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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

At AU summit, Kerry should speak out for a free press


By Joel Simon, CPJ
May 20, 2013

Honorable John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to bring to your attention the deteriorating state of press freedom in Ethiopia, where you will attend this year's African Union Summit. A vibrant press and civil society is fundamental to hold governments accountable and to ensure long-term development and stability. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, we ask that you include the issue of press freedom in your discussion of the challenges that Africa will face in the next half-century.

Ethiopia, in particular, has been in the spotlight for its crackdown on press freedom in recent years. Your visit to Addis Ababa comes two years after authorities launched a massive crackdown against critics and opponents as popular uprisings spread in North Africa and the Middle East. According to the 2012 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report, "the most significant human rights problems included restrictions on freedom of expression and association through politically motivated trials and convictions of opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers, as well as increased restrictions on print media."

Today, with seven journalists behind bars, Ethiopia trails only Eritrea as Africa's worst jailers of the press. Among the imprisoned journalists are award-winning columnists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu, both of whom were targeted under the country's sweeping anti-terrorism law.

Mr. Secretary, in its Africa strategy the Obama administration has noted that the interests of the United States are best served with allies and partners whose stability is based on democratic rule. Your clear voice on these issues would particularly resonate in Ethiopia, where a systematic crackdown on independent journalists, dissidents, human rights groups, and political freedoms has continued unabated.

We urge you to state unambiguously to the Ethiopian government and all other governments gathered under the AU umbrella that a vibrant independent press is a necessary pillar of healthy economies, sustainable development, and long-term stability. 

We ask that you ensure the issue of press freedom remains in the discussion of Africa's future so that the independent press in all AU countries are able to work freely and openly without fear of reprisal.


Yours sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director


Cc List:

Donald Yamamoto, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs

Donald Boothe, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) Urges Secretary Kerry to speak out


SMNE Urges Secretary Kerry to speak out on behalf of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, independent judiciaries and open political space in Ethiopia.

Open Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry,

May 21, 2013
Secretary of State John F. Kerry,
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
VIA FACSIMILE

Dear Secretary Kerry,

SMNE Urges Secretary Kerry to speak out We are pleased to know you will be one of the distinguished guests at the 50th anniversary of the African Union. This is a celebration not for Africans alone, but for the world. Sadly, the progress made over the last half-century falls substantially short of what could have been possible.
The formation of the African Union (AU) followed the liberation of many African countries from the minority rule exercised during the colonization of Africa. At the AU’s inception, the hope for Africa was that it become a continent where freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, equality, impartial justice, and the rule of law would undergird all aspects of African life—just the same as what America’s founding fathers had envisioned for the United States. However, if the founders of the AU were alive today, would they be celebrating?

Today, most African leaders on the continent have not been elected through free and fair elections and their countries do not allow basic freedoms, independent judiciaries, open political space and multi-ethnic governments. Instead, corruption is rampant, the human and civil rights of the people are violated and ethnic and religious based conflicts have caused untold suffering in places like Darfur, South Sudan, the Congo, and Rwanda. The daily struggle for survival, the dislocation of the people, cronyism, ethnic favoritism and strong-armed leaders trump the maximization of human potential on the continent for all but a few. Yet, Africans have not given up their hope for the continent and continue to strive towards progress despite these obstacles.

The organization I lead, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), is an example of the desire of Ethiopians for such progress. The SMNE is a non-political, non-violent grassroots social justice movement of diverse Ethiopians whose mission is to advance the freedom, justice, human rights, equality, and reconciliation of all the people of Ethiopia, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political view or other differences.

The SMNE formed in response to the widespread human rights violations, injustice and repression perpetrated against the Ethiopian people by the TPLF/EPRDF an ethnic-based minority regime in power now for over 20 years. Instead, we seek a New Ethiopia where humanity comes before ethnicity or any other identity differences that can diminish the value of another human being. This is one of the SMNE’s core principles. Although you are celebrating the anniversary of the African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; ironically, Ethiopia is one of the most repressive and undemocratic countries on the African continent. Ethiopia is an example of the failure of the implementation of the goals of the AU and its partners.

For example, in the last national election of 2010, the unpopular ruling party claimed a 99.6% victory after using an assortment of repressive methods to block political opponents, including imprisonment and misuse of foreign humanitarian aid to bribe voters and punish those who resisted. A few blocks away from the front door of the beautiful new building housing the African Union are journalists, political leaders, religious leaders and human rights activists who were convicted of terrorism and other crimes for simply exercising rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion and thought as enshrined in Article 30 of the Ethiopian Constitution. As this day is celebrated, there are those who have been taken away from their families and imprisoned just because they are asking for their God-given rights. Others have been shot and killed, tortured or driven from the country for doing this.

Mr. Secretary,

You should be aware that a protest is planned for May 25, 2013. Leaders of the Semayawi (Blue) Party, the Ethiopian opposition is calling for their supporters to come out on the anniversary of the AU to peacefully protest. Some will be wearing black as a symbol of their mourning for the lack of freedom, the criminalization of political expression, government interference in religious organizations, government control of Ethiopian institutions and its control of all aspects of life in the country—the media, the courts, the economy, the military, telecommunications, national resources, banking, the educational system and opportunities.

These protestors seek to show African observers of the AU’s celebration that they, Ethiopians of diverse ethnicity, region, gender and religion, are under tyranny. They hope it will inspire the Obama administration and others present to not overlook what is going on in reality on the ground. The protestors seek the release of all political prisoners, the restoration of freedom of expression, an independent judiciary, opening up of political space, halting the displacement of the people from their land and the rescinding of the Charities and Society Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism laws, which both are used to silence civil society.

We are unsure about what the autocratic regime in Ethiopia will do in response. Some, especially the leaders of the protest, may be beaten, arrested and locked up in jail. The potential also exists for violence, particularly at the hands of the current government. This was the case in 2005 when Ethiopian government security forces shot and killed 197 peaceful protestors and detained tens of thousands of others. The opposition leaders were then imprisoned for 18 months.

We in the SMNE support the people and their demands for freedom, justice and meaningful reforms. We hope that the U.S., as one of the key donors to the TPLF/EPRDF regime, will not overlook this cry from the people, but instead will speak out on behalf of freedom and justice and against the use of any violence or other punitive repercussions against the people for simply exercising their God-given rights.
Mr. Secretary,

We understand the importance the US places on maintaining a relationship with Ethiopia, but it should be on the side of the people, not in support of a dictatorship. Following the Arab Spring, the people remained but the dictators were no longer in power. We call on Obama administration to side with the Ethiopian people who simply want the same freedoms Americans enjoy.

Lack of African progress cannot only be blamed on the dictatorships, but also on those who shore up their power. Some of the most democratic countries in our world should not settle for shortsighted goals—advancing their own interests. Instead, they should seek long-term goals and relationships, which must include the people. Relationships between countries, like between the US and Ethiopia, will always be most sustainable when national interests coincide with the human interests of the people.
Mr. Secretary,

This is not the first time we have approached you. We, the SMNE, sent a letter to you when you were the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. We also sent letters to: President Obama, Robert Gates, as Secretary of Defense, and to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. If we want a freer, more vibrant, more peaceful and stable world, it cannot be done without including Africa. Our human value should rise above national boundaries for no one is free until all are free—one of our foundational principles. When this principle is followed, it will bring greater harmony between people, communities and nations.

Mr. Secretary,

We should not feed the African people rhetoric of words while feeding the dictators with aid money. This kind of thing is unhealthy and will backfire. Will President Obama now choose to side with the democratic movement of the Ethiopian people or will he continue with the status quo, supporting a dictator who has stolen the votes of the people?

If President Obama wants to work on the side of the Ethiopian people towards peace, stability and prosperity in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa, now is the time to show such readiness. We are extending our hand to work with you Mr. Secretary, but leave the decision up to you.

We call on the Obama administration to speak out about the injustice in Ethiopia. As for us, we will carry on our struggle until we free ourselves. We are not asking anyone else to do it—the US, the EU, or others—but, we do ask the Obama administration to not be a roadblock to our freedom. It is time for Africa to progress and thrive! That would be cause for real celebration!

Sincerely yours,

Obang Metho,
Executive Director
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)
910- 17th St. NW, Suite 419.
Washington, DC 20006 USA
Email:Obang@solidaritymovement.org.
Website:www.solidaritymovement.org
___________________________________
This letter has been CC to:

President Barack Obama

Vice President, Joseph Biden

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Mr. Donald Yamamoto

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Mr. Donald Boothe

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Ranking Member of Committee on Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons,  Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs

House of Representatives, Mr. Christopher Smith, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa

UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,

German Minister of Foreign Affairs

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

European Union Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

This letter has also been CC to major news media outlets such as BBC, the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post etc,

Related Topic : At AU Summit, Kerry should speak out for a free press (CPJ) 












Friday, May 17, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Ethiopia Opportunity


  • The U.S. secretary of state’s visit to Addis Ababa is a chance to pressure the government on its dreadful record on human rights.

By MARTIN SCHIBBYE AND PATRICK GRIFFITH

This month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the 21st African Union (AU) summit. The message he brings will speak volumes about the future of American engagement on the continent.
In announcing the visit during a U.S. Senate hearing last month, Mr. Kerry expressed concern about the potentially negative impact of China’s and Iran’s increased presence in Africa. He noted that graft and poor development choices could undermine the stability of some African governments, and he acknowledged the need for more U.S. engagement.
Further American cooperation on development and security would be good news for Africa. But the U.S. must continue to focus on another potentially destabilizing factor in the continent: ongoing violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Since their inception, the AU and its precursor, the Organization of African Unity, have embraced the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights expressly protects a raft of basic human rights, including freedom of association, free expression and political participation. But despite these affirmations, the protection of such rights remains inconsistent across AU nations. Some governments continue to ignore certain provisions entirely.
If he needs an example, Mr. Kerry need only look out his window in Addis Ababa. This month the Ethiopian Supreme Court upheld an 18-year prison sentence against independent journalist Eskinder Nega
image
Scanpix Sweden/Sipa USAU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Though the Ethiopian government is often touted as a close U.S. partner on security and poverty-reduction efforts, it has a dreadful record on rights. After parliamentary elections in 2005, the government jailed opposition leaders such as former judge Birtukan Mideksa and independent journalists who reported on the post-election unrest.
Mr. Nega and his wife Serkalem Fasil, herself a prominent publisher, were among those arrested. They spent 17 months in a detention center on trumped-up charges of treason and genocide before they were finally released. Pregnant at the time of her arrest, Ms. Fasil was denied prenatal care for seven months and gave birth to their son Nafkot while in custody.
In the spring of 2011, as popular uprisings gathered momentum across North Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Nega wrote extensively about their possible impact on Ethiopia. Despite warnings that he was going too far, Mr. Nega continued to write and speak publicly, often criticizing the government and calling for democratic reforms, while emphasizing the importance of nonviolence. But like fellow journalists Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye, and opposition activists such as Andualem Aragie, Mr. Nega was charged in September 2011 under Ethiopia’s widely criticized 2009 Antiterrorism Proclamation. He now faces 18 years in prison.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has expressed grave alarm at Ethiopia’s persecution of journalists and peaceful activists. In April the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also weighed in, declaring Mr. Nega’s detention illegal under international law and calling for his immediate release. But these admonitions have so far not convinced Ethiopian authorities to change course.
When U.S. President Barack Obama laid out his administration’s agenda for sub-Saharan Africa last summer, he emphasized strong democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law, noting that these promote both prosperity and stability. But as long as journalists and political activists are imprisoned for speaking their truth to power, such principles will remain illusory.
Mr. Kerry has an important opportunity this month to convey that very message to his counterparts in Addis Ababa. Mr. Nega and his colleagues deserve nothing less.
Mr. Schibbye is a Swedish journalist who was detained in Ethiopia for 14 months under the country’s antiterror laws and held at Kaliti Prison with Eskinder Nega. Mr. Griffith is an attorney with Freedom Now, a legal advocacy organization that works to free prisoners of conscience, including Mr. Nega.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Høy temperatur på Etiopia-debatt


Publisert: 14. mai 2013



Foto:
Engasjement: Det var høyt engasjement under mandagens debatt om Etiopia, både i panelet og blant publikum.


Diskusjonen fortsatte: Da Utviklingsfondet dro fra Litteraturhuset, to timer etter at debatten var ferdig, satt ministeren fortsatt å diskuterte med engasjerte norsk-etiopiere.

Holmås besøk på et av Utviklingsfondets prosjekter i landsbyen Semre i Tigray i mai i fjor. Foto: Trond Viken, Utenriksdepartementet.


Både utviklingsminister Holmås og Høyres Peter Gitmark viste stort engasjement i debatten på Litteraturhuset mandag.

Utviklingsmandag: Lokalene var fylt til randen. Det er mye engasjement i det etiopiske miljøet i Norge. Flere av tilhørerne holdt opp plakater med krav om at den norske regjeringen blir tøffere i forholdet til Etiopiske myndigheter. Det var også veldig mange som ønsket å stille spørsmål direkte til ministeren og til Høyres Peter Gitmark som varsler endringer i norsk Etiopia-politikk om hans parti kommer til makten etter høstens valg.

Kritisk til regimet

Noe som har blitt debattert i det siste og som også var sentralt under mandagens debatt er hvordan Norge burde forholde seg til etiopiske myndigheter.
Både Heikki Holmås og Peter Gitmark uttalte seg kritisk til det etiopiske regimets åpenbare menneskerettighetsbrudd.

- Jeg vil se en tøffere linje fra norske myndigheter. Det går i feil retning i Etiopia, ved valget i 2010 ble kun én representant fra opposisjonen valgt inn. Etiopias donorer har nedprioritert menneskerettigheter, sa Peter Gitmark.

Høyre har tidligere varsla at de ønsker å kutte i bistanden til Etiopia. Under gårsdagens debatt utdypet Gitmark tidligere uttalelser og sa at det først og fremst er støtten til offentlige velferdsgoder og støtten til energi Høyre vil kutte.

- Støtte som går gjennom den etiopiske stat blir brukt som symbol på at omverden støtter det etiopiske regimet, sa han. Også energiutbygging har denne effekten ifølge Gitmark.

- Når du får tilgang på energi får du automatisk sympati for regjeringen. I 2005 ble det installert en rekke solcellepaneler. I ettertid ble denne forbedringen bruk om og om igjen som et bevis på at omverden støtter det etiopiske regimet. Og det ble truet med at støtten ville forsvinne dersom det etiopiske regimet ikke fikk beholde makten.

- Høyre vil støtte den etiopiske befolkningen og ikke regimet. Vi vil lære av diasporaen og ha med diasporaen i kontakten med regimet, fortsatte han.

- Det var en god oppklaring. Det har tidligere hørtes ut som om Høyre vil kutte all støtte til Etiopia svarte Holmås. Også han var tydelig på at det er noen klare dilemmaer når man gir bistand til Etiopia.
- Vi ønsker ikke å støtte regimet, men å trekke seg helt ut vil ramme mange.

Hvilke rettigheter?

Holmås pekte på balansen mellom politiske og økonomiske rettigheter. Å prioritere politiske rettigheter høyest er ikke alltid riktig. Dersom Norge og andre bistandsaktører kutter støtten til Etiopia kan det hindre oppfyllelsen av for eksempel retten til mat var hans budskap.

Det var tydelig at den etiopiske diasporaen satte pris på å få møte representanter for både den sittende og en mulig fremtidig regjering. Og debattiveren var gjensidig. To timer etter at debatten offisielt var ferdig satt utviklingsminister Heikki Holmås fortsatt å diskuterte med etiopisk diaspora.

Stemmen fra Etiopia

I panelet satt også Dr. Million Belay, Direktør for Movement for Ecological Learning and Community Action (MELCA). MELCA er en av Utviklingsfondets partnerorganisasajoner i Etiopia og driver miljøsensitive utviklingsprosjekter i landet. Belay hadde også noen oppfordringer til de norske politikerne.

- Jeg tror ikke sanksjoner vil virke. Spørsmålet om man skal gi bistand til Etiopia burde ikke kobles med andre spørsmål. Han hadde også noen tanker om prioriteringer i bistanden.

- Jeg vil råde norske politikere til å satse på utvikling av elektrisitet.

Takk for en god debatt!


How we behave online


By Teklu Abate, May 13, 2013

Thanks to advances in information and communication technologies, people overcome spatio-temporal limitations. We communicate in real time regardless of where we live. Traditionally, communications and collaborations were made between people and organizations that somehow know each other well. These times see communications of all sorts being made between entities that do not know each other in person. In fact, we use technologies to conquer new grounds- to create, expand and sustain our international online presence. Technologies are also places where to make retreats to- people who are denied of their natural rights (such as freedom of expression and association) consider technologies as powerful remedies. Thanks to Internet-based social media, the oppressed are claiming their lost identities. Although 1) some dictatorial regimes aspire to curtain the move, and 2) the technologic infrastructure in several places is still inadequate, people worldwide are building online/virtual identities and presences.

The Ethiopian Diaspora enjoy conversing using websites, broadcast media, Paltalk, Facebook, and blogs. Issues discussed touch nearly all the contours of life in Ethiopia, from politics to economics, society to humanity, religion to culture. However, a limited number of persons are content developers (writers) whereas the majority are users or consumers (readers). What seems to be interesting is that users tend to have a significantly different take of the issues considered by papers.

A closer look at how people react to published papers including those found in blogs is extremely important for several reasons. One, it would help us to discern to what extent readers rightly understand the intentions’ of writers. Two, the analysis would indicate the degree to which published works are relevant to the general community. Three, based on this, editors/writers could identify and suggest topics for further discussion. Four, based on comment analysis, writers could improve their style of writing for maximum impact. Five, the analysis could inform us to narrow down the gap between writers and readers in the end.

In this paper, I categorize readers based on the comments they leave to papers they read. To do the analysis, I reviewed threads and threads of comments provided about papers published in major websites. An unscientific qualitative content analysis of comments resulted in the identification of eight major categories of people. It is found that we have people who tend to hold extremely opposing viewpoints in relation to the issues discussed in the papers. More interestingly, there are people who tend to bring extremist groups to a middle ground. The categories are succinctly described below.

The sympathetic

These people generally tend to identify with authors and support their arguments and conclusions. They express their sympathy in various ways. They generously thank writers for their contributions and request them to keep writing. They also forward papers to their networks and they leave behind tens and even hundreds of “Likes”. Even more interestingly, these people ask writers to turn their ideas into workable strategies. A typical comment of this type is: “This is a very timely and constructive idea; I appreciate if you are interested to form an interest group based on your idea”.

The assassin

The assassin are the exact opposite of the sympathetic. Their viewpoints are in sharp contrast to that of the writers’. They throw away nasty terms (insults and curses) to the writers. Worse is their attempt to go after writers as persons. They try to assassin the identities, fames, and dignities of writers by resorting to the latters’ perceived or actual weaknesses, shortcomings, and/or limitations in other areas. Examples of comments of this category include: “This person is a remnant of the fascist Derg”, “This writer must be a cadre/from Tigray,” ”This guy was fired from his job because of his incompetence and work ethic”. Generally, the assassin usually tries to assassin the writer as a person and not the idea conveyed in the paper.

The delusional

Delusional people are those who consciously or otherwise dissociate themselves from reality, evidence, truth, and logic. They deny that the Ethiopian Diaspora is a huge potential for real social change. They also deny the imprisonment and persecution of those who dare to talk their minds. They deny that the regime in Ethiopia is dictatorial. Others of this category deny that the government there did and could do something good to the country. To these people, the roads, schools, universities, health facilities, dams, and condominiums built are nothing but mere mental constructions. The delusional are extremist if not terrorist people.

The developmental

The comments of this category of people indicate that Ethiopia is a truly developmental state comparable to some of the fastest growing economies and democracies worldwide. To them, the infrastructure built and the double-digit economic growth reported are more than adequate evidences for that. They describe how fruitful, relaxing, and empowering were their visits to Ethiopia. They list mega stores, luxury hotels, lodges, and restaurants built in Addis Ababa and in major towns and cities. And to demonstrate the improvement of the lives of millions, they mention how busy these catering businesses are. They also try to ascertain that Ethiopia attracts more than ever a great number of foreign investors with a bid to bolster agricultural transformations. Stated simply, these people tend to define the quality of life in Ethiopia by their comfort zones.

The gradual

These people hold that economic development and democratic governance could not be brought about overnight. “Rome was not built overnight” is their motto. They narrate how slowly the western world developed both economically and in democratic governance. To cover up all the socio-economic odds and evils in Ethiopia, they tell that even New York and Washington DC host beggars, criminals, the extra wealthy, and the excluded. Simply, they are overwhelmed by the economic and political changes taking place back home and count on time to witness even beyond-imagination changes.

The west phobic

To these people, all the problems in Ethiopia occur simply because of the invisible and evil hands of international organizations and the governments of the western countries. They argue that globalization and the Internet are powerful ways of exploiting the resources (both material and human) of the South- Africa. They believe that in order for Africa to prosper, the west must engage with them proactively and out of sheer good will. They believe that the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, the US and other multi-and bilateral organizations must make a policy change if we want to see Africa uplifted to the next higher ‘stages’ of development. To these people, African governments are servants and resource bases of the west.

The fighter

These people firmly believe that genuine and lasting socio-economic and political change could be brought about by armed struggle. Their rationale is that the government in Ethiopia does not understand peaceful discourse and discussions and the only language intelligible to them is force. They as a result consider online communications including papers as a waste of time and energy. To them, armed struggle could bring change to the scale of a full-blown revolution. That means, all the armed struggle must be waged from being within Ethiopia.

The police

These people tend to play a mediational and police role. They have a huge concern for the wellbeing of the country and they would like to see a common platform where the regime and the opposition could stand and converse. Their comments are intended to create such extremism-free zones. They highlight the perceived-to-be-good points of other commenters and advise others to cultivate good online morale. They are against people who leave nasty words against writers.

Concluding remarks

The aforementioned categories of people are just the major ones. One could come up with lists and lists of other categories. Plus, the eight categories are not mutually exclusive; a person could behave differently in different times and to different papers. A reader of a particular paper, for instance, could simultaneously be sympathetic, gradual, and police. Or, s/he could be an assassin, fighter, and/or west phobic. The most important question to ask is however related to the potential contributions of these categories of people to the advancement of democratic culture and social change in Ethiopia. There would not be a clear answer to this but one thing remains crystal clear. That a civilized online behavior (commenting) that entirely focuses on the ideas discussed in publications/papers is a demonstration of self-worth, mental health, moral responsibility, and accountability. Anything other than that is a saddening waste of precious psychic energy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our opposition to the Development Fund`s cooperation with the dictatorial ethnic regime in Ethiopia


OSLO, 13 May 2013
The task force of Ethiopian for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia


The Development Fund is aware of our position regarding its growing cooperation with the ethnic dictatorship misruling Ethiopia. We are part of the Diaspora struggling for democracy, justice, freedom and the rule of law in Ethiopia. We have made our position clear to the Development Fund and the Norwegian authorities stating that the regime in power is not the right partner for development and combating poverty. It is one of the world`s worst violators of human rights and repressors of freedom of expression and association. As an ethnic regime, it does not represent the diverse communities in the country and embroiled in rampant corruption. The growth figures it issues are false, exaggerated and mainly meant to secure continued and increased aid from foreign donors. There are no independent institutions in the country to confirm or refute the claims (double digit growth figures) the regime reports. The regime has closed all the channels of free information and media. Thus these growth figures are not reliable and credible. They also contradict the reality on the ground in the country where poverty and inequality have been growing at an alarming rate. 

The economic policies and politics of the regime are exclusive and geared towards enriching the handful of ethnic elites associated with the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). That is why we have been urging the Development Fund and other Norwegian development organizations to exercise maximum caution in the consumption of these growth figures in their aid decision makings and policies. In fact the regime will not be able to cling to power without the massive western aid it has been receiving. 

We would like to bring the following flaws or shortcomings in the programs of the Development Fund to your attention.

1. The Aid has primarily focused on the region of Tigray which is in line with the preferential treatment, development policies and priorities of the TPLF.

2. The engagement of the Development Fund in Ethiopia has failed to consider and address the fundamental issues of human rights which are indispensable for development. The egregious crimes of the TPLF regime like ethnic cleaning targeting the Amhara communities living in the southern and western parts of the country should concern all donors and cooperators of the regime.

3. The rampant corruption in the regime is not considered in the disbursement and administration of aid money.

4. The draconian and prohibitive laws determining the operation of Non-governmental Organizations in the country forbid free NGOs and involvement in human rights, good governance and democracy in the country. These issues are of vital importance to the NGOs.

5. The partners and cooperators of the Development Fund based in Norway are the members, supporters and beneficiaries of the TPLF regime. These groups are mainly preoccupied with gaining financial benefits and promoting the image of the TPLF regime in Norway. They do not represent the wider Ethiopian Diaspora who have run away from the persecution of the TPLF regime. In fact some of these persons have come to Norway as asylum seekers claiming to flee from persecution by the same regime they are supporting and working for. They are not concerned about development and basic human rights. Engaging and working with these persons or groups is not in the interest of Ethiopians.