Africa

Kenya’s president warns judiciary not to help opposition

Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenya’s president has warned the country’s judiciary not to help the opposition throw the next election into disarray.

The presidential poll will take place next month and Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking re-election.

On Friday, after a case brought by the opposition, the High Court ordered the electoral commission not to print ballot papers.

Mr Kenyatta insisted the election would go ahead as planned.

“This kind of intimidation will not be allowed and the election date will not change,” he said.

He said the judiciary could not claim independence and then use it to interfere with the functioning of the executive and other arms of government.

The High Court argued that the tendering process for the ballot papers had not been transparent enough.

The opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) alleged that the president had links to Al Ghurair, the Dubai-based firm that won the $24m (£18m) tender.

Al Ghurair and Mr Kenyatta deny any wrongdoing.

The judges ruled that the company could still print ballots for the parliamentary and county elections, but the tender for presidential ballots should be re-advertised.

Supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Raila Odinga listen as he delivers a speech during a rally held in Nairobi, 7 July 2017.Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Odinga’s party alleges improper links between the president and the firm printing ballots

Local media have reported that whoever takes on the job of printing and distributing the ballot papers will have just 30 days to do what is usually a 45-day task.

In a separate development, Raila Odinga, Mr Kenyatta’s main contender, was taken ill and admitted to hospital on Sunday with what his campaign team said was suspected food poisoning.

Mr Odinga, speaking shortly after he was discharged from the hospital in the coastal city of Mombasa, said that he was “fit as a fiddle”.

“I had stomach pains, which have since disappeared after getting treatment,” Mr Odinga said, adding: “I have been discharged to go to Nairobi to continue with my campaigns.”

Meanwhile, several people have reportedly been killed in clashes between rival political groups, rekindling memories of post-election violence in 2007-2008 that left more than 1,000 people dead.

 

 

How long can Ethiopia state of emergency last?

A decade of development in Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is at risk if the country continues to ban political opposition and muzzle the media, the UN has warned.

Ethiopia is now in its eighth month of emergency rule, which was imposed in October last year to crush its biggest protests in 25 years.

The unrest started in the Oromia region in 2015, when the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, took to the streets demanding more rights.

Demonstrations then spread to the Amhara region, home to the second major ethnic group.

The state of emergency, initially declared for six months, included curfews, social media blocks, and restrictions on opposition party activity. It was extended for another four months in March amid reports of continuing violence.

READ MORE: Report – 669 killed in Ethiopia violence since August

Almost 700 people have been killed in the violence, a government-sponsored commission said in April, but human rights groups said the toll could be higher.

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has urged authorities to allow UN officials to visit the affected region and establish the facts. He has expressed concern over reports of the arrest of more than 26,000 people.

Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia’s information minister, talks to Al Jazeera on the prospects for peace in his country.

Al Jazeera: How does Ethiopia as a country, as a government, respond to allegations of human rights abuses?

Negeri Lencho: Thank you. In the first place, Ethiopian government is an accountable government. Ethiopia is in the process of building democracy in the last two decades.

In that process, not only building democracy, but also working to alleviate the problem of poverty and escape the majority of the people out of poverty.

And as you’ve also noted, Ethiopia was in dire poverty 25 years before, but now it is one of the fastest growing economies.

Ethiopia rejects UN’s call to investigate protest deaths

Al Jazeera: And yet you’ve run a state of emergency first for six months and another four. That’s going to stifle growth, isn’t it?

Lencho: I understand that. Actually the economic growth we have achieved was made possible because of peace and stability, we know that.

The number one enemy of the people of Ethiopia is poverty, and we can get rid of poverty where there’s peace and stability.

And what we’ve experienced was compromising the efforts we’ve been making so far. The government was trying to respond to the demands that the people already expressed.

As a young democratic country, we believe that any problem, whatever the case may be, can be resolved through peaceful forum.

Al Jazeera: Dialogue. Is there dialogue happening? You talk about poverty being the enemy. But those two ethnic groups, they want to be recognised. They want their rights as ethnic people of Ethiopia to be recognised. Are you talking to them? Are you listening to them?

Lencho: Yeah. Actually the government is the government of these people as well. Because the government or people in government positions have not come from elsewhere, but from the people as well.

And they raise questions about the equitable use of economic benefits and employment and so on. But the problem was not the question that the public raised.

The government was responding to the question, to its level. But unfortunately what propelled the government to impose a state of emergency was the demonstrations you know took a different direction than the public intended. Not only the government.

It was compromising peace and order, the stability, which doesn’t help any of the people who have the question.

READ MORE: Ethiopia – Ethnic nationalism and the Gondar protests

Al Jazeera: Are you going to let the United Nations in? The United Nations High Commissioner wants access to people who have been arrested. There’s limits on the media as well. These things are not helping the country or its image.

Lencho: Actually it is the responsibility of the Ethiopian government because it is a democratic country, it is accountable to its people and what the government said was the government can’t do it. That means there is an independent human rights commission …

Al Jazeera: Which praised the government for the way it handled things.

Lencho: It did not praise if you really read the report. It came out with a report that seeks the offenders to be accountable at the same time, not only praising the government.

Actually the report shows that in some places the action taken was to restore peace and order, and was appropriate because of the way the direction took that was against the interests of the civilians as well.

Al Jazeera: So when can the Ethiopian people look to have their freedom restored? When will the state of emergency be lifted?

Lencho: Well, actually, the state of emergency in Ethiopia is not unique. When such problems arise elsewhere in different parts of the world.

We have even eased many of the provisions in the state of emergency and we have seen protests in the country.

It has been extended only for four months, and now one month has almost passed. After we expect it will be lifted you know when these three months end.

 

 

UK issues travel alert in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia’s Civil Society Getting Squeezed

June 13, 2017 1:09 PM
  • Salem Solomon
    FILE - People walk past the Federal High Court building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nov. 1, 2011. Observers say Ethiopian courts frequently use the country's anti-terrorism laws to restrict activities of government critics.
    FILE – People walk past the Federal High Court building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nov. 1, 2011. Observers say Ethiopian courts frequently use the country’s anti-terrorism laws to restrict activities of government critics.
    From an internet shutdown to convictions of journalists and opposition members, Ethiopia’s civil society has felt like it’s under attack in recent weeks.

    On May 24, Getachew Shiferaw, editor of the news website Negere Ethiopia, was convicted of “inciting violence” because of a private Facebook conversation. The Ethiopian Federal Court initially charged Shiferaw under the country’s anti-terrorism law, but later charged him under the criminal code and sentenced him to time served since his arrest in 2015.

    On May 25, a court sentenced Ethiopian opposition spokesman Yonatan Tesfaye to six-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he encouraged terrorism with comments on Facebook. Yeshiwas Assefa, newly elected president of the Semayawi (Blue) Party, called the verdict “disappointing and embarrassing.”

    “Yonatan is sentenced to six years and six months just because of what he wrote on Facebook as something that encourages terrorism. He was expressing his thoughts freely. This is what we fear would bring people to protest in our country,” he told VOA.

    The following day, May 26, two men, Tufa Melka and Kedir Bedasso, were charged with terrorism for their role in a stampede that occurred in October 2016 at a cultural festival in the Oromia region. The men are accused of yelling things into the microphone that led to chaos and the death of 55 people.

    Gemeda Wariyo, a protester who grabbed the microphone and admitted to chanting “down, down Woyane” is in exile now and wasn’t mentioned in the court documents. “Woyane” is a colloquial term used to describe the ruling party in Ethiopia.

    “I took the microphone in a peaceful protest,” he told VOA Amharic. “I was the one who protested and I don’t know the men blamed for grabbing the microphone.”

    FILE - Ethiopian men read newspapers and drink coffee at a cafe in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oct. 10, 2016. The Ethiopian government temporarily cut off internet access nationwide in early June, saying it was necessary to prevent students from cheating on final exams.

    FILE – Ethiopian men read newspapers and drink coffee at a cafe in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oct. 10, 2016. The Ethiopian government temporarily cut off internet access nationwide in early June, saying it was necessary to prevent students from cheating on final exams.

    And in early June, the government cut off internet access nationwide, stating that the measure was needed to prevent high school students from cheating on final exams by sharing answers on social media.

    In a press conference, Communications Minister Negeri Lencho denied the move was to control free communication.

    “The only reason is to help our students to concentrate on the exams because we know we are fighting poverty,” he said.

    As of June 8, internet access including social media sites was restored, according to published reports.

    ‘Under assault’

    In a new report, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an international think tank, concluded that the targeting of civil society and restrictions on free speech fit a pattern in Ethiopia. Over the past two decades the space for political opposition has been steadily constricted and civil liberties taken away, the report said.

    Two laws in particular, the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-terrorism Proclamation, both passed in 2009, have given the government wide latitude to imprison opposition members and journalists and shut down groups advocating for human rights, Carnegie found.

    Saskia Brechenmacher, an associate fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who worked on the report, said anti-terrorism laws have been used across Africa to stifle dissent.

    “Those laws have become very effective tools, especially in moments of crisis as we are seeing right now,” she said. “Ahead of elections or during moments of sustained protests, [they are used] to target selectively, particularly activists and journalists that are seen as particularly threatening.”

    FILE - Security personnel take action against protesters in Bishoftu town in Ethiopia's Oromia region, Oct. 2, 2016. Critics say that ahead of elections or during moments of sustained protests the Ethiopian government has been known to resort to a self-serving interpretation of the country's anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent, selectively targeting activists and journalists.

    FILE – Security personnel take action against protesters in Bishoftu town in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, Oct. 2, 2016. Critics say that ahead of elections or during moments of sustained protests the Ethiopian government has been known to resort to a self-serving interpretation of the country’s anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent, selectively targeting activists and journalists.

    Brechenmacher said Ethiopia also cracks down on civil society groups through a provision in the charities law, which prevents organizations from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad.

    “Many organizations had to switch their mandate and activities and turn more toward developmental and civil liberties because they couldn’t carry out the kind of work they had been doing before,” she said.

    Brechenmacher said these restrictions represent an abrupt reversal for a country that was becoming more open prior to the crackdowns that followed the 2005 elections.

    “Ethiopia showcases what a dramatic effect this could have on independent civil society and the amount of information that is available in a country,” she said. “And also it really testifies the extent to which this does not really address the grievances that citizens have vis-a-vis the government and therefore those grievances will find another outlet.”

 

 

 

 

The paradox of TPLF’s success and survival

By Teshome M. Borago
May 26, 2017

As the latest development with WHO’s appointment of Tedros Adhanom shows, the TPLF continues to benefit from the achievements of our ancestors. The fact is, if the TPLF was not able to mobilize and secure the support of all African nations; let alone winning the W.H.O. Director general seat, Tedros would not even be considered for the position, due to his lack of experience and his failures to report Cholera outbreaks. And this is where the irony of Tedros, and by extension, the TPLF, continues to reappear like a plague.  Continue reading

Ethiopia’s star singer Teddy Afro makes plea for openness

By Elias Meseret, AP
May 13, 2017

Teddy Afro – Inspiring millions for Ethiopian revival

DDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Teddy Afro, Ethiopia’s superstar singer, is topping the Billboard world albums chart with “Ethiopia,” which less than two weeks after its release has sold nearly 600,000 copies, a feat no other artist here has achieved. Continue reading

Candidate to Lead the W.H.O. Accused of Covering Up Epidemics

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., New York Times
May 15, 2017

Tedros Adhanom
Tedros Adhanom’s accountability is not to Ethiopia; it is to TPLF, an organization that has vowed to throw Ethiopia into an ethnic bloodshed in the event it loses power. If Tedros is elected, there is no doubt Ethiopia is the loser because TPLF has its top cadre as chief of WHO, someone with substantial power to influence the outcome of other serious issues, like charges against the ruling party TPLF over human rights violations ranging from extra-judicial killings up to genocide.

 

A leading candidate to head the World Health Organization was accused this week of covering up three cholera epidemics in his home country, Ethiopia, when he was health minister — a charge that could seriously undermine his campaign to run the agency. Continue reading

US doesn’t need Ethiopia in its war on terror in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopian troops File
 

By Alemayehu Mariam

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the Middle East and Africa to “reaffirm key U.S. military alliances” and engage with strategic partners.” Mattis only visited the tiny nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. maintains its largest military base. Ethiopia was conspicuously absent from the “strategic partner” lineup. Continue reading

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