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Meles Zenawi

Gen. Samora Yenus in a German hospital – update

UPDATE – December 28, 2012: Ethiopian Review sources are reporting that armed forces chief of staff Gen. Samora Yenus is back in a Germany hospital. In August, we reported that Samora, looking frail, returned to Addis Ababa to attend dictator Meles Zenawi’s funeral, and that he will return to the hospital.

UPDATE – August 21, 2012: Samora Yenus has been observed at Bole Airport today along with other TPLF junta officials receiving Meles Zenawi’s body. Our sources have verified that he returned to Addis Ababa two days ago from Germany, but he will return to continue his medical treatment.

Samora YenusThe late Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi’s military chief of staff, Gen. Samora Yenus, is currently in Essen, Germany, receiving medical treatment.

Doctors at Essen University Hospital have diagnosed Samora with Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, which is a symptom of AIDS, according to Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit sources.

Samora was taken to Bole Airport by ambulance after he collapsed following a TPLF meeting last week, and flown to Germany.

Lt. General Seare Mekonnen is now in charge of the armed forces in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa reported.

SMNE Message for Christmas

Ethiopia can be transformed but the change we seek should start from within our own souls and hearts

Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)

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December 25, 2012

Dear Colleagues and Friends;

As many of our fellow Ethiopians of Christian faith gather with family and friends over the next days to celebrate one of the most important of Christian holidays, we in the SMNE (the Board Members, Task Force Leaders, Volunteers and Interns) want to extend our warmest greetings. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or of another belief, this can be a time to reflect on how we might bring good will, encouragement and help to others we know or meet as well as to those—some of whom are loved ones—who are struggling back home in Ethiopia or in another foreign country throughout the world where they may have sought refuge. The real stories of these people tell us of the great effort it takes to just survive. All of the problems we Ethiopians are facing within the country or outside of it are because we lack freedom, justice, security and prosperity in our homeland.

If we had a government which cared about all the people and gave them equal opportunity, we may not be hearing the heartbreaking stories of Ethiopians suffering throughout the world as they seek a better life outside their country that boasts of double-digit economic growth. Please open this links below to view the sad and shocking details of the numbers New Arrivals in Yemen Comparison 2009-2012 and difficulties being faced by these Ethiopians and others from the Horn of Africa. Those remaining in Ethiopia have a daily struggle to just provide for themselves and their families.


Ethiopia has become a country where the poor have been neglected while those with power go after the most vulnerable for the little they have. Land is confiscated in the rural areas and homes are bulldozed down in the cities. The people are displaced and forgotten. The disparity of power, voice and control has created an impenetrable ceiling which obstructs the majority from ever rising above it despite hard work, perseverance and talent. 


The message of Christmas is that Christ came for all—that there is no obstruction or favoritism. This same principle of serving all people as equally valuable and worthy of justice and opportunity—rather than just ethnic group or elitist group—should also apply to the Ethiopian government if a society is going to be healthy, successful and prosperous. In fact, Christianity teaches that those who push others aside and trample on their rights will be last, at best, while the meek and poor of the world will be first.

Those of us of Abrahamic faith backgrounds—Jews, Muslims and Christians—can embrace the rightness of this kind of justice, liberty and dignity for all people. It is also a universal value. Look at the struggle of Ethiopian Muslims right now as many rise up to seek freedom to worship without government interference—a right enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution—but also a God-given principle. God has always wanted hearts freely and wholly given to Him—not forced or manipulated. Nothing short of that really means anything to Him. This is why no genuine religious group wants the government to appoint their leaders. Now, many Muslim leaders are locked up in jail for demanding such freedom as well as dignity, truth and the respect for human rights. 

Countless other courageous and principled Ethiopians share their plight. Just this week, Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and Mesfin Negash were honored with awards from Human Rights Watch for their brave efforts to freely express themselves in one of the most repressive countries for journalists in all of Africa. The first three are imprisoned but Mesfin Negash was forced to leave the country. He is one of many Ethiopians who have left the country to escape imprisonment or other harsh consequences for speaking the truth.

We grieve as we hear repeated reports of the young Ethiopian women and men who are so desperate to support their families and to find a future for themselves that they become easy prey for human traffickers, unscrupulous maid recruiters or exploitive employers; often ending up living under such deplorable circumstances in some Middle Eastern countries that they have been driven to take desperate actions; sometimes against others, sometimes against themselves.

As you can see from the map of the Mixed Migration in Horne of Africa and Yemen linked below At great risk of harm, over the last year, tens or hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have embarked to places unknown only to end up in dire, if not deadly, situations. You can also see the link to learn more about the Regional mixed migration summary for November 2012 covering mixed migration events, trends and data for Djibouti, Eritrea/Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Puntland, Somalia, Somaliland and Yemen.

Just reading the news over the last few months will tell of Ethiopians detained in Yemen, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Malta, Libya, Israel, Norway, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. We in the SMNE try to do our best to help where there are problems but the need is overwhelming and is impossible to adequately address.

As Ethiopians gather together here in the Diaspora, many worry about family members at home or are feeling a loss because some of their loved ones are missing from their tables. They may not know their whereabouts or may not know about the conditions of these family and friends because they are imprisoned or have left the country. Some may have died.

Even though the situation appears grim, we can still be hopeful. When we first look, we may miss the light at the end of the tunnel, but look again. God has not abandoned us, Ethiopians. He is still sovereign over the earth. With God’s help, Ethiopia can be transformed but the change we seek should start from within our own souls and hearts, changing us and then leading us to educate those who have taken the property, opportunity, freedom, justice and dignity from others and think it is okay.

There is a penalty within the person who commits these crimes—it is a lost soul. When we lose our souls, we have nothing but darkness and emptiness, regardless of our material possessions. We should not be blinded by short-term pleasures so we lose our way in this life. Part of losing our way is turning away from the pain and misery of our fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters when we can help do something about it. They are us—part of the body of Ethiopians, part of our family. 

On the other hand, not a single Ethiopian leader or organization can plant freedom in the minds of Ethiopians where the people have cooperated in their own enslavement to fear, passivity and inaction. That flawed image of ourselves does not come from God but is grounded in the feudalism of Haile Selassie, the communism of Mengistu and the dehumanizing ethnic tribalism of Meles Zenawi—all dictatorial regimes that sought to control the people through fear, terror, division and the devaluing of others. These lies about ourselves have made us forget our God-given human worth, dignity and potential, endowed to each of us through our Creator.

Fear is a powerful but well-used tactic of any repressive regime and freedom can only emerge in Ethiopia as people begin to reclaim their God-given dignity. This includes reclaiming the God-given dignity for others; putting humanity before ethnicity or any other distinctions and caring about each and every human being for no one will be free until all are free. Hope alone cannot do the work. Neither can it be done by the SMNE or other groups alone. Instead, with God’s help, each of us can contribute our share to transform Ethiopia into a hospitable home for its people. May God remind us to see others as we see ourselves and may we listen closely to God’s call to stand up for righteousness as the best path to a New Ethiopia.

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Esteem Supporters;

At this time will you please consider making a donation to the SMNE. Part of working together to reach this goal of making Ethiopia a real home for our people is by doing our share. No matter how much you believe in this effort, we in the SMNE must raise a significant amount of support to cover the expenses of this work. Can you consider giving a regular monthly gift of $20 or more or an end-of-the-year donation to cover a budget short-fall and to launch new efforts in 2013? You may use a bank/credit card for this transaction. This is the best option for international donors. Here is the link: for those who choose to donation/recurrent donation and enter an amount. Please encourage others to contribute $20 a month or more. We have been trying to find 120 people who can contribute $20 a month. Is there any way you can help us spread the world? We cannot do it without you. Whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated. Please see our website for instructions for online giving or send a check or money order to: SMNE, P.O. Box 857, Stillwater, MN 55082.

May the light of Christmas encourage and empower us to never give up and to never lose hope like the powerful lyrics in the recent inspiring song sung by Jamaican-born and Bronx-raised Garrison Hawk, two of the most brilliant musicians of our time, Gigi and Teddy Afro, “Survival 2013!”. Here is the link to the Survive lyrics:

Another song beautifully sung by a talented Ethiopian vocalist, Hanisha Solomon, calls us to come together not only as Ethiopians but as Africans. Here is the link That song, “Africa Unite,” reminds us that what binds us together is stronger than what separates us. Music is a powerful weapon if used to reach our hearts and souls for what is right and good. May you have a blessed season.

Sincerely your severance,


Obang Metho,

Executive Director of the SMNE,

Email: [email protected]


PM Hailemariam Desalegn expresses frustration to close confidants

Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has expressed frustration with the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) to a group of close friends he recently met. One long time friend of the prime minister (who wants to remain anonymous) told Ethiopian Review today that Hailemariam is finding it impossible to get cooperation from the TPLF members who are dominating the bureaucracy and military on a number of issues, most particularly making personnel decisions. TPLF officials also keep him in the dark on national security matters and he doesn’t get timely reports as a commander-in-chief.

Ethiopian Review’s source also said Hailemariam wants to give amnesty to all political prisoners, but hardliners in the TPLF-dominated state security are dead set against it.

Asked if Hailemariam is concerned about his security, the source said that all his family and friends are extremely worried, but Hailemariam himself doesn’t seem to be concerned.

Hailemariam wants to mend relations with the Eritrean government and he was furious that the Ethiopian football federation requested change of venue for the scheduled soccer match with Eritrea. Hailemariam believes that peaceful relations with Eritrea will solve most of the security issues in the region. However, TPLF leaders believe that Eritrea policy is their domain and they don’t want Hailemariam to come near it, Ethiopian Review source said.

The Nile river dam project is another area where Hailemariam feels that he is being sabotaged. Ever since the late dictator Meles Zenawi died last July, the TPLF has almost completely withdrawn support for the project, which is currently facing a crippling shortage of funds. Construction workers are not being paid on time, and critical supplies and equipments are not arriving. Much of the funds that have been collected so far have also been unaccounted for, the source said.

Ethiopia 2012: Human Rights and Government Wrongs

Another Groundhog Year

In December 2008, I wrote a weekly commentary lamenting the fact that 2008 was “Groundhog Year” in Ethiopia:

It was a repetition of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004… Everyday millions of Ethiopians woke up only to find themselves trapped in a time loop where their lives replayed like a broken record. Each “new” day is the same as the one before it: Repression, intimidation, corruption, incarceration, deception, brutalization and human rights violation… They have no idea how to get out of this awful cycle of misery, agony, despair and tribulation. So, they pray and pray and pray and pray… for deliverance from Evil!

It is December 2012. Are Ethiopians better off today than they were in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011? 

Does bread (teff) cost more today than it did in 2008…, a year ago? Cooking oil, produce, basic staples, beef, poultry, housing, water, electricity, household fuel, gasoline…?

Are there more poor people in Ethiopia today than there were in 2008? More hunger, homelessness, unemployment, less health care, fewer educational opportunities for young people?

Is there more corruption and secrecy and less transparency and accountability in December 2012 than in December 2008?

Are elections more free and fair in 2012 than in 2008?

Are there more political prisoners today than in 2008?

Is there less press freedom and are more journalists in prison today than in 2008?

Is Ethiopia more dependent on international handouts for its daily bread today than it was in 2008?

Is there more environmental pollution, habitat destruction, forced human displacement and land grabbing in Ethiopia today than 2008?

Is Ethiopia today still at the very bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index?

The Evidence on Government Wrongs in Ethiopia in 2012

Human rights violations in Ethiopia continue to draw sharp and sustained condemnation from all of the major international human rights organizations and other legal bodies. In 2012, the ruling regime in that country has become intensely repressive and arrogantly intolerant of all dissent and opposition. The regime continues to trash its own Constitution, sneer at its international legal obligations and thumb its nose at its critics. Though some incorrigible optimists hoped a post-Meles regime would open up the political space, reach out to opposition elements and at least engage in human rights window dressing, the nauseating litany of those who are falling head over heels to fit into Meles’ shoes has been “there will be no change. We will (blindly) follow Meles’ vision…” In other words, 2013, 2014, 2015… will be no better than 2012 or 2008.

The evidence of sustained and massive official human rights violations in Ethiopia is overwhelming and irrefutable. Let the evidence speak for itself.

The U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia (May 2012) concluded:

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…

Human Rights Watch concluded: 

Ethiopian authorities continued to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Hundreds of Ethiopians in 2011 were arbitrarily arrested and detained and remain at risk of torture and ill-treatment. Attacks on political opposition and dissent persisted throughout 2011, with mass arrests of ethnic Oromo, including members of the Oromo political opposition in March, and a wider crackdown with arrests of journalists and opposition politicians from June to September 2011. The restrictive Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (adopted in 2009) has been used to justify arrests of both journalists and members of the political opposition…

Freedom House concluded:

Ethiopia is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, with a score of 6 for both political rights and civil liberties.  Political life in Ethiopia is dominated by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which was led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi from 1995 until his death in August 2012. May 2011 federal and regional elections were tightly controlled by the EPRDF; voters were threatened if they did not support the ruling party, and opposition meetings were broken up while leaders were threatened or detained.  The EPRDF routinely utilizes the country’s anti-terrorism laws to target opposition leaders and the media.  Parliament has declared much of the opposition to be terrorist groups and has targeted journalists who cover any opposition activity.  Media is dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers.  A 2009 law greatly restricts NGO activity in the country by prohibiting work in the area of human and political rights and limiting the amount of international funding any organization may receive.  This law has neutered the NGO sector in the country.  The judiciary is independent in name only, with judgments that rarely deviate from government policy.

Amnesty International urged that the “government of Ethiopia should see the succession of Meles as an opportunity to break with the past and end the practice of arresting anyone and everyone who criticizes the government.”

A group of U.N. Special Rapporteurs (an independent group of investigating experts authorized by the United Nations Human Rights Council) in 2012 issued public statements condemning the ruling regime for its indiscriminate use of the so-called anti-terrorism law to suppress a broad range of freedoms and for flagrantly perpetuating and sanctioning human rights violations.

Maina Kiai, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, concluded, “The resort to anti-terrorism legislation is one of the many obstacles faced by associations today in Ethiopia. The Government must ensure protection across all areas involving the work of associations, especially in relation to human rights issues.”

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights warned that “the anti-terrorism provisions should not be abused and need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law to ensure that they do not go counter to internationally guaranteed human rights.”

Frank La Rue, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression stated that “Journalists play a crucial role in promoting accountability of public officials by investigating and informing the public about human rights violations. They should not face criminal proceedings for carrying out their legitimate work, let alone be severely punished.”

Margaret Sekaggya, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders criticized that “journalists, bloggers and others advocating for increased respect for human rights should not be subject to pressure for the mere fact that their views are not in alignment with those of the Government [of Ethiopia].”

Gabriela Knaul, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers argued that  “Defendants in a criminal process should be considered as innocent until proven guilty as enshrined in the Constitution of Ethiopia… And it is crucial that defendants have access to a lawyer during the pre-trial stage to safeguard their right to prepare their legal defence.”

On December 18, 2012, 16 members of the European Parliament issued a public letter to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn “expressing grave concern over the continued detention of journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega”. In the letter, the members reminded Desalegn to comply with his “government’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression as established under customary international law and codified in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party.”

The Regime Must Cease and Desist All Unlawful Interference in the Exercise of Religious Freedom

Article 11 of the Ethiopian Constitution  mandates “separation of state and religion” to ensure that the “Ethiopian State is a secular state” and that “no state religion” is established. Article 27 prohibits “coercion by force or any other means, which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

Despite clear legal obligations to respect the religious liberties of citizens, the ruling regime in Ethiopia has played fast and loose with the rights of Muslim citizens to select their own religious and spiritual leaders. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body constituted by the Congress and the President of the United States to monitor religious freedom worldwide:

Since July 2011, the Ethiopian government has sought to impose the al-Ahbash Islamic sect on the country’s Muslim community, a community that traditionally has practiced the Sufi form of Islam.   The government also has manipulated the election of the new leaders of the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC).  Previously viewed as an independent body, EIASC is now viewed as a government-controlled institution.  The arrests, terrorism charges and takeover of EIASC signify a troubling escalation in the government’s attempts to control Ethiopia’s Muslim community and provide further evidence of a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia. Muslims throughout Ethiopia have been arrested during peaceful protests: On October 29, the Ethiopia government charged 29 protestors with terrorism and attempting to establish an Islamic state.

The regime must conform its conduct to the requirements of its Constitution and international legal obligations and cease and desist interference in the free exercise of religion of Muslim citizens. All citizens unlawfully arrested and detained in connection with the peaceful protest of unlawful deprivation of religious liberty must be released forthwith.

All Political Prisoners Must be Released

The number of political prisoners has yet to be fully documented in Ethiopia today. While human rights organizations have focused on multiple dozens of high profile political prisoners, there are in fact tens of thousands of ordinary Ethiopians who are held in detention because of their beliefs, open opposition or refusal to support the ruling regime. All political prisoners must be released immediately.

In a broader sense, there are two types of political prisoners in Ethiopia today. There are prisoners of conscience  and prisoners-of-their-own-consciences. The prisoners of conscience are imprisoned because they are dissidents, opposition party leaders and journalists. They have done no legal or moral wrong. In fact, they have done what is morally and legally right. They have told the truth. They have spoken truth to power. They have stood up to injustice. They have defended freedom, democracy and human rights by paying the ultimate price with their lives and liberties. They can be set free by the stroke of the pen.

The prisoners-of-their-own-consciences became prisoners by committing crimes against humanity in the first degree with the lesser included offenses of the crimes of ignorance, arrogance and  petulance. These prisoners are numbed by the opiate of power. They live in fear and anxiety of being held accountable any given day. They dread the day the wrath of the people will be visited upon them. They know with certainty that they will one day be judged by the very scales they have used to judge others.

The prisoners-in-their-own-conscience can free the prisoners of conscience and thereby free themselves. That is their only salvation. In the alternative, let them heed Gandhi’s dire warning: “There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall—think of it always.”

Stop Repressing the Press

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” That rings true for the ruling regime in Ethiopia. Last week three imprisoned and one exiled Ethiopian journalists received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett Award for 2012 “in recognition of their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most restricted media environments”. The recipients included Eskinder Nega, an independent journalist and blogger and recipient of the 2012 PEN International freedom to Write Award;  Reeyot Alemu, one of the few Ethiopian female journalists associated with the officially shuttered weekly newspaper Feteh and recipient of the 2012 International Women’s Media Courage in Journalism Award; Woubshet Taye, editor of the officially shuttered weekly newspaper Awramba Times and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online, another weekly officially shuttered before going online. The four were among a diverse group of 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries to receive the Hellman/Hammett Award.According to Human Rights Watch:

The four jailed and exiled journalists exemplify the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today. Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.  The journalistic work and liberty of the four Ethiopian award-winners has been suppressed by the Ethiopian government in its efforts to restrict free speech and peaceful dissent, clamp down on independent media, and limit access to and use of the internet. They represent a much larger group of journalists in Ethiopia forced to self-censor, face prosecution, or flee the country.

All dictators and tyrants in history have feared the enlightening powers of the independent press. Total control of the media remains the wicked obsession of all modern day dictators who believe that by controlling the flow of information, they can control the hearts and minds of their citizens.  But that is only wishful thinking. As Napoleon realized, “a journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns and a tutor of nations.” Like Napoleon, the greatest fear of the dictators in Ethiopia is the “tutoring” aspect of the press — teaching, informing, enlightening and empowering the people with knowledge. They understand the power of the independent press to effectively countercheck their tyrannical rule and hold him accountable before the people. Like Napoleon, they have spared no effort to harass, jail, censor and muzzle journalists for criticizing and exposing their criminality, use of a vast network of spies to terrorize Ethiopian society, shining the light of truth on their military and policy failures, condemning their indiscriminate massacres of unarmed citizen protesters in the streets and for killing, jailing and persecuting their  political opponents.

All imprisoned journalists must be released immediately.

“Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” JFK

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:


16 European Parliament members sent a letter to PM Hailemairma Desalegn asking him to free Eskinder Nega

Today, 16 members of the European Parliament issued a public letter to Ethiopian Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn expressing their grave concern regarding the continued detention of imprisoned journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega.

Arrested in 2011 and detained without access to an attorney for nearly two months, Mr. Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison under the country’s broad 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation on July 13, 2012. Mr. Nega’s arrest and prosecution came after he wrote online articles and spoke publicly about the possibility of an Arab Spring-like movement taking place in Ethiopia. After his sentencing, the government initiated proceedings to seize his assets, including the home still used by his wife and young son. An appeal hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday, December 19th.

The letter, notes that the Ethiopian government has an obligation to uphold the right to free expression and reminds the newly appointed Prime Minister that he has “the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations.” The letter closes by urging the Prime Minister to take all measures within his power “to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nega.”

“This is an important recognition by members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum that the right to free expression is universal and must be respected by the Ethiopian government,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “Mr. Nega has been wrongfully detained in Ethiopia in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and he must be released.”

The text of the letter is copied below and a full PDF of the letter can be found at the below link. Freedom Now, a legal advocacy organization that represents prisoners of conscience around the world, serves as international pro bono counsel to Mr. Nega.

Source: Freedom Now


Dear Prime Minister Desalegn,

We write to express our grave concern regarding the continued detention of independent Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega and urge you to facilitate his immediate release.

Mr. Nega, a longtime publisher and journalist, was arrested in 2011 and charged under the country’s 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation after he wrote and spoke publicly about the Arab-Spring movements then unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. Although clearly sympathetic, Mr. Nega consistently emphasized that any similar movements in Ethiopia must remain peaceful. Despite this, the government of your predecessor Prime Minister Meles Zenawi arrested Mr. Nega, held him without access to family for nearly one month and without access to an attorney for nearly two months, and ultimately sentenced him to 18 years in prison. Even now, reports indicate that proceedings are underway to seize Mr. Nega’s home, where his wife and young son continue to live.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nega is not alone—journalists Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu have also received long prison sentences on terror charges. In response to your government’s use of the 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation against journalists and opposition leaders, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and five United Nations Special Rapporteurs—including the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights—have all expressed alarm at this worrying trend. As some have noted, the use of vague anti-terror legislation to silence legitimate expression threatens to seriously undermine the credibility of efforts to address real security threats to the region.

It is our understanding that appeal proceedings in Mr. Nega’s case are ongoing and we respect your need to allow the judicial process to continue. However, it is also your government’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression as established under customary international law and codified in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party.

You now have the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations. As such, we urge you to take all measures within your power to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nega.


Alexander Graf Lambsdorff
Ana Gomes
Charles Tannock
Eduard Kukan
Eija-Riitta Korhola
Emilio Menendez del Valle
Fiona Hall
Frank Engel
Kinga Gál
Laima Liucija Andrikienė
Maria Da Graça Carvalho
Mariya Gabriel

Susan Rice built her career on catering to authority, even some of Africa’s most loathsome dictators

By Jacob Heilbrunn | The Daily Beast

With her decision to withdraw from consideration as secretary of state, Susan Rice—and her greatest champion, President Obama—is finally bowing to the inevitable. Her supporters concocted any number of reasons to promote her ascension to the top floor of Foggy Bottom. She was, they said, being demonized by the right. She was being subjected to racism. She was just trying to please her superiors. And so on.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria in August in New York. (Stephen Chernin/AFP/Getty Images)

Don’t believe a word of it. The real problem is not that she bungled Libya. It’s that she should never have been ambassador to the United Nations in the first place—let alone become secretary of state.

Until recently, Rice was smoothly on track to become the Edmund Hillary of foreign-policy strivers. But unlike the legendary climber, she only glimpsed but never quite reached the summit. Her entire career has been based less on solid accomplishment than on her networking skills. In that regard, she exquisitely represents her generation, which largely consists of unwise men and women.

Even a cursory look at Rice’s résumé should induce some queasiness. Essentially, she was molded in Washington, D.C. She punched all the right tickets—National Cathedral School, Stanford, Rhodes scholarship, Brookings Institution. She is a perfect creature of the Beltway. But the downside is that there is scant evidence that she ever flourished outside the cozy ecosystem of the foreign-policy establishment.

It has not always been thus. Henry Kissinger produced serious books about international affairs. Further back, Dean Acheson was a successful lawyer. James Baker was both a shrewd lawyer and political operative whose wheeler-dealer skills translated well into dealing with foreign allies and adversaries. Now it’s not necessary to be all of these things at once. No one would claim that Hillary Clinton is a Kissingerian-style intellectual. But Clinton’s stature and political prowess allowed her to crack heads during the recent Gaza crisis.

What would Rice have brought to the State Department? The most she seems to have accomplished outside the foreign-policy world is to serve a stint as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. Otherwise, she has produced no memorable books or articles or even op-ed essays. The most interesting thing about Rice has been the kerfuffle over her move to become secretary of state.

Perhaps it should not be altogether surprising that her record in Africa seems to have been one of catering to some of the most loathsome dictators in the region.

Throughout, her most distinguishing trait seems to be an eagerness to please her superiors, which is entirely consistent with how she rode the escalator to success. Want to avoid declaring that genocide is taking place in Rwanda? Go to Rice. Want to fudge the facts in Libya? Rice is there again. Obama had it right when he observed that she “had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received.” But why, as Maureen Dowd asked, didn’t she question it? The answer is simple: because she rarely, if ever, questions authority. Instead she has made a career out of catering to it.

Perhaps, then, it should not be altogether surprising that her record in Africa seems to have been one of catering to some of the most loathsome dictators in the region. She fell over herself to praise the late Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi in September.

In a keen analysis in the National Journal, Michael Hirsh noted that she has come under severe fire from human-rights activists for her insouciance about Africa and that, “recently, during a meeting at the U.N. mission of France, after the French ambassador told Rice that the U.N. needed to do more to intervene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rice was said to have replied: ‘It’s the eastern DRC. If it’s not M23, it’s going to be some other group,’” according to an account given by a human-rights worker who spoke with several people in the room. (Rice’s spokesman said he was familiar with the meeting, but did not know if she made the comment.)

Once again, this may not have been her personal predilection, but Rice was only too happy to try and bury foreign-policy problems rather than confront them.

Now that Rice has fallen short, she may be succeeded at the U.N. by her former antagonist Samantha Power, who originally reported that Rice had worked to whitewash events in Rwanda. Unlike Rice, Power has traveled extensively in dangerous regions, combining the professions of journalist and activist. She resembles a modern Rebecca West. Whether the acidulous Power can ultimately muster the diplomatic skills to surpass Rice will be one of the tantalizing mysteries of Obama’s second term. For now, it appears that Obama will select either John Kerry or Chuck Hagel to run the State Department. It will allow Rice to try and once more burnish her résumé. But the amazing thing isn’t that she failed to become secretary of state. It’s that Rice rose as high as she did.