Friday, May 22, 2015

Is Ethiopia about to get more than one opposition MP?

The current parliament in Ethiopia has only one opposition representative. Could this all change when up to 36 million voters head for the polls this Sunday?
These will be the first elections since the death of the long-term Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012. His Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been in power for almost a quarter of a century, and faces no reasonable prospect of defeat.

Who is participating in the polls?
There are 57 political groups which have registered for the election. Many of them are organised along ethnic lines. Apart from the EPRDF, some of the main contenders include the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum; a coalition popularly known as Medrek (the Forum); Unity For Democracy And Justice; and the Semayawi (Blue) Party, which was established in 2012, and has earned itself a reputation for organizing protest rallies and which draws support from young people.



Why have these elections caused controversy in the US?

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman has praised Ethiopia as a democracy, prompting outrage among human rights organisations.
Speaking during a press briefing in Addis Ababa in April, Ms Sherman said: "Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible and open and inclusive in ways that Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy. Every time there is an election it gets better and better."
In a joint letter, various groups, including Amnesty International USA, said that through her statement the US endorsed ''a government that systematically suppresses the fundamental rights of its citizens. Political pluralism and the ability of Ethiopians to freely express themselves, associate, and participate in peaceful assembly is far more restricted today than ten years ago under the same government.''



What happened in previous elections?

In 2005, 174 opposition politicians won seats in the 547-seat parliament, but many did not take them up after pronouncing the vote rigged.
In the 2010 polls, Girma Seifu, of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was the sole opponent to win, while the ruling EPRDF garnered 99.6% of all parliamentary seats. An independent candidate was also elected.

What do opposition parties say about these polls?

The fractured opposition groups have accused the government of harassing their members and carrying out illegal detentions ahead of the elections.
One politician, Yonathan Tesfaye, spokesman for the Blue Party, told journalists that some party members had been beaten, especially in the southern region. But ruling party spokesman Desta Tesfaw dismissed the allegations and accused opposition groups of trying to discredit the elections, saying: "They don't have their own policies and agendas, and that's clear to the Ethiopian people."




Which outsiders are monitoring the polls?

The African Union has sent election monitors, but the European Union won't be sending observers. The EU said it hasn't been invited.   Source ( BBC)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ethiopia: Opposition claims harassment ahead of elections – U.S. News & World Report

Ethiopian opposition groups are accusing the government of harassing their members and carrying out illegal detentions ahead of the May 24 elections.
Yonathan Tesfaye, spokesman for the Blue Party, told The Associated Press this week that some party members are being beaten, especially in the southern region. He said his party may boycott the elections.
“If the current level of harassment and detention along with the problem in registering our observers continues, we might be forced to consider exiting from the election process,” he said.
Chane Kebede, leader of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, also complained of a climate of fear. We have now come to the understanding that the ruling party wants a 100 percent control of the government after the upcoming election,” he said.
Only one opposition lawmaker won a seat in the country’s parliament in the 2010 general elections, which watchdog groups said were marred by intimidation and harassment of opposition activists.
But a spokesman for the ruling party, Desta Tesfaw, dismissed the allegations and accused opposition parties groups of trying to discredit the elections.
“They don’t have their own policies and agendas, and that’s clear to the Ethiopian people,” Tesfaw said, referring to the political opposition. He noted, however, that the ruling party had “taken some measures against our members who were found violating the election code.” He did not say what the violations were.
In 2010, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, won 99.6 percent of all parliamentary seats — a victory that Human Rights Watch said was “the culmination of the government’s five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for political dissent and independent criticism.”  Source (Associated   Press)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Burundi President Nkurunziza faces attempted coup

A coup attempt has been launched in Burundi to try to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza, amid unrest over his bid to be re-elected to a third term.
Thousands of people in the capital, Bujumbura, celebrated the announcement by Major General Godefroid Niyombare.
But the coup outcome is far from clear.
The presidency said it had been foiled. Mr Nkurunziza left a summit he was attending in Tanzania to try to return home but some unconfirmed reports say his plane has now returned to Tanzania.
Gen Niyombare said in a radio address he had ordered "the closure of the airport and border, and I ask every citizen and law enforcement down to the airport to protect it".
Mr Nkurunziza had been in Dar es Salaam to discuss the crisis with regional leaders. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said the summit condemned the coup.
A statement from the Burundi presidency said: "It is with regret that we have learned that a group from the armed forces mutinied this morning and declared an imaginary coup.
Media caption In an address on a private radio station, Gen Niyombare said the government was dissolved
"This coup attempt has been foiled and that these people, who read the coup announcement on the radio, are being hunted by defence and security forces so that they can be brought to justice."
A presidential spokesman said Mr Nkurunziza would address the nation on his return and was not afraid.
 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all parties to exercise restraint.
The BBC's Maud Jullien in Bujumbura says thousands of protesters marched to the city centre alongside soldiers and two tanks after the coup was announced.
Police shot at the soldiers and the crowd. At least two protesters were killed.

What I can see right now is a lot of police checks on the road. They are stopping every vehicle, ensuring that those traveling are not carrying any weapons. We can see truckloads of army personnel driving past where I am standing, perhaps trying to get them to military bases.
When the general made the announcement there was a mixed reaction and some gunfire around the capital. In some parts there was panic and fear; people were running to safety, locking themselves into any building they could find. But there were also those who were celebrating, saying that this is what they wanted.
The protesters continued to march, one telling the BBC this was a victory after weeks of protests.
But the offices of the state broadcaster and the presidential palace still appear to be in the control of soldiers loyal to the president. Source ( BBC )

Monday, May 11, 2015

Russia vows to thwart Western hostility against Zimbabwe

Russian President Vladmir Putin has reportedly vowed to stand by Zimbabwe and shield the southern African country against any “Western aggression”.
President Vladimir Putin vowed this  in Moscow on Sunday during a meeting with President Mugabe that he would protect Mugabe and his government against any western aggression.
In 2008, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution sponsored by Britain and the United States seeking to impose punitive sanctions on Zimbabwe.
In an hour-long meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to deepening bilateral ties, with President Mugabe pressing for increased Russian investment in agriculture, mining, infrastructure development and the manufacturing industries.
According to The Herald, Putin, who was speaking during an hour-long meeting with President Robert Mugabe in Moscow, said Russia was ready to “thwart” any Western hostility against Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, 91, fell out of favour with the West in 2000, after embarking on a controversial land redistribution exercise which he said was meant to redress colonial land imbalances.
The West also accused the veteran leader of human rights abuses and slapped him and his inner circle with travel restrictions.
Mugabe, who is still in Moscow, joined Putin over the weekend in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the World War II victory over Nazi Germany.
Mugabe was invited to the event in his capacity as the African Union chair.
President Putin invited the Zimbabwean leader to appoint a special envoy to steer trade agreements between the two countries.
He said he had instructed his Trade Minister Denis Manturov to receive the envoy and fully explore areas of potential co-operation. Source ( CCTV  AFRICA)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Finally true: Haile G/Selassie confirmed his official retirement after finishing 16 in the great Manchester Run( BBC)

"A great athlete, a great   competitor   but a wonderful human being…" 
Paula Radcliffe, who ran her final London Marathon two weeks ago, paid tribute to Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie has announced his retirement from competitive running The 42-year-old Ethiopian confirmed his decision after finishing 16th in the Great Manchester Run on Sunday.
It brings to an end a 25-year career in which he claimed two Olympic gold medals, eight World Championship victories and set 27 world records.
"I'm retiring from competitive running, not from running. You cannot stop running, this is my life," he told BBC Sport.
Gebrselassie remains the world record holder at 20,000m and the one-hour race.
He had announced his intention to retire five years ago after injury problems, before returning to racing months later.