A Brilliant Move By Siye, Negasso, And Ethiopia’s UDJ

November 26th, 2009

by Dessalegn Asfaw

A lot of us, including me, spend quite a bit of time criticizing the leadership of the Ethiopian democracy movement. But when they do something good, in this case, brilliant, they must get their due. Siye Abraha and Negasso Gidada’s decision to join the UDJ, and the UDJ’s decision to accept their application, is one such brilliant move.

The political futures of Siye, Negasso, the UDJ, and everyone in the opposition depend on the success of the democracy movement. These politicians and parties do not have any armed force behind them to propel them to power. Their only way to real power is via democratic means, which is why they are part of the democracy movement. The only way the democracy movement will succeed is by creating large coalitions and supermajorities. Only a broad democracy movement can muster the pressure needed to make force the EPRDF to make democratic change.

What Siye, Negasso, and the UDJ have demonstrated by their actions is that they not only understand this reality, but that they are really committed to unity for democracy. Remember that they will all be criticized for their move - Siye and Negasso for joining a party that believes in reforming federalism away from being purely ethnic-based, and the UDJ for accepted former members of the ruling regime and former die-hard ethnic federalists. All three may lose some of their constituents as a result. But they are showing that they are ready lose a little in the short run in exchange for future gain. They are showing a farsightedness much needed in Ethiopian politics.

Siye and Negasso, in particular, are making a very bold committment to the future. Note that they are going beyond being part of Medrek and standing in coalition with the UDJ. By actually joining the UDJ, they are signing on to the UDJ’s charter and values, a significant change from the ideologies they have held in the past. This sends a message to other members of the opposition, to the democracy movement, and the people of Ethiopia as a whole. It demonstrates that the human values of introspection, of being able to change one’s mind based on new evidence or in view of past mistakes, of listening and empathy, of community, should outweigh the pull of ideology, stubbornness, ego, and individualism. It sets a moral example for Ethiopians, an example far too rarely seen in Ethiopian politics.

It also demonstrates discipline. It would have been easy for Siye and Negasso to stay where they are, to avoid re-evaluating their ideas, to hold on to their little constituencies, and to stay away from taking risks. But having realized that this would not be a solution, they conquered their fears and took a bold step. Taking such action and handling the consequences requires discipline and strength of character, and having done so, Siye and Negasso are setting an example for all.

Hopefully, the real effect of this extraordinary evolution in the Ethiopian opposition will be seen at the grassroots level. In coming together, Siye, Negasso, and the UDJ leadership have demonstrated farsightedness, moral fortitude, and discipline, all values necessary for democratic change. They have set an example for opposition party members, democracy activists, and the population as a whole, an example that if followed, will result in a democratic dawn for Ethiopia. Let us all hope that their example will be followed and that Siye Abraha, Negasso Gidada, and the UDJ will continue to be a positive force for democracy in Ethiopia.

Groundbreaking move in Ethiopia Politics?

November 26th, 2009

In unprecedented move in Ethiopian politics, Negaso Gidada, president from 1997 to 2001, and Seye Abraha a former rebel leader who became defence minister for four years from 1991, joined the opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) on Thursday.

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By Barry Malone, ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A former Ethiopian president and a former defence minister have joined the same opposition party, strengthening it against a government accused of suppressing critics before national elections in May.

Negaso Gidada, president from 1997 to 2001, and Seye Abraha a former rebel leader who became defence minister for four years from 1991, joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) on Thursday.

The UDJ is part of an eight-party coalition called Medrek, or the Forum, that most Ethiopians view as the most significant threat to the government at the ballot box. The UDJ’s leader Birtukan Mideksa, 36, has been in prison since last December.

“Our joining the UDJ sends a signal that we have to work hard for the unity of the country and the Ethiopian people,” Negaso told Reuters, adding that if Ethiopian political parties were not ethnically diverse then the country could split.

Ethiopia has about 80 ethnicities and parties have traditionally been formed along ethnic lines. UDJ leaders now come from the three most prominent groups.

Seye was jailed for corruption in 2001 after falling out with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and, after his release in 2007, he became a vocal opponent of the government, which has been in power for nearly 20 years.

“POLITICAL PRISONERS”

Meles and Seye come from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up just 6 percent of the population but dominate politics.

Most analysts agree Meles’ Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will win easily at the ballot box, despite growing allegations of squashing political criticism.

“They say that because the landscape is unfavourable for free and fair elections,” Seye told Reuters. “There are laws that can be used against voices of dissent. We will be making the release of political prisoners a campaign priority.”

Meles says the opposition is trying to discredit an election that it has no chance of winning and therefore provoke the West into stopping the aid which the poor country relies on.

Opposition leaders told Reuters this month that their members were being refused food aid to force them to join the ruling party. The government denied it.

Ethiopia’s last national elections in 2005 ended violently when security forces killed about 200 protesters in the capital Addis Ababa after the opposition said the government rigged the poll. Seven policemen were also killed.

Birtukan was jailed after a 2005 poll, pardoned in 2007 and sent back to prison for violating the terms of that pardon.

The country has never seen a peaceful change of government. Meles took power in 1991 after rebels led by him, Seye and others overthrew a Soviet-backed regime.

Haddis . . . a national treasure - Ethiopia

October 16th, 2009

Tewodros Abebe

It was exactly one hundred years ago this week that a brilliant citizen was born in Ethiopia in the month of TiQimt. Haddis Alemayehu —a prolific writer, a patriot, a diplomat, and a statesman— was an extraordinary man of letters whose contributions to Ethiopian literature are simply monumental. Generations of Ethiopians have enjoyed his classic writings for decades. Indeed, his works shall remain masterpieces to admire and cherish for generations to come.

All Ethiopians are invited to attend a symposium organized to commemorate Haddis Alemayehu’s 100th birthday. Papers will be presented along with wonderful reminisces of people who had close associations with the legendary figure. The event will be held this Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The venue is Howard University Hospital (2041 Georgia Avenue NW Washington DC 20060) in the basement auditorium.

Please come and enjoy an afternoon of appreciation and enlightenment in honor of one of Ethiopia’s most fascinating literary figures, Kibur Ato Haddis Alemayehu. Let us all come to pay our respect and debt of gratitude to Haddis the Man, Haddis the Writer, Haddis the Legend, and, most importantly, Haddis the True Son of Ethiopia.

No Level Playing Field in the 2010 Ethiopia Election

October 13th, 2009

Dr. Negaso Gidada

The Current Political Situation in Dembi Dollo

I visited Dembi Dollo, in Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region from September 18-28, 2009. During my visit, I tried to gather as much information as possible on the current political situation. I was unable to hold public meetings because the local administration was unwilling to cooperate. I therefore tried to meet as many individuals as I could. During the 10 days I talked to over two dozen individuals including cadres of the OPDO/EPRDF, business leaders, community elders, government workers (teachers and health workers), local qabale officials, vacationing university students, church leaders, private professionals, NGO employees and members and supporters of the OFDM.

This descriptive analysis summarizes and focuses on a few major issues. My general conclusion is that the OPDO/EPRDF totally controls and dominates the local political arena, and therefore, there could no level playing field for the opposition in the Dembi Dollo area. Unless the situation changes dramatically in the next few months, I do not expect the 2010 election will be fair, free or democratic. The first step in correcting the current situation is by appointing well trained election officers to different levels of the election administration.

I. Strict Security Control and Surveillance

The OPDO/EPRDF which claims to have won the 2005 and 2008 elections seems determined not to allow any other political organization which could compete against it in the area. This goes as far as not welcoming individual visitors to the area. Visitors are secretly followed and placed under surveillance to determined where they go, whom they visited, and what they said. The visitors will rarely be called for interrogation or approached by the security people. It is the local people who had contact with visitors that are summoned and grilled by security officials. In my case, my brother-in-law with whom I stayed made a copy of the letter I brought with me from the parliamen to the security office. He also received telephone calls from the Dembi Dollo and Naqamte security offices. He was asked why I came, whether I came for preparation for the coming election or for any other purpose.

About two months ago Professor Haweitu Simeso of the USAID visited Dembi Dollo with colleagues from the Irish and Canadian embassies. The visiting group was followed from the time it arrived in Naqamte. After the group returned, several security officials interrogated leaders of the Dembi Dollo Bethel-Mekane Yesus Church who had spoken to Haweitu and his colleagues. One of the church leaders was even summoned to the zonal administrator’s office and asked detailed questions about the visitors from Addis. Three weeks before I went to Dembi Dollo, Dr. Belaynesh (member of the OFDM and an MP) was in Dembi Dollo. After she returned to Addis, all the people who went to her father’s house to greet her and others she greeted on the streets in the town were arrested, interrogated and held in custody for a period of 24 to 48 hours. The houses of some of these individuals were also searched. A building contractor who arrived in Dembi Dollo on September 28 to inspect the construction of the new Bethel Church was also followed. He left the next day fearing that he will be summoned to the security office.

OPDO/EPRDF in Dembi Dollo, besides using the police and security offices and personnel, also collects information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households every day and pass it on to a higher administrative organ called “Gare”. There are 30 to 40 households in a “Gare” group which has a chairperson, a secretary, a security chief and two other members. The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office.

Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. The “shane” leader knows if the members of the households have participated in “development work”, if they have contributed to the several fund raising programs, if they have attended Qabale meetings, whether they have registered for election, if they have voted and for whom they have voted. The OPDO/EPRDF mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose.

II. Organizational Structures

Understanding how the OPDO/EPRDF itself and its Woreda administration are organized is very important. There is the OPDO/EPRDF Qellem Wallagga Zonal office in Dembi Dollo. This office receives information and instruction from the regional office in Addis Ababa. It passes messages to the lower structures and oversees the propaganda and organizational activities of the party. This office has branches in every village, schools and health institutions. These branches are subdivided into basic cells. The branches of these cells are organized into supporter groups, candidate groups and full members groups.

Additionally, the party has organized the people into youth, women and micro-credit associations for tighter control and easy dissemination of its propaganda and to do party activities. Dembi Dollo town is a special Woreda Town Administration. The Administration is sub-divided into four large “Ganda” (Villages). The town used to have seven Qabales but was restructured just before the Qabale election in 2008. Each Qabale has 15 in the Woreda Council. It is said that the OPDO/EPRDF presented the names of pre-selected council members to the Qabale Council and had them endorsed. There is also the Sayyo Rual Woreda (24 Qabales). The administration of Sayyo Woreda also has its seat in Dembi Dollo town. These are all appointees of the party and are believed to be “strongly committed” to it. The four “Ganda” (villages or some times called Kifle Ketema) have each their own councils. A council has 300 members. The members were “elected” in 2008. All the people I talked to confirmed to me that the party pre-selected the candidates. The Qabale has its own cabinet and these are also party members. A Qabale is further sub-divided into different zones. The zones are sub-divided into “Gare”. There are up to 17 “Gare” in a zone.

III. Misuse of Public Property, Finance and Civil Servants

The party’s propaganda and organization committees are located in the Zonal, Woreda and Qabale Administration building. The party does not pay rent for the rooms it uses. The committee members are party cadres but their monthly salary and per dimes are paid by the administration from public treasury. Their secretaries, cleaners and messengers also get their salary from public treasury. All civil servants are also members of the party. Monthly contribution of the members to the party are collected by the Woreda finance office at the time they pay the workers their monthly salaries. The party officials use government office materials, supplies and equipment, including official transport vehicles. The party uses town and qabale halls with out paying rent. Meeting halls in health and educational institutions are also used with out any payment and at will. This system is practiced from Zonal to “Gare” levels. But opposition to the OPDO/EPRDF are not allowed to rent rooms for offices from private owners or rent public halls in the town for meetings. Plasma televisions supposed to be used for school-net and Woreda-net are used for dissemination of party propaganda.

IV. Dissemination of OPDO/EPRDF Political Programs

All adults in the qabales and government employees are forced to participate in different seminars and workshops. The same is true of all school children who are in high schools and vocational training institutions. University students on vacation are also required to participate in such programs. Lessons in “Tarsimo” (Strategy) and “Bulchiinsa Gaarii” (Good Governance) are given to all residents (school children, collage and university students, and private and government employees). Workshops on BPR have been held and each government employee given Birr 25 for participation. The seminar for university students lasted five days. The per diem for this seminar was supposed to be Birr 35 per day for each participant for nine days. Every two weeks on Friday afternoon, all government employees participate in study circles of the party and cell meetings during work hours and in the public meeting rooms. No rent is paid for the use of the rooms. Fund raising programs are organized once in a while for support of the party. It is the administration’s finance officers who deduct the pledged amount from employees and transfer the money to the party.

V. Elections

During the 2005 election, I have witnessed that civil servants were deployed for two weeks for election campaign for the OPDO/EPRDF and that government vehicles (cars and motor cycles) were used for this purpose. OPDO/EPRDF members and cadres were busy disrupting public meetings I called in the field. One of my observers was bribed with Birr 200 and agreed to give the votes I received to my opponent (OPDO/EPRDF). In one qabale, I was forbidden not to hold election campaign meeting 500 meters away from a market place. The qabale officials told me that my meeting will disturb “their market”. My posters were removed from several places and leaflets I distributed were collected and destroyed. I persistently appealed to the election officials to correct the OPDO/EPRDF illegal activities or cancel it from the election in accordance with the election law but no body heeded to my appeals.

According to the people I talked to, the election office chief during the 2008 election is a member of the OPDO/EPRDF. There is a rumor that the same person is being appointed to the office by the OPDO/EPRDF for the 2010 election. The OPDO/EPRDF appointed a supporter or a member to each polling station to stand by the voters and tell the voters in which box they should put voting signs or signatures.

VI. Situation of the Opposition

The office of the OFDM has remained closed since 2005. Members and supporters were beaten up and imprisoned several times. They were intimidated or bribed. During the three weeks before my visit to Dembi Dollo, 60 people in Sayyo and 15 people in Dembi Dollo were arrested and kept in police custody for up to 48 hours. They had to pay one hundred Birr as bail before being released. They were reprimanded and warned for the 2010 election. They were told, “Be careful, do not support, be member of or vote for the opposition as you did in 2005. We shall not give in like then. We defend ourselves even with guns.” OFDM is equated to the OLF while the CUD or the “Qindomina” as it is called in Oromia is equated with the “Nafxagna”. The campaign against the UDJ as a “Nafxagna” organization has already begun.

VII. Media

No private or independent news papers are to be found in Dembi Dollo. Alternative news sources to the Federal and Oromia public media are only VOA and Deutche Welle. The Oromia information office and the OPDO send their press media to the area by bus. These are picked by a government employee and distributed to different institutions and offices. All workers are forced to buy these news papers.

VIII. Conclusion

It is plain to anyone who has been to Dembi Dollo and surrounding areas that there is no political level playing field. I can not imagine how the opposition can enter into an election process under such conditions. If the ruling party is serious about having a peaceful, fair and democratic election in 2010 it has much to do including the release of all political prisoners and putting a stop to new illegal arrests, intimidations, detentions and bribery of members of the opposition, immediate reopening of offices of the opposition, providing immediate equal access to the public media, allow public meetings organized by the opposition to take place freely, amend the Election Law so that neutral election officials can be appointed and make it possible for international election observers free access to ensure fair elections and put into place control mechanisms so that its supporters and members respect the constitution and the election laws. It must also start repaying rent for offices and halls it has used for its party activities over the past several years as well as for use of government office materials and equipments, fuel, telephone and electricity. Salaries paid to government employees from the public treasury must also be repaid.

US, UK diplomats work to broker talks between EPRDF and MEDREK in Ethiopia

October 7th, 2009

By Simegnish Yekoye

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Foreign diplomats have started to broker negotiations between the ruling party, Ethiopian People Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) and a forum of opposition parties, Mederek on issues concerning the upcoming Ethiopian election to be held next year.

Diplomats from the British and US embassies have started consultations with both parties so that they can come to a round table discussion and settle their differences.

Merara Gudina, member of one of the eight parties that formed the forum says the diplomats have talked to them and asked them to have discussions with EPRDF, which he says is also the request of the forum.

The forum which boycotted parties discussions with the ruling party and other opposition parties over a disagreement on agendas of negotiation sent a letter to EPRDF asking for the need of bilateral negotiations with the ruling party on issues concerning media usage, election observers, rules and regulations and other issues. However, the ruling party agreed to discuss only on the code of conduct for the election.

The ruling party gave a response in letter saying the forum can take part in the progressing discussions with the other opposition parties but will not hold any separate negotiation with the forum.

Representatives of the eight parties in the forum are to hold a meeting on how to respond to the letter and what their next step would be.

“EPRDF has given us a letter that doesn’t clearly say whether they don’t want the discussion or need to sit with us and talk on issues. So members of the forum need to come together and decide what to do next,” says Merara.

Dr. Hailu Araya, Public Relation Officer of Andenet party which is also member party of the forum, says leaders of the forum are already in a meeting and will reach on a decision in the coming few days.

With only a few months away to the upcoming election, eight parties that formed the coalition with two other individuals haven’t decided yet whether they are to take part in the election or not.

The forum has come up with their own manifesto, however, that would help them get ready for the election. However, the National Board of Election (NBE) hasn’t given them approval yet. Their manifesto mainly states they will find any means where Ethiopia will be able to use the Port of Assab – located in Eritrea and the country will have two national languages, Amharic and Oromifa.

Study: Ethiopia the last country in Africa with a Telecommunications monopoly

September 30th, 2009

Telecommunications Market Report

Ethiopia is the last country in Africa allowing its national telco, ETC a monopoly on all telecom services including fixed, mobile, Internet and data communications. This monopolistic control has stifled innovation and retarded expansion.

The government tries to encourage foreign investment in a broad range of industries by allowing foreigners up to 100% equity ownership. However, there is no official schedule for the privatisation of the national carrier and the introduction of competition, but once this happens, the potential to satisfy unmet demand in all service sectors is huge.

Ethiopia has the second lowest telephone penetration rate in Africa, but it recently surpassed Egypt to become the second most populous nation on the continent after Nigeria.

It is also one of the poorest countries in the world with approximately 80% of the population supporting themselves through subsistence agriculture, which accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP.

Despite the monopoly situation, subscriber growth in the mobile sector has been excellent at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 90% since its inception in 1999 and more than 100% in the past six years.

However, demand has been even stronger, and ETC has been unable to satisfy it. Ethiopia’s mobile market penetration is still one of the lowest in the world at little more than 3%. Fixed-line penetration is even lower, and this has also impacted on the development of the Internet sector. Prices of broadband connections are excessive.

Improvements are beginning to develop following massive investments into fixed-wireless and mobile network infrastructure, including third generation mobile technology, as well as a national fibre optic backbone.

Ethiopia is investing an unusually large amount, around 10% of its GDP, into information & communication technology (ICT). However, telecommunications revenue has grown only moderately in comparison, at around 16% per annum. It has remained under 2% of GDP, a low figure in regional comparison.

The Ethiopian prisoner worthy of a liberty award

September 29th, 2009

By Abebe Gellaw

The Cato Institute, a respected libertarian public policy foundation in the United States, has been searching for the fifth recipient of its liberty award. Named after the late Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman [1912-2006], the award is “presented every other year to an individual who has made a significant contribution to advance human freedom.” The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is a coveted award that recognizes significant efforts and sacrifices made by any individual to promote freedom in any part of the world. If any Ethiopian deserves nominations for such a prestigious award, there seems to be little doubt that Birtukan Mideksa, the former judge-turned-prisoner-of-conscience outshines so many.

Freedom loving Ethiopians across the world need to show their solidarity with the heroine freedom fighter that has followed the footsteps of Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela in stead of kneeling down for the rule of the unjust.

Ethiopians in the Diaspora, especially those who have escaped from barbed-wired Ethiopia to live in the free world, where evil dictators and their agents cannot threaten, shoot, jail or torture anyone, make free choices based on free will. But for people like Birtukan Mideksa and the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who have been locked up behind bars in inhuman and appalling conditions because of their passion for freedom, there is nothing called free will.

They cannot choose what to do, what to eat, what to read, where and how to live. They are victims of brutal tyranny, prisoners in their own country confined in the dark corners of filthy, overcrowded and suffocating cells as a result of their unyielding passion for liberty.

In the aftermath of the historic 2005 national elections, Birtukan chose to courageously step forward to lead the popular march for freedom. Her leadership qualities and unswerving commitment to her lofty cause significantly contributed to her election as Vice President of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy.

After the violent crackdowns that followed protests against wide spread election fraud, she was one of the hundreds of opposition leaders, journalists, civic activists and ordinary citizens who were detained and faced trumped-up charges of high treason, genocide and outrage against the “constitution” in November 2005. Even during that period of trials and tribulations that lasted nearly 20 months, the fearless lawyer openly challenged the Kangaroo court to prove its worth and relevance.

In her letters, articles and speeches, Birtukan has declared her readiness to offer herself as a sacrificial lamb for the freedom of the Ethiopian people suffering under the yolks of Meles Zenawi’s ethnocentric tyranny. True to her word, Birtukan Mideksa has proved her unfaltering stand as a leader of Ethiopia’s quest for freedom, justice, equal rights and democracy. The popular leader of freedom, who has been recognised by Amnesty International as prisoner of conscience, has become Ethiopia’s icon of liberty and a symbol of defiance against tyranny. Undoubtedly, there is clearly something distinct and unique about this woman of substance. In her Letter from Kaliti Jail, she wrote:

“Indeed, living behind bars is painful. I have felt pained, when hearing about the struggle of my fellow country men; for being forced to experience it all vicariously, for being near but far away from the terrain of the fight. Yet the pain ends right there. Our incarceration hasn’t liquidated the spirit of freedom. Instead, it degrades those who are fighting against it into something hateful and undignified. Toughened by the crackdown on dissent and other forms of oppression, other democrats, genuinely committed to the cause of liberty, and equality are emerging.”

A single mum of five-year old Hale, Birtukan never committed a crime. Her passionate and truthful words that always insist on the end of a corrupt dictatorship messing up Ethiopia were enough to have her condemned to life imprisonment without due process. During her visit in Sweden in November 2008, she spoke the truth about the fact that she and the other high profile prisoners of conscience were released as a result of a political deal struck by the Elders Council, international and local pressures. That was true and accurate. Her assertion was even confirmed by the U.S. Department of State.

In its 2008 Country Report on Human Rights in Ethiopia, it stated: “On December 29, Unity for Democracy and Justice Party president Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested for accurately telling European media organizations that she had not requested from the government a pardon leading to her release from jail in July 2007.”

The reason why the report used the adverbial assertion “accurately” was because U.S. diplomats were part of the diplomatic process conducted through the “Elders Council” that negotiated a deal to have the high profile prisoners including Britukan released.

Where there is tyranny, whose foundation is nothing but brutality, corruption, crimes, falsehood and deceit, the truth has always been subversive. Birtukan has always been a true believer in the unyielding spirit of freedom. Shortly after her release in October 2007, she appeared before the U.S. Congress, Subcommittee on Global Health and Africa to give her testimony in which she expressed her hope that the time is ripe for change. “It will not be easy for all of us to confront the past. We must try to embrace the rule of law and respect for human rights and democracy. The time is ripe for democratization in Ethiopia.” When she uttered those words, Birtukan knew the sacrifices awaiting her in the struggle to replace inhuman despotism with democracy. It is for this very fact that Birtukan has willingly and courageously faced hardship and suffering in stead of the tyrant’s call for surrender.

Should Birtukan be chosen as a recipient of the 2010 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, she will receive $500,000. More importantly, the award will raise wider awareness on Ethiopia’s agony under dictatorship. It will also boost the effort to secure Birtukan’s release. Not only that, her immeasurable sacrifice and that of her elderly mum and four year old daughter will gain global recognition and the attention. The prize awarding ceremony will be held in May 2010 in Washington DC, coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the historic May 2005 elections that irreparably cracked the foundations of tyranny in Ethiopia.

I call upon all freedom loving Ethiopians, in and outside of the country, to let the awarding committee know that the courageous Birtukan Mideksa deserves the 2010 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty as a towering symbol of Ethiopia’s resistance and defiance against tyranny in the unfinished march toward freedom.

To nominate Birtukan Mediksa online, Visit

http://www.cato.org/special/friedman/about.html

Every little voice, if unified, can become a powerful clarion call hard to ignore.

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Related links

The unknown Aung San Suu Kyi, By Abebe Gellaw
Letter from Kaliti jail, By Birtuakn Mideksa
In defence of Birtukan Mideksa, By Alemayehu G. Mariam
My Word, By Birtukan Mideksa
Ethiopia: 2008 Human Rights Report, U.S Department of State

——

The writer is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and visiting scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law [CDDRL], Stanford University. He also advises the Free Birtukan and All Political Prisoners Task Force. He can be reached at abebe@stanford.edu.

Ethiopia Meles on ICG report, obama administration and Medrek

September 17th, 2009

VOA/Reuters

In a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with reporters, prime minister Meles Zenawi had harsh words for the authors of a new report that warns of the potential for ethnic violence ahead of next year’s national elections. The report by the International Crisis Group describes Ethiopia as a de facto one-party state where the lack of political space “incites opposition groups to consider armed struggle as their only remaining option”.

Mr. Meles called the report “contemptible”.

“I do feel that the analysis in the paper was not worth the price of the cost of writing it up,” he said.

Mr. Meles served notice his government would not tolerate outside interference, as the election nears. He pointed to recent “Color Revolution” in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, describing them as coups backed by powerful foreign forces.

“Those who feel it is their God-given right how to tell others how to run their affairs are free to think so, but they should limit their practice of that idea to their own country,” said Mr. Meles. “This type of financing of activities of so called Color Revolutions that are in substance nothing more than exalted coups, these we do not agree with, and we do not believe this is within the purview of partnerships between developed and developing countries.”

On a positive note, Mr. Meles says he is satisfied with Ethiopia’s relationship with the United States, even though the Obama administration has not appointed an ambassador to Addis Ababa and Ethiopia recently called home its ambassador to Washington.

“We have more old friends in the current administration than we had in the previous one,” he said. “So, in terms of interpersonal dialogue, it’s much smoother than it has been in many years. In terms of the fundamentals of that relationship, it’s also solid.”

Ethiopian diplomatic sources say Prime Minister Meles rejected the Obama administration’s first choice as ambassador. A retired diplomat, Ambassador Roger Meece is currently serving as the interim Charge d’Affaires. An embassy official said there is no word on when a new envoy might be named.

CRITICISES OPPOSITION

Rights groups regularly accuse Ethiopia’s government of cracking down on political opponents. One party leader has been jailed and several former and serving military officers have been charged in recent months with plotting a coup.

Meles defended the country’s system of “ethnic federalism”, under which major ethnic groups control the regions where they are the majority. He said it had saved the giant nation from splitting apart.

“The country was on the brink of total disintegration,” the prime minister said. “Every analyst worth his salt was suggesting that Ethiopia will go the way of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. What we have now is a going-concern.”

Meles has started talks with the opposition about a code of conduct for the next poll. But the main coalition of opposition parties said last week it had walked out of the discussions and that its potential candidates were being jailed and harassed.

“Those parties that apparently are concerned about harassment are not concerned enough to participate in the devising of a code of conduct that is designed to put an end to it, if it exists, or to prevent it if it doesn’t,” Meles said.

“The intent of these individuals is to discredit the election process from day one, not to participate in it.”

Egyptian PM leads a delegation to visit Ethiopia

September 17th, 2009

The Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif, is due to visit Ethiopia in October at the head of a delegation of businessmen and Egyptian investors to boost bilateral cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia in various areas of development in addition to their joint water projects, APA learns here.

Speaking to the press in Cairo on the matter on Wednesday, the Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Amin Abaza, said that the Prime Minister will be accompanied on his visit to Ethiopia by several cabinet ministers.

Abaza noted that the visit of Prime Minister Nazif to Ethiopia comes in the wake of the directives by President Hosni Mubarak to boost investment in various fields with the Nile Basin countries and the African continent in general for the benefit of the people.

The minister explained that the aim of the visit was to channel Egyptian investments to the Nile Basin countries to create mutual interests in all fields, adding that many private companies and businessmen have expressed their readiness to go to invest in Ethiopia on condition of receiving guarantees for their investments through the agreements signed between the two countries.

The minister added that importation of meat from Ethiopia, is part of the Egyptian government’s keenness to import the food from other African countries, saying his ministry has decided to send an Egyptian permanent resident veterinary mission to Ethiopia to ensure the safety of the meat imported from there.

APA

ETHIOPIA OPPOSITION: RESIGNATION TALK JUST ANOTHER LAME EXCUSE

September 9th, 2009

Picture - Meles Zenawi

By Barry Malone ADDIS ABABA, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s ruling party wants Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to remain its leader for another five years, making it likely the former rebel will run the Horn of Africa nation for some time to come.

“We have made a decision about all our frontline leaders, not just Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,” Muktar Kedir, chief of headquarters for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), told Reuters on Wednesday.

“They will all resign within five years.We will consider his request again then,” he said after the EPRDF’s annual congress this week.Speculation has surrounded Meles’ intentions since he began talking about resigning in 2008.

But Meles has always insisted he needed permission from his party to step aside.Opposition politicians say the Prime Minister’s statements were a ploy to make him appear more democratic and he never planned to step down before national elections in May 2010.

Analysts say the EPRDF will easily win the elections, allowing Meles to rule for another five years if he wants to.The 54-year-old took power in 1991 after rebels led by him and others overthrew a communist regime that many Ethiopians blamed for causing the 1984-85 famine that brought the desperately poor country to world attention.

“LAME EXCUSE”

Opposition parties say the EPRDF is set to remain in power because their politicians are regularly intimidated and jailed.Ethiopia’s last polls in 2005 were touted internationally as the country’s first truly democratic elections, but they ended in violence when the government declared victory and the opposition said the result was fixed.

Police and soldiers killed about 200 people who had taken to the streets. Meles accused the protesters of trying to topple the government and more than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers were then imprisoned.

They were released in a 2007 pardon deal but rights groups say the government is cracking down on dissent again.One party leader is in jail and a group of former military officers have been convicted of plotting to oust Meles.

“The opposition knew he would never resign,” Bulcha Demeksa leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, one of Ethiopia’s biggest opposition parties, told Reuters.”It will be another five years of tribulation now.Saying his party won’t allow him to go is just a lame excuse.

“Diplomats in the capital Addis Ababa said while the EPRDF had decided Meles should continue as party leader, there was nothing to stop him resigning as prime minister at some point during another EPRDF term in office.

“There’s still a strong possibility Meles will lead the EPRDF to victory in 2010 and then step down maybe one to two years after that and hand the reins to a party loyalist,” said a western diplomat who did not want to be named.If he does go, analysts disagree about his legacy.

The Meles government has cultivated good relations with the West, introduced a safety-net system for millions of hungry people which should ensure the 1980s famine is never repeated, and reduced infant mortality and poverty rates.

Meles has also become something of a spokesman for Africa, representing the world’s poorest continent at the latest G8 and G20 summits of rich nations.He is again due to speak for Africans at December’s Copenhagen climate change summit.

But the 2005 election and jailing of opposition leaders, as well as a vicious military campaign against an ethnically Somali rebel group, have tarnished his image and turned many Ethiopians against him.