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Bloomberg: Fire on Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner “Highly Significant”

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July 12, 2013

Mary Schiavo, a former U.S. Transportation Department inspector general, talks about a fire at London’s Heathrow airport today involving a Boeing Co. 787 jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise. A second Dreamliner, operated by Thomson Airways Ltd., was forced to abandon a trip with technical issues after takeoff from Manchester, U.K. Schiavo speaks with Cory Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.”

Click here to see video of interview with airline expert

Africom steps up secret operations in Horn of Africa

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U.S. Expands Secretive Drone Base for African Shadow War

By David Axe |

October 26, 2012

A US Air Force Predator drone

The Pentagon’s secretive drone and commando base in the Horn of Africa is getting a lot bigger and a lot busier as the U.S. doubles down on its shadowy campaign of air strikes, robot surveillance and Special Operation Forces raids in the terror havens of Yemen and Somalia.

Camp Lemonnier, originally a French colonial outpost in Djibouti, a tiny, impoverished nation just north of Somalia, has been the epicenter of America’s Indian Ocean shadow war since just after 9/11. What was once little more than a run-down compound adjacent to Djibouti city’s single-runway international airport is now a sprawling complex of hangars and air-conditioned buildings housing eight Predator drones and eight F-15E fighter-bombers plus other warplanes, as well as around 300 Special Operations Forces and more than 2,000 other U.S. troops and civilians.

According to an investigation by The Washington Post, the Pentagon is spending $1.4 billion to expand the base’s airplane parking and living facilities. The extra housing could accommodate another 800 commandos, the Post reports. The military is also adding new lighting to a emergency landing strip a few miles from Camp Lemonnier — an urgent precaution as more and more planes and drones pack onto the main base’s sole runway.

The Djibouti base is just one of a constellation of hush-hush U.S. drone, commando or intelligence facilities in East Africa. Others are located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the island nation of the Seychelles. But “those operations pale in comparison to what is unfolding in Djibouti,” the Post’s Craig Whitlock notes.

As previously reported by Danger Room, the scale and intensity of covert U.S. operations in Djibouti has increased steadily since 2001. Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force commandos and other Special Operations Forces stage from Djibouti on surveillance infiltrations, counter-terrorism raids, hostage rescues and pirate take-downs. And those are just the operations we know about.

The CIA’s armed Predator drones operated from Camp Lemonnier as early as 2002. In November of that year, an Agency Predator crew, following tips from the NSA, tracked al-Qaida operative Qaed Salim Sinan Al Harethi, one of the men who had organized the October 2000 attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole, to a car in Yemen. The drone launched a single Hellfire missile, killing Al Harethi and several other men.

Drones came and went at Camp Lemonnier on a temporary basis between 2002 and 2010, joining a little-mentioned force of F-15 fighter-bombers deployed to the desert base for high-speed bombing runs over Yemen. In 2007 a Predator apparently flying from Djibouti struck a convoy near the southern Somali town of Ras Kamboni, killing Aden Hashi Farah, one of Somalia’s top al-Qaida operatives.

In 2010, the Pentagon made the drone presence at Lemonnier full-time, with eight Predators permanently assigned. In September last year, a Djibouti-based Predator took out Anwar Al Awlaki, an American-born cleric and top al-Qaida member.

As the pace of drone and other warplane flights increased, so too did the number of flying accidents. A Special Operations Command U-28 spy plane crashed in February, killing four airmen. The Post details five Predator crashes at or near Lemonnier since January 2011. Besides providing evidence of a ramp-up in the U.S. shadow war, the crashes represent a window into the little-discussed methods of America’s commando forces. One Air Force drone accident report from last year mentions a commando officer, identified only as “Frog,” whose job it was to alert the Air Force crews to launch their drones on covert missions.

“Who is Frog?” one investigator asked, according to a transcript obtained by the Post. “He’s a Pred guy,” an airman responded. “I actually don’t know his last name.”

That level of secrecy is typical of Pentagon activities in Djibouti. Thanks to the Post’s excellent reporting, we now know just a tiny bit more about America’s expanding shadow war in East Africa.

PEN honors jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega

NEW YORK (AP) — An imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and blogger who could face the death penalty for advocating peaceful protests in his Horn of Africa homeland was honored Tuesday with PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” award.

Eskinder Nega was arrested in 2011 under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws, which PEN says criminalize any reporting deemed to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes the government deems “terrorists.”

Nega is still in jail after a judge in Addis Ababa found him guilty Jan. 23 on terror charges. He could face the death penalty at sentencing.

Ethiopia has arrested close to 200 people, among them journalists and opposition politicians and members, under last year’s anti-terrorism proclamation.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world over the past decade.

Nega was honored at PEN/America’s annual gala dinner Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History, with some 500 PEN members and supporters in attendance.

PEN/America granted him the year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.

Accepting the award was his wife, Serkalem Fasil, a free expression advocate in her own right, who served 17 months in prison for treason starting in 2005 and gave birth to their child behind bars. She won the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2007.

“The Ethiopian writer Eskinder Nega is that bravest and most admirable of writers, one who picked up his pen to write things that he knew would surely put him at grave risk,” said Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center. “Yet he did so nonetheless. And indeed he fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting, Ethiopia’s draconian `anti terrorism’ laws that criminalize critical commentary.”

Nega has been publishing articles critical of the government since 1993, when he opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, which was soon shut down by authorities.

He was the general manager of Serkalem Publishing House, which published the newspapers Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik, all of which are now banned in Ethiopia.

Nega has also been a columnist for the monthly magazine Change and the U.S.-based news forum EthioMedia, which are also banned in Ethiopia.

He has been detained at least seven times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, including in 2005, when he and his wife Serkalem were imprisoned for 17 months on treason charges for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections, and briefly in February 2011 for “attempts to incite Egyptian and Tunisian-like protests in Ethiopia” after he published articles on the Arab uprisings.

Nega has been denied a license to practice journalism since 2005, yet he has continued to publish columns critical of the government’s human rights record and calling for an end to political repression and corruption.

Nega was again arrested Sept. 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week.

Shortly after his arrest, Nega was charged with affiliation with the banned political party Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government considers a terrorist organization. On Nov. 10, Nega was charged and further accused of plotting with and receiving weapons and explosives from neighboring Eritrea to carry out terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. State television portrayed Nega and other political prisoners as “spies for foreign forces.”

He is being held in Maekelawi Prison in Addis Ababa, where detainees are reportedly often tortured.

Ethiopians starve as government sells land to rich Saudis

In famine-stricken Ethiopia, a Saudi company leases land to grow and export rice

By Public Radio International

Famine has swept through much of Ethiopia in the past year, but a new project will see a Saudi Arabian country convert one of the most fertile areas to produce rice for export. The idea is it’s better to have people employed and making money.

Gambella in western Ethiopia is one of the most fertile places in the mostly drought- and famine-stricken Eastern Africa country, with thick forests, scorching heat and abundant rains.

But now Gambella, home to five rivers and a National Park, is also home to large-scale agricultural investments. A Saudi billionaire has leased 25,000 acres from the Ethiopian government to grow rice and this summer planted its first commercial crop. The company, Saudi Star, plans to expand that to nearly 500,000 acres within 10 years.

Saudi Star plans to add hundreds of miles of irrigation canals and pipes to bring water from the Alwero Dam to its thirsty rice crop. Ethiopians don’t typically grow or eat rice, so most of the crop will be exported to the Middle East. But Muhammad Manzoor Khan, a Pakistani consultant for Saudi Star, said the rice will still help Ethiopia feed its people.

“This kind of project can really bring a revolution in food production as well as uplifting the social conditions of the people around,” Khan said, standing in front of rice paddies.

Ethiopia is a fast-developing nation, but it’s struggling with severe drought and skyrocketing food prices. The Ethiopian government estimates 4.5 million people in the country need emergency food aid.

In the past few years, Ethiopia has developed a comprehensive agricultural plan that relies on foreign investment, and much-needed foreign currency to move forward.

Saudi Star predicts its massive rice project will generate $1 billion in revenue for Ethiopia and create tens of thousands of jobs. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Esayas Kebede said that means increased food security for Ethiopians – if people have jobs they can buy food, even if there is a drought.

“If you increase the purchasing power of the people, the people can easily get their own food by their own cash,” Kebede said.

But many of the local Anuak tribe say the rice farm is not providing jobs for their people. They worry the rice will dry up the water they rely on for their own farming and fishing. And they say, after years of hostility from the government, they are now being forced off their land to make way for investors.

One local woman from the Anuak tribe said the government told them they’re moving them to a better place where they can get government assistance.

“There are no farms here and no food. Now we’re living like refugees in our own country,” she said.

The Ethiopian government admits it moved people from rural settlements to villages, but not because of the Saudi Star project, they say. Kebede said it was to provide them with better services and aid. According to Human Rights Watch, however, many of Anuak are being relocated to parts of Gambella that already have insufficient food for the local population.

“This large scale investment program has nothing to do with food security concerns in the country,” said Desalegn Rahmeto, a senior research fellow at the Forum for Social Studies in Addis Ababa. “If you export all the food items and earn foreign currency, but people in the communities don’t have access to food, that is counter productive. And this is happening, this is not hypothetical situation, this is actually happening.”


“PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about

Top 20 Richest Ethiopians – 2011

The following is a list of 20 richest Ethiopians in 2011. The list is compiled by Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit. Except for a few of the individuals in the list, most of them, particularly the TPLF members, have enriched themselves through corruption and outright thievery. Girma Birru and Tadesse Haile, for example, forced construction companies to make them partners if they want to win bid for government projects. These are the parasites who made Ethiopia one of the poorest nations in the world. Only Eyob Mamo, who owns most of the gas stations in the Washington DC Metro Area, became rich through sheer hard work, business savvy,  and some luck. Omer Ali, Ketema Kebede, and Minwuyelet Atnafu are not affiliated with the ruling party, but they pay huge sums of money to Azeb Mesfin and the other TPLF thugs to keep working inside the country. 

The 20 Richest Ethiopian in 2011

(The net worth amount is in U.S. dollar)

  1. Mohammed Al Amoudi, owner of Midroc Corporation, estimated net worth: $10 billion
  2. Meles Zenawi, self-declared prime minister of Ethiopia, head of the terrorist group Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF), estimated net worth: $3 billion
  3. Azeb Mesfin, wife of Meles Zenawi, member of the TPLF politburo, head of the $40-billion Endowment Fund for the Relief of Tigray (EFFORT), partner in several large businesses in Ethiopia, widely known as “the Mother of Corruption,” estimated net worth: $3 billion
  4. Sebhat Nega, former chairman of TPLF, ex-TPLF politburo member, former head of EFFORT, current chairman of Wugagan Bank, owns several buildings and luxury villas in Ethiopia and the U.S., net worth: $2.5 billion
  5. Berhane Gebrekristos, TPLF central committee members, personal investor for Meles Zenawi, paid his wife $4 million in divorce settlement and hush-up money in Washington DC when he was an ambassador, currently deputy foreign minister, uses his diplomatic immunity to smuggle gold and precious stones for Meles, Azeb and himself, estimated net worth: $2 billion.
  6. Samuel Tafesse, owner of Sunshine Construction, partner with Azeb Mesfin, estimated networth: $1.5 billion
  7. Sioum Mesfin, former TPLF regime foreign affairs minister, currently ambassador to China, smuggles marijuana and other types of illicit drugs to Thailand, China and other Asian countries using his diplomatic immunity, estimated net worth: $1 billion.
  8. Omer Ali Shifaw, Owner of Nejat International, until TPLF’s Guna Corporation took over, the largest coffee exporting company in Ethiopia, currently threatened by TPLF’s Guna Corporation, estimated net worth: $800 million
  9. Aba Gebremedhin (formerly Aba Paulos), self-installed patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, part-time priest, full time businessman and gun-totting TPLF cadre, the only “religious” leader in Ethiopia who built a statue for himself, owns shares in several companies, estimated net worth: $600 million
  10. Abadi Zemo, TPLF politburo member, former head of EFFORT, currenly ambassador to Sudan, net worth: $500 million.
  11. Eyob Mamo, CEO and Chairman of Capitol Petroleum Group, Washington DC, estimated worth: $500 million.
  12. Ketema Kebede, KK Trading, Alsam Real Estate, Addis Ababa, estimated networth: $400 million.
  13. Minwuyelet Atnafu,  Owner and major share holder of Star Business Group, Tana Transport, Mina Trading, estimated net worth: $400 million.
  14. Girma Birru, former TPLF Trade and Industry minister, currently ambassador to Washington DC, owns shares in several large companies, including Dembel Business Center in Addis Ababa, owns several real estate properties, estimated net worth: $300 million
  15. Tadesse Haile, long-time state minister of Trade and Industry, invests in several large projects that he himself authorizes, owns shares in construction and trading companies, estimated net worth: $250 million
  16. Tewodros Hagos, TPLF politburo member, owns shares in several of EFFORT companies, estimated net worth: $200 million
  17. Abdullah Bagersh, General Manager of Bagersh International, a leading coffee exporter, currently struggling to survive after Guna entered the coffee exporting business, estimated net worth: $150 million.
  18. Debre-Tsion Gebre-Michael, TPLF politburo member and information technology minister, tasked  with jamming radio, TV and and web sites, travels regularly to the U.S. and Europe to invest his loot, owns shares in companies that work on projects for his minstry, has several real estate properties in Arizona, estimated net worth: $100 million
  19. Bereket Simon, TPLF propaganda chief, owns real estate properties, estimated worth: $100 million.
  20. Yemiru Nega, owner of Dembel City Center, partner with Azeb Mesfin, Girma Biru and Tadesse haile, estimated net worth: $100 million

We would like to hear your views about the Top 20 List. Please leave your comment below. 

Top 20 Best Friends of Ethiopia

The 2011 Ethiopian Review Top 20 Non-Ethiopians Who are Best Friends of the Struggle for Freedom in Ethiopia.

  1. Mohamed Keita, advocacy coordinator for CPJ‘s Africa Program, consistently gives voice to the repressed media in Ethiopia.
  1. Ana Gomez, member of the European Parliament from Portugal, put other European leaders to shame with her honesty and candor about the Western-backed dictatorship in Ethiopia.
  1. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, speaks out the truth about Ethiopia.
  1. Ted Vestal, professor at University of Oklahoma a long time friend of Ethiopia, refused to be in the service of dictators.
  1. Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold, U.S. Senators, oppose the U.S. Government’s anti-human rights policy in Ethiopia.
  1. Christopher Smith, U.S. Congressman, helped pass a legislation (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007) restricting U.S. assistance to the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia unless it stops violating human rights. Jendayi Frazer and other U.S. Department officials succeeded in convincing some senators to kill the legislation in the Senate.
  1. Donald Payne, U.S. Congressman, collaborated with Chris Smith.
  1. Human Right Watch, an international human rights advocacy group, documents human rights violations in Ethiopia.
  1. Amnesty International, international human rights group, has complied enough documents on atrocities in Ethiopia that could land the perpetrators, Meles Zenawi and gang, in prison for a long time.
  1. Voice of America, overcomes the signal jamming effort by the Meles regime to provide news and information to over 20 million Ethiopians.
  1. German Radio, has been serving the people of Ethiopia for over 40 years.
  1. Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, exposed what the U.S. knows about the TPLF regime crimes against the people of Ethiopia, including exploding bombs among civilians and blaming it on opposition groups.
  1. BBC, exposed U.K. Government’s complicity in Meles Zenawi regime’s atrocities in Ethiopia.
  1. Gene Sharp, Albert Einstein Institute founder, educates freedom fighters how to overthrow repressive regimes, translated the manual, From Dictatorship to Democracy into Amharic.
  1. Mary Ann Jolley, investigative journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, produced a documentary and written about the adoption scam in Ethiopia and corruption inside international NGOs.
  1. Facebook and Google, made it easier for Ethiopian freedom fighters to communicate and exchange information.
  1. George Ayittey, internationally renowned economist, professor at American University in Washington DC, a persistent and powerful critic of the dictatorship in Ethiopia, and all African dictators.
  1. Anthony Mitchell, AP Correspondent in Addis Ababa, expelled by the Woyanne propaganda chief for having the courage — unlike the current foreign correspondents in Addis Ababa — to report the truth.  In 2007 Mitchell died in a place crash in Cameroon. RIP.
  1. Richard Pankhurst, professor, documents Ethiopian history and heritage.
  1. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin, physicians, moved from Australia to Ethiopia and  opened a hospital that serves the needs of Ethiopian women.

We would like to hear your views about the Top 20 List. Your feedback is taken into consideration when preparing the Top 20s. Please leave your comment below. The next Top 20 list will be richest Ethiopians.