Saturday, October 15, 2016

Egyptian President denies supporting opposition in Ethiopia

Egyptian President denies supporting opposition in Ethiopia | 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Reuters -Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denied on Thursday Ethiopian accusations that his country was supporting the opposition after a wave of violent protests that left hundreds dead.

Ethiopia accused “elements” in Eritrea, Egypt and elsewhere on Monday of being behind protests over land grabs and human rights that prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

The unrest has cast a shadow over Ethiopia, where a state-led industrial drive has created one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but whose government also faces criticism at home and abroad over its authoritarian approach.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman said Egypt, which is embroiled in a row with Addis Ababa over sharing Nile waters, was a source of backing for armed gangs though that backing may not come from state actors.

Sisi denied those accusations.

“Egypt does not conspire against anyone,” he said in a speech to the military.


The construction of Ethiopia’s 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam has become a bone of contention between Ethiopia and Egypt, which lies downstream and relies on the Nile River for agricultural, industrial and domestic water use.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti, Writing Lin Noueihed; Editing by Hugh Lawson)"

'via Blog this'

Under the Radar: Foreign investors under attack in Ethiopia | Global Risk Insights

Under the Radar: Foreign investors under attack in Ethiopia
Mounting violence in Ethiopia has seen over 500 killed, as protests against the government’s economic and human rights policies continues. The tensions at the heart of the crisis are systemic ones, yet what makes the violence particularly worrisome is that foreign investors have become prominent targets. Foreign businesses are being systematically attacked in protest of the government’s development-centric approach, with protesters citing land grabs and unfair competition as key issues.

Foreign investors under attack

20161015_mam001Government estimates claim that around 40,000 workers at foreign companies have been affected by the disruptions; as cement, textile, flower, and agribusiness firms have been attacked. Popular sentiments that the benefits of growth are not being felt by all, combined with worries about foreign goods undercutting local producers has made Ethiopia a verydangerous investment locale.
In recent weeks, eleven factories have been burned, and 90% of flower farms between Ziwag and Hawassa, in Oromia have been attacked. This has already led to one American flower firm pulling out of the country. Similarly, the Dutch owned, 2,000 worker, fruit farm of Africa Juice BV was set alight in September, with other Dutch and Israeli firms also attacked.
Moreover, Angela Merkel is in Ethiopia to discuss issues of trade and migration, and has expressed concerns about German interests in the country, as Germany constitutes one Ethiopia largest export destinations. Specifically, Germany consumes 30% of Ethiopia coffee production – a major cash crop and source of foreign currency. These exports could be threatened as unrest in agricultural areas continues, and protesting farmers continue to hinder the movement of goods to the capital.
Add to this attacks on Turkish textile factories in Sebeta and on holiday lodges at Lake Langano, and Ethiopia’s plight becomes even direr.
Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute sums up the state of affairs in Ethiopia:
“If I am a foreign investor, I look for opportunities. I understand that there are risks but in the face of this growing unrest where foreign companies have been targets, given all that has happened in terms of displacement of people and their lands given away to foreign investors, it would be astute to not go into a country like that.”

Ethiopia’s uneven response hurts investor confidence

Alongside the unrest, the government’s response has only further unsettled foreign investors, as a whole week of silence followed the October 2nd uptick in violence, with the government only belatedly issuing a state of emergency. This occurred after the country’s state-run internet service was shut off for two days in August to disrupt protests. This move only further damaged investor confidence, and mainly hurt businesses, not protesters. In a country where a third of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day, most protesters do not have internet access, as support for the movement is largely located in rural areas. Shutting off the internet only further compromised the position of foreign companies in Ethiopia.
Despite the delay, communications minister Getachew Reda highlighted the impact on business as part of the reason for the government’s October 9th state of emergency declaration. “The kinds of threats we are facing, the kind of attacks that are now targeting civilians, targeting civilian infrastructure, targeting investment cannot be handled through ordinary law enforcement procedures” noted Reda. This echoes statements by PM Hailemariam Desalegn, who has also warned of the danger to the country’s infrastructure projects, projects such as the newly unveiled $3.4 billion, Chinese backed, railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.
These projects, alongside foreign businesses are prime targets as protesters are angered about the focus given to development over human rights, and the favouritism shown to the capital, whose growth is leaving the rest of the, largely agrarian, country behind. The protests began in November 2015, in response to plans to expand the capital, plans which were later abandoned, yet which hit a nerve among a population angered about land grabs and inequality.
Likely inspired by the success of the Chinese Communist Party, Ethiopia has sought to strongly push development, in the hope that growth will distract from the country’s human rights abuses. Unfortunately for the government, Ethiopia does not have Beijing’s clout or hard power, and faces are far more divided and diverse country.
Unsurprisingly, the government has sought to blame foreign influences on the the unrest, seeking to claim the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is behind what is clearly a grassroots movement. To this end Ethiopia haspicked a fight with Egypt – claiming that Cairo is aiding the OLF – something which Egypt denies. The two countries are already at odds over Ethiopia’s plans to construct the 6,000 MW New Renaissance Dam on the Nile, which would severely impact downstream water resources in the Sudans and Egypt.
Throw in the obligatory accusation to Eritrea as well and this sloppy reaction is par for the course for the Ethiopian government.
This ham-fisted and belated response from the government only further undermines Ethiopia’s image in investment circles. This is especially unfortunate given that Ethiopia had, until recently, been a regional darling, citing double-digit growth and earning the moniker of ‘Africa’s Lion’. These days are gone as Ethiopia’s growth prospects have seen a significant drop, as domestic unrest grows, commodity prices have sunk, and regional growth slows.

This problem is here to stay

The problem for investors going forward is that the current unrest is based on longstanding, systemic problems at the heart of the Ethiopian state. While last week saw the imposition of Ethiopia’s first state of emergency in 25 years, this state of affairs has direct links to the last state of emergency a quarter of a century ago. In 1991, the historically dominant Amhara ethnic group was ousted from power by the Tigrayans, a group that comprises only six percent of the population. In the last 25 years, the Tigrayans have solidified their hold on the government, resulting in a state of affairs in which the Oromo and Amhara – sixty percent of Ethiopia’s nearly 100 million people – are underrepresented and marginalized.
Consequently, the economic focus on the capital and its pet development projects is seen as further favouritism towards the ruling Tigrayan governing elite who comprise the main governing party – Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – which focuses on urban centres, and neglects the countryside.
This explains why the protests are centered in Oromia, yet it also warns of further escalation. Oromia produces much of Ethiopia’s food, and any disruption there could have serious impacts on national food security. Up to 18 million Ethiopians rely on food handouts, and unrest in Oromia threatens not only domestic food production, but attacks on foreign agribusiness also deprive the government of the foreign reserves needed to purchase additional food.
To make matters worse, Ethiopia has suffered from severe El-Nino related drought since September 2015. The timing of the drought and the first protests in November is likely no mere coincidence. While so far the government has been able to respond to the drought, unrest in Oromia could be the tipping point that disrupts national food distribution. If events do take a turn for the worse, Ethiopia is likely to find little foreign assistance, as donor fatigue has only increased in recent years. The international community is already distracted by Syria and other humanitarian issues, and Ethiopia’s drought has largely gone unnoticed.
The EPRDF was created out of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which took control in 1991 from the Derg regime. The Derg used famine as a weapon against the TPLF and other restive elements, leading to the infamous 1983-1985 famine. This famine in turn undermined the Derg regime and led to its downfall. The current regime is well aware of the risks of famine, which will likely result in a heavy-handed response to quell unrest and prevent wider instability. The problem is that this could easily back-fire as economic issues reignite lingering ethnic tensions, plunging Ethiopia into greater civil unrest.
Under the Radar uncovers political risk events around the world overlooked by mainstream media. By detecting hidden risks, we keep you ahead of the pack and ready for new opportunities.
Under the Radar is written by Jeremy Luedi.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Brussels Times - EU calls for an inclusive dialogue in Ethiopia after state of emergency was announced

Thursday, 13 October 2016 11:43
The government of Ethiopia has announced a state of emergency for a period of six months, starting from 8 October. In a carefully worded statement (on 10 October), a spokesperson for EU’s Foreign Service seemed to accept the emergency provided “that fundamental rights are respected at all times”.

According to the Ethiopian government the state of emergency is intended to “to reverse the danger posed by destabilizing forces undermining the safety of the people and security and stability of the country”. The decree on the emergency had been submitted to the Ethiopian Parliament according to the country’s constitution.

 “The state of emergency is essential to restore peace and stability over a short period of time,” said the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. He continued:  “The state of emergency will not breach basic human rights enshrined under the Ethiopian constitution and won’t also affect diplomatic rights listed under the Vienna Convention”.

Ethiopia has over the past decade witnessed a double digit economic growth, huge infrastructure development, accumulation of wealth and growing FDI inflow because peace and stability prevailed in the country. The Prime Minister said that these infrastructures are being destroyed by anti-peace elements within a short period of time.

According to the government, orchestrated violent activities carried out in various parts of the country have led to the loss of lives and enormous damage on properties in the last weeks. Schools, health institutions, administrative institutions are also being attacked.

The violence in some parts even goes beyond damaging properties, the Prime Minister said, adding that “The forces are trying to trigger conflict among different ethnic groups and followers of different religions. If not properly addressed within a short period, the situation could undermine the national integrity of the country.”

The European External Action Service states that a way for an inclusive dialogue in response to the grievances of the population should be opened and lead to a comprehensive reform package.

“Violence, whichever side it comes from, has no place in this endeavor,” concludes the statement. “Now it is time for all forces, inside and outside Ethiopia, to restore calm and join in ensuring that Ethiopia can pursue the path of democracy and development.”

The Brussels Times

Saturday, October 8, 2016

United Nations News Centre - UN rights office calls for independent inquiry following numerous deaths at an Ethiopian festival

UN rights office calls for independent inquiry following numerous deaths at an Ethiopian festival

Women fill their containers at a water collection point in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Photo: OCHA Ethiopia/Zelalem Letyibelu
7 October 2016 – Expressing concern at increasing unrest in several Ethiopian towns following deaths of a number of people in unclear circumstances in the country’s Bishoftu town, the United Nations human rights arm has called on protesters to exercise restraint and on security forces to conduct themselves in line with international human rights laws and standards.
“The protests have apparently been fuelled in part by a lack of trust in the authorities’ account of events, as well as wildly differing information about the death toll and the conduct of security forces,” Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told journalists at a regular press briefing at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).
“There is clearly a need for an independent investigation into what exactly transpired last Sunday and to ensure accountability for this and several other incidents since last November involving protests that have ended violently,” he added.
According to OHCHR, last Sunday, a number of people died after “falling in ditches or into the Arsede lake” while ostensibly fleeing security forces following a protest at the Irrecha religious festival in Bishoftu, located in the Oromia region, about 50 kilometres south-east of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. These incidents have caused increased unrest in several other towns in the region.
Furthermore, drawing attention to the cutting off access to mobile data services in parts of the country, including in Addis Ababa, the OHCHR spokesperson urged the Government to address the increasing tensions, including “by allowing independent observers to access the Oromia and Amhara regions to speak to all sides and assess the facts.”
He recalled that in August this year, High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein had requested access to the regions to enable OHCHR to provide assistance in line with the African nation’s human rights obligations. “We again appeal to the Government to grant us access,” Mr. Colville underscored.
Also at the briefing, the OHCHR spokesperson expressed concern at reports of mass arrests in the Oromia and Amhara regions.
He further noted that two bloggers – Seyoum Teshoume and Natnael Feleke – the latter from the blogging collective Zone 9, were arrested this week, for reportedly “loudly discussing” the responsibility of the Government for the deaths at last Sunday’s festival in Oromia.
“We urge the Government to release those detained for exercising their rights to free expression and opinion,” said Mr. Colville, adding, “Silencing criticism will only deepen tensions.”

News Tracker: past stories on this issue