(Africa News) — Samantha Power, the Unites States ambassador to the United Nations (UN) has called for the release of a leading Ethiopian opposition member, Bekele Gerba.
December 23 marks a year that Gerba – deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress – is in detention, he has been held by authorities along with 20 others as part of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism proclamation.
‘‘We call on the Government of Ethiopia to release all political prisoners and ensure all Ethiopians enjoy the protections of their constitutional rights,’‘ Power said.
We call on the Government of Ethiopia to release all political prisoners and ensure all Ethiopians enjoy the protections of their constitutional rights.
The ambassador is leading the US government’s #FreeToBeHome political prisoner campaign which is aimed at putting the spotlight on persons who are ‘‘missing because a government chose to muzzle their voices and lock them up.’‘
‘‘The stories of these individuals will highlight the broader struggle faced by so many families of political prisoners, who have to commemorate countless family occasions with loved ones behind bars,’‘ she added.
There are two other African governments the US is calling on to release political prisoners. The Egyptian and Gambian governments in respect of Omar Mohamed Ali and Fanta Jawara respectively.
Seven other nationals the US is campaigning to have released from political detention include:
Ilgar Mammadov, Azerbaijan
Oleg Sentsov, Russian Occupied Ukraine
Khalil Matouk, Syria
Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela
Narges Mohammadi, Iran
Ilham Tohti, China
Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, Cuba posted by daniel tesfaye
(Reuters) — Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died on Friday, his younger brother announced to the nation. He was 90. A towering figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006. He formally ceded power to his younger brother two years later. Wearing a green military uniform, Cuba’s President Raul Castro appeared on state television to announce his brother’s death. “At 10.29 at night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died,” he said, without giving a cause of death. “Ever onward, to victory.” The streets were quiet in Havana, but some residents reacted with sadness to the news, while in Miami, where many exiles from the Communist government live, a large crowd waving Cuban flags cheered, danced and banged on pots and pans, a video on social media showed. “I am very upset. Whatever you want to say, he is public figure that the whole world respected and loved,” said Havana student Sariel Valdespino. Castro’s remains will be cremated, according to his wishes. His brother said details of his funeral would be given on Saturday. The bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for 49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party state and becoming a central figure in the Cold War. He was demonized by the United States and its allies but admired by many leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa. “I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th Century,” Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter. Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents in power. He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as countless assassination attempts. His alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a 13-day showdown with the United States that brought the world the closest it has been to nuclear war. Wearing green military fatigues and chomping on cigars for many of his years in power, Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States. At home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant. In the end it was not the efforts of Washington and Cuban exiles nor the collapse of Soviet communism that ended his rule. Instead, illness forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008. Although Raul Castro always glorified his older brother, he has changed Cuba since taking over by introducing market-style economic reforms and agreeing with the United States in December 2014 to re-establish diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility. Six weeks later, Fidel Castro offered only lukewarm support for the deal, raising questions about whether he approved of ending hostilities with his longtime enemy. He lived to witness the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba earlier this year, the first trip by a U.S. president to the island since 1928. Castro did not meet Obama, and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the U.S. president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many U.S. efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government. In his final years, Fidel Castro no longer held leadership posts. He wrote newspaper commentaries on world affairs and occasionally met with foreign leaders but he lived in semi-seclusion. His death – which would once have thrown a question mark over Cuba’s future – seems unlikely to trigger a crisis as Raul Castro, 85, is firmly ensconced in power. Still, the passing of the man known to most Cubans as “El Comandante” – the commander – or simply “Fidel” leaves a huge void in the country he dominated for so long. It also underlines the generational change in Cuba’s communist leadership. Raul Castro vows to step down when his term ends in 2018 and the Communist Party has elevated younger leaders to its Politburo, including 56-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is first vice-president and the heir apparent. Others in their 50s include Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and economic reform czar Marino Murillo. The reforms have led to more private enterprise and the lifting of some restrictions on personal freedoms but they aim to strengthen Communist Party rule, not weaken it. “I don’t think Fidel’s passing is the big test. The big test is handing the revolution over to the next generation and that will happen when Raul steps down,” Cuba expert Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute in Virginia said before Castro’s death. REVOLUTIONARY ICON A Jesuit-educated lawyer, Fidel Castro led the revolution that ousted U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan 1, 1959. Aged 32, he quickly took control of Cuba and sought to transform it into an egalitarian society. His government improved the living conditions of the very poor, achieved health and literacy levels on a par with rich countries and rid Cuba of a powerful Mafia presence. But he also tolerated little dissent, jailed opponents, seized private businesses and monopolized the media. Castro’s opponents labeled him a dictator and hundreds of thousands fled the island. Many settled in Florida, influencing U.S. policy toward Cuba and plotting Castro’s demise. Some even trained in the Florida swamps for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. But they could never dislodge him. Generations of Latin American leftists applauded Castro for his socialist policies and for thumbing his nose at the United States from its doorstep just 90 miles (145 km) from Florida. Castro claimed he survived or evaded hundreds of assassination attempts, including some conjured up by the CIA. In 1962, the United States imposed a damaging trade embargo that Castro blamed for most of Cuba’s ills, using it to his advantage to rally patriotic fury. Over the years, he expanded his influence by sending Cuban troops into far-away wars, including 350,000 to fight in Africa. They provided critical support to a left-wing government in Angola and contributed to the independence of Namibia in a war that helped end apartheid in South Africa. He also won friends by sending tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to treat the poor and bringing young people from developing countries to train them as physicians ‘HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME’ Born on August 13, 1926 in Biran in eastern Cuba, Castro was the son of a Spanish immigrant who became a wealthy landowner. Angry at social conditions and Batista’s dictatorship, Fidel Castro launched his revolution on July 26, 1953, with a failed assault on the Moncada barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. – See more at: http://ecadforum.com/2016/11/25/former-cuban-leader-fidel-castro-dies-aged-90/#sthash.td9whi1G.dpuf
The flow of opposition reports about unrest has already started to dwindle
(INDEPENDENT) — Ethiopians who post statuses on Facebook about the country’s growing political unrest could face up to five years in jail, as part of a series of measures under a “state of emergency” that grow more stringent by the day.
The government has imposed the longest blanket ban on mobile internet services in the capital Addis Ababa since protests began a year ago, and access to messaging platforms like WhatsApp has been heavily restricted.
The measures are designed to stifle people’s ability to organise protests, amid calls for greater political freedoms and recognition from the ethnic Oromo and Amharic groups.
Access to foreign-based media has also been restricted, including Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, which both have popular Amharic stations. Two TV stations run from the US for the Ethiopian diaspora, ESAT and the Oromia Media Network, have been banned.
And the new rules even seek to ban people from carrying out certain gestures “without permission”. They include crossing arms above the head to form an “X”, a political symbol that has become synonymous with the Oromo struggle and featured at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.
UK rights charities are particularly concerns that under the emergency rules, which are expected to be in place for the next six months, foreign diplomats will have their movements heavily restricted.
The government says diplomats are not allowed to travel more than 40km (25 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa, without permission, and say it is for their own safety.
But the rights group Reprieve told The Independent there are serious concerns this could limit the access Britons have to consular services. They raised the case of one UK citizen, father-of-three Andy Tsege, who is on Ethiopia’s death row and held at a jail some way outside the capital.
“Andy’s family in London, who cannot contact him, are sick with worry,” said Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve. “Amid this crisis, it’s shocking that the UK continues to rely on Ethiopia’s vague, broken promises of regular consular access and a lawyer for Andy. Boris Johnson must urgently call for Andy to be returned home to his partner and kids in Britain.”
Ethiopia is a key strategic ally for the US and European countries in the fight against Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, al-Shabaab, and Addis Ababa is the home of the African Union.
The global importance of the country’s stability has meant Western governments turning a blind eye to its authoritarian leadership. In June, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front cut off nationwide access to social media – on the grounds of preventing exam result leaks.
The new ban on internet services has already made a noticeable impact on the flow of reports of unrest coming out of the country via on-the-ground activists.
Ethiopian state media reported that 1,000 protesters had been arrested in the central Oromia town of Sebeta since the state of emergency was declared on 8 October, and ahead of an investment conference in the town which began on Monday.
FBC said those detained were suspected of damaging property, but there was little in the way of opposition reports to give the other side of the story.
The emergency rules include a ban on using social media to contact “outside forces”, and Ethiopians risk jail if they communicate with any “anti-peace groups designated as terrorist”.
Finally, the rules stipulate a curfew of 6pm to 6am in which members of the public may not visit factories, farms and government institutions, which have come under attack in recent weeks.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Ethiopian government to ensure “the protection of fundamental human rights” during the state of emergency, and the president has announced some electoral reforms in order to try and reach out to protesters.
A Western diplomat told the AFP news agency those changes had not yet materialised, however. “This is a state of emergency and we expect repressive measures,” the diplomat said.
“But we also expect an opening of the political space for the opposition as stated by the president in front of the parliament. This is not what seems to be happening.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has proposed legislation targeted at the government of Ethiopia, after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of cases of alleged human rights abuses. House Resolution 861, titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” was introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Al Green (D-TX), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
“It is an abomination when any country tortures its own citizens,” said Rep. Smith, at a September 13th press conference on Capitol Hill. The human rights abuses, waged primarily against the Oromo and Amhara populations, have come to light despite Ethiopian authorities efforts preventing independent screeners from conducting transparent investigations.
The Resolution condemns the killing of peaceful protesters, the arrest and detention of students, journalists, and political leaders, and the stifling of political dissent under the guise of “counterterrorism.”
Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the United States. The country headquarters the 54 nation African Union, and, critical to U.S. interests, assists in counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadi terrorist group based in Somalia. Ethiopia is also host to a staggering 750,000 refugees from the war torn region.
In a press statement Rep. Ellison said, “While Ethiopia is an important ally for the United States, continuing to let the Ethiopian government oppress its own people will only further destabilize the region. We must do all we can to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are respected.” Rep. Smith added, “A valuable contributor to global peacekeeping missions, growing unrest in Ethiopia in reaction to human rights violations by the government threaten to destabilize a nation counted on to continue its role on the international scene”.
Resolutions, like the one proposed, tend to be more of an opinion that often do little in themselves because they lack the political leverage to prompt much action. They often fail to hold allied nations to a standard of conduct, as countries and international organizations are hesitant to regulate how other nations behave within their own borders.
The bill expressly calls on the government of Ethiopia to end the use of excessive force by security forces; hold security forces accountable after a full, credible, transparent investigation; release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights; respect freedom of assembly and freedom of the press; engage with citizens on development; allow the United Nations to conduct independent examinations; repeal certain proclamations limiting inclusive growth; and investigate shootings and a fire on September 3, that killed 23 people at a prison housing high-profile politicians.
Noteworthy, is that the bill also seeks to apply financial and other pressure towards the government, by calling for the Secretary of State to “conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia” and “improve transparency” with respect to such assistance, and to “improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia”.
Despite the good intention of the bill, critics highlight that it doesn’t go far enough. Henok Gabisa, a visiting Academic Fellow and faculty member at Washington and Lee University School of Law, stated in a personal interview:
“H.RES.861 is generally a good gesture from the United States Congress. It is very specific in a sense that it points out the consistent and constant patterns of corrosion of civil and economic liberties in the country. It also seems to give scrupulous attention to the marginalized groups who remain on the receiving end of the pain. That is really great. Nonetheless, owing to the mammoth financial aid transported to Ethiopian government by the U.S. under their bilateral security partnership, H. RES. 861 failed to deploy the political leverage of the [United States Government], and as a result it is nowhere nearer to fulfilling the goal it promises. In fact, Resolutions by merit are just declaratory statements or positions of a government. They may not be considered law in a positivist school of law. Yet again, H.RES.861 has no teeth to bite those who fail to comply the soft obligations it enumerated under the last sections 3-6.”
Experts give the bill a 32% chance of getting past the Foreign Affairs Committee and a 29% chance of being agreed to completely. Comparatively, from 2013-2015, 46% of simple resolutions made it past committee.
In a country of over 86 million, Oromos and Amharas constitute the two largest ethnic groups, combining for over 61% of the population. Yet, they are the most politically marginalized and economically disenfranchised. In 2015 Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, won every seat in parliament despite little ethnic diversity. The EPRDF has remained in power since the overthrow of Ethiopia’s military government in 1991.
Lima Charlie News, by J. David Thompson
J David Thompson (US Army) is a Juris Doctor candidate at Washington & Lee University School of Law focusing on International Human Rights Law. He is a Veterans in Global Leadership Fellow, and brings experience on human rights, international relations, strengthening civil society, refugee issues, interagency collaboration, and countering violent extremism. Prior to Washington & Lee, he served in the US Army as a Military Police officer and Special Operations Civil Affairs with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and one to Jordan—receiving a Bronze Star amongst other decorations. In Jordan, David worked at the US Embassy in countering violent extremism, strengthening civil society, and refugee response with other United States Government organizations, the United Nations, and various non-governmental organizations.
(rabble.ca)— Last Tuesday, members of the Ethiopian community in Winnipeg called on Canada to sanction the North East African country. The protesters are angry about the regime’s violent crackdown in the Oromiya and Amhara regions of northern Ethiopia. Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been killed and many more jailed since unrest began over a land dispute 10 months ago.
As protesters called for sanctions in Winnipeg, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development Katrina Gould was in Addis Ababa. During a meeting with the Foreign Minister she was quoted saying, “Ethiopia has managed to be a sea of stability in a hostile region.”
Gould’s trip follows on the heels of Harjit Sajjan’s visit last month. According to an Ethiopian News Agency summary, the defence minister told Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn “Canada values Ethiopia’s contribution in trying to bring stability to Somalia and the South Sudan.”
In 2006, 50,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia, which saw about 6,000 civilians killed and 300,000 flee the country. Washington prodded Addis Ababa into intervening and the U.S. literally fuelled the invasion, providing gasoline, arms and strategic guidance as well as launching air attacks.
The invasion and occupation led to the growth of al Shabab. Since the Ethiopia-U.S. invasion the group has waged a violent campaign against the foreign forces in the country and Somalia’s transitional government. During this period al Shabab has grown from being the relatively small youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union to the leading oppositional force in the country. It has also radicalized and has turned from being a national organization towards increasing ties to Al Qaeda.
The Stephen Harper Conservatives government’s public comments on Somalia broadly supported Ethiopian -U.S. actions. They made no criticism of U.S. bombings and when prominent Somali-Canadian journalist Ali Iman Sharmarke was assassinated in Mogadishu in August 2007, then-Foreign Minister Peter Mackay only condemned “the violence” in the country. He never mentioned that the assassins were pro-government militia members with ties to Ethiopian troops. The Conservatives backed a February 2007 UN Security Council resolution that called for an international force in Somalia. They also endorsed the Ethiopia-installed Somali government, which had operated in exile.
In what was perhaps the strongest signal of Canadian support for the outside intervention, Ottawa didn’t make its aid to Ethiopia contingent on withdrawing from Somalia. Instead they increased assistance to this strategic U.S. ally that borders Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. In 2009 Ethiopia was selected as a “country of focus” for Canadian aid and this status was reaffirmed in 2014. As one of the top donors, Canada has been spending over $100 million a year in the country.
Providing aid to Ethiopia has been controversial not only because of the invasion and occupation of its neighbor. An October 2010 Globe and Mail headline noted: “Ethiopia using Canadian aid as a political weapon, rights group says.” Human Rights Watch researcher Felix Horne claimed Ottawa contravened its Official Development Assistance Accountability Act by continuing to pump aid into Ethiopia despite its failure to meet international human-rights standards. In addition to arbitrary detentions, widespread torture and attacks on political opponents, the Ethiopian government systematically forced rural inhabitants off their land. This “villagization” program cut many off from food and health services.
Canadian aid to Ethiopia faced another challenge. In February 2012 the family of a Somali-Canadian businessman sued Harper’s Conservatives to prevent them from sending aid to Ethiopia until Bashir Makhtal was released from prison. In January 2007 Makhtal was “rendered” illegally from Kenya to Ethiopia, imprisoned without access to a lawyer or consular official for 18 months and then given a life sentence. The lawsuit was a last ditch effort by the Makhtal family to force Ottawa’s hand.
Ottawa should take the recent protests by Ethiopian Canadians seriously. It can start by reversing its near total silence about the recent repression, which included dozens of demonstrators shot dead three days before Sajjan’s visit. While severing aid to pressure a government is often fraught with complications, Canada’s current policy seems to be enabling Ethiopia’s repressive, interventionist policies.
“Canada’s aid to Ethiopia has been a failed experiment in turning brutal dictators into democrats,” Ethiopian-Canadian human-rights activist Yohannes Berhe told the Globe and Mail. Ottawa’s policy is “tantamount to encouraging one of the most repressive regimes in Africa.”
In a disturbing e-mail message received by Addis Standard, an eyewitness who said he was on guard the morning of Saturday Sep 3, says that armed prison guards were indiscriminately shooting at prisoners” most of whom were running “frantically to extinguish the fire” that broke at Ethiopia’s notorious prison ward known as Qilinto, in Aqaqi, on the outskirts south of the capital. The government has not released the extent of the fire, not the cause of it, but several social media accounts allege the death toll reaching above 20. Until this morning families of prisoners who want to know the safety of their loved ones are not allowed to pass the Tirunesh Beijing Hospital, located at about three km before the prison. Some families said the prison administration told them information on the safety and whereabouts of the prisoners will only be available on Wednesday this week. In the e-mail, the person who also attached his work ID but said he wishes to remain anonymous wrote many prisoners were “kept at gun point” from approaching the area where the fire was destroying parts of the prison in the “southern end of the ward.” “I have seen about five prisoners gunned down in the spot by armed security guards from two different towers during the first 20 minutes only,” the email said. It added: “unarmed guards at the gate, including myself, were told by the prison admiration to instruct family members who were already at the gate and who came to visit their loved ones to return back.” The maximum security prison is administered by the Addis Abeba Prison administration but since Saturday morning the “federal army has taken over the security and most of the prison guards, including myself, are not allowed inside since then.” The fire broke at around 8:10 AM in the morning and lasted a good “two hours” before the fire brigade from the Addis Abeba Fire and Emergency Prevention and Rescue Agency arrived at the scene. The state-affiliated news portal FBC reported that three firefighters were treated at a hospital for smoke related breathing problems while it maintained only one person was killed in the accident. However, in the email received by Addis Standard, the security guard revealed that he has helped “18 bodies being taken out of the prison in the late afternoon. As far as I know none of the dead were due to the fire. They all died of gunshot wounds.” Abusive prison Qilinto is known for the harsh treatment of its prisoners, many of who are prisoners of conscious including the prominent opposition leader Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others with him facing charges of terrorism. It is also where Yonatan Tesfaye, the young senior opposition Blue Party member, and prominent rights activist is held. Recently Bekele Gerba and others with him were mobilizing activists from their cell by sending letters which were secretly smuggled out of the maximum security prison. One such letter called for peaceful resistance as part of the ongoing #AmharaProtests and #OromoProtests and asked supporters of the protests to shave their heads and wear black, to which supporters responded in numbers. Three days after the tragic incident exact figures of causalities (both death and injuries, as well as property damages) are still hard to come by. The prison itself is not accessible to anyone and is being guarded by heavily armed federal police officers who are also conducting rigorous searching of residents living nearby. Eyewitnesses say the remaining prisoners were taken on Saturday afternoon to Ziway prison, located some 200km south of the capital. However, due to the inaccessibility of the prison and unavailability of official information, Addis Standard is unable to verify both the e-mailed information and other eyewitness accounts. – See more at: http://ecadforum.com/2016/09/05/they-were-indiscriminately-shooting-at-prisoners/#sthash.HyNp1rC6.dpuf
The Ethiopian regime on Thursday rejected a call by the UN Human Rights Commission that called for the regime to allow international observers to investigate the killing of hundreds of protesters over the weekend.
Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday that the regime in Ethiopia should allow international observers to probe into the killings of hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Amhara and Oromo regions.
“Allegations of excessive use of force across the Oromiya and Amhara regions must be investigated and that his office was in discussions with Ethiopian authorities,” Reuters quoted Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights as saying.
“The use of live ammunition against protesters in Oromiya and Amhara, the towns there of course would be a very serious concern for us,” Zeid told Reuters in an interview in Geneva.
Reda, however, told Al Jazeera that it was not necessary to send observers to specific parts of the country since the UN already had a massive presence in Ethiopia.
At least 200 people were shot and killed this weekend alone as regime security forces rained bullets on peaceful protesters in the Amhara and Oromo regions who called for regime change. Hundreds of people were also detained.
An estimated 700 people were killed in the Oromo region in the last 9 months of protest and tens of thousands have been detained.
WE Ethiopians have a dream………..
…..one day our countery belong to one of the richest countery.
We have a dream………
…..one day our countery will be free from dictator government.
We have a dream………
…..one day our countery will be democrat countery.
We have a dream…..
…..one day all poltical prisoners in Ethiopia will be free from prison.
We have a dream…..
…….one day we can live together in our countery with peace and unity
If We need our dream to come true ,we have to struggle together in order to get rid off one of the worst and dictator EPRDF government from our countery.
ESAT Yesamintu Engeda Dr Birhanu Nega June 2013
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