ethiopiantimes

May 13, 2011

Ethiopia was most affected, with 3.2 million people now in need of humanitarian aid.

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 9:37 pm
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More than 5.3 million East Africans in 10 countries have been uprooted by internal conflicts and natural disasters, the United Nations said Friday.

Some 1.4 million refugees have been forced to cross national borders while 4 million others are displaced within their home countries.

Droughts have also stricken about 8.8 million East Africans, sowing hunger and homelessness, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

OCHA’s figures covered the month of March. It said the totals on east Africa showed an 8 per cent increase in refugees over the previous six months, but a 3 per cent decrease in “internally displaced persons” who have not crossed a national border.

Ethiopia was most affected, with 3.2 million people now in need of humanitarian aid. In Somalia more than 50,000 people were displaced by a combination of armed conflict and natural disasters during March, OCHA said.

The countries monitored were Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Congo.

Worrisome trends included an increase of more than 50,000 refugees in Kenya and 19,000 fleeing warfare in Somalia, and drought there from the 2010 La Nina weather pattern.

Increased attacks on civilians in eastern Congo by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and clashes in Somalia between the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab and African Union peacekeepers and the nominal government in Mogadishu partly drove the increase in refugees, OCHA said.

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Italy FM: Libya’s Gadhafi ‘Probably’ Wounded

Filed under: Africa,Gadhafi,Lybia — ethiopiantimes @ 6:24 pm
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talian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says there are unconfirmed reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is “probably” wounded after weeks of NATO air strikes in the country.

Frattini told reporters Friday that he received word from the Catholic bishop in Tripoli, Giovanni Martinelli, that Gadhafi is likely wounded and has fled the city.

A Libyan government spokesman denied the the report, calling it “nonsense.”

Tripoli has been the site of heavy NATO air strikes, some of which have struck near Gadhafi’s positions. The Libyan leader also reportedly escaped one recent attack that Libyan authorities say targeting him. NATO has denied targeting the Libyan leader.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says he will seek arrest warrants next week for three people considered responsible for crimes against humanity in Libya.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo did not reveal the names of the suspects in his statement Friday, but Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is expected to top the list. Those charged will face accusations of murder and persecution.

The ICC prosecutor said investigators have collected “extensive and solid evidence” after 30 missions to 11 countries, more than 50 interviews and the review of videos and photographs that show “widespread and systematic attacks” against Libya’s civilian population by the country’s security forces.

In this image taken from Associated Press Television News footage an unidentified person runs away from a shelled checkpoint near the port area of Misrata, Libya, May 1, 2011
AP
In this image taken from Associated Press Television News footage an unidentified person runs away from a shelled checkpoint near the port area of Misrata, Libya, May 1, 2011

Since February, Colonel Gadhafi’s forces have led a brutal crackdown against anti-government demonstrators.

NATO is enforcing a U.N. Security Council Resolution to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo on Libya. There were reports of more coalition air strikes Friday. It is unclear if there were any casualties.

U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting with visiting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Friday to discuss the coalition’s ongoing operations in Libya.

Separately in Washington, a delegation from Libya’s Transitional National Council is holding talks with U.S. officials Friday, a day after getting a major political boost from Britain.

The opposition group members are meeting national security adviser Tom Donilon and other senior U.S. officials. The group is seeking political recognition, money and other aid.

On Thursday, Britain invited the rebel group to open an office in the country. British leaders also promised to provide the Libyan opposition with more communications equipment, bulletproof vests and uniforms.

Eritreans ‘being tortured in Egypt’s Sinai for ransom’

Filed under: Eritrea — ethiopiantimes @ 4:11 pm
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Father Zerai, an Eritrean by birth, runs the Habeshia Agency for Development Cooperation from the Vatican – a charity for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

The hostages sometimes contact him by phone, relating the conditions in which they are kept.

They are held by Bedouin gangs, often in appalling circumstances – detained in shipping containers or in pits.

Father Zerai says they are tortured with electric prods and others are raped to force them to get ransoms transferred to the accounts of the traffickers.

He said he had spoken to three sets of hostages on Thursday, who explained they are usually held in groups of up to 35.

Sometimes they are passed from one gang of smugglers to another, he said.

From the phone calls on Thursday, he learnt about the death of the 24-year-old Eritrean and also of a 27-year-old Ethiopian man who had died on Wednesday.

“They are threatening the lives of two other young boys, the youngest of the hostages [is] a boy of 13 years,” he said.
Map

“In recent months dozens of hostages have died in the Sinai at the hands of robbers, we ask the European Parliament to put pressure on governments in the region to secure the release of these hostages and put an end to trafficking in human beings.”

Hundreds of people are estimated to flee Eritrea every month, often making risky journeys to reach Europe or Israel in search of better opportunities.

Critics say they are fleeing the country’s repressive government, poverty and national service for men until the age of 40.

Ethiopia, a democracy on paper

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 4:04 pm
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Singer engages with dissident Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega about the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) and how his wife was forced to give birth while in prison.

Understandably, the democratic risings in the Middle East and North Africa make the rulers of neighbouring countries very nervous. Since all of these rulers have at least a skeleton or two in their own closets, they worry about anything that looks as if it might spark discontent.

Ethiopia, a democracy on paper, is actually under the autocratic rule of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF). Recently, riot police briefly detained and threatened long-time dissident journalist Eskinder Nega. According to an email Eskinder sent me on 14 February, here is what happened:

‘Meant to respond earlier but heavily armed riot police picked me up last Friday and took me to their second in command. He accused me of trying to incite an “Egyptian like protest in Ethiopia” and warned me that the government is losing patience with me. “We are tired of imprisoning you,” he told me. “This time it will not be imprisonment.” And I just don’t know if he is bluffing or not. Since then, they have made it a point to be visibly present wherever I am.’

The content of some of Eskinder’s recent blogs suggests the government’s motives for this threat. First, there was Eskinder’s implied call for the armed forces not to obey government orders to put down hypothetical protests, and for diplomats to defect:

‘The military is all the EPRDF has in Ethiopia … In the unlikely event that it will remain fiercely loyal to the EPRDF in the face of nation-wide mass protests, civilian fatalities that run in the low hundreds, as is officially the case for the 2005 post-election riots, will be too much for the international community. This is not 2005…

‘EPRDF could count on even less officials to stay faithful to it. This will be particularly true of its diplomats …Perhaps the only faithful embassy left will be the one in Beijing. But nothing is certain even there.

‘All in all, the message to the EPRDF from Libya is crystal clear: don’t fight change. You will not win.’ (Addis Voice, 11 February 2011, http://addisvoice.com/2011/02/libyas-gaddafi-and-ethiopias-eprdf/)

Then, there was his open letter to Meles, suggesting that he resign forthwith:

‘You have essentially wasted the two decades with which you were blessed to affect change. In place of pragmatism dogma has prevailed, in place of transparency secrecy has taken root, in place of democracy oppression has intensified, and in place of merit patronage has been rewarded.

‘Ato [Sir] Meles Zenawi: the people want–no, need–you to leave office. The people are closely watching events in North Africa as I write this letter. They are debating the implications for Africa, including Ethiopia. And they have been inspired by the heroism of ordinary Libyans.

‘Listen to them before it’s too late.’ (Addis Voice, 7 March 2011, re-posted on Ayyaantuu Oromiyaa)

In the February post, Eskinder referred to the watershed events of 2005-06, when the press covered peaceful student protests in the aftermath of rigged elections. More than a dozen journalists were arrested, including Eskinder and his wife, publisher Serkalem Fasil. Some wound up spending as long as 18 months in jail, and their newspapers’ licences were revoked. In the aftermath, the independent press in Ethiopia, which had blossomed between 2000 and 2005, all but disappeared.

Eskinder was one of those hardest hit. In the course of two long interviews in Addis Ababa in February, he told me the horrific story of the circumstances attending the birth of his son in prison. This story goes well beyond previous accounts of the same events by Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International. (For those accounts, see, for instance, http://www.ethiomedia.com/above/2050.html.)

Surprisingly, our interviews ended on a very optimistic note. Eskinder, who has suffered ruinous fines and has not been licensed to publish a newspaper since 2005, predicted a peaceful course leading to a democratic future for his country. This prediction gives the lie to the government’s perception of him as a destructive rabble-rouser.

RON SINGER: … And then [2005-06] you’re back in prison, and your son is born. How long were you in prison that time?

ESKINDER NEGA: A year and a half. Both of us. My wife was less than a month pregnant when we went in. We didn’t know she was pregnant.

RON SINGER: When the child was born, did your mother care for him?

ESKINDER NEGA: Born in prison. I’ll tell you why… I struggle with this experience every time my child catches cold. I’ll tell you why. About 15 days after we went into prison, a cellmate of mine who met Serkalem in a police hospital told me that she had tested positive for pregnancy. I was surprised, I was happy, this was our first child. I was 100 per cent sure they would let her go.

RON SINGER: She hadn’t been in prison before, right?

ESKINDER NEGA: No, no, her first time.

RON SINGER: Another reason to let her go.

ESKINDER NEGA: Plus, they were careful about not imprisoning husbands and wives at the same time. Except us. Her brother was there, too.

RON SINGER: A family reunion!

ESKINDER NEGA: They knew the minimum those they arrested would get for the charges were life sentences. So they didn’t want to destroy a family. But they were particularly angry at us. Despite pleas from everyone, including Mary Robinson, [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights], to [Prime Minister] Meles [Zenawi], he specifically refused. So she gave birth in prison. That’s not the worst part: I could understand that…

RON SINGER: Please go on.

ESKINDER NEGA: We’re not complaining about that. If someone is a suspect, pregnancy is not a legal reason, at least, to release them. This is a political case, so the question is if the government should have behaved like this. But, as far as the legal framework is concerned, they are within their rights.

RON SINGER: Okay.

ESKINDER NEGA: But that’s not the point. What they did was, before she gave birth, they denied her a…

RON SINGER: … pre-natal exam?

ESKINDER NEGA: No exam up to the seventh month. Though we insisted several times. Finally, and this is when Meles’s office intervened, her blood pressure was so dangerously high that they insisted she should stay at the hospital. They admitted her and had to do a Caesarean. They took the baby out prematurely because they said it was a choice between his life and hers. About eight months, plus he was underweight, because she wasn’t eating properly, she was under stress. So the baby came out, and she was under anaesthesia. Before she woke up, the doctor decided the baby needed to be put in an incubator. This was a life-saving decision.

RON SINGER: Do you know how much the baby weighed?

ESKINDER NEGA: No. Since there was no incubator at the police hospital, they took the baby to Black Lion Hospital, the largest in the country. Serkalem didn’t wake up. At the hospital, they wanted to know who the parents were. They said, ‘The mother’s in the hospital.’ The Black Lion people said, ‘Okay, someone needs to sign for this baby to be placed in an incubator, either the father or mother. In case something happens to the baby.’ The response of the police officers that were in charge of the baby was, ‘You know, the father is in prison.’ So they said, ‘Let the father sign.’ But they said, ‘No, the father is in prison.’ Then, they wanted to know why the mother and the father were in prison at the same time. And they said, ‘Because of the election.’ Now the Black Lion panicked. They said, “Unless one of them comes here, we’re not going to take the baby. Take back the baby!” Imagine!

RON SINGER: And you didn’t know any of this, you found it all out later?

ESKINDER NEGA: Months later. So they took the baby back to the police hospital. When the doctor asked what happened, they said one of the parents had to come to sign. They couldn’t take Serkalem, she was a prisoner, with three heavily armed guards outside of her room. So the police hospital called the prison and told them, ‘You know, this is an emergency, we need one of the parents to go there and sign, this is a life-saving situation.’ Since Serkalem couldn’t come out of the hospital, it had to be the father. The prison officials said it was a very difficult decision for them, that ‘We have to seek guidance from higher authority.’

opposition supporters attack African leaders at the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni

Filed under: Africa,Uganda — ethiopiantimes @ 7:36 am
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A government spokesman confirmed at least one death in the capital, Kampala, on Thursday. But local independent TV station WBS reported that five had died when police opened fire on opposition supporters who threw stones at the cars.

The vehicles included a convoy carrying Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president.

“As they came past, protesters threw stones [and] smashed some of the windows,” Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reported from Kampala on Thursday. “When police moved in to disperse those protesters, somebody was shot.”

Museveni, who has held power for 25 years, was sworn in for a fourth term after winning elections that opposition parties said were rigged.

Since the vote, opposition leaders including Kizza Besigye have led a series of protests against high food and fuel prices.

At the same time as the inauguration, a crowd of thousands supporting Besigye had gathered in the capital to welcome him back to Uganda from Kenya.

The crowd began to flee as police used teargas and water cannons to scatter them. Police said they had to move in after crowds started throwing stones at vehicles carrying guests at the inauguration.

“The crowd was dispersed by police and soldiers. They fired tear gas and water cannons and chased people away with sticks,” Al Jazeera’s Webb said.

Soon after, however, Besigye’s supporters regrouped and continued to march toward the capital.

Leaders of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, DRC, Somalia and South Sudan were all present for the inauguration.

Elections challenged

Thursday’s ceremony marked Museveni’s fourth swearing in as Uganda’s president, after promising in 2001 to retire from politics.

According to official results from last February’s election, Besigye, 55, won 26 per cent of the vote, while Museveni, 62, took 68 per cent.

But Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) says the results were falsified, and that both candidates received just under 50 per cent of the vote, an outcome that would have required a run-off.

Museveni has accused the opposition of trying to spread chaos in response to its loss in the election, saying on Tuesday that he planned to introduce constitutional amendments that would see bail prohibited for
certain charges, including rioting and economic sabotage.

Besigye and other opposition politicians have been released on bail after recent protest-related arrests.

The opposition figure had been in Kenya seeking treatment for injuries he suffered in a series of demonstrations against rising food and fuel prices.

Besigye was first taken to hospital in Kampala at the end of April after Ugandan police smashed the windows of his car and sprayed him with tear gas in an incident caught on camera. He was then transferred to a Nairobi hospital.

He told Al Jazeera at the time that he remained committed to non-violent protest

Dictators Attend the Dictator’s inauguration

Filed under: Africa,Congo,Eritrea,Ethiopia,Kenya,Uganda — ethiopiantimes @ 6:59 am
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President Goodluck Jonathan was yesterday caught in the web of the political crisis in Uganda.

One person was shot dead as police retaliated after missiles were thrown at the vehicle Jonathan was travelling in, on his way to the airport. He was returning to Abuja from Kampala after attending the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni for a fourth term.

After 25 years in power, Museveni last February won a fourth term of five years amid protest over the outcome of the poll by opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

Besigye’s return home from Kenya where he went for treatment after being attacked by the police coincided with Museveni’s inauguration.

Police fired teargas and live bullets at protesting supporters of Besigye, who thronged the Entebbe Airport. They also used water canon to scatter the protesters.

“As they came past, protesters threw stones (and) smashed some of the windows,” of the cars in Jonathan’s convoy, according to the satellite television station Al Jazeera, which added: “When police moved in to disperse those protesters, somebody was shot.”

Apart from Jonathan, seven other heads of state and government from Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and South Sudan attended Museveni’s inauguration.

“The crowd was dispersed by police and soldiers. They fired tear gas and water canons and chased people away with sticks,” the report added. Soon after, however, Besigye’s supporters regrouped and continued a march toward the capital.

Yesterday’s ceremony marked Museveni’s fourth swearing in as Uganda’s president, after promising in 2001 to retire from politics.

According to official results from February’s election, Besigye, 55, won 26 per cent of the vote. Museveni, 62, took 68 per cent.

But Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) said the results were falsified, and that both candidates received just under 50 per cent of the vote, an outcome that would have required a run-off.

Museveni accused the opposition of trying to spread chaos in response to its loss in the election, saying that he planned to introduce constitutional amendments that would see bail prohibited for certain charges, including rioting and economic sabotage.

Besigye and other opposition politicians had been released on bail after recent protest-related arrests.

Besigye, who was Museveni’s personal physician, went to Kenya to treat the injuries he suffered from a series of demonstrations against rising food and fuel prices, which left at least five people dead.

He was first taken to a hospital in Kampala at the end of April after Ugandan police smashed the windows of his car and sprayed him with tear gas in an incident caught on camera. He was then transferred to a Nairobi hospital.

Besigye’s drive along the 20-mile (35 kilometer) route from the airport into Kampala took several hours along a road line with security forces.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said authorities wanted Besigye to use a different route but that he refused.

“They have inconvenienced many people, including those supposed to catch their flights,” she said.

Besigye over the last month has been leading “walk to work” protests over the rising cost of food and fuel and government corruption.

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