Ethiopia’s ‘Half-Cooked’ Graduates

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As Ethiopia continues to produce a record number of university and college graduates like never before, what is becoming alarming is the quality, not the quantity, of these graduates.

Since the Ethiopian government decided to revitalize the old educational system via its Growth and Transformation Plan at the beginning of the Ethiopian millennium 16 years ago, the country has been hell bent in trying to provide educational opportunities to its citizens at all cost.

From having just handful public universities, it has now progressed to have over 30 universities across the country in less than two decades. In addition to these universities, there are many private institutions that have been created, catering to almost all the desires of the country’s 90 million plus population. It seems access and choice have become the norm, while quality is becoming a rare commodity.

Even Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has described the new graduates as “half-cooked”. He has promised to look at the shortcomings of the system and report back. He should.

No education is good enough, when the foundation and quality of it is being doubted and questioned in the open. In its graduates, it seems, Ethiopia has managed to create an easy path to qualification while compromising the reputation of quality education found within the country.

In the process, it has constructed a mill-factory like environment in its sacred educational system, where an easy entrance and graduation is a guarantee no matter what, with little success in the arena of employment. This is no longer healthy as Ethiopia moves to a status of respectability in the world.

What is happening in Ethiopia’s educational system is not something to emulate and endorse unless real reform is implemented.

The country is best advised to pause, reflect and focus on the quality of its educational institutions within instead of creating a slew of new institutions. Too many universities are being constructed in a rush, while technical colleges’ are being promoted to university status, while neglecting the reality on the ground, in the employment world.

The nation seems to be heading to a standstill as it produces countless graduates in need of employment and questionable qualifications compared to their counterparts.

What is the point of becoming an Ethiopian educated medical doctor, a lawyer or an Engineer, if the qualification is in doubt and human lives, safety or liberty are presumed to be vulnerable?

Nobody wants an Ethiopian society, where in the midst of the construction boom, local construction engineers become underemployed while international enterprises, in Ethiopia, look for talents elsewhere. That is likely to happen should Ethiopia refuse to promote quality within its system earlier rather than later.

Reputations are important and the image of the Ethiopian educational system is in tatters. The system is in need of a serious reflection and that is, before it loses its reputation forever.

Five years ago, the country started requiring all potential teachers to sit for a qualifying exam and the result was disappointing to say the least. From the 700 candidates selected for graduate assistants, shockingly, only one was able to score 80pc and the average grade was below 60pc, at 57.8pc. Twenty pc of the candidates scored below 50pc.

This brings into question the qualification of the teachers who teach eager students. In Ethiopia, it is a shame to hear of higher institutions operate with little standards.

That is not a good accomplishment to aspire to the future stewards of the country’s leadership. There should be a better mechanism to root out the shortcomings of the system so better scholars can be minted. While the government’s agency – Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency Ethiopia (HERQA) attempts to bring quality to the system, while it also implements policies, with little resources, it has not been as successful as assumed.

Producing policies and keeping quality intact, is a conflict of interest by itself. Ethiopia should look at a splitting the agency in two, so policies and quality is conducted far from one another. Perhaps, this agency is the initial glimpse of where reform should begin its journey.

Education is a vital investment any government can bestow its citizens and Ethiopia is no exception. But, education and qualification in name and paper only, will come back to haunt the nation, in a serious of social problems, in the near future.

As Ethiopia emerges as a nation on the verge of joining the world at the World Trade Organization (WTO), embrace the ideals of globalization fully and attempt to become an industrialized nation by 2025, it should begin to understand how the population will soon be forced to compete with the world in a modern Ethiopia.

It will no longer compete within, or regionally, but globally. For new graduates, it will be a struggle to find their footing as they look for work opportunities. They will be strangers in their own city. Everything will be in the open.

These graduates will not just be judged by the qualification that is on a shiny document, but the practical knowledge they bring to the table. Unless they are prepared for that, the whole foundation of the educational system will be in question. The people that will secure the future direction of Ethiopia, will be foreigners, not Ethiopians.

Inviting the world to come and invest in Ethiopia has side effects in terms of world class competition. Unless the system begins to produce an educated citizenry, with quality educational experience best suited to face the challenges of its society, the educational revolution started almost two decades ago and the vision of producing an educated population would be the hallmark of an example of public failure. In a good quality local education, brain drain should be Ethiopia’s dark past.

At the end, that is what a mixed economy is: true competition. That is where the country is headed.

At the minimum, the Ethiopian educational system needs to start creating an educated citizenry sooner than later, with quality educational experience, best suited to face the challenges of the present and future. Unless it does that, the revolution started almost two decades ago to help produce an educated population would be the hallmark of a failed ambitious government policy.

Source : Addis Fortune(Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: One Bln. Usd Nutrition Programme Launched

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The Ministry of Health and stakeholders from various ministries Thursday launched a 1.14 billion USD nutrition programme running 2016 -2020.

The Second National Nutrition Programme aims at providing a framework for coordinated and integrated implementation of nutrition interventions by the government and pertinent stakeholders to end hunger by 2030.

Keeping food and nutrition quality, safety and security as well as setting post-harvest management system are also the priorities of the programme.

The program was signed by Health, Industry, Labor and Social Affairs, Women and Youth, State Ministers Dr. Kebede Worku, Dr. Mebrhatu Meles, Tadelech Dalecho, and Bizunesh Meseret respectively.

During the presentation, which preceded the signing ceremony, it was indicated that Ethiopia lost about 55.5 billon Birr, equivalent to 16.5 percent of the country’s GDP in 2009.

Ministry Nutrition Program Coordinator Birara Melese said the government implemented the First National Programme 2008-2015 realizing the problem.

Over 515 million USD is allocated for the Second National Nutrition Programme to address the underlying determinants of malnutrition, he added.

Of this, donor groups have contributed over 198 million USD, it was indicated.

According to the coordinator, the country has managed to reduce under five stunting rate from 50 percent in 2000 to 38.4 percent in 2016.

Mortality rate was also reduced from 166 per 1,000 cases to 67 per 1,000 in the stated period.

Source : The Ethiopian Herald

Ethiopian Newspaper Editor, Bloggers Caught in Worsening Crackdown

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Nairobi — Ethiopia should immediately release all journalists detained amid an intensifying crackdown on the media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In recent weeks, Ethiopian authorities have jailed a newspaper editor, as well as two members of the award-winning Zone 9 bloggers’ collective, which has faced continuous legal harassment on terrorism and incitement charges. A fourth journalist has been missing for a week; his family fears he is in state custody.

The crackdown on the media comes amid mass arrests following large protests that led the government to declare a state of emergency on October 9. Security forces have detained more than 11,000 people since the state of emergency was declared, Taddesse Hordofa, of the Ethiopian government’s State of Emergency Inquiry Board, said in a televised statement on November 12.

“Silencing those who criticize the government’s handling of protests will not bring stability,” CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal said from New York. “The constant pressure on Zone 9 bloggers with repeated arrests and court appearances is clearly designed to intimidate the remaining independent journalists in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia’s Supreme Court on November 15 continued hearing prosecutors’ appeal of a lower court’s October 2015 acquittal of four bloggers from the Zone 9 collective–Befekadu Hailu, Natnail Feleke, Abel Wabella, and Atnaf Berhane–on terrorism charges, campaigners reported on social media.

Security forces again detained Befekadu–a co-founder of the collective, which CPJ honored with its 2015 International Press Freedom Award–from his home on November 11, according to news reports. Authorities have not yet announced any new charge against the blogger. The Africa News Agency quoted Befekadu’s friends saying that they believed he may have been arrested following an interview he gave to the U.S.-government-funded broadcaster Voice of America’s Amharic service, in which he criticized the government’s handling of the protests.

An Ethiopian journalist in exile in Kenya, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ that Befekadu’s criticism of the government’s handling of protests in the Oromo and Amhara regions of Ethiopia on his blog may have also led to his detention.

When the terrorism charge against the bloggers was dismissed by the judge in October last year, Befekadu was informed that he would still face incitement charges, according to media reports. That case is still before the courts.

Ethiopian Information Minister Negeri Lencho did not respond to CPJ’s calls and text messages seeking more information.

Security forces also detained another Zone 9 blogger, Natnail Feleke, on October 4 on charges he had made “seditious remarks” in a restaurant while criticizing security forces’ lethal dispersal of a protest, according to diaspora news websites.

Separately, a court in the capital Addis Ababa on November 15 sentenced Getachew Worku, the editor of the independent weekly newspaper Ethio-Mihidar, to one year in prison on charges of “defamation and spreading false information” in connection with an article published in the newspaper alleging corruption in a monastery, the Addis Standard news website reported.

Abdi Gada, an unemployed television journalist, has not been seen since November 9, family and friends told diaspora media. The journalist’s family and friends told the Ethiopian diaspora opposition website Voices for Voiceless that they fear he is in state custody.

Ethiopia ranked fourth on CPJ’s 2015 list of the 10 Most Censored Countries and is the third-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, according to CPJ’s 2015 prison census.

Source : CPJ

Ethiopia Court Jailed Journalist Getachew Worku for One Year

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The federal first instant court Arada branch has today jailed journalist Getachew Worku, editor-in-chief of the Amharic weekly independent Newspaper, Ethio-Mihidar, for one year.

Getachew was taken into police custody last week on Nov. 4th after the same court found him guilty of ‘defaming’ senior clergy members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The court passed the guilty verdict in an ongoing lawsuit brought against Getachew by the church. The lawsuit followed an article the newspaper ran in May 2015 detailing the conduct of corrupt practices by senior members of the clergy at the precincts of the Saint Mary’s Patriarchal Monastery here in the capital Addis Abeba.

Subsequently, prosecutors have charged Getachew with Ethiopia’s criminal code article 613 under “defamation and spreading false information.” During the hearing last week, prosecutors have originally sought a jail term of up to three years. Getachew was taken to the Qilinto prison on the southern outskirt of the capital where he spent the week.

Source : Addis Standard

Ethiopia: Death Toll, Tension Rise Following PM Hailemariam’s Orders for Military to Take Measures in Amhara Region

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Several people are reported to have been killed in various parts of the Amhara regional state in Northern Ethiopia, where an ongoing protest by the people is intensifying. The VOA Amharic service quoted a resident in Debarq yesterday that four people were when security officers fired live bullets at protesting civilians.

Over the last few days several reports on social media indicated a rising death toll following security crackdown against a stay-at-home protests in Bahir Dar and Gonder, the region’s capital and a historic city visited by thousands of tourists respectively. Pictures coming from many cities and towns in the region also show protesting citizens, burning tyres and roadblocks. Reports also indicate that up to 50 civilians were killed in the past one week only.

Tensions are on the rise following a statement given to state owned media by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in which he announced that he has ordered the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) to intervene to control the situation in the region, home to the second largest ethnic group in the country. In his speech PM Hailemariam blamed Ethiopia’s “outside enemies” for being the instigators to disrupt the country by providing “radicals with sacks full of money.” He further stated that the government will use “its full forces to bring the rule of law” into the region.

A day prior to PM Hailemariam’s statement, Sheger FM, a private radio based in Addis Abeba, reported that the regional state has requested a military intervention by the Federal government. Talking to the station, Nigusu Tilahun, the regional government’s Chief spokesperson, conceded that lives were lost in the recent protests but declined to give numbers. As a result of intensifying protests, the regional government requested the intervention of the federal army, Sheger FM quoted the spokesperson.

Accordingly reports indicate that the region is now divided into five zones and is placed under a military command.

Pictures circulating around social media show heavy artillery moving towards the state capital Bahir Dar, 550 North of Addis Abeba, and the nearby town of Gondar where the recent wave of #Amharaprotests originated late last month. Addis Standard could not independently verify the authenticity of those pictures. Internet is shut off in the whole region while locals fear government sanctioned phone call monitoring.

The #Amharaprotests began in late July when security forces tried to arrest leaders of the Wolkayit committee, a committee formed by the people of Wokayit to find solutions related to the border and identity questions of the Wolkayit community.

In the last few days tens of thousands of citizens in several cities and towns in Gojam and Gonder areas of the region have come out to the streets to protest the government. In what many see as the ultimate test of the ruling EPRDF protesters are also showing solidarity with the #Oromoprotests which began in Nov. 2015.

In the weekend of 6-7 August region wide protests both in Amhara and Oromia regions were met by violent crackdown by security forces. It’s reported that more than 100 civilians were killed in that weekend only, according to Amnesty International. In Bahir Dar only, more than 30 people were killed when a security guard opened fire at protesters. The government disputes that number. The stay-at-home protests in Bahir and Gonder followed the deadliest weekend, however in the last few days that too turned violent when security forces began breaking into houses in an attempt to force citizens and businesses to stop the stay-at-home protests.

Some reports claim that attacks against government institutions and party owned and affiliated businesses were witnessed in some cities and towns. There are also reports that young men and women are being arrested en mass by security forces.

Source : Addis Standard

Ethiopia: Anti-Government Protests Growing

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Several dozen people have been killed in clashes in Ethiopia between police and anti-government demonstrators. Faced by a new wave of government repression, two key rival ethnic groups are burying old animosities.

It was a watershed moment when dissatisfied citizens occupied the main Meskel Square in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Saturday. This was the first time that the protests, which began earlier in the year, had spread to the capital. Only a few hundred demonstrators were able to break through the police cordon and enter the square but it was a symbolic act nonetheless.

Opposition to the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn has now taken on a new dimension. Protestors are clamoring for the right to participate meaningfully in the political life of Ethiopia, for the fair distribution of land and resources and the right to free speech.

The protests in Addis Ababa were just the tip of the iceberg. For every demonstrator who defied the authorities in Meskel Square, there were dozens of others taking to the streets in the states of Amhara and Oromia. Activists said there were protests in some 200 towns and cities.

In Bahir Dar, capital of the state of Amhara, there were violent clashes between protestors and security forces. News agencies initially said seven people were killed, witnesses put the death toll at more than 30.

Police in Bahir Dar tried to keep protestors from the outlying districts from joining the demonstration in the capital, one witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told DW. “The chaos got worse when a seven year old child was shot dead,” he said. “Up until now there is a dangerous situation, the public and the Agazi – Ethiopia’s special forces – are head to head. Shots can be heard and two people are wounded,” he added.

The authorities’ version of events, as reported by the pro-government media outlet Fana Broadcasting Corporation, speaks of “illegal activities conducted under the cloak of demonstrations.” Hotels, banks and private property had been vandalized and a grenade was tossed at the security forces. “After the attack on the security forces, measures were taken to restore order,” the media outlet said.

Bulk of population against tiny elite

Over the last few months, it was mainly people from the biggest ethnic group, the Oromo, who participated in the demonstrations. Every third Ethiopian is an Oromo, though this is not reflected in the country’s institutions. The government and the military are dominated by the small Tigray ethnic group to which Prime Minister Dessalegn belongs. The ex-rebel group Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is the strongest political party in both houses of parliament.

The TPLF wanted to push through a controversial administrative reform and expand the capital Addis Ababa into outlying Oromia farmland. Oromia farmers saw their livelihoods threatened and protested. The dispute escalated at the end of 2015 when further restructuring measures were made public. In the meantime, the government has partly shelved the plans but public anger hasn’t died down. Last week demonstrations by aggrieved citizens were declared illegal by Dessalegn who ordered the security forces to take whatever measures were necessary to quash them.

New-found solidarity

Awol Kassim, political scientist and expert in constitutional law at the London School of Economics, questions the legality of the government’s conduct. “Constitutionally speaking, protestors are only required to notify the government that they are protesting,” he said. That obligation was evidently fulfilled. The task of the government would then have been to guarantee security rather than attacking the demonstrators.

Kassim said he is not surprised that the Ethiopian government engages in repression because it is a minority administration that doesn’t represent the entire Ethiopian people.

“In order for that kind of system to secure and preserve itself, it has to draw on various strategies of control and suppression,” he said.

Kassim also shares the view that protests against the government have acquired a new dimension. The protestors are showing more resolve. It is a sign of significant change in Ethiopia when people defy a ban on demonstrations and take to the streets in their thousands.

The different strains of the protest movement are now displaying solidarity. Previously, the Oromo and the Amhara viewed each other with mutual hostility. The Oromo believe themselves to have been victims of discrimination when land and language rights were allocated. Even though Oromo is the mostly widely spoken language in Ethiopia, it still does not have any official status. The official and national language is Amharic.

But in the face of mounting government repression, old animosities appear to be receding. Demonstrators in Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara, were seen holding up a picture of an imprisoned Oromo leader. The “divide and rule” strategy of the Ethiopian government no longer seems to be functioning. For some time, the Tigray administration has been seeking to play the two sides off against each other in order to maintain its hold on power but that won’t work now, Kassim said. “People who essentially didn’t want to speak to one another, people who hated each other so vehemently are now beginning to express solidarity with one another.”

Source : DW

Ethiopia: Association Backs Dr. Tedros Election As WHO Chief

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The Ethiopian Public Health Association (EPHA) has lauded Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s contribution for the development of public health worldwide.

In a press release sent to The Ethiopian Herald Monday, Association President Fikreab Kebede said that Dr. Tedros has played significant role in the establishment of the African Federation of Public Health Association.

“We know Dr. Tedros as member of EPHA, as a strategic partner, and as a public health professional indeed. Certainly, we are not mistaken then in 2003 by recognizing and awarding him EPHA Annual Young Public Health Researcher Award.”

“We take this opportunity to express our deepest appreciation for his boundless efforts in making a dream has come true to creating a healthy Ethiopia, Africa and the World as a whole. The struggle throughout his way in promoting the outstanding public health service was difficult. The journey he came about was not smooth. And yet, we can count the enormous achievements EPHA attained during his leadership.”

The selection of Ethiopia to host the largest International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA 2011) and the 13th World Congress on Public Health (WCPH) are among his contributions to development of public health.

According to President, Dr. Tedros shift to the Foreign Affairs Ministry has not impeded his engagement in advancing public health rather enhances his contributions at a higher level by facilitating African Federation of Public Health Association (AFPHA) to get legal registration and open headquarters in Addis.

The Health Extension Program (HEP) and the Health Development Army (HDA) concept were initiated and developed by Dr. Tedros and now vastly expanding beyond the territory. He also spearheaded the reduction of under-five mortality and achievements of MDGs in Ethiopia. Reduction in the incidence of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases are attributable to his leadership.

EPHA is not only self-assured and supportive for the candidacy of Dr Tedros Adhanom for the Director-General position of the World Health Organization, but also confident that both developed and developing countries alike will get the right person and at the right time that provides leadership at the highest level to address health issues of current and future importance and significance for the world.

Source : Ethiopian Herald

Ethiopia Blocks Social Media Sites Over Exam Leak

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Ethiopia has blocked social media sites across the country after questions from end-of-year university exams were posted online last month, sparking a national scandal.

The online leak of national of the exam sheets, which many have called an embarrassment for the government, forced the tests to be postponed.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Viber have been inaccessible in the Horn of Africa’s most populous country since Saturday morning, and will continue to be so until the national school examinations are concluded on Wednesday, according to government officials.

A government spokesman said the ban was aimed at stopping students taking university entrance exams this week from being “distracted”.

“It’s blocked. It’s a temporary measure until Wednesday. Social media have proven to be a distraction for students,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP news agency.

Ethiopia is one of the first African countries to censor the internet, beginning in 2006 with opposition blogs, according to experts.

Prominent blogger Daniel Berhane denounced the move as a “dangerous precedent”.

“There’s no transparency on who decides why it’s necessary or who decides for how long,” he said.

“This time it’s for a few days but next time it could be for months… They’re flexing their muscles. They got multiple tools and they’re testing them.” Berhane said

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the blocking of internet as a human rights violation.

Some 254,000 students are expected to sit the national examination, according to the ministry of education.

Ethiopia’s Bloody Crackdown On Peaceful Dissent

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Since November 2015, Ethiopia’s Oromia region has been rocked by widespread protests. State security forces have responded to the largely peaceful protests with lethal force, resulting in the loss of more than 400 lives. Thousands have been wounded. Tens of thousands have been arrested and many remain in detention without charge. Many of those killed or detained by security forces are students. Human Rights Watch’s Birgit Schwarz talks to Ethiopia researcher Felix Horne about what triggered the protests, why the government’s brutal crackdown has received so little attention, and how he went about gathering credible evidence for his latest report, “Such a Brutal Crackdown,” in a highly repressive country that refuses to let in human rights researchers.

What triggered the Oromia protests?

The initial trigger was the Addis Ababa Master Plan, a very ambitious growth plan, which proposed to expand the municipal boundaries of Addis Ababa twentyfold in order to manage the capital’s rapid growth. This would force mainly ethnic Oromo farmers living around Addis to move. Many of these people have repeatedly been displaced from their land over the last decade without adequate compensation. The protests soon spread — we know of about 500 incidents of protests across all 17 zones of Oromia. Many are taking place in rural areas, where people have been displaced because of investments in commercial agriculture projects.

What options do displaced farmers have?

Ethiopia is a country of 100 million people, with high population density, especially around the capital. As with many expanding cities, there simply is no available land near the capital. So this is a difficult issue to resolve. However, in most cases we found that there was no attempt to compensate or provide alternate land for those farmers. They either have to live with family members elsewhere, flee the country, or go to Addis and search for low-paid work. Some farmers ended up working on their own land as watchmen or laborers.

Ethiopia is considered a development success story. Is this the price of its success?

Ethiopia is making major strides economically and its population does benefit from the country’s growth. But the government has a very authoritarian approach to development. The ruling party occupies 100 percent of the seats in the federal parliament as well as in all regional parliaments. When the government earmarks land for major investment projects, such as sugar or cotton plantations, flower farms, or manufacturing, the communities living on the land are hardly ever consulted and residents are often displaced without compensation. Those who express any kind of dissent are frequently targeted for harassment, arrest or even torture. Ethiopian law has made virtually impossible the operation of independent organizations that can represent victims of abuse or work against injustice. And the courts are not remotely independent when dealing with politicized cases.

Who are the protesters?

Initially the protesters were young, rural secondary and primary school students. They are much more aware of what is happening and of their rights than many in the older generation. University students are also involved. There was a period when the farmers joined in. But the older generation has been through these crackdowns many times; they know there will be harsh consequences if they raise their voices too loud. For example, farmers are largely dependent on the government, which provides fertilizers and in some cases, seeds or food aid. Those who actively speak out against government policy risk their access to these critical resources. So farmers avoid criticizing the government because it puts their ability to grow food in jeopardy.

How did students mobilize in a country that restricts any independent media and where surveillance is pervasive?

“Who is mobilizing? Who is behind this?” were questions the intelligence services constantly put to those they interrogated. Most of the students don’t have an answer. There is no puppet master who is pulling the strings. This has mainly been a spontaneous, grassroots movement. When I asked students how they know what is happening in other parts of Oromia, they said they knew through friends in neighboring villages, through Facebook – before the government restricted Facebook in Oromia – and occasionally through the Oromia Media Network, an independent diaspora television station.

How did the government respond to the protests?

After first responding with local police in Oromia, the government deployed the military, claiming that the protesters had been hijacked by outside forces and were bent on destroying government property. We did indeed find some cases in which protesters acted violently or in which there were attacks on government offices near the protests. But the vast majority of the protests were peaceful. Nevertheless, the security forces made tens of thousands of arbitrary arrests and shot live ammunition indiscriminately into the crowds. Because young children were often at the forefront of the protests, many of those struck by bullets were students. We estimate over 400 mostly young people have been killed since the protests began.

But didn’t the government halt the plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa?

In January the government announced the cancellation of the Master Plan. This was a rare concession for a government that is not used to making them. But by that time, the protesters’ concerns had become much broader. Not only were they talking about the plan, but also about the brutal response of the security forces to the protests, the jailing of students and children, and the decades of discrimination that ethnic Oromo have endured. So the announcement had little impact on the protesters. And the conduct of the security forces did not change either. They have continued to use live ammunition and make mass arrests.

How did you collect and corroborate the evidence for this report?

Surveillance is heavy, sources are targeted, and interpreters are at risk. In some cases, both local and foreign journalists have been detained. Despite this, we did manage to find ways to interview a number of protesters inside Ethiopia. We compared what they said with information given to us by people who had recently fled the country. We corroborated their accounts with photos, videos, police documents, health records. To confirm the authenticity of videos, we checked the footage’s metadata. We also spoke to the people who shot the videos, confirmed who the protesters in the videos were, and interviewed some of them. And we spoke to several local government officials who had fled the country.

There was one 17-year-old student who had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues. When he saw his friend get shot in the chest and go down, bleeding, he just ran and kept running.

We supplemented all of this with information we had gathered over the years for many of the locations where these protests took place. We know places of detention. We know about specific interrogation techniques that have been used. Nothing appears in our report that has not been confirmed by multiple sources.

What are some of the worst atrocities you documented?

Some of the protesters who had been in detention had weights tied to their testicles. We also documented cases of students arrested in their dormitories, blindfolded, taken to unknown places, hung upside-down by their ankles, beaten and told to reveal who was behind the protests.

Which stories moved you most?

There was one 17-year-old student who had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues. When he saw his friend get shot in the chest and go down, bleeding, he just ran and kept running. I interviewed him as he crossed the border into Kenya. One minute, he was worrying about school and his grades. The next minute, he realized that he might never see his family again, all because he joined a peaceful protest.

The other was the story of a young girl from the Arsi zone, a grade 8 student. Of the 28 students in her class, 12 had been arrested and their whereabouts were unknown, 3 had been arrested but later released, 4 had run away, 1 had been shot and killed, and 2 had been injured. When the teacher was arrested, and classes stopped, she fled.

Given the repressive climate, how were you able to protect your sources from retaliation?

We have seen many examples in the past where individuals who supplied information to international journalists and occasionally to human rights organizations were arrested or had to flee the country. The threats are real. Individuals only open up when they believe that we will protect their information and ensure their confidentiality. That’s why we do not supply names of those we interviewed or of locations nor any other detail that could identify our sources.

What effect has the crackdown had on the Oromo community?

Even though the government has cancelled the Master Plan, people remain skeptical. After decades of broken promises, many feel that those announcements are solely made for the benefit of an international audience, and that the government has no real intention to back down on its abusive approach to development.

Most of the mothers and fathers we spoke to have at least one child either in detention or in some refugee camp across the border. Some have no idea what happened to their children. They know they went to the protests, and that was the last they heard of them.

Thousands of student protesters have been forced to flee their homes and have sought asylum in neighboring countries, where they face numerous security risks and economic hardships. Often they find themselves stranded in a country whose language they don’t speak and where they are unlikely to be able to finish their education. For them, the future looks very bleak.

What has the international response been?

The United States and Ethiopia’s other allies like to highlight the regional counterterrorism initiatives Ethiopia is involved in, but turn a blind eye to domestic repression. The fact that Ethiopia hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees, and is the seat of the African Union, makes it even more difficult for other governments to publicly criticize the country’s response to these protests. However, if they continue to disregard the crackdown, Ethiopia’s long-term stability will be at risk. The situation is tense. The kids I talked to just want a future. But after hundreds of students have paid with their lives for taking their grievances to the streets, a growing number of people feel that there is no avenue left for peaceful expression of dissent.

What ought to be done to end the crisis?

The US and other allies should take a much firmer stance against these abuses and let Ethiopia know that it is not ok to arrest tens of thousands of students and shoot at kids who are peacefully protesting. There needs to be an independent, transparent investigation into this crackdown. Since the Ethiopian government has not shown that it is able or willing to conduct such investigations, allied countries and international entities ought to lend their support to ensure that members of the security forces responsible for abuses are held to account, whatever their rank.

Source : Human Rights Watch

Ethiopia: U.S. State Department Report Highlights Sever Rights Abuses in Ethiopia but Barely Scratched Recent Oromo Protest

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Report’s minimal attention on massive rights abuses and killings during the Oromo Protests angered activists

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released the latest country report including for Ethiopia on April 13, 2016.

Much to its usual details, the Ethiopia report identified harassment and intimidation against opposition members and supporters as well as journalists in Ethiopia; it also alleged torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces and politically motivated trials as “the most significant human rights problems” in the country.

The report itemizes other human rights abuses including “alleged arbitrary killings; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence;”as well as “the infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; restrictions on freedom of expression, including continued restrictions on print media and the internet, assembly, association, and movement;”and “restrictions on academic freedom; interference in religious affairs; restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.”It also states citizens’ “limited ability to change their government” and the prevalence “police, administrative, and judicial corruption.”

Particularly problematic is, according to the report, government officials’ impunity as, besides some reported exceptions, the government “generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.”

Killings, detentions, politicized judiciary

According to the report, “members of the security forces reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.” Between the end of the campaign for the 2015 general election in May to the announcement of results the next month, “opposition parties reported the death of six party members, including one candidate from the Blue Party. The deaths occurred in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR); Oromia; Amhara; and Tigray,” maintains the report.

The report further said in Gambella, the death of 126 police and civilians was reported on October 2014 due to clashes that occurred between a group of ethnic Majanger and Ethiopian national and local security forces. In December 2014 officials charged at least 46 individuals, including officials from the Gambella regional government, with terrorist acts, and they were on trial at year’s end charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP).

Torture and inhuman or degrading treatments and punishments have been reported even though the Ethiopian constitution and law prohibits such practices, maintains the report. “There were credible reports [that] police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Abeba,” while “prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening.”

Contrary to the country’s law which provides for an independent judiciary, and although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, “the criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence.”

Civil liberties

Shading light on the problem of freedom of expression, the report underscores that “authorities harassed, arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted journalists and other persons whom they perceived as critical of the government, creating an environment where self-censorship negatively affected freedom of speech.”Mostly employing the infamous ATP, the government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists. Meanwhile independent journalists continued facing logistical challenges to use government printing presses and access to private printing presses was scarce to nonexistent.

While the government muzzles internet freedom by periodically restricting access to certain content on the internet and blocking websites, Citizen Lab, a Canadian research center at the University of Toronto, identified Ethiopia as one of the 25 countries hosting servers linked to FinFisher surveillance software.

Another aspect of civil liberty the report chooses to focus on is academic freedom. The government restricted academic freedom, including through decisions on student enrollment, teachers’ appointments, and curricula, the report said. “Authorities frequently restricted speech, expression, and assembly on university and high school campuses” while “The ruling party, via the Ministry of Education, continued to give preference to students loyal to the party in assignments to postgraduate programs.”

There are also “numerous reported cases of government denial of freedom of assembly” as “regional governments, including the Addis Abeba regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings.”

The report also discusses freedom of movement, participation of women and minorities, corruption and lack of government transparency, as well as discriminations and societal abuses.

Missing details on the #OromoProtests angers many

The report said there were many reports of arbitrary arrest and detention by police and security forces throughout the country, including the detention of seven pastoralist and community leaders at Bole International Airport en route to participate in an agricultural workshop in Nairobi on March; the extrajudicial and arbitrary detentions of opposition party members in the run up to the election; and reports of “thousands of extrajudicial and arbitrary detentions” as #Oromoprotests continued for months.

However, the report’s minimal attention to the recent #Oromoprotests, which began on November 12 and continued through today – although to a lesser extent, has angered several activists and campaigners. Although unconfirmed reports put the number of people killed by security forces to more than 400 during the last five months of civil disobedient by the Oromo, the report scarcely mentioned protests have “spread to small towns and villages across the Region” and “Some of the protests escalated into violent clashes between protesters and security forces, which allegedly used excessive force, resulting in dozens of deaths, including protesters and police officers.”

“I honestly expected the U.S. Department of State to at least report on the ongoing ‪#‎OromoProtests, now in its fifth month, including the hundreds of killings, mass arrests, wholesale eviction and dispossession of the Oromo people off their land and natural resources in Ethiopia in its yearly human rights report, however meaningless and useless the Report is,” wrote Berhanemeskel Abebe Segni, a prominent Oromo scholar and activist, on his facebook page. “I expected the leadership of the United States on this issue, in part, assuming the Oromo people’s security, political and economic interests are crosscutting [the] shared national security and economic interests of both Ethiopia and the United States,” Berhanemeskel expressed his frustration.

Perhaps partly due to that, unlike other times, the report has so far created little buzz within the social media space amongst Ethiopians.

Source : Addis Standard