Ethiopia's battle for land reforms could lead to civil war: opposition leader

August 11th, 2016

Ethiopia's battle for land reforms could lead to civil war: opposition leader

Ethiopia's battle for land reforms could lead to civil war: opposition leader

By Sally Hayden

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
- Mass street protests that saw dozens of people shot by Ethiopian security forces over the weekend could spill into civil war if the government fails to reform land use policies, a veteran Ethiopian opposition politician has warned.

Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo People's Congress, said the East African country was at a "crossroads".

"People are demanding their rights," he said. "People are fed up with what the regime has been doing for a quarter of a century. They're protesting against land grabs, reparations, stolen elections, the rising cost of living, many things.

"If the government continue to repress while the people are demanding their rights in the millions that (civil war) is one of the likely scenarios," Gudina said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Washington DC.

More than 90 people were shot dead by security forces in protests across Ethiopia's central-western Oromiya and northern Amhara regions at the weekend, according to opposition officials and residents.

Gudina said thousands of people were arrested in Addis Ababa, after the government used "massive and excessive force" to shut down demonstrations that had spread there. Other activists estimated that 3,000 protesters had been detained.

"There have been no attempts at negotiation from the government, no engagement with the opposition or the people. So far, their only response is bullets," Gudina said.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged Ethiopia on Wednesday to allow international observers into Oromiya and Amhara. He also said allegations of excessive use of force across the two restive regions must be investigated and that his office was in discussions with Ethiopian authorities.


Protests began in November in the town of Ginchi in Oromiya over a government plan to allocate farmland to Addis Ababa for development, potentially displacing large numbers of Oromo farmers, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

The plan was scrapped but protests flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators.

On May 24 the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government had won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, which critics and the opposition said were rigged.

Human Rights Watch estimated that 400 demonstrators were killed by security forces between November and June. Several prominent figures were arrested during that period, including the Oromo activist Bekele Gerba, who was taken from his home in December.

The protests have spread to other areas and people were now organizing and co-operating across ethnic lines," Gudina said.

"That is what we have been waiting for," he said.

"The regime could not contain the protests to only one region: all along, we have been expecting that others have their own issues."

Government officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency reported that "illegal protests" by "anti-peace forces" had been brought under control. It did not mention casualties.

Gudina, who was part of the student movement involved in overthrowing Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and subsequently spent seven years in prison under the communist Derg government, said he has no power to stop the demonstrations.

"How on earth do you tell people not to demand their rights? The only advice I give is to make their protests as much as possible peacefully and legally."

He said land policies needed to be reformed to ensure that land acquisition was fair, transparent and properly managed.

"When land is taken for real development, there needs to be proper compensation, [an] alternative livelihood should be arranged for the farmers," he said.

Many farmers who have been moved from their land already are now living in poverty, with some women forced to turn to prostitution, Gudina said.

In a statement released on Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa said it was "deeply concerned with the extensive violence that occurred during protests across Ethiopia" at the weekend.

It said it had noted that protesters and security officials had been killed but that confirmed numbers were not available.

Gudina also criticized foreign investors in Ethiopia. "Investing when such governments are at war with their people is not helping. There's no guarantee, no security for their investment until the politics is getting better and the country is stabilized," he said.

"They know that the country is going in a bad direction."

Ethiopia says UN observers not needed as protests rage

August 11th, 2016

Ethiopia says UN observers not needed as protests rage
Ethiopia says UN observers not needed as protests rage

Spokesman tells Al Jazeera government is responsible for safety of its own citizens.

Addis Ababa - Ethopia has dismissed a plea from the United Nations that it allow international observers to investigate the killing of protesters by security forces during a recent bout of anti-government demonstrations.

Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people.

Reda's comments came after the UN urged the government to allow observers to investigate the killings of at least 90 protesters in the Oromia and Amhara regions over the weekend.

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said allegations of excessive use of force must should be investigated and that his office was in discussions with Ethiopian authorities.

Reda, however, told Al Jazeera that it was not necessary to send observers to specific parts of the country since the UN already had a massive presence in Ethiopia.

He said the government would launch its own investigation into whether security forces had used excessive force and would do so in consultation with local people.

He blamed what he called "terrorist elements" for stoking the violence from abroad, without giving further detail.

At the weekend, an opposition leader told the AFP news agency that up to 50 people were killed as security forces suppressed the protests. Amnesty International put the death toll at 97.

Oromia, an area which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, has seen several months of protests, sparked by plans to allocate farmland in the region for development.

Authorities scrapped the land scheme in January, but protests have flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Washington Post Editorial: Ethiopia’s regime has killed hundreds. Why is the West still giving it aid?

August 9th, 2016

Washington Post Editorial: Ethiopia’s regime has killed hundreds. Why is the West still giving it aid?

The Washington Post Editorial: Ethiopia’s regime has killed hundreds. Why is the West still giving it aid?

Source; The Washington Post editorial Page

OVER THE weekend, Ethiopia reminded the world of how it treats those who dare demonstrate against the government. At least 90 protesters were shot and killed by Ethiopian security forces in the regions of Oromia and Amhara. As demonstrations unusually reached into the capital of Addis Ababa, the regime censored social media posts and blocked Internet access.

This fresh outburst of repression follows months of unrest in the Oromia region over government plans to expand the Addis Ababa capital territory into the lands of the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. According to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security officers have killed more than 400 people in clashes over the Oromia land dispute since protests broke out in November. Tens of thousands more have been detained. The clashes represent the worst ethnic violence that Ethiopia has seen in years. That the unrest is spreading to regions beyond Oromia underscores the depth of anger against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party.

The weekend’s bloodshed should prompt the West to reconsider its aid to the regime. Ethiopia has been hailed as a model of economic development and touts its progress on global anti-poverty indicators as proof that its “developmental democratic” style is working. But the repeated use of force to silence dissent threatens development by sowing seeds of future unrest.

The United States has long relied on Ethiopia as a partner in the fight against al-Shabab’s terrorism in Somalia and sends the country tens of millions of dollars in development assistance, tiptoeing around Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and resistance to democratic reforms. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa remarked that it was “deeply concerned” and expressed its “deep condolences to those who suffered as a result” but stopped short of explicitly urging the Ethiopian government to refrain from using excessive force against its citizens. The Obama administration should encourage a credible investigation into the killings and publicly make clear that Ethiopia’s continued crackdowns are unacceptable.

Europe is on the verge of helping to provide Ethiopia with even more aid. Ethiopia is one of the key countries to which the European Union is offering “cash for cooperation,” meaning aid and trade incentives in exchange for helping to keep refugees and migrants from reaching Europe. Now Ethiopia is providing a litmus test of the stated E.U. commitment to human rights. If Ethiopia continues its pattern of abusing its citizens and stifling dissent, and if it fails to credibly investigate the recent killings, the European Union should make clear to the regime that it risks being dropped from the migrant agreements.

Ethio­pian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in response to criticism of the regime’s human rights record that “building democratic culture will take some time. But we are on the right track. It’s improving.” That’s hard to square with the continued killing and jailing of protesters.

Ethiopia: The roar of the Lion

August 9th, 2016
Ethiopia:  The roar of the Lion

Ethiopia: The roar of the Lion

By Yilma Bekele

August five a booming noise was heard throughout Ethiopia and the source of the loud roar was none other than from the lion’s lair, the ancient city of Gondar. The brave people of Gondar lifted the smoke veal that has been blurring our vision. They just did not demand justice for themselves. They demanded justice for all of Ethiopia’s children. What less do you expect from a real Lion?

They demanded the release of Bekele Gerba the brave son of Oromia. They applauded our gallant Muslim citizens and raised their voice against the injustice done to them. The fire that has been smoldering all over Ethiopia the last twenty five years exploded in Gondar, appeared in Bahr Dar, moved to Dire Dawa, went East to Nekemte, was felt in Addis and is expected in Shashemene and further south.

The people of Gondar in one bold stroke undid what Weyane has been trying to erase for over the last thirty years. They told Woyane in no uncertain voice ‘we are children of the same mother’ and no amount of hate will come between us! It might appear strange to some but most people knew trying to break Ethiopia apart is not a winning idea. There is always a fool that has to try. Woyane is the latest fool that tried that. They are falling like autumn leaves right in front of our eyes.

I know their fall has been predicted many times before but it never happened. It has been eleven long years since Kinijit. The struggle never stopped. Woyane under Meles reset their agenda and embarked on selling all of Ethiopia’s assets. The opposition with its limited resources continued to shine a bright light on the bankruptcy of the system and the dangers associated with such greed to stay in power. Our people organized inside the belly of the enemy.

Gondar is the culmination of years of pent up rage against Woyane injustice. The solidarity by Bahir Dar, Dire Dawa, Nekemte, Ambo, Shashemene is a crowning moment in our history and a new chapter in our attempt to form a just and free Ethiopia. Our people are confirming what we have all been saying all along. We are one people and that is what has made our country free and strong ever since time immemorial.

What we see in Ethiopia today is that we are all united against injustice. From Gondar to Dire Dawa to Nekemte we all want one thing - to live free as one people. There is only one organization that is denying us our freedom. It is Tigrai people Liberation Front (TPLF - ህዝባዊ ወያነ ሓርነት ትግራይ-ሕ ወ ሓ ት) The Organization does not represent the dreams and aspirations of the people of Tigrai. At the same time it is people of Tigrean origin that have greatly benefited from the tribal system. It is this system Ethiopians have come together to destroy once and for all.

The Tigray Liberation Front is trying to paint this either an attempt by Shabia G7, OLF or the good old charge of Interahamwe and other enemies. This time it is not going to work. The discontent is too wide spread. The crime by the Tigray regime is too blatant and obvious not to be noticed by all Ethiopians. The economy is hitting bottom and foreign enablers are having second thought about the mafia group that is refusing to act grown up. There is no section of the society that has not felt Woyane injustice.

The last week Tigrai Woyane troops have killed over ninety Ethiopians that were peacefully marching to show their discontent. Thirty three were from Ormia and twenty from Gondar as reported by Reuters and ESAT. Ethiopians of Oromia region have lost over three hundred people the last year and murder has not slowed their resolve to bring justice.

In twenty sixteen it is a little strange and depressing to witness a Government sending professional soldiers trained for war to stifle dissent and gives the order to shoot to kill. We, living in the outside should appeal to our family and friends to make our soldiers see the big picture and understand the consequences of obeying illegal order. It is heartwarming to see Federal Police and local Forces refusing to obey the regime and the news from Godar and vicinity where our soldiers joined the population with their weapons as a gift is the best of them all.

If you are an Ethiopian with any sense of dignity you can not fail to notice the highly offensive system being built by Tigrai Woyane in Ethiopia. It shows utter disrespect to all other Ethiopians. It is not healthy and that is not the way forward. History tells us about the early years of the United States and the consequences of slavery that is still being felt today. It is taking a long time to correct that major mistake. The protest by the children of Ethiopia is proof that we have learnt a valuable lesson and we know a solid foundation is a must to build a just and equal society.

Who would argue with that except Woyane. That is understandable because the few are causing pain to the many while they are living life to the fullest so they think. The people of Ethiopia have embarked on a final battle against injustice as exemplified by ugly Woyane. The death toll is bound to go higher. It is sad but that is the way of war. What makes war happen is when the many sit and allow the few to bully. What makes a short war is when the many unite and put the bully in his place. This is where the individual Ethiopian count. We in the Diaspora count big.

Are you with the Ethiopian people or are you with Tigrai Woyane. It is a very simple questio. Are you feeding or starving the enemy is what we all want to know. Please this is no time to be dancing around. Whatever you have been doing in the past, tomorrow our people ask you to give it a second thought and see if you by any chance have been feeding the monster and if you are stop it!

Our people from Gondar and all their allies have shown the way. The level of organization, the discipline of the Freedom March, the super heartwarming presence of our flag looking more beautiful than ever before has become an occasion for a grown up to cry with delight. No need to mention the wide grin on everyones face to see the picture of Bekele Gerba in Gondar! It is obvious the people of Gondar and Welkait are up to something. It is more than clear our gallant freedom fighters have finally laid a beautiful foundation for the children of Ethiopia confront the enemy on all four corners of our ancient land. It is no secret the sweat and labor invested in Eritrea is finally coming home to protect the peace, defend our family and serve our people.

Our sons and daughters are paying a price with their life asking for our freedom and equality. The war has started and there is no going back. It is freedom or slavery. The Tigrai Woyane government is skilled at killing its own people. Killing unarmed civilians it that what they are good at. They did not fair good in Somalia. Shabia made their Lt. General and his staff weep with fear and shame. The crime they have committed the last twenty five years, the hate they have developed to the rest of us has sapped all the humanity out of them. Yesterday we are told they fought to bring justice and today they are fighting to deny justice but they don’t see it that way. The spark that ignited in Gondar with our help and our peoples boundless courage is going to make them see it is not a good idea to mess with a sleeping Lion

Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads

August 9th, 2016
Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads

Swimming: For happy Habte, it's all about being different

Source: Reuters

If some swimmers consider second place to be first of the losers, spare a thought for Ethiopian Olympic debutant Robel Kiros Habte.

By the time the chubby 24-year-old had emerged for air from his opening dive off the blocks in the 100 meters freestyle heats, he was already almost a body length behind and it did not get any better.

The only one of the 59 entrants in the heats not to complete the distance in under a minute, Habte touched the wall with a time 17 seconds slower than Australian pacesetter Kyle Chalmers who clocked 47.90.

Habte's only rivals in the three-man opening heat, Thibaut Danho of the Ivory Coast and Johnny Perez Urena of the Dominican Republic had removed their caps and were leaning on the lane markers as he trailed in more than 12 seconds behind.

The crowd, recognizing a valiant effort, raised a cheer for a man whose land-locked compatriots are considerably better known for long-distance running feats than any exploits involving water.

Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads

Habte acknowledged he had swum faster, his personal best being 59.08 seconds, and suggested morning training had left him feeling strained.

But he told Reuters he was delighted anyway.

"I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics," said the Ethiopia-based university student, whose entry for Rio was secured on a special invitation from world body FINA extended to athletes from under-represented countries.

"So thanks for God."

If the performance attracted attention, so too did the swimmer's physique with some social media commentators highlighting his midriff in comparison to more finely-honed denizens of the Olympic pool.

They also recalled, somewhat unfairly, the exploits of Equatorial Guinea's Eric 'the Eel' Moussambani who struggled to complete the 100 meters freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Compared to Moussambani, who clocked out in one minute 52.72 seconds and more than 50 seconds slower than anyone else, Habte was motoring.

It may be some time before Habte is described as 'sculpted' or 'chiselled', and he has no plans on competing again, but he will always be an Olympian. For him, Rio was never about the winning, only the taking part.

"I wanted to do something different for my country, that’s why I chose swimming," he said. "Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer.

"It didn’t matter where I finished."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads


An Ethiopian swimmer's laboured finish to his 100m freestyle heat at the Rio Olympics has evoked memories of 'Eric the Eel' from Sydney in 2000.

Robel Kiros Habte touched the wall half a lap behind the last competitor to finish in 1 minute, 4.95 seconds. The slowest time to qualify for the top 16 was 48.58.

Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads

But compared to 'Eric the Eel', Eric Moussambani Malonga from Equatorial Guinea, Habte set a blazing pace.

In a country besotted by distance running, he took up sprint swimming.

"Everybody knows we like running. All the people like running," Habte said.

"I don't like running. I want to be different in my country, that is why I choose it. I just love swimming."

Out-of-shape Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte turns heads

The 24-year-old is one of two Ethiopian swimmers at the Rio Games, the other is Rahel Gebresilassie in the women's 50m freestyle.

They both received what is termed a universality invitation from swimming's world governing body FINA to compete in Rio.

And Habte couldn't be happier.

"My best time is 59.59 seconds," he said.

"For Olympics, my first one, I am so happy. For all the sportsmen, the Olympics are big. So to be [in] competition in the Olympics, I am so happy.

The Daily Mail has already dubbed him "Robel the Whale".

Before Habte had even leaped into the pool, fans raised questions about his credentials after he displayed a significantly less athletic physique than his rivals.

"How in the world did this Ethiopian swimmer (Robel Habte) qualify for the Olympics? Overweight & embarrassingly slow," Twitter user Harold Siyaya said.

But the Rio crowd got behind the out-of-shape 24-year-old, giving him the biggest cheer of the day as he touched the wall to complete the race.

"First cheer at the #Rio2016 pool goes to Ethiopia's Robel Habte. Not quite Eric the Eel but close," Jai Bednall posted on Twitter.

Habte finished 59th out of 59 swimmers and was almost eight seconds behind the 58th-ranked Sirish Gurung or Nepal.

New Zealander Matthew Stanley missed the top-16 finishing in 50.14 seconds.

Habte is no stranger to swimming competitions. He set the Ethopian national record in the 50m freestyle in 27.48 seconds in 2013.

- Stuff and AAP