Ethiopia’s Ambo: the city cutting long hair and internet

Under Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed, the city of Ambo has turned from being a symbol of freedom into a symbol of repression, as the security forces try to curb the growth of ethnically inspired rebel and opposition groups that threaten his “coming together” vision.

Ambo, which has a large student population because of its university, was at the centre of mass protests that saw Mr Abiy rise to power in April 2018 with a promise to end decades of authoritarian rule in a nation with more than 100 million people belonging to at least 80 ethnic groups.

Most of Ambo’s residents are Oromos – and the protests were largely driven by anger that despite being Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, they were marginalised from political and economic power, with no Oromo ever serving as prime minister.

Acknowledging Ambo’s role in bringing about change during a visit to the city within days of becoming the first Oromo to hold the prime minister’s post, Mr Abiy said: “Ambo is where we are going to build the statue of our liberty, our New York.”

At a fund-raising event in February 2019, the prime minister sold his watch for 5m birr (about $155,000, £120,000) to kick-start development in the city.

It was a further indication of the huge political significance he attached to Ambo, traditionally regarded as a stronghold of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a former rebel group which laid down arms following peace talks with Mr Abiy.

People fill the road after the rally of Ethiopia's new Prime Minister in Ambo, about 120km west of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 11, 2018
Image captionStudents were at the forefront of demands for change

But a year later, there are few signs of development in Ambo, which is about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa. Instead, residents are once again complaining of a return of police brutality, with young men being randomly beaten up or detained as they go about their daily lives.

‘I was lucky’

I witnessed some of this during a visit to Ambo.

In one instance about six policemen forced two young men to kneel in front of pedestrians, before kicking them and hitting them with sticks.

In another instance, two young men were forcibly taken to a police station. Their elbows were tied behind their backs. One of them pleaded, in vain, with the officers to untie him.

No-one dared to intervene for fear that the police would assault them too.

The policemen were from the regional force – and their numbers were swelled last Sunday when hundreds more graduated, raising fears that the crackdown will intensify ahead of the general election slated for August. That is the first time that Mr Abiy will face the voters since the ruling coalition chose him as prime minister to order to quell the nationwide protests.

I also saw policemen walking around Ambo with scissors, giving haircuts on the spot to young men whom they perceive to have long hair or afros.

They considered my hair to be an afro but I was lucky – they let me off with a warning to chop it off myself, which I did not do as I was going to leave Ambo in two days’ time.

‘I was unable to access the internet’

Police just assume that men with such looks are troublemakers and supporters of rebel leader Kumsa Diriba, who they see as a major threat to western Oromia’s stability and Mr Abiy’s vision of forcing a new sense of national unity, known as “coming together” .

Kumsaa Diriba
Image captionRebel commander Kumsa Diriba refuses to make peace with the government

Having spurned Mr Abiy’s peace overtures in 2018, Mr Kumsa, who is also known as Jaal Maro, is continuing to push for the “liberation” of Oromia from his forest hideout in the remote west.

He split from the OLF, the biggest Oromo rebel group, after it decided to turn into a political party, taking with him an unspecified number of fighters under his command.

The government suspects that Mr Kumsa’s rebels have infiltrated Ambo, and were responsible for the bomb blast at a pro-Abiy rally held last month to show that the prime minister still commands significant support in the city.

The rebels, via their supporters and anonymous accounts, have also been slowly gaining a profile on social media in an attempt to raise discontent against the government, especially through the circulation of the names of victims of alleged brutality by the security forces.

The government’s attempt to keep a lid on dissent has led to frequent internet shutdowns in much of western Oromia since January, and in some areas people cannot even make or receive phone calls. This is despite the fact that Mr Abiy has promised to liberalise the telecom sector and end the monopoly of state-owned Ethio Telecom.

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In an interview with BBC Afaan Oromoo, the deputy chief of staff of Ethiopia’s Defence Force, Gen Berhanu Jula, hinted that the shutdowns were linked to military operations to dismantle camps under Mr Kumsa’s control, while a senior official of Mr Abiy’s newly formed Prosperity Party (PP), Taye Dendea, denied that innocent people were victims of the security force operation.

“The government has no reason to target civilians, we care about our people more than anyone else,” Mr Taye told BBC Afaan Oromoo.

In Ambo, I was unable to access the internet over my mobile phone throughout my three-week stay. On the two occasions I went to an internet cafe, it had poor broadband connection and I had to wait for a long time before I could check my emails and social media accounts.

Residents suspect that apart from government concerns about the rebels, the shutdowns are intended to limit political campaigning and starve young people of news ahead of the general election.

Residents point out that Jawar Mohammed – who is probably the most prominent and controversial Ethiopian social media activist – is now also making life difficult for the prime minister.

Jawar Mohammed (C), a member of the Oromo ethnic group who has been a public critic of Abiy, addresses supporters that had gathered outside his home in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa after he accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him October 24, 2019
Image captionSocial media activist Jawar Mohammed has joined an opposition party

When exiled in the US, Mr Jawar used Facebook effectively to get Oromos on to the streets to rise against the former government.

Having returned to Ethiopia after Mr Abiy took power, he briefly became a supporter of the prime minister but is now a fierce opponent.

Nobel laureate booed

Mr Jawar put out a video on Facebook soon after Mr Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October, accusing the government of trying to remove his guards from his home in Addis Ababa as part of a ploy to orchestrate an attack on him.


Despite government denials of any such plan, Mr Jawar’s supporters staged protests against Mr Abiy in parts of Oromia – in one instance, burning copies of the prime minister’s newly published book, which outlines his “coming together” vision.

When Mr Abiy subsequently visited Ambo for a meeting with selected guests in a hotel, pro-Jawar youths staged a protest and booed the prime minister, who had been awarded the Nobel prize for his “decisive initiative” to end the border conflict with Eritrea, and for the “important reforms” he had initiated in Ethiopia with a pledge to “strengthen democracy”.

Mr Jawar has joined the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which has formed an alliance with the OLF and the Oromo National Party (ONP) to contest the election on what is expected to be a strong ethno-nationalist ticket.

In Oromia, it is likely to pose the biggest electoral challenge to Mr Abiy’s PP, which was launched in December after a merger of eight of the nine regional parties which make up Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.

Mr Abiy hopes that the PP will foster national unity and keep ethnic nationalism in check.

Chart showing the ethnic make-up of Ethiopia

But he has taken a huge risk as the mass protests that propelled him to power were not just about political freedom – but also about the right of each group to express their ethnic identities more freely and to have greater autonomy for their regions.

So, as far as ethno-nationalists in Ambo and elsewhere in Oromia are concerned, Mr Abiy has sold out.

Worrying for the Nobel laureate, Defence Minister Lemma Megersa, a fellow Oromo with political clout, also expressed doubts about the PP’s formation in November, though party officials say he and Mr Abiy have been ironing out their differences since then.


“The merger is not right and timely, as we are in transition, we are on borrowed time. Dissolving the regional party to which the public entrusted their demands is betraying them,” Mr Lemma said at the time.

For Mr Abiy’s supporters, he offers the best hope of getting Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups to work together, and avoid the country’s disintegration.

They are confident that he will demonstrate his popularity by leading the PP to victory in the election, though its legitimacy is bound to be questioned if the crackdown in Ambo continues.

Megebe Temesgen (L) is grateful to Shasitu Nigusse for keeping her promise

‘My neighbour rented out my home for 20 years’

When Ethiopian and Eritrea went to war over a border town more than 20 years ago, Ethiopian people living in Eritrea were forced to leave and the same was true for Eritreans in Ethiopia.

That was also Megebe Temesgen’s bitter reality.

As an Eritrean living in northern Ethiopia, she had no choice but to leave her home and friends behind.

But one of her neighbours, Shasitu Nigusse, helped out in her hour of need.

Looking back, Ms Megebe told BBC News Amharic that Ms Shasitu was then the only person in her life who could safeguard her home in Gondar and her belongings inside it.


Ms Shashitu rented out the house to tenants and collected rent payment on behalf of Ms Megebe for the next 20 years while was away.

She even stood in for Ms Megebe when local administration officers summoned her on matters regarding the house.

Ms Megebe finally returned home to Gondar in 2018, when Ethiopia and Eritrea made peace and the borders were opened.

Ms Megebe says she’s back at her home in Gondar to stay

She told the BBC she was touched that her neighbour held true to that promise made all those years ago.

“I’ll live here for the rest of my life,” she said.

Ethiopia is in deep trouble

Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed must do more to keep the country stable.
Hakon Mosvold Larsen/EPA-EFE

By Mulugeta G Berhe (PhD), Tufts University

Ethiopia has seen dramatic transformation and change over the past century. Two of the biggest changes were the victory in 1991 of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front which has remained the dominant party ever since and, more recently, the accession to power of Ahmed Abiy as Prime Minister.

I have been intimately involved in Ethiopia’s politics since the early years of the formation of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in 1975. I served as a member of the leadership of the ruling coalition for the first eight years it was in power. I have also written extensively on its successes and weaknesses. This includes a recently published book, Laying the Past to Rest: The EPRDF and the Challenges of Ethiopian State-Building.


In the book I trace the history of the coalition, and review its performance in power up until 2012. I discuss how the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front fell short in its state building project by failing to make an effective transition from leading a war to leading a government.

The coalition nevertheless made some remarkable achievements. The most notable was the fact that millions of Ethiopians were lifted out of poverty. But the most recent change in Ethiopia’s leadership portends, in my view, a dangerous period for the country.

Over the last 29 years Ethiopian politics has moved from a centralised political system under Meles Zenawi into a what I call ‘rivalrous oligopoly’ towards the end of Hailemariam Desalegn’s period. Unity of purpose of the coalition members was lost as each competed for dominance.

Under Ahmed Abiy it has moved further into open market competition where most coalition members have ceased to exist as organised units. Their leaders are divided into groups fighting against each other for dominance.

The conclusion I draw is that, despite the economic liberalisation Abiy’s regime has started, Ethiopia is far from running a meaningful reform agenda. More worryingly, I believe it is fast moving towards becoming a failed state.

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The history

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front was created as a nationalist armed rebellion against the military regime that ruled Ethiopia for 17 years. In the process of its armed struggle it created successful alliances with other Ethiopian opposition forces. This led to the creation of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition, which expanded the rebellion to the rest of Ethiopia. This coalition finally took power in May 1991 after a protracted 17-year war.

After taking power, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front-anchored EPRDF set about restoring democratic rights and installing a democratic system of governance. It set about building a federation made up of a number of states based on national identity.

The coalition achieved some remarkable successes. For example, the objectives of ensuring economic growth and reducing poverty were largely successful. Over a period of 15 years, from 2000 to 2016, the World Bank listed Ethiopia as the fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan region. In addition, life expectancy was lifted from 47 years in 1991 to 65 years in 2018.


The country also enjoyed its longest peace time in history – over 25 years.

But the coalition did less well in achieving democracy and embedding a democratic form of governance. Over time the organisation moved away from its revolutionary and progressive political objectives. Instead it became an instrument for the rent-seeking objectives of its leaders and members.

In their bid to stay in power, the former revolutionaries took to trying to ride waves of populism. On top of this, loyalty to leaders of the coalition – and not competency – became the key criteria for filling the ranks of the party and the state. And the party became fused to the state. It lost its autonomous identity and impeded the building of independent institutions crucial for democracy.

This meant that the benefits of economic growth weren’t universally shared. Trade-offs were made between maintaining hot-house growth levels and dealing with welfare and equity. But the establishment failed to optimally manage these trade-offs. It also failed to meet, or manage, the expectations of Ethiopia’s educated young people.


There were many drivers behind the coalition’s limitations.

Firstly, there was the incomplete transformation of its wartime leadership style and organisational culture. This included holding onto inheritances from the armed struggle. These included a binary categorisation of enemy versus friend, a strong emphasis on secrecy over transparency and a highly centralised approach to leadership.


Secondly, the tendency to stick firmly to ideologies undermined the need to create partnerships with political elites in opposition. On top of this, its comfort to live as a dominant party meant that it didn’t create an enabling environment for a pluralist democracy.

These were the seeds for the later chaos. In addition, problems in the coalition were exacerbated and accelerated by the loss of its long-serving chairperson, Meles Zenawi. As prime minister from 1995 until his death in 2012 he ran the country from the centre with formidable political skills.

His successor Hailemariam Desalegne had neither the vision nor the skill to maintain the status quo. The country drifted, eventually forcing Hailemariam to resign. He was replaced by Abiy.

A new battleground

There are signs that Abiy’s reign is in difficulty. This isn’t surprising as he came to power through contest and competition rather than the long-held tradition of consensus-based decision making.

He then took a number of steps that have alienated key players in the coalition. For example, he opted to try and create a new constituency by funnelling an anti-establishment agenda. He’s also trying to move the coalition towards a unified party.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front disagrees fundamentally with this. Resentment towards him is deepening.


The country is entering a dangerous phase. Violence has broken out in a number of regions and many are under an unofficial state of emergency. The central government has shown that it’s incapable of maintaining law and order. This has resulted in an unprecedented number of internally displaced people.

In addition, most universities are incapable of running their yearly academic programmes. Over 35,000 students have left their schools as a result of instability.

If the slide is not arrested, the complete collapse of the state seems imminent.

There are steps Abiy could consider. These include releasing all political prisoners, freezing new government policies except budgeting decisions, and creating a joint consultative body made up of representatives of all political groups to work on ensuring upcoming elections are run smoothly.

I would also argue that the current administration should stop talking about reform and liberalisation. In the current climate this is tantamount to scavenging a nation.


Mulugeta G Berhe (PhD), Senior Fellow, World Peace Foundation, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mass grave of 200 people found in Ethiopia

Police in Ethiopia say they have discovered a mass grave with 200 bodies near the border between the Somali and Oromia regions of the country.


Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced over the past year by violence there.

Local media reported that the grave was found during a probe into alleged atrocities committed by the former president of Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Abdi Mohammed is awaiting trial over allegations he fuelled ethnic clashes.

A notorious regional security force known as the Liyu police is accused of carrying out killings in the area between the Somali and Oromia regions and it reported directly to the regional president.

The police are trying to identify the 200 bodies found.

Mr Mohammed was forced to resign in August and was arrested weeks later after violence broke out in the regional capital, Jijiga.

He is alleged to have overseen widespread rights abuses including torture, rape and killings during his 13-year rule.

Last month the state-linked broadcaster Fana reported that he attempted to escape police custody by climbing through a window ahead of a court appearance.

Sahle-Work Zewde becomes Africa’s only female president

Ethiopian members of parliament have elected Ambassador Sahlework Zewde as the county’s new president.

Ethiopia's first female President Sahle-Work Zewde is sworn in

This comes after they accepted the resignation of the outgoing President, Mulatu Teshome.

Ms Sahlework is Ethiopia’s first female president, a week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a cabinet that was 50% female.

In Ethiopia’s constitution, the prime minister holds the political power and the president is a figurehead.

In a unanimous vote, Ethiopian lawmakers picked career diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde, 68, to replace Mulatu Teshome who resigned in unclear circumstances.

Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week appointed a slimline 20-person cabinet in which half the posts are held by women.

They include defence minister Aisha Mohammed and Muferiat Kamil who leads the newly-created Ministry of Peace, responsible for police and domestic intelligence agencies.

“If the current change in Ethiopia is headed equally by both men and women, it can sustain its momentum and realise a prosperous Ethiopia free of religious, ethnic and gender discrimination,” Sahle-Work said Thursday.


Sahle-Work, who was born in the capital Addis Ababa and attended university in France, has been Ethiopia’s ambassador to France, Djibouti, Senegal and the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Just prior to her appointment as president she was the UN’s top official at the African Union. She is fluent in English and French as well as Amharic, Ethiopia’s main language.

As president she is expected to serve two six-year terms.

“Mulatu has shown us the way for change and hope, he has shown life continues before and after leaving power. I call on others to heed his example and be ready for change,” said Sahle-Work in a speech to parliament.

Political power in Ethiopia is wielded by the prime minister with the president’s role restricted to attending ceremonies and functions.

Nevertheless, Sahle-Work’s position carries important symbolic weight and social influence.

“Government and opposition parties have to understand we are living in a common house and focus on things that unite us, not what divides us, to create a country and generation that will make all of us proud,” she said.

“The absence of peace victimises firstly women, so during my tenure I will emphasise women’s roles in ensuring peace and the dividends of peace for women.”

Sahle-Work becomes Africa’s only serving female head of state, albeit in a ceremonial role.

A handful of African countries have in the recent past been led by female presidents with executive powers, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia (2006-18) and Joyce Banda in Malawi (2012-14).

Banda was elevated to the presidency following the death in office of Bingu wa Mutharika, while Sirleaf won two elections before standing down earlier this year at the end of her constitutionally mandated terms.

Cover photo: Sahle-Work Zewde walks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after being elected as Ethiopia’s first female President at the Parliament in Addis Ababa. Photo: EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP

Ethiopian police kill each other in capital

A drunk Ethiopian police officer has shot dead two of his colleagues in the capital, Addis Ababa, state-linked Fana Broadcasting Corporate reports quoting police commissioner Zeynu Jemal.


The attacker was also shot dead, he said.

The shoot-out took place in the central Bole district, where roads were sealed off before reopening, Reuters news agency quoted residents as saying.

After 20 years Ethiopia-Eritrea border reopens

Ethiopians and Eritreans have been celebrating the reopening of two key crossing points more than 20 years after a border war shut them.


Hundreds of people from the two countries hugged each other and some wept as their leaders led celebrations to mark the reopening.

It is the latest sign of rapprochement between the former enemies.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace deal in July.

It restored diplomatic and trade relations between the nations.

The reopening at Burre gives landlocked Ethiopia access to the sea. Another border post, near the Ethiopian town of Zalambessa, also reopened.Map showing Ethiopia and Eritrea

The reopening coincides with the Ethiopian New Year, adding to the festive atmosphere.

The war, fought over the exact location of the boundary between Ethiopia and Eritrea, began in May 1998 and left tens of thousands of people dead.

It ended in 2000 with the signing of the Algiers agreement. But peace was never fully restored as Ethiopia refused to implement a ruling by a border commission established by the agreement.

What is the significance of the reopening?

Families divided by the conflict will be able to go and visit each other after more than two decades.

Ethiopian Yonad Fesseha hugged and kissed his Eritrean cousin. Photo: BBC

Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1991 but members of the same family continued to live on both sides of the border as the two countries enjoyed good relations until 1998.

Zalambessa resident Yonas Fesseha told the BBC’s Tigrinya service that his mother and brother are set to meet for the first time in 20 years. His mother felt as though it was a dream when she heard the news about the reopening, he said.

There is a celebratory mood in the town, he added.

People dressed up to celebrate. Photo: BBC

The crossing at Zalambessa is on the main trade route linking the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region with Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.

Its closure damaged trade, and consequently the economy in the border region suffered.

The reopening of the border at Burre should allow Ethiopia to access Eritrea’s southern port of Assab.

What else has changed between the two countries?

This is just the latest in a series of rapid changes as relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have thawed.

Eritrean troops arrived at the Zalambessa border for the reopening ceremony. Photo: BBC

In July, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy and Eritrea’s President Isaias signed a declaration saying that the state of war between the two countries was over.

Since then, phone calls and flights between the two countries resumed, and last week a ship registered in Ethiopia arrived in an Eritrean port.

The two countries have also reopened their embassies in each others’ capital cities.

What will happen at other border crossings?

For now, only the land crossings at Zalambessa and Burre have reopened. The details about other parts of the 1,000km (620 miles) border still need to be worked out.

There is a lot of hope that the Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement can change the whole region. Photo: BBC

The town of Badme, the flashpoint for the 1998-2000 conflict, was ruled to be in Eritrea by the border commission set up by the Algiers peace agreement.

But until recently Ethiopia, which still administers Badme, refused to accept this. That changed when the two leaders met, but the town has not yet been handed to Eritrea.

What happened to Zalambessa during the war?

The border town was one of the main theatres of the conflict.

During the two-year war, Zalambessa was occupied by Eritrean forces and, in the fighting, much of it was destroyed.

But Eritrea has never contested that it is part of Ethiopia and its status is not controversial.

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki (l) and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met ahead of the reopening of the border. Photo: Etheiopia government

What other changes have happened in the region?

The rivalry affected the whole region, with Ethiopia and Eritrea normally taking opposite positions whatever the question.

They took rival sides in Somalia’s long conflict – Eritrea was accused of backing Islamist groups, while Ethiopia, a US ally, supported the internationally recognised government.

That is now changing and last week Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia signed a cooperation agreement to restore peace and stability to the region.

Eritrea and Djibouti also agreed to normalise relations after a dispute over their border had threatened to break out into war.

SOURCE: This story was first published on BBC Africa website with the title: Ethiopia-Eritrea border reopens after 20 years.

Cover photo: At Zalambessa, two friends met for the first time in more than 20 years. Photo: BBC

Ethiopia military helicopter crash kills 18

A military helicopter has crashed on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, killing all 18 people on board, officials say.

The plane was flying from Dire Dawa city in eastern Ethiopia to a town just outside Addis Ababa, when it came down.

The dead include 15 soldiers and three civilians, local reports say.

The cause of the accident is unclear.

Investigators and a search-and-recovery team have been dispatched to the area, officials say.

President of Ethiopia’s Somali region hands over power

The Minister for Information for the Somali region of Ethiopia Idris Ismail has confirmed that regional President Abdi Mohamud Omar has handed over power and has agreed to step down.

President Abdi Mohomud Omar. Photo: Idil News

This follows days of tension in the Somali region as the Federal Military were deployed to the region.

It’s believed that he has been pressured by the federal government to step down following protests and fighting between Somali and Oromo communities.

Reports say that more federal troops have been deployed to the regional capital, Jigjiga .

What peace will mean for Eritrea – Africa’s ‘North Korea’

The end of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been met with relief in the region as well as globally. But what does it mean for Eritrea, which has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa. The Conversation Africa’s Julius Maina spoke to Martin Plaut about the implications for the small and reclusive state.


How did Eritrea earn its reputation as a reclusive state?

Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president, has operated on the presumption that no-one would come to Eritrea’s aid after it launched its armed struggle for independence from Ethiopia in 1961. It was never entirely true, but they certainly didn’t have the support of any major power.

When Eritrea gained its independence in 1993 he saw no reason to alter his view. As a result, major international aid agencies were made unwelcome. Even the United Nations has found it difficult to work in the country.

After 2001, when the president cracked down on all opposition – including from within his own party – all major news organisations, including the BBC, Reuters and AFP – were banned from having offices in the country. International journalists have only been allowed to visit sporadically. This has left Eritrea under-reported.

Isaias is moody and reclusive by nature. Since the regime is a dictatorship which has never allowed elections of any kind, the country reflects the politics of its leader.

The country has been named as a sponsor of regional terrorism. To what extent is this still the case?

Following Eritrea’s bitter border war with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000, the government in Asmara became a sponsor of the Somali Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, and a number of Ethiopian rebel groups . It did so to undermine the Ethiopian government, which was fighting a war in Somalia against the Islamists. Eritrea’s support for Ethiopian rebel groups had a similar aim in mind.

These activities – as well as a border clash with Djibouti – led to the UN Security Council imposing an arms embargo against Eritrea in 2009. The embargo didn’t include economic sanctions.

UN appointed experts monitored the arms and logistical support Eritrea provided to Al-Shabaab in great detail. In recent years they’ve reported back that they have no evidence of current Eritrean backing for Al-Shabaab.

In the last few weeks the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has said he thinks the sanctions regime will become obsolete, since Eritrea and Ethiopia have resolved their differences.

How will recent events affect politics and commerce in the Horn?

The prospects for the Horn could be transformed if the Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement holds and their border dispute is truly resolved.

The closure of their mutual frontier for the past two decades has had a terrible effect on people all along the 1,000 km long border. Family ties and trade patterns were severely disrupted.

The people of the two countries have never been at loggerheads: there is little real animosity between them. The divisions have been between the ruling parties of both countries.

With these apparently resolved, life in the Horn can resume as normal. The Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab will hum with life once more, as Ethiopian trade flows through them. And the potash deposits on their border can be developed. Since Ethiopia is currently Africa’s fastest growing economy this could ease bottlenecks such as international investment in Eritrea which will no longer be viewed as a war-risk. And instead of competing to fund and support rebel movements in each other’s countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea can combine to tackle the real enemy: poverty.

What will the impact be on Eritrean society?

This is the most difficult question and predictions are fraught with difficulty. Having been such a closed dictatorship it is impossible to say with any certainty how the country will be transformed.

On the one hand, Isaias could allow democracy to emerge, since he no longer has a foreign enemy on his doorstep. The constitution, which was ratified by the National Assembly, could be implemented. Free and fair elections could be held and a multi-party system allowed to emerge. The president might even decide to retire now that peace has been achieved – he is 72 years old.

This is all possible. But it’s not very likely. The president is extremely cautious and believes he is indispensable to the country: without him it will lose its way. He is more likely to move only gradually towards allowing limited freedoms. This could include ending indefinite conscription, since the rationale for this has ended. Such an approach would be consistent with his past behaviour. But it might result in growing frustration from citizens who have accepted economic hardship and a lack of democracy during a time of war, but might do so no longer. What forces this might unleash and how the citizens will react, only time will tell.

How do these developments affect Eritrea’s refugee outflow?

The end of hostilities should mean that Eritrea’s indefinite National Service is ended. National Service (or conscription) is required of all citizens between 18 and 40 years old. In theory this lasts for no longer than 18 months. Yet many Eritreans have served for 20 years and more. Pay is minimal and conditions harsh: for women there is the threat of rape or sexual abuse. This has been – by a long shot – the main driver of the refugee exodus that has seen up to 5,000 people leaving the country every month.

Freed from conscription, some servicemen and women will return to their farms or seek employment in towns. One possible consequence is that unemployment could become serious, unless inward investment takes up the slack.

If the border with Ethiopia is opened up again thousands of people in refugee camps in Ethiopia might return home. The refugee outflow might even be reversed. This is an optimistic prognosis. More likely, refugees who have risked everything to reach safety will remain in the camps until the outcome of the dramatic changes can be assessed and the transformation is made permanent.

Eritrea’s refugee outflow will only end when both prosperity and freedom become established facts. Until then it is likely that some will continue to seek a better life abroad, even if in smaller numbers.

Ethiopian PM begins charm offensive in US

Enthusiastic supporters of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have assembled outside the US State Department in Washington DC as he begins a tour of three cities.


After the US capital, Prime Minister Abiy will visit Los Angeles and Minneapolis, which both have large Ethiopian communities.

He is in the country to drum up political and economic support from the Ethiopian diaspora in the US – census data shows there were 215,060 Ethiopian-born people living in the US at the last count in 2016.


They are an important source of revenue, reportedly sending $4bn (£3bn) to Ethiopia annually.

Before the prime minister’s appointment in April, members of the Ethiopian diaspora showed their anger at the state of affairs by freezing remittances to their home country.


But the new leader’s reformist agenda appears to have won some over.

Rival Ethiopian synods agree to unite

Two rival synods of Ethiopia’s largest faith group, the Orthodox Church, have agreed to unite ending more than two decades of acrimony.

The Orthodox church has millions of followers in Ethiopia. Getty Images

The two church councils have long been accused of mirroring the country’s political extremes aligning themselves one with the government and the other with the opposition in the diaspora.

Some say the union is indicative of Ethiopia’s new political atmosphere.

The church which was often associated with the country’s ruling elites for centuries has a large following in Ethiopia.

More than 40% Ethiopia’s 100 million population are members of the church.

A split in senior leadership occurred in 1991 when then-head of the church Abuna Merkorios went into exile.

He and his devotees accuse the ruling party that came to power around the same time of forcefully abdicating him and interfering with the elections held to replace him.

Ethiopia and Eritrea leaders get medal for peace efforts

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki have been awarded the United Arab Emirates’ highest honour.


The two men are in the UAE after their dramatic steps towards reconciliation since the beginning of the month.

Advisers to the two leaders have been tweeting from the UAE.

The UAE played an important role in bringing the two countries together after two decades of tension, regional analyst Martin Plaut says.

Ethiopia and Eritrea announce football friendly

The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) and its Eritrean counterpart have agreed to stage a historic friendly game between the two nations in Asmara next month.

Next month’s match will be Ethiopia and Eritrea’s first football game against each other since 1998. Photo: AFP

Both nations have been avoiding games that pitted them against each other since the 1998-2002 border war. But they now want to play again, following Ethiopia and Eritrea’s diplomatic thaw and declaration that the “state of war” is over.

Ethiopia boycotted games against Eritrea in 2000 and the 2010 Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecefa) Under-20 tournament, which was hosted in the capital, Asmara.

Eritrea, meanwhile, failed to take part in the 2015 Cecefa senior challenge cup. It also forfeited the 2014 African Nations Championship first-round qualifier against Ethiopia.

Newly appointed Ethiopia coach Abraham Mebratu is expected to choose the exact date of the match in August.

The coach reportedly wants to prepare his charges for the friendly in the Eritrean capital and the Afcon qualifier against Sierra Leone.

Boarding Ethiopia-Eritrea flight for first time in decades

All seats and luggage room have been filled for the inaugural flight to Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.

A return ticket for the one-and-a -half-hour flight cost $800 (£600).

Our reporter who is among the lucky ones on board has snapped these pictures:

Complimentary champagne served on board


Champagne and selfies aboard first commercial flight in a generation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Demand so great that Ethiopian Airlines scheduled a 2nd flight that took off just 15 mins later.

Wheels up


Ethiopian Airlines has shared a picture of its first passenger flight – after 20 years – leaving for a journey to Eritrea.

News site Addis Standard reported 456 passengers are on board.

More photos below:


Ethiopia Airline to resume Eritrea flights

Ethiopian Airlines is to restart its flights to Eritrea for the first time since 1998 when conflict erupted between the two nations over their disputed border, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said.


Mr Abiy made the announcement at a state dinner on Tuesday night in honour of a high-level Eritrean delegation visiting Ethiopia for the first time in decades.

The meeting came about after the Mr Abiy said Ethiopia would comply with a border commission ruling to hand over contested border territories to Eritrea.

“There will be lands swapped between the two countries but that will not matter – there will not be a border between us as our relationship will strengthen,” Mr Abiy was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year conflict – but a border war five years later killed tens of thousands.

Diplomatic ties have been cut between the two countries for almost 20 years.

FBI to help probe deadly Ethiopia blast

The United States is sending FBI investigators to Ethiopia to look into Saturday’s grenade attack on a political rally.

The blast ripped through a rally addressed by the prime minister. Photo: EPA

The offer of help was made during talks between the US Under Secretary of Commerce, Gilbert Kaplan, and the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Workneh Gebeyehu.

Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the blast, including the deputy chief of police in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Two people were killed and more than 150 were wounded at the mass rally called in support of the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The US is a longstanding ally of Ethiopia.

Landlocked Ethiopia wants to launch a navy – Here is why

When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Ethiopia suddenly found itself without a coastline and so it took the logical step of disbanding its navy. Now, it is reconsidering its decision and its latest manoeuvres in the region suggest it could be shopping around its neighbourhood to find a naval base it can use.

H H Commodore Prince Alexander Desta was Deputy Commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Navy in 1971. Photo: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently said on state TV: “We built one of the strongest ground and air force in Africa… we should build our naval force capacity in the future.”

His comments revealed the country’s naval ambitions but his plans for how to achieve this goal have not been made public. However, Ethiopia’s latest push to enter into deals with its coastal neighbours signals something is afoot.

What is behind the move?

State-linked Fana Broadcasting Corporate quoted Mr Abiy as saying the military reforms should “take into account current fast changing world, socio-economic and political situation in Ethiopia”.

After Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter border war from 1998-2000, there was little chance that Ethiopia could carry on using Eritrea’s ports as it had done previously. So it had to find alternatives.


Ethiopia recently signed a deal to take a stake in the port of Djibouti, which now handles roughly 95% of all its exports and imports.

It is also connected to its small neighbour by a new 472 mile (759 km) railway line – opened last year – which links the capital Addis Ababa to the port of Doraleh, an extension of the port of Djibouti.

The railway line has increased the movement of cargo volumes to and from the port to such an extent that at least 70% of all its activity is now Ethiopian trade.

Roba Megerssa Akawak, head of the state-owned Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE), told Bloomberg that Ethiopia was concerned that Djibouti was controlled by foreign naval forces. US, China, Japan and France all have military bases there.

“We are afraid perhaps in the future that even Djibouti may not have its own say to really decide on its own fate. This is quite a threat to Ethiopia,” Mr Roba said.

He added that a navy would also help protect the 11 Ethiopia commercial ships in a “very volatile” Red Sea area where Ethiopia has other economic interests “and there are conflicting political interests”.

Prime Minister Abiy has signed deals with neighbouring countries to use their ports. Photo: AFP

These ships are currently based in Djibouti, from where they sail to ports in the Gulf, the Indian sub-continent, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, and Indonesia.

Ethiopia also still has a civilian maritime institute which trains more than 500 marine engineers and electro-technical officers each year, with plans to train more than 1,000 officers annually.

According to the Ethiopian Maritime Institute the graduates have skills and knowledge “needed to succeed in the global shipping industry”.

Building a navy from the ground up is however a different kettle of fish – it would require massive financial investments and a lot of time to train the forces, as well as a base.

Since coming to power in April, Mr Abiy has also signed deals with Sudan for access to Port Sudan, in a bid to diversify its port outlets and reduce port fees.

Ethiopia has also agreed a deal with the self-declared Somali state of Somaliland for a 19% stake in the port of Berbera which includes a plan to build a road from its border to the port.

Eritrea rapprochement

Mr Abiy also struck a reconciliation tone in his maiden speech – calling on long-time foe Eritrea to resolve their differences, saying the two countries were “not only intertwined in interests but also in blood”.

Ethiopian soldiers after taking control of the Eritrean town of Barentu in May 2000. Photo: AFP

He has since followed up on his reconciliation offer by agreeing to a 2002 border commission resolution which awarded disputed territories, including the town of Badme, to Eritrea. This was one of the war’s main flashpoints.

Eritrea has not commented on the move.

Its information minister Yemane Gebre Meskel had previously told the BBC that relations could not be resolved until Ethiopia withdrew “from the occupied territories”.

However, the relationship with Eritrea is unlikely to thaw to the extent that Ethiopia could once more rely on its ports in Assab and Massawa. There is also a danger that Ethiopia’s naval ambitions could alarm Eritrea.

Former Ethiopian diplomat Birhanemeskel Abebe speculates that strategic and geo-political security concerns could be driving the navy plan.

“Ethiopia’s right to use international waters demands it has a naval base,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

He suggested Kenya, Somaliland and Djibouti as possible locations for the base.

The plan, Mr Birhanemeskel said, was to push for the “unification of the Horn of Africa as an economic bloc and the navy is part of that project”.

He said Ethiopia would use its strong cultural and economic ties in the region to push for its naval ambitions.

The Kenyan option

In May, Ethiopia agreed a deal with Kenya to facilitate the acquisition of land in the island of Lamu as part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) project, a $24bn (£18bn) transport and infrastructure plan to link the two countries and their neighbours.

The project was signed in 2012 but has been beset by funding delays and security problems in both countries.

In Ethiopia, the government was until recently dealing with large anti-government protests which culminated in the resignation of Mr Abiy’s predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn in February.

Ethiopia has acquired land in Kenya’s island of Lamu. Photo: AFP

Mr Abiy has struck a different tone since taking office, calling for reconciliation in Ethiopia. He has pushed for reforms including the release of political prisoners and activists.

His government has also ended a state of emergency.

Deo Gumba, from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), says Ethiopia’s naval ambitions could be targeting the operations of Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia, as well as piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Mr Gumba said that, as a US ally, Ethiopia was likely to get support for its plans.

Is a navy feasible?

Timothy Walker, a maritime researcher at ISS, however cautioned that it would take decades for Ethiopia to have a fully fledged naval unit.

“It may create a maritime branch of its armed forces but not a navy… it would take decades for the procurement of ships and training of the force.”

China is among countries with a military base in Djibouti. Photo: AFP

“Many African countries do not have a sufficient navy and if you look at the Horn of Africa, the big world powers are the ones who operate there,” Mr Walker said.

“Recorded incidents of piracy and militancy in the region do not justify investment in building a navy from the ground up.”

But despite the naysayers, Ethiopia seems determined to press on with its plans.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC Africa

Eritrea in peace overture to Ethiopia

Eritrea’s President Isaias Aferweki has announced plans to send a delegation to its long-standing rival, Ethiopia, to begin talks to resolve a bitter border dispute that has lasted for 16 years.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea still have troops along the border. Photo AFP/BBC

He made the announcement in front of thousands of people who had gathered in the capital, Asmara, for celebrations to remember people who died fighting for the country’s independence.

The statement is Eritrea’s most significant response since Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF coalition announced earlier this month that it would fully abide by a 2002 border ruling to cede territory to Eritrea.

The move has faced opposition from some members of the EPRDF.

Protests have also erupted in various towns in northern Ethiopia, where people have demanded the government not to cede the territories awarded to Eritrea.

But Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has defended his government’s decision and said troops would be withdrawn from the disputed territories in line with the agreement.

The dispute between the two countries sparked Africa’s deadliest border war in which tens of thousands of people were killed.

Since then, Ethiopia and Eritrea have been on a war footing and have had little diplomatic or trade relations.


Ethiopia finally agrees on peace deal with rival Eritrea

Ethiopia has announced it will fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea in a major step toward calming deadly tensions with its decades-long rival.


The development Tuesday night came as the ruling party also announced that the East African nation, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, will open up parts of state-owned enterprises in sectors such as energy, aviation and telecoms to private investment.

The news came just hours after Ethiopia lifted a state of emergency in what had been the most dramatic reform yet under new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has promised change after more than two years of deadly anti-government protests demanding greater freedoms in Africa’s second most populous country.

But it is the prospect of peace with reclusive Eritrea that has come as the latest, and largest, surprise.

The agreement signed in 2000 ended a two-year border war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, but a no-peace-no-war situation continued, with the two countries skirmishing from time to time. Ethiopia had refused to accept the deal’s handing of key locations, including Badme, to Eritrea and continues to control that town.

Ethiopia’s ruling party now accepts that agreement without conditions and calls on Eritrea’s government to do the same, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

“The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked. This must change for the sake of our common good,” the chief of staff for the prime minister’s office, Fitsum Arega, said on Twitter.

Eritrean officials in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, could not immediately be reached for comment and Eritrea’s information ministry had posted nothing on the development.

Tiny Eritrea is one of the world’s most reclusive nations, ruled since 1993 by President Isaias Afwerki.

When the 42-year-old Abiy was installed as Ethiopia’s prime minister in April his inaugural speech mentioned the need for reconciliation with bitter rival Eritrea, raising hopes of peace.

“We are fully committed to reconcile with our Eritrean brothers and sisters and extend an invitation to the Eritrean government to start dialogue and establish rapport,” he said in his address to Parliament.

When the 42-year-old Abiy was installed as Ethiopia’s prime minister in April his inaugural speech mentioned the need for reconciliation with bitter rival Eritrea, raising hopes of peace.

“We are fully committed to reconcile with our Eritrean brothers and sisters and extend an invitation to the Eritrean government to start dialogue and establish rapport,” he said in his address to Parliament.

SOURCE: New York Times/Agencies

Here things Ethiopians can do now that they couldn’t before

Ethiopia’s state of emergency (SOE) has finally been lifted – but what does it mean for the people living in the country?


Here is a short list to give you an idea:

  • You can have a party without asking permission

Among the rules brought in was one banning public assembly, gatherings and moving in a group – not to mention demonstrations – without express permission. You can now, in theory, do all these things without asking for the okay beforehand.

  • You can stay out as late as you want

A curfew running from dusk til dawn was imposed on major projects, factories, farms and governmental institution has also been lifted.

  • Police can’t arrest you without a warrant

The SOE allowed officers to arrest or search anyone without a court warrant upon any suspicion.

  • You can write what you want

The law had prohibited publishing or distributing writings or showing gesture or making message public through any medium that causes riot, disturbance and suspicion or grievance among people.

Ethiopian migrant workers hold up the Ethiopian flag at the annual Migrant Workers' March in Beirut.

Lebanon migrant worker’s abuse account

Lebanon’s general prosecutor should ensure an adequate investigation into allegations that a migrant domestic worker suffered months of abuse before jumping from a balcony and injuring herself, Human Rights Watch said today.

Ethiopian migrant workers hold up the Ethiopian flag at the annual Migrant Workers' March in Beirut.

The investigation should ensure that the worker, Lensa Lelisa, an Ethiopian national, can speak to investigators privately and take all feasible measures to assure her physical safety and protect her from any possible retaliation.

In a video filmed on March 11, 2018, and posted to social media on March 26 by the organization ‘This Is Lebanon’, Lelisa detailed specific allegations of consistent abuse. She said she feared she would be harmed for speaking out. Two women who visited Lelisa at the hospital each told Human Rights Watch that Lelisa said she had been beaten during her employment. Lelisa has since returned to the home, and recanted, saying she fell off the balcony and made up the story because she wanted to leave Lebanon.

“Lelisa is back in the house after first alleging serious abuse, and then saying that she wanted to return to Ethiopia,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the risk of coercion, the investigation should ensure that Lelisa can give an accurate account of what happened to her, in a safe location away from her workplace, without fear of retaliation.”

The Internal Security Forces told Human Rights Watch that they had completed an investigation after speaking with Lelisa, another migrant domestic worker in the house, the employers, two forensic doctors, and the Ethiopian Embassy, and sent their report to the prosecutor’s office. However, the Internal Security Forces said they had not provided Lelisa with any guarantee of safety or protection to ensure that she was able to speak freely. “It’s the job of the embassy to provide reassurances or guarantees,” an official said.

Human Rights Watch has found that Lebanon’s judiciary fails to hold employers accountable for abuses and that security agencies often did not adequately investigate claims of violence or abuse.

Two Ethiopian women who visited Lelisa at the hospital told Human Rights Watch that Lelisa said she did not tell investigators the truth, because of her fear of retaliation.

An Ethiopian embassy official told Human Rights Watch it had investigated the case and concluded Lelisa fell out of the apartment while cleaning and that the abuse allegations were not true. Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security, the agency in charge of foreigners’ entry and residency in Lebanon, told Human Rights Watch that it too had opened an investigation. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to continue the investigation or file charges.

“We are deeply concerned that even though Lelisa said she feared retaliation and has reported death threats, investigators said they did not provide safety guarantees when they interviewed her,” Fakih said. “Ensuring victim protection is essential for determining what happened in Lelisa’s case, and to reassure other domestic workers afraid of retaliation if they report abuse.”

In a second video, released on March 31, apparently filmed in her workplace, Lelisa said, “Nobody hurt me, nobody kicked me.” She again recanted her allegations on a local television show on April 2, in the presence of one of her employers.

The estimated 250,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from labor law protections. Lebanon has become an outlier on this issue as most of the major countries of destination for migrant domestic workers in the Middle East have instituted labor protections. The kafala sponsorship system subjects migrant domestic workers to restrictive rules under which they cannot leave or change jobs without their employer-sponsor’s consent, giving employers a large degree of control over workers’ lives and placing the workers at risk of exploitation and abuse.

Human Rights Watch and Lebanese human rights organizations routinely document credible reports of abuses against migrant domestic workers, including non-payment of wages, forced confinement, refusal to provide time off, and verbal and physical abuse. In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers were dying at a rate of one per week, with suicide and attempted escapes the leading causes of death. Lebanese authorities are responsible for protecting everyone in the country from serious crimes, including violence and unlawful detention, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has called on candidates for Lebanon’s May parliamentary elections to commit to extending labor law protections to domestic workers, introducing additional protections to monitor working conditions and investigate abuses, and reforming the kafala system so that workers’ visas are no longer tied to individual sponsors and they can terminate employment without the consent of sponsors.

“The lack of protections for migrant domestic workers in Lebanon leaves the door open to abuse,” Fakih said. “Security agencies investigating this case should take into account Lelisa’s stated fear of retaliation.”

SOURCE: Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

‘We are here’ – the soundtrack to the Oromo revolution gripping Ethiopia

Far from being a footnote in the Oromo struggle, musicians like Haacaaluu Hundeessa have been its centre of gravity.


With the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as chair of the ruling coalition, Ethiopia is set to have an Oromo leader for the first time in recent history. This is in no small part thanks to brave and sustained protests by ethnic Oromo youth.

For nearly two and a half years, activists have defied brutal government suppression that has seen over a thousand people killed and tens of thousands arrested. Mostly led by the Oromo and Amhara, who together make up two-thirds of the 100 million population, demonstrators have endured the imposition of two states of emergency and a brutal crackdown.

Now, for their pains, they have overseen the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. And they will soon witness the assent of a young and popular Oromo leader as Ethiopia’s next prime minister.

When historians look back at this period, they will see how persistent protesters reconfigured Ethiopia’s political map in just a couple of years. They will note how Oromo politics was forced from the distant periphery to the very centre of affairs. And they will observe how the passionate Oromo youth – known as the Qeerroo – drove this change.

In all this, however, one thing that should not be overlooked is the critical role played by Oromo musicians and artists. Through their work, they have mobilised scattered marginalised publics and helped create a politically conscious, defiant, and resilient generation. They have tapped into the transformative potential of subjugated memories and experiences, disrupted official histories, and altered the people’s very relationship to power.

Oromo music, the struggle’s centre of gravity

Oromo music and concerts have rarely been strictly musical. They have always been sites of political agitation, cultural self-affirmation, and spiritual rejuvenation, drawing together audiences who share an unassailable commitment to the Oromo cause.

Activist stalwarts have provided the conceptual architecture and strategic direction of the struggle. But Oromo artists’ poignant and powerful lyrics have given voice and significance to the group’s insufferable indignation. When their political leaders have failed, artists have given new meaning to the agonies of defeat. When they have prevailed, artists have amplified small victories to inspire whole generations.

Far from being a footnote in the history of the Oromo struggle for freedom and justice, musicians, poets and creators are its centre of gravity – the signature tune and the definitive sound of the Oromo revolution.

“We are here”

Amongst the many Oromo artists to have played a role in recent events, one musician and one performance stands out.

On 10 December 2017, the capital Addis Ababa staged the biggest Oromo concert it had ever seen. It was held to raise humanitarian funds for the over 700,000 Oromos displaced by violence in the east. But the event held a much deeper significance too. It was not only the most symbolic, defiant and spectacular Oromo concert ever broadcast live by Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN). It also featured an unprecedentedly large number of senior government officials, a sign of the slow but tectonic shift taking root in Ethiopian politics.

In the concert, a diverse cast of artists performed, leading up to the kaleidoscopic set by Haacaaluu Hundeessa. Through 11 minutes of heart-shredding ballads, the young singer delivered a show that was awe-inspiring and painful, honest and complex, impassioned and subtle. Working through themes of marginality, vulnerability and resilience, he articulated the distinct Oromo experience with raw clarity.

Haacaaluu has given sound and voice to the Oromo cause for the past few years. His 2015 track Maalan Jira (“What existence is mine”), for example, was a kind of an ethnographic take on the Oromo’s uncertain and anomalous place within the Ethiopian state. This powerful expression of the group’s precarious existence quietly, yet profoundly, animated a nationwide movement that erupted months later. Maalan Jira became the soundtrack to the revolution.

In October 2017, Haacaaluu released Jirraa (“We are here”). In contrast to his previous more sombre hit, this song was a statement of endurance, resilience, and self-affirmation. It celebrated transformations within the Oromo community and fundamental shifts in Ethiopia’s political landscape. It embodied a newfound collective optimism, a feeling that Oromo culture is no longer in jeopardy, and a sense that the Oromo society is finally in the middle of a robust ascendancy.

“Closer to Arat Kilo”

As many have pointed out, art can have a transformative power that a political debate or summit cannot. In her book Utopia in Performance, for example, American scholar Jill Dolan describes how a performance can have an effect “that lifts everyone slightly above the present, into a hopeful feeling of what the world might be like if every moment of our lives were as emotionally voluminous, generous, [and] aesthetically striking”.

Haacaaluu’s December show did just this. As soon as he occupied the stage, the scene immediately felt magical. His opening greetings – “ashamaa, ashamaa, ashamaa” – electrified an audience who understood his use of the traditional Gerarsa repertoire and its unconscious grammar. As he strode lion-like around the platform, he evoked a rare outpouring of exuberance in his adoring audience. And speaking at a moment in which the Oromo protests had been building momentum for over two years – and, unbeknownst to the crowd, just months before one of their own would become chair of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition – Haacaaluu repeatedly asked the audience Jirtuu (“are we here?”), driving everyone justifiably nuts.

In under a minute, the singer had created what Dolan calls moments of communitas, “resulting in a sudden and deeper insight into the shared process of being in the world.”

As the performance progressed, Haacaaluu escalated tensions, asking the audience how long they would have to wait for freedom. He lamented the absurdity of a marginalised majority, criticised a rigged system, and expressed his yearning for unity, peace, and justice.

In switching between articulations of precarity and resilience, Haacaaluu challenged the audience and the Oromo leadership in the gallery, which included Abiy Ahmed, to make bold moves befitting of the Oromo public and its political posture. He urged his audience to look in the mirror, to focus on themselves, and decolonise their minds. We are, he said, closer to Arat Kilo, Ethiopia’s equivalent of Westminster, both by virtue of geography and demography.

The Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, the party in the ruling coalition that put Abiy forward, thankfully followed Haacaaluu’s advice. After PM Desalegn announced his resignation, it fought tooth and nail to secure the position of the Prime Minister. After Abiy’s imminent confirmation, the first chapter of a journey for which Haacaaluu has provided the soundtrack will be complete.

The 41-year-old Abiy will be taking over at a highly fractious and uncertain time. He will continue to face immense resistance from the deep state and the security forces that stand to lose from democratic opening. In confronting these challenges, he should remember the deeper meaning and significance of Haacaluu’s lyrics and monumental performance.

SOURCE: The African Argument

Shops, schools shut during Oromia stay-at-home protest

Businesses and schools are closed, and transport was disrupted to and from Lege T’afo, on the eastern outskirt of Addis Abeba, as the stay-at-home protest in Oromia enters its second day.

Businesses and schools are closed, and transport was disrupted to and from Lege T’afo, on the eastern outskirt of Addis Abeba, as the stay-at-home protest in Oromia enters its second day. Photo: Addis Standard

Smoke was seen pluming from burning tyres near Ropak Real Estate, a wealthy neighborhood, and AS reporters and a photographer saw a heavy police presence on alert starting from Yeka.

All taxis, buses and Bajajs are not going to Lege T’afo currently. More members of the Addis Abeba police commission were seen arriving in the area, while transport to Lege T’afo still disrupted. A resident near Ropak real estate told AS many residents were unable to get transport to go to work.

SOURCE: Addis Standard (Addis Ababa) 

Four people killed, many injured as security forces open fire at IDP camp

Four people killed, many injured as security forces open fire at IDP camp

At least four people, including one member of the Oromia police force, were killed and eleven others were injured on Sunday February 11 after federal security forces opened fire at a camp sheltering thousands of civilians in Hamaressa, a small town near the city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia, according to state broadcaster EBC. The camp is a sheltering thousands of Ethiopians who were internally displaced following the recent violence in Ethio-Somali border towns. One of the four is a woman.

Four people killed, many injured as security forces open fire at IDP camp
An injured protester waits for help after several people died during the Irrechaa, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region. Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters Media Express

The incident happened at the same time when the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is preparing to celebrate the 6th “Defense week” as of Wednesday this week.

According to a nurse in Jagol Hospital, in Harar, where some of the injured are being treated, the incident occurred when hundreds of the displaced began protesting against poor provisions of accommodations inside the camp and their delayed resettlement. Quoting a family member of one of the injured, the nurse who spoke to Addis Standard by phone and wanted to remain anonymous, said that the protests “began on Saturday afternoon,. But there was no problem until Sunday.” He added that among the injured “some of them have been shot from a close range.” The nurse couldn’t confirm the exact number of causalities and Addis Standard’s attempts to reach out to authorities and the police in the city of Harar were to no avail as of now. Several graphic pictures taken from the scene were seen making rounds on Ethiopian social media spheres yesterday and today.

A relative calm has returned to the area today and federal security forces have been deployed in various posts near the city of Harar and its surroundings.

This is the second time that civilians were killed by federal security forces within the last three months only. In December 2017, at least 15 civilians were civilians killed by members of the security forces in Chelenko town, Meta woreda in east Haraghe zone of the oromia regional state. More than a dozen were also wounded, many of whom critically. So far, no one is held accountable.

Stay at home boycott

In another development, a three day stay at home market and business boycott called by online activities have started as of this morning. As the stay-at home boycotts gained momentum, the state broadcaster EBC confirmed transport and businesses were closed in Ambo, Jimma, Bale Robe cities as well as in Wolega.

According to a senior security and intelligence official in Shashemene city, 250 km south west of Addis Abeba, “business and civil service offices in most part of the city and its surroundings have been closed today.” Speaking to Addis Standard by phone, the official said there were no major security problems so far. Schools are also closing and are sending students home.” There was also a protest rally in the town which came to an end with no security incident, according to him. However, he said he was not sure if the boycotts would continue for three days. “The city police are on stand by to protect civilians in case of security problems,” he said.

Protests were also held in Ambo, 125 km west of Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa, 445 km in the eastern part of Ethiopia and not far from the city of Harar, as well as in Nekepte, Wolega in western Ethiopia among other cities.

The online organizers have said in various Facebook and Twitter posts that they were organizing the boycotts to demand the release of political prisoners including Bekele Gerba, first secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and others jailed with him.

In an unexpected decision this morning, the attorney general’s office told state affiliated FanaBC that it was discontinuing terrorism and criminal charges against seven individuals, including Bekele Gerba, Gurmessa Ayano, Addisu Bulala and Dejene Tafa, high profile opposition defendants from OFC. All the four were recently sentenced to 12 months in prison for contempt of court. The other three defendants are: 8th defendant Getu Girma Tolossa, 11th defendant, Beyene Ruda Jedu, & 12th defendant Tesfaye Liben Tolossa, all from the same file as Bekele Gerba.

However, FanaBc said the decision by the attorney general was yet to be approved by the federal board of pardon & signed off by President Mulatu Teshome. It also mentioned that the contempt of court charges against the four defendants, an indication that the discontinuation of the charges may not include the 12 months sentence for contempt of court.

SOURCE: Addis Standard (Addis Ababa) 

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia

A German tourist has been killed and a guide wounded in an attack in north-eastern Ethiopia, near the border with Eritrea.

Reports say the German national was in a group of tourists who were visiting the Erta Ale volcano – a popular destination for holidaymakers – when he was shot and killed.

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia
Many tourists visit the site of the Erta Ale volcano. Photo: AFP

It is not clear who carried out the attack.

The Ethiopian government says it is investigating the killing.

Local authorities say security forces have now been deployed to the area, where an armed separatist group operates.

In 2012, five tourists were killed and four others abducted after gunmen ambushed them in the area. The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Front claimed responsibility for that attack.

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle

Ethiopia’s youth has come under the spotlight recently for their role in a political protest that is seen to be threatening stability. But Ethiopia’s youth bulge doesn’t need to be a political problem. It can be converted to an economic muscle.

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle
REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle

Over the past 12 years Ethiopia has been lauded as one of the fastest growing economies in the world with average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 10.8%. It has also seen a significant decline in poverty. In 2004 it had a poverty rate of 39% which had fallen to 23% by 2015.

But there’s a cloud hanging over the country. In 2016 it was hit by a drought that affected 10 million people. And a new drought has emerged again this year.

2016 also saw an outbreak of political protest. Although things are relatively calmer now, the state of emergency that was declared in October 2016 has been extended.

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle

But Ethiopia still has a lot going for it, including a large youth population – over 70% of the country’s population is under 30 years of age. This could be turned to a massive advantage if backed by appropriate policies.

Ethiopia’s demographic profile mirrors China’s in the 1980s and of East Asian countries in the 1950s. The spectacular economic growth in East Asia in the second half of the 20th century is partly attributed to the demographic transition that supplied the economies with a young work force. The key to reaping this demographic dividend is, of course, that there are jobs for those joining the labour force.

While a young population can be a positive economic factor, it can also be a political risk in an economy that doesn’t create enough opportunities.

Until recently Ethiopia had avoided large scale political upheaval among young people. This was partly due to the government’s tight control of youth groups and surveillance of their activities. But recent unrest with youth at the helm signals huge problems, indicating that their livelihood and unemployment issues can no longer be suppressed or ignored. Addressing the problem head on is the smarter thing to do.

The problem

Every year more than a million young Ethiopian men and women join the labour market. But the economy produces far fewer new jobs and opportunities. This is partly due to the structural make up of the largely agrarian economy.

Over 80% of Ethiopians live in rural areas. While the agricultural sector in Ethiopia has declined significantly as a contributor to the economy in the past decade and now accounts for less than 50% of the national product, it still employs more than 70% of the labour force.

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle
Witnesses say that scores of protesters have been fatally shot during clashes with police.

Historically, most people who were born in rural areas tended to settle there. But land scarcity and population growth, coupled with limited non-farm employment opportunities has started pushing young people into the urban areas.

There aren’t enough jobs for them there either. Official statistics show that 30% of 20 to 24 year-olds in urban areas are unemployed. Some studies suggest that the actual rate is as high as 50%.

National level labour surveys and other studies suggest that young people with secondary education or more are the ones missing out the most from the flourishing economy. Many – about 70% – join the labour market with little or no practical or specialised training past the general secondary education.

High aspirations and expectations

High levels of unemployment among educated young people is a troubling phenomenon. The country’s youth have increasingly higher aspirations and expectations due to the possibilities they see, given the country’s economic growth. They also have high expectations of what they believe they deserve as relatively educated people.

But not only are there no jobs, wages are often not high enough to support high living costs.

This gap between aspirations and economic reality is clearly becoming increasingly frustrating.

In focus groups of young people in different parts of southern Ethiopia we captured a deep sense of hopelessness and a fear that they would remain trapped in poverty.

REPORT: Ethiopia can convert its youth outrage from a political problem into an economic muscle
Ethiopia’s large young population could become an advantage if backed by appropriate policies. Photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

For those living with their parents the main concern was that unemployment was “waiting for them” when they finished school. Many said that they previously thought that hard work at school was the way out of the life of poverty their parents had endured. Many were clearly itching to do something about their lives.

One sign of this pent up frustration is the surge in young people choosing to take the risk of irregular international migration even when they’ve been warned about the risks.

Way forward

Ethiopia’s youth bulge can be an engine for growth as international companies look to set up operations where they can access low wage labour. On top of that, an increase in the number of young people working would boost demand and investment in the country.

But to transform young people into an engine of growth requires improving access to employment.

The government should create an enabling environment for the private sector by improving the country’s dismal business environment.

At the same time, it should design effective employment programmes. It’s recent effort to increase job opportunities for unemployed young people is a step in the right direction. But policymakers, politicians and those implementing policies should resist the temptation to use access to jobs and employment as a political tool.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/NYT/The Conversation/Al Jazeera/ENCA

The Trend: whats is the real origin of LOL?

The Trend: whats is the real meaning of LOL and what makes it devilish?

I have seen many people using social media to spread all sorts of lies, but it’s left for us to look into what we believe in and how we use it, hence we analyze this issue of people recently tagging everything “Devilish”.

The Trend: whats is the real origin of LOL?
The fake “Google search result” they want us to believe in

My concern now is how they’ve been using some reputable media companies like ‘CNN’, ‘Google’ etc to make their deceiving ground of argument, but I think it’s time we all pay attention to information we share on social media.

There is nothing more “devilish” than sharing “fake information” without analyzing or checking the source and making sure it’s a fact. The most recent one is the information that “LOL”, which is one of the most widely, used slang on social media means “Lucifer Our Lord” and not “Laugh Out Loud”.

Recently, I’ve seen those ‘Copying and pasting’ this baseless information using verifiable sources like Google to try authenticate their refutable Stories.

As a Digital Media Strategist and someone very conversant with Google and cognizant of any of its policies, there have been no time such ‘search result’ have ever been made available on Google. Let me try to analyze that picture which I’d later post on this group

Graphical error: Firstly, the area the user put the “real meaning lol”, on real Google page, is the same colour and contrast level with the area of the search results, which all together is pure white. But the one the user showed us to believe is creamy and not same as the search result background.

Grammatical error: the user also made another mistake in his deceiving post. He wrote “real meaning lol” instead of “real meaning of lol“, and in real Google page as of the year he claimed that search was made (Nov 26, 2012), Google would have shown something like “do you mean “Real meaning of lol” or “result for “real meaning of lol” instead of “real meaning lol”. The user also forgot to correct those things.

What the real “Google search result” really looks like on mobile phone

Sentence arrangements: In the supposed search result, the user used “double quotation marks” instead of one, and also he started the sentence with “BEWARE: stop using…” which Google would never use because what Google show you as results are what they crawled from websites and they will never push you to feel that it’s their in-house policies or believes.

Another thing I noted was that on Mobile Google, when you make that type of search, you will only see 4 tabs, which are ‘All’, ‘Images’, ‘Videos’ and ‘News’, but in the image the user sent, they used more tabs which makes it complicated to believe and evidently shows that they doctored the result to deceive people.

Before passing information to people, try to find out the origin of it and if it’s something you can defend. Because the people “Quoted Google” does not mean it’s verifiable and not rebutable.

Moreover, what you believe in is what believes in you, don’t be like them, be yourself and do what you think/know is right and practical as a true Christian, because like I said, “There is nothing more evil than passing fake information to people”, it might kill or destroy thing that can never be repaired again. Thanks for reading

Christianity is not stupidity. Let’s not allow people deceive us by inflicting evil thoughts and believes into our heart and into our head.

Mike Ikenwa is a Digital Media strategist, creative graphic designer and a public affairs writer. He tweets @MikeGNR and you can email him on

This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at

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Religious fight: What if Christianity started from Ethiopia

Contrary to a popular opinion held by historians that Christianity started from Armenia— a fact that has caused a stir in the historicity of Christianity—there are indications that Christianity—which stemmed from the Christ-like dispositions of the disciples of Jesus Christ at Antioch—might have started from the arid interiors of Ethiopia.

Contrary to what historians must have succeeded in making us believe that Christianity started in Armenia, it may really be that Christianity started in Ethiopia

Some scholars have argued that the old Roman Empire was the first Christian nation. Others are of the opinion that the tradition of Christianity began in Armenia while Ethiopia is the verdict of quite a number of Christian historians. For those who favour the Roman Empire, the reality is that, of the three choices, the Roman Empire was the second to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

Theodosius I became Emperor of the Roman Empire in 379 AD, 47 years after Constantine’s death, and ruled until 395. He established The Church as the official state religion, but it took nearly his entire reign to make it stick. He ended pagan sacrifices and outlawed heresies. His actions were met with great resistance from the Roman Senate and from others, but Theodosius prevailed in the end.

Although, the claim for Rome being the first Christian nation seems like it harbours an iota of truth. Peter baptized the Roman Centurion, Cornelius—the first non-Jewish Christian—in Jerusalem (Acts 10), as shown in one of the five baptism scenes on a 12th century baptismal font in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Liege, Belgium.

For Armenians, Christianity was believed to have started in the country with the arrival of Bartholomew and Thaddeus—two of Jesus Christ’s disciples—who came into the country from Asorestan and Cappadocia. They baptized stately families and common people, and were regarded as “Illuminators of the Armenian world.”

Although this claim falls short of any concrete believability, however, it appears that some of the disciples of Jesus truly went to Armenia after the great commission in the book of Mark to “go into the entire world and preach to gospel to every creature.”

Another claim exists that supports the fact that Armenia might be the first Christian nation. This claim takes off from the celebrated fifth-century work of Agathangelos titled “The History of the Armenians.” In it, he says as an eyewitness that after the Armenian King Trdat III was baptized (c. 301/314 A.D.) by St. Gregory the Illuminator, he decreed Christianity as the state religion.

The problem with this standpoint is that, recent studies date “The History of the Armenians” to c. 450 A.D., making it impossible for Agathangelos to have been an eyewitness. If Armenia’s claim is based on nothing more than oral history, how can it hold any more credibility than Ethiopia’s own Christian legends?

For the Ethiopian argument, The Acts of the Apostles describes the baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch shortly after the death of ChristEusebius of Caesaria, the first church historian, further tells of how the eunuch returned to his land to diffuse the Christian teachings. And the earliest Ethiopian monastic tradition is linked to the account of the Holy Family visiting Ethiopia, centuries before the Christian monastic movement emerged.

Before the Ethiopian king Ezana (whose kingdom was then called Aksum) embraced Christianity himself and decreed it for his kingdom (c. 330 A.D.), his nation had already constituted a large number of Christians.

King Ezana’s conversion became a public conversion for Aksum, and Christianity continued to serve as a point of reference for the nation. Unlike the case of Armenia, we have tangible proof of this conversion:

Historians have uncovered a public acknowledgement of the Christian faith from Ezana. Also, coins bearing Ezana’s image depict the cross after his conversion.

As the authors of “Abyssinian Christianity” conclude: “the promotion of the new faith developed into the single point of personal and public identification and unity for Abyssinians.” Christianity became the centralizing force behind the Ethiopian empire, which endured through 1974, despite religious and political threats from all sides.

Can a nation only become Christian if there is an official decree from its sovereign? If that were the case, then the Kingdom of Edessa would be the first Christian city-state (in modern terms) in c. 218. As we see with Abyssinia and Israel before it, a nation is not confined to political boundaries. Rather, it is defined by a group of people who share a common heritage.

For the Ethiopians, this shared heritage was Christianity.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Nerve Africa

The most recent protests were sparked by the deaths of at least 55 people at an Oromo religious festival

Violence: Seven things Ethiopia banned under state of emergency

Ethiopia’s government has declared a six-month state of emergency in the face of an unprecedented wave of violent protests.

The most recent protests were sparked by the deaths of at least 55 people at an Oromo religious festival
The most recent protests were sparked by the deaths of at least 55 people at an Oromo religious festival

Activists in the country’s Oromia region have been holding demonstrations since last November, and protesters from the Amhara region have also joined in.

The deaths of at least 55 people at an Oromo religious festival on 2 October triggered fresh unrest, including the targeting of some foreign-owned businesses.

Rights groups say that at least 500 people have died during the protests overall and last week Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that could be an accurate estimate.

The emergency was announced earlier this month but the government has now made clear what this means in practical terms.

Here are some of the things that are restricted:

1. Social media

Ethiopian soldiers try to stop protesters in Bishoftu, in the Oromia region of EthiopiaActivists have used their mobile phones to spread news about their protests

You cannot use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to contact what are called “outside forces”. In fact, any attempt to communicate with “terrorist organisations and anti-peace groups designated as terrorist” is banned.

Protesters have been posting messages and mobile phone footage to social media and websites run by Ethiopian dissidents living abroad.

The government has accused Eritrea and Egypt of fomenting the protests.

2. Broadcast Media

You cannot watch the TV channels Esat and OMN, which are both based outside the country. The government has described them as “belonging to terrorist organisations”.

These broadcasters have become some of the major sources for people wanting to know more about the protests.

3. Protests

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration over what they say is unfair distribution of wealth in the country at Meskel Square in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 6, 2016.Protests have been frequent in Ethiopia in recent months

You cannot organise a demonstration at your school or university, neither can you be involved in a political campaign that is “likely to cause disturbances, violence, hatred and distrust among the people”.

University campuses were among the first places to be hit by the wave of anti-government protests.

4. Gestures

Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head at the finish line of the Men's Marathon athletics event of the Rio 2016 Olympic GamesEthiopian Olympic marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa made the crossed arms Oromo protest symbol well known around the world

You cannot make a political gesture, such as crossing your arms above your head, or communicate a political message to the public “without permission”.

The crossing-arms gesture has been seen widely at the protests in Oromia, and even made it to the Olympics when marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa used it as he crossed the line in second place in Rio in August.

5. Curfew

Torched bundles of woven fabric are seen in a textile factory damaged by protests in the town of Sebeta, Oromia regionFactories have been targeted in arson attacks

You cannot visit a factory, farm or governmental institution between 6pm and 6am the next day. If you violate the curfew than “law enforcement bodies have been authorised to take the necessary action”.

Government buildings and private businesses, some of them foreign owned, have been deliberately targeted by some of the protesters.

6. Diplomats

US diplomatic car

If you are a diplomat you are not allowed to travel more than 40km (25 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa, without permission. The government says that this is for your own safety.

In general, the diplomatic reaction to the protests and the state of emergency has been muted. The US has said that it is “troubled” by any restrictions on the freedom of expression in the state of emergency, but, like other western powers has called for peaceful dialogue to solve the country’s problems.

Ethiopia is a close ally of the US against Islamist militancy in neighbouring Somalia.

7. Guns

If you have a gun, you cannot take it within 25km of the country’s main roads out of Addis Ababa, and within 50km of the country’s borders, even if you have a permit to carry it.

More about the protests in Ethiopia

Map of protests and violence in Ethiopia in 2016
Protesters have targeted properties owned by the government and private sector

Massive arrests in Ethiopia as protesters hit the streets

In Ethiopia, at least 1,000 suspects have been arrested over the violence in Sebeta town near the capital, Addis Ababa, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate has reported.

Protesters have targeted properties owned by the government and private sector

Only 40 to 50 suspects were natives of the town, while the majority were from other parts of Oromia region, the mayor, Ararsa Merdasa, is quoted as saying.

Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency to curb unrest in Oromia and Amhara, two regions that have seen a wave of anti-government protests since last year.

The mayor added that if there were any innocent people among the 1,000 suspects, they would be released once investigations were concluded.

Mr Ararsa said that residents had provided details of the rioters, including the crime they had committed, following public meetings.

More arrests were expected, he added.

Businessmen, who experienced massive losses after their properties were destroyed during the protests, are attending a “peace conference” in  Sebata, and called for better security, FBC reports.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC

Three days of mourning after 52 protesters killed in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has begun three days of mourning after at least 52 people were killed during a protest at a religious festival in the Oromia region.

Some died in a stampede on Sunday after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, witnesses said.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said rioters had caused “pre-planned mayhem” that led people to fall to their deaths in ravines.

He denied reports that the security forces had opened fire.

In a national address on state TV, he praised their “great efforts” to protect the public and blamed “evil forces” for the deaths, vowing to bring to justice those responsible.

Africa Live: More on this and other African storiesWhat do Oromo protests mean for Ethiopian unity?What is behind wave of protests?

Thousands had gathered for the religious festival in Bishoftu, 40km (25 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa.

The annual Irecha celebrations are an important festival by the people of Oromo in welcoming spring.

But crowds at the festival chanted “We need freedom” and “We need justice”, witnesses said.

‘Fell from a cliff’

Some participants crossed their wrists above their heads, a gesture that has become a symbol of the worst protests by the Oromo people in more than two decades.

Police fired tear gas after anti-government protesters threw stones and bottles, but others said demonstrators were entirely peaceful.

The national flag is flying at half-mast at all government buildings regular programmes on state radio have been replaced with music, the AFP news agency reports.

Witnesses said the stampede started after police fired tear gas.

One protester told the Associated Press news agency that he almost died after falling into a deep ditch as he was trying to flee.

He was pulled out but the first people who fell into it had suffocated, he said.

An Oromo activist, Jawar Mohamed, was quoted as saying that nearly 300 people had been killed and many more injured.

He said troops and a helicopter gunship had opened fire, driving people off a cliff and into a lake.

The government-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reported that people died falling from the cliff around the lake but it made no mention of a helicopter opening fire.

There has been a series of deadly clashes in Ethiopia in recent months.

People in Oromia and Amhara, two of Ethiopia’s most populous regions, have complained about political and economic marginalisation.

The US has expressed concern about what it termed the excessive use of force against protesters.
The unrest was sparked last November by a plan to expand the capital into Oromia. This led to fears that farmers from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, would be displaced.

The plan was later dropped but protests continued, highlighting issues such as marginalisation and human rights.

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