Written by ESAT,

An armed group opposing the Ethiopian regime claimed responsibility for an attack on a military camp in Northern Ethiopia.

Patriotic Ginbot 7, which has been carrying out sporadic attacks on regime targets in Northern Ethiopia, said its forces have made a surprise attack on a military camp in Azezo, North Gonder.

A statement from the group sent to ESAT said the camp has been partially damaged by the fire that ensued the attack in the wee hours of the night on Thursday.

The statement said the attack was carried out when soldiers left the military camp to backup a group of other soldiers who came under attack while escorting a fuel truck. The truck was carrying fuel from Sudan to Gondar when it came under attack in Chilga.

The truck and the loaded fuel was also destroyed, the group claims. Head of Communications Affairs with the Amhara Regional government, Nigussu Tilahun, however said the truck had accidentally overturned and caught fire.

A representative of the PG7 meanwhile told ESAT that regime soldiers were harassing farmers in the area in an attempt to gather information about the attackers.


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Latest News in Ethiopia (Nov. 18)








European Commission identified Ethiopia as a threat to the financial system of the Union.

(Tesfa News) — The European Commission proposes amending the blacklist by adding Ethiopia and removing Guyana from the list. It urges all European banks to enhance due diligence on any money coming from that country.

The European Commission blacklisted Ethiopia for being very risky in money laundering and terrorism financing, urging banks situated in Europe to apply enhanced due diligence on financial flows from the country.

Aiming to ensure proper functioning of the European market, the Commission, in its latest regulation released on October 27, 2017, added the country to the list of high-risk third countries along with Iran, Syria, Yemen and seven other nations.

The new rule will be applicable in 28 European Union member countries upon being approved by the parliament of the Union within twenty days after its release.

“Countries on this list must be subjected to additional counter checks and the ‘know-your-customer’ (KYC) rules- which involves cross-checking the business and identity of clients,” the regulation reads.

The high-risk countries, according to the Commission, will pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union.

“Unlike countries under the high-risk non-cooperative list, this won’t bring any problem to the country,” said Berhanu W.Kiros, deputy head of Financial Intelligence Centre, established to combat terrorist financing, money laundering and related matters in the country.

The Commission added Ethiopia to the list of risky countries half a year after the adjustment of the proposal made by the Commission to swap Guyana from the list, for Ethiopia.

The European Parliament voted against the list by 392 ballots to 80, with 207 abstentions.

For Ethiopia, it is not a new thing to be listed in a jurisdiction having a deficiency in anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing.

Seven years ago, the country was labelled as a threat to the international financial system by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an intergovernmental organisation, with 37 member countries, founded in 1998 to combat terrorism financing and money laundering globally.

Presently, studies indicate that money laundering is posing a significant danger to the developmental and security efforts of the world. Being a principally informal and cash-based economy, Ethiopia is exposed to terrorism and money laundering activities, the assessment made by FATF reveals.

Realising the effects, Ethiopia’s government had enacted a legal framework eight years ago, although it criminalised money laundering back in 2005.

Three years later, it established the Financial Intelligence Centre to oversee the terrorist financing, money laundering and other related matters. Since then, the Centre has been undertaking various measures to fight such acts including directing financial institutions to implement customer due diligence.

Nevertheless, this was not considered adequate by the European Commission that identified the country as a threat to the financial system of the Union.

Although Ethiopia has provided a written high-level political commitment to address laundering, the analysis indicates it should be considered as a third-country jurisdiction considering the progress it has made, the Commission’s regulation reads.

For the three-decade experienced macro-economist and policy analyst, this is alarming.

“This shows there is a high amount of illegal capital flight in the country,” he said. “It is a result of lack of transparency and surge in corruption.”

Berhanu replied. “We are striving to get out of the list,” he said.

A study by the Global Financial Intelligence revealed that about 26 billion dollars left the country unlawfully between 2004 and 2013. The same reports discovered that Ethiopia loses two billion dollars annually due to illicit financial flows.

But for the macro-economist, working to get out of the list is not a priority.

“Abolishing backdoor contractual agreements and measures to ensure transparency should be taken to combat laundering,” he said.
Renaissance Dam



Written by Associated Press,

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, for the second time in as many days, delivered on Saturday a stern warning to Ethiopia over a dam it is building after the two countries along with Sudan failed to approve a study on its potential effects.

Ethiopia is finalizing construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, its first major dam on the Blue Nile, and will eventually start filling the giant reservoir behind it to power the Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam.

Egypt fears that will cut into its water supply, destroying parts of its precious farmland and squeezing its population of 94 million people, who already face water shortages.

Dam construction on international rivers often causes disputes over the downstream impact.

Cairo said last week that the three countries had failed to approve an initial study by a consultancy firm on the dam’s potential effects on Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia says the dam is essential to its development and has repeatedly sought to reassure Egypt. But Cairo’s efforts to persuade Addis Ababa to engage in closer coordination over the dam appear to have made little headway.

El-Sissi sought to reassure Egyptians in televised comments while attending the inauguration a fish farm in the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheikh, but stressed that “water is a matter of life or death.”

“No one can touch Egypt’s share of water,” he said.

The Nile provides over 90 percent of Egypt’s water supply. It already receives the lion’s share of Nile waters — more than 55 billion of the around 88 billion cubic meters of water that flow down the river each year.

El-Sissi used a news conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov. 8 to deliver the same message to Ethiopia.

“We view positively the developmental needs of our friends and brothers in Ethiopia,” he said, then added “We are capable of protecting our national security and water to us is a question of national security. Full stop.”

The Egyptian leader did not say how Egypt intended to proceed. The government has publicly ruled out military action, but top Egyptian officials have in recent months been sharpening their rhetoric on Ethiopia.

El-Sissi has sought to foster better ties with sub-Saharan Africa, especially fellow Nile basin countries, insisting that while his country needs its full share of the river’s waters, it is ready to help them with their economic development.


René Lefort


Written by Addis Standard,

Addis Abeba, November 18/2017 – Reliable sources tell Addis Standard that René Lefort, a prominent scholar known for his critical observation of Ethiopian politics, was deported by Ethiopian authorities up on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Abeba on Tuesday November 14, 2017.

According to sources familiar with the matter and who want to remain anonymous, René Lefort arrived at the airport on Tuesday with a valid visa. However, as soon as he arrived, his French passport was confiscated by Ethiopian immigration officials at the airport before he was subsequently expelled with the next flight to Paris, France the same day.

René Lefort, who is now in Paris, confirmed the news and said the immigration officials “refused to tell me why I have been evicted”. “I have been blocked at the airport, my passport has been confiscated, the immigration service obliged me to [fly] back to Paris the same night,” Mr. Lefort said in an e-mail sent to Addis Standard. According to him, he arrived at Bole airport “with a business visa, delivered by the Ethiopian embassy in Paris, after having got the green light from the concerned services in Addis Abeba, following the normal process. I had planed to stay three weeks in Ethiopia.”

An observer of Ethiopian politics since the 1970s, René Lefort is known for his in-depth analysis regarding the nature of political events in Ethiopia. He is also known for his frequent articles on Sub-Saharan African countries published in respected publications such as Open Democracy, Libération, Le Monde, Le Monde diplomatique and Le Nouvel Observateur.

His articles on Ethiopia often appear on Open Democracy. His latest article, published on October 22, 2017, and was titled “Ethnic clashes” in Ethiopia: setting the record straight” delivered a critical analysis into the recent deepening political crisis in Ethiopia. The “four scenarios” he discussed in the article were a topic of wide range discussions among Ethiopia observers and the Ethiopian social media space.

Mr. Lefort, who is believed to maintain a cordial relation with a few senior government officials in Ethiopia and who often travels to Ethiopia to asses political events firsthand before writing his articles, says he was informed by a senior official in an e-mail that it could only be a “misunderstanding”. “This expulsion came as a surprise for many observers,” he said, adding, he was “deeply frustrated” that he was now “prevented” to asses firsthand a changing political dynamic, which “in my view is one of the most important in the contemporary Ethiopian history.”

Addis Standard has made several attempts to reach out to immigration authorities in the airport, but all were to no avail. And its e-mail sent to the visa section of the Ethiopian embassy in Paris has not been answered as of the publication of this news.




By Yohannes Gedamu (PhD)

1960s was one of the most consequential political periods in Ethiopia’s history. This period showed the emergence of a generation of politically conscious educated class, who despite their privilege vis-à-vis the populace, asserted that cultural, political as well as economic realities of the state had to be addressed. The national question, which would become a popular issue of contention, given the debates raised by some famous tracts from then influential student writers, brought to light the diverging interests between that era’s ruling elite and the demanding educated class composed of many individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These crop of Ethiopia’s educated class would eventually organize themselves either in ideological pan-nationalist lines or took on themselves the idea of voicing ethnic grievances through clandestine mobilization efforts that targeted the formation of ethno-nationalist rebel movements.

When put succinctly, throughout the Sixties and early Seventies, two sets of political movements had emerged in the country. 1) Pan-Ethiopian nationalist movements emerged as inclusive political organizations (EPRP). 2) The rebellions with ethnic grievances as their agenda, that mostly emerged from Tigrigna speaking highlands (TPLF and EPLF) as well as the Oromo Liberation Front however, arose as rebel organizations that are exclusive to their ethnic groups’ interests and their ethnocentric views. Today, looking at the history of ethno-nationalist movements in Ethiopia’s contemporary history shows that despite some political actors affiliated with such movements have come to evolve in their views of what the Ethiopian state should be (note: few leaders of OLF), it is crucial to reminisce that their political platforms remain embedded within their old ethnocentric agenda. The last four to five decades of history of ethno-nationalist movements in the country in fact shows that transforming the views of such organizations’ leadership and their die-hard supporters will be the most difficult endeavor.

However, it is also important to note that such ethno-nationalists do comprehend the current realities of the country’s demographic make-up and extremely mixed patterns of settlements, which could deter them from realizing their narrow-nationalistic ethnic interests. Moreover, it is also my belief that most ethno-nationalists understand that ethnic grievances that they are dedicated to address will not be solved without a democratic framework in place. Indeed, such groups understand that the profound focus on their particular ethnic grievances could also unsettle the pan-nationalists, who I believe are the vast majority given this group includes the Amhara, most of the Southern ethnic groups and the urbanites. Furthermore, it is also very imperative to point that the fact that one of the largest groups in the country, the Amhara, still remain categorized as pan-nationalists, is understood as a deterrence by those same ethno-nationalists. As it is evident, some individual actors and political groups (most in the diaspora) within the Amhara have failed to emerge as representative of their ethnic groups’ interests mainly because the vast majority of the Amhara did not buy into ethnic politics at all. This of course, creates a difficult conundrum for the ethno-nationalists who long to see the Amhara follow their path to narrow ethnic nationalism, which in its absence would challenge the realization of dreams’ of narrow nationalists. Altogether, ethno-nationalists understand such critical realities of the Ethiopian state and the challenges that make it less conducive to ethnic nationalism to flourish; however, we see that those political groups and individual actors still remain unyieldingly fixated on their ethnic agenda.

The question now becomes whether it would be possible for such ethno-nationalists to somehow change at some point? My answer to such a question is simple; “they would not”. Why? Because, the organizational nature of ethno-nationalist political movements causes ‘change’ to be an extremely slow process. The political culture that such groups identify with also resists the idea of change. Hence, unfortunately, we should not be surprised to witness such groups continue to remain ardent ethno-nationalists. Political groups and key political actors representing the Oromo as well as the Tigrayan political organizations, that we have come to experience throughout these tumultuous historical periods in the last few decades, all manifest that the way the ethno-nationalists view the future of the Ethiopian state is only via what their ethnic lenses reflect. Those groups I mentioned and many others that had followed their footsteps in organizing along ethnic lines, have also emerged to even cultivate radical solutions in their discussion of what the future of the country holds.

Let’s see one prime example. Most of such groups, for instance, concur with the notion of continuing the failed institutional solution of ethnic federalism as the most viable political arrangement for the Ethiopian state, even at the event that the authoritarian regime in the country would be replaced through a democratic transition. Today, some of the ethno-nationalists at home and abroad believe that the current problem in the country is that the party centralism is making the federal arrangement look like a unitary one. They also mention that if it was not the oppressive nature of the TPLF-EPRDF, the federal structure would have worked for the better. Of course, the regional state leaders are either controlled from the center in Addis Ababa or from Mekelle. And that might influence their complaints of party centralism. Those ethno-nationalists in the opposition are also seen struggling to explain the problems of the current federal arrangement. This is ludicrous to say the least. For Ethiopians of all ethnic backgrounds, such federal arrangement was the most painfully divisive experience that they have ever faced and endured. The vast majority of Ethiopians are tired of living in ethnic boxes. Thus, I argue that whatever form of genuinely caring and democratic political elites assume political leadership at Menelik II palace, as long as this form of ethnic federal arrangement is in place, more of the same would be the new reality.

Here, let’s for once imagine the prospect of remaking the post-TPLF/EPRDF reality of the Ethiopian state, with the re-institutionalization of the country in the ideals of Ethnic federalism. The answer would be, the country’s future will not be different from our experiences from the last twenty-six years and counting. Well, such a federal arrangement, which many argue not only failed the country, but instead served as a platform for authoritarian survival in the last two and half decades, have in fact achieved nothing but created winners and losers[1]. Such an arrangement simply did not also pass its elongated period of experimentation that lasted 26 years. The undisputed reality is that even the new generation of youth who were newborns at the advent of the post-1991 Ethiopia have come to repudiate the divisiveness and false promises of ethnic federalism.

Most of the ethnic questions that we have come to learn and that were centered on political and economic grievances of the diverse groups should have also been history if the ethnic federal solution was to work. To the contrary, the gap in political and economic equality among the diverse citizenry have worsened. The notion that ethnic federal arrangement could solve possible ethnic tensions and emergence of ethnic conflict has also failed as that would be evident via the series of evictions of ethnic groups (mostly Amharas, and now Oromos) from their historic lands and habitats as perpetrated by some federal and regional political elites. Sadly, such elites who have accepted ethnic hatred as a way to assert their political legitimacy and survival, still proudly present the ethnic arrangement as a way forward. The political violence that has come to emerge as the new reality across regional state borders within today’s Ethnic Federal arrangement also attests to the fact that such form of ethnic arrangement as a viable solution for the nation of over eighty ethnic groups will never be an option.

Such reality, as alarming as it is however, invites us to question what the solutions need to be. And the question of how to address the ethno-nationalists’ concerns in a meaningful way therefore need to remain an important topic of discussion given the groups’ stubborn inclination towards maintaining such a failed arrangement as a critical alternative on the negotiation table among many others we can list. Here, let’s also keep in mind the international realities that are creating enormous political storms in Europe (Catalonia in Spain) and the Middle East (The Kurds’ struggle for their own state). Such realities indeed show that despite the age of globalization creating a one village like global reality, ethnic questions and ethno-nationalist movements still remain relevant points of contention across many states. That is why I call for the diverse political groups, individual actors, intellectuals and political activists to come to realize that the future of the Ethiopian state would only be solved via continued negotiations and compromises. As Christopher Clapahm (2009) stated, “The deeper problem facing Ethiopia is that it is now too complex and diverse a society to be managed without the extremely adept deployment of the political skills - of discussion, bargaining, compromise and simultaneous recognition of alternative sources of authority - that are needed to create some kind of workable synthesis of the different elements of which it is composed”[2].

Indeed, the future of the Ethiopian state must require some level of compromises that at the end would lead to an emergence of a strong and united country that is very much representative of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural interest that remain rooted within the ethno-nationalists’ concerns. The persistent nature of patterns of elite interaction within the old Ethiopian state as well as the current ethnocentric politics could also remain a problem even after a desired democratic transition takes place. However, I am confident that by incorporating democratic values to political party platforms with genuine intent, by employing tactics of political reconciliation through give and takes, chances that such political actors can play a role in reviving the democratic fortunes of the state could be higher moving forward. As such, the ethno-nationalist groups must be considered an integral actor in this negotiation process occupying the place they deserve on the reconciliation and compromises table.

One particular issue that explains the problem of lack of understanding among the elites when it comes to the future of the country is also this notion of ‘we have to agree on everything’. Given that could be a tougher challenge in negotiations, the elites must also come to an understanding that most of the difficult issues that divide public opinion need to be left for the citizenry to decide. Periodic elections, besides their service in determining who assumes particular political positions across different levels of government offices, must also be considered as a platform for the people to vote on series of important issues that remain challenging problems for both ethno-nationalists and Pan-Ethiopian advocates to reach certain levels of agreements. The issue of national language, national flag, the need for a forward looking national reconciliation process as a viable transitional justice process, the nature of government structure (what form of federalism or system of government), and even the type of electoral system in our democratic future should be left for the people to decide.

Yohannes Gedamu teaches Political Science at Georgia Gwinnett College and you can email your comments or questions to him at: yohanethio@gmail.com.



[1] Gedamu, Yohannes (2017). Ethnic Federalism and Authoritarian Survival. Georgia State University, Atlanta Georgia (Not publicly available yet).

[2] Clapham, Christopher. "Post-war Ethiopia: the trajectories of crisis." Review of African Political Economy 36, no. 120 (2009): 181-192. (Look at page 191 for the quote).


In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2016, Ethiopians chant slogans against the government during their march in Bishoftu. Dozens of people in the Oromia region were killed that day in a stampede when police tried to disrupt the protest.



By Tizita Belachew | VOA

At least 10 people have been killed and 20 others wounded during violent protests Thursday in the town of Ambo, in Ethiopia's Oromia region, after federal security forces fired on the demonstrators.

The latest protest — which follows on more than a year of deadly protests in the region between November 2015 and December 2016 — was triggered by recent shortages of sugar.

The local head of communications, Gadisa Desalenge, told VOA that the federal and special elite "Agazi" forces, who were deployed to the area early Thursday, were responsible for the deaths.

Desalenge also told VOA that some of the protesters, "infuriated by the killings," set several trucks on fire.

VOA Horn of Africa service contacted the Ethiopian government for comment, but so far has not received a reply.

Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia issued a statement acknowledging "deeply disturbing reports of violence and deaths in Ambo."

Embassy spokesman Nicolas Barnette told VOA that U.S. diplomats are watching the situation closely.

Embassy staff are restricted from traveling to Ambo without special permission, and U.S. travelers already in the area have been warned to take caution.

Last year’s protests in Oromia were sparked by government plans for a development scheme that opponents said amounted to a land grab. Nearly 700 people were killed in one bout of unrest last year.




Written by Nazret,

When it comes to the privilege of travelling around the world with out visa requirements, not all passports are created equal. Ethiopian passport offers limited mobility for travel with out requiring visas than say Singapore, which is now ranked as having the most powerful passport in the world.

According to the Passport Index, Ethiopian passport is ranked near the bottom of the world’s most powerful passports along with Eritrea, Somalia, Libya and Sudan. With Ethiopian passport, you can travel to just 9 countries without requiring any visa at all and 30 countries will issue visas to Ethiopians upon arrival.

In contrast, holders of a Singaporean passport can now easily visit 159 countries, either visa-free or by gaining a visa on arrival.

By analyzing the access national passports have to countries around the world, the Passport Index assigns a “visa-free score” — the number of countries a passport holder can visit visa-free or with visa on arrival. It also takes the UN Human Development Index into account. Ethiopia scores 39 near the bottom of the index, with Afghanistan passport coming dead last.

Passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories — ROC Taiwan, Macao (SAR China), Hong Kong (SAR China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory and the Vatican — are considered for the index. Territories annexed to other countries are excluded.
New Passport Index power ranking

1. Singapore: 159
2. Germany: 158
3. Sweden, South Korea: 157
4. Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, United Kingdom: 156
5. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Portugal: 155
6. Malaysia, Ireland, Canada, United States: 154
7. Australia, Greece, New Zealand: 153
8. Malta, Czech Republic, Iceland: 152
9. Hungary: 150
10. Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia: 149
Countries you can visit without visa with Ethiopian passport

  • Benin
  • Haiti
  • Kenya
  • Micronesia
  • Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Singapore
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines





By Ayo Awokoya

With the most recent ethnic clashes in the Somali region, Ethiopia has now entered another crisis. According to government reports, 50 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced by violence that erupted last month along the disputed border that separates the Oromia and Somali regions.
The Oromo/Somali dispute is a microcosm of the wealth and power disparity that exists within Ethiopia. The state is built on a misguided premise: that a system of segregation based along ethnocentric lines can be both separate and equal. But in reality only one ethnic group, the Tigrayans, reigns dominant. Comprising of just six per cent of the country’s population, the Tigrayans have access to the highest centres of political and economic power. It is this disparity that lies at the centre of Ethiopia’s ongoing crises.

Through 2014 and 2015, residents in the Oromo and Amhara regions began to protest over land acquisition and their increased marginalisation. The Ethiopian government responded to the demonstrations with aggression, with the resulting clashes leaving more than 500 dead. Alarmed by the rising level of dissent, a ten month state of emergency was imposed and a heavy internet crackdown left many Ethiopians alienated from the outside world.

Some analysts have argued that the Tigrayan dominated government has capitalised on regional conflicts and used them to legitimise excessive use of force against demonstrators. This has tightened the government’s control over the country and attempted to silence those that have previously challenged its authority. The combined use of force and restrictions on internet freedom have been condemned by human rights organisations, who have accused the government of violating the privacy rights of the Ethiopian populace.

Cyber surveillance has been used extensively not only to fight terrorism and crime, but as a means of silencing dissenting voices in the country. Felix Horne, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept that “anyone that opposes or expresses dissent against the government is considered to be an ‘anti-peace element’ or a ‘terrorist.’” These labels also apply to journalists who have used the internet to express their dissatisfaction with the government. In 2016, the government shut down the country’s internet service more than three times whilst also jailing a number of dissenting journalists.

Digital resistance

Though Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the country has some of the lowest internet usage on the continent with internet penetration at only 12%. But the reality beyond the figures is more complex, and it is hard to get a sense of how many Ethiopians actually have access to the internet: those that do often navigate through spyware, hacking, and other surveillance software that the government has allegedly deployed.

The draconian laws surrounding internet usage indicate the government is still afraid of Ethiopians both having contact with the outside world – and using it to communicate and organise themselves domestically. But in the Oromia region, younger generations have used their digital skills to fight the government’s digital war. Through a small circle of digital developers, virtual private networks (VPNs) have been developed to give users access to data in case of an internet blackout.

Though the government tried to retaliate by switching off the ports connecting the unsecured VPNs, their reach wasn’t widespread enough. Realising that educated people in urban areas are able to outmanoeuvre the crackdowns, the government has focused its efforts on restricting internet access in rural areas. Though this has successfully denied internet access to the majority of the population, in urban areas the Ethiopian government is losing the digital war.

And they’re losing in more ways than one. The Ethiopian economy is still in its infancy, and internet blackouts are causing major economic instability. According to the centre for Technology Innovation at Brookings, the internet shutdowns between 2015 and 2016 have cost the economy nearly $9 million. Internet disruption slows growth, weakens innovation, and undermines foreign investors’ confidence in the country’s economy. As Ethiopia goes on to foster internet-dependent businesses and transactions, the damage rendered from connectivity disruptions becomes even more severe. This, in combination with the country’s staggering debt it owes China, leaves the Ethiopian economy in a very vulnerable position.

The Ethiopian government could channel more resources into winning the digital war in the hope of gaining wider control over the internet. But as authoritarian states around the world are discovering, curbing internet access in 2017 is in many ways a losing battle; savvy young people will keep finding new ways around restrictions. And if Ethiopia wants to maintain regional stability and fast economic growth, its stance on human rights and freedom of speech may have to be revisited.


Andargachew Tsege and his family


The Rt Honourable Boris Johnson MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Urgent request that the UK negotiate Andy Tsege’s release

Dear Foreign Secretary,

Our organisations write in response to your most recent letters on the case of British father-of-three Andy Tsege, the first of which was sent to the former Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which is monitoring Mr Tsege’s case, and the second of which was posted on the FCO’s website as an open letter to Mr Tsege’s supporters.[i]

At the time of writing, Mr Tsege has been held on Ethiopia’s death row for over three years, under a death sentence imposed on him in absentia, having been seized in an international airport in Yemen June 2014 and transferred into Ethiopian custody. Mr Tsege was convicted for his vocal opposition to the Ethiopian regime. In 2006, Mr Tsege gave a speech to the European parliament, encouraging MEPs to back “the peaceful, just and fair struggle of the people of Ethiopia for freedom and democracy.”[ii] The European parliament has since criticized Ethiopia’s human rights record and called on the government to release Mr Tsege and other political prisoners.[iii]

We believe the lack of progress made in Mr. Tsege’s case following three years of torment for Mr. Tsege and his family necessitate a change in the UK Government’s approach. Our organisations call for the UK Government to urgently shift its focus to securing Mr. Tsege’s return to his home in London and reuniting him with his partner and three children.

Seeking “Legal access” is no substitute for securing Mr Tsege’s return

Your recent open letter states that the FCO’s priorities are Mr Tsege’s “wellbeing, his access to legal representation, and to ensure that the death sentence is not carried out.”[iv]

You state that Mr Tsege “has met with his lawyer to further discuss his case under Ethiopian law.”[v] It is hard to see how “legal representation” will result in relief for Mr Tsege or how there can be any options under Ethiopian law, as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister have since confirmed that “there is no appeal process” available to him, and that it is “not possible” for him to appeal his in absentia death sentence.[vi]

Furthermore, we have concerns about the lawyer’s independence and effective counsel. Mr Tsege was unable to choose his own legal representative freely. Rather, he was presented by the Ethiopian authorities with a choice of just four lawyers, as opposed to being provided with the list of twenty registered Ethiopian lawyers published on the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website. We also understand that Mr Tsege’s discussions with his lawyer have been held within earshot of security officials – in contrast to international standards.

As you know, Mr Tsege was sentenced to death, in his absence, in 2009 while living with his family in London. It was a highly politicized trial, which the US State Department described as an act of “political retaliation” that was “lacking in basic elements of due process”.[vii] We understand that Ethiopia made no extradition requests to the UK for Mr Tsege during his trial or following his conviction.

The focus on securing legal access for Mr Tsege overlooks that there can be no hope of a just legal process for Mr Tsege in Ethiopia’s compromised court system – the very system which subjected him to rendition, incommunicado detention, and an in absentia death sentence. In addition, it is out of line with the clear recommendations made by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, both of which have called upon Ethiopia to release him immediately from detention and return him to the UK.

Only private consular access can help to ensure Mr Tsege’s wellbeing

You state that during the Ambassador’s last consular visit, “Mr Tsege was doing well and was in good spirits.” This is in contradiction with the readout from the visit which states Mr Tsege is still seeing spots from a prison assault earlier this year. Mr Tsege has not been allowed to visit an independent medical professional in the three years of his detention.

There are additional significant concerns for Mr Tsege’s wellbeing in detention. UN experts have confirmed that Mr Tsege has been held in incommunicado detention and mistreated during his detention in Ethiopia.[viii] All UK consular visits to him have not been in private and have been monitored by Ethiopian guards, raising clear concerns that he may not feel able to communicate freely about his treatment. Despite this, you have recently stated that your Department considers the presence of an Ethiopian official in to be “in accordance with…the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), and in line with local laws and regulations”.[ix]

This is contrary to the practice of several States which have indicated that they consider “monitoring of the content of communication as a violation of the right of access and contact as between a consul and a national.”[x] The UK itself is one of those States, as its Prison Service Instructions for providing visits and services to prisoners expressly states that “[M]easures are in place to ensure that official visits – particularly those from legal advisers and consular officials – should take place within sight but out of hearing range of staff, other prisoners, and their official visitors.”[xi]

In a majority of cases, the only possibility for a detainee who has experienced torture or ill-treatment to provide the consular official with information or to raise a complaint about his treatment is in the context of a private visit. As such, a failure to ensure privacy of communication undermines the entire purpose of communication in the framework of consular visits as envisaged by Article 36 (1) (c) of the VCCR. In this respect it is disingenuous to suggest as you do in your most recent letter that the Ethiopians’ refusal of private visits is in accordance with its obligations under this treaty.
Ethiopia must be held to account for its promises – secure a family visit

As you are aware, Andy’s family has not spoken to him since his abduction, aside from a short surprise phone call over two and a half years ago.

In March of this year, following a visit to Ethiopia, you announced that you had secured a visit for Mr Tsege’s partner and their three children. Over six months later, the Ethiopian embassy has still refused to accept the family’s visa application and your office has not been able to secure the necessary documentation from Ethiopia to allow them to travel there to visit Mr Tsege.

Ethiopia has repeatedly gone back on promises it made to the British Government. The Ethiopian Government has refused to give assurances that Andy’s death sentence will not be carried out. Andy’s life is in danger as long as he continues to be arbitrarily detained in Ethiopia.

The urgent need for a change in approach to secure Mr Tsege’s return

After over three years of detention and despite promises by the Ethiopian Government, Mr Tsege does not receive regular consular visits, has not been able to see his partner and children, and is still without independent legal representation. Ethiopia has repeatedly gone back on its assurances to the UK in relation to Mr Tsege’s case. It is not clear that the Ethiopian Government would act differently regarding assurances that his death sentence will not be carried out.

You recently hosted the Ethiopian Prime Minister and he was invited to Downing Street, where he met with Prime Minister Theresa May. While we understand that Mr Tsege’s case was raised at the meeting, it is becoming increasingly clear that after three years of raising Mr Tsege’s case, a different approach in this case must be taken to continue effective collaboration with Ethiopia within a rule-based international system.

We are not requesting that the UK publically call for Mr Tsege’s release or otherwise “penalise” Ethiopia. Rather, we are suggesting that the UK government take steps in Mr Tsege’s case – as it has in other cases of British nationals unlawfully detained abroad – to ensure that he is returned home to the UK as a matter of urgency. The UK has previously been able to negotiate the return of prisoners through Prison Transfer Agreements or by assisting in the negotiation of clemency agreements. This approach has also worked in Ethiopian cases in the past. For example, Sweden secured the return of two if its journalists back home through a pardon[xii] and it is said that the US Government was instrumental in contributing to the release of members of the Zone 9 blogger initiative ahead of a visit to Ethiopia by President Obama.[xiii]

The only way to ensure Mr. Tsege’s safety and wellbeing is for the UK to urgently seek Mr Tsege’s return home to London. We urge you to reconsider your priorities in Mr Tsege’s case, and to negotiate his return to the UK.

Sincerely,

Maya Foa
Director
Reprieve

Dr Carla Ferstman
Director
Redress

Henry Maina
Eastern Africa Director
Article 19

David Mepham
UK Director
Human Rights Watch

Soleyana S Gebremichael
EHRP Coordinator
Ethiopia Human Rights Project

[i] FCO correspondence on the case of Andy Tsege to supporters; FCO correspondence to the FAC on the case of Andy Tsege
[ii] http://www.voanews.com/a/ethipias-opposition-group-threatens-armed-resistance/2878413.html
[iii] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20170509IPR73947/human-rights-h-hichilema-in-zambia-dr-gudina-in-ethiopia-south-sudan
[iv]; FCO correspondence to the FAC on the case of Andy Tsege
[vi] Note of a meeting between the Secretary of State for International Development and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, 16 July 2015, disclosed to Ms Hailemariam on 29 January 2016 pursuant to a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998; Note of a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Dr Tedros Adhanom, 21 July 2015, disclosed to Ms Hailemariam on 29 January 2016 pursuant to a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998.
[vii] ‘Scenesetter for Codel Meeks visit to Ethiopia: February 16-17, 2010’, cable from US Embassy Addis Ababa, 8 February 2010: https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10ADDISABABA244_a.html
[viii] The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has stated that Ethiopia’s treatment of Mr Tsege has violated the Convention Against Torture. Report of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to Human Rights Council (March 2016), para 148.
[ix] FCO correspondence to the FAC on the case of Andy Tsege
[x] See, The Law of Consular Access: A Documentary Guide; Norway is another example of a State which by statute requires the communication to be private; the US Department of State also considers that only private communication can achieve the purpose of consular access.
[xi] National Offender Management Service, ‘Providing Visits and Services to Visitors’, 2nd Revision, 28 April 2016.
[xii] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-sweden-journalists-idUSBRE8891D320120910; https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/10/16/dispatches-ethiopias-zone-9-bloggers-acquitted-free-speech-still-trial
[xiii] http://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/zone-9-bloggers-2/