Sunday, December 25, 2016

Reporting violence on the Oromo Protests in Ethiopia

The failure of many governments to enforce basic rights and make good on the promises of power holders has impelled people to seek another means by which they may not only demand but also instigate the changes they desire (Jack DuVall, 2013).

There are hundreds of peaceful movements and campaigns for rights and reform, and against abuses and oppression. Many countries are trying to quell dissent by silencing the protesters and through censorship. To go around this restriction, activists are raising their voices online.

As a social change activist, I am involved in social media activism where I express my solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara Region. I try to participate in the protests under the #OromoProtests and #AmharaProtests banner.

In Oromia, students protesting land grab met with violence. Human Rights Watch has reported that security forces killed more than 400 peaceful protesters since November 2015, while thousands have been arrested in connection to the protests (Human Rights Watch, 2016).  According to various activists, the actual number of people who died since the protest began could reach more than 1000.

Since the start of the protests in November 2015, activists have taken to twitter and other platforms under the #OromoProtests campaign. Within one week, the Oromo Protests on Crowd Voice went up online and now acts as a repository of information about the arrests, war crimes, police brutality and other crucial moments related to the Oromo Protests in Ethiopia.

Crowd Voice is an online platform designed to monitor and amplify calls for change from around the world. It tracks voices of protest by curating and contextualizing valuable data, such as eyewitness videos, photos, and reports as a means to facilitate awareness regarding current social justice movements worldwide (Jamie Matross, 2016).

The platform gathers pictures, Facebook posts, news articles, tweets, images and more into its global archive. As a tool for activists, CrowdVoice has the potential to save valuable data that could otherwise be lost in the web of social media (Jamie Matross, 2016).

By running the Oromo Protests in Ethiopia campaign on Crowd Voice I try to channel the legitimate question raised by the Oromo people. I believe Oromo and Amhara questions are Ethiopian questions and I am supporting the cause of social justice and channeling that voice to those who care to hear.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ethiopia: a dangerous place to be an activist or a blogger

Ethiopia is a dangerous place to be an activist, a journalist or a blogger. In that country, journalists, bloggers, human right activists and political cartoonists are considered terrorists. Under Ethiopia’s anti-terror proclamation, one can be charged with treason and be handed 20 years in prison for simply publishing news about movements like Ginbot 7 or OLF. 

Social media activists are therefore the only hope in a country ruled by an authoritarian regime that is tightening its grip on all aspects of people’s lives. It is increasingly becoming clear that social media activists based in Ethiopia have become both users and producers of content and are providing news to the news media.

Activist voices are helping in coverage of news and journalists are acting like facilitators of news coming out of Ethiopia. For instance, during the #OromoProtests many independent journalists have extensively used ‘social media news gathering’, which uses Facebook and Twitter for content, commentary and contributors.

Some members of the Ethiopian diaspora tried to locate individual activists based in Ethiopia via phone, email and social media. However, as times went on, local users and activists on the ground were unable to send contents due to many reasons. 

One of the main reason is due to internet and website censorship. The regime uses internet surveillance and contents are blocked from being sent to members of the Diaspora including journalists. It is known that the regime has been blocking content found and distributed online. The other  reason is that activists may fear that they will go to prison in connection with the anti terror proclamation, a draconian law that ‘decriminalizes dissent’.

At the moment, the contents of Ethiopian Diaspora activists has become regular voices about #OromoProtests and #AmharaProtests on the social media. As soon as the state of emergency is lifted, diaspora activists will start to facilitate news coming out of Ethiopia.

Despite growing international concerns for the deteriorating human rights situation (Mail and Guardian, 6 September 2016; Amnesty International 30 August 2016; Reuters, 10 August 2016), the Ethiopian government has dismissed the criticisms, blaming “outside enemies” for being responsible for the current protests and vowing to investigate allegations about indiscriminate use of force by the security forces (Al Jazeera, 20 August 2016).

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The role of new media in fostering social change

The flowers decorating the front entrances of homes in the western world, the coffee sipped daily by millions, H&M’s cotton clothes all come from Ethiopia which is a thoroughly agrarian society.

While “sustainable development” may be more of a slogan in other parts of the world, the phrase can inspire a real sense of hope or great disappointment. Ethiopia is one such part of the world where there is ongoing disappointment, and hope is shattered. 

For the last 25 years, Ethiopian people have obeyed the government even though it was taking people’s land without public engagement. For the government, building mega sugar and dam projects bring development but success is a mirage.

People are not satisfied with matters of economics or day-to-day governance. Such grievances are shared by broader segments of Ethiopian society, including from communities that have been forcibly evicted from their land in the name of development, journalists and civil society activists.

The government accuses journalists and the new media of trying to incite violence in the country. It thinks that social media activists scare away foreign investors and tourists with their claims. Peaceful protests have been taunted as being directed by foreign elements.

It is widely known that millions of people want to break the chain of obedience and overhaul the broken development model. The most frustrating thing is that political freedom and respect for human rights are pushed aside by donors and governments in favor of economic development.

One can be surprised to see how the government is getting substantial amount of foreign funds for the development of the country [a pretext usually used the the government but in reality they use the funds to silence dissent]. Definitely every foreign country or donor giving funds to Ethiopia in any manner has a right to ask its performance on the development of people and related human rights.

As Shirky noted, the new media can play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere. I agree with Shirky that little political change happens without the dissemination and adoption of ideas and opinions in the public sphere. 

In countries where the government has full control of the mainstream media, the new media can play an important role in disseminating opinions and issues to the public.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Artist Tesfaye Sima poem about Col. Demeke Zewdu and Protest in Ethiopia

Artist Tesfaye Sima's poem about Col. Demeke Zewdu,  #EthiopiaProtests #OromoProtests #AmharaProtests in #Ethiopia

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The ‘Ethiopian Spring’: “Killing is not an answer to our grievances” | openDemocracy

The ‘Ethiopian Spring’: “Killing is not an answer to our grievances” | openDemocracy

There is every sign that Ethiopia is plunging into a crisis whose scale, intensity, and multiple and interdependent drivers are unprecedented since the founding of the regime in 1991.

Monday, August 08, 2016

In support of Saturday’s Grand Oromo Demonstration

Michael's Blog: In support of Saturday’s Grand Oromo Demonstration...: In support of Saturday’s Grand Oromo Demonstration By Bekele Gerba et al Over the past 20 years, the People of Oromia have been un...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Turning foes to friends: the agony of a man without a country

As an Ethiopian currently residing in Sweden, I am a man without a country. Since November 2015, I have become a visible figure in the Oromo Protests movement. I am involved in social media activism where I express my solidarity with the victims of state terrorism in Ethiopia. I try to channel the legitimate question raised by the people in Oromia through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. 

I manage the Oromo Protests in Ethiopia campaign on Crowd Voice. Crowd Voice is an open source service that tracks voices of protest by curating and contextualizing valuable data, such as eyewitness videos, photos, and reports as a means to facilitate awareness regarding current social justice movements worldwide.

I am of Tigrean ethnicity, born and grew up in Oromia. Many people ask me why I show solidarity for the Oromo cause. Even if I am not an Oromo, it is not morally right to keep silent about injustices and I believe that I am supporting the cause of justice and channeling that voice to those who care to hear. For me, I don’t worry about tarnishing Ethiopia’s image of development. What is at stake is an issue of social justice. I believe Oromo questions are Ethiopian questions and I participate in the civil resistance movement under the banner ‘Ethiopia Protests’.

Many of our brothers and sisters at home think that we are removed from the threat of retaliation for echoing injustices perpetrated by the regime. It may be the easy thing but it is a dangerous thing. In fact, many diaspora based protesters know what it means to defy the regime from abroad. They have every reason to fear the brutality of the regime, least for having part of their family back home. The unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by regime do not end at the nation’s borders. We traveled thousands of miles and suffered untold loss only to be intimidated by Embassy representatives.

In Ethiopia, teachers, university students and graduates are brutally targeted due to their opposition of the ruthless regime. One can be tortured or killed in Ethiopia for listening to opposition media outlets, reading articles on banned opposition websites, publicly speaking against the atrocities of the regime and even calling for freedom, respect for law, peaceful dialogue and democracy in Ethiopia.

The mainstream media is shockingly neglectful in its coverage of the human rights abuse in Ethiopia. Western journalists do not spare a mention to the terror occurring in Ethiopia. The terror is real. The regime is by far the worst we have ever seen. Without immediate action and unity of Ethiopian political parties and civil society groups, Ethiopia’s citizens will continue to sustain torture, evictions from their own lands, and death under the hands of a ruthless regime.

I have been living in a refugee camp for the last 14 months and there are no words to express the terror I feel and the trauma I have suffered. I want to reunite with my wife and daughter. It is unthinkable what I will be forced to endure if deported to the country from which I fled. Having my asylum application rejected will put me at a real risk of being subjected to torture or death due to my active participation in Ethiopian dissident activities in Sweden. 

I don’t know what is going to happen to me in Sweden. As Haile Selassie I once said, “It is better to die free, than live in slavery”. I would rather die in exile than to live in slavery in Ethiopia. My misery is been going on for too long. I hope God will bring an end to my misery.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ethiopia: A country at crossroads

The month of June continues to bring bad news about Ethiopia: around 60 Ethiopian soldiers died in Somalia and the war with Eritrea has resumed. On top of that many of the abducted children from Gambella have not yet returned from South Sudan, millions of people continue to get starved, #OromoProtests and the uprising in South Gondar continues to expand.

The main talking point among the Ethiopians in Diaspora this week was the close encounter of the government spokesperson Getachew Reda with an opposition member in Frankfurt Hilton hotel. He was seen calling a security at the hotel lobby to take some action. Ironically he later gave an interview for BBC Africa TV admitting that there was a fighting on Ethio-Eritrea border with causalities on both sides.

Just a few days before the leader of Ginbot 7 Prof. Berhane Nega was in Germany for fundraising where he was seen insulted by EPRDF supporters. Two days before that there was fighting in Australia where the Tigray region president Abay Woldu was forced to cancel a meeting with EPRDF supporters due to fierce objection from the Diaspora opposition. One member of the opposition was later seen on local TV blood gushing through his head. It was reported that 20 EPRDF supporters beat the man up.

It makes one so sad to see factional fighting living abroad. A person has to respect the rules of the country that gave him protection. The main blame falls on the regime in Ethiopia who has apparently migrated its own people so that they can spy, lobby powerful individuals and do all sorts of things. In Europe it is widely reported that up to 40% of the asylum applicants from Eritrea are Ethiopians.

The regime seems to break the rules of the developed countries with impunity. That is about to change now. Last week that the US government ordered the regime to return a $6 million worth of bond collected from the Diaspora in the US.

Where is Ethiopia heading at the moment? I think we are heading to the late 1970’s where Ethiopians killed each other for the sake of political ideologies. Sectarian differences are so entrenched that we may repeat that dreadful mistake – Red Terror.

The regime is falling but it wants to hang on at any cost. That is not a wise move. A former American ambassador to Ethiopia once told them that they can’t rule forever and the opposition will one day become a ruling party. It has been hard for EPRDF to swallow that fact and now they are engaged in subversive activities to desperately hang on to power.

In my view, peaceful power transition is the best solution to reverse the impending danger. We need Ethiopia to be a country where every individual is treated equally regardless of their ethnic background, political or religious views.

Long Live Ethiopia!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Oromo Protests in Ethiopia: The Need for Urgent Unified Action!

The Protest in Oromia: The Need for Urgent Unified Action!

It has been more than three months now since the protest in the region of Oromia begun. Its main cause is the proposed master plan to expand the city of Addis Ababa. Our fellow brothers and sisters are protesting against this master plan because the intention is not really to expand Addis but to take away their land, which has been passed on from one generation to the next, and give it to members and supporters of the ruling party. Meanwhile the original owners of the land would be hired as guards on the properties built by TPLF’s members or even worse, they would be begging as they have no other means of income anymore. The Oromo people, therefore, chose to defend their lands by paying with their dear lives. Over two hundred people were killed by government soldiers so far and yet the protest continues. The young daughters of these farmers would be forced to quit their education and involve in prostitution in order to survive. Therefore, the implication of land grabbing is not only economical but also has serious consequences socially as well.

This is not a new phenomenon as the ruling party has been displacing Ethiopians from their lands for the past several years. For instance, the TPLF has given numerous foreign businesses and its own members and supporters massive amount of land in Gambela by forcefully displacing Ethiopians from their land that served as their sole source of bread and butter. This has been documented by a number of international rights organizations and media such as the BBC.

The root cause of the problem is the political system in Ethiopia. The TPLF, since its inception, had no Ethiopian agenda. It was anti-Ethiopia then and has remained to this day. It does not have the ability, capability or the will to bring about democratic system in the country and for this reason; the political, economical and social problems of Ethiopia will further be complicated the longer this dictatorial government stays in power. In addition, the government is also purposely working to create ethnic conflict in Ethiopia by preaching ethnic politics in order to extend its power. The ruling party’s sole objective is simply to use Ethiopia as a private company and milk as much money as it can until it will be forced to relinquish power.

The ruling party is also currently dealing with Sudan to give away large amount of land bordering Sudan and Ethiopia. The idea behind this deal is to encourage Sudan not to help Ethiopian opposition forces that have raised arms against the regime. As a result, Ethiopians living in that area are engaged in a continuous fight with the Sudanese military at the same time with TPLF’s soldiers that are killing them siding with the Sudanese forces. This is unheard of as the fundamental responsibility of any government in the world is to stand up for the interests of its people. However, Ethiopians are unfortunate to have a mercenary group such as the TPLF imposed on them.

Ethiopian opposition parties have talked about the evil nature and its evil deeds of the ruling party for the past twenty five years while the TPLF comfortably continued to kill, jail and intimidate Ethiopians. It is high time now for all genuine opposition groups to come together and devise a strategy to bring an end to this monstrous regime.

The protest in the region of Oromia is crying for a leadership. Opposition parties should stand with our brothers and sisters and prove what they preach in practical terms. There is no better time than now to stand in unity and say no to injustice and tyranny.

There is simply no other means but to unite under common goal to get rid of the dictatorial regime. Ethiopia is running out of time. The situation in the country is black and white. It is a matter of choosing disintegration and mayhem or unity and peace. Let us focus on our priority which is getting rid of TPLF and building a unified, strong and democratic Ethiopia. All other problems and challenges could be addressed under a democratic system.


Tarik Michael Tobias (Lidya), February, 2015

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Brutal crackdown in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, 2016 is off to a violent start. Authorities in the East African nation have killed at least 140 people in a brutal crackdown on protests over the last two-and-a-half months, according to human rights groups, amounting to the worst ethnic violence in years. 

The violence has brought renewed attention to the struggle over land rights and political tensions in the country and it has highlighted rights abuses in a nation deemed an important U.S. ally in the fight against terror.

Anger Mounts In Oromia In The Fall Of 2015

In November 2015, discontent intensified in Ethiopia's Oromia region over a government plan to expand the borders of the country's capital, Addis Ababa, into the surrounding rural areas.

Protesters marched to voice their opposition, fearing that the state's Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan, as the proposal is called, would seize land from the Oromia region's marginalized Oromo ethnic group, which makes up around 35 percent of Ethiopia's population. The area of Oromia that the city seeks to incorporate is already home to two million people, according to Human Rights Watch.

The protesters' fears were informed by years of deep discontent with the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front. Though the nation's capital of Addis Ababa is surrounded by the ethnic Oromia region, the city was established by the Amhara people, The Washington Post notes. As the city expanded, there have been clashes over forcible evictions, as well as ethnic and linguistic identity. Furthermore, the authoritarian government has a history of attempting to stamp out dissent, especially among ethnic groups it views as being in opposition to its ruling coalition. 

Over 5,000 Oromos have been arrested on charges relating to protests and dissent in the past five years, according to an Amnesty International report. Oromos who were detained were sometimes subject to horrific abuse, including rape, torture and beatings. 

Demonstrations spread throughout the Oromia region over the course of November, as groups including farmers and students rallied against the government.

Ethiopian authorities responded to the largely peaceful protests with force, seeking to quash the growing dissent. Police used live ammunition to disperse protesters at rallies, activists and rights groups say, killing dozens of people in separate incidents in the areas around Addis Ababa. 

As the unrest continued through December, rights groups also reported widespread arrests, beatings and torture at the hands of security services. Even senior members of opposition parties, including Bekele Gerba, a prominent member of the Oromo Federalist Congress -- the largest Oromo political party -- did not escape the crackdown.

And The Protests Escalate

The security forces' crackdown on demonstrators failed to prevent the protest movement from intensifying -- it actually expanded its demands to also call for an end to police brutality. As of the end of December, over 140 people had been killed in the protests, according to Human Rights Watch -- and the rising death toll began to attract international criticism.

The United States, which has collaborated with Ethiopia on anti-terror efforts and until last September operated a drone base out of the country, issued a statement of concern and called for the government to allow peaceful protests.

Instead of moving toward reconciliation, however, the government doubled down on its position. Authorities denied protesters' requests to hold rallies in Addis Ababa and accused the Oromo protesters of committing terrorism in a bid to destabilize the government. 

As demonstrations continued, the Ethiopian government finally caved to the months of pressure on Jan. 13, and scrapped its expansion plan. 

What's Next?

While the protests met their initial goal of stopping the urban expansion, demonstrators have been invigorated by the crackdown and have continued to rally against the government. 

"The complaints of the protesters have now expanded to include the killing of peaceful protesters and decades of marginalization," Human Rights Watch Horn of Africa researcher Felix Horne told The WorldPost over email.

What began as a protest over land rights is now representative of a number of grievances with the government and ruling EPRDF. Ethiopia has seen a period of rapid economic growth in the past 10 years, but its urban and industrial expansion has also resulted in land disputes, corruption and authoritarian crackdowns on opposition groups.

As demonstrators increasingly demand solutions for Ethiopia's many social and political problems, rights groups worry that the unrest and violence will continue. 

"Human Rights Watch continues to receive reports daily about excessive force being used by security forces in Oromia," Horne said. "The death toll continues to rise and the arrests continue." 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

How citizen journalism transformed news gathering in Ethiopia?

It is increasingly becoming clear that media activists based in Ethiopia have become both users and producers of content and are providing news to the news media. 

For instance, during the recent #OromoProtests many independent journalists including Ethiopians in the diaspora have extensively used ‘social media news gathering’, which uses Facebook and Twitter for content, commentary and contributors.

Some members of the Ethiopian diaspora have tried to locate individual activists based in Ethiopia via phone, email and social media. For instance, Jawar Mohamed has provided English, Amharic and Oromigna description of videos and photos uploaded in his Facebook page and his contents has frequently been proved to be accurate. As a result his footage, contributors and intelligence have been used regularly by the news media including the new media.

However, as times went on, activists based in Ethiopia are either unwilling or unable to send content due to two reasons. One of them is safety. The regime uses internet surveillance and the activists may fear that they will go to prison in connection with the ATP, which is described by the Oakland Institute report as a draconian law that ‘decriminalizes dissent’. 

The other reason would be the content itself is blocked from being sent to members of the Ethiopian diaspora including journalists. It is a known fact that the regime has been blocking content found and distributed online and for me this could be the most probable reason.

At the moment, the content of activists like Jawar has become regular voices about #OromoProtests etc on the social media. It is obvious that some of those sharing content may exaggerate reports of deaths or violence in a bid to highlight their cause. This raises questions of balance but it is up to the journalists and the public to make sense of it all. 

One thing is clear though; activist voices are helping in coverage of news on Ethiopia and journalists are acting more like facilitators of news coming out of Ethiopia. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Join the Movement to Save Ethiopia: Now!

If there is anything new in the eve of the 2008 Ethiopian New Year it is the news of the four Ethiopian opposition groups based in Eritrea who decided to merge and change the EPRDF led government in Ethiopia.

Millions of Ethiopians who live inside and outside Ethiopia have been waiting for this moment to come. Who would have thought that TPDM will merge with G7 to fight in saving Ethiopia from the jaws of EPRDF. September 7, 2015 will be remembered in Ethiopia for a very long time to come. For me it is gone be the best day of my life. 

Now the EPRDF led government will definitely wage war on Eritrea. Yesterday Eritrea said that: the TPLF regime has openly assert that, 'it has secured a green-light from the United States to unleash war against Eritrea.'

I was in Ethiopia three months ago and I have seen with my own eyes what EPRDF has done to steal our vote. They have used every resource at their disposal to steal our voice and the time has come now for them to return it back.

They thought they were going to rule forever. They were even planning to rule for centuries but they forgot thepeople's power. They have been producing riot dispersing vehicles. They were showing those vehicles in the streets of Addis. For them they thought that they were terrorizing Ethiopians. 

But one thing they forgot was that Ethiopians have long given up on them and it was a matter of time before someone will lit the fire. Everybody was waiting for the fire to be lit.

In July, the US President told Kenyans this words: “a politics that is solely based on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that’s doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure – a failure of imagination.”

EPRDF has been playing on a politics that is based on tribe and ethnicity for a quarter of a century. The country is now on the brink of ethnic and religious conflicts. It is important that G7, TPDM and the other movements merged save the country from all kinds of disintegration.

The struggle has began. The time to think we have a country called Ethiopia was about to get over. We were permitting EPRDF to completely violate our right to exist. Our country has been completely taken over by the so called hard line Marxists.

Do you want to see your country die? Can you compute what that means? It means no more Ethiopia. Do I have your attention now? Would you rather wait for a cadre to barrel through your door and shoot you dead while you are watching a rerun of Sew Le Sew? 

Or, would you prefer to fight for the freedom you and your family enjoy and perhaps die a noble death rather than waste less one? How do you want to die? Watching EBC or fighting for your country? If you chose to fight then you are a true Ethiopian, if you chose EBC then please get the hell out of the way of the rest of us. 

We can save our country if every person simply does not recognize the EPRDF government. They would die of want. Generally simple! The hard line Marxists are winning because they have been able to centralize authority and use that power to enforce their agendas. But if we simply do not recognize the EPRDF government in any way we will defuse them of their power.

We should not only rest our hopes on የአገር አድን ንቅናቄ (The Movement to Save Ethiopia). They might be a great asset, but it will take more than a fighting movement to defeat what we are facing!

Wake the hell up and let’s move. Together we can take action and save our country. It’s still not too late, but very, very soon it will be. 

BTW: ድምፃችን ይሰማ has just released their logo for their own struggle ‪#‎strugglelogo‬

Friday, August 21, 2015

The need for the use of civil resistance in Ethiopia

Protests, marches and civil disobedience are tactics that can form the repertoire of independent political strategies for the people of any nation to plan, so that together they can act to win their rights, obtain justice, stop corruption and other abuses of power, and establish or reform democracy. 

Howard Zinn, the American social activist said: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders...and millions have been killed because of this obedience...Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves and the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” 

I fully agree with Howard, what we see in Ethiopia is that people obey the government even though the government is stealing from the public treasury, arresting and torturing dissenters and journalists, taking people’s land and property without due process.

Obedience out of self-interest and obedience as a moral obligation are some of the reasons why we respect and obey every constituted authority. 

According to Jakub Paruskinki, editor of The Day: “Any authoritarian system is based on the instinct of obedience, and that’s because people have a very clear calculus. As long as the leader is providing, as long as-and whether this is a company or a government-as long as the leader is providing and we obey, we will be safe. There is a clear trade-off between security and freedom in that sense."

In Jakub's opinion, "what really breaks out from this is the entrepreneurial spirit. People who want to build their business or want to develop their careers, are not going to settle for ‘I keep my head down, and I will slowly develop my career, develop myself, have a family.’ They are not satisfied with safety; they want something more. They want to break the chain of obedience and build their own company, build their own project. And so, if we really want to make a change in all these authoritarian countries, we have to change the way the equation works. Yes, there is a trade-off between safety and freedom, but we can make freedom more appealing.”

In the Ethiopian case, I think one of the reasons why people obey is that they do not trust the real motives of the movement leaders. For example, in Ethiopia, there have been times when non violent actions have been organised such as massive protest or strike, but after a while, the cause dies because the leaders or organizers of the action have collected bribe from the government. Most are bribed with money, political posts or public positions. 

Then people are just told to return home or resume work without any change being achieved. This has made many people indifferent or uninterested when there is a call for an action to be taken, because there is lack of trust and believe that it will just be another waste of time.

Broken promises, experiences of betrayal and disappointment, often have a tremendous effect on people's belief in their own power. I think that is one of the biggest challenges in seeking to mobilize a nonviolent movement. 

Fear of change or a 'fear of the unknown' is also one of the reason. People may know what they have, and not exactly what to expect when things change. A change without an action plan or a vision will take to the "unknown". Movements that are driven by the people and power within always thrive. 

This brings us to the new initiative in Ethiopia, even if is only on a small scale: “Civil Resistance”

“Civil Resistance” is much more than protests, marches and civil disobedience. The failure of many governments to enforce basic rights and make good on the promises of power-holders has, right across the world, impelled people to seek another means by which they may not only demand but also instigate the changes they desire. 

Civil resistance is an emergent new form of political and social agency that is beginning to take its place alongside the mechanics of state power as a means by which the people can organize and compel the redress of their grievances and the achievement of the public well-being of their societies.

The continual failure of governments to enforce basic rights and make good on the promises of power-holders has, right across the world, impelled people to seek another means by which they may not only demand but also instigate the changes they desire. 

There are hundreds of active nonviolent movements and campaigns for rights and reform, and against abuses and oppression, and they are gaining new traction and growing in number to the point that there appears now to be no society in which civil resistance is not being used on any given day.

Many of these movements and campaigns share common dynamic features as a form of political struggle:

- They summon and mobilize the participation of ordinary people by expressing their yearning for profound change, and they weld that popular resilience to specific strategies of action.

- They create new kinds of political space in societies, by organizing resistance in the arts, education, business and even sports. 

- They challenge the legitimacy of governments, power-holders or institutions which pretend to hold sway for good purposes but instead betray the public’s trust. 

- They disrupt the operations of rulers and institutions that refuse to listen and respond to their views and that try to intimidate or hold them down. 

- They raise the cost of autocracy, corruption and incompetence by distributing resistance throughout a society, overstretching and dividing the loyalty of security and military forces, and by organizing boycotts and other sanctions that target abusive power-holders and institutions.

To those concerned that these strategic uses of civil resistance may lead to “unrest” (the word the media use to describe any commotion in public) or “instability” (the typical accusation of dictators against civil resistance), I pose this question: Why should the failure to honor and enforce people’s rights or any of the hundred other forms of aggression used by states to subdue citizens, be tolerated without response by those citizens?

And when established forms of political contention, such as elections or petitioning office-holders, are hollow and ineffective, why are those engaged in such a charade entitled to a form of “stability” which serves only their personal hold on power? 

Nonviolent action cannot, by definition, threaten or harm the lives of anyone. Resistance is a form of public action that welcomes participation and is not privileged or exclusionary, much less belligerent. So civil resistance is as civil as the civil procedures of the law, civil unions between two people joined in matrimony, or any other function of civil society. 

Find a speaker or writer who believes that civil resistance is less legitimate than an edict or directive of the state, and you will probably have found someone who speaks for those who exercise power, not for those on whose consent the legitimacy of that power must rest. 

Civil resistance withdraws that consent, which is an exercise of civil freedom where freedom may not fully exist – as the brutal response to nonviolent resistance often demonstrates. In that way, civil resistance can do the work of democracy before democracy is open for business.

Ethiopian Civil Resistance Campaign

Monday, August 17, 2015

Crossing the Red Line: Ethiopia is not Tigray

In the last one month, Dawit Gebregziabher is causing an uproar in every media related to Ethiopia. He is probably the first person to talk openly about the plight of the Tigray people under the TPLF/EPRDF regime.

Some say he is a successful businessman and a philanthropist but for me he is a person of great courage and determination who dared to expose the people who was and are close to him without fear of anything. 

Here is some of what he has said:

TPLF is one party. The Tigrean people should not be associated with TPLF. People has to believe that there are Tigreans who are not member of TPLF. Not all Tigreans are member of TPLF.

The Tigrean people shouldn't be called a hero nowadays. Because a hero fights for its rights.The person who can't fight for its right can't be called a hero.

I didn't say they should be removed by armed struggle as armed struggle is not a solution. The people has to rise in a peaceful way. It is time for the TPLF people to go. The youth has to fight for its right. 
They don't want anyone to do something in Tigray except themselves. They are only concerned about their need and fame. Our struggle has not been for this. The struggle was to make the people free and live a better life. 
Let alone doing something in Tigray, the government has destroyed what was there before they took power. The people of Tigray has not benefited from the TPLF rule. To the contrary it has been a victim of the authoritarian rule.
This people have been in power for 20 something years in Tigray. The people are migrating in all directions as they can't live in their land. We talk about the plight of Eritrean refugees. Yet no body talks about the Tigreans who are scattered everywhere like a vulture. There are more than 170 thousand Tigrean refugees.
We have now reached the point of break it or mend it. If it is not solved it will have a huge implication on the country. Ethiopians should really think about it. Our leader are already corrupted and can't lead us. Hence we need to produce people who can lead us.

Monday, August 10, 2015

We Blog: How bloggers can support political change in Ethiopia

It is very well known that nowadays blogs are being read as news, making bloggers journalists. But are bloggers journalists? 

In countries like Ethiopia, bloggers are indeed journalists. They apparently are where EPRDF controls all aspects of government, including the legislative branch where it holds 547 of 547 parliamentary seats.

It is well known that political space has significantly narrowed and opposition viewpoints are not represented in government. With regard to human rights, governance and independent media, the space continues to close.

EPRDF continues to systematically limit space for political parties, independent media and civil society to operate, significantly constraining the ability of people to influence government decisions and hold the government accountable.

Online journalists (bloggers) are therefore the only hope in a country ruled by an authoritarian regime that is tightening its grip on all aspects of our people’s lives. We have that some political parties have been engaged in a peaceful struggle for the last 25 years.

To change EPRDF in a peaceful manner means to abide by the laws enacted by the EPRDF controlled parliament; to respect any decision given by a court that is controlled by EPRDF; to be under the control of the EPRDF led police and military force and win an election administrated by an EPRDF controlled Election Board.

That strategy [peacefully struggle] has been now been branded as a hopeless strategy. There are two remaining strategies that can be applied in the current Ethiopian context. The first one is civil disobedience and the second one is armed struggle.

Civil disobedience has been successful in changing governments in many countries. Two things were put in place in those countries that have successfully implemented the strategy.

The first one is the existence of a good public confidence. The second one is the presence of institutions that are relatively independent. When we see the presence of these two ingredients, we find them absent in Ethiopia and they may not be ready in a short time framework.

With regard to the public confidence, we all know that our confidence has been severely eroded that we are now seen daily trying to escape the country by any means. Our fear has become so vivid that the mutual trust that used to exist among each other has disappeared. Instead of standing together for the sake of justice, freedom and democracy we are engaged in tribal war.

Even though there are people who are courageously fighting EPRDF dodging all kinds of bullets, most of us are tired from EPRDF’s quarter century onslaught to our values, nationalism and freedom fighting spirit. Without a well built self confidence it is very hard to bring the desired change.

The second prerequisite for civil disobedience is the existence of a relatively independent institution in the country. EPRDF has systematically infiltrated and controlled all institutions including the military, judiciary, media and academic institutions.

It has devastated the civil society through a slew of draconian laws. The social capital has been destroyed. The mutual trust among civil society institutions has been obliterated.

Religious institutions have become under the control of the ruling party. Hence, one can surely say that there is no institution in Ethiopia that is relatively independent.

Therefore, in the absence of the two ingredients, civil disobedience alone cannot be a feasible strategy to change the EPRDF led government. It may be a suitable strategy but it lacks the basic ingredients.

We also need to educate our people to accept civil disobedience as a strategy. Many people in the country still think that one has to raise an arm and go to a jungle in order to come to power. This attitude is going to change soon but it needs an educational campaign.

This brings us to armed struggle as another strategy. In Ethiopia, gun and power have a good relationship. Almost all government transition has been done through the barrel of gun.

Ethiopians has always admired a gun and a gun holder. Hence, armed struggle definitely has an acceptance by the public.

In terms of the feasibility of this strategy, there is no reason why EPRDF cannot be defeated through an armed struggle. It may be difficult to  easily defeat them as they have a backing of the West due to global terrorism and also as the military is organized along the lines of ethnicity.

These reasons can lengthen the struggle but EPRDF can still be defeated through an armed struggle. There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done. There are thousands to prophesy failure. There are thousands to point out to you, one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you. But let us just buckle in with a bit of a grin and go to it.

In terms of suitability the situation becomes different. Can a government that has taken power through an armed struggle will lead the country to democracy? That is a tough question to answer.

The same is true with a government that has come to power through a peaceful struggle. Nobody can be sure what will happen but the main thing is the power balance when the change comes and the existence or non existence of strong institutions.

In the case of Ethiopia, currently there are no national institutions let alone democratic institutions. The institutions that have held the country as a country have become weakened. There is a proliferation of regional feelings which is competing with the nationalist feelings.

In order to stay in power EPRDF has created animosity among communities in the name of ethnicity. It has also been creating conflict among religions in the name of religious fundamentalism. Therefore, if an armed struggle goes out of control it is very frightening to think where it will end.

Hence, armed struggle as a strategy is feasible and acceptable but its suitability is doubtful. Both civil disobedience and armed struggle lacks something when they are used as a single strategy.

In my opinion, our goal should not be to only change the EPRDF led government. The country after EPRDF should be a place where justice, freedom, equality and democracy are respected. Her unity as a country should be guaranteed.

Therefore, civil disobedience along with an armed struggle is the best strategy to follow in the current context of Ethiopia. EPRDF knows that one day the opposition will be the government party.

The Americans have told them to prepare as they cannot rule consistently forever. The EPRDF leaders know that it is impossible and they fully understand that.

But how can they actually build that confidence is the main problem. It is crystal clear that the EPRDF people are fearful of an unstable environment. That is the major resistance to having a multi-party democracy in Ethiopia.

It is here that we, citizen journalists, need to play a big role. I believe we are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracy needs than traditional journalists. 

We need to blog what needs to be done and what must be achieved to realize a more democratic and hopeful future for Ethiopia.

We need to blog about the need to create a space for alternate views or voices to be heard.

We need to blog that building public confidence takes much compromise and deep commitment to achieve what is in the interests of the people of Ethiopia.

We should set aside our political positions or personal preferences and stand firmly with the Ethiopian people to achieve together a better future for Ethiopia.

We need to blog for an improved environment for civil society, a loosening of restrictions on civil society, inclusive democratic processes, and rule-of-law.

We must continue to blog for the release of political prisoners, an end to politically motivated arrests, an end to interference in religious affairs, and an end to illegal evictions.

We need to blog for press freedom, greater tolerance for opposition views, and religious dialogue.

We need to be the kind of online journalists that want freedom with responsibility.

It is high time to come together and change the EPRDF led government!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Ethical Journalism: How EPRDF confuses Journalists with Cadres

During the recent visit of Barack Obama to Ethiopia, the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was asked the following question by an African American Journalist:

“Mr. Prime Minister, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks your country as the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa. Just before President Obama arrived here, some journalists were released. Many more are still being detained. Would you explain what issues or objections you have to a free press?”

HD said: “As far as Ethiopia is concerned, we need journalists. We need more of them and quality of them, because we have not only bad stories to be told, but we have many success stories that has to be told. And so we need you. This is very important. But we need ethical journalism to function in this country.

“And there is capacity limitation in all aspects of our works. There is also capacity limitations in journalism. Maybe those of you who are in developed nations, you can help our journalists - domestic journalists - to increase their capacity to work on ethical manner. But the only thing as a leader of this nation we do not want to see is journalism has to be respected when it doesn’t pass the line; that working with violent terrorist groups is not allowed - even in the United States. And we need civilized journalism as a culture and as a profession.

“So I think my government is committed to this issue, that we need many young journalists to come up and help this country to understand what’s going on. And for us, it’s very important to be criticized because we also get feedback to correct our mistakes and limitations. So we need journalists. And I think this is our view. And rest assured that we’ll continue to do so, because the media is one of the institutions that has to be nurtured for democratic discourse. And so that’s why we agree that institutional capacity building in all aspects of democracy in this country is essential.”

According to HD, they [EPRDF] need more journalists,
  1. to tell success stories 
  2. to come up and help [this country] to understand what is going on
  3. to get feedback to correct their mistakes and limitations 
According to HD, they don't want journalists who pass the line and work with violent terrorist groups. We all know what it means passing the line in Ethiopia. It includes writing the bad stories, mistakes and limitations of EPRDF. That is a crystal clear truth. 

It is a shame to hear the word violent terrorist groups been given to opposition political parties that ate operating in exile. There are many opposition parties that are operating outside Ethiopia. All use various methods to oppose the ruling party.

If you write some thing which is none of the above 3, then you will be branded a supporter of the violent terrorist groups or at worst a member of the violent terrorist groups. 

For instance, the EPRDF led government has accused Andargachew Tsige of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death. A US embassy cable, released through WikiLeaks, described the trial as “lacking in basic elements of due process”.

We all know that people like Andargachew are politicians and not terrorists. But the EPRDF led government thinks that it does not need to make any space for the opposition. So they brand anyone who oppose them as a terrorist.

Yasazinal Alu Goshu Wolde!! That is purely outrageous!! 

HD seems to forget that most of the journalists and the bloggers who are languishing in jail are very well known for their integrity. For instance, if one can read the following story of Edom Kassaye by Endalk Chala, one can  simply understand what HD is implying. 

The EPRDF led government frequently accuses independent journalists and private media of trying to incite hatred and violence in the country. It is due to that fear that the "friendly authoritarian regime" has blocked several websites from being accessed in the country.

For instance,, and others can't be opened from Ethiopia. If one can browse these websites for few minutes it will not find any kind of violence tone in them.

Almost all the journalists that are in jail and exile wants to play a major role in creating informed, peaceful and secure democracy in the country. I can confidently say that all the independent journalists are ethical and well informed in their work.

It is clear that they want to continue with their work of censorship in order to protect the public from reality. HD mentioned that "..there is capacity limitation in all aspects of our works. There is also capacity limitations in journalism."

We all know that the country has a severe shortage of educated people. Most of the educated people of the country has been forced to go out of the country in one way or another. This does not mean that there are no educated people in the country. There are still tens of thousands.

The main problem is that EPRDF, a quarter century later, still do not want to use the educated people who are not a member of their party. There are tens of thousands of educated people in the country that are wasting their time sitting in cafe, 'khat' house and where have you.

EPRDF brags that it is better to put in a position a fourth grader who is a party member than a university graduate with no allegiance to the party. They should not give lack of capacity as an excuse. It is the issue of allegiance to the party and its hard line Marxist doctrine.

It is an old truth that media have the potential to inspire public confidence. But that will not happen unless media enjoy editorial independence and the right to report freely.

As Barack Obama said: “I believe Ethiopia will not fully unleash the potential of its people if journalists are restricted or legitimate opposition groups can’t participate in the campaign process.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Barack Obama: How he endorsed EPRDF’s quarter-century hold on power

From the start, his visit was not expected by millions of Ethiopians and other people all of the world. This was how one person described it. Unbelievable: as Ethiopia shuts down nearly any political opposition, Obama chooses to visit.

There was mixed reactions by Ethiopians all over the world.

After the visit was scheduled many people have called on Obama to make human rights a priority.

He arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday and on Monday he said: “We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.” 

On Tuesday he said: "I believe that when all voices are being heard, when people know that they are included in the political process, that makes a country stronger and more successful and more innovative."

Although he said: “I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these [good governance] issues”, his suggestion  that EPRDF is a democratically elected party is a shocking statement.The damage is already done as he has endorsed EPRDF's quarter century hold on power.

As David Smith of the Guardian said: "I wonder what the jailed journalists, bloggers and political prisoners think of his comments? Or the thousands of Ethiopians who have fled their country because they did not support the government? Or the 18 Muslim activists who were recently convicted under the anti-terrorism law? A truly disappointing statement from the US president.” 

"The Americans know (the situation) but they are cautiously looking away," said Merara Gudina, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) leader. "They choose to wine and dine with dictators instead."

Reeyot Alemu, a journalist released earlier this month after four years in jail on terrorism charges, said: “It’s not ‘democratically elected’ because there was only government media and people did not get enough information. They also arrested many opposition leaders and journalists. They won the election by using human rights violations. How can it be democratically elected? It is completely false. I wish Barack Obama had sent a strong message.”

Bekele Nega, secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress, representing Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, said: “I don’t know if democracy means robbing people’s vote and robbing their election result? They have killed people and they have taken the ballot box with them in organised fraud.”

Bekele claimed his party found some of its votes thrown down a toilet, while at one polling station its victory by 800 votes to 40 was reversed to a 40-800 defeat. “I wonder if people could tolerate this in America or Britain or wherever? Is this the meaning of democracy in America? We are very sorry that Mr Obama’s comment on our election is really supporting dictators. We know the US is always looking after its own interests and will take over on the military side, sending our people to Somalia.”

It was in 2009 that Obama said "Africa doesn't need Strongmen, it needs Strong Institutions." He knows very well that EPRDF is a group of strongmen. The US State Department backs up that point in its annual human rights report.  

David Smith of the Guardian paraphrases the section on Ethiopia that cites widespread “restrictions on freedom of expression,” “politically motivated trials,” “harassment and intimidation of opposition members and journalists,” “alleged arbitrary killings…torture,” limits on citizens’ ability to change their government, and restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement.

We have seen today how Susan Rice laughed at EPRDF’s 100% win!!

Question: And also, to just follow up on what Christi was saying, does the President consider the presidents of Kenya and Ethiopia democratically-elected Presidents

Susan Rice: I think the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was just elected with 100 percent of the vote, which I think suggests, as we have stated in our public statements, some concern for the integrity of the electoral process - at least if not in the outcomes then in some of the mechanisms that supported the process, the freedom for the opposition to campaign.

Question: So is that - but does he think that that was a democratic election?

Susan Rice: Absolutely - 100 percent (… Laughter … Laughter and a good Laughter)’s-100-win-video_28f50b0c5.html

According to Hassen Hussein of AJ , the EPRDF has devastated free press and civil society through a slew of draconian laws that equate dissent with treason. The political space has significantly narrowed. Opposition politics is criminalized. Ethiopia’s civil society institutions are brittle. The country’s storied economic progress, including double-digit GDP growth over the last five years, has benefited only those who are politically connected.

As Hassen Hussein recently said Ethiopia faces rising pressures to choose among three paths fraught with risks: the distasteful status quo; increased devolution of power, which risks balkanization; and more centralization, which promises even further resistance and turmoil.

It is unlikely that the soul searching from recent tragedies will prompt the authorities to make a course adjustment. If the country’s history of missed opportunities for all-inclusive political and economic transformation is any guide, Ethiopians might be in for a spate of more sad news. 

As long as the answer to these questions focuses on security, the door is left wide open for further exodus and potential social unrest from an increasingly despondent populace. 

As David Smith said, "a robust, re-energized, and empowered Ethiopian civil society, in which human rights groups are free to operate, is central to deepening democratic principles, not only in Ethiopia but also throughout the East and Horn of Africa." 

That is what we all want and we are prepared to die for it even if it takes a decade or a century!!

Friday, July 24, 2015

What people should know about Ethiopia

Unbelievable: as Ethiopia shuts down nearly any political opposition, Obama chooses to visit.