Ethiopia frees 32 opposition members
ADDIS ABABA (AFP)- Ethiopia on Saturday freed 32 opposition members who had been detained for post-election violence in 2005, a lawyer said.
They had been detained alongside 38 other senior opposition figures of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy who were pardoned last month after acknowledging a role in the post poll violence.
"They were neither charged nor convicted by the court in the first place, but their plea for amnesty was accepted by the government and they were released this morning," said the lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Government officials declined to comment on their release or why they were detained without charges.
Ethiopia sparked and international outcry after it slapped opposition figures heavy jail terms over incidents that followed disputed 2005 polls. Among those who had been sentenced to life and released were Hailu Shawel and Bernahu Nega, two senior leaders of the opposition party.
The Coalition for Unity and Democracy made its sharpest gains ever in 2005 elections, but claimed it was robbed of victory by widespread and government-sponsored fraud.
Earlier this year, the Ethiopian parliament approved a report which said 193 civilians and six policemen died during the unrest in 2005.
Ethiopia opposition members freed
The Ethiopian authorities have pardoned at least 31 opposition members detained after post-election violence in 2005.
They were jailed along with 38 senior figures - who were freed last month - from the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).
All the freed CUD members and supporters signed a letter of pardon acknowledging a role in the disorder after the polls two years ago.
Ethiopia provoked an international outcry after it jailed the CUD figures.
Two senior CUD leaders, Hailu Shawel and Berhanu Nega, were sentenced to life in jail and then released last month.
"It indicates the rule of law is respected in Ethiopia"
Ethiopian Prime Minister's spokesman
The CUD accused the government of electoral fraud following the 2005 polls, which saw the opposition party claim its biggest ever gains.
Bereket Simon, an advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told the Associated Press news agency: "(The freed CUD members) can run for office, they can run their political organisations.
"It is good for Ethiopia because it indicates that the rule of law is respected in Ethiopia."
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Ethiopia says things moved quickly after the government said there would be no pardons until the judicial process was over.
Hoping for a quick release, defendants began to change their plea to guilty and all those who have signed the pardon letter have now been freed, our correspondent says.
The Ethiopian authorities say nearly 200 people were killed in the violence that erupted after the elections two years ago.
Eritrea - U.S. moves to declare Eritrea a 'state sponsor of terrorism' for Somalia role
By Matthew Lee
8:10 a.m. August 17, 2007
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is preparing a case to designate the Red Sea state of Eritrea a “state sponsor of terrorism” for its alleged support of al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in Somalia, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa said Friday.
Officials are now compiling evidence of Eritrean backing for the extremists to support the designation, a rare move that would impose severe sanctions on the impoverished nation and put it in the same pariah category as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, said Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
“We have to put together the case against them, that information is being collected right now,” Frazer said. “The information so far that we've collected is fairly convincing about their activities in terms of 'state sponsor' in Somalia.”
“It will be evaluated through an interagency process and then decisions will be taken,” she said, without providing a timeline. She said Eritrea had been informed of the possible action “through private channels.”
Frazer, speaking at a briefing called to discuss deteriorating relations between the United States and the increasingly authoritarian country, said Washington agreed with a recent report by U.N. experts that found Eritrea to be the primary source of weapons and cash for Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
“We do have intelligence that affirms what's in the monitoring report,” she said, adding that while the information is being collected Eritrea has a chance to change its behavior and avoid the designation. “What we cannot tolerate is their support for terror activity, particularly in Somalia.”
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UN: Eritrea Arming Somalia Insurgents (AP)
The U.N. report, obtained by The Associated Press last month before its official release, says the Islamist insurgents in Somalia have enough surface-to-air missiles, suicide vests and explosives to sustain their war against the internationally backed Somali government, largely due to secret shipments from Eritrea.
It says Eritrea has shipped a “huge quantity of arms” to the insurgents, known as the Shabab. The shipments continued despite U.N. efforts to bring peace to Somalia and the deployment of African Union peacekeepers.
Eritrean officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday but they have repeatedly denied providing any assistance to the Shabab, the militant wing of an Islamic group that ruled much of southern Somalia for six months last year until Eritrea's arch-foe Ethiopia invaded in December and ousted them.
U.S. officials believe the militants have close ties to al-Qaeda and are harboring several suspects wanted for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The “state sponsor of terrorism” designation is rarely used and represents a near death sentence for diplomatic relations with the United States. Washington maintains a diplomatic presence in three of the countries now on the list – Cuba, Sudan and Syria – but does not have an ambassador in any of them.
Those on the list are banned from receiving all non-emergency U.S. aid and subject to a host of financial sanctions. It also penalizes people, firms and third countries that engage in trade with designees.
The last country added was Sudan in 1993 and only two countries have been removed from the list: Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Libya last year after it renounced terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Ties between the United States and Eritrea have steadily declined in recent years with U.S. officials complaining of Eritrea playing a destabilizing role in the Horn of Africa through its continued animosity with regional foe Ethiopia, its activities in Somalia and support for rebels in Sudan.
At the same time, Washington accuses Asmara of clamping down on internal dissent, hindering the work of aid workers and interfering with U.S. diplomatic work in the country. Earlier this month, the State Department ordered the closure of Eritrea's consulate in Oakland, Calif., in retaliation for curbs placed on U.S. diplomats in Eritrea.
Chinese flocking in numbers to a new frontier: Africa
By Howard W. French and Lydia Polgreen
International Herald Tribune
Published: August 17, 2007
LILONGWE, Malawi: When Yang Jie left home at 18, he was doing what people from China's hardscrabble Fujian Province have done for generations: emigrating in search of a better living overseas.
What set him apart was his destination. Instead of the traditional adopted homelands in North America and Europe, where Fujian people have settled by the hundreds of thousands, he chose southern Africa, making his way to this small, landlocked country where Stanley and Livingstone's legendary meeting occurred.
"Before I left China," said Yang, now 25, "I thought Africa was all one big desert," a place forever bathed in terrible heat. So he figured ice cream would naturally be in high demand, and with money pooled from relatives and friends, created his own factory. Malawi's climate, in fact, is subtropical, but that has not stopped his ice cream company from becoming the country's biggest.
Stories like this have become legion across Africa over the last five years or so, as hundreds of thousands of Chinese have discovered the continent, setting off to do business in a part of the world that had been terra incognita for their compatriots. The Xinhua press agency recently estimated there were at least 750,000 Chinese working or living for extended periods on the continent, a reflection of burgeoning economic ties between China and Africa that reached $55 billion in trade in 2006, compared with less than $10 million a generation earlier.
Even when Yang arrived here in 2001, he said he could go weeks without encountering another traveler from his homeland. But as surely as his investments in the country have prospered, he said, an increasingly large community of Chinese migrants has taken root, running everything from small factories to health care clinics and trading companies.
During the previous wave of Chinese interest in Africa in the 1960s and 70s, an era of radical socialism and proclaimed third world solidarity, European and American companies held sway over economies across most of the continent. Here and there, though, the Chinese made their presence felt, often as a curious sight: drably dressed, state-run work brigades that built stadiums, railroads and highways, often crushing rocks and performing other heavy labor by hand. Today, in many of the countries the new Chinese emigrants have settled in, like Chad, Chinese-owned pharmacies, massage parlors and restaurants serving a variety of regional Chinese cuisines can be found; the Western presence, once dominant, has steadily dwindled, and essentially consists nowadays of relief experts working with international agencies or oil workers, living behind high walls in heavily guarded enclaves.
At first, this new Chinese exodus was driven largely by word of mouth, as pioneers like Yang relayed news back home of abundant opportunities in a part of the world where many economies lay undeveloped or in ruins, and where even in the richer countries many things taken for granted in the developed world awaited builders and investors.
Conditions like these often deter Western investors, but for many budding Chinese entrepreneurs, Africa's emerging economies are inviting precisely because they seem small and accessible. Competition is often weak or nonexistent, and for African customers, the low price of many Chinese goods and services make them more affordable than their Western counterparts.
You Xianwen sold his pipe-laying business in Chengdu this year to move to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to join a startup company with a Chinese partner he had previously only met online.
"Back where I come from we are pretty independent people," said You, 55. "My brothers and sisters all supported my decision to come here. In fact, they say that if things really work out for me, they would like to move to Africa, too."
You said that before settling on Ethiopia, he had considered other African countries, including Zambia. "Luckily I didn't decide to go there," he said, explaining that he had been frightened by the recent anti-Chinese protests in that country.
His new business, ABC Bioenergy, builds devices that generate combustible gas from ordinary refuse, providing what You says would be an affordable alternative source of energy in a country where electricity supplies are erratic and prices high.
You's partner here, Mei Haijun, first came to Ethiopia a decade ago to work at a Chinese-built textile factory and has since married an Ethiopian woman, with whom he has a newborn child. "When I first came here you could go two months without seeing another Chinese person," he said. "But it is a different era now. There's a flight to China every day."
Indeed, air traffic has picked up between China and countries like Ethiopia, with Chinese carriers scrambling to add new routes, as the Chinese government and big Chinese companies increase their stake in Africa.
Much of that activity reflects an intense appetite for African oil and mineral resources needed to fuel China's manufacturing sector, but big Chinese companies have quickly become formidable competitors in other sectors as well, particularly for big-ticket public works contracts. China is building major new railroad lines in Nigeria and Angola, large dams in Sudan, airports in several countries, and new roads, it seems, almost everywhere.
One of the largest road builders, China Road and Bridge Construction, has picked up where the solidarity brigades of an earlier generation left off. The company, owned by the Chinese government, has 29 projects in Africa, many of them financed by the World Bank or other lenders, and it maintains offices in 22 African countries.
On a recent Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Beijing brimming with Chinese contractors, workers from Road and Bridge and other companies swapped notes on the grab bag of countries they work in, and debated about the difficulties of learning Portuguese and French in places like Mozambique and Ivory Coast.
Africans view the influx of Chinese with a mix of anticipation and dread. Business leaders in Chad, a central African nation with deepening oil ties to China, are bracing for what they suspect will be an army of Chinese workers and investors.
"We expect a large influx of at least 40,000 Chinese in the coming years," said Renaud Dinguemnaial, director of Chad's chamber of commerce. "This massive arrival could be a plus for the economy, but we are also worried. When they arrive, will they bring their own workers, stay in their own houses, send all their money home?"
In Zambia, where anti-Chinese sentiment has been building for several years, merchants at Lusaka's central market said that if Chinese people want to come to Africa, they should come as investors, building factories, not as petty traders who compete for already scarce customers for bottom-dollar items like flip-flops and T-shirts.
"The Chinese claim to come here as investors, but they are trading just like us," said Dorothy Mainga, who sells knockoff Puma sneakers and Harley Davidson T-shirts in Lusaka's Kamwala Market. "They are selling the same things we are selling at cheap prices. We pay duty and tax, but they use their connections to avoid paying tax." Although Chinese oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria and in Ethiopia, where nine were killed by an armed separatist movement in May, the growing Chinese presence around the continent has produced few serious incidents.
Misunderstandings are common, however, and resentments inevitably arise. Africans in many countries complain that Chinese workers occupy jobs that locals are either qualified for or could be easily trained to do. "We are happy to have the Chinese here," said Dennis Phiri, a 21-year-old Malawian university student who is studying to become an engineer. "The problem with the Chinese companies is that they reserve all the good jobs for their own people. Africans are only hired in menial roles."
Another frequently heard criticism is that the Chinese are clannish, sticking together day and night.
In Addis Ababa, in what is a typical arrangement for most large companies, the 200 Chinese workers for China Road and Bridge all live in a communal compound, eating food prepared by cooks brought from China and even receiving basic health care from a Chinese doctor.
"After a day off you wonder what you're doing here, so we like to keep working," said Cheng Qian, the country manager for the road building company in Ethiopia. He added that his family had never visited him during several years of work there. "They have no interest in Africa," he said. "If it were Europe, things would be different."
For Tufa, 10,000m was not love at first sight
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Of the few things that irritated Ethiopian runner Mestawet Tufa in the two years prior to 2007, the mention of the words 10,000m definitely topped the list.
“I hated the mention of the event,” Tufa says. “Five years ago when I competed for the first time in the event in Addis Ababa, I was lapped by five or six runners and finished seventh.”
Instead of working hard and getting better at the event, Tufa chose to stay away from the event until this year when she ‘gambled’ on a decision to return at the 36th Ethiopian Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa.
It has proven to be a masterstroke of a decision that has since seen her take the national title, run a world leading time (31:00.47 in Valenswaard, Netherlands) at the distance to secure her place in Ethiopia’s team for the 11th IAAF World Championships in Osaka, and storm past world class challengers to win the All African Games title in Algiers, Algeria.
More significantly, however, it has put her in contention for a medal when the world’s top distance runners line up for the women’s 10,000m in the Japanese coastal city.
“I am happy that I made the decision to try the 10,000m,” she says. “It has given me the best year of my career.”
Beginnings mirror Bekele
Article continues ... Scroll down
Before her career shift, Tufa boasted a number of significant performances to her name in youth and junior athletics with her 3000m silver in the 2001 World youth championships in Debrecen, Hungary, and a fifth place finish over the 3000m at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile the most noteworthy results in her earlier years.
It was a bright opening to an international career that had always promised so much since she joined the Ethiopian club system initially with the Muger Cement sports club.
Born in Bekoji, home to some of Ethiopia’s world class running talents like the Bekele brothers and the Dibaba sisters, Tufa, like Kenenisa Bekele, is the second child in a family of nine children. And like Bekele, her parents tilled the land three times a year for cash and subsistence crops.
“I have never noticed the resemblance,” she says. “But now that you mentioned it, I was also born in the same village as Kenenisa which is a one-hour run from the centre of Bekoji. I also went to the same school as Kenenisa and was introduced to the sport in Physical Education (P.E) classes by Coach Sentayehu Eshetu [the same coach who first spotted Kenenisa’s speed when he trained for football matches].”
Needed some early prodding to pursue running
But Tufa was not easily won over by the lure of the sport early on. “I was extremely shy,” she says. “I was embarrassed for changing from skirts to running shorts and used to get punished in school for it. It was one day when I won a small race, I don’t even remember the distance, that I showed interest. I remember telling my father that I would be the next Derartu Tulu.”
Despite her initial enthusiasm, it took a year before Tufa was convinced that running would be her chosen destiny in life. “After winning a race in Bekoji, I was selected to represent the zone in the Oromiya regional championships,” she says. “I won that race in Assela and entered the Ethiopian cross country championships representing the region. I finished tenth overall, but finished first in the division for regional runners.”
Her performances quickly caught the attention of the top clubs in Ethiopia. Tezazu Wubshet of the Oromiya Prisons sports club even offered her to stay at his home and help her train. “I escaped from his house and went back home to my mother,” she says. “I was homesick and did not realize the importance of running at the time.”
At the end, Tolosa Kotu, current national team coach and then Muger Cement sports club head coach, convinced her to join his club. She would only stay less than a year before joining her current club Omedla.
“I liked the colour of their running jersey,” she says referring to Omedla’s bright yellow track tops. “I also lived and trained with runners of the club and had always dreamt of joining them.”
Tufa competed successfully for Omedla before she was selected for the national team in 2000. After her successes in Santiago and Debrecen, she had looked to follow on the success trail of Dibaba, Defar, and other Ethiopian runners when she started her senior year in 2004, but that was exactly when her injury nightmares started.
“I had won the 5000m in the Addis Ababa Municipal Championships that year,” she says. “But a week before the Ethiopian championships, I suffered a knee injury. I have never been the same since then. I had treatment on the injured both in Ethiopia and overseas, but I have not been able to return back to form in the following years.”
After many starts and stops in her career, Tufa finally got the consistency and fitness she had craved for so long last year when she first qualified for the world cross country championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and announced herself on the senior stage with a seventh place finish in the long course.
“Getting my health back was very important for me,” she says. “I was able to train hard over an extended period without feeling any pains. That was the key to my good performance in Fukuoka.”
Runs through injury to world lead
She had run well over the roads and the cross country this year before making her winning return to the 10,000m in May. But after running a career best of 14:51.72 in Hengelo, she then suffered a recurrence of the injury that had plagued an early part of her career.
“I had arranged to run in Valenswaard, Netherlands,” she recalls. “But I started to feel the pain; I had given up hope of making the race. However, it was Haile Gebrselassie who advised me to run despite my injury problems. I thank him now because of the result.”
The result was victory and a world leading 31:00.27 who guaranteed her place in Ethiopia’s team for Osaka. A month later, she followed up her fast time with victory over Kenyan Edith Masai in the All-African Games 10000m final.
“When I trained in Addis Ababa, I knew in my heart that I would do well in Algiers,” she says. “I decided to run to my strengths in Algiers. I decided to kick with 800m to go. Our coaches and Ethiopian spectators thought I was really crazy and miscalculated the laps because it is not usual for Ethiopian runners to sprint for so long. But it paid off and I am delighted with the victory.”
Her victory has put her among the favourites to grab a medal in Osaka and perhaps push compatriot and defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba to the line. But the 23-year old is not ready to heap her prospects.
“This will be my first major competition,” she says. “I want to do well and make a good impression. I do not want to set targets like medals or victories at this moment.”
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
Ethiopia - Campaign for the Return of an Ethiopian Orthodox
Church 'Tabot'- Holy Altar, in possession with the Westminster Abbey, on the Occasion of the Coming Ethiopian Millennium
As Ethiopians celebrate their unique Millennium this coming September, it will be without many of their historical treasures, looted in the past and currently held in several British and other European institutions.
The United Kingdom is the country holding the majority of Ethiopian historical artifacts. Among them we find many early manuscripts, at least one Ethiopian royal crown, a dozen tabots, or altar slabs, golden church crowns, gold chalices, and several processional crosses. All these and other artifacts were looted almost 140 years ago during the British expedition against Emperor Theodros of Ethiopia in 1867-68.
The Westminster Abbey is among the institutions unjustly holding loot from Ethiopia. The Abbey is in possession of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church 'Tabot' or Holy Altar Slab. Dr Berhanu Kassayie, a UK citizen
living in London, has raised a campaign and will handin a petition to the Dean of Westminster
Abbey on Thursday 16th August at 2:00 pm. Dr Berhanu, many Orthodox Christians, Ethiopian citizens of Britain and their supporters are asking Westminster Abbey to take a courageous step by returning the Holy Altar Slab to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on the occasion of forthcoming Ethiopian Millennium.
International justice requires that all looted Ethiopian antiquities be returned to Ethiopia. Demands for restitution have been made in more recent years by the Association for the Return of Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET) which is based in both Ethiopia and Britain. The Ethiopian Millennium provides a perfect opportunity for restitution, and Westminster Abbey should without delay take the courageous step of returning this Ethiopia's historical artifacts to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church 'Tabot' at Westminster Abbey has no religious, historical or cultural significance to us here in the UK and little is known about its presence. However, to Ethiopians, it is
emotionally significant and an invaluable symbol of their religion, rich history and culture. It is part of their lawful heritage and they deserve to see it returned to appreciate the religious and cultural
heritage of their ancestors.
From the Campaign statement
More information can be found in the AFROMET website
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