Monday, August 27, 2012

ETHIOPIA: Food security and the Meles' legacy-IRIN Africa |

JOHANNESBURG, 22 August 2012 (IRIN) - During his two decades in power, Meles Zenawi committed himself to ending Ethiopia’s dependence on food aid. With his death, IRIN looks at his legacy in promoting food self-sufficency and fighting rural poverty in a country historically associated with drought and environmental stress.

Food security

Meles' regime is credited with having pioneered schemes designed to protect the poor such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP – see below), a Social Cash Transfer Pilot Programme and a commodity exchange .

Between 1998 and 2012 the average number of Ethiopians in need of food assistance fluctuated between 3 million and 14 million.

Under Meles, Ethiopia's economy, in which agriculture generates 45 percent of GDP and 90 percent of exports, became one of the fastest growing in the world.  The country spends about 17 percent of its public money on agriculture, which employs 85 percent of the population.

Ethiopia’s close partnership with key western nations helped ensure it received considerable external funding – it was the fourth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid in 2010 and in 2009 it received the equivalent of 14 percent of its gross national income (GNI) as aid (ODA).

The country has consistently featured among the top 10 recipients of humanitarian aid since 2000, according to data compiled by the UK-based NGO, Development Initiatives.

"There are other African countries who have comprehensive and sound plans to make their people food secure in the long-term like Ghana and Saheilian countries like Niger but unfortunately they have not attracted the same amount of funding as Ethiopia has," said Frederic Mousseau, a food security expert and policy director at the US-based Oakland Institute, a think-tank.

Another food security analyst, who sought anonymity, cautioned that data pointing to the success of schemes such as the PSNP need to take into account "the absolute control over assessments [food security-related], information about the number of people in need, nutritional status etc.

"The narrative is that the corner [as far as food security is concerned] has been turned, but that is a narrative carefully controlled by the government. Time will tell."

The 2000 food crisis

There were at least three major droughts during Meles' tenure: 1999/2000, 2002/2003 and 2009/2010. Many food experts regarded the 1999/2000 crisis as a full-fledged famine, but Meles allegedly chose to prioritise a border war with Eritrea. 

"The donors were angry about it so they didn't respond quickly either - and the result was a famine that could easily have been prevented," said one humanitarian expert, who did not want to be named.

The then UK Secretary for International Development Clare Short was reported by the Guardian as saying, "I do not believe anyone in the UK believes we should be providing long-term assistance to a country which is increasing its spending on arms, year on year" after she was criticized for reducing aid to Ethiopia.

An estimated 19,900 people died in Gode zone alone, in Ethiopia's Somali region, according to  a paper by Stephen Devereux and Paul Howe, both researchers at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

The Productive Safety Net Programme

Meles always stressed his commitment to making Ethiopians food self-sufficient, said Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a former World Bank economist and the outgoing CEO of the country's first commodity exchange. Out of this was born the idea the PSNP in 2004 - to make families secure enough to be able to produce or buy their own food.

''The narrative is that the corner [as far as food security is concerned] has been turned, but that is a narrative carefully controlled by the government. Time will tell''
The PSNP aimed to provide support to chronically food insecure families for several months either in the form of cash or food for up to five years, building their resilience and ability to withstand shocks. The families were then considered self-sufficient and would graduate from the programme.

"There is little doubt that the Productive Safety Net Programme was a pioneering effort to redress the food insecurity that long characterized many areas of Ethiopia," said Daniel Maxwell, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in the US. "It was one critical component of the effort to reduce chronic poverty in Ethiopia."

Christopher Barrett, who teaches applied economics at Cornell University, said: "When the Horn of Africa experienced a horrendous drought last year, it wasn’t Ethiopia that experienced famine. The productive safety nets programme launched by his [Meles’] government has generally done a good job of improving standards of living for the least well off Ethiopians and is being studied and emulated by other countries in the region. While there remains much to be done, the progress in Ethiopia during his rule is very palpable and will hopefully continue through a peaceful transition to new leadership."

However, in 2008 food prices soared beyond the point of affordability for those enrolled in the PSNP and the numbers on food aid ballooned.

"One of the flaws of the PSNP was that the cash being offered to the people was too small to help them graduate from the programme," said Mousseau. "The other was it was not supported by other investments needed to help uplift the people from poverty such as infrastructure and access to markets to make any significant impact on their livelihoods."

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

This opened in 2008 with the aim of helping small farmers gain access to market information and bring buyers and sellers under one roof.

"Mr Meles believed that we had to be transparent and not cater to any narrow interest of big commercial farms," said Gabre-Madhin. The exchange, which trades in four commodities - maize, coffee, sesame and beans - provides real-time market information to farmers via a mobile phone text message service and a free phone-in facility.

According to Gabre-Madhin, farmers’ share of the final export price of coffee rose from 35-38 percent to 65-70 percent.

Land “grabs” and forced relocations

The government dismissed critics of its large scale land-leasing policy – part of a five year Growth and Transformation Plan - insisting the millions of dollars of foreign investment involved would create jobs, improve domestic agricultural expertise and reduce both poverty and the country's chronic food insecurity.

According to a paper by the Oakland Institute, the policy led to the forcible relocation of indigenous communities to villages in the Gambella and Benishangul regions, where they were told they would be taught new techniques to produce food. Their land is being leased out by the government to multinationals in Saudi Arabia and India. The Institute's research showed that more than three million hectares of land had been leased out to investors.

"In recent years, the Meles regime has shifted its focus to big commercial enterprises at the cost of the local indigenous communities and even the pastoral population in the Afar region," said Mousseau.

This prompted an Ethiopian economist, Aklog Birara, living in the US to lodge a protest with the Indian government in May this year.

“Today, Ethiopia is an 'empty womb'. Millions of hectares of its most fertile farmlands and the waters and rivers that give them sustenance are given away in a scheme that we can only characterize as ‘farmland colonization by invitation.’ Indian companies are taking over for 25 to 99 years duration at the invitation of Mr Meles’ government,” he wrote.

Dawit Alemu, an agricultural economist with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research believes commercial farming has contributed to the country's booming growth. "Moreover, huge irrigation projects linked with hydropower are under implementation, which are expected to ensure food security in the very near future.” But such projects have also come under fire from activists who claim they threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people.

"Now, the question is whether we will have a person who will ensure the implementation and finalization of all these efforts that have started," added Dawit.

Paradox lies at the heart of Thai quest for justice - The Nation

Paradox lies at the heart of Thai quest for justice

Red-shirt 'terror', Army 'sniper' cases illustrate the Kingdom's dilemma

On the surface, it seems fair. One "state" agency, the Attorney General's Office, is pursuing "terrorism" cases against some red shirt members, while one "government" agency, the Department of Special Investigation, is going after those "responsible" for shooting the red shirts.

Fairness, however, may exist only on paper. Pessimists see no way forward that Thailand can go from here. How can two agencies, which are under government influence one way or another, handle cases that underline the country's political divide? In other words, how can we expect justice from this kind of situation?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ethiopian army attacks S. Sudanese rebels - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

Ethiopian forces carried out a military assault against South Sudanese rebel group who had been operating in its territory near the common border on 13 August.
According to officials in the Gambela region, 18 South Sudanese rebels were killed during the offences. However, their commander, Dak Kuyet, has escaped.
Officials said three Ethiopian soldiers sustained injuries during the military operation.
The South Sudanese rebel group crossed into Ethiopia last June following the killing of George Athor who had close links with Dak Kuyet.
The Gambela regional government has since been in contact with ederal government to combat the group. It borders South Sudan’s Jonglei and Upper Nile states.
The South Sudanese government has been informed of the attack which was said to have been very successful.
Earlier this month Gambela state vice president, Gatluak Tut, told local newspaper, The Reporter, that Ethiopia was deploying its troops to the area where the rebels were based, to hunt them down.
The rebels had been recruiting and training members around a small village called Wassera as part of their goal to oust President Salva Kir’s Juba government.
Ethiopia has an official criminal extradition agreements with both north and South Sudan obliging them to extradite wanted criminals and rebels
In June South Sudan extradited 14 Gambella attackers to Ethiopia after an attack in April in which 19 civilians were killed and eight injured.


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    ADDIS ABEBA, Ethiopia



    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    Ethiopia’s Ogaden celebrate anniversary of liberation movement

    Ethiopia’s Ogaden communities across the world are preparing to celebrate on the day of August 15 to remember the thousands of people who has sacrificed their life on the name of Ogaden Liberation Front ONLF.
    In 1984, exactly on August 15, Ogaden National Liberation Front has been founded by scholars of Ogaden in Somali Region of Ethiopia to liberate Ogaden Region from the Ethiopian occupation.
    Not only around 10,0000 of Somalia Ogaden in Origin are living in western countries are preparing the celebration but also, an active Ogaden community in South Africa, Kenya, and other important countries in Asia and Africa are celebrating the ONLF 28th Anniversary of ONLF.
    For Ogaden people, ONLF is only liberation front fighting for Independence of Ogaden region.
    ONLF has military wing and political wing with different cadres, military is engaged combats against Ethiopian Troops in Ogaden Region while, the Political wing advocates foreign affairs and Human right issue in Ogaden Region.
    ONLF is led by Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman, a former Somalia Admiral who is originally born in Ogaden Region, studied his military academy in Egypt Alexandria and Former Soviet Union.
    According to experts, ONLF is military is growing and Ethiopian Intelligence believe in as National Threat to Ethiopian ruling party, EPRDF.
    Ogaden region is under unstable and there is a conflict between, the ONLF, Ogaden National Liberation Front and Ethiopian troops, ONLF had captured the International media on 2007 while they attacked a chine’s oil field In Ogaden.
    Ogaden Region locates in the centre of Horn of Africa, eastern Ethiopia, and the People in Ogaden Region are ethnic Somalis, Muslim Sunni.
    Human Right Organizations accuses Ethiopian government for genocide taking people in Ogaden Region.
    According to ONLF official who spoke to Ogadentoday Press, said, ONLF central Committee members are Vice Chairman are visiting several Arab and African Countries.
    Ogaden People are seeking for self-determination of Ogaden Region. ONLF has many supporter and strong members across the world.
    Ogaden was handed over to Ethiopia by the Britain and Italian colony In Ogaden early 19Th Century.
    ** This was originally published in Ogadentoday Press

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Ethiopia Muslim media faces crackdown, arrests as worries heightened


     | 11 August 2012 | 0 Comments

    Ethiopia Muslims facing crackdown as country’s future debated.
    CAIRO: Ethiopia’s government is continuing its crackdown on Muslim media workers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.
    They said Ethiopian “authorities must release a journalist who has been detained for almost three weeks, and allow three Muslim news outlets to resume publishing immediately.”
    Local journalists believe the Muslim press in Ethiopia is being targeted for its coverage of protests by the Muslim community.
    In recent months, Ethiopia’s Muslim community has staged protests on Fridays to oppose government policies they say are “interfering with their religious affairs,” according to news reports.
    At least eight police officers raided the home of Yusuf Getachew, editor of YeMuslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), in the evening of July 20 in the capital, Addis Ababa, and took the journalist to the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center, according to local journalists.
    The police also confiscated four of Yusuf’s mobile phones, his wife’s digital camera, books, and 6,000 birr (US$334), the same sources said.
    All this comes as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi remains controversially away from public view, not having been seen in nearly two months. Many believe his health situation to be dramatically worse than government officials are saying.
    It has heightened worries among the Muslim community in the country, who wonder what life after Zenawi will be like and if they will have greater rights.
    “We are looking at this current situation with an opportunity to bring together all segments of Ethiopia together in order to build a better country,” a group of Muslim students, who refer to themselves as “concerned Muslim Ethiopians,” told
    “As Muslims we would like the opportunity to work with Christians and others to help make Ethiopia the country it can be by developing both our culture and politics in a positive way,” the students added.
    Over the past two months, there has been a series of violent attacks on Muslims at mosques, which has sparked concern that Islamic conservatism could make way for violent extremism.
    But the students have been quick to point out that they have no struggle with the Christian community, arguing instead that it was the government attempting to provoke a violent response.
    They said that the situation revolving around Meles’ health needs to be resolved in the near future in order for Ethiopia to move forward.
    “We all want a better Ethiopia and our Christian brothers and sisters also feel the same. We are a united country in our belief that justice and freedom can be achieved,” the students said.
    Reports across East Africa continue to ask the question: “Where is Meles?” on a daily basis, even as government officials in Ethiopia try to play down his absence, saying the long-time leader is in good condition.
    Somaliland Press said, “Dictator Meles Zenawi has disappeared from public view for several weeks now.
    “He was last seen in public on June 19 at the G20 Summit in Mexico. His disappearing act has provided more grist for speculation and caused pained and grimaced official obfuscation,” in a report questioning the rulers’ whereabouts and whether he was able to return to his position as prime minister.
    Late last week, the Ethiopia government attempted to allay fears or worries that the 57-year-old PM was in poor health.
    They called the rumors of Meles Zenawi’s health a “campaign of fabrication.”
    In an interview with the state-run Ethiopian Television (ETV), information minister, Bereket Simon, said Zenawi’s health has improved during the past few days following treatment in Europe.
    “The Prime Minister’s health is now in much better condition after his treatment” he said adding, “he is taking some rest.”
    Simon’s address on state television follows an a broadcast on exiled Ethiopian TV broadcaster ESAT on Monday, claiming Zenawi had died, citing reliable sources in the International Crises Group (ICG).
    However, ICG dismissed the claims, saying it has no direct knowledge of Zenawi’s health condition.
    Simon said the latest reports are part of opposition “campaigns of fabrications.”
    He said “those forces are fabricating speculations about the health of PM Meles to the extent of quoting international organizations like ICG, something the organization denied.”
    The last time Zenawi appeared in public during the G20 summit in Mexico in June.
    Ethiopian activists continued their online calls for change in the country, with the hope the government will ease its decades long power hold over the country and its political future.
    “We definitely are hopeful that this recent episode concerning Meles [Zenawi] and his health will wake up the country that we are the future of Ethiopia,” a student activist in Addis Ababa told on Thursday morning.
    “This country has been led by a man who continues to oppress us all, Christians, Muslims and others, so it is time we take our own destiny in our hands,” he added, asking not to be named due to the sensitive nature of referring to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health.
    But government officials have reported that Zenawi is currently in “good condition and recuperating” after he was reportedly gravely ill and on his deathbed.
    Newspapers who reported the PM’s health controversy were met with massive crackdowns from the government, highlighting the struggle for freedom of speech in the country.
    Simon, the government spokesman, speaking to BBC News, declined to give specific details about Meles’ whereabouts or what he is suffering from.
    Simon had earlier been quoted as saying the prime minister, 57, was on holiday.
    Zenawi has ruled Ethiopia for more than two decades and many activists in the country have called for his ouster in order to push the country forward.
    Speculation began when he missed last month’s African Union summit, held in the Ethiopian capital.
    The youth have been the most outspoken towards change in the country.
    “It will definitely be interesting to see how we all react,” said one student activist, who asked not to be named due to the security crackdown on those speaking about the PM’s health.
    The activist told that “Ethiopia will be better when we are all, Christians and Muslims work together to build a country based not on one group dominating the other, but on the idea that we can have a solid country for all Ethiopians.”

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Ethiopian authorities crack down on Muslim press - Committee to Protect Journalists

    Ethiopian Muslims are staging protests every Friday. (Hayat Se)

    Ethiopian Muslims are staging protests every Friday. (Hayat Se)
    Nairobi, August 9, 2012--Ethiopian authorities must release a journalist who has been detained for almost three weeks, and allow three Muslim news outlets to resume publishing immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Local journalists believe the Muslim press in Ethiopia is being targeted for its coverage of protests by the Muslim community.
    In recent months, Ethiopian Muslims have begun staging protests on Fridays to oppose government policies they say are interfering with their religious affairs, according tonews reports. These protests are a highly sensitive issue for the government, which fears a hardline Islamist influence within the predominantly Christian country, news reports said. Local journalists believe the recent harassment of Muslim journalists and newspapers are part of an attempt by Ethiopian authorities to quell coverage of the ongoing protests in the capital.
    At least eight police officers raided the home of Yusuf Getachew, editor of YeMuslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), in the evening of July 20 in the capital, Addis Ababa, and took the journalist to the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center, according to local journalists. The police also confiscated four of Yusuf's mobile phones, his wife's digital camera, books, and 6,000 birr (US$334), the same sources said.
    Yusuf was charged the next day with treason and incitement to violence, but the state prosecutor did not cite any YeMuslimoch Guday articles as evidence, local journalists told CPJ. Yusuf has not been granted family visits, and his defense lawyer saw him for the first time on Wednesday, the journalists said.
    Two other YeMuslimoch Guday journalists, Senior Editor Akemel Negash and Copy Editor Isaac Eshetu, have gone into hiding, local journalists told CPJ. The police have had the homes of both journalists under surveillance since late July, and stopped only recently, local journalists said. YeMuslimoch Guday, which actively covered the Muslim protests in the capital, has not been published since Yusuf's arrest, the same sources said.
    On July 20, police also raided the offices of the privately owned Horizon printing press in Addis Ababa and confiscated copies of Selefiah and Sewtul Islam, two Muslim weeklies, according to news reports. Authorities detained Horizon's owner overnight, and neitherSelefiah nor Sewtul Islam has been published since, according to reports and local journalists. Local journalists told CPJ that the government had ordered the printer to stop publishing the newspapers.
    Ethiopian government officials did not immediately return CPJ's calls for comment.
    "Ethiopia has reached a high level of harassment of the press by attempting to censor coverage of the protests," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "This harassment of journalists and news outlets must stop, and Yusuf Getachew should be released immediately."
    Also in late July, authorities blocked 30,000 copies of the critical weekly Feteh, which contained front-page coverage of the Muslim protests and the health of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to CPJ research. The weekly's printer, the state-run Barhanena Selam, has suspended all further publications of Feteh until further notice, local journalists told CPJ.
    • For more data and analysis on Ethiopia, visit CPJ's Ethiopia page here.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Ethiopian Islamic Protest - CNN iReport

    Ethiopian Islamic Protest

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    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Protests continue in Arab world

    Ethiopian Islamic Protest

    Islam in Ethiopia is known since the time of the Prophet. 
    The first Hijrah was in Ethiopia at the order of Mohammed the founder of Islam. 

    Since the Arab Spring of 2011 Ethiopia tested its share reaching its climax in 2012. 
    This video shows the different positions of the Ethiopian Islamist and the different manifestations of those anti and pro as the situation start being exploited by the regime which is leading to more exacerbation and more clamp down with no solution. 

    The revolt would lead to general uprising and regime change, if it is not kidnapped by sectarians and only if the other sector of the society joins the insurgency.