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Susan Rice and Africa’s Unholy Trinity

Matriarch of the Unholy Trinity

Susan Rice, the current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., has been waltzing (or should I say do-se-do-ing) with Africa’s slyest, slickest and meanest dictators for nearly two decades. More cynical commentators have said she has been in bed with them, as it were. No doubt, international politics does make for strange bedfellows.

Rice’s favorite dictators in Africa are the “Unholy Trinity” — Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia — all former rebel leaders who seized power through the barrel of the gun and were later baptized to become the “new breed of  African leaders” (a phrase of endearment coined by Bill Clinton to celebrate the “Three African Amigos” and memorialize their professed commitment to democracy and  economic development). She has been best friend for life and the acknowledged Guardian Angel, champion, apologist, promoter, advocate, grand dame and matriarch of the trio. She has shielded the “Fearsome, Threesome” from legal and political accountability, deflected from them much deserved criticism and thwarted national and international scrutiny and sanctions against the.

Rice, Rwanda and the Genocide That Was Not

In April 1994, when the Clinton Administration pretended to be ignorant of the unspeakable terror and massacres in Rwanda, Susan Rice — who by her own description “was a young Director on the National Security Council staff at the White House, accompanying the then-National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake” — and currently the putative heir apparent to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, was unconcerned about taking immediate action to stop the killings. Rather, she was fretting about the political consequences of calling the Rwandan tragedy a “genocide”. In a monument to utter moral depravity and conscience-bending callous indifference, Rice casually inquired of her colleagues, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Rice later shed crocodile tears for having made her senseless statement while simultaneously claiming she does not quite remember making it,  but regretted “if I said it.” Lt. Colonel Tony Marley, the U.S. military liaison to the Arusha peace process (the Arusha Peace Accords which resulted in the 1993 agreement for power sharing between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda) was so baffled by Rice’s statement, he observed, “We could believe that people would wonder that, but not that they would actually voice it.”

In less than 100 days, 800 thousand Rwandans by U.N. estimate had been killed in the genocidal madness. For weeks, Rice, her boss Lake and other top U.S. officials labored and agonized not to call the monstrous Rwandan genocide, a genocide. They continued to play their sinister semantic bureaucratic games to make sure there were no official references to “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing”, “extermination” and the like in connection with the Rwandan tragedy. But far from regretting her role in underrating the Rwandan genocide and the massive and gross violations of human rights, over the past decade and half Rice has turned a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips to extrajudicial killings, suppression of the press, decimation of opposition parties and imprisonment of large numbers of dissidents in Africa and aided and abetted Africa’s dictatorial trio. She has coddled, pampered, nurtured, protected and sang praises for these ruthless dictators.

U.S. policy in the 1994 Rwandan genocide will remain a testament to shame, diplomatic duplicity, bureaucratic sophistry and plain old fashioned callous deceitfulness. On April 6, 1994, the plane transporting Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, Burindian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and other officials was shot down as it returned from Tanzania. The prime suspects in the assassination are believed to be elements of the Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF) who had rejected a power sharing agreement Habyarimana had reached with the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) a year earlier. Immediately following Habyarimana’s assassination, RAF members aided by extremist militia elements known as the Interahamwe (which in Kinyarwanda means “those who stand/work/fight/attack together”) went on a rampage indiscriminately killing government officials, ordinary Tutsis and other moderate Hutus.

Rice and other top U.S. officials knew or should have known a genocide was underway or in the making once RAF and interahamwe militia began killing people in the streets and neighborhoods on April 6. They were receiving reports from the U.N. mission in Rwanda; and their own intelligence pointed to unspeakable massacres taking place in Kigali and elsewhere in the country. In a Memorandum dated April 6, 1994, the day of the Habyiarimana assassination, Deputy Assistant Secretary Prudence Bushnell, the State Department’s number two official for Africa matters, predicted:

If, as it appears, both Presidents have been killed, there is a strong likelihood that widespread violence could breakout in either or both countries, particularly if it is confirmed that the plane was shot down. Our strategy is to appeal for calm in both countries, both through public statements and in other ways…

On April 11, 1994, in a Talking Points Memorandum prepared for the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Africa concluded:

Unless both sides can be convinced to return to the peace process, a massive (hundreds of thousands of deaths) bloodbath will ensue that would likely spill over into Burundi. In addition, millions of refugees will flee into neighboring Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire…Since neither the French nor the Belgians have the trust of both sides…, there will be a role to play for the U.S. as the “honest broker.”

But Rice and company intentionally chose to minimize the extreme nature of the violence and kept on issuing empty declarations, pleas for a cease fire and calls to the parties to come to the negotiating table.

Two weeks into the genocide on April 22, presidential National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, Rice’s boss, issued a statement “expressing deep concern over the violence that continues to rage in Rwanda following the tragic deaths of Rwandan President Habyarimana and Burindian President Ntaryamira two weeks ago.” Lake called on “all responsible officials and military officers” to bring the “offending troops under control” and implement a “cease fire and return to negotiations.” By late April, the U.S. was still playing a “see no genocide, hear no genocide and speak no genocide” public relations game. On April 28, Bushnell “telephoned Rwandan Ministry of Defense Cabinet  Director Col. Bagasora to urge an end to the killings.” Bushnell told Bagasora that in the “eyes of the world, the Rwanda military engaged in criminal acts, aiding and abetting civilians massacres” and demanded that the Rwandan “Government make every effort to implement the peace accords.” Three weeks into the genocide, Bushnell was still talking about “massacres” as others “expressed deep concern over the violence.

On May 1, the central issue facing the Defense Department intra-agency group established to generate proposals on what to do in Rwanda was how to characterize the mindboggling genocidal carnage (excuse me, “massacre”). According to the “Discussion Paper” of this group, participants were warned not to use the “G” word because using that label could result in U.S. taking preventing action, exactly the same kind of concern explicitly raised by Rice:

1.      Genocide Investigation: Language that calls for an international investigation of human rights abuses and possible violations of the genocide convention. Be careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday– Genocide finding could commit USG to actually “do something”.

By May 5, the U.S. had considered jamming Rwandan radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines which was coordinating attacks and broadcasting highly inflammatory ethnic propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission in Rwanda resulting in thousands of deaths. That idea was discarded as “ineffective” and  “expensive costing approximately $8,500 per flight hour”.

A little over one month into the genocide, a Defense Intelligence Report dated May 9, 1994, concluded:

… In addition to the random massacre of Tutsis by Hutu militias and individuals, there is an organized, parallel effort of genocide being implemented by the army to destroy the leadership of the Tutsi community. The original intent was to kill only the political elite  supporting reconciliation; however, the government lost control of the militias, and the massacre spread like wildfire. It continues to rage out of control.

By May 21, six weeks into the genocide, incredibly, U.S. officials were still debating whether they should call the carnage a “genocide” despite the open and notorious fact that tens of thousands of Rwandans were being slaughtered. In a May 21 “Action Memorandum” sent to Secretary of State Warren Christopher the question presented was “Has Genocide Occurred in Rwanda?” under the heading “Issue for Decision”, the Memorandum formulated the policy question as follows:

Whether (1) to authorize Department officials to state publicly that “acts of genocide have occurred” in Rwanda and (2) to authorize U.S. delegations to international meetings to agree to resolutions and other instruments that refer to “acts of genocide” in Rwanda, state that “genocide had occurred.

Of course, there was no question genocide was taking place in Rwanda. The Legal Analysis drafted on May 16, five days preceding the “Action Memorandum”, left no doubt about the occurrence of genocide. After citing the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the U.S. is a party, the Legal Analysis concluded:

The Existence of Genocide in Rwanda

There can be little question that the specific listed acts have taken place in Rwanda. There have been numerous acts of killing and causing serious bodily or mental harm to persons. As INR [Bureau of Intelligence and Research] notes, international humanitarian organizations estimate the killings since April 6 have claimed from 200,000 to 500,000 lives. (INR also notes that this upper figure maybe exaggerated, but that is not critical to the analysis.).

[The UN estimated the number killed in Rwanda in less than 100 beginning on April 6, 1994 as 800,000; the Rwandan Government estimated 1,071,000 were killed in the genocide.]

Despite public protestations of ignorance of the Rwandan genocide, rivers of crocodile tears of not having done  something to prevent it and moral expiations about Clinton’s “worst mistake of my presidency”, Rice, Lake, Christopher and others high in the Clinton Administration knew beyond a shadow of doubt that genocide was in the planning or underway from the day Habarymana was assassinated.

Rice, Kagame,  Museveni, M23 and “Looking the Other Way”

In 1996, two years after the end of the genocide, on the pretext of pursuing Hutu insurgents and militia who were responsible for the Rwandan genocide and to prevent their incursions into Rwanda from bases in the Congo (at the time Zaire), Kagame began arming ethnic Tutsis  in the eastern part of that country. He also sent Rwandan troops to support them. The so-called Congo Wars were underway and continue to rage to the present day resulting in millions of lost lives.

The First Congo War lasted from November 1996 to May 1997. Congolese rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew long ruling dictator Mobutu Sésé Seko. The Rwandan-created destabilization in eastern Congo was the decisive factor in the fall of Mobutu’s regime. Kabila seized power in May 1997 and was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in January 2001. In March 2012, former Kagame right hand man and secretary general of the RPF, Theogene Rudasingwa made the shocking revelation that “it’s Paul Kagame who assassinated the Congolese President, Laurent Desire Kabila;  Kagame is the murderer of the Congolese President Kabila.” The Second Congo War began shortly after Kabila took power and continued until 2003. Eight African countries and dozens of armed groups were involved in the conflict.

The government of the Democratic Republic of the CongoIn March 2009, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signed a peace accord with National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) (an armed militia established by Laurent Nkunda in the eastern  Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December 2006) making the CNDP a political party. In April 2012, several hundred ethnic Tutsi members of the CNDP  turned against the DRC government over alleged lack of implementation of the March 2009 Accords and formed the M23 Movement [a/k/a Mouvement du 23-Mars] under the leadership of the notorious war criminal General Bosco Ntaganda, (a/k/a “The Terminator”). Ntaganda was initially indicted by the International Criminal Court on August 22, 2006 for recruiting child soldiers and committing atrocities. He was indicted by the ICC for the second time on July 13, 2012 on three counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes including murder, rape, attacks on civilians and slavery. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Ntaganda’s boss and co-defendant, was  the first person ever convicted by the International Criminal Court in July 2012. Last month, Ntaganda’s M23 rebels took control of Goma, a provincial capital with a population of one million people causing some 140,000 people to flee their homes. They were “persuaded” to leave mineral-rich Goma in early December under international pressure although they presumably rejected similar calls by Kagame and Museveni.

Kagame and Museveni of Uganda have been the prime supporters of M23. Various U.N. and other international human rights organization have documented Rwanda’s and Uganda’s ongoing support for M23. According to a recent U.N. Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (October 2012),

Rwanda officials coordinated the creation of the [M23] rebel movement as well as its major military operations… Senior Government of Uganda officials (GoU) have also provided support to M23 in the form of direct troop reinforcements in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations. Units of the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Defesse Forces (RDF) jointly supported M23 in a series of attacks in July 2012 to take over the major towns of Rutshuru territory, and the forces armees de la RDC (FARDC) base of Rumangabo. Both governments have also cooperated to support the creation and expansion of M23’s political branch and have consistently advocated on behalf of the rebels. The M23 and its allies includes six sanctioned individuals, some of whom reside in or regularly travel to Uganda and Rwanda.

Museveni secretly met with NtagandaThis past August, Museveni secretly  met with Ntaganda and M23 rebels. Prof. Howard French of Columbia University, in his NY Times article “Kagame’s Secret War in the Congo”   described the conflict in the Great Lakes Region (the seven great lakes in the Rift Valley region) since 1996 in which six million people have died in the from armed conflict, starvation and disease as an epochal event of the Twentieth Century. He argued:

Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda…. Until now, the US and other Western powers have generally supported Kagame diplomatically. Observers note that Rwandan-backed forces have themselves been responsible for much of the violence in eastern Congo over the years… The Rwandan Patriotic Front was directly operating mining businesses in Congo, according to UN investigators; more recently, Rwanda has attempted to maintain control of regions of eastern Congo through various proxy armies.

Rice has been shielding Kagame and Museveni from scrutiny and sanctions in their role in the DRC. She has made every effort to suppress U.N. investigative reports showing Kagame’s role in supplying and financing  M23. According to the National Journal, Rice “has even wrangled with Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, and others in the department, who all have been more critical of the Rwandans.” The Journal reported that Rice was dismissive of the French ambassador to the U.N. who advised her of the need for the U.N. to do more to intervene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She reportedly told the French Ambassador, “It’s the eastern DRC. If it’s not M23, it’s going to be some other group.” The Journal quoting Prof. Gerard Prunier of the University of Paris reported:

When Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice came back from her first trip to the Great Lakes region [of East Africa], a member of her staff said, “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the US] have to do is look the other way.”

Such is the true nature of Rice’s crocodile contrition for the Rwanda genocide. Simply stated, Rice’s attitude towards Africa’s Unholy Trinity can be summed up as “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” of genocidal dictators.

Susan Rice and the Adoration of Meles Zenawi

Susan Rice and the Adoration of Meles ZenawiOn September 2, 2012, Rice sent three tweets to her followers in Twitter-dom as she prepared to deliver her funeral (ad)oration for Meles Zenawi:

“Palpable sorrow felt here in Addis Ababa. We extend our condolences & best wishes to the Ethiopian people.” “Meles leaves an indelible legacy for the people of #Ethiopia, from opposition to extremism to support for the poor.” “I am honored to represent the United States at the funeral of late PM Meles Zenawi of #Ethiopia.”

Rice may have believed she “represented the United States” in her appearance, but her funeral oration for Meles Zenawi was personal and bordered on beatification. She described Meles as “an uncommon leader, a rare visionary, and a true friend to me and many.” She said he “was disarmingly regular, unpretentious, and direct. He was selfless, tireless and totally dedicated to his work and family.” Rice reminisced about her close familial ties and deep friendship with Meles:

Whenever we met, no matter how beset he was, he would always begin by asking me about my children. His inquiries were never superficial. He wanted detailed reports on their development. Then satisfied, he would eagerly update me on his own children. Meles was a proud father and a devoted husband. As he laughed about his children’s exploits and bragged about their achievements, a face sometimes creased by worry, would glow with simple joy. In his children and all children, Meles saw the promise of renewal and the power of hope.

She said Meles “retained that twinkle in his eye, his ready smile, his roiling laugh and his wicked sense of humor.” In an incredibly insensitive and callous manner, she related how Meles “was tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding.” She announced that Meles “of course had little patience for fools, or idiots, as he liked to call them.” (These “fools” and “idiots” are, of course, Ethiopian opposition leaders, dissidents, independent journalists, human rights advocates and regime critics.)

But Rice’s adoration of Meles would put the Three Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem to shame:

For, among Prime Minister Meles’ many admirable qualities, above all was his world-class mind. A life-long student, he taught himself and many others so much. But he wasn’t just brilliant. He wasn’t just a relentless negotiator and a formidable debater. He wasn’t just a thirsty consumer of knowledge. He was uncommonly wise – able to see the big picture and the long game, even when others would allow immediate pressures to overwhelm sound judgment. Those rare traits were the foundation of his greatest contributions.

Still, there was no shortage of occasions when, as governments and friends, we simply, sometimes profoundly, disagreed. But even as we argued – whether about economics, democracy, human rights, regional security or our respective foreign policies – I was always struck by two things: Meles was consistently reasoned in his judgments and thoughtful in his decisions; and, he was driven not by ideology but by his vision of a better future for this land he loved. I will deeply miss the challenge and the insights I gained from our discussions and debates.

In her “Adoration”, Rice was completely blinded to Meles’ atrocious human rights record. She was willfully ignorant of the findings of her own State Department U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia issued in May 2012, which stated:

The most significant human rights problems [in Ethiopia] included the government’s arrest of more than 100 opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers… The government restricted freedom of the press, and fear of harassment and arrest led journalists to practice self-censorship. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continued to impose severe restrictions on civil society and nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities… Other human rights problems included torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; allegations of abuses in connection with the continued low-level conflict in parts of the Somali region; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities; clashes between ethnic minorities; discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on worker rights; forced labor; and child labor, including forced child labor.

On October 27, 2012, Rice attended a “Memorial Service for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi” at Abyssinian Baptist Church and gave a second eulogy:

I come again both as a representative of the U.S. government and as a friend of a man I truly miss… The Meles I knew was profoundly human and down to earth. He probably often figured he was the smartest person in the room, and most of the time Meles was right – at least about that. His legacy is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. He laid the foundations for Ethiopia’s sustainable development. He gave new momentum to Africa’s struggle to address climate change. He spurred his nation to double its food production and redouble its commitment to forestall another famine that could snuff out so many innocent lives. He played mid-wife to the birth of South Sudan and worked energetically to help South Sudan and Sudan resolve their differences peacefully. Last month’s accords, though fragile, are a monument to his unyielding efforts. Meles helped build the African Union. He sent peacekeepers to the world’s hottest spots and countered terrorists such as al-Shabab who target the innocent….

May the spirit of Meles Zenawi spur us all to work ever harder, together, for a better Ethiopia, a better Africa, and a better world.

Rice completely ignored the fact that 200 unarmed protesters were massacred in the streets and nearly 800 seriously wounded by police and security forces under the personal command and control of Meles following the 2005 elections. She turned a blind eye to crimes against humanity committed in Gambella in 2004 and war crimes committed in the Ogaden in 2008 . She had forgotten the stolen election of 2010 and fact that Meles’ party won 99.6 percent of the seats in parliament. She was completely oblivious of the thousands of political prisoners, including opposition leaders, dissidents and journalists,  rotting in Ethiopian prisons as she was waxing eloquent in her emotional eulogy. She could see Meles’ “brilliance” but not his arrogance. She could see his “world-class mind” but not his black heart. She said he was “uncommonly wise”, but could not see his common folly. She “profoundly disagreed with him on democracy and human rights”, but she would ignore all his crimes against humanity because he was “a true friend” of hers.

The words of contrition Rice gave when she visited Kigali on November 23, 2011 could have been incorporated in her eulogy in Addis Ababa on September 2:

Today, I am here as an American ambassador. But I also will speak for myself, from my heart. I visited Rwanda for the very first time in December 1994, six months after the genocide ended. I was a young Director on the National Security Council staff at the White House, accompanying the then-National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake. I was responsible then for issues relating to the United Nations and peacekeeping. And needless to say, we saw first-hand the spectacular consequences of the poor decisions taken by those countries, including my own and yours, that were then serving on the United Nations Security Council.

I will never forget the horror of walking through a church and an adjacent schoolyard where one of the massacres had occurred. Six months later, the decomposing bodies of those who had been so cruelly murdered still lay strewn around what should have been a place of peace. For me, the memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what humans can do to one another. Those images stay with me in the work I do today, ensuring that I can never forget how important it is for all of us to prevent genocide from recurring. 

How important is it for all of us, particularly Susan Rice, to prevent extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention, infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, illegal searches, restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement… on the African continent?

Susan Rice and the Ghosts of Ethiopia

On September 2 and October 27, 2012, Rice had no idea, no recollection, no remembrance of the hundreds of unarmed protesting Ethiopians who were massacred in the streets, the thousands of political prisoners and  hundreds of dissidents and journalists languishing in jail in Ethiopia today. In 1994, Rice was willfully blind to the genocide in Rwanda. In 2012, she was willfully blind to the long train of human rights abuses and atrocities in Ethiopia. America does not need a friend and a buddy to African dictators as its Secretary of State. America does not need a Secretary of State with a heart of stone and tears of a crocodile. America does not need a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” Secretary of State.  America needs a Secretary of State who can tell the difference between human rights and  government wrongs!

Is it not true that one can judge a (wo)man by his/her friends?

Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.

Previous commentaries by the author are available at:

Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:

Spy chief Debretsion Gebrmicheal appointed as Deputy Prime Minister

ADDIS ABABA (Reporter) — The House of Peoples’ Representatives today approved the appointment of two new Deputy Prime Ministers. Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Debretsion Gebremichael, and Minister of Cabinet Affairs and head of the Office of the Prime Minister were both appointed to be coordinators for Finance and Economy Cluster with the rank of Deputy Prime Minister and Governance and Reform Cluster with the rank of Deputy Prime Minister respectively. Muktar was also appointed to be the Minister of Civil Service replacing Junedine Sado.

Hailemariam said that the new portfolio of his deputies is structured in a way that his administration’s focus is on good governance and reform as well as finance and economy.

In an another unprecedented move Hailemariam appointed Tewodros Adhanom (Ph.D.), minister of Health, to be Foreign Minister. Keseteberhan Admasu State Minister of Heath was appointed to be Minister of Health while Kebede Chane, who served as Minister of Trade for  over a year without the endorsement of the House, has been confirmed in the same position.

Acting Foreign Minister, Berhane Gebrekristos assumed his previous position of State Minister of Foreign Affairs. The fate of Junedine Sado, former Minister of Civil Service remains unknown.

Lone opposition MP, Girma Seifu, accepted the new cabinet reshuffle but turned down the appointment of Kebede Chanie.

Nile project: a hidden bomb? or a pomise for shared prosperity?

By Aklog Birara, PhD

This paper is third of a series on Ethiopian fascinations concerning the “Arab Spring.” Beyond these current fascinations, there are strategic economic and diplomatic dimensions that require deeper analysis and understanding with regard to relations between Ethiopia on the one hand, and Egypt on the other. I refer to the future development and use of the waters of the Nile River. I know of no other topic in the 21st century that evokes strong emotions and national {www:sentiment}s in Egypt and Ethiopia than the development and use of the River Nile and its tributaries. These sentiments {www:emanate} from the fact that water is among the most precious natural resource assets in the world. It is the source of life, identity, civilization, food self-sufficiency and security, industrialization, potential wealth and security for those who possess it and a source of jealousy for those who do not. People need water to survive. They need fertile or irrigable land to procreate and to produce food. Water meets basic needs. As populations increase and infrastructural and economic demand intensify, governments are obliged to respond to the needs of their societies as a matter of urgency. They have little choice but to harness their water resources for the betterment of their respective societies. Understandably, government officials, experts, academics, and members of civil society from both sides express views that reflect competing national interests. Elementary school children in both countries find themselves growing up with the belief that their respective perception- that is single country-focused – is the most critical; and it is. Ethiopian history, resistances to foreign aggression, honor, and identity emanate largely from its coveted position as the source of the Blue Nile or Abay. When viewed regionally and multilaterally, perceptions on both sides often underestimate the interdependence of {www:riparian} nations in general, Ethiopia, and Egypt in particular. For peace to prevail, mutuality must govern relations and the future.

Seifu Metaferia Firew, a well-known Ethiopian poet, expresses the widely held view among Ethiopians that, as the “origin of the Nile, Ethiopia, continues to suffer from water scarcity” and from recurring famine. He suggests that this “shameful” condition continues not because Ethiopia does not possess water; but because its government is unable to “develop, harness, and use” the country’s “vast water resources and silt to dam, irrigate, produce and feed its large and growing population. Ethiopia, he says, loses two ways: “The waters of the massive Abay River (the Blue Nile) flow into the Greater Nile; and that this river takes away millions of tons of fertile soils from the Ethiopian highlands” year after year and provides the material foundation for Egyptian agriculture. At the same time, Ethiopia faces chronic drought, famine, skyrocketing food prices, and hunger. Today, more than 4.5 million Ethiopians endure the worst famine since the 1980s. In light of this, the author suggests that “Someday, I (meaning government), will be held accountable for gross negligence to develop the Abay River” so that Ethiopians will no longer go through the humiliation of hunger, destitution and international food aid dependency. The lack of prioritization in the agricultural sector in general and irrigated farming in particular is now a “national crisis.” The thesis of this chapter is that no current or future government in Ethiopia will survive unless it addresses this fundamental national crisis. To-date, successive Egyptian governments have managed to marginalize Ethiopia and bar it from exploiting its major rivers including the Abay. The fact that Ethiopia is “the water tower of Africa” has meant practically nothing when measured against the food self-sufficiency and security and modernization needs of the country. In contrast, Nile-centered and dependent Egypt has succeeded to meet domestic food demand and to create a strong agric-based industry that employs millions. Egypt has done this by invoking the principle of acquired or “historic rights” while denying Ethiopia fair and equitable share of the Nile. 1/

These two seemingly irreconcilable perspectives and principles lead me to the second thesis of the article. On the Egyptian side is the principle of acquired or “historic rights,” a principle inherited from the colonial era that gives Egypt total hegemony over the Nile. This hegemony clashes with the principles of equitable and fair share, principles that most Sub-Saharan African riparian states now embrace. On the Ethiopian side is the history-based and growing recognition that “historic rights” claimed by Egypt and to some extent Northern Sudan are unjust and unfair, and that colonial and foreign interference-based treaties and legal arrangements are no longer viable or acceptable. One cannot appreciate the depth and breadth of these two contending views unless and until one goes back and examines history. Ethiopia’s claim for fair and equitable allocation is not new at all, and predates pre- Aksumite Empire and the height of Egyptian civilization. The country’s history shows that King Lalibela wanted to build a dam long before dams had become an economic necessity. Emperors such as Zara Yaqob, Yohannes, Teodros, Menelik, Haile Selassie, and leaders such as Mengistu Haile Mariam and Meles Zenawi manifest visions and perspectives that defend Ethiopia’s national interests over its water resources. Emperor Yohannes IV died defending this sacrosanct principle, as did Emperor Teodros. Regardless of regime, Ethiopia and Egypt will remain adversaries over the use of the Nile. At best, they will remain keen competitors in the decades ahead.

Demography may now be destiny

The Nile River has been a major source of contention, rivalry, and animosity between Egypt and Ethiopia since time immemorial. The fundamental role of the Nile in shaping Egyptian life is incontestable. Egyptian civilization is a gift of the Nile six sevenths of the waters of which originate from the Ethiopian highlands. The battle for control and for influence of countries around it predates Egypt’s Pharos. From time to time, it has involved powers beyond riparian states for more than 7,000 years. This tradition to exercise monopoly continued under British imperial rule that imposed binding agreements on riparian nations on behalf of Egypt, a British colony at the time. Egypt signed a Nile Agreement in 1929 that offered it natural and exclusive rights over the Nile. This arrangement begun to unravel only after Sub-Saharan African states gained independence. Until then, Ethiopia stood as the sole voice in defense of the principle of fair and equitable share without success. This Egyptian inherited “historic right” and preponderance has virtually undermined Ethiopia’s legitimate rights to advance its national development by building hydroelectric and irrigation dams. Ethiopian and other independent experts contend that Egypt does not contribute a drop of rain or water to the Nile. Ethiopia contributes 86 percent of the water and uses only 1 percent for irrigation. Thirty percent of Ethiopia’s land mass that covers 385,400 square kilometers is within the Abay River Basin and its tributaries. This provides potential of 3,500,000 hectares of irrigable land, more than sufficient to meet Ethiopia’s food demand for decades. From 1990 to present, the country used only 90,000 hectares of the available potential within this land mass. Given geographic spread, population, and size, Ethiopia possesses geopolitical and demographic advantage unmatched by other riparian states. This enormous potential suggests urgency. Ethiopia’s population of 90 million–the second largest in Africa– will reach 278 million by 2050, the tenth largest in the world. This dramatic demographic shift will have profound economic and political impact not only in the Horn but also in the rest of Africa and the Middle East. This in itself foretells the need for change in the governance of Nile waters. Ethiopia’s legitimacy is firmer than ever before. There is no doubt in my mind that Ethiopia will emerge as a leading economy over the coming 25 to 50 years; if it resolves its current political crisis and establishes inclusive and participatory governance.

Colonial powers and especially Britain tried to tie Ethiopia’s hands at a time when the country was relatively weak. The May 15 1902 Treaty between Britain and so-called “Abyssinia” regulated the frontier between Ethiopia and the Sudan, a British colony. Article III of this treaty states that “The Emperor Menelik engages not to construct or to allow being constructed any work across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sobat which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile, except in agreement with the governments of Great Britain and the Sudan. “ This and the 1929 agreement weakened Ethiopia’s position in that both set a precedent used by Egypt subsequently to justify unfair and unjust arrangements. The Nile Waters Agreement of 1959 between the Republic of the Sudan and the United Arab Republic of Egypt benefitted from colonial precedents to which Ethiopia is not a party. At the center of all these agreements, the economic principles that the River “needs projects for its full control and for increasing its yield for the full utilization of its waters” are under-scored. It is unthinkable to realize development without a project or program. This same principle of project applies to Ethiopia. “Acquired or historic rights” trace their origins to these types of arrangements that conferred on Egypt and the Sudan exclusive rights to develop and use the Nile. Both countries continue to adhere to these outdated agreements as if the world remains static. “The absurdity of the land of the Blue Nile dying of thirst (during the Great Famine of the 1980s in which 1 million lives were lost; and today in which close to five million Ethiopians face death) was combined with fact that Egypt at that time (l980s) was about to face a similar catastrophe,” had rains not started in Ethiopia. This nature-driven interdependence between Egypt and Ethiopia virtually defines the acrimonious links between two competing societies that depend on the same river to achieve the same goals. “The intensive Egyptian-Ethiopian efforts to reach understanding that resumed in the early 1990s have not been facilitated by old legacies of mutual suspicion…Egypt was not only born of the Nile, it also lives by it, and its dependence increases with the pace of modernization and population growth.” The same forces that deepen Egypt’s dependence on the Nile are shaping Ethiopian society at speeds that no one had anticipated in the last century. I am not referring only to demographic change. Ethiopians aspire to achieve rapid and inclusive modernization, and possess the requisite talent pool and material resources to achieve these goals over the coming decades. The various dams built and proposed reflect this achievable goal. 2/

Ethiopian interest in harnessing and developing its water resources for development are not new. Successive Ethiopian governments tried to persuade the Egyptian and Sudanese governments of Ethiopia’s right to invest in its waters to meet changing needs. In 1960, the Imperial government under Emperor Haile Selassie sponsored a hydroelectric and irrigation feasibility study led by the US Bureau of Reclamation. In July 1964, the group identified 71 locations, 31 water, and 19 specific hydroelectric sites on the Abay River. It recommended the construction of hydroelectric dams that would produce 87 billion kilowatt electricity per year, more than sufficient to meet domestic demand. Irrigation dams of varied sizes would irrigate 430, 000 hectares of land and would meet the food security needs of the country for decades. Breakdowns of the proposals suggest the seriousness of the thinking and the sizes of the projects. One such hydroelectric dam would have been bigger than the Aswan Dam that contains 51 million cubic meters of water; and would generate more electricity than the Aswan Dam. The primary locations identified included Lake Tana, Mendassa near the Sudanese border and Makile. The government was able to realize only the Fincha Dam. The newly proposed Millennium Dam is not radically different in dimension or in location from earlier proposals.3/

Why did the other projects fail to come to fruition? The primary reason is Egyptian intransigence and rejection of any move by Ethiopia to develop its waters. The Tana Beles hydroelectric and irrigation project involving five dams near Lake Tana proposed in 1958–that would have benefitted 200,000 farmers under financing from the African Development Bank– was rejected outright by Egypt. The feasibility study conducted by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Tana Beles project would have effectively transformed the Abay Gorge and Lake Tana into the “primary all-Nile reservoir to supply electricity and irrigation for Ethiopia while significantly enlarging and regulating the amount of water flowing into the Sudan and Egypt. “ The scheme would have benefited Egypt too. Egypt rejected all of the projects and persuaded multilateral financial institutions not to support Ethiopia’s ambitions. This rejection curtailed Ethiopia’s potential in developing its water resources to meet its food demands and to reduce poverty. In 1977, a World Bank study of the Nile concluded that the “Waters of the Nile probably constitute Ethiopia’s greatest natural asset for development. The development of the River Nile in Ethiopia has the potential to contribute significantly to poverty reduction, meet domestic power and food demands, and become a cornerstone of a future export strategy.” 4/

How do riparian states move from intransigence to commonality?

In my view, and as the World Bank study suggests, past arrangements are no longer viable and or acceptable to changing Ethiopian development needs. Governments must recognize the importance of averting the inevitability of war over the Nile. As a step forward, there must be willingness and readiness on all sides to build mutual confidence and trust. Ethiopians feel that the lead responsibility must come from Egypt. In the past and today, Egypt finances(d) and provides()d armaments and safe harbor to secessionist movements such as the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden Liberation Front, and the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front. These and similar activities must cease. The evolving consensus among riparian states and the world community suggests an urgent need for radical shifts in policy and covenants among all parties. Threats and suspicions must give way to win-win options that would serve all parties fairly and equitably. The alternative could be catastrophic for Egypt and Ethiopia in particular. War will have no boundaries; and no one will emerge victorious. Ethiopia is vast enough to develop its water resources without much danger. Those that tried to encircle and weaken it in the past failed because of the unity and patriotism of the population. The key point is that the threat of war is not a viable option. No one including Egypt can win a war that will engulf the entire region. Egypt and Ethiopia need one another not only to survive but also to thrive. Egypt’s priority is to ensure that it has adequate water flow. Ethiopia’s first priority is to achieve food self-sufficiency and security for its growing population. It cannot cope with demand until and unless it harnesses and develops its water resources as optimally as possible without affecting Egypt adversely. Hydroelectric and irrigation infrastructure at a massive-scale is a prerequisite in achieving this urgent goal for Ethiopia. This is a matter of survival, sovereignty, and national security for Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

In light of the above, Ethiopians within and outside the country agree that fair and equitable allocation and use of the Nile is a necessity. The vast majority of 11 riparian states, including South Sudan, endorse this fundamental principle. The Ethiopian government, other riparian states, and independent experts point out to successful examples in the rest of the world where riparian nations negotiated fair and equitable allocation and use of major rivers such as the Mekong, the Amazon, Indus/Ganges, and Okavango. Ethiopian experts suggest that the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) of 1999 provides an institutional framework for genuine negotiations and program implementation that will lead to cooperative development of the Nile. Egypt places numerous conditions on NBI to undermine its effectiveness. Professor Majeed Rahman recognizes that Ethiopia has needs too and points out that “Egypt’s defiance of the NBI and its lack of participation in the NBI’s initial attempt to convene such a cooperative agreement is a crucial aspect of the NBI’s objective to consolidate through cooperation in the negotiation for equitable distribution.” This lack of engagement from and inflexibility by Egypt leads Rahman to conclude that Egypt “has denied other riparian countries complete access to water resources along the Nile and for that matter has exercised her hegemonic power over the development and control of water resources in the Nile River Basin for decades.” 5/

Tesfaye Tadesse believes that Egyptian government attitude in maintaining the status quo began to change slightly for three fundamental reasons:

I)”Pressure” from the global community including the World Bank and UNDP;
ii) “Threats” from riparian states that they will go ahead and develop their waters with or without Egyptian consent; and,
iii) “Changes in Egyptian public and political” sentiments. 6/

This turned out to be an optimistic view in that the Egyptian government has dragged its feet with the hope that other riparian states will be willing to wait for decades more patiently. Egypt continues to adhere to its hard-line policy of maintaining the status-quo. Against this, Ethiopia pursues its ambitious water infrastructure project at a pace never witnessed in the country’s history. This includes “the controversial multibillion-dollar Nile River (Millennium) Dam that could supply 5,000 megawatt of electricity for itself and its neighbors including newcomer South Sudan. “ Ethiopia plans to build four additional dams, “together, 20 dams either built or planned– the largest number in Africa.” Concerns include the environment and the political and diplomatic fallout that could ensue. “Egypt and North Sudan have expressed concern that the mega dam project could seriously reduce the downstream water flow of the Nile River to their countries. “ As worrisome is the lack of a proper environmental and social assessment by the Ethiopian government. In my mind, the Ethiopian government did not consider smaller irrigation and hydroelectric dams that are more cost effective and less costly to maintain. Further, the government initiated these mammoth projects at a time when it is granting millions of hectares of irrigable farmlands to foreign investors from 36 foreign countries. 7/

Is there a way out?

In my view, the most sensible way forward is to accommodate the needs and aspirations of all riparian nations in a fair, equitable and balanced manner. The World Bank, the Canadian Development Agency (CIDA) and the UNDP tried to promote shared, fair and equitable use of the Nile through the auspices of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). It is clear that no single state should have monopoly over the Nile. Article 5 of the UN General Assembly Convention A/51/869, 1997 on the Law of Non-navigational uses of International watercourses recognizes the need for “equitable and reasonable utilization and participation” explicitly. “Watercourse states shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner,” with the intent of serving their social, economic, hydraulic, ecological, conservation, and development needs. NBI is consistent with this UN mandate. This first multilateral initiative provides a solid framework for the 11 riparian states: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, North Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda representing more than 300 million people that depend on the Nile to pursue a shared vision and set of programs along the following lines:

• “Develop the Nile in a sustainable and equitable manner to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples;
• “Ensure cooperation and joint action between riparian countries seeking win-win gains;
• “Target poverty eradication and promote economic integration; and
• “Ensure the program results in a move from planning to action.” 8/

These objectives are noble but require political will. Many years after NBI, there are yet no clear commitments and or political will to advance a cooperative approach. The current impasse on the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) curtailed by Egypt and North Sudan has not been helpful in moving from rhetoric to action. My own view is that it is tantamount to madness for anyone to use force or the threat of force against any African state that assets its right to use its waters to dam, irrigate and feed its starving population. The Egyptian position “We want historical use of the Nile water to be recognized by other Nile Basin countries because this is the only source of water we have,” before it would sign the agreement is irresponsible and restrains MBI. Egypt insists on the three preconditions:

1) Maintain its share of 55.5 billion m3 of water” per the 1959 Treaty;
2) Prior notification by upstream states before they can construct hydroelectric and other projects; and
3) Basin decisions to be mad by consensus not majority vote” giving Egypt veto power. 9/

These three preconditions prevent an otherwise promising agreement from bearing fruit. The spring 2011 high level Egyptian delegation to Ethiopia mirrors the emerging reality on the Nile that requires compromise rather than confrontation. All sides must recognize that fair and equitable allocation of the waters of the Nile is here to stay. Although controversial, the proposed Millennium Dam has galvanized a cross-section of the Ethiopian population. Ethiopia is going ahead with this mammoth project without prior notification thereby reinforcing its sovereignty over waters within its own borders. This is a position many Ethiopian experts defend. Ethiopians may disagree on many political and ideological issues. Disagreement concerning the legitimate right of Ethiopia to use its water resources for the betterment of its people and for its national security should not be among them. 10/

I should like to conclude this article with an optimistic note that riparian nations can derive substantial benefits from a cooperative rather than from unilateral approaches in the use of the Nile River. I am convinced that meaningful dialogue, negotiation and confidence-building rather than destructive and costly confrontation should usher in a new era of cooperative development and shared benefits for the populations of member countries. Within this spirit, governments have an obligation to their respective people to draw upon the state of the art technical, hydraulic, environmental and water resource knowledge and experience that will ensure sustainability and peace, avail waters, protect long-term security, reduce un-necessary sedimentation and loss and promote greater regional economic integration. This is the only legacy that makes sense. It is natural that Ethiopians admire the Egyptian people’s revolution on its own merit. They cannot afford to ignore the adversarial and contentious relations between the two countries that predate Egypt’s Pharos and the Aksumite Empire.

Reference notes
1/ Firew, M. Seifu, Abay: Fengie yekebere wuha. Daraku Publishing Inc. Boston, 2009. The author presents a penetrating notion that, left unaddressed, the Abay River contains the ingredients of a massive “bomb buried in water” and waiting to explode. The Amharic symbolism is not academic. The current famine in the Ogaden and persistent hunger among the Ethiopian population suggest that the demand on the government to respond will be far greater in the future, than it has been over the past 3,000 years of Ethiopian history.

2/ Haggai, Erlic, the Cross-and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder. 2012. Haggai brings to the debate on the Nile a feature often ignored by most experts on the Nile, namely, the broader cultural, historical, religious, and other relationships between Egypt and Ethiopia that reveal commonalities. One commonality is the Coptic faith. Ethiopia is predominantly a Christian country with strong links to the Egyptian population that belongs to the Coptic faith. This long tradition in the evolution of this faith and Ethiopia’s capacity to accommodate all three major faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam portend potential for mutuality that both sides must explore and strengthen.

3/ US Bureau of Reclamation, Land and Water Resources of the Blue Nile. Addis Ababa. July 1964. The Bureau identified that Ethiopia possessed ample irrigable land to meet food self-sufficiency and security for decades to come. Ethiopia would have avoided hunger and would have managed famines on its own if it translated these projects into action.

4/ The World Bank, “The World Bank, Ethiopia and the Nile: a strategy for Ethiopia.” Washington, DC. 1998. Internal draft document. While the Bank endorses Ethiopia’s fundamental rights in the development of the Nile to meet growing demand, it has refrained from financing major hydroelectric and irrigation dam projects. In fact, it role in agricultural development has been disappointing. The Bank continues to present analytical and policy pieces without backing them with real resources.

5/ Rahman, A. Majeed, the Geopolitics of Water in the Nile Basin. Global Research. July 24, 2011. Rahman points out the danger of war in the event that a win-win solution that will serve all parties cannot be reached. In my view, the NBI provides a good framework for further negotiator.

6/ Tafesse, Tesfaye. Water conflict resolution and institution building in the Nile Basin. Monograph 178. Institute for Security Studies.

7/ Than, Ken. Ethiopia: why a massive dam on Nile? National Geography News. July 14, 2011.

8/ International Roundtable: the Nile: sharing experiences, sharing visions. Berlin. 2002
Nine/ Wolde Giorgis, Hailu. Le Abay Wuha Mugit. Addis Ababa University Press. 2001.


Causes of deaths at Ethiopian hospitals – study

Ethiopia is encountering a growing burden of non-communicable diseases along with infectious diseases, perinatal and nutritional problems that have long been considered major problems of public health importance. This retrospective analysis was carried out to examine the mortality patterns from communicable diseases and non communicable diseases in public and private hospitals of Addis Ababa.

Methods: Approximately 47,153 deaths were captured over eight years (2002–2010) in forty three public and private hospitals of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Cardiac CenterData collectors (43 hospital clerks) and coordinators (3 nurses) had been extensively trained on how to review hospital death records. Information obtained included: dates of admission and death, age, sex, address, and principal cause of death.

Only the diseases responsible for deaths are taken as the cause of death. Cause of death was coded using International Classification of Diseases(ICD-10) and data were double entered.

Diseases were classified into: Group I (communicable diseases, maternal conditions and nutritional deficiencies); Group II (non-communicable causes); and Group III (injuries). Percentages, proportional mortality ratios, 95% confidence intervals (CI) and Adjusted odd ratios (OR) were calculated.

Results: Overall, 59% of the deaths were attributed to Group I diseases, and 31% to Group II diseases and 12% to injuries.

Nearly 56% of the males and 68% of the females deaths were due to five leading causes (conditions arising during perinatal period, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory infections). Significantly larger proportions of females died from Group I (67%) and Group II diseases (32%) compared with males (where the respective proportions were 52% and 30%).

Significantly higher proportion of males (17%) than females (6%) were dying from Group III diseases. Deaths due to Group I diseases decreased while those due to Group II diseases increased with age.

Overall Group I diseases and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and still birth mortality in particular have showed decreasing trend while Group II and III increasing over time. Double burden in mortality was highly observed in the age groups of 15–64 years.

Those aged >45 years were dying more likely with non-communicable diseases compared with children. Children aged below 15 years were 16 times more likely to die from communicable, perinatal and nutritional conditions compared with elders.

Mortality variation with age has been identified between public and private hospitals.

Conclusions: The results of the present study shows that, in addition to the common Group I causes of death, emerging group II diseases are contributing to high proportions of mortality in the public and private hospitals of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thus, priority should be given to the prevention and management of conditions arising during perinatal period such as low birth weight and still birth, HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis, respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, malignant neoplasm, chronic respiratory diseases and road traffic accident.

The planning of health resources and activities should take into account the double burden in mortality due to Group I and Group II diseases. This calls for strengthening approaches towards the control and prevention of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular and malignant neoplasm.

By Awoke Misganaw, Damen Haile Mariam, Tekebash Araya and Kidane Ayele
Source: BMC Public Health, Nov. 2012

Journalism is Not Terrorism: EFF

Electronic Freedom Foundation Calling on Ethiopia to Free Eskinder Nega

By Rainey Reitman | Electronic Freedom Foundation

November 19, 2012

Eskinder Nega, an award-winning journalist who has been imprisoned for over a year, appeared briefly in court to appeal the terrorism charges levied against him. Eskinder has unwaveringly denied the charges, maintaining that blogging about human rights abuses and democracy is not a form of terrorism. In July, Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his reporting. In court this week, his appeal was cut short: according to one report EFF received from partners working on his case, Eskinder was not allowed to read his defense statement and the appeal was rescheduled to November 22. We are continuing to seek confirmation about the status of the trial. For now, we’re asking concerned individuals to join us in calling on the Ethiopian government to live up to the promises in their own Constitution and free Eskinder Nega.

While many journalists have either fled Ethiopia or been silenced by repressive policies, Eskinder Nega has become a national symbol for press freedom. Educated in the United States in the 1980s, Nega studied political science and economics at American University. He subsequently returned to Ethiopia where he has worked as a journalist for over twenty years. Nega founded 4 newspapers –all of which were shut down by the Ethiopian government –and has been jailed 9 times in the last two decades for his outspoken articles.

Upon his release from prison in 2007, Nega’s journalism license was revoked and he was banned from working on newspapers. He immediately turned to the Internet and began using blogs to speak out. Some of his work has been published on Ethiomedia, a blog that is inaccessible from inside Ethiopia.

Four years later in 2011, Nega was the recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Peter Godwin, President on the PEN American Center, noted that Eskinder understood the risks of continuing to speak out publicly:

He went back into the breach knowing full well what the risks were for doing so. He had a number of other options. He grew up in the DC area. He could have left the country, but he chose to stay. He’d been arrested 6 or 7 times before, he’s had newspapers closed down. He’s really been hounded by the Ethiopian regime.

Birtukan Midekssa, a former federal judge and opposition leader in Ethiopia, says Nega has been unwavering even in the face of death threats from the police. Midekssa said: “At some point, they told him that, you know, they are tired of arresting him. And they said, this time around, we are not going to arrest you, we are going to kill you. Better stop it. But he can’t, you know. He can’t stop. That’s him.”

Already targeted by police, Eskinder Nega drew even more ire from the Ethiopian government when he continued to blog about the Arab Spring uprisings. Through articles like As Egypt and Yemen protest, wither Ethiopia’s opposition? and Egypt’s and General Tsadkan’s lesson to Ethiopian Generals, Nega discussed the implications of the pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East on Ethiopia. Nega was picked up by the police in February 2011. According to a harrowing account Nega wrote afterwards, he was interrogated at length about his journalism, and the police threatened to seek retribution against him if protests broke out in Ethiopia.

A few months later, he was arrested again. This time, Eskinder Nega was charged with terrorism.

Where are all the Newspapers? The Plight of Independent Press and Ethiopia’s Internet Access

To understand the risk –and importance—of Nega’s work, one must first understand the status of independent media in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Constitution promises to uphold freedom of expression, stating: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice.” But Ethiopia has a dark history of shutting down newspapers and imprisoning journalists.

Immediately prior to the 1990s, there was no independent media to speak of in Ethiopia as the country struggled under a Communist regime and devastating famines. The early 1990s saw major political change in the country. Communism was ousted, a bicameral legislature and judicial system were created, and a new Constitution was written and enacted. Meles Zenawi, who would prove himself deeply aligned with U.S. interests, governed—initially as President, then as Prime Minister. While in some way Zenawi helped Ethiopia to recover after many difficult years of conflict and depravation, his government was marked by an intractable disrespect for human rights and press freedom.

In 1992, Ethiopia issued a Press Proclamation that, in addition to other restrictions on free expression, gave the government the ability to shut down publications that printed “false” information. Ethiopia became one of the leading countries in imprisoning journalists during the 1990s, trailing only Cuba and China.

In the lead up to the 2005 election, there was a brief period of improved journalistic freedom in Ethiopia. However, the aftermath of the controversial election brought a severe crack down on independent media. Even as clashes between government troops and protesters left dozens of civilians dead, law enforcement began a witch-hunt for journalists. Dozens of journalists were arrested and charged with serious crimes such as treason and even genocide. Some of these journalists faced decades in prison or even the death sentence.

The Committee to Protect Journalists described the crackdown:

Along with issuing its “wanted lists,” the government raided newsrooms, blocked newspapers from publishing, and expelled two foreign reporters, including a long-serving Associated Press correspondent. About a dozen exiled Ethiopian journalists were charged in absentia with treason. The U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, which broadcast radio programs into Ethiopia in local languages, were targeted by smear campaigns in state media, endangering their local correspondents…Eight newspapers were shut as a result of criminal indictments and the jailing of their top journalists.

Many of the journalists who were not arrested fled the country or stopped reporting. The few newspapers that survived the purge increased their self-censorship.

Eskinder and his then-pregnant wife, Serkalem Fasil, a newspaper publisher, were both arrested during the 2005 crackdown on dissent. They each spent over a year in prison.

In Ethiopia today, journalism is still a dangerous occupation. In July 2009, the Ethiopian parliament passed the Anti-Terror Proclamation, a sweeping piece of “anti-terrorism” legislation that’s been used to imprison journalists and political dissidents. Amnesty International researcher Claire Beston, who was expelled from Ethiopia in August of last year, has criticized the application of the law, noting: “Since the law has been introduced, it’s been used more to prosecute opposition members and journalists than persons who might be committing so-called terrorist activities.”

Eskinder Nega criticized the anti-terrorism law just before he was arrested for violating it. In the article, Eskinder pointed to Debebe Eshetu, a famous actor, whose imprisonment under the anti-terrorism law Eskinder said “defies logic.”

The problems with press freedom in Ethiopia are compounded because the majority of the population can’t get to the open Internet, which might otherwise give them access to international news outlets.

Part of this is due to difficulties in accessing the Internet at all. Internet penetration in Ethiopia is among the lowest in all of sub-Saharan Africa. According to Open Net Initiative’s 2009 report, the majority of Internet access in the country occurs in Internet café, most of which are in the capital city. These cafes provide slow and unreliable service. As Nega noted in 2011, Internet access in Ethiopia is slow and cumbersome to use: “It is hard to sign in and out of a simple email window. Fast broadband Internet gave birth to the North African revolution, and now the revolution-phobic EPRDF-led Ethiopian government [Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front] is struggling against fast internet access.”

But even Ethiopians who can get online often can’t reach independent, international news. The only telecommunications service provider for all of Ethiopia is the state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (Ethio-Telecom), which heavily censors access to the open Internet. Tests conducted by the Open Net Initiative in September 2012 showed that online political and news sites are heavily blocked within the country.

In June, EFF reported on recent increases in the censorship and surveillance practices in Ethiopia. Ethio-Telecom began deep packet inspection of all Internet traffic in the country, which engineers at the Tor Project discovered when Tor stopped working there in May of this year.

In the same month, the government of Ethiopia ratified the new Telecom Service Infringement Law. This law criminalizes online speech that may be construed as defamatory or terrorist, and holds the website or account owner liable even if the speech is posted as a comment by someone else on their website. Endalk, a prominent Ethiopian blogger, has wondered if this law could be “the most creative way of copying SOPA and PIPA.” The law also tries to squash competition of VOiP services and harshly punishes citizens for using or having in their possession any telecommunications equipment without prior permission from the government.

Through law and practice, through intimidation and arrest, the Ethiopian government has looked to choke off free expression at every corner. It is no wonder than Eskinder Nega is one of the few outspoken journalists still operating inside Ethiopia.

Eskinder’s Current Conditions

While we are unable to receive direct reports from Eskinder about his current physical conditions, our knowledge of the prison system in Ethiopia leaves us gravely concerned.

A country report about Ethiopia produced by the U.S. Department of State, noted:

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. Severe overcrowding was common, especially in sleeping quarters. The government provided approximately eight birr ($0.46) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care…Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional prisons. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities.

Wikileaks published a diplomatic cable that was called “Inside Ethiopia’s jails” that is far more graphic than the State Department’s annual report. The cable, based on reports from several recently released prisoners, detailed extreme deprivation, including:

“Abuses reported include being blindfolded and hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation, forced to stand for over 16 hours, and having heavy objects hung from one’s genitalia (males).”

Even though the cables noted that much of the torture occurred in police station detentions, the threat of torture in the Kaliti Prison (where Eskinder is being held) is still possible. We are deeply concerned about the physical condition of Eskinder.

Freeing Eskinder Nega (and Helping All of Ethiopia’s Imprisoned Journalists)

Freeing Eskinder Nega will help preserve a vital voice for independent journalism in a country that hungers for access to truthful news coverage. It will also serve as inspiration for activists working to free other imprisoned journalists in this country.

The Ethiopian government has released journalists in the past—including Eskinder, several times. Earlier this year, it released and pardoned Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye after substantial international pressure. And in August, Temesghen Desalegn, editor of a leading independent weekly newspaper in Ethiopia, was released and cleared of the criminal charges against him. So we know that activist efforts – including international pressure – can be persuasive to the Ethiopian government. If nothing else, continued international attention can help ensure Eskinder Nega’s safety as he continues to appeal his case.

Here’s how you can get involved:
• Sign PEN American Center’s petition, which automatically an email to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Minister of Justice Berhanu Hailu.
• Send appeals by mail to Ethiopian officials and their local Ethiopian Embassy or Consulate.
• Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Suggested Tweet:
Journalism is not terrorism. Join @PenAmerican and @EFF in fighting to #FreeEskinder Nega.

We’re also going to be changing the EFF Twitter profile image to show a #FreeEskinder banner leading up to Eskinder’s next appeal. We hope you’ll do the same to your own online accounts by using the image located here.

The United States has deep ties with Ethiopia, which is a major military alley for our country in sub-Saharan Africa. EFF is writing an open letter to the US State Department to urge them to speak out on Eskinder’s case to Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister. As the Washington Post stated, Eskinder’s case is “a source of tension and embarrassment to the Obama administration,” whose new Africa strategy makes democracy promotion the number one priority.

We’ll be watching Eskinder’s case closely in the coming months. Follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the campaign.


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Journalism is not terrorism. Join @PenAmerican and @EFF in fighting to free #EskinderNega

Ethiopia: I Remember!

Never Again!

MA2On June 6-8 and November 1-4, 2005, following the Ethiopian parliamentary elections in May of that year, hundreds of citizens who protested the theft of that election were killed or seriously wounded by police and security personnel under the exclusive command and control of the late Meles Zenawi. An official Inquiry Commission established jointly by Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian parliament documented that 193 unarmed men, women and children demonstrating in the streets and scores of other detainees held in a high security prison were intentionally shot and killed by police and security officials. An additional 763 were wounded.

The Commission completely exonerated the victims and pinned the entire blame on the police and paramilitary forces.  The Commission concluded, “There was no property destroyed [by protesters]. There was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade as reported by the government-controlled media that some of the protesters were armed with guns and bombs. [The shots fired by government forces] were not intended to disperse the crowd but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters.”

[Important Note: The Commission’s list of 193 victims includes only those deaths that occured on June 6-8 and November 1-4, 2005, the specific dates the Commission was authorized to investigate. It is believed the Commission has an additional list of victims of extra-judicial killings by government security forces which it did not publicly report because the killings occured outside the dates the Commission was authorized to investigate.]

I remember…

Rebuma E. Ergata, 34, mason; Melesachew D. Alemnew, 16, student; Hadra S. Osman, 22, occup. unknown; Jafar S.  Ibrahim,28,  sm. business; Mekonnen, 17, occup. unknown; Woldesemayat, 27, unemployed; Beharu M. Demlew, occup. unknown; Fekade Negash, 25, mechanic; Abraham Yilma, 17, taxi; Yared B. Eshete, 23, sm. business; Kebede W. G. Hiwot, 17, student; Matios G. Filfilu, 14, student;Getnet A. Wedajo, 48, Sm. business; Endalkachew M. Hunde, 18, occup. unknown; Kasim A. Rashid, 21, mechanic; Imam A. Shewmoli, 22,  sm. business; Alye Y. Issa, 20, laborer; Samson N. Yakob, 23, pub. trspt.; Alebalew A. Abebe, 18, student; Beleyu B. Za, 18, trspt. asst.; Yusuf A. Jamal, 23, occup. student; Abraham S. W.  Agenehu, 23, trspt. asst.; Mohammed H. Beka, 45, farmer; Redela K. Awel, 19, taxi Assit., Habtamu A. Urgaa, 30, sm. Business.  

Dawit F. Tsegaye, 19, mechanic; Gezahegne M. Geremew, 15, student; Yonas A. Abera, 24, occup. unknown; Girma A. Wolde, 38, driver; W/o Desta U. Birru, 37, sm. business; Legese T. Feyisa, 60, mason; Tesfaye D. Bushra, 19, shoe repairman; Binyam D. Degefa, 18, unemployed; Million K. Robi, 32, trspt. asst.; Derege D. Dene, 24,  student; Nebiyu A. Haile, 16, student; Mitiku U. Mwalenda, 24, domestic worker; Anwar K. Surur, 22, sm. business; Niguse Wabegn, 36, domestic worker; Zulfa S. Hasen, 50, housewife; Washun Kebede, 16, student; Ermia F. Ketema, 20, student; 00428, 25, occup. unknown; 00429, 26, occup. unknown; 00430, 30, occup. unknown; Adissu Belachew, 25, occup. unknown; Demeke K. Abebe,uk, occup. unknown; 00432, 22, occup. unknown; 00450, 20, occup. unknown; 13903, 25, occup. unknown; 00435, 30, occup. unknown. 

13906, 25, occup. unknown; Temam Muktar, 25, occup. unknown; Beyne N. Beza, 25, occup. unknown; Wesen Asefa, 25, occup. unknown; Abebe Anteneh, 30, occup. unknow; Fekadu Haile, 25, occup. unknow; Elias Golte, uk, occup. unknown; Berhanu A. Werqa, uk, occup. unknown; Asehber A. Mekuria, uk, occup. unknown; Dawit F. Sema, uk, occup. unknown, Merhatsedk Sirak, 22, occup. unknown; Belete Gashawtena, uk, occup. unknown;  Behailu Tesfaye, 20, occup. unknown; 21760, 18, occup. unknown; 21523, 25, occup. unknown; 11657, 24, occup. unknown; 21520, 25, occup. unknown; 21781, 60, occup. unknown; Getachew Azeze, 45, occup. unknown; 21762, 75, occup. unknown; 11662,45, occup. unknown; 21763, 25, occup. unknown; 13087, 30, occup. unknown; 21571, 25, occup. unknown; 21761, 21, occup. unknown; 21569, 25, occup. unknown; 13088, 30,  occup. unknown; Endalkachew W. Gabriel, 27, occup. unknown.

Hailemariam Ambaye, 20, occup. unknown; Mebratu W. Zaudu,27, occup. unknown; Sintayehu E. Beyene, 14, occup. unknown; Tamiru Hailemichael, uk, occup. unknown; Admasu T. Abebe, 45, occup. unknown; Etenesh Yimam, 50, occup. unknown; Werqe Abebe, 19, occup. unknown; Fekadu Degefe, 27, occup. unknown Shemsu Kalid, 25, occup. unknown; Abduwahib Ahmedin, 30, occup. unknown; Takele Debele, 20, occup. unknown, Tadesse Feyisa,38,  occup. unknown; Solomon Tesfaye, 25, occup. unknown; Kitaw Werqu, 25, occup. unknown; Endalkachew Worqu, 25, occup. unknow; Desta A. Negash, 30, occup. unknown; Yilef Nega, 15, occup. unknown; Yohannes Haile, 20, occup. unknown; Behailu T. Berhanu, 30, occup. unknown; Mulu K. Soresa, 50, housewife, Teodros Gidey Hailu, 23, shoe salesman; Dejene Yilma Gebre, 18, store worker; Ougahun Woldegebriel, 18, student; Dereje Mamo Hasen, 27, carpenter; Regassa G. Feyisa, 55, laundry worker; Teodros Gebrewold, 28, private business. 

Mekonne D. G.Egziaber, 20, mechanic; Elias G. Giorgis, 23, student; Abram A. Mekonnen, 21, laborer; Tiruwerq G.Tsadik, 41, housewife; Henok H. Mekonnen; 28, occup. unknown; Getu S. Mereta, 24, occup. unknown;W/o Kibnesh Meke Tadesse, 52, occup. unknown; Messay A. Sitotaw, 29, private business; Mulualem N. Weyisa, 15, Ayalsew Mamo, 23, occup. unknown; Sintayehu Melese, 24, laborer;  W/o Tsedale A. Birra, 50, housewife; Abayneh Sara Sede, 35, tailor; Fikremariam K. Telila, 18, chauffer; Alemayehu Gerba, 26, occup. unknown; George G. Abebe,36, private trspt.; Habtamu Zegeye Tola, 16, student; Mitiku Z. G. Selassie, 24, student; Tezazu W. Mekruia, 24, private business; Fikadu A. Dalige, 36,  tailor; Shewaga B. W.Giorgis, 38, laborer; Alemayehu E. Zewde, 32, textile worker; Zelalem K. G.Tsadik, 31, taxi driver; Mekoya M. Tadesse, 19, student; Hayleye G. Hussien, 19, student; W/o Fiseha T. G.Tsadik, 23, police employee; Wegayehu Z. Argaw, 26, unemployed.  

Melaku M. Kebede, 19, occup. unknown; Abayneh D. Orra, 25, tailor; W/o Abebch B. Holetu, 50, housewife;  Demeke A. Jenbere, 30, farmer; Kinde M. Weresu, 22, unemployed; Endale A. G.Medhin, 23, private business; Alemayehu T. Wolde,24, teacher; Bisrat T. Demisse, 24, car importer; Mesfin H. Giorgis, 23, private business, Welio H. Dari, 18, private business, Behailu G. G.Medhin, 20, private business; Siraj Nuri Sayed, 18, student; Iyob G.Medhin, 25, student; Daniel W. Mulugeta,25, laborer; Teodros K. Degefa,25, shoe factory worker; Gashaw T. Mulugeta, 24, student; Kebede B. Orke, 22, student; Lechisa K. Fatasa, 21, student; Jagama B. Besha,20, student; Debela O. Guta, 15, student; Melaku T. Feyisa, 16, student; W/o Elfnesh Tekle, 45, occup. unknown; Hassen Dula, 64, occup. unknown; Hussien Hassen Dula, 25, occup. unknown; Dejene Demisse,15, occup. unknown; Name unknown; Name unknown;  Name unknown; Zemedkun Agdew, 18, occup. unknown;  Getachew A. Terefe, 16, occup. unknown; Delelegn K. Alemu, 20, occup. unknown; Yusef M. Oumer,20, occup. unknown.

Mekruria T. Tebedge, 22, occup. unknown; Bademe M. Teshamahu, 20, occup. unknown; Ambaw Getahun,38, occup. unknown; Teshome A. Kidane, 65, health worker; Yosef M. Regassa, uk, occup. unknown; Abiyu Negussie, uk, occup. uk; Tadele S. Behaga,uk, occup. unknown; Efrem T. Shafi,uk, occup. unknown; Abebe H. Hama, uk, occup. unknown; Gebre Molla, uk, occup. unknown; Seydeen Nurudeen, uk, occup. unknown; Eneyew G. Tsegaye, 32, trspt. asst; Abdurahman H. Ferej, 32, wood worker; Ambaw L. Bitul, 60, leather factory worker; Abdulmenan Hussien, 28, private business; Jigsa T. Setegn, 18, student; Asefa A. Negassa, 33, carpenter; Ketema K. Unko, 23, tailor; Kibret E. Elfneh, 48, private guard; Iyob G. Zemedkun, 24, private business; Tesfaye B. Megesha,15, private business; Capt. Debesa S. Tolosa, 58, private business;Tinsae M. Zegeye,14,  tailor;Kidana G. Shukrow,25, laborer;Andualem Shibelew, 16, student; Adissu D. Tesfahun, 19, private business; Kassa Beyene Yror,28, clothes sales; Yitagesu Sisay,22, occup. unknown; Unknown, 22, occup. unknown.

Government security officers killed by friendly fire (security officers killed in crossfire):  Nega Gebre, Jebena Desalegn,  Mulita Irko, Yohannes Solomon, Ashenafi Desalegn, Feyia Gebremenfes.

List of prisoners massacred while trapped in their cells at Kaliti Prison on November 2, 2005:

1. Teyib Shemsu Mohammed, age unknown, male, charged with instigating armed insurrection. 2. Sali Kebede, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 3. Sefiw Endrias Tafesse Woreda, age unknown, male, charged with rape. 4. Zegeye Tenkolu Belay, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 5. Biyadgligne Tamene, age unknown, male, charges unknown. 6. Gebre Mesfin Dagne, age unknown, male, charges unknown. 7. Bekele Abraham Taye, age unknown, male, charged with hooliganism. 8. Abesha Guta Mola, age unknown, male, charges unknown. 9. Kurfa Melka Telila, convicted of making threats.

10.Begashaw Terefe Gudeta, age unknown, male, charged with brawling [breach of peace]. 11. Abdulwehab Ahmedin, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 12. Tesfaye Abiy Mulugeta, age unknown, male, charged with instigating armed insurrection. 13. Adane Bireda, age unknown, male, charged with murder. 14. Yirdaw Kersema, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 15. Balcha Alemu Regassa, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 16. Abush Belew Wodajo, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 17. Waleligne Tamire Belay, age unknown, male, charged with rape. 18. Cherinet Haile Tolla, age unknown, male, convicted of robbery. 19. Temam Shemsu Gole, age unknown, male, no charges indicated.

20. Gebeyehu Bekele Alene, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 21. Daniel Taye Leku, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 22. Mohammed Tuji Kene, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 23. Abdu Nejib Nur, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 24. Yemataw Serbelo, charged with rape. 25. Fikru Natna’el Sewneh, age unknown, male, charged with making threats. 26. Munir Kelil Adem, age unknown, male, charged with hooliganism. 27. Haimanot Bedlu Teshome, age unknown, male, convicted of infringement. 28. Tesfaye Kibrom Tekne, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 29. Workneh Teferra Hunde, age unknown, male, no charges indicated.

30. Sisay Mitiku Hunegne, charged with fraud. 31. Muluneh Aynalem Mamo, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 32. Taddese Rufe Yeneneh, charged with making threats. 33. Anteneh Beyecha Qebeta, age unknown, male, charged with instigating armed insurrection. 34. Zerihun Meresa, age unknown, male, convicted of damage to property. 35. Wogayehu Zerihun Argaw, charged with robbery. 36. Bekelkay Tamiru,  age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 37. Yeraswork Anteneh, age unknown, male, charged with fraud. 38. Bazezew Berhanu, age unknown, male, charged with engaging in homosexual act. 39. Solomon Iyob Guta, age unknown, male, charged with rape.

40. Asayu Mitiku Arage, age unknown, male, charged with making threats. 41. Game Hailu Zeye, age unknown, male, charged with brawling [public disorder] 42. Maru Enawgaw Dinbere, age unknown, male, charged with rape. 43. Ejigu Minale, age unknown, male, charged with attempted murder. 44. Hailu Bosne Habib, age unknown, male, convicted of providing sanctuary. 45. Tilahun Meseret, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 46. Negusse Belayneh, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 47. Ashenafi Abebaw, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 48. Feleke Dinke, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 49. Jenbere Dinkineh Bilew, age unknown, male, charged with brawling [public disorder].

50. Tolesa Worku Debebe, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 51. Mekasha Belayneh Tamiru, age unknown, male, charged with hooliganism. 52. Yifru Aderaw, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 53. Fantahun Dagne, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 54. Tibebe Wakene Tufa, age unknown, male, charged with instigating armed insurrection. 55. Solomon Gebre Amlak, age unknown, male, charged with hooliganism. 56. Banjaw Chuchu Kassahun, age unknown, male, charged with robbery. 57. Demeke Abeje, age unknown, male, charged with attempted murder. 58. Endale Ewnetu Mengiste, age unknown, male, no charges indicated. 59. Alemayehu Garba, age unknown, male, detained in connection with Addis Ababa University student  demonstration in 2004.  60. Morkota Edosa, age unknown, male, no charges indicated.

For the RecordThere is a certified list of at least 237 police and security officers known to be directly involved in these massacres. They should all be brought to justice immediately!

I remember Yenesew Gebre 

yeOn 11/11/11, Yenesew Gebre, a 29 year-old Ethiopian school teacher and human rights activist set himself ablaze outside a public meeting hall in the town of Tarcha located in Dawro Zone in Southern Ethiopia. He died three days later from his injuries.  Before torching himself, Yenesew told a gathered  crowd outside of a meeting hall, “In a country where there is no justice and no fair administration, where human rights are not respected, I will sacrifice myself so that these young people will be set free.”

I remember…

“I remember the killers, I remember the victims, even as I struggle to invent a thousand and one reasons to hope.  Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair. Hope is possible beyond despair.”

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate



For a complete list of victims released by the official Inquiry Commission investigating the post-2005 election violence, see: