Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sudan to host Nile basin conference - rest-of-the-world -

February 20, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Ten Nile basin countries will celebrate on Sunday the 16th anniversary of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in Khartoum.

It began with a dialogue among the riparian states that resulted in a shared vision to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.The NBI is a partnership among the Nile riparian states that seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security.
The initiative was formally launched on 22nd February 1999 by the water ministers of nine countries that share the river including Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as Eritrea as an observer.
Sudan’s minister of electricity and water resources, Muataz Musa, said on a talk show broadcasted by the state-run Radio Omdurman on Friday the NBI countries will decide on three items in order to complete the legal framework of the initiative.
According to Musa, these items include how decisions should be made within NBI, existing bilateral agreements of member states and how a member state should notify NBI countries about water projects it plans to carry out.
He revealed the role played by Sudan to shift the focus of the NBI countries from “water sharing” to “sharing water benefits”, stressing this shift represented a major leap towards developing the resources of the basin.
Musa said the Nile basin countries became “one family” after they managed to overcome their previous differences over water shares.
He added his country will celebrate on Sunday the historic day of the launch of the NBI, noting the celebration aims to raise awareness of the governments, communities, development partners, parliaments and ordinary citizens on the need for cooperation among the NBI countries to maintain and develop water resources.
Meanwhile, Egyptian AlYoum Alsabie newspapers said that Egypt’s irrigation and water resources minister, Hossam Moghazy, will participate in the Nile Basin Initiative’s (NBI) meeting, after a five-year hiatus.
“During the meeting, Egypt is set to give its views on the future of relations among the Nile Basin countries along with amendments on certain items in the Entebbe agreement,” Moghazy was quoted by AlYoum AlSabie on Thursday.
The minister underscored that Egypt will not sign the Entebbe Agreement in its present form.
In 2010, five upstream countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement, also known as the Entebbe Agreement, seeking equitable sharing of the Nile waters that would allow for more irrigation and electricity development projects.
The move was strongly condemned by Egypt and Sudan and was seen as a violation of an earlier treaty signed during the colonial era between Egypt and Great Britain in 1929 which gave Cairo and Khartoum the right to veto projects in the upstream countries that would affect its water share.
Following the signing of Entebbe Agreement in 2010, Egypt and Sudan, who own over 85 percent of the river waters according to the colonial-era treaty, froze their activities in the NBI.
There was another agreement signed between Egypt and Sudan in 1959 agreement. It gave Egypt the right to 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters per year.
The Nile Basin, which covers an area of 3.2 million square kilometres, across 11 basin states, which are facing growing pressures, including persistent poverty among its populations, climate change resulting in floods, prolonged droughts, low access to electricity, lack of food security and rising populations, placing increased demands on water flows.
These challenges and threats, among others, are by their very nature trans-boundary and hence require collective action among all the basin states and multiple stakeholders at national, regional and international level; with different and sometimes conflicting interests.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The UK Is Too Busy Cooperating with Ethiopia on Anti-Terrorism to Help a British Citizen on Death Row | VICE | United States

February 19, 2015

Andy Tsege with Yemi Hailemariam and their children
This post originally appeared on VICE UK.
Andargachew Tsege, known to his friends and family as Andy, is a British citizen who has been held in a secret prison in Ethiopia since June. The government of the East African country has used its stringent anti-terrorism laws, adapted from British and American ones, to charge Tsege with plotting a coup and has sentenced him to death. While he's unlikely to actually face a rarely-imposed death sentence, he is on death row.
Now, UK Foreign Office (FCO) emails obtained by Tsege's partner Yemi Hailemariam and shared exclusively with VICE, reveal that while an FCO analysis of Tsege's appearances on Ethiopian television concludes that he has been "broken" by his recent experiences—which are thought to include torture—a phone call shortly afterward between Britain's then minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, and the Ethiopian minster of foreign affairs, Tedros Adhanom, concluded with Simmonds inviting Ethiopia's intelligence chief to London to discuss increased cooperation on anti-terrorism initiatives between the two countries.
Prior to this, Simmonds had merely raised "concerns about lack of consular access" and had mentioned increased parliamentary attention to the case. At a recent African Union summit in Ethiopia, British officials failed to bring up Tsege's case with their Ethiopian counterparts even though, Yemi tells me, they'd promised her they would.
Former Africa Minister Mark Simmonds. Simmonds quit politics last year citing "intolerable" parliamentary allowances restrictions
The legal charity Reprieve has taken up Tsege's case. Maya Foa, the head of their death penalty team, told me, "Eight months after Andy Tsege's abduction by Ethiopian forces, it's astounding to see that British ministers knew he was being tortured from the start—but still chose to make nice with their Ethiopian counterparts. This is a British citizen facing a death sentence at the hands of a notoriously brutal government—one that appears to face no consequences for its actions. It is high time the UK took decisive action to end his ordeal."
Tsege fled Ethiopia in 1979 and was granted British citizenship, thereby renouncing his Ethiopian citizenship. He is the secretary general of Ginbot 7—one of the many opposition groups banned by an Ethiopian government that, a source in its foreign ministry told me, sees democracy as being low on its list of priorities. In 2009, he was sentenced to death at a mass trial held in Ethiopia in his absence, for supposedly planning a coup. On June 23, 2014, he flew to Eritrea to meet other members of Ginbot 7. He was abducted in transit at an airport in Yemen by Ethiopian security forces and brought to a facility in Ethiopia.
Reprieve attorneys have been allowed no contact whatsoever with their client. Tsege has spoken to Yemi and their three children only once, and has met with the UK's ambassador to Ethiopia twice in the eight months he's been detained. On both occasions, he had a hood put over his head and was driven to a secret location away from the secret location of his prison. Reprieve and Tsege's family accuse the British government of being afraid to upset Ethiopia, which is a key regional ally in the war on terror and a recipient of hundreds of millions of pounds of British aid every year.
The FCO analyst's email calls Tsege's arrest an "important symbolic victory" for the Ethiopian government, the ruling party, and its supporters. Alongside this it notes "a worrying tendency of the security agencies of the GoE [Government of Ethiopia] to act in disregard of international standards and consequences." A number of journalists have been arrested in the last year and Ethiopia has also exercised its power to abduct opposition politicians living in neighboring countries.
The FCO notes Ethiopia's increased projection of power in the region and the desire of neighboring governments to co-operate with it. Just over a year ago, two senior members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front—a separatist militia from a region in the east of Ethiopia, which the government calls terrorists—were abducted by Ethiopian security services in Nairobi. And last September, the former president of one of Ethiopia's Gambella region, was kidnapped in South Sudan, charged with terrorism and then allegedly beaten up in prison by a government mole. Reflecting on the recent arrests and the Ethiopian government's desire to link Tsege's illegal Ginbot 7 movement with legal opposition groups, the FCO analyst reports that it "bodes ill for the prospects of democratization and a reasonably competitive election next year."
It also continues to bode ill for Tsege himself. Ethiopia has this month refused to allow a delegation from the British parliament to visit him. Rachel Nicholson, Amnesty International's campaigner on the Horn of Africa, said that this decision reflected the "severe restrictions on access to detention centers to monitor the treatment of detainees more generally in the country. Amnesty International continues to receive frequent reports of torture and ill treatment, usually in the early stages of detention."
When I spoke to Yemi this week, she told me that "nothing has changed" since her partner was abducted by Ethiopia, and that she believes the FCO is practicing a form of "malaise diplomacy" that sees ministers treat Tsege's case as some sort of dutiful "obligation" they must briefly mention before getting on to more important matters. "They aren't fighting Andy's corner," she says. "There's no clarity in the message. Andy is being kept in solitary confinement, exposed to artificial light 24/7 and prevented from having any private access to lawyers or the British consulate... The Ethiopians have classified him as a terrorist, which is what they classify anyone who disagrees with them. But regardless of what they think, there are legal ways of going about doing what they are doing."
The government, she believes, would be doing a lot more to help Tsege if he was a white, British-born citizen. Yemi says that after he was abducted, it took the British government two weeks to determine whether her partner was a British citizen or not. "They don't think we're English," she told me.
Responding to the record of Mark Simmonds' phone call and its analyst's email, an FCO spokesperson defended what they had been doing for Andy. The "documents quoted cover only a small amount of the considerable effort the UK has put into this case," he said, adding that, "the foreign secretary raised Mr. Tsege's case with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister shortly after his detention in June and again in August, September, November, and December."
It seems that, without any force or threat behind them, these efforts are easily ignored. With the British unwilling to rock the boat, the dialogue between the two countries remains focused on aid and intelligence co-operation. Meanwhile, Andy Tsege's lawyers and family wonder if they will ever see him again. On the phone, Yemi sounds exhausted. "What is becoming harder is for me to remain hopeful," she says.
Follow Oscar Rickett on Twitter.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ethiopia Frees Ex-Muslim Jailed For Faith in Christ -BosNewsLife

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (BosNewsLife)-- An ex-Muslim who was detained in Ethiopia after refusing to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam was expected to be released Saturday, January 14, following six months behind bars, rights activists involved in the told BosNewsLife.

Soka Araro was among three Christian men detained on what their supporters called trumped up charges of growing and distributing illegal substances.

Their arrest in the town of Shashemene, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa, came amid reports of growing pressure on Christians with a Muslim-background to recant their faith.

Ethiopia's government "has also limited freedom of expression, making it gradually more difficult for Christians in the Muslim-majority regions to worship openly," said advocacy and aid group International Christian Concern (ICC), which closely monitored the case.

Besides Araro two other Christians, Nura Araro and Obsa Ogeta, were detained but later released. Araro was soon freed after his charges were dropped, while Obsa Ogeta was placed on bail "in October and later released and acquitted of the charges in January" added ICC.


The group said the men were released following negotiations between ICC's local Ethiopia representative and prison officials.

It ends an ordeal that began with threats, their pastor recalled earlier. "Before their imprisonment, people sent messages to these guys, saying, 'if you are not back to your [Islamic] faith, you will face our trap,'" the church leader said in published remarks.

"Its...widely known the imprisonment was religiously motivated. We know it to be an unconstitutional attack," the pastor added, speaking on condition of anonymity, amid security concerns. Nura Araro said local Muslims "orchestrated" a trap with police of regional "Kebele district leaders, political officers and court judges as well."

ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, Cameron Thomas, cautioned that while he was pleased the men have been freed amid an international campaign, concerns remain over the future. "By abusing legal institutions, radical Muslims have greatly neglected the rights of Christians across Ethiopia in recent years. We have seen case after case documenting the rights of Christians being ignored solely on the basis of religion."

Thomas told BosNewslife that "When essential freedoms such as these are removed, as in the case of Araro and Ogeto, the international Christian community must stand up on their behalf."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Andy Tsege case: Ethiopia refuses to allow access to imprisoned British citizen - Africa - World - The Independent

Dissident was kidnapped in Yemen last June and now is facing the death penalty

Ethiopia has refused to allow a delegation of parliamentarians to visit a British dissident facing the death penalty in the African country.

Andy Tsege, who is the secretary-general of a banned Ethiopian opposition movement, was sentenced to death at a trial held in his absence in 2009.  He was travelling from Dubai to Eritrea last June when he disappeared during a stopover in Yemen, in what campaigners regard as a politically motivated kidnapping. Weeks later, he emerged in detention in Ethiopia.
A delegation led by Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Tsege’s constituency MP, was to visit Ethiopia in a bid to secure his release. But the trip was abandoned after a meeting with Ethiopian ambassador Berhanu Kebede in London last week.
Mr Corbyn told The Independent: “We had made plans to go and see him next weekend and they said we would be refused admission to the detention facility.”
Lord Dholakia, the vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia, who was due to travel out with Mr Corbyn, said it was made clear that they would not be welcome. Mr Corbyn is demanding that the Ethiopian government allows Mr Tsege’s lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, the director of Reprieve, to visit him and will raise the issue in the Commons this week. The Ethiopian embassy in London has accused Mr Tsege – who came to Britain as a political refugee in 1979 – of being a member of a “terrorist organisation” which wants to “overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia”.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian embassy said: “The ambassador advised the parliamentarians that there was no need for them to go to Ethiopia as the case is being properly handled by the courts.”
Last night, Yemi Hailemariam, Mr Tsege’s partner and mother of their three children, accused the ambassador of being “a mouthpiece for his bosses who have no regard for basic human rights”. Mr Tsege’s family will go to Downing Street today – which is his 60th birthday – to hand in a petition calling on David Cameron to demand his return. It can also be revealed that the Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood broke a promise to Mr Tsege’s family that his case would be raised during the African Union summit in Ethiopia last month.
Mr Ellwood had pledged that senior officials would raise the case. But in an email sent to Ms Hailemariam last week, a government official admitted: “Access to Ethiopian ministers is extremely limited during the summit and so it wasn’t possible to have a bilateral meeting with senior officials who might have influence over the case.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We remain deeply concerned about Ethiopia’s refusal to allow regular consular visits to Mr Tsege and his lack of access to a lawyer, and are concerned that others seeking to visit him have also been refused access.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sun News : Amnesty begs PM get involved in Ethiopian-Canadian's plight behind bars

Amnesty begs PM get involved in Ethiopian-Canadian's plight behind bars


Credits: FILE PHOTO/Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Amnesty International wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pressure Ethiopia to release a Canadian serving a life sentence there on allegations he helped a banned political organization.

Bashir Makhtal, a Canadian citizen, was born in Ethiopia.

He was working as information technologist with CIBC when, in 2007, he returned to Ethiopia keen to expand a small business, Amnesty International said.

Instead, he was arrested and charged with smuggling arms for the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The ONLF, established in 1984, is a separatist rebel group fighting to make the region of Ogaden in eastern Ethiopia an independent state. Makhtal's grandfather was a member of the ONLF but Amnesty International said Bashir Makhtal was not.

Amnesty International's Alex Neve said Makhtal did not receive a fair trial and has been badly beaten.

"He has been held in isolation, also kicked, punched and beaten head to toe with a stick," Neve told reporters on Wednesday.

Neve claims Makhtal has also been denied access to a lawyer, family contacts or contact with Canadian consular officials.

Makhtal's cousin, Said Makhtal, is pleading for his release.

"Prime minister, imagine the pain you would feel if you learned that one of your loved ones had been through this kind of nightmare," Makhtal said Wednesday. "That is the pain that we are feeling every single day and every single minute and every single night."

Erica Meekes, a spokesman for Minister of State (Consular Affairs) Lynne Yelich, said the Canadian government continues to advocate on behalf of Makhtal.

"We have actively engaged the Government of Ethiopia to press for due process and ensure his well-being," Meekes said in a statement Wednesday.