26 Jun

The Ethiopia rally bomb will test the prime minister’s reform agenda

At least two people died and 156 were wounded in a grenade attack at a political rally in Addis Ababa addressed by reformist Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed.

Abiy was a surprise guest on the day and, moments after sitting down once he’d made his speech, there was an explosion meters away. He was not hurt, but the rally’s organizers have claimed he was the main target.

Was this an unprecedented moment in Ethiopia’s history?

The attempted assassination on a national leader isn’t entirely new to Ethiopia. There was, at least, one such attempt in 1976 targeting Mengistu Hailemariam, a former leader who now lives in Zimbabwe as a fugitive. He survived with slight injuries.

That attack was interpreted by many as the incident that triggered horrendous political violence known as “Red Terror”, which left thousands of young people dead.

But the scale and the audacity of this attack is unprecedented. It appears that those who planned it couldn’t deliver on the scale they might have wanted. Had they succeeded, the human cost and its political implications would have been immense.

What is the current political context?

The ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front which has been in power for nearly 30 years, is decaying.

It lacks the political will to introduce fundamental reforms which would address issues like endemic corruption, the incarceration of journalists and political opponents and widespread economic marginalization.

These concerns precipitated protests from various segments of society and forced former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign.

Abiy emerged from within the ruling party amid this disarray. His message was markedly different. He spoke the language of the people and tapped into society’s aspirations and fears.

While it was expected that he’d be a safe pair of hands for ordinary people as well as the ruling elites, nobody expected him to be as direct and decisive as he has turned out to be in his reform efforts.

To read the full article, click here.

 

29 May

Ethiopia’s 27th National Day: U.S. restates support for PM Abiy’s govt

On the occasion of Ethiopia’s National Day, the United States has restated its support for the current government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

Washington said it was committed to helping Addis Ababa in the area of sustainable development, democracy, human rights, peace and good governance.

In a statement released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Department of State stressed that Premier Abiy had their unalloyed support in his bid to ring governance changes promised by the ruling coalition.

Full text of U.S. Department of State press statement:

On behalf of President Trump and the people of the United States, I send my best wishes to all Ethiopians as they celebrate their National Day on May 28.

The United States and Ethiopia share a long and deep friendship based on our commitment to sustainable development, democracy, human rights, peace, and good governance, as well as on our important and influential population of Ethiopian-Americans, who contribute so much to our own country.

Congratulations to your new Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who has our full support in his determination to bring greater political openness to Ethiopia and to continue the great economic gains made in recent years. I offer best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday, and I reaffirm the commitment of the United States to our enduring friendship.

Abiy’s Premiership and task of political reforms

Abiy was sworn into office on April 2 this year, taking over from Hailemariam Desalegn who resigned to allow political reforms to be undertaken after close to three years of deadly anti-government protests across the Oromia and Amhara regional states.

The ruling Ethiopia Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) announced reforms in January 2018. The coalition said the reforms were to help foster national unity and open up the democratic space.

Hundreds of people – including top opposition chiefs and journalists – have been released after the government dropped charges against them. Abiy is tasked with continuing with reforms as the country heads to its next polls in 2020.

To read the full article, click here. 

14 May

Journalists, bloggers weigh in on media freedom in Ethiopia

The new Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is said to have increased transparency in governance since his assumption into office. His critics cite his outreach to opposition political parties, journalists and human rights activists as a good move.

Thousands of prisoners have been released since January. Prominent Ethiopian journalist and human rights activist, Eskinder Nega has not seen his wife and son, both settled in the United States, for 5 years. In total, he’s spent nearly 9 years behind bars.

“They wanted to break my spirit, they want to break the spirit of political prisoners. They want you to say, I finally give up, it’s too much for me, I’ve suffered enough. In this story, I’m happy to say that they didn’t break my spirit and that’s why I’m talking to you”, Nega said.

Eskinder is one of the founders of one of the first opposition newspapers. In 2011, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on anti-terrorist law charges.

‘‘This is my work published on the internet after I was forbidden to publish on paper. We were forbidden to publish in newspapers after our release from prison in 2008”, he added.

His colleagues agree. Manaye studied journalism at the Addis Ababa University and worked in the state press for a year. He tells our correspondent, Nathalie Tissot that news covered are sometimes ‘buried’.

“I have found it difficult to work as a free journalist in a government media. I was sent to cover public meetings and press conferences of opposition parties. I covered them when I came back to the office and returned my article, I didn’t find it in the next day’s edition’‘, Belay Manaye said.

Today, he follows the trials of activists in the Federal High Court of Justice. Like Eskinder, this human rights activist welcomes the new Prime Minister.

To read the full article, click here.

15 Feb

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s Former Prime Minister, Is Dead

Morgan Tsvangirai, who led Zimbabwe’s main opposition party for almost two decades and failed to unseat Robert Mugabe as president in several elections that were marred by allegations of violence and rigging, has died. He was 65.

Tsvangirai, who has been battling cancer, died on Wednesday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s vice president, Elias Mudzuri, said by phone.

A former labor union leader, Tsvangirai helped found the MDC in 1999, the first party since independence in 1980 to pose a major threat to the rule of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

While the MDC won control of Harare, the capital, and other urban areas where Tsvangirai was wildly popular, the security forces helped Mugabe cling to power.

Mugabe finally quit in November 2017 after the military seized control of the country and his own party threatened to impeach him.

The MDC nominated Tsvangirai to run against Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Zanu-PF chose to succeed Mugabe, in presidential elections scheduled for 2018.

He indicated on Jan. 8 that he was considering bowing out of the race after undergoing treatment for colon cancer, saying it was time to place the party in “new hands.”

Morgan Richard Tsvangirai was born on March 10, 1952, in the southern district of Gutu, the son of a bricklayer father and a mother who was a subsistence farmer.

He first worked as a plant operator at Trojan Nickel Mine in the northern town of Bindura and entered union politics, becoming the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general in 1989.

Tsvangirai joined forces with other labor and civil-rights leaders in 1999 to form the MDC, as opposition grew to Mugabe’s increasingly authoritarian leadership and mismanagement of the economy.

The MDC won its first political battle in a 2000 referendum, when it defeated constitutional changes that Tsvangirai said would have entrenched Mugabe’s rule.

After the loss, government-backed militants embarked on the seizure of thousands of white-owned farms and evicted about 3 million people, mainly farmworkers of Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican descent, according to the United Nations.

To read the full article, click here.