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South Sudan rival forces trade accusations over ceasefire violations after Pagak’s capture

South Sudan's army soldiers drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach, Unity state April 24, 2012. (Reuters Photo)
August 7, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rival forces on Monday traded accusations in which each side attempted to portray the other as the cause of the military attacks leading to the fall of the rebel headquarters.

The South Sudanese warring parties confirmed Monday the fall of the main rebel stronghold of Pagak near the Ethiopian border by the government forces. The new development raises questions about the unilateral declaration of cessation of hostilities by President Salva Kiir last May. But, Juba recently maintained that they are facing rebel attacks on their positions.

Paul Lam Gabriel, deputy spokesman of the armed opposition fighters said in a statement on Monday that their forces in Pagak were forced to withdraw from the town after government forces launched a ground attack on Sunday supported by air cover using heavy weapons despite the presence of civilians.

“Because of the artillery and bombardments, our forces decided to pull out from Pagak to avoid civilians being caught up in the cross fire. Now the government is controlling Pagak. It was an unprovoked attack, which is a clear violation of the ceasefire they claimed to have declared in May. Now you wonder why the same party which claimed to have issued unilateral ceasefire launched attacks,” asked Lam.

Santo Domic, deputy spokesman of the government forces confirmed the presence of government forces in Pagak, the main rebel-controlled town in Upper Nile region at South Sudan-Ethiopia border.

He claimed the South Sudanese forces responded to an attack carried out on the government held positions in the area by armed opposition SPLA-IO of the former Vice President Riek Machar, resulting in the defeat and subsequent takeover of their headquarters during hot pursuit operations on Sunday.

“When fighting breaks out and one retreats, the other ensures the retreating party is pursued to a point that it would not have the capability to make another comeback,” he said.

“What I want to say here is that our forces were attacked by the rebels of Riek Machar and so they acted in self-defence (operations) during which they pushed them away and – in the process – took over where they used to launch their attacks on the positions of our forces. It was a response to frequent attacks which our forces have been repulsing”, stressed the military spokesperson.

Also, Presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny also confirmed the takeover of rebel headquarters by the government forces on Sunday, describing it as “a necessary action” in self-defense.

The governor of Maiwut state, Bol Ruach Rom said in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune that the rebel headquarters is now under the control of the government forces and was preparing to visit the area with congratulatory messages to the government forces and the civilian population.

“The anti-peace elements have been defeated and forced to leave Pagak yesterday on Sunday afternoon because they realized that they could not match the capabilities of our forces”.

“Their decision to leave gives us the opportunity to control and manage our border with the Ethiopia”.

“The takeover of Pagak means a lot to the people of the area. It means that there will be peace and the overall stability returning to the area and to our neighbours”, explained governor Rom, himself a native of the area.




Letter to PM Haile Mariam Desalegn

1Dear PM Haile Mariam Desalegn,

We are with the utmost urgency to address our concerns about some appalling conditions undertaken against Gambella people’s interest. Our organization is so kind to present these issues to your attention and the government you are serving to take some measures for well-being of Gambella people.

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Young 400m runner Bendere Oboya continues incredible rise as Commonwealth Games comes into view

July 24, 2017 11:16pm

Bendere Oboya is so proudly an Aussie that she had the perfect answer in the Bahamas when a string of Kenyan athletes quizzed her on why she hadn’t found a way to run for her birth country of Ethiopia.

“I kept getting that question at the track and I just said I live in Sydney, I’ve every reason to represent Australia and be really grateful for opportunities I never thought I’d have,” the engaging new 400m starlet said.

Aussies finished first and third in the 400m with Bendere Oboya leading the way.

Her big personal best (52.69 sec) to win gold was Australia’s standout showing at the Commonwealth Youth Games because it has spun this tiny 45kg sliver of a girl within tantalising reach of a far grander stage on the Gold Coast in April.

The run was inside the B-qualifying level for the Commonwealth Games and has thrust her into the mix for the medal-quality 4 x 400m relay squad because only Rio Olympics darling Morgan Mitchell has run faster as an Aussie this year.

Oboya, 17, dedicated her two gold medals in the Bahamas to her parents for their sacrifices to set up a better life in Sydney’s west at Pendle Hill.

She was just three when parents Akech and Opamo found a way out of Gambela, in the western corner of Ethiopia near the South Sudan border where indiscriminate killings, poverty and instability jar the daily tempo.

Now only photo albums remind the Year 12 schoolgirl of her former life.

“I grew up as a Mormon and it was mainly the church and other family members who helped us with furniture and basics when we arrived in Australia,” Oboya said in her distinct Aussie accent.

She can’t remember her mother Akech, a chicken factory worker, ever being on a proper holiday, certainly not one to the Caribbean where the youngster held the Queen’s Baton in the 34th country it has visited on a 230,000km relay to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.

Bendere Oboya was part of the Queen’s Baton Relay in the Bahamas.

This pocket-sized surprise who has never done gym work to aid her strength may just be on a crazy course to the Gold Coast herself.

“Everything is going a bit too fast…I never expected my times to drop so far because I was like running 22 seconds slower at the start of last year when I didn’t even have a coach,” Oboya said.

“I would really love to represent at the Commonwealth Games if I’m ready. I think I’m ready.

“My endurance is just my genes because I’ve never done gym. I can get a lot stronger and learn more about the 400…that’s my race even though people always expect me to say the 1500.”

She has already knocked back a US scholarship to Duke University to do it the Australian way.




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

Filed under: News,News Feature |

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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

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