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Reporter's Notebook: Ethiopia
By Abebe Gellaw
Source: Global Integrity
The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been tightening its grip on political power after it saw the opposition party gaining ground in the May 2005 general elections — elections marred by allegations of vote rigging and violent crackdowns. The violence unleashed by security forces in the aftermath of the first contested election in Ethiopian history not only claimed the lives of 193 people and caused injuries to 763 others, but it also shattered the hope for a transition to democracy. As a result of the speedy backtracking to what critics describe as outright authoritarianism, Ethiopia's transition to democracy and good governance suffered tremendously. Ethiopia's progress toward democracy had brought significant development funding from the U.S. and Europe in recent years; with that progress stalled, the future of this money is uncertain.
New Laws Roll Back Civil Society
Throughout 2008, two controversial draft bills introduced in parliament dominated political conversations. International non-governmental groups such as Human Rights Watch, CIVICUS, Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), among many others, joined local political and civic groups in voicing their concerns over the bills, which critics say were aimed at further curtailing freedom of expression and the work of civil society organizations. Despite criticisms and condemnations, the parliament, widely accused of being a rubber stamp of the ruling party, enacted the bills into law without any significant amendments. The Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation became law on December 4, 2008 and the Civil Society Proclamation entered into force a month later.
In a country like Ethiopia, which is heavily reliant on foreign aid, the Civil Society Proclamation forbids local NGOs from accepting more than 10 percent of their budget from foreign sources and bars civic groups and NGOs from engaging in human rights-related activities. "The law will have a crippling effect on civil society in Ethiopia. We are deeply disappointed that Parliament has passed this regressive law, which undermines democratic values and the people of Ethiopia," said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS, World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
"The law… will prevent CSOs from taking part in democracy building initiatives and acting as a check and balance against human rights abuses. Key provisions of the law infringe upon freedom of association guarantees in the Constitution of Ethiopia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights," CIVICUS argued in a January 2009 press release.
In a recent interview with Walta Information Center, one of the media outlets run by the ruling party, Bereket Simon, Minister of the newly restructured Ministry of Information (renamed the Government Communication Affairs Office), defended the government's decision to ban NGOs and civic organizations from working on issues of human rights. "Bringing money from outside doesn't warrant foreign NGOs and foreign-funded NGOs tampering with Ethiopian politics," he said.
Despite the government's best efforts to defend its restrictive laws and policies, four powerful U.S. senators — Senator Russell Feingold, Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Richard Durbin — wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi expressing fears over what they called, "the erosion of political freedom and rule of law in Ethiopia." They expressed their fear that the law regulating the operation of civil society groups could "undermine the work done by many organizations in areas of human rights, gender equality, child rights, the rights of the disabled and conflict resolution." The senators also noted in their letter that that the re-arrest of Birtukan Mideksa, leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, was worrying as it, "signaled the government's waning commitment to democratic principles."
Banned in Addis Ababa
CPJ, which named Prime Minister Meles Zenewi's administration as the worst backslider globally on press freedom in 2007, has repeatedly accused the government of strangling the press in Ethiopia. Oblivious to the irony, the CPJ website and CPJ email addresses have since been blocked by the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation, the country's official Internet service provider.
Tom Rhodes, CPJ's Africa Program coordinator, said that the new press law, coupled with the restrictive Civil Society Proclamation, would only make matters worse. He said that the government's claim to ensuring good governance and fighting corruption could not be credible in the absence of a robust free press and civil society. He mentioned the fact that CPJ also wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama earlier in 2009, urging him to commit his administration to defending press freedom in countries like Ethiopia where repressive measures and attacks against journalists have crippled the free press.
Dr. Seid Hassan, Professor of Economics and editor of the Journal of Business and Public Affairs at Murray State University, has been researching the effects of corruption on economic development and governance in Ethiopia. In an interview with Global Integrity, he emphasized that the major obstacle to tackling corruption is the government itself. "Despite the fact that the government has set up an anti-corruption commission, funded by Western donors, senior government officials close to the prime minister and his wife that are alleged to have been engaged in unlawful business activities are protected from public scrutiny."
Hassan indicated that a number of companies run by the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray [EFFORT], which is affiliated with the ruling coalition party Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, are not only enjoying preferential status before government regulators but are also weakening the market economy and free enterprise in Ethiopia.
"As these companies are illegally set up as party parastatals, they don't even pay income tax and have free access to cheap loans from the National Bank as well as the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia," Hassan said.
"I have also heard that these party businesses do not even repay what they owe to the banks, which could be true. Such allegations call for sincere investigations."
Hassan points out that the corrupt practices of these businesses have never been investigated by the anti-corruption commission, which has long ignored public outcry. "As far as my research is concerned, Ethiopia is the only country in the world where the ruling party is engaged in profiteering business malpractices [under the guise of humanitarian work]. If this is not corruption, what else can it be?" Professor Hassan asked.
Graft Starts at the Top
Allegations of graft against senior government officials are not uncommon. In a recent news story, "Dignitaries in Business," the African Intelligence publication Indian Ocean Newsletter (ION) named a number of officials who the author says advanced their business interests via abuse of the public trust.
According ION, these include a roster of the country's most senior leaders and their families, which ION says have all been using state power to advance their businesses, speed land transactions, or facilitate the construction of luxury villas. Independent sources confirm that these officials have outside business interests (the Foreign Minister, for instance, is also director of the country's largest cement company). However, verifying the ION claim that state power was abused to advance these businesses is difficult. Ethiopia's restrictive press laws play their part here, as does the lack of conflict-of-interest disclosure laws.
Whether the anti-corruption commission will be able to investigate allegations against senior government officials and party-run businesses is a matter that will pose a test for its credibility.
"In a normal country, the media and civic society play vital roles in exposing and scrutinizing corruption and abuse of political power. In Ethiopia, investigating allegations of corruptions and abuses has been assigned only to a government commission which has been engaged in selective outrage," said Markos Tesfaye, a freelance journalist based in Addis, who works under different pseudonyms for fear of reprisal. He says his priority has now shifted to leaving the country rather than living in fear of persecution and prosecution for doing his job.
"It is very sad that ordinary citizens live in fear without any protection from a government that is violating every rule, including its own constitution," he said.
WE STRUGGLE WE WILL WIN
The derge commited a crime and those criminals were overrun by another totalitarian regime which has disregarded Ethiopia’s ancient culture and tradition through the Solomon dynasty. The result of these selfish egoistic motives has caused the majority to suffer whilst a minority benefit through the love of money which is the root of all evil. No longer shall it be thus, for the Imperial bodyguards are prepared to sacrifice their all and use all the weapons at our disposal, namely, our United stance and Collective action. Lessons have been learnt from the disrespect to the Kebra Negast for Ethiopia is a God-fearing nation. Now that the world of corruption (babylon) is being exposed to the masses ‘Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God’ Psalm 68 and Ethiopians abroad will return to their beautiful country to work for the benefit of all Ethiopians leaving aside all tribal and misguided aims. “The wealth of Eritrea is with Ethiopia and the wealth of Ethiopia is with Eritrea” Haile Selassie word “He who stands before you or us for trial is equally our brother. To think that we may tomorrow find ourselves in his place, that posterity will also find itself in the same difficult situation, in a fundamental applicable to all proffessions. As unfairness and loss of faith in justice torments both the body and the soul, we urge you to keep yourselves away from befalling such a calamity. Let the almighty God engrave these words in the heart of everyone of us.” “As the young men who have received advanced training in the law return from abroad in ever-increasing numbers, and as modern legal codes come into force in Ethiopia, we must act to reform and modernize Ethiopia’s judiciary. This particular responsibility has been confided to the Judicial Committee. It is labouring to improve Ethiopia’s judicial system so that speedy and impartial justice will be guaranteed to all. All men stand equal before the law. All men must be able to enforce their legal rights before the courts. The Judicial Committee is seeking to achieve these objectives, and to create a system whereby judges will be appointed from among those best qualified, and the principle of the independence of the judiciary, already established in the Revised Constitution, will be fully implemented in practice….” The Lion of Judah Christus Jesus Amanuel in thy new name Haile Selassie…
Enate ezi honachu alekesu ….. jiloch..
keep barking and spitting out nonsense articles and volumes of puplishing materials hating on this and that of Ethiopia.
keep doing what you doing and Ethiopia will keep going forward as NEVER before.
Good to know all the people that hate on Ethiopia whose mental state is full of negative thoughts are out of the country living in distant lands as refuges and those that work day and night showing results after results working hard are left inside the country.
Ethiopians don’t live in fear u r the one abebe gelaw who lives in fear Ethiopians live in free and democratic land. In Ethiopia there is freedom of speech freedom to organize freedom of worship etc the people check what the government is doing and hold it accountable and be transparent through the blossoming youth women and many community organization.
Ur anti-Ethiopian lie is hollow filled with false hood coming out from a crippled brain
In spite of ur hate monger and distorted information Ethiopia is marching in democratization and economic progress.
hatter please leave as alone , we are just working on our development in our owen way….we don’t need any kind of white foxs to open so called NGOs and plunder our treasurs and spy our owen resource…please specially the british foxs leave as alone period…………………………….
You keep on distorting and manipulating what is in the article. Here are what you are distorting and what you are being paid to do by Weyane:
We are Ethiopians so we are not against Ethiopia. The article said government officials, TPLF, government officials who are also business owners, Senior government leaders (Weyane and TPLF leaders)
Who are profiteering and corrupt on Ethiopia. So, because they are corrupt people hurting Ethiopia, that does not make them Ethiopian and if they are certainly you can’t use “them” as Ethiopia only that represent Ethiopia and you are saying the rest of Ethiopians living there who are not close to this corrupt government and the officials themselves are not Ethiopians and only the bad, the corrupt, the racist are Ethiopians. You are sick.
How much are you getting for distorting anti Ethiopian information or spreading propoganda?
please read what I posted on Nebil, that goes for you too!
Mr. Abebe Gelaw,
Shame, shame, shame!! you can speew this and that dark and gloome story about Ethiopia In fact, you sound very desperate. It was Kinjit, EPPF, EPRP, OLF, ONLF, Andinet, Ginbot 7, Essayas Afeworki…who is next? who else to rally arround for the desperate fear mongers? Please, please, please, live and let live!!! leave us alone …No matter what you maount of trash you want to heep, it is not sticking on Ethiopia and true Ethiopians. Because we are busy building. Get it?
“However, verifying the ION claim that state power was abused to advance these businesses is difficult”
article well composed,
but confirmations of state power abuses can only be made after a forced withdrawal of the abuser.
Are you singing the swan’s song?
How old are you by the way? It seems that you………
Non-stop lamenting will neither help he country nor the writer.
Get real. See and admit the changes in Ethiopia and join the chorus of happy people. Enough lamenting.
weyane cheerleadeers takorunalachu mechem bihon atasafirunim igzer yibarkachu abo! But why dont you guys try on disputing the points the author made rather than hating on the author? Still iwedachuhalew…hule nazret simeta fegeg tadergugnalachu…lemin comedy atmokirum…dvd awtuna hulum yideset
Another fool by the name Abebe Gelaw writes nonsense.
1.First of all the western based NGOs have to clean their house first.There is a lot of human right abuse including torture in Iraq,Afgahnistan etc etc.
2.Seid Hassan is an Egyptian who is doing his job.That means he is recruiting fool habeshas who can defend Egypts national interest.
3.Finally don`t talk again and again about the 2005 election.EPRDF won the election.Now EPRDF is preparing for the 2010 election and mark my word please,EPRDF is going to win this election again because it has the support of the majority peasants in Ethiopia.
HELLO! Mr PAC-MAN
Stop eating my words. Well come to the newly hired dude Mr,lysosome and his co-worker called Mrs,engulf
the only solution armed straggle.no Weyane will give freedom.we have to sacrifice our self.don’t try to get democracy for free,freedom never free.Weyane are not there to protect Ur interest they are there to enslave our people for there Owen selfish end.if u think they (WEYANE)will give u freedom.we must be the dumbest Ethiopian Ever.look what our father have don to keep as free.now we are in mentally in slaved.action speaks louder than word.LOVE mama ETHIOPIA
Yemiyawerutne ayakumena yeker belachew yelale mesehafu … yeker beyehalu
“They have no clue what they are saying so forgive them ” ezkias 1434
u have been forgiven
I strongly disagree with the notion that only western funded organizations can tell us what’s right or what’s wrong. The root cause of Africa’s ills are the involvement of these very nations that try be judge and jury on us.
Having said that … I fear for this Government. Power unchecked will most certainly lead to corruption. The silencing of descent will only undermine everything this government has worked so far for.
If the government is not ready for peaceful transition of power ( and this is about stopping yourself from falling victim of the trappings or power) they should at least put some mechanism to hold themselves accountable.
After all what is democracy by itself? A two party dictatorship? That didn’t help countries like Nigeria, where each new in-coming government saw a chance to enrich themselves.
When EPRDF have you guys as enemies, it does not need friends, you scare the hell out of the Ethiopian people. Before, you come to power you started the red terror, that is unforgettable in the conscious of Ethiopians and that they will rather not revisit for any earthly reason. You are blinded to any reason by power, greed, hatred, envy and ethnic arrogance, have mercy on you. You are intellectual midgets, harmless to superior intelligence of MELES AND CO.
The usuall staff from born again haters and rascists. Ethiopia is being changed beyound recognition, the old derg ist dogs will continue to bark as loud as they like, one thing is clear here, the camel will continue to march and march. No distraction from the road to development and democratisation.
What we see in Ethiopia is as a result of our martyrs. Martyrdom has paved the way to economic progress and freedom. Abebe Gelaw has critisised every one associated with the government. His hatred towards tigray and EFFORT is clear. He quoted another rascist Hasan and stated that EFFORT doesnt pay tax. This is pure misinformation, the current strategy used by anti-EPRDF forces to discredit various businesses in Ethiopia. EFFORT has created tens of thousands of jobs to Ethiopians in its companies. It pays tens of millions of birr as a tax. EFFORT is playing a big role in promoting sport in Ethiopia by sponsoring various clubs. Ethiopia needs similar organisations that can creat jobs to the jobless and contribute millions as tax, that can be used to expand services and infrastructures in the country.
Ethiopia doesnt need hate mongers and rascists, no wonder why they all keep on shouting and barking like a dog. EPRDF has achieved all these posetive developments by cleansing the country from dergists in 1991. Those sympathisers of the old regime will continue to portray negative image of Ethiopia and the EPRDF. EPRDF has done lot of things, Ethiopia as we speak now is very peacefull and stable country. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economy in the world, its time to see the glass half full and not half empty.
Ragtag politicians of the CUD/kinijit will continue to spread their venom in Ethiopia. The good thing the government has got antidot to that venom. Thanks EPRDF, keep up doing the good job.
Confused individuals like the author of this article will have no impact on Ethiopia. Their time is ending, Ethiopians have started to identify who is who in Ethiopian politics, loosers are always loosers. I remember the same author of this article critisising Alamoudi, The Ethiopian Patriarch, and Beyounce. His crtisism to Beyounce was for going to Ethiopia during the millenium. kkkkkkkk
Its sad to see individuals who are good for nothing defaming others who are changing the lives of ordinary Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s image is being changed, various media outlets are now talking about the impact of Ethiopia’s fast development on the Environment and local tribes men and lakes and rivers etc. We are changing, all this happening because of the sweat and blood of Ethiopians, not hate mongerers like the author of the article, who continously defame EPRDF and all forces associated to it.
VIVA EPRDF-I will vote for EPRDF in the coming election, we wont be tricked by the vulgar politicians of the opposition. They always cry like a baby who dropped candy
The author has been defaming the EPRDF for more than a decade now,kkkkkkkkkkkk EPRDF ousted the dergue in 17 years of struggle, author of the article has been defaming the rulling party for more than a decade. Walking the walk isnt as easy as talking the talk. the author can talk the talk but EPRDF walks the walk.
The victory achieved by the blood and sweat of tens of thousands of courageous young men and women of Ethiopia, will not be snatched by the cheer leaders of kinijit and other chauvinists.
No author or comedian will be allowed to distort facts and figures to pursue an evil agenda. Ethiopians have started to stand against such forces, 18 years of smearing campaign against the EPRDF has brought no tangible result. Contrary to the wishes of the diaspora loosers and chauvinists the EPRDF is strengthening from time and time. EPRDF has now millions of members and supporters, they will all stand united and vote the EPRDF in the 2010.
EPRDF is prepared to deal with the opposition in their method of struggle. Its up to them to choose the barrel or the ballot. Those who don accept defeat will be crying like the author
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