Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ethiopia Clears Swathes of Land, Displacing Thousands HRW

HRW: Ethiopia Clears Swathes of Land, Displacing Thousands

TEHRAN (FNA)- Ethiopia is clearing large swathes of land and forcibly displacing populations to make room for state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley, according to Human Rights Watch.
The rights watchdog said 500,000 people are affected by the land clearance, which covers "virtually" the whole valley in Southern Ethiopia. The reports are based on recently released satellite imagery, AFP reported.
"Ethiopia can develop its land and resources but it shouldn't run roughshod over the rights of its indigenous communities," said HRW's Africa Director Leslie Lefkow.
There are several large state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley and several new projects under way. Sugar production, mainly for export, is a key source of revenue for Ethiopia.
HRW said communities -- mainly pastoralists -- are being forcibly moved under the government's "villagisation" program, which Addis Ababa says will help rural citizens access key services such as education and health care.
"As has been seen in other parts of Ethiopia, these movements are not all voluntary," said HRW.
The lush Omo Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to several indigenous tribes, including the 7,000-member Bodi group, often photographed in traditional beaded dress and with lip plates.
Several rivers run through the valley, including the Gibe River, which the government is using to build a number of large hydroelectric dams.
The main tributary for Kenya's Lake Turkana is the Gibe River, and environmental groups have said the dam constructions will dramatically decrease water levels.
With an average income of less than $2 per day, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, but also has one of the globe's fastest growing economies.
The Horn of Africa nation is seeking to industrialize its economy, notably in the agricultural sector, in order to boost exports and reach middle income status by 2025.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ethiopia opposition leader charged with undermining court

Addis Ababa — An Ethiopian opposition leader charged with contempt of court after writing an article critical of the country's judiciary has been released from jail with a conditional sentence, officials said Monday.
Asrat Tase, a senior member of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was arrested on February 7 after publishing an article accusing the Ethiopian justice system of being biased toward the government.
"The court tried him summarily and they found him guilty," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP.
The spokesman said the opposition figure was charged with contempt of court and has now been released, but he has been given a suspended sentence meaning he can be automatically jailed for five months for committing any crime.
"If the person commits another crime that sentence will automatically be reactivated,? Shimeles said.
UDJ spokesman Habtamu Ayalew condemned the sentence as unconstitutional, and accused the government of breaching its own laws to stifle freedom of speech.
"Any person can write or can speak according to the Ethiopian constitution, so when he wrote and criticised the justice how can he be arrested?," Habtamu told AFP.
Ethiopia has been accused of stifling political dissent and gagging political rivals in the past.
Several opposition members and journalists are jailed under the country?s anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups have criticised as vague and far-reaching.
Around 200 people were killed in protests during the 2005 elections, including anti-government demonstrators.
There is only one opposition member of parliament in Ethiopia, which is to hold federal elections in May 2015.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Two police officers arrested over abduction of Ethiopian officials - Standard Digital News - Kenya

By CYRUS OMBATI  NAIROBI, KENYA: Two Kenyan police officers were Monday arrested in connection with the abduction of two top officials of Ethiopia’s Ogaden National Liberation Front ( ONLF) from outside a popular restaurant in Upper Hill, Nairobi last week.  The officers, an inspector and a constable attached to Nairobi Area CID are expected to face charges of espionage for Ethiopia’s intelligence services.  Nairobi head of CID Nicholas Kamwende confirmed the arrests and said the officers expected in court Monday morning.  “They will face various charges following the abduction of the two ONLF officials,” said Kamwende.  He added the officers had been identified by witnesses as having participated in the abduction of Mr Sulub Ahmed and Ali Hussein who were members of the ONLF negotiation team that was in Nairobi for a proposed third round of talks.  Ahmed and Hussein were members of ONLF central committee and were abducted on January 26 from outside Arabian Cuisine in Upper Hill area.   They were later driven out of the country to Ethiopia by intelligence officials from Addis Ababa and their whereabouts are not known.  ONLF officials who asked not to be named had said security agencies from Ethiopia and Kenya were involved in the kidnapping.  They had been invited for a lunch date at the restaurant near TSC headquarters when they were abducted by men who were in three waiting cars.   One of the cars, a black Toyota Prado and the driver were seized and detained at the Turbi police station the following day but the two were missing amid speculation they had been taken across to Ethiopia.  The ONLF officials who spoke in Nairobi said the two officials were invited by the Kenyan government for peace negotiations. Their whereabouts in Ethiopia are yet to be known. 

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