The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington is an important occasion for all those fighting for freedom. Ethiopian-Americans have been among the beneficiaries of the struggles waged by Dr. King and the civil rights movement.
The ebony kinship that binds Ethiopian-Americans and African-Americans have deep roots. His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I was among the first African leaders to lay a wreath on Dr. King’s grave.
“I found it quite necessary to lay a wreath on Dr. King’s grave so that we may remember his deeds and contributions to history, and his triumphs – and to honor his father and his wife.” the Emperor said.
The government expands the mobile-phone network but tightens its grip
It’s China calling
ETHIOPIA has Africa’s last big telecoms monopoly. The absence of competition has seen a country of more than 80m lag badly behind the rest of the continent in an industry that has generally burgeoned alongside economic growth. Mobile-phone penetration, which averages 70% of the population elsewhere in Africa, is closer to 25% in Ethiopia. A paltry 2.5% of Ethiopians have access to the internet, compared with 40% in neighbouring Kenya.
Ethiopia’s authoritarian leaders are as keen as any on the economic benefits of modern telecoms but fear the political ramifications; pesky dissidents become even more irritating when wired. That explains a $1.6 billion agreement with China’s two leading telecoms-equipment companies to upgrade its network. The deal with Huawei and ZTE will preserve Ethiopia’s state dominance and further put off the opening up of one of Africa’s largest economies.
What the government wants from China are cheap loans and more control over its citizens. The new deal will provide soft loans to buy a Chinese-built 4G broadband network for the capital, Addis Ababa, and an expanded 3G network for the rest of the country. A similar deal with the same companies in 2007 expanded Ethiopia’s mobile-phone subscriber base but did little to shorten its digital lag.
Hopes that other companies might get a look in were always optimistic. The prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has dubbed the telecoms industry a “cash cow” needed to pay for a rail link to neighbouring Djibouti. Ethio Telecom delivers more than $300m a year to the state coffers. Customers grumble that its slogan should be “Disconnecting Ethiopia from the future”.
The country is one of the world’s last big untouched telecoms markets. The government could earn as much as $3 billion from auctioning licences. But the powerful security services have routinely objected. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based free-speech lobby, accuses the government of conducting a “systematic effort to control all forms of communications” after it passed laws imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years on anyone caught bypassing online censors. Yidnek Haile, a student in Addis Ababa, was arrested two years ago for showing customers at an internet café how to make online calls.
Similar to China’s ‘Tank Man,’ Ethiopia’s ‘Salat Man’ could prove to be a memorable symbolic icon
By Mohammed Ademo | Aljazeera.com
August 14, 2013
The appeal of non-violence as a means of social transformation is almost universal. Few deny its awesome power when unleashed with discipline. However, in the face of an impeding danger, especially one known to be as brutal as they come, it takes a lot of courage to remain nonviolent. Even though it calls for more valor than one need in a pitched battle, history has recorded only a handful of such defiant acts of ultimate heroism in man’s long quest for freedom and justice.
But no incident exemplifies the true genius of such silent rebellion more than China’s Tank Man. The year was 1989, at the height of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing that saw hundreds, if not thousands, dead and many more arrested. A sole rebel, whose identity remains unknown quarter of a century later, took matters onto his own hands by blocking the advance of rumbling Chinese tanks near Tiananmen Square – at least 18 of them - dispatched to squash the popular protests threatening one-party rule, once and for all.
The Unknown Soldier walked to the middle of the street, held what looked like a shopping bag, and swerved left and right to halt the advance of the juggernaut. The symbolism of his defiance was instantly broadcast around the world and photos of his heroic resistance were globally published. Even in the pre-Internet era, that single image of a skinny young man blocking the path of the most fearsome of war machines immortalised the eventual triumph of the fight against authoritarianism worldwide.
Ethiopia’s ‘China Tank Man’
On August 8, 2013 – far from China’s Tiananmen Square, in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, a lone worshiper prayed the Eid Salat and was encircled by an army of riot police. The image shows a man on his knees praying unintimidated as a phalange of soldiers, bearing shields and batons, looked on. The desolate background, apparently deserted by other worshipers fearful for their lives or carted away, against an array of uniform police magnifies the image of this unknown rebel. Asked to name the faithful in the picture, Dimtsachin Yisema, the Facebook group often seen as the de facto leading body of the horizontal Ethiopian Muslims movement, said in an email, “it was sent to us by an activist.”
Like the Chinese activists of the 80s, even if for different grievances, Muslims in Ethiopia have been protesting against government interference in religious matters for nearly two years.
Some 29 leaders of the nonviolent campaign that calls on the Ethiopian government to respect it’s own constitution remain incarcerated on tramped up terrorism charges, the same charges used to muzzle journalists like Eskinder Nega and dissenting politicians Bekele Garba .
A week before Eid-al-Fitr in Kofele, central Oromia, far removed from the prying eyes of foreign cameras, over a dozen Muslim protesters, including a mother and child, were massacred in broad daylight. The story received passing references in the mainstream media. A foreign correspondent who visited the town few days after the incident was returned to the capital under threat of imprisonment.
As was with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 , sometimes it takes a symbolic gesture to inspire courage. The photo of the ” Salat Man” in Addis Ababa will likely go down the annals of history as one of the most iconic symbols in the history of not just the Muslim protests but also of the struggle of the country’s diverse population for an end to the mounting repression by a one-party rule, now in power for more than two decades.
Although similar in appearance, the two iconic images faced starkly different fates. One was captured by CNN and the Associated Press cameras – and instantly broadcast around the world. The other was captured by a citizen journalist, perhaps with a mobile phone camera, and casually uploaded on Facebook.
Under these dire circumstances, even with a below regional average Internet penetration rate, social media has enabled Ethiopian activists, at least in urban areas, to organise and get their message across more effectively than the state, albeit to an indifferent world .
Protests are rare in Ethiopia. The last sustained protests in the country’s long but troubled history took down Emperor Haile Selassie, the last monarch. The fatal blow to the tottering imperial regime was delivered by Muslim protesters, joined by their liberal Christian allies, who staged one of the largest demonstrations preceding the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974. The ongoing Muslim movement is the most sustained, unified and well organised the country has seen, perhaps in its entire history.
Muslims, estimated to be more than a third of Ethiopia’s 93 million people, began protesting against government meddling in religious affairs in late 2011. Demonstrations were set off when students at the nation’s only Islamic institute walked out of classes after their teachers were dismissed, and replaced by regime loyalists through a government edict in an effort to impose Lebanese Islamic sect called Al-Ahbash .
Absent the alternative, activists now use social media as a primary broadcasting medium
But the incident had an unforeseen consequence for the regime; it served as a catalyst for a wider Muslim movement that called for a redress of years of marginalisation and silent suffering. The protesters demanded a free and fair election of Islamic leaders to the highest Muslim council, known as Majlis.
First, the government agreed to negotiate with the protesters. The protesters elected a committee of 17 Muslim activists to communicate their grievances to the authorities. When the negotiations failed, the regime arrested all of them in a desperate attempt to nip the movement that it deemed extremist at the bud. This too backfired as the protester’s calls grew bolder and their nonviolent tactics more sophisticated. Ironically, the jailed leaders of the two-year-old protest movement were among the most educated and moderate Muslim thinkers the public has known.
As was the case in China throughout the 1980s, Ethiopia’s state-run media have launched continuous attacks on the movement and its leaders, including a now famous mockumentary called Jihadawi Harakat. The fictitious film juxtaposes unrelated events in an attempt to link the protesters to terrorist groups in Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia.
Absent the alternative, activists now use social media as a primary broadcasting medium. The greatest strengths of utilizing digital platforms are also its greatest weaknesses. Given the information overload on social media networks, some of the most important messages can easily be buried – including the photo of the Salat Man .
If the image of Tank Man was one of the top 10 photos that changed the world, then when the symbolism and the defiant spirit of the Salat Man finally reaches the public – those on the exteriors of Facebook walls – his image too will forever inspire a generation of Ethiopian human rights activists, Muslims or not.
Dozens Dead as Egyptian Forces Commit 3rd Mass Killing of Pro-Morsi Demonstrators
August 14, 2013
Security forces have committed a new mass killing of Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators supporting the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi. Dozens of people have been reportedly killed in raids on two pro-Morsi encampments in Cairo. Alastair Beach, Cairo correspondent for The Independent, has been visiting morgues near Rabaa al-Adawiya Square where scores of bodies are reportedly being held. Speaking to us from a hospital where the injured are being treated, Beach says he has personally counted about 83 or 84 bodies today, most of them with gunshot wounds to the head, indicating they have been shot by police snipers.
By all accounts, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn is a devout Christian who does not share the anti-religious fervor of Ethiopia’s ruling Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Haile Mariam is a member of the Protestant Apostolic Church of Ethiopia, an “only Jesus” denomination that does not believe in the Trinity.
Mr. Hailemariam has been put in the awkward position of justifying his government’s heavy-handed treatment of Muslims who have been peacefully protesting state interference in religious affairs.
Many of Mr. Haile Mariam’s colleagues in the Tigrai Liberation Front have always been hostile not only to Muslims, but also to Orthodox Christians. For example, the government has exiled the legitimate Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church. A founding member of the TPLF recently exposed ( http://www.ethiopianreview.com/content/48455 ) the group”s deep-rooted hatred of Ethiopia’s religious and spiritual heritage. Many are wondering why this man of God has put himself at the service of unbelievers who are bent on violently suppressing Muslim protests.
The Voice of America Amharic program recently addressed Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn’s difficult predicament.
Please click on link below to listen to VOA’s presentation