

His achievement (meaning that of his stonemasons and slaves) is still incredibly impressive nine centuries on.

Lalibela — the first major point of interest on the Northern Circuit — is a 10-hour journey from Addis Ababa.

Head north up Route 1, passing through Debre Birhan, Kombolcha and Dessie. At Weldiya, leave the highway and follow the road west to Gashena.

At Gashena, take the road north to Lalibela.

6. Martian landscapes

Danakil Depression“The cruelest place on Earth?” Pretty, though.Located in the tumultuous Afar region on the Eritrean border, the Danakil Depression is strewn with volcanoes and salt lakes and is one of the hottest places on the planet.

So why visit what National Geographic calls “the cruelest place on Earth?”

Well, this also happens to be one of the most arresting natural sights you’ll see in Africa — or anywhere else.

With an unforgiving landscape that’s difficult to navigate, it’s also one of the few places in Ethiopia where you shouldn’t travel alone: most people go with an escort or in a convoy.

Tours can be arranged in Abbis. Reputable agency Ethiopia Travel and Tours (info@ethiotravelandtours.com) charges around $550 for a four-day trip.

7. Men-only monasteries

Debre DamoDebre Damo houses some of the most ancient Christian scripture in Africa. Gentlemen: you’ll have to describe it to the ladies.Just off the main road between Lalibela and Aksum lies Debre Damo, a monastery that can be reached only by scrambling up a 15-meter-high cliff face.

There is, however, a discriminatory door policy: only men are permitted to make the perilous ascent to the monastery.

That rule doesn’t apply just to female humans — even livestock of the fairer sex apparently risk distracting the monks from holy contemplation.

Gents who brave the climb can enjoy stunning vistas, as well as a chance to eye some of the most ancient Christian scripture in Africa.

Be warned that unofficial “guides” will try to extort inflated fees for their services before letting you back down the cliff — negotiate the charge beforehand.

It’s practical to visit Debre Damo en route to Aksum.

The monastery lies just outside the small town of Bizet, 12 hours’ drive north of Addis and about 50 kilometers west of Adigrat, the last stop on Route 1 before turning west on to Route 15.

Follow the road to Bizet and keep a keen eye out for the turn to Debre Damo on the right.

25 of Africa’s best beaches

8. The Ark of the Covenant

AksumFinal resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? Nice if you could get past the tracksuit guys and see it.The Lost Ark? In Ethiopia?

Someone should have told Indiana Jones that before he set off for Cairo.

According to enthusiastic local sources, the historic town ofAksum — focal point of the Aksumite Empire (AD 100-940) — is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

The catch? No one’s actually allowed to see it.

The closest you can get is by paying a few dollars to one of the tracksuit-clad men posturing as guards outside the temple where the ark is purportedly kept.

Luckily, Aksum is home to plenty of ancient tombs and other monuments, which makes the drive to one of Ethiopia’s northernmost towns worthwhile — ark or not.

Though Aksum can be reached by a small road west of Mek’ele, people wanting to visit Debre Damo monastery as well should take Route 1, turning west on to Route 15 at Adigrat, and join Route 3 at Adwa.

9. Roadside Rastafarians

Rasta child, EthiopiaRastafarian kids in Ethiopia, regarded as the movement’s spiritual home.The Rastafari movement is most often associated with Jamaica, but it was the Ethiopian Haile Selassie who inspired the religion.

Ethiopians are proud of their former ruler’s supposed status as Jesus incarnate and some have adopted the dress and lifestyle habits of their Jamaican counterparts — which makes meeting them in the Simien Mountains all the more bizarre.

The roadside Rastas you’re likely to meet are a friendly bunch, who’ll happily talk you through points of interest in the area (often relating to high cliffs off which Italian soldiers were thrown), as well as hawking red, green and yellow hats and accessories.

10. A fairy tale kingdom

Ethiopian castleEthiopian fairy tale: an imperial castle in Gondar.British and Dutch colonial buildings attract the most architectural attention in east Africa, but Ethiopia again stands out as the only country on the continent with its own fairy tale castles.

Aside from a few eye-catching art deco buildings left over from the Italian occupation, the castles of Fasilides, Iyasu and Mentwab, in the former imperial capital of Gondar, are the structures that stay in the mind.

Gondar is a five-hour drive southwest of Aksum. Follow Route 3 through the Simien Mountains.

A good stopping point is Debark, with its mountain vistas.

What defines Ethiopia to you? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Leave a message…
  • Avatar
    Prof. Muse Tegegne • a few seconds ago

    My 10 Extraordinarily sad  things about Ethiopia :-

    1. Dictatorial Regime,

    2. Land Grabbing while the people are starving,

    3. No Free Press,

    4. All journalists in prison,

    5. No Free & Fare Election,

    6. All land is nationalized like soviet era,

    7. Most of the educated elites are in exile,

    8. Young girls are sold as slaves to the middle East and tortured,

    9. one party system,

    10. All rivers are unnaturally dammed..

  • Avatar
    Alex Tessema • 6 hours ago

    Good presentation of Ethiopia except some of them are not described well. There are a lot of stuffs to talk about the country. It is one of the oldest and beautiful country in Africa with its own unique tradition, nice culture and old history. You could at least mention about that it is the origin of man kind, for eg. you could mention about Lucy. The people’s beauties, specially the ladies beauty, could be mentioned too. You used wrong picture of the roads to describe what chines did. You could show other modern ring roads, bridges and highways to present the correct pictures of the roads. you could state more about Lalibela, Axum, Gonder, or how the economy is changing now etc The other thing is Ethiopia is the origin of coffee not Italy. So don’t relate Ethiopia’s coffee with Italy except their espresso machines.

    I suggest to the word to explore this beautiful country, because most people don’t know about Ethiopia while the country is rich with many historical, cultural and amazing places in the world which need to be visited. The country is just not rich to show what it has to the world.

    But something is better than nothing. CNN at least tried to show the picture of Ethiopia to the world, even if there are many more! Go CNN!

    Visit Ethiopia and do your own judgement!

Gonder and Dessie Towns of Ethiopia held government staged Show manifestation

The Ethiopian government staged manifestation is held for the 2nd time in the cities of Gonder and Dessie.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

The so called  “Ethiopian opposition activists” on Sunday demanded the release of journalists and political prisoners jailed under anti-terror legislation in demonstrations in two major towns.

In these planned rare public outpours of anger, people marched peacefully in the towns of Gondar and Dessie, chanting “freedom” and carrying pictures of jailed politicians and journalists.

Government officials said there were around 1,500 protesters in total in both towns, while the activists themselves claimed the number to be as high as 20,000.

“The protests were peaceful and successful,” said Senegas Gidada, protest organiser and chairman of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) party.

“We are unhappy about the lack of human rights and democratic freedom in Ethiopia,” he added.

The demonstrations follow a rally last month in the capital Addis Ababa when several thousand activists demanded the government adhere to basic human rights.

The recent rallies are the largest since post-election violence in 2005 resulted in 200 people being killed and 30,000 arrested.

“The cost of living is too high. We have no rights. They took away my family’s property and land and gave us no compensation,” said one young unemployed protester, who asked not be named, but who was speaking by telephone from Gondar.

“The dogs on the street have more freedom than we do. We are here to demand freedom and we will continue to protest until the government makes fundamental changes.”

But the government dismissed the protesters’ calls.

“The protesters are demanding the release of prisoners who have been convicted of terrorism, these are not pro-democracy protests,” government spokesman Shemeles Kemal told AFP.

“Most of these demonstrators are Islamic extremists. The government is not concerned by these demonstrations. They are meddling in religious issues and mixing them with political matters.”

The government had allowed the protests to go ahead despite earlier saying they had not received official permission.

Protesters have said they will continue to demonstrate until the government addresses their grievances.

Journalists, opposition members and religious leaders have been jailed under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups say is used by the government to stifle peaceful dissent.

Ethiopian journalist, Eskinder Nega, and UDJ Vice-Chairman, Andualem Arage, were both jailed last year under the government’s anti-terror legislation for treason and conspiring to commit acts of terror.

Another such government planned  demonstration is planned for next month.

Leaked report sparks disagreement between Egypt and Ethiopia over dam

Mohammed Yahia

A Google Earth map showing the location where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be built in the Ethiopian Highlands.

When Ethiopia diverted part of the Blue Nile river at the end of May 2013 to begin construction of what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, it sparked outrage from the now ousted Egyptian government, which was concerned the dam would reduce its water supply.

The Blue Nile is one of two main tributaries that feed the Nile River, which supplies 97% of Egypt’s population with water. Ethiopia seeks to abolish a 1929 British mediated colonial-era agreement between Egypt and Sudan that gives 90% of the Nile’s water to the two countries and gives Egypt the right to veto the construction of dams in countries upstream.

In May 2012, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt appointed a panel of experts, with each country appointing two experts, alongside with four experts from non-member countries, to evaluate the environmental impact of the dam on the region. The panel submitted its report on 1 June. Though the report is yet to be published, each government has leaked details of the panel’s findings.

While the Ethiopian ministry of water and energy produced a press release saying the report recommends the building of the dam, the Egyptian state information service contends that the scientific evidence cited by their Ethiopian counterparts either lacked sufficient detail or was out of date.

“While Ethiopia has announced that the dam will have many beneficial effects and no negative ones on the two downstream countries, the final report stressed that the studies and designs presented by Ethiopia had several deficiencies in the methodologies used to produce them. Additionally, some of these studies need to be updated in light of the new information that was collected from laboratory and field work,” read the statement released by the presidency’s office in Egypt.

Risk concerns

 

“Dams are constructed today with much more care to livelihoods and environments.”

 

“There were no sufficient geological studies done. The risk is that the dam might create earthquake zones,” says Elnaser Abdelwahab, former regional software developer of the Nile Basin Decision Support System, a component of the Nile Basin Initiative, which is a partnership setup among the Nile riparian states to handle cross-border issues regarding the river.

Abdelwahab says that the construction of the dam will create a man-made lake in the mountains, which will contain around 74 billion tonnes of water. This lake could lead to seismic activity that could collapse the dam and cause a massive outpouring of water. “The Ethiopians also used optimistic data when considering rainfall rather than using a worst case scenario.”

Abdelwahab, who was not a member of the expert panel but worked with an Ethiopian–Egyptian team to set up the Nile countries’ first water management decision support system, claims that the report included no environmental studies. “This is considered to be an extremely negative point. Dams are constructed today with much more care to livelihoods and environments.”

Tilahun Amede, a researcher on natural resource management at the International Crops Research Institute in Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), says the dam’s design will not be the main factor in the effect it has on the environment and peoples’ livelihoods. “It is also about how the dam is going to be managed and water regulated. It is about protecting the upper watersheds of the dam to increase water yield, reduce siltation and improve overall environmental services.”

When complete, the dam will be one of the world’s tallest at 145 metres and produce 6,000 MW of power, an equivalent of six nuclear power stations. Amede, who was not on the expert panel but has studied water use in Africa for the past four years, says the design and height of the dam means the reservoir will be deep rather than wide to lower evaporation. The cool, humid climate of the Ethiopian highlands should further reduce evaporation, thereby minimizing the amount of water loss from the dam.

All three governments agree that the dam will reduce water flow to downstream countries while the reservoir forms. The reduction in water flow will depend on how fast Ethiopia decides to fill the dam. The original plan aimed to fill the reservoir in three years, but Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian prime minister, said his government is willing to spend up to six years filling the reservoir to address the concerns of downstream countries.

According to a document released by the Egyptian government, the Ethiopian members of the expert panel failed to present any research on the potential impact on countries downstream in the event of the dam collapsing.

Politics over science

 

“The current rhetoric will do little for the best shared vision of the three countries.”

 

Abdelwahab says he is frustrated that both the Egypt and Ethiopia governments are ignoring scientific evidence and technical information. “[The Nile Basin Decision Support System] contains the necessary computer simulation tools to design and test dam projects before construction. However, the countries did not use it and now they deliver such poor studies with such poor scientific arguments.”

When the panel presented its findings to the three governments behind closed doors, they outlined the need for further research and it was not supposed to be made public until after agreement was reached. However, both Ethiopia and Egypt leaked details, prompting some Egyptian politicians suggesting military intervention could be taken to sabotage the dam’s construction.

Both Abdelwahab and Amede say that the latest political exchanges between the two countries will bring no resolution to the disagreement over building the dam. Instead, they should be collaborating on the science and technical aspects of the dam construction, such as the design to be used and the environmental effects it may have.

“My worry is the current rhetoric will do little for the best shared vision of the three countries,” says Amede. “Given their experience with the Aswan High Dam, the Egyptian government could play a pivotal role in helping Ethiopian engineers ensure that the dam construction and overall management is of high quality and will have no negative effect on Egypt.”

“Unless they consider the dam construction a technical not a political piece of work, I don’t see any resolution to the problem because the politicians will continue to force science out,” adds Abdelwahab.