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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Land of Ethiopia’

Ethiopia lifts state of emergency imposed in October

August 04, 2017

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ethiopia’s government on Friday lifted a state of emergency imposed in October after hundreds of people were killed in anti-government protests demanding wider political freedoms. It was some of the country’s worst violence since the ruling party came to power in 1991.

Lawmakers in the East African nation voted to end the emergency law that restricted a number of rights and led to the arrests of more than 21,000 people. It also hurt one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

More than 600 people were killed in nearly a year of protests that first ignited in the Oromia region and spread into the Amhara region and the capital, Addis Ababa. Demands included an end arbitrary arrests and respect for regional autonomy.

The state of emergency was imposed after a deadly stampede at a religious celebration in October as police confronted protesters. The emergency law was extended in March. “We have been able to deal with armed terrorists, anti-peace elements and troublemakers,” Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa said, adding that the government was now able to deal with “a few” remaining security threats.

The minister said more than 8,000 people are still behind bars and are being prosecuted for crimes they are accused of committing during the unrest. Rights groups have claimed that many people were beaten and subjected to arbitrary detentions under the emergency law. The government has maintained that those arrested by mistake were released and those who unwillingly took part in the unrest were released after what it described as “trainings.”

Restrictions under the state of emergency included arbitrary arrests without court orders; limits on radio, television and theater; and dawn-to-dusk prohibitions on unauthorized movements around infrastructure facilities and factories.


Merkel visiting Ethiopia as state of emergency unfolds

October 11, 2016

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Ethiopia, where her meeting on Tuesday with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to focus on the country’s newly declared state of emergency and other issues including migration.

This East African country, one of Africa’s best-performing economies, declared its first state of emergency in a quarter-century on Sunday, after months of protests demanding wider freedoms. Merkel’s African tour, with stops earlier this week in Mali and Niger, is meant to highlight the global migration crisis and discuss security issues. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest hosts of refugees, with hundreds of thousands arriving from nearby Somalia, South Sudan and elsewhere.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer has said Merkel will also “of course clearly address human rights” in Ethiopia. The deaths of more than 50 people last week in a stampede after police tried to disperse protesters led to a week of more demonstrations. One American was killed in a rock attack.

At least 400 people have been killed in anti-government protests over the past year, human rights groups and opposition activists have said. The protesters have been demanding more freedoms from a government that has been accused of being increasingly authoritarian.

On Monday, Ethiopia’s president announced during a Parliament session that the country’s election law would be amended to accommodate more political parties and opposing views. But the country’s internet service continues to be largely blacked out after last week’s unrest, which included the targeting and burning of both foreign and local businesses over suspected ties to the government.

The United States and others have called on the government to use restraint against protesters, and the U.N. human rights office has asked for access to allow independent observers into the troubled Oromia region.

Ethiopia: Unrest follows 56 deaths in anti-govt demos

04 October 2016 Tuesday

Protesters attacked trucks and machinery owned by a cement factory in the Oromia state and also set a customs and court office ablaze, as well as government-owned vehicles, in the wake of anti-government protest on Sunday which left 56 people dead, a local official told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

Worku Chala, Oromia’s communications officer, told Anadolu Agency that in the town of Bule Hora in the West Guji zone, protesters also allegedly freed prisoners after burning down a police station.

“Lives were lost following the conflict between security forces and the forces of destruction in Bule Hora,” said Chala. “Demonstrations are flaring up as dead bodies are returned to families, creating a renewed sense of anger and depression among members of society.”

The protests follow a massive demonstration Sunday at Bishoftu, 45 kilometers southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, in which 56 have so far been reported killed and many others injured in a stampede triggered by the sound of gunfire and firing of teargas to disperse the crowd.

The gathering was meant to mark the annual Irrecha thanksgiving event, but turned into a gigantic anti-government protest with people shouting “didne”, which means “enough” as well as “freedom”.

“All the protests over the last couple of days are the result of the unfortunate incident in which the security forces fired into the air and the teargas,” a protester, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, told Anadolu Agency.

“The stampede could have been avoided and death would have been thus prevented, but alas, you can’t cry over spilled milk, too many of our brothers and sisters are dead now,” he said.

In a message of condolences, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn blamed the mayhem on what he described as a few “instigators” and anti-peace elements who hijacked a public holiday for ulterior political motives.

Following the Bishoftu incident, the Ethiopian government declared three days of national mourning, with the tricolor flag at half-mast.

Source: World Bulletin.


Africans seeking better lives pass through Ethiopian town

July 05, 2015

METEMA, Ethiopia (AP) — The mood in the border town of Metema these days is quiet and watchful.

Dozens of houses on the hot, dusty main road that stretches from Ethiopia into Sudan look like they have been hastily closed. Guards grimly patrol the border, stopping anyone who looks to be trying to cross the border illegally. The nightclubs and bars are emptier than usual, although they still attract Sudanese who are not allowed to drink alcohol in their own country under Shariah law.

Metema, with about 100,000 people, is one of a handful of towns across the region that serve as feeders for a booming trade in migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, many hoping to make their way to Europe. Life here is now a cat-and-mouse game: The authorities are cracking down, yet the migrants just keep coming, often risking death.

Since 30 Ethiopian Christians who passed through Metema were killed by the Islamic State group in Libya a few months ago, the Ethiopian government has become far more vigilant. It claims it has detained 200 smugglers across the country, and police say about 28 of them are from Metema.

The effect of the crackdown is clear in this town. But while the flow of migrants is down from about 250 a day, it’s still strong at 100 to 150, according to Teshome Agmas, the mayor. “It’s just a pity that people choose to endanger their lives in an effort to move out of their country and work in inhumane conditions abroad,” he said.

Getachew Merah, a rail-thin 30-year-old aspiring migrant from Ethiopia, agreed to talk to the Associated Press, but only outside Metema, because he was afraid police would arrest him. He has made three unsuccessful attempts to cross into Sudan, and is now trying again.

Merah said his father is dead and his mother lives in extreme poverty in a rural village in the Amhara region. He added that he has tried just about every job in Ethiopia, working as a butcher, a guard, an assistant in a heavy-duty truck, a laborer carrying oil back and forth from between Sudan and Ethiopia and more. But he simply can’t get enough money to change his life or his family’s.

He hopes to earn money in Libya to send back to his family, and eventually return to start his own business. Three times before, Sudanese police arrested him and sent him back to Ethiopia. Each time, he said, he didn’t have enough money in his pocket to bribe the police. So this time, he is planning to enter Sudan as a daily laborer on a farm and earn about $150 — enough for bribes — and then disappear into the forest to reach the capital, Khartoum.

“I’m tired of working in Ethiopia,” said Merah, who was clearly nervous. “I know the dangers of living now in Libya, especially with the ISIS news. But I want to risk it all and try my luck.” Close to 80 percent of Metema’s businesses are run by smugglers and their affiliates, according to Sister Hamelmal Melaku of the Ethiopia Higher Clinic. They smuggle charcoal, oil, fruit and, of course, people. With the government sweep-out, migrants are no longer showing up at the clinic, and the temporary shelter built for migrants in the middle of the town sits idle.

“I think it won’t be an exaggeration if I say that the town is totally out of the government’s control,” she said. With Metema under surveillance, the smugglers are now changing their tactics, according to Abraraw Abeje, police assistant inspector. He said they are now “dumping” the migrants in forests and mountainous areas, and then forcing them to resume their journey into Sudan on foot or in packed vehicles.

Like the migrants, the suspected smugglers say they are poor. Adamo Anshebo is under detention in Metema as a suspected kingpin, which he denies. “I came here after selling all my property to receive and take back home to my sick child, who was working in Sudan,” he said. There is no way to tell if it is the truth.

Poverty in Ethiopia fell significantly from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent more than a decade later, according to a World Bank report in January. However, the country remains one of the world’s poorest and is ruled by an authoritarian government. More than 96 percent of people in the country’s rural areas are still barely eking out a living, according to Oxford University’s poverty index.

Ethiopia is also a pass-through point for most Eritreans traveling to Europe, according to the U.N. refugee agency. While exact numbers vary, Eritreans make up one of the largest groups of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, coming second in number only to Syrians. Somalis are third.

According to accounts from several migrants and officials, here is how the trade works. The smugglers operate in and from all parts of Ethiopia. While major smugglers stay in cities like Addis Ababa, the capital, affiliates known as “shaqabas” operate in and around small towns like Metema, Moyale to the south and Afar in the northeast.

The migrants say they are not asked for money in Metema, because they could easily be robbed or lose it. Instead, they are charged upon arrival in Khartoum or other Sudanese cities. The final payment is made once they reach the Libyan coast and, in many cases, depart for Europe. The trip to Europe can cost as much as $5,000. Often the migrants don’t carry all their money for fear of being robbed, so payment is made through their families, via hand transfer to the smugglers or affiliates in their hometowns.

In a statement written to The Associated Press, Metema officials said they have repatriated more than 1,100 migrants arrested while trying to cross to Sudan illegally. The letter said they come from all parts of Ethiopia, especially the south, as well as Eritrea. Ethiopian immigration officials on the Sudan border confirm that some of the migrants are foreigners, and more now from South Sudan because of the ongoing conflict there.

Other migrants tell similar stories of poverty. Two women in their 20s traveling together, who refused to give their names for fear of their safety, said their only reason for migration is economic. They, too, said they wanted to work abroad, then return home to help their families and start their own business. Both have not worked in Ethiopia since completing high school.

Another young man, Abinet Yirga, 23, said his job in a billboard advertising company in Addis Ababa did not even leave him with enough money to buy clothes. He said two years ago, he was out of work for many months, which led to a feud with his father. He is now in Metema waiting to cross the border.

“I don’t know when I will travel to Sudan and then to Libya to go to Europe, because I don’t have any money now,” he said. “But I’ve decided I have to change my life whatever the cost is, even if it means life or death.”

Ethiopians vote in 1st election without former strongman

May 24, 2015

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopians started voting Sunday in national and regional elections in which the ruling party is expected to maintain its iron-clad grip on power.

More than 36 million voters were registered to vote in this East African nation of about 90 million people. Some opposition groups threatened to boycott the vote, saying their members are being harassed and detained — charges the government denies.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, a former university professor-turned-politician, has been leading the country since the death in 2012 of strongman Meles Zenawi, who built the ruling coalition into a powerful political organization. These are Ethiopia’s first elections since Zenawi’s death. Desalegn is expected to remain in power.

In 2010, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, won 99.6 percent of all parliamentary seats. Only one opposition lawmaker won a seat in an election that watchdog groups said was marred by intimidation and the harassment of opposition activists.

Human Rights Watch called that victory “the culmination of the government’s five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for political dissent and independent criticism.” Those allegations have persisted in this year’s election. The government has denied the charges, instead accusing the opposition — and neighboring arch-foe Eritrea — of plotting to disrupt the vote.

“We remain vigilant and confident that the general election will be peaceful, free and fair, notwithstanding destabilization attempts that may be tried by Eritrea or its local emissaries, which we will respond to with stern measures,” Desalegn said Thursday.

There were long lines of voters early Sunday inside Addis Ababa University’s main campus in the capital. Bewend Mathios, a native of southern Ethiopia who studies law at the university, said he had made an “informed decision” based on what the parties had said in media debates as well as leaflets distributed to students.

But some Addis Ababa residents complained about the ruling party’s apparent domination. “Almost all of the election observers who were present at the polling stations were the ruling party’s sympathizers,” said Eyob Mesafint, a lawyer in Addis Ababa who supports the opposition. “We all know the hardships that opposition party members came through. They were not able to introduce their programs to their constituents as much as they could.”

More than 45,000 polling stations will be open with nearly 250,000 election observers assigned to monitor them. The National Election Board of Ethiopia said provisional results are expected in a week but final results won’t be released before June 22.

Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic and the party or coalition that wins the most seats in the 547-seat parliament will form the next government. All parliament seats are being voted on Sunday, as well as local offices.

This story has been corrected to show that Ethiopia has more than 36 million registered voters, not more than 38 million.

Protests highlight troubles of Ethiopian Jews in Israel

May 04, 2015

JERUSALEM (AP) — When Israel secretly airlifted waves of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and 1990s, saving them from war and famine in the Horn of Africa, it was celebrated as a triumphant show of unity for the Jewish people.

Thirty years after the first large groups of Ethiopians arrived, few in the community are celebrating. Israel’s black Jewish minority is plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment, and their brewing frustrations over racism and lack of opportunity have boiled over into an unprecedented outburst of violent anti-police protests.

The unrest has laid bare the struggles of absorption and the rocky attempts of the state to integrate them into a society for which they were ill-prepared. Caught off- guard, Israel’s leaders are vowing to respond to the community’s grievances.

President Reuven Rivlin said Monday the outcry “exposed an open, bleeding wound in the heart of Israeli society.” “We must look directly at this open wound. We have erred. We did not look, and we did not listen enough,” said Rivlin, whose largely ceremonial office is meant to serve as a moral compass.

On Sunday, protesters shut down a major highway in Tel Aviv, hurled stones and bottles at police and overturned a squad car. They were dispersed with tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades. More than 60 people were injured and 40 arrested in the second such protest in recent days, and demonstrations are expected to continue.

The unrest followed video that emerged last week of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier being beaten by police in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with community leaders and with the soldier who was attacked, telling him “we’ll have a change a few things.” Closing the gaps in Israeli society, however, will be a difficult task.

Ethiopian Jews trace their ancestors to the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan. The community was cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 1,000 years. Under its “Law of Return,” Israel grants automatic citizenship to any Jews. In the early 1980s, after a period of debate about recognizing the community as Jews, Israel covertly began to bring in thousands of Ethiopian immigrants. In 1991, thousands more came in a secret airlift carried out over two days.

The new arrivals struggled greatly as they made the transition from a rural, developing African country into an increasingly high-tech Israel. Over time, many have integrated more into Israeli society, serving in the military and police and making inroads in politics, sports and entertainment. Some prominent community figures speak Hebrew without a trace of an accent and are indistinguishable from other Israelis in everything but skin color.

Overall, however, the Ethiopians are an underclass. Many complain of racism, lack of opportunity and routine police harassment. About 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today, a small minority in a country of 8 million. Many older Ethiopians work menial jobs — men as security guards and women as cleaners and cashiers. They live with their families in rundown city neighborhoods and impoverished towns with high rates of crime and domestic violence.

Their children have made gains, but overall, the younger generation is still struggling. A 2012 study by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute said that 41 percent of Ethiopian Israelis lived below the poverty line, compared with 15 percent for the overall Jewish population. The average income of Ethiopian Israelis was about two-thirds of their Jewish counterparts. Just 5 percent had college degrees, compared with 28 percent for the broader Jewish population. According to Israel’s Prison Service, one-fifth of the inmates in juvenile facilities are Ethiopian Israelis.

Ethiopian Israelis also allege repeated discriminatory slights and, at times, outright racism. In the late 1990s, it was discovered that Israel’s health services were throwing out Ethiopian Israeli blood donations over fears of diseases contracted in Africa. Some landlords have also refused them as tenants, and accusations have been raised that Israel has deliberately tried to curb their birth rates.

“Anyone who attended the protest yesterday experienced at one point in their life humiliation based on nothing but skin color,” said Mehereta Baruch-Ron, a Tel Aviv deputy mayor of Ethiopian descent, who added that police did not believe she was a city official and blocked her from joining the protest. “We have had enough. It is time to do something.”

Job Goshen, an Ethiopian Israeli social worker who works as a job counselor, said the problems stem from decades of well-intentioned but flawed policies. He said that while the government encourages Ethiopians to enter the labor force, it also imposes unnecessary job requirements that make it difficult for them to get hired. He said a truck driver’s license, for instance, requires a computerized “theory” test that poorly educated Ethiopians struggle to pass.

“Most of the older Ethiopians don’t have the education. But they have other abilities that are not taken into account,” he said. “As a result, they are stuck in the same jobs — services, security, cleaning — and they don’t get ahead.”

Younger Ethiopians are better equipped for the work world, he said, but also face their own unique challenges, especially after completing compulsory military service. Unlike their other Jewish counterparts, Ethiopians do not have parents and siblings who can steer them toward university studies or good jobs after leaving the army. Many come from large or broken homes and must support their parents or younger siblings. Goshen said that while he has not experienced overt racism, his friends, relatives and clients all have.

Fixing these problems will be a long process that will require the government and the community to work together. “It has to come from both sides,” he said. “The government can’t impose a solution. It has to consult with us.”

Shlomo Molla, a former lawmaker of Ethiopian origin, said hope for change lies with the generation born in Israel and less intimidated by the establishment. “I call upon these young people to continue resolutely, so that perhaps they might succeed where my generation failed,” he wrote in the Maariv daily. “The next stage of this battle should be civil disobedience. We should stop enlisting in the army, not join the police, and stop paying taxes, because if the state doesn’t take its citizens into account, the citizens are also permitted not to take the state into account.”

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters Monday that “the fight versus racism and discrimination is a universal one. Obviously, people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and we encourage the Israeli authorities to deal with the issues.”

The images of black Israelis clashing with police have drawn comparisons to the unrest in the U.S. following deadly altercations between police and black men or boys. But Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, executive director of the advocacy group Tebeka, said there were few similarities. He said Ethiopian-Israelis have a different set of issues related to integration into Israel’s modern, fast-paced society — as opposed to maintaining a distinct subculture.

He called on Netanyahu to make Ethiopian absorption a keystone of his new administration, which is expected to take office in the coming days. “Before it is too late, we call on the prime minister to take the matter into his own hands,” he said. “In four years, I would want to see this prime minister say ‘I’m glad I did’ instead of ‘I wish I had.'”

Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.

UNHCR opens camp in western Ethiopia for Blue Nile state refugees


Fri, 7 Oct 2011

ASSOSA, Ethiopia, October 7 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has opened a camp in western Ethiopia to accommodate some of the thousands of refugees who have been crossing the border to escape conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile state in recent weeks. A convoy of buses on Wednesday brought a first group of 395 Sudanese refugees from the border crossings at Kurmuk, Bamza and Almahal to Tongo Refugee Camp, which has been under construction for almost two weeks and has a capacity for 3,000 people.

“We have had to work really hard to get the basics of shelter, water and sanitation in place in a very short time,” Richard Ewila, head of UNHCR’s field office in the town of Assosa, said. “We are happy to open this new camp and receive the refugees,” he added. The refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration hope to eventually move around 400 Sudanese daily from the border to Tongo, where UNHCR, Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and its implementing partners are providing protection and assistance.

The first arrivals at Tongo were among some 27,000 civilians who have fled the fighting between Sudan government forces and rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North since early September. The new camp, in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz state, is located more than 200 kilometers from Kurmuk – the busiest border crossing – and about 400 kms from Bamza.

For security reasons, UNHCR and Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) are keen to avoid the establishment of spontaneous settlement at the border locations. UNHCR has stepped up efforts to persuade refugees to relocate away from the border areas, where many stay among the local community in the hope of returning to their homes and checking on their property soon.

“We left our village without taking most of our belongings,” explained Suraya Abdurahman, a 35-year-old mother of seven who was on the convoy to Tongo. To date, about 5,000 people have agreed to be registered as refugees by UNHCR at the Sherkole Refugee Camp, about 50 kilometers from the border. But the continuing insecurity, including frequent air strikes on the Sudan side of the border at Kurmuk, has prompted many to start considering relocation.

Before the current Sudanese emergency began, Sherkole was home to some 4,000 Sudanese refugees who elected to stay in Ethiopia after the end of Sudan’s civil war in 2005 and South Sudan’s declaration of independence this year. But with the latest influx, Sherkole earlier this week reached its 8,000-person capacity.

“Obviously Sherkole won’t be sufficient to accommodate more than 8,000, but the increased aerial and ground attacks in Kurmuk and other areas in Blue Nile state were warning enough to move quickly on preparing Tongo for occupation,” Ewila explained. At the beginning of the influx, the new arrivals were mainly women, children and the elderly – generally in good health. Men were staying behind to look after properties.

Recently, however, UNHCR staff at the border have seen larger numbers of men arriving, and more conflict injuries. Refugees are also bringing their livestock and carrying belongings, such as grain mills or furniture, to help them make a living in Ethiopia. As development of the site continues, 80 of the 380 available family sized tents have been pitched. Up to 40,000 liters of water per day is ready for use while additional water sources are being sought. UNHCR is also purchasing a month’s supply of firewood to be distributed by ARRA for cooking and heating.

Meanwhile immunization in Kurmuk for 438 children, including 28 Ethiopian locals, was completed at the end of last week. Immunizing of children will continue at Tongo. “We still have other structures to put up and we will ensure the health and well-being of the refugees, but I am now relieved that, since Sherkole refugee camp has reached its capacity, we now have Tongo ready to accommodate refugees,” UNHCR’s Ewila said.

By Pumla Rulashe in Assosa, Ethiopia

Source: (Alertnet).


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