Latest News in Ethiopia (July 28)

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Ever since the death of the late TPLF chairman and Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has lacked a similarly dominant personality able to maintain consensus, either thru charisma, intrigue, or both. This condition has given rise within the TPLF to internal divisions and animosities. Abay Woldu, the current president of the regional state of Tigray, holds the chairmanship of the party. But he does not wield the power, nor command the respect, the late Meles held. This leadership vacuum has led to an intense, internal power struggle within the TPLF. Stories from multiple and credible sources abound to this effect.

The worst schism to emerge is between the domestic and military intelligence agencies. Fissures also have opened between the ruling party, security agencies, the military and the bureaucracy. Open and confidential sources indicate that friction within and between state organs, involving the regime’s most important personalities, has created an unprecedented crisis.

Torn between party loyalty and popular anti-government sentiment, important partners within the ruling coalition, such as the Oromo People’s Democracy Organization (OPDO), the Oromo wing of the ruling EPRDF, have begun to assert their independence from the once-omnipotent TPLF faction. The result has been the purging of thousands of mid- and low-level OPDO officials in an attempt to maintain party cohesion in the face of popular anti-government protests engulfing the Oromo region. However, sources report that new recruits and appointees meant to replace those purged are also quietly resigning. Open defiance of the regime and the so-called “Command Post” administering martial law has become widespread throughout Oromia and is openly expressed in social gatherings and in public.

While OPDO has been under organizational stress since the recent resurgence of Oromo protests, Abadula Gemeda, the speaker of parliament and former president of the Oromo region, has stepped into the breach. Abadula is a close associate of Gen. Samora Yunus, the military chief of staff, who has been calling the shots since the implementation of martial law. Samora’s position as head of the notorious Command Post is reportedly a cause of resentment within the military’s upper echelons, including his longtime rival, Lt. General Saere Mekonnen, until recently Commander of the Northern Front and currently Head of Training Main Department of the Ministry of Defense.

A Samora loyalist, Lt. General Abraha Wodlemariam, a.k.a Quarter, the notorious war criminal responsible for the massacre of thousands of civilians in the ongoing counter insurgency in the Ogadan region while in his capacity as a commander of the Eastern Front and in concert with another butcher, the President of the Ogaden region, has been appointed to a new position of Chief of Operations of Defense. This is yet another clear indication that Lt. General Seare is, once again, sidelined, and Samora’s grip and consolidation of power over the military is becoming more than clear. It has been reported that Security Chief Getachew Assefa, Abay Tesehay, Sibehat Nega, and others, including former Airforce Commander, Maj. General Aebebe Tekelehamina, aka Jobe, have been actively working behind the scenes to have Lt. Genera Seare Mekonnen replace Samora as Chief of staff of the Defense forces of the TPLF dominated military and state.

As well known, the former commander of the Airforce, Gen. Abebe, like his close friend Tasdakn Gebre Tesnay, former Chief of Staff, has made his deep frustrations public at the state of affairs in Ethiopia under the current regime. In a series of articles published by the Amharic weekly, the Reporter, in the past year, the retired General has called the current situation in Ethiopia one that is endangering the security and survival of Ethiopia , and therefore, as the most potent threat, not only to the regime, but also to the multiethnic national fabric. In his latest article, retired Maj. Gen. Abebe recounts pervasive corruption, including at the highest levels of government, absence of good governance, lack of a democratic space, human rights abuse, and the inability of the regime to respond to popular demands, lack of political will and proper mechanisms in place to make the necessary changes.

These salient features all the more discussed as factors that would somehow converge to destabilize Ethiopia and pose the most serious security threat to Ethiopia. The former General has indeed the courage to ring the alarm bells to the otherwise deaf ears of the regime and its leaders who are in disarray. Although, one may argue that the general is off the mark as regard to the correct prognosis, which cannot be other than a transitional process towards a genuine democratic order for the country that involves all stakeholders and political forces.

The other key leaders of OPDO are Lemma Megersa, Beker Shale (until recently) and Abiye Mohammed, the former minister of science and technology, who maintains a low public profile. While close to chief of staff Samora, this coterie of OPDO’s bosses are, like their patron, Abadula, at odds with Getachew Assefa, the chief of security. Getachew, in turn, is reported to have the backing of Abay Tsehay, and Sibehat Nega, both TPLF heavyweights still wielding perhaps the greatest influence within the TPLF in the wake of the Oromo protest that rocked the region in the past eighteen months. Lemma Megersa, a onetime security official, has a firm allegiance to Abadula, who was instrumental in his rise to power as president of the Oromo region. Unlike the rocky relationships most OPDO leaders now have with those of the security services. Lemma is known to report regularly to Abdadula about communications he still maintains with security chief Getachew.

Haile Mariam Desgalegn has turned out to be a lame duck Prime Minister and a pawn in the never-ending power struggles of the TPLF power brokers. He is said to be close to General Samora’s group. One recent clue to this is his recent rebuff of a report released by Aba Tsehaye, a close supporter and ally of Getachew Assefa, concerning the incompetence permeating the executive branch’s cabinet and state ministers.

These ministers were appointed by Haile Mariam, the prime minster during the state of emergency as part of an “in-depth renewal” promising good governance, less corruption and responsiveness to popular demands for change. But neither this much-vaunted Tilk Tehadiso, nor the change of cabinet and state ministers, has delivered or appeased public anger in the wake of the Oromo and Amhara protests. The Ethiopian people have largely perceived the Tilk Tehadeso as yet another of the regime’s gimmicks to cover up and reverse the growing illegitimacy, crisis of confidence and near-total rejection by the Ethiopian people that have plagued it in the past eighteen months and were expressed by the massive protests in the Oromo and Amhara regions.

Leadership of the regime’s Amhara coalition partner, ANDM, has also been at odds with its TPLF partner to a point of approaching open confrontation. Like the OPDO, ANDM’s ranks are rife with resentment and discontent over TPLF domination and the heavy repression that followed protests around Gondar and Gojam in the Amhara region.

The TPLF-controlled military is also suffering from low morale. Desertions and defections, especially by the Amhara and Oromo soldiers whose ethnic groups comprise most of the lower ranks, have sharply increased in the rebellious areas. The defection of entire platoons and companies has occurred on several occasions. Anxiety and confusion over such developments now afflicts nearly all military forces at all levels, including the Agazi Division, a special unit used for repression that’s widely despised since its massacre of hundreds of unarmed protesters in the aftermath of the stolen 2005 election. This trend has worsened since the most recent Oromo and Amhara protests. Recruitment quotas are unmet, chronically so in the Amhara, Oromo and, to a lesser extent, other regions. ESAT and other media outlets have recently covered the severity of this problem confronting the regime.

Another trouble that has been a chronic headache for the TPLF military and security top brass has been the emerging armed popular resistance in Northern part of Ethiopia. The military leadership had held several secret meetings on how to control the situation in Northern Ethiopia, including a discussion without reaching an agreement, about the possibility of invading Eritrea and thereby wiping out the armed resistance groups based there. This option has been objected by elements of the military and security who understand the extremely low state morale in the army, the chronic defection and desertions plaguing it, as well as with their bitter memory of the military’s tragic loss at the battle of Tsoerna in June of 2016 which the TPLF commanders ill-advisedly launched against Eritreans, resulting in total carnage , hundreds of the Ethiopian armed forces killed and several hundred others lightly and heavy wounded, crowding Mekele Hospital and other medical facilities in Tigray. One consideration related to this view on the part of those who oppose military measures against Eritrea has to do with the very fear harbored by TPLF leaders. They lack confidence because they very well know that the army is dominated by Tigrayan commanders from top to bottom, the army has a very low morale, and top it all they are very much aware that the army is fully aware of the malfeasance and massive corruption of its top brass. Thus, they surmise the armed forces as it is constituted today cannot be relied upon for a full-scale war with the tough and hardened Eritrean defense forces. In addition, the tough and rough terrain that is known to give a high advantage to defending Eritrean forces in an event of an invasion by the TPLF led Ethiopian Armed forces.

Getachew’s National Intelligence and Security Service, known as NISS, is struggling to maintain its status and expand its turf. NISS is increasingly engaged in staving off challenges to its influence from the military intelligence service led by Maj. Gen. Gebre Dilla, a close ally of General Samora Yunus. Defense’s Military intelligence Department is said to be competing for power by overextending its tentacles and fielding agents of its own down to the kebele, or neighborhood, level and into all kinds of organizations, including religious ones, generating apprehension and visible hostility on the part of Getachew and NISS.

Recent leaks about infighting and power struggles within the ruling political elite are due in part to this development. They describe Samora and his own military intelligence chief, Gebre Dilla, using the state of emergency and the command post apparatus as a cover to widen their jurisdiction and infringe on the civilian intelligence services’ authority. This contest has added to the animosities, factionalism, and internal divisions affecting the minority regime.

Underneath these visible manifestations of discord, the demoralization infecting the military has spread to NISS as well. Intelligence sources attribute this to the repeated failure to control emerging political conditions throughout the county—viewed by many observers as a decaying political system cracking at the seams–and inability to understand the new fissures. Adding to this institutional state of anxiety is the budding armed resistance of Patriotic Ginbot 7 forces, now gaining momentum and intensity in their attacks on military, security, and regime administrative targets in several parts of the country, especially in the northern and southern Gondar areas of the Amhara region.

A farmer collecting khat in Infranz, a village in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The young and underemployed are increasingly chewing khat, a psychotropic leaf that has amphetaminelike effects. Credit Tiksa Negeri for The New York Times

By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura | NewYorkTimes

Yeshmebet Asmamaw, 25, has made chewing the drug a ritual, repeated several times a day: She carefully lays papyrus grass on the floor of her home, brews coffee and burns fragrant frankincense to set the mood.

Then she pinches some khat leaves, plucked from a potent shrub native to this part of Africa, into a tight ball and places them in one side of her mouth.

“I love it!” she said, bringing her fingers to her lips with a smack.

She even chews on the job, on the khat farm where she picks the delicate, shiny leaves off the shrubs. Emerging from a day’s work, she looked slightly wild-eyed, the amphetaminelike effects of the stimulant showing on her face as the sounds of prayer echoed from an Orthodox Christian church close by.

Ethiopians have long chewed khat, but the practice tended to be limited to predominantly Muslim areas, where worshipers chew the leaves to help them pray for long periods, especially during the fasting times of Ramadan.

But in recent years, officials and researchers say, khat cultivation and consumption have spread to new populations and regions like Amhara, which is mostly Orthodox Christian, and to the countryside, where young people munch without their parents’ knowledge, speaking in code to avoid detection.

“If you’re a chewer in these parts, you’re a dead, dead man,” said Abhi, 30, who asked that his last name not be used because his family “will no longer consider me as their son.”

Most alarming, the Ethiopian authorities say, is the number of young people in this predominantly young nation now consuming khat. About half of Ethiopia’s youth are thought to chew it. Officials consider the problem an epidemic in all but name.

The country’s government, which rules the economy with a tight grip, is worried that the habit could derail its plans to transform Ethiopia into a middle-income country in less than a decade ― a national undertaking that will require an army of young, capable workers, it says.

Khat is legal and remains so mainly because it is a big source of revenue for the government. But there are mounting concerns about its widespread use.

As many as 1.2 million acres of land are thought to be devoted to khat, nearly three times more than two decades ago. And the amount of money khat generates per acre surpasses all other crops, including coffee, Ethiopia’s biggest export, said Gessesse Dessie, a researcher at the African Studies Center Leiden at Leiden University.

That payoff, and the dwindling availability of land, has pushed thousands of farmers to switch to khat, he said. The changes have come as the government has pushed farmers off land that it has given to foreign investors in recent years.

Men chewing khat near the bank of the Nile River in Bahir Dar. Khat is legal and generates more money per acre than any other crop in Ethiopia. Credit Tiksa Negeri for The New York Times

Often associated with famine and marathon runners, Ethiopia is trying to change its global image by engineering a fast-growing economy, hoping to mimic Asian nations like China. It has poured billions of dollars into industrial parks, roads, railways, airports and other infrastructure projects, including Africa’s largest dam.

In cities across the country, skyscrapers grow like mushrooms, and along with them, dance clubs, restaurants and luxury resorts. According to government statistics, the country’s economy has been growing at a 10 percent clip for more than a decade.

But for all the fanfare surrounding what is often described as Ethiopia’s economic miracle, its effects are often not felt by the country’s young people, who make up about 70 percent of the nation’s 100 million people. There simply are not enough jobs, young people complain, often expressing doubt over the government’s growth figures.

It is because of this lack of jobs, many say, that they take up khat in the first place ― to kill time.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Shidigaf Haile, a public prosecutor in Gonder, a city in northern Ethiopia, which was rocked by violent protests last year, mainly by young people over the absence of jobs.

More than half of the city’s youth now chew khat, Mr. Shidigaf said. Many gather in khat dens away from prying eyes.

“It’s because there is a lack of work,” he added, saying there were numerous cases of people who were so dependent on the leaves, sold in packs, that they turned to petty crime. The government recognizes the problem, he said, but so far it has not been tackled directly.

“It’s bad for Ethiopia’s economic development because they become lazy, unproductive, and their health will be affected,” he said.

Khat’s effects vary depending on the amount consumed and the quality of the leaf, of which there are at least 10 varieties, according to growers. Some people turn hot and agitated. Others become concentrated on whatever is at hand to such an extent that they block out everything and reach “merkana,” a quasi-catatonic state of bliss. Chronic abuse, the American government warns, can lead to exhaustion, “manic behavior with grandiose delusions, violence, suicidal depression or schizophreniform psychosis.”

Dependency on khat is more psychological than physical, according to Dr. Dawit Wondimagegn Gebreamlak, who heads the psychiatry department at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia’s capital. Chewing it “is quite a complex cultural phenomenon,” he said, adding that simply banning it would be difficult, given its role in cultural rites among certain religious groups.

Mulugeta Getahun, 32, studied architecture but works as a day laborer.

“I chew khat when I don’t have a job,” he said. “Nothing entertains me more than khat.” Sitting in a bar here in Bahir Dar, about 340 miles from Addis Ababa, where he was coming off a high, he drank “chepsi,” a home-brewed millet wine that helps neutralize the effects of stimulation.

A group of men sat around drinking the homemade liquor and chewing khat, an act that could be considered illegal under the current state of emergency.

After last year’s protests, and their subsequent violent crackdown by security forces, the government prohibited communal activities because meetings were seen as a threat to public order and a potential gathering place for dissidents.

Still, the young are defiant.

There are “bercha-houses,” secret khat dens, where young people congregate in cramped rooms, bobbing their heads to Teddy Afro, a popular Ethiopian pop singer whose lyrics are considered veiled criticisms of the government.

There are hide-outs on the banks of the Nile River, where young people stretch themselves out under mango and banana trees, chewing khat and throwing peanuts in their mouths.

Even a guesthouse where Mengistu Haile Mariam, the authoritarian ruler ousted by the current governing party 26 years ago, stayed during the summers was recently overrun by young people celebrating the end of their studies, some chewing khat in one of the bleak Soviet-style rooms with the curtains drawn.

Yared Zelalem, 17, and Yonas Asrat, 27, chewed khat on the side of a street in Addis Ababa, waiting for the odd job of washing cars to come their way. They had been chewing for five hours already, and it was still early afternoon.

They both arrived in the capital 10 years ago looking for work, they said, after Mr. Zelalem’s parents died and Mr. Asrat’s family was kicked off its farmland to make way for a resort hotel.

Mr. Asrat looked morose. “Nothing has changed in the past 10 years except for my physical appearance,” he said, showing his home, a beat-up taxi with a foam mattress inside. “This country is only for investors.”

Mr. Zelalem, the 17-year-old, lives next door, in a boxlike structure with just enough space to fit his small frame. He was more determined.

“I want to become prime minister and change the country, and give jobs to young people,” he said, the words “Never Give Up” tattooed on his arm. He opened the door to his abode, which was fashioned out of corrugated metal. A backpack hung on a nail, next to a cutout of Jesus pasted on one wall. He took out his school notebooks, full of his meticulous handwriting.

“I want to study natural sciences, then become a doctor. Then I want to study social sciences to learn about politics,” he said, listing off his ambitions.

“In 20 years, you’ll see,” he added. “I’ll invite you to my office.”

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). (Lisa Fan/Epoch Times)

Today, the full House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a resolution, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), highlighting the human rights violations of the Ethiopian government, and offering a blueprint to create a government better designed to serve the interests of the Ethiopian people.

The resolution, which passed without objection, also calls on the U.S. government to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions, targeting the individuals within the Ethiopian government who are the cause of the horrific abuses.

The State Department’s current human rights report on Ethiopia notes, “[t]he most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.”

“H. Res. 128, is like a mirror held up to the Government of Ethiopia on how others see them, and it is intended to encourage them to move on the reforms they agree they need to enact,” said Smith, Chair of the House panel on Africa. “For the past 12 years, my staff and I have visited Ethiopia, spoken with Ethiopian officials, talked to a wide variety of members of the Ethiopia Diaspora and discussed the situation in Ethiopia with advocates and victims of government human rights violations. Our efforts are not a response merely to government critics, but rather a realistic assessment of the urgent need to end very damaging and in some cases inexcusable actions by the government or those who act as their agents.”

H. Res. 128, entitled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” condemns the human rights abuses of Ethiopia and calls on the Ethiopian government to:

  • lift the state of emergency;
  • end the use of excessive force by security forces;
  • investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
  • release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights;
  • respect the right to peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press;
  • engage in open consultations with citizens regarding its development strategy;
  • allow a United Nations rapporteur to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia;
  • address the grievances brought forward by representatives of registered opposition parties;
  • hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing and detaining innocent civilians who exercised their constitutional rights; and
  • investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison, the deaths of persons in attendance at the annual Irreecha festivities at Lake Hora near Bishoftu on October 2, 2016, and the ongoing killings of civilians over several years in the Somali Regional State by police.

“It is important to note that this resolution does not call for sanctions on the Government of Ethiopia, but it does call for the use of existing mechanisms to sanction individuals who torture or otherwise deny their countrymen their human and civil rights,” said Smith.

Smith has chaired three hearings on Ethiopia, the most recent of which looked into the deterioration of the human rights situation in Ethiopia and was titled “Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights.”

Latest News in Ethiopia (July 8)

Some children arrived in the United States believing they were only visiting.

Light of Day Stories

“Children for Families: An Ethnography of Illegal Intercountry Adoption From Ethiopia,” an article by Daniel Hailu, Ph.D., in Adoption Quarterly, provides a stunningly clear road map of how illegal adoptions have occurred in Ethiopia. His research corroborates many anecdotal experiences, discusses the impact of Ethiopian sociocultural views, and offers suggestions for reform.

The issue of illegal adoptions from Ethiopia has been simmering for years. I don’t think anyone has statistics on how many adoptions have been legal or illegal. Families have shared stories on Facebook. Adult adoptees have learned, after search and reunion, that their adoptive parents were not told the truth about why adoption was needed. Birth/first families were deceived or coerced into placing their children in an orphanage. Blame can be focused on many people: adoption agencies, police officers, brokers, government workers, adoptive families, first/birth families, and almost anyone involved with adoption and fees.

Adoptions from Ethiopia have declined dramatically in recent years. In May of this year, the Ethiopian government suspended adoptions, though it appears that children who were in the legal custody of their adoptive parents have been allowed to leave Ethiopia. I posted recently about the upcoming sentencing hearing of three International Adoption Guides’ officials, who have pled guilty to charges involving fraud and corruption in Ethiopia. A frequent source of debate on Facebook among adoptive families is whose adoption was fraudulent, whose adoption agency was checked out thoroughly, whose adoption was “clean.” Some prospective and new adoptive families discount the stories of families who have discovered lies and deceits in their children’s adoptions.

Dr. Hailu’s article describes how illegal and unethical adoptions occur. He interviewed 54 “informants,” people intimately engaged in adoptions in Ethiopia. He writes:

“At the root of illegal adoption are fabricated documentation and false testimonies that establish the legal basis for the subsequent adoption processes. Informants reported that these bases could not be established without the support and protection of local authorities, including some police officers.
An orphanage involved in illegal adoption perceived four major advantages in involving local authorities, as summarized by an informant:

First, local authorities facilitate identification of brokers from within the local community where orphanages have no other trusted link.

Second, officials in clandestine support brokers in recruiting children: The authorities identify children for potential adoption and also coax parents and guardians into giving their children away for adoption.

Third, the official expedites issuance of a letter of testimony that the orphanage needs from the kebele (neighborhood or ward) administration or the social court in order to take the case to the First Instance Court.

Fourth, the officials buffer the orphanage from any allegations that may be posed by any higher authority against recruiting an ineligible child.”

No one disputes, I hope, the role that money has played and continues to play in adoption. Between 1999 and 2016, some 15,300 Ethiopian children arrived in the U.S. Using a fee of $30,000 per adoption, some $459 million went from the U.S. to Ethiopian adoptions. Granted, not all of it went to Ethiopia. Still. Millions of dollars poured into Ethiopia from adoptive families, not just to the adoption agencies, but also to the orphanages, and to others working in the network to secure children for adoption.

Here is one matter-of-fact and chilling quote:

“The following description of a country representative of an adoption agency regarding the relationship between adoption agencies and orphanages is shared by several other informants in the industry:

‘Take my case as an example. I have entered adoption agreement worth millions. Neither UNICEF nor any government subsidizes me. Rather I get the money from adopting families. They expect me to give them babies. My boss expects babies. So, I expect the babies from the orphanages to whom I agreed to give part of the millions. It is a clean supply and demand relationship that exists among adopting families, adoption agencies, and orphanages. Essentially, we are providing children for families rather than finding families for children without parental care.’ ”

And how would country representatives or brokers convince families to place their babies and children in the orphanages, and thus for adoption?
That method, according to Dr. Hailu’s article, is also matter-of-fact and chilling.

“Three techniques were identified that brokers applied to coax parents and guardians into voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. The first was to appeal to the natural wish of parents for the future well-being of their children.

An informant explained:

As a first strategy, “Brokers would convince parents/guardians that it was better for the child to grow under better care than suffer with them: They promise that the child would be sent to [a] good school, eat well, [and] wear nice clothes and would generally live comfortable life. The brokers also give them the false promise that they would get to see the child once in a while whether the child is adopted locally or internationally.”

These promises have generally proven false, of course. Many adoptive parents and adopted persons have encountered Ethiopian birth parents who beg them to find out about the children they lost to adoption and have never heard from, despite the “promises” they were given. One important resource is Beteseb Felega—Ethiopian Adoption Connection, which has reunited many adoptees with their Ethiopian parents. Whether the adoptive parents had made the promise or not, many Ethiopian parents were told there would be contact. I’ve heard of adoptive parents finding out that the Ethiopian parents hoped to know if their children were alive and well—and the adoptive parents refused to respond. I hope they can face their adopted children and tell them this someday, as the children will grow up and likely find out their truths.

The second strategy of brokers to acquire children is to draw the attention of parents or guardians to their poverty and entice them with a promise of economic gain that they would potentially accrue by giving their child away for eventual adoption.
Another informant explained:

“The broker calls the attention of guardians to the financial assistance and visits that some guardians who have previously given away their children may have obtained from adopting families. There may be many such stories known to the people that brokers use for their purpose. For example, adopt[ive] parents of a child had sent money to the biological parents in our area, who used it to open their own beauty salon. Some guardians have reported to have come to the orphanage for the purpose of giving their bank account number to the adopting family in anticipation of transfers.”

The issue of how, whether, and how much adoptive families contribute to the financial support of their children’s Ethiopian families is a hot button topic. Some people feel it encourages other Ethiopian families to place their children for adoption, hoping to get a financial return, a concern borne out by Dr. Hailu’s article. Other parents feel it is their ethical right and responsibility to send their child’s siblings to school, or to buy a goat, or to wire money on a regular basis. It’s complicated. There is no question there has been an impact, in any case. I hope there will be more studies done, by the Ethiopian government or by academics, on the financial contributions to birth/first families.

In the third strategy, the broker capitalizes on the socially constructed prestige that could be accrued out of having a child living abroad.

“A related enticement is the social prestige that can be derived out of forging familial linkage with a ferenji (i.e., a white person). Although guardians are the main targets, these coaxing rhetorics have a stronger influence on older siblings of the child being prepared for adoption, who consider this a special opportunity presented to their younger siblings. This is due to increasing globalization that is creating an image of opportunities and affluence that may be available in the freng hager (i.e., the country of white people).

Consequently, in addition to persuasion by brokers, siblings who are too old to be adopted put pressure on their parents to place their younger siblings in the hope that the above reported social and economic benefit may eventually trickle down to them as well.”

Many adoptive parents have been told their children were abandoned. Dr. Hailu’s informants describe how the abandonment is staged.

“Staged abandoning of a child takes the form of a play in the theater. The play is written and directed by the broker. He also casts the characters and assigns them roles. In this drama the parents/guardians are coaxed into leaving the child at a predetermined place and time that is out of public view.

Soon after the child is seemingly abandoned, an assigned person reports the case to a predetermined police officer. The police officer who is ready to take on his role goes to the site and takes the child to the police station where all necessary records are made. The police officer then takes the child to the temporary custody of the orphanage on whose behalf the broker has directed the drama. The case is then taken to the First Instance Court.

Abandoned children pose much less procedural and legal challenges for orphanages. To begin with, the strategy is, informants reported, generally applied with infants who had not yet developed verbal capacities lest the child leak information regarding his or her guardians or the staged abandoning.”

While there is much information in this article to process, some of which is familiar to many, some of which will be eye-opening and jaw-dropping, Dr. Hailu also offers some solutions.

A referral system could enable unparented children to benefit from NGO services, and hence avoid institutional care and intercountry adoption. Hailu writes that “In Ethiopia, there already exist thousands of NGOs that provide community-based services to children. For example, 275 NGOs that are operational in Addis Ababa in 2013 had implemented more than 291 child-focused projects investing Birr 703, 641, 865 (Hailu, 2013). But there is currently no referral system to connect the children in need to the services that could be provided.”

Dr. Hailu also writes that “Informants reported that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, when making decisions based on the recommendations of its regional counterparts, generally does not undertake an independent investigation about the child’s social economic status. This is partly because it lacks the institutional capacity to travel to the child’s locality of origin to conduct the investigation, and partly because regional governments could construe the attempt at independent investigation by the federal government as interfering in their autonomy.”

I believe Dr. Hailu is suggesting here that independent investigations by MOWA, if feasible and done with transparency, could provide oversight and confirmation of accuracy of reports from the regional governments.

Changing sociocultural attitudes about adoption in Ethiopia could also, Dr. Hailu suggests, help to minimize illegal adoptions.

In testifying that a child is an orphan or abandoned, “witnesses see their false testimony as an act of benevolence, or even socially required action, to both the child and family. If they refuse to falsely testify, they could be regarded as miqegna (literally means one who does not wish the good of others), with potential negative social repercussions. Therefore, transforming the cultural and social-psychological allure within local communities is a critical strategy to minimizing illegal intercountry adoption.

This may involve preventive interventions of systematic and sustained public education regarding child rights, the adverse impacts of institutional care and intercountry adoption on children, and legal adoption processes. It also requires protective interventions of strict legal enforcement against participation in illegal intercountry adoption.”

In terms of the financial incentives inherent in international adoption, Dr. Hailu writes that “criminalizing direct adoption-related transactions between adoption agencies and orphanages” could be effective. “This will require setting up a centralized agency under a relevant ministry managed by a public/private partnership. The agency may be part of a national social welfare system that may be mandated to undertake individualized assessment of each unparented child and refer the child to various alternative care options including intercountry adoption.

As part of the welfare system, institutional care providers may be given subcontracts or grants by the centralized agency (and not by adoption agencies) to provide institutional foster care until a better placement is found for the child. Measures to ensure accountability and transparency in the operations of the agency need to be put in place in order to prevent officers of the agency from establishing corrupt relationships with adoption agencies and orphanages.”

There are many possible ways to curb or perhaps end fraud in adoptions from Ethiopia. They require diligence, funding, infrastructure, marketing, training, and sustainable capacity. I know many people and organizations argue that ending international adoptions is the only way to end the fraud and corruption. I know others who say that adoptions should continue only for children with special needs who cannot get appropriate (life-saving) care in Ethiopia. Others argue that adoptions, not life in abject poverty in an orphanage, would be best.

I’d argue that family preservation, orphan prevention, and in-country adoption are goals that everyone who cares about Ethiopian children should prioritize. I’ve written about the many ways to help children in Ethiopia: If Adoptions Decline, What Happens to the Children?

I hope Dr. Hailu’s article, which is available here (a paywall), will be widely read by anyone connected with Ethiopian adoptions, or who has an interest in child welfare. Although I was familiar with much of this information anecdotally, it is quite powerful to see it set in academic terms.

Ultimately, of course, it is Ethiopia’s decision to decide how to end fraud in Ethiopian adoptions, and how to make enact policies that best help children. I believe there are many in the adoption community who are watching the next steps carefully, and who are willing to help. I hope that, in addition to the usual government workers or international lawyers or lobbying groups, Ethiopian adoptees and birth/first families play a vibrant role in any discussions.

Asmara’s Catholic Cathedral, an example of the city’s Italian heritage Photograph: Ed Harris/Reuters

By Oliver Wainwright | TheGuardian

Standing as a startling collection of futuristic Italian architecture from the 1930s, perched on a desert mountaintop high above the Red Sea, the Eritrean capital of Asmara has been listed as a Unesco world heritage site.

Announced as one of a series of new “inscriptions”, which are expected to include German caves with ice-age art and the English Lake District, Asmara is the first modernist city in the world to be listed in its entirety.

First planned in the 1910s by the Italian architect-engineer Odoardo Cavagnari, Asmara was lavishly furnished with new buildings after Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, when the sleepy colonial town was transformed into Africa’s most modern metropolis. As the “little Rome” at the centre of Italy’s planned African empire, it became a playground for Italian architects to experiment.

“It has an unparalleled collection of buildings that show the variety of styles of the period,” said Edward Denison, a lecturer at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, who has been working as an adviser to the Asmara Heritage Project, helping to put together the 1,300-page bid document, the result of two decades of research. “You get a sense that the architects were getting away with things here that they certainly wouldn’t have been able to do in Rome.”

From the daring cantilevered wings of the Fiat Tagliero service station, modelled on a soaring aeroplane, to the sumptuous surrounds of the Impero cinema, the city is full of buildings that combine Italian futurist motifs with local methods of construction.

Behind the sharp cubic facades stand walls of large laterite stone blocks, carefully rendered to look like modernist concrete constructions, finished in shades of ochre, brown, pale blue and green – much more colourful than their European counterparts.

Some buildings, such as the Orthodox cathedral, have a bold hybrid style, with African “monkey head” details of wooden dowels poking through the facade, originally used to to bind horizontal layers of wood together between the blocks of stone.

Elsewhere, there are handsome villas, stylish shops and heroic factory complexes, sampling from modernism’s broad palette, including novecento, rationalism and futurism, most of which remain in an unusually well-preserved state.

“While other countries like Libya and Somalia were understandably keen to trash their colonial heritage,” said Denison, “Eritrea was subject to a decade of British rule and 40 years of Ethiopian rule, so the process was more gradual.”

When independence finally came in the 1990s, a sudden rash of modern buildings made many realise the value of their colonial heritage.

A moratorium on building in the city was established in 2001, which is now planned to be lifted with the introduction of a new conservation management plan, updating the regulations for the first time since the 1930s.

The inscription of Asmara – along with historical centre of M’banza Kongo in Angola – goes some way to addressing the under-representation of Africa on the Unesco world heritage list. Of 814 cultural sites worldwide, only 48 are in the African continent, fewer than in Italy alone.

By Tesfaye Demmellash

I have in the past written about the mutual exclusions of patriotism and progressivism in the era of abyot in Ethiopia. That long era stretches from the time of the Student Movement through the blood thirsty tyranny of the Derg to the weird colonial-like dictatorship of Woyane “revolutionary democracy” over the last quarter century.

In that seemingly interminable zemen of revolution and its aftermath, professing progressive ideas and values while at the same time being an Ethiopian patriot has proven to be difficult. Indeed, a dynamic convergence of forward looking ideas and ye-ager fikir sentiments has been well-nigh impossible. But I believe such a fusion of our commitments to these, equally vital, elements of our national life is essential if Ethiopia is to thrive, not just survive.

If I am correct in this belief, a couple of related questions arise: how do we, as a nation, make the integration of patriotism and progressivism happen as it has never happened before? What are the conditions of its possibility at present? Or, how do we settle our intellectual and political accounts with the legacy of our “radical” progressive experience, whose continuing or residual effects are all around us today, largely in the form of divisive ethnopolitics? In this writing, I offer some critical thoughts seeking to contribute to the answers to these questions.

For the TPLF, the integration of forward looking ideas and ye-ager fikir remains anathema, something fundamentally at odds with the Front’s reason for being. Wedded from its inception to a retrograde, neo-feudal, regionalist, tribal political project, the TPLF has never had honest progressive intention for Ethiopia as one country. Quite the contrary. The integral transformation and development of the country has never been its motivation and goal. Nor have the Woyanes ever been patriotic in good faith, though they use “Ethiopia” cynically as a strategic subterfuge, as a political cover and resource for their project of the “liberation” of Tigray or the creation of “greater” Tigray.

The Revolution did produce many progressive patriots who sacrificed so much for the betterment of the lot of all Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity. But our culture of “teramaj” politica as a whole, including but not limited to that of the TPLF, has been inhospitable in thought and practice to the dynamic fusion of progressivism and patriotism under Ethiopian conditions. This is true, although the Woyane manifestation of the deeply problematic culture has been especially abhorrent. Admittedly, the nationally divisive partisan-tribal “revolutionary democracy” of the TPLF in particular has been the most perverse outcome or byproduct of the Ethiopian Revolution.

Still, long before the rise of the TPLF, championing universal ideas like freedom, democracy, and equality in the course of the Student Movement had already been marked by indifference, and often outright hostility, toward our national tradition. The mutual exclusion of sensuous Ethiopian experience rooted in history and culturally arid intellectual socialization based on abstract ideology has its origins in that seminal social movement. The rest, as we know painfully well, is disappointing revolutionary history, made mainly by the successive dictatorships of the Derg and the Woyanes. This persistent condition has created and perpetuated Ethiopia’s long national crisis over the last several decades.

We should be careful, however, not to regard the Ethiopian experience, specifically our struggle today for national redemption, as necessarily incongruent with progressive values and commitments as such. We should not equate progressivism as a whole with its perverse partisan features or defective ethnic variants. That would be a mistake, not only in conceptual thought or in principle but also in strategic and practical terms related to the present struggle for our national salvation.

For there are alternative ways of embracing forward looking ideas. They range from the least reflective, most formulaic and nationally rootless, “globalized” ideological constructs that have had wide currency within the Ethiopian revolutionary tradition, to historically better informed, more thoughtful and enlightened approaches that have greater accommodative democratic resonance with our national values and experience.

I see possibilities of a fruitful symbiosis today between a big, hopeful patriotic heart and a skeptical, questioning, progressive mind. I imagine a politically productive dynamic between our feelings and thoughts which will figure centrally in Ethiopia’s rise and renewal. I envision the heat of patriotic passion being productively harnessed and given sustainable form and direction by the light of cool, strategic, progressive reason.

It is departing from this hopeful vision that I present the following fifteen critical notes on patriotism, progressivism, and ethnopolitics in Ethiopia today. I offer the notes as a spur to further thought and discussion in the Ethiopian opposition to TPLF tyranny. They are also intended to help prepare the political ground in the country for broad-based national consensus on the direction and strategies of Ethiopian renewal.

1. Ethiopia/Ethiopiawinnet is not simply a repository of historic agerawi heritage and civilization but also a vital site of contemporary national growth and development. Having already undergone a revolution, it has the potential to evolve further and better, accommodating anew progressive change while enduring as the unique national entity that it is and has been for millennia.

Consequently, any Ethiopian patriot who wants to promote systemic political change in the country today and actively participate in such change must regard reconstructed progressivism as a crucial intellectual and political ally, a vital source of enlightened vision of national freedom and development.

What drives the contemporary Ethiopian movement for freedom and renewal is neither simply abstract political thought (centered on, say, “democracy,”) nor merely historical-cultural sources of nationality. Rather, it is an integral national experience which can absorb into itself new forward looking ideas and values. In the present Ethiopian struggle for change, there is significant conceptual and strategic innovation to be gained through a renewed convergence of patriotism and progressivism.

2. However, a dynamic coming together of these two strands of our shared national life has not been possible in the course of the Revolution and its aftermath to-date. This is so largely because, given as they have been to “radical” excesses of social and ethnic engineering, revolutionary leaders, parties, and regimes lacked the intellectual disposition and resources for thinking broadly through the tension between progressivism and patriotism. Instead, they professed “progressivism” in grossly one-sided, abstract, formulaic and dogmatic terms, doing so in effect, if not always in intent, outside and against the Ethiopian national experience.

Under these circumstances, promoters and practitioners of teramaj politica in the country could make neither the Ethiopian national tradition nor progressivism itself the ground and object of their critical thought. Putting their blind, unreflective faith in such modernist idols as “revolution,” “science,” “democracy,” and “national self-determination,” they not only excluded ideas from our historic national sensibility and experience but also severely restricted the free flow and development of forward looking thought in Ethiopian politics and society.

The resulting nationally nihilistic, depthless radicalism has had significant implications for the articulation of progressivism, patriotism, and ethnopolitics in the Ethiopian context, as I note in the following critical theses.

3. Progressive ideas have made themselves felt in our country largely as the simple negation or reverse of the sentiments and experience of Ethiopiawinnet. Practitioners of supposedly radical politics in the country generally tended to devalue Ethiopian nationhood as inauthentic or “fake” relative to the “nationality” of ethnic groups.

But, for all their “radicalism,” the ideas of the ultra-left in particular could not have been actually transformative of our national culture. This was because the ideas, such as they were, represented an approach to Ethiopian national culture that was grossly and summarily rejectionist, characterizing the culture as the sum of its limitations and problems, a “prison of nations,” nothing more or different.

Thus, an entire paradigm of leftist thought, whose offshoot TPLF/OLF ethnonationalist ideology is, imagined historic Ethiopia out of existence, telling us that real and valid national being lies only in articulated ideas of democracy and ethnonational “self-determination” or “liberation,” simply as a contemporary political project. In a boldfaced Orwellian reversal, an actually existent, though imperfect, nation-state is wished out of being while a merely aspirational ethnocentric “nationality” is declared to have real existence.

4. Ethiopian progressive thought has been entangled in a web of contradictions: it has generally privileged ideology over history, promoting the overriding authoritarian power of sectarian and tribal ideologues over everyone else; yet, it has been bereft of relatively autonomous ideational content. Instead, as “radical” progressives, we have often passed our inert dogmatism off as commitment to high-minded principle.

Ethiopian progressives sought to enlighten and move “the broad masses” through ideas, but they didn’t allow the ideas they professed to convey logos or knowledge in their own terms, i.e. beyond the limits of narrow, exclusively partisan sense and meaning. The ideal purpose of Ethiopian progressivism was to cast the light of reason on our politics, to advance freedom and democracy in Ethiopia; in actuality, however, progressivism itself became a force of darkness, a means of rationalization of partisan-tribal repression and dictatorship.

The upshot is that notions like “democracy,” “equality,” “national self-determination,” “constitution,” and “federalism” under the Derg and/or Woyane regimes have had no reference to anything that has meaningful conceptual content and institutional reality. They are normatively empty rhetorical conceits of dictatorship.

5. For a lot of patriotic Ethiopians, the historical and cultural sources of Ethiopiawinnet may loom larger than its contemporary ideas and validity, while for the nation’s many other citizens and some political entities Ethiopian nationality may be more significant as a contemporary civic and political achievement than as a structure of past events, deeds, accomplishments and cultural sources of identity.

However, neither aspect of our national tradition in and of itself adequately captures the meaning and realities of Ethiopian patriotism today. What is significant is not one or the other strand of our shared nationality taken singly, but the synergy produced by the fusion of both streams of Ethiopian national consciousness. History is not simply a record of our past achievements as a people; it is a vital constitutive part of contemporary Ethiopian national being and consciousness.

6. As a structure of historical events, facts, deeds, accomplishments, and patriotic narratives, Ethiopiawinnet has had its native critics and objectors like other national cultures and civilizations. Here, we should distinguish between two types of objectors.

Namely, on one side are patriotic and progressive Ethiopian dissidents of various ethnic backgrounds who have sought in good faith, though not effectively, to engage our national tradition, seeking to bring about its integral transformation and development. And, on the other, we have protagonists of more or less separatist identity politics that have willfully and “radically” alienated themselves from Ethiopian nationhood, which they have wanted to undo.

The latter (we may characterize them as ethnopolitical “others”) are bent on undermining our shared nationality or, failing that, only accept Ethiopiawinnet grudgingly as nothing more than a collection of tribal kilils. The TPLF, the current “ruling” party (if one can call it that), belongs in this category of extremist objectors that are resentful and hostile toward Ethiopian multiethnic national culture. So do unreconstructed separatist factions or remnants of the OLF.

This distinction has strategic implications for the resistance in terms of building national consensus and coalitions toward post-communist and post-tribal Ethiopian transformation. Broad-based agerawi agreement can be built among patriots and reconstructed progressives of diverse ethnicities who operate in good faith within the parameters of commonly shared Ethiopian nationality and citizenship even as they disagree on matters of politics and policy.

But it is impossible to accommodate within such consensus ethnonationalist elements obsessed with separatist identity politics. The alliance of patriotic-progressive resistance forces has no choice but to do battle with these “others” on various fields of engagement and by various means in the most critical and systematic way it can.

7. Love of country has its own challenges and drawbacks. Modes of patriotic concern and the ways in which patriotism is valued or approached differ with different parties, regimes, and interests. For example, the Woyanes have their own exclusively partisan sense of, and identification with, Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinnet. National sentiments and values can take liberal-democratic form or repressive-authoritarian shape. They can assume broadly trans-ethnic, civic mold or narrowly tribal pattern; and they can be expressed with honest or dishonest intention. Also, patriotism may be used by regimes and politicians to distract the attention of citizens from policy failures or limitations and internal problems.

Among individuals and groups motivated by honest nationalist intention, patriotism can be emotionally overcharged and at times impervious to reason and strategic intelligence. At a time today of challenging Ethiopian struggle for national survival against an enemy at once cunning and brutal, giving free rein to unthinking patriotic passion can be politically counterproductive, even if it seems psychologically compelling or satisfying.

This holds true, by the way, for ethnicism or identity politics too. Including, that is, current movements of some “activist” groups that overethnicize Amarannet even as they make good faith effort to protect the Amara people from brazen and insidious Woyane genocidal aggression.

That said, we should not forget that love of country is potentially a motive force of our struggle for national salvation, a source of uplifting energy, commitment, and action. If we shy away from reaffirming our national heritage and solidarity, doing so perhaps out of a misguided progressive conceit of “multiculturalism” or “political correctness,” we disable ourselves as a people and a nation. We lose our national élan. If we suppress or neutralize our patriotism, we lose the spirit, vitality and power of integral Ethiopiawinnet.

We thereby allow our shared nationality to be subjected to the nefarious machinations of hostile forces like the TPLF, Shabiya and their internal proxies and external allies or backers. We enable such forces to parasitize on Ethiopia, to hollow out from within her national life and spirit, to devalue her unique historical heritage, and to squander her material and cultural resources and strategic assets, all to the detriment of the interests of her citizens and distinct cultural communities.

8. In coming to terms with and valuing who or what we are as a historic nation, we carry within our national being and consciousness contemporary ideas and values of freedom, equality, political pluralism, democracy, and cultural diversity. Yet, as a nation, we move forward integrally, not divided along ethnic lines into so many exclusive, island-like “nationalities” or “peoples,” with insular territorial kilils or enclaves to match.

Such entities are unreal, lacking as they do actually free or autonomous social-political agency. They are only passed off as “facts on the ground.” The reality claimed for them is just that, a claim. As such, it is contestable and potentially open to discussion, negotiation and transformation.

9. There is little prospect of existing or emergent patriotic-progressive Ethiopian forces engaging unreconstructed partisans of separatist ethnic politics in principled dialogue and exchange of thoughts and views. One of the main reasons for this is that the “progressive” ideas such exclusive partisans formally profess cannot be opened for informed critical debate and discussion, since they are seized upon and deployed instrumentally as blunt ideological and rhetorical weapons in identity wars.
Universal, forward looking ideas professed under these circumstances have no function other than as mechanisms for projecting an imagined ethnocentric “nationality,” as devices for making aspirational claims of biherawi selfhood. In this way, broad-based ideas have been narrowed down to, or conflated with, exclusively sectarian assertions and constructs of identity politics.

For example, TPLF notions of “democracy” and “federalism” have no principled content or practical significance beyond the narrow, exclusive, authoritarian interpretation the Front gives them to suit its self-serving partisan and tribal purposes. Utterly meaningless and without value for Ethiopian politics, government and society generally, these notions constitute nothing but counterfeit ideological currency.

What this means is that, for TPLF partisans and other practitioners of identity politics, it is not the philosophical or historical contents of notions like “democracy” and “self-determination” that are important but the party or ethnic group which rhetorically and tactically “identifies” itself with such notions. Thus the overriding concern has been about who (or which group/tribe) expresses the idea of “democracy,” not what the idea itself signifies, either in principle and conceptual thought or in the Ethiopian national context.

Consequently, it has been hard to reason with such exclusively partisan ideological self-representations. How can an ethnic party or group that simply and immediately lays claim to the notion of “democracy” in framing its selfhood or in its self-identification be expected to let others question its view of that very notion? Wouldn’t that mean allowing its imagined “nationality” or “identity” to be questioned? Herein lie the underlying ideational and political limitations of ethnonationist “progressivism” in Ethiopia from the era of the Student Movement to the present.

Put differently, the problem has been that identity as politically imagined and wished for subjectivity or a construct of generic “revolutionary” ideology is confused with historically constituted social category, namely, with actual Ethiopian ethnic-cultural communities and their commonly shared as well as distinctive forms of self-identification. And the mix up of ideological and social categories has generally made the ideology at issue closed to enlightened debate, discussion, and reconstruction.

10. Dissociating ethnocentrism as a category or system of ideas (particularly the residual Leninist-Stalinist constructs of ethnic partisans and elites) from the felt and lived self-identifications of actual Ethiopian cultural communities is imperative both as a matter of principle and in the struggle to save and renew Ethiopia.

The nation’s diverse, yet intersecting and overlapping communities can be identified locally and nationally in various ways, including shared history, common socio-economic interests, and trans-ethnic popular culture and spiritual life. Making all these sources and forms of community self-hood in Ethiopia extensions and objects of exclusive partisan or state ethnicism is not only undemocratic but also a gross contravention of the relative autonomy of the nation’s regions and localities and of the communities that dwell in them.

The old and still residually operative habit of “revolutionary” thought and practice in Ethiopia has resulted in the overpoliticization of ethnicity or in the overethnicization of local and regional identity. This deeply flawed yet predominant pattern of identity work should be deconstructed through a new progressive-patriotic ethos marked by what I would call ethnoscepticism.

In coining the term “ethnoscepticism,” I have in mind the all-round questioning and critique of ethnocentrism. I value and embrace ethnic-cultural diversity as constitutive of the Ethiopian national experience. But I regard the tradition of identity politics characteristic of such parties as the TPLF and the OLF (or what is left of it) not only wrong in its substantive views and arguments but fundamentally misconceived in equating an exclusively partisan ethnopolitical ideology simply and straightaway with national life, with the form, substance, and horizon of nationhood as such. In this, it is deeply mistaken.

11. Part of the allure and absurdity of ethnocentrism in Ethiopia is thus its aspiration to maximize tribal identity out of all historical proportion, common sense, and socio-economic context or rationality. Its appeal, particularly to those engaged in exclusively partisan identity work aimed at creating petty tribal states, is related to the overpoliticization of ethnicity as separatist “nationality.”
The attractiveness of ethnonationalism is related to the conflation of aspirational identity constructed ideologically with the subjectivities of actually existing Ethiopian cultural communities. We see this (intended or unwitting) confusion in its most graphic form in the practically meaningless Stalinist dogma of “the rights of nations, nationalities, and peoples to self-determination up to and including secession.” This old and tired dogma has, for decades, made itself felt in Ethiopian politics through mind-numbing high rhetorical frequency, but it has never had the sense and feel of authenticity or reality.

Instead, the dogma signifies nothing but political fiction; the “rights” of which it speaks have always been unreal. Nor should we take the generic Leninist-Stalinist terms, “nations, nationalities, and peoples” at face value as social referents, as if they pick out or represent particular Ethiopian cultural communities in any descriptive or political sense. We know that the terms generally encode and rationalize single-party, authoritarian rule centered on ethnic identity, real and/or imagined.

It is worth stressing here that the overvaluation of ethnicity (as “nation”) in Ethiopia since the era of the Student Movement has not been an outcome simply of the identity work of tribal elites or partisans. Instead, it has more broadly been a mark of leftist political fashion in the country. The phenomenon is symptomatic of our troubled tradition of teramaj politica as a whole.

In effect, if not by design, the inordinate currency we have given in our progressive discourse to the ideological categories of “nations,” “nationalities,” and “peoples” can be said to represent within that discourse a conceptually inert formulaic “radicalism” aimed at delegitimizing trans-ethnic Ethiopian nationality. It signified a global, generic, fundamentalist progressivism divorced from historically informed and grounded Ethiopian political thought.

That said, we cannot deny that the tendency of old school “revolutionary” partisans of the TPLF and remnants of the OLF today to overvalue ethnicity politically has to do with wounded cultural pride, often reflecting a felt or perceived sense of being devalued or treated as inferior in one’s distinct culture and identity. Whether its sources and bases are historically real or mainly politically constructed, this feeling cannot be discounted.

12. Yet we should recognize that the sentiment is connected to the perception (by unreconstructed practitioners of identity politics) of Tigres and Oromos as passive victims in the formation of the modern Ethiopian state, which is simply and falsely equated with “Amhara expansion.” What is conveniently denied or overlooked in this overdrawn ethnocentric narrative of victimhood is the active participation of heroic figures from the Tigre and Oromo communities in the making of modern Ethiopia as well as the fact of the multi-ethnic heritage of great Ethiopian national leaders, particularly Emperor Menelik II.

The fundamental problem here is that identity issues and problems, and the solutions proposed for them, are dissociated from broader social-structural contexts of movement, contact, and interaction of communities. This is particularly true of Amharas and Oromos. The intersections, interpenetrations, and cultural exchanges of these two great communities are profoundly constitutive of historic and contemporary Ethiopia as a whole and of distinct regions and cultural identities within the country.

Contrary to these historical conditions of our shared nationality, supposedly revolutionary narratives of “self-determination” or “liberation” have constructed disparate island-like ethnic “selves” as focal points of partisan domination, identity work, and wished for tribal state formation. The TPLF has become master of ethnocraft in this sense, adept at engineering cultural identities in Ethiopia today, particularly targeting the Oromo and Amhara communities. The possible solidarity of these two intersecting Ethiopian communities constitutes a mortal danger to the partisan-tribal dictatorship of the Woyane party, and the Woyanes know it. And they will do everything they can to prevent its realization.

13. In this connection, Amara distinctness is worth noting in particular. Woyane Tigres dream of reducing Amaras to just one among many other tribal groups in the country; they have sought to force Amarannet and Ethiopiawinnet But, if there is a distinct Ethiopian cultural community whose national identity or nationalism cannot be defined simply by ethnicity, it is the Amara people.
We as a community certainly have a right to defend ourselves by all means necessary against existential threats the TPLF and its proxies pose, and we should not hesitate to exercise that right whenever and wherever the need arises. But the continued survival and flourishing of Amaras (and of other cultural communities in the country) has a lot to do with maintaining cultural distinctness while strengthening civic unity and political solidarity with others through Ethiopiawinnet. Ultimately, we rise or fall together as Ethiopians. In the long run, the salvation of the Amara people will be achieved not in isolation from, or on the margins of, the Ethiopian experience but as integral and central to that experience. Ethiopiawinnet is deeply constitutive of Amara maninnet.

Even as we defend ourselves as a distinct community from TPLF predatory tribal aggression, we rely on Ethiopiawinnet for building patriotic-progressive coalitions and for cultivating needed allies and supporters near and far in the resistance against Woyane tyranny. As a vital part of Ethiopian national life, Amaras everywhere in the country confront a vengeful, scheming tribal enemy that harbors ill will towards us. It oppresses us not only by means state power, but through a network of local, national, regional, and global partners and allies. In doing so, it uses a wide range of ways and means, including coercion, espionage, political pressure, programs and projects of economic “development,” cyber tools, media, and propaganda.

Against an enemy operating on such networked terrain, the Amara community cannot effectively engage even in self-defense by practicing identity tegadlo pure and simple, disregarding or ignoring its vital historic and contemporary ties with other Ethiopian communities. Instead, in struggling to neutralize, turn aside or unravel the TPLF network of domination, the Amara resistance should take full advantage of its broader Ethiopian heritage of standing up to enemies, foreign and domestic.

This means in part leveraging the values, resources and capabilities of Ethiopiawinnet existent in diverse communities and localities of the country. More broadly, it means building a strong coalition of patriotic and progressive forces linked to a countervailing network of regional and global sources of support.

But this cannot be done merely or primarily by practicing identity politics. The nation’s struggle against Woyane tyranny, at the center of which is the resistance of the Amara people, will require a renewed Ethiopian national vision, enlightened intellectual, political and moral leadership, a keen understanding of possibilities of trans-ethnic Ethiopian national consensus and solidarity, and strategic direction and resourcefulness.

14. TPLF ethnocentrism is caught in a net of paradoxes: generally, it is marked by a contradictory assertion of egalitarian ideals and dictatorial power. Its ethnic “federalism” represents an imposition of centralized state power by a small party, locally based in a minority ethnic community, over much larger Ethiopian cultural communities.

Under these conditions, “national self-determination” as an egalitarian value or ideal is neutralized by its treatment as an object of tactical maneuvers and manipulations by the Woyane power hierarchy. We see here the paradox of distinct Ethiopian local communities being subjected to dictatorial power in their supposed act of self-determination. We witness the rhetorical or formal promotion of cultural identity and difference facilitating the pre-emptive suppression of actual diversity and local self-government brought about by the homogenizing effects of TPLF state ethnicism.

Formally, the Woyane regime obsesses about, and gives excessive attention to, ideologically pre-cooked ethnic identity. Yet, whatever distinct cultural community (say, the Amara, Oromo, Tigre or Gurage) is addressed in this way gets little or no attention in its own, actual, self-identification. It has little or no agency either in its bona fide autonomy or in its historic and contemporary ties and intersections with other Ethiopian communities.

As such, the TPLF state is a squanderer of Ethiopian social capital and national power. In fostering tribal division, it undermines both the national solidarity and cultural diversity of the Ethiopian people, for there is really no meaningful diversity to speak of without robust national unity. In its self-serving instrumentalization of ethnic identities, the Woyane dictatorship is socially and nationally wasteful in a double sense. The regime not only hinders the country’s diverse communities from gaining true local self-government, but also severely limits their capacity to benefit fully from larger material and cultural values the Ethiopian national experience affords.

Moreover, officially sanctioned tribal fragmentation of the country has created a fertile ground for economic inefficiencies, corruption, and uneven development against the interests of all citizens and cultural communities in the country. And most outrageously, aging TPLF tyrants preside over the subjection particularly of Amhara communities in various parts of Ethiopia to destructive ethnic cleansing and genocide or the threat of genocide.

Consequently, the institutionalized tribalism of the Woyane regime should be clearly distinguished from the actual ethnic and cultural practices of real Ethiopian communities. The identity politics of TPLF dictatorship is not a part of us as citizens and local communities. It is not our lived experience as Amaras, Oromos, Tigres, Gurages, Afars, and so on.

On the contrary, it is imposed on us, making us all its objects and extensions. Woyane bureaucratic tribalism has its own colonially inspired divide-and-dominate rationale, interests, institutions, and practices. All of these elements and features of TPLF state ethnicism have taken shape and come into play against the multiethnic Ethiopian national experience. Insofar as Woyane political ethnicism has continued to be ideologically connected to the Stalinist legacy, it has been dictatorial. And, as such, it remains a major enemy of democracy in Ethiopia.

Under these circumstances, political institutions and practices of the Woyane regime such as federalism, constitution, parliament, elections, democracy, and development are not simply instruments the regime uses to pursue and protect its partisan-tribal interests. They are authoritarian tools the Woyanes use to undermine Ethiopian national culture, to negate fundamentally what Ethiopia means to its citizens and diverse local and cultural communities.

In this regard, an issue that is worth exploring but often suppressed or ignored in narratives and practices of identity politics in Ethiopia is this: what has been the role or function of external factors or influences, colonial and post-colonial, in the formation of “local” ethnic identities in Ethiopia? What has been the impact of global and regional forces on the inflated political currency of ethnicism in the country in more recent decades? Broad and involved, these questions deserve close, critical study and analysis. Here, it is enough to make a few concluding observations by way of a fifteenth, and last, set of critical notes.

15. Ethnic identities are commonly recognized by such relatively static or spontaneous markers as language, religion, cultural practice, physical appearance, and locality or place of dwelling. But, in a political-historical context, they are better understood dynamically as products of contacts and relations of native populations or localities with larger intervening forces. Forms of ethnicity or ethnicism can be seen as links in, and outcomes of, a long chain of local, national, regional, and global interactions, influences, and activities.

In this light, we can trace connections between, for example, the separatist identity politics of the OLF and the work of colonial and post-colonial era German missionaries and of other agents of European interests, notably, Baron Roman Prochazka of Austria, an anti-Ethiopia and anti-Amara Nazi figure who reportedly was the first to have spoken of the “self-determination of tribes in Abyssinia.” The dubious intentions of the seemingly OLF-supporting Shabiya dictatorship toward Ethiopia make up another major link in the chain.

We can further include here the connection between the Shabiya regime and Arab states’ goals in the Red Sea region and in the Horn of Africa, goals which have also generally contravened Ethiopian national interest. Western Marxist revolutionary ideology (specifically the Leninist-Stalinist dogma of “national self-determination”) also deserves mention as a significant link in the chain of locality-forming or identity-shaping external forces that have in more recent decades made themselves felt in Ethiopia.

This series of connections, which generally has tended to work at cross-purposes with Ethiopian national integration, thus represents more than the immediacies of OLF (or TPLF) partisans’ narratives of ethnic victimhood and related schemes of ethnocentric “national” self-definition and self-assertion. Instead, the links signify the overdetermination of OLF/TPLF ethnocentrism by various regional and global interests and influences. They point to a more complex and problematic political quality that has shaped the seemingly simple identity politics of both ethnic parties.

Not a brute empirical datum or a “reality on the ground” given naturally, then, “identity” or “locality” here is a political construct that has varying phenomenological character. That is to say, it can be variously perceived, defined, valued, and “realized” by competing or cooperating interests and forces. Different interests may have differing locality/identity-shaping purposes, programs, and capabilities. Varying projects of ethnocentrism, say, those of the TPLF and the OLF, may use varying tactics and techniques of valorization or “nationalization” of ethnicity.

Among the ways and means of identity work the Woyane regime in particular employs are: demographic tactics (depopulation and resettlement schemes, ethnic cleansing, and so on); cultural politics, for example, interventions in the internal affairs of the nation’s religious communities; economic policies and instruments (“development” projects); gross ethnic corruption in education and professional training; and similarly wholesale tribal favoritism in appointments to positions of power and in the staffing and use of the institutions of the “federal” state, namely, its fiscal, financial, bureaucratic, intelligence, police, and military agencies.

All these factors add up to an onerous task for the Ethiopian opposition to Woyane tyranny. They pose difficult challenges for the articulation of the form and direction of the Ethiopian patriotic-progressive resistance against TPLF dictatorship, which is at once insidious and blatantly oppressive. Gaining an enlightened strategic grasp as well as a practical understanding of the challenges involved is a critical first step in waging a successful struggle toward Ethiopian freedom and renewal.

Written by Ethiomedia,

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By The Nation

The House of Representatives Wednesday mandated its committee on Aviation to invite the Minister of Aviation, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Ethiopian Airlines to appear before and give reasons for the excessive delays in bringing back Nigerians stranded in Saudi Arabia.

The Green Chamber flayed the airline for the recent long delays and disrespectful behavior towards Nigerians and other nationals from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria by the Airlines and said flight delay compensation be paid to them according to global aviation rules.

The resolution of the House was sequel to the adoption of the prayers of a motion by Hon. Zakari Mohammed on complaints against Ethiopian Airlines.

The lawmaker while moving the motion noted that Ethiopian Airlines due to the backlog of delays have left Nigerians stranded in Jeddah for over one week with most running out of funds to survive.

He said the airline’s refusal to offer a reasonable explanation for the delay was worrisome, and also in violation of Article 2 of Ethiopian Airlines passenger commitment.

According to him, it made reservations for three persons to occupy one hotel room in overnight delays again, in violation of Article 11 of the Ethiopian Airlines passenger commitment published on their website.

He said passengers had to incur more expenses by making hotel reservations for themselves. due to the inconveniences caused by the airline,

Mohammed also said over one thousand Nigerians who were due to be back in the country on 27 June, 2017 were stranded in Jeddah for 4-5 days.

The House thereafter mandated its committee on Aviation to invite the Minister of Aviation, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Ethiopian Airlines to appear before and give reasons for the excessive delays.

The House also resolved that Ethiopian Airlines should apologize through two national dailies, to the affected passengers.