Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eritrean, Somali refugees leave Ethiopia to US

Medeshi
Eritrean, Somali refugees leave Ethiopia to US
Saturday 22 August 2009 03:00.
By Tesfa-alem Tekle
August 21, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) – A group of 44 Eritrean and 23 Somali refugees, screened from different refugee camps flew out of Ethiopia after years of exile, Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugees and Returns Affairs (ARRA) said.
The refugees left Addis Ababa International Airport on Monday as part of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)-Assisted resettlement program.
According to ARRA, which is an implementing partner of the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) thousands of others mainly Eritreans are finalizing preliminary process for their Resettlement to a third country.
The 44 Eritrean refuges due for resettlement on the United States are part of the total 6,800 Eritrean refuges that the US pledged to receive.
After UNHCR, IOM and the government of Ethiopian jointly began resettlement operation years back, over 4000 Eritreans are resettled to different western countries to begin a new life.
The USA has so far received 100 Somalis and 472 Eritrean from refugee camps in Ethiopia.
Currently, some 36,000 Eritrean refugees are residing in three Ethiopian camps on the disputed Ethiopia-Eritrea border.
They crossed in to Ethiopia in protest to alleged persecution and harassment by the Eritrean government.
UNHCR is determined that many of the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia can’t return home for safety reasons and resettlement is the most appropriate option.
Ahead of departure, refuges take part in extensive orientation programmes to help them adapt new western life styles and to avoid culture shock, up on arrival
Recent figures indicate that in Ethiopia, there are over 110,000 refugees from neighboring countries of Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya.
(ST)

Woman suing Ottawa over passport ordeal


Medeshi
Woman suing Ottawa over passport ordeal
Canadian held in Kenya seeks $2.5-million
Ken Meaney, Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, August 22, 2009
A Canadian woman who was stranded in Kenya for three months when her passport was rejected by Canadian consular officials who believed her to be an impostor is suing the federal government for $2.5-million.
(Suaad Hagi Mohamud, who was detained for three months in Kenya after Canadian authorities decided she did not resemble her passport photo, hugs her son Mohamed Hussein upon arriving at Pearson airport ...)
Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, told a Toronto news conference yesterday that Ottawa should have backed her up. Instead, she said, the government let her down.
"I was alone when my government let me down," said Ms. Mohamud, adding her court case is not about money. She said she is only speaking out so other Canadians do not have to go through similar experiences.
"I just want to say that Canadians have to stand up," she said. "They are Canadian citizens no matter where they are, no matter what kind of situation they are in."
Natalie Sarafian, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said she could not comment on Ms. Mohamud's case, but added Mr. Cannon has ordered a full review of how Ms. Mohamud was handled by consular officials.
"We're really going to try to get to the bottom of what really occurred in the case," she said. "It's going to be a detailed account that will look at the role of Canadian officials in the case."
She said Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has also asked the Canada Border Services Agency to prepare an independent review. "These are very complex cases," she added, "there are a lot of things we can't divulge because of privacy issues."
Ms. Mohamud, a single mother, said she works hard to make a living for herself and her 12-year-old son, and she always does the right thing.
She thanked her many supporters in Canada for standing by her. She also thanked the media for making her story public and her lawyer for believing in her.
"I want to thank all the friends and family who tried to help me," she said.
Ms. Mohamud's ordeal ended earlier this month when DNA tests proved her identity. Before that, consular officials in Kenya told her they did not believe she was the person in her passport photo and handed the document over to Kenyan authorities, who alleged she was in the country illegally.
This despite having produced numerous pieces of identification.
Meanwhile, a case that draws parallels with Ms. Mohamud's experience is drawing to a close.
Abdihakim Mohamed, a 25-year-old Canadian man who has been stranded in Kenya for three years after a dispute over the legitimacy of his passport photo, may finally return to Canada in the coming weeks, the man's lawyer said.
Mr. Mohamed, who has autism, has been stuck in Kenya since a 2006 attempt to renew his passport was halted by Canadian officials who claimed his ears looked different in a new passport photo, said Jean Lash, his Ottawabased lawyer.
Mr. Mohamed's mother, Anab Issa, has attempted to prove her son's identity through a series of affidavits, but the process has been stalled because Mr. Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, does not have a birth certificate or other documents the Canadian government requested he produce to prove his identity.
Ms. Sarafian said Canadian officials continue to work closely with Mr. Mohamed's family to issue the necessary travel documents as soon as the family has confirmed Mr. Mohamed's travel plans.
"Passport Canada is ready to process his application as soon as it is received and, at the point, we can proceed with issuing travel documents," she said.

Eritrean/Ethiopian? man charged over $65M jewelry heist


Medeshi
LONDON, England (CNN) -- London police have charged a third man in connection with Britain's largest-ever jewelry heist, they said Friday.
(Security camera footage shows the alleged armed robbers during the raid on August 6.)
Clinton Mogg, 42, of Bournemouth, England, was charged with conspiracy to rob the Graff jewelry store in London's Mayfair neighborhood August 6, London's Metropolitan Police Service said.
Mogg was scheduled to appear in court Saturday, police said.
Two other men arrested in the case were charged Friday with conspiracy to commit robbery and possessing a handgun, police said.
Solomun Beyene, 24, (Eritrean/Ethiopian?) of London, and Craig Calderwood, 26, who has no fixed address, appeared in court Friday. They were ordered held until their next court appearance Sept. 1, the court said.
It is not clear if Beyene and Calderwood are the two men seen in surveillance camera footage carrying out the robbery. Police said that determination would be made by a jury.
A fourth man, aged 50, was arrested in the case last week but is free on bail, police said.
Some $65 million in merchandise was stolen in the heist, in which men dressed in suits and ties walked into Graff jewelry store on New Bond Street late in the afternoon and threatened employees with handguns, police said.
The thieves took 43 items including rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches in what police said was the largest jewelry robbery ever carried out in Britain.
The robbers left in a blue BMW, which they abandoned nearby. They switched to a silver Mercedes, then to a black vehicle, possibly a Ford or Volkswagen, police said.
Police described one of the robbers as white, about 30 years old and 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall. The second is a black man believed to be in his 30s with short hair. Both men are thought to have spoken with London accents, police said.
The robbery was the latest in a spate of daytime thefts at jewelry stores and designer shops in the exclusive Bond Street shopping area in Mayfair, which includes New Bond Street.
Groups of men or teenagers typically stage "smash and grab" robberies, in which they break the windows and steal anything they can get their hands on before speeding away in waiting cars or motorbikes.
The thieves strike during the day, when stores' security systems are typically disarmed, even though the store and sidewalk may be crowded with people
NZT

Friday, August 21, 2009

America steps up efforts to have stable Somalia

Medeshi
America steps up efforts to have stable Somalia
August 21 2009
Sarah Kimani, Kenya
America is stepping up efforts to have a stable Somalia through partnership and direct funding of the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia. Africom's Commander General, William Ward, says the commander will train the current AU troops in Somalia and also fund operations aimed at kicking out the militant Al Shabab from the country.
General Ward also denied that there were any plans to build military Garrisons in any part of the continent. As insurgency intensifies in Somalia - America has avoided having its footprint in Somalia, but its hand in helping the shaky transitional Federal government in its fight against the Al Shabab Militia is an open secret.
Although America has no plans to send troops to Somalia, it has pledged to support 4 200 AU peacekeepers. The instability in Somalia and reports of Al Shabab working with foreign fighters linked to Al Qaeda has caused international concern that the country may become a hub for international terrorists. Africom has also been working with African Military forces in strengthening their counter terrorism capabilities.

Press Release: On the illegal sale of Ethiopian farmland


Medeshi
Press Release
Ginbot 7 strongly condemns the illegal sale of Ethiopian farmland
The ruling minority regime in Ethiopia has recently announced that it has set aside nearly 3 million hectares of land for sale to foreign companies and governments. The land that is put aside for sale constitutes a substantial amount of the nation’s fertile land, which is owned and operated by the Ethiopian people. This contemptible transfer of land to foreigners is taking place in a country [Ethiopia] where more than 85 percent of the population directly depend on farming for their livelihood. Ethiopia, the second most populace country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is a country that has suffered years of corrupt agricultural and poor environmental policies that has resulted in a high degree of environmental degradation.
Currently, Ethiopia’s rich bio-diversity is very fragile, and its eco-system is in a precarious condition. Therefore, the proposed large scale agricultural mechanization and chemicalization of soil by foreign governments that ignores the nation’s current and future integrated agricultural and environmental needs is an extremely dangerous move that accelerates the ecological disaster already in progress mainly due to negligence by the irresponsible regime ruling the country.
Following the “Auction Notice” posted by the regime; Ethiopia has become a very attractive destination for Middle Eastern and Asian interests. Under the guise of “Foreign Investment”, the ruling Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has embarked on a large-scale land selling spree, disregarding the advice of economists, environmental experts, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens. In fact, many Ethiopian land experts, policy analysts, agricultural researchers, and the World Food Programme (WFP) have warned that large-scale land acquisition by foreign interests negatively impacts the immediate and long-term economic interests of the people of Ethiopia.
Obviously, the powerful global interests and the countries involved in this neo-colonial land grab with the full consent of Zenawi’s corrupt regime, are not interested in overcoming Ethiopia’s recurring famine and perennial food shortage, their sole interest is to produce agricultural products to alleviate food shortages in their respective countries. Moreover, this illicit land sale will not end poverty as claimed by Zenawi’s regime; it will rather disenfranchise millions of poor peasant farmers who cultivate small pieces of fragmented land (0.09 hectares).
As late as July 2009, the WFP announced that it requires a total of 744,000 metric tons of food to help 9.7 million Ethiopians that need urgent food assistance. Owing to the prevalence of bad governance and faulty economic policies, it is already clear that Ethiopia is far from achieving its Millennium Development Goals. Evidently, the Millennium goals will never be attained if Ethiopian farmers, whom the goal is intended to benefit, are uprooted from their ancestral land.
According to many economic analysts, the TPLF regime’s perfidious foreign land sale deals have far reaching negative economic consequences that hamper agricultural transformation and industrial development in Ethiopia. In many developed and developing countries [including the U.S. and China, one of the land acquiring countries], government policies protect domestic agricultural producers. In Ethiopia, the unpatriotic TPLF regime is doing the exact opposite, which is protecting the interest of foreign producers at the expense of poor Ethiopian farmers.
For example, Ethiopia is a major sesame exporter to China. But, with the new land deal China will have the opportunity to produce sesame and other agricultural products on the cheaply acquired fertile Ethiopian land and ship it directly to its domestic market. If this very troubling “land grab” deal is allowed to continue, in the coming three to five years, Ethiopia’s import earnings will contract, and most importantly, the livelihood of millions of Ethiopian farmers that depends on sesame farming will be endangered. In the long run, Ethiopia’s national security will be severely impacted as foreign interests make more and more agricultural decisions.
Ginbot 7 supports foreign investment in Ethiopia and encourages foreign companies, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to invest in one of Africa’s largest markets. However, deals shrouded with corruption, limited democratic participation by the society at large and non transparent bi-lateral deals with the notoriously opaque Zenawi regime, will not facilitate agricultural and industrial transformation that will be beneficial to the people of Ethiopia.
Ethiopians have harbored exceptionally strong sentimental attachments to the land owned by their ancestors for millennia; and generations of Ethiopians have fought to protect their land. Any attempt at transferring these ancestral lands to foreigners will most definitely provoke strong national resistance.
The Zenawi regime is engaged in this “land for cash” deal with foreign interests to benefit its corrupt ethnic cronies in the ruling party. The Ethiopian people understand that this new wave of foreign land acquisition is neither an investment in their future nor protects the national interest of their country. Furthermore, it needs to be underscored that there is no land in Ethiopia that has no rightful owner. The Zenawi regime can only make these deals by dispossessing and forcefully evicting the rightful owners of the land.
Ginbot 7, strongly condemns this unlawful action by the illegitimate regime of Meles Zenawi and calls on the international community and friends of Ethiopia to denounce the unsavory trend of land acquisition that compromises the food security and land sovereignty of Ethiopia with the concomitant effects on the fragile ecosystem in the country.
Ginbot 7, unequivocally believes that Ethiopian sovereignty trumps contractual obligations. Therefore, all foreign interests that are turning to Ethiopia, in particular, as a food security blanket for their growing population, need to be reminded that the primary and sacred duty of a future democratically elected government of Ethiopia is to protect the welfare of the Ethiopian people.
Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice Freedom and DemocracyGinbot 7 PR Office

Tel +44 208 1335670

pr@ginbot7.org

Dozens killed in Mogadishu fighting


Medeshi
Dozens killed in Mogadishu fighting
At least 24 people have been killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu after Islamist rebels fought Somali government and African Union troops for a second day.
Residents hid in their homes as mortar bombs fired by fighters from al-Shabab, the group battling to remove the government, hit the city on Friday.
Six people died when mortars exploded as traders were setting up their stalls in a market.
Another 18 corpses were recovered after the attacks, ambulance staff said.
"Hundreds of well-armed insurgents came to our district with minibuses and pick-up trucks and immediately they started firing towards the government troops and an African Union base," Mogadishu resident Abdi Haji Ahmed said.
Rebels 'provoked'
"We have been ducking under our concrete balcony for hours."
Al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said his forces retaliated against the African Union troops for earlier rolling into rebel-controlled areas.
"They provoked us by coming into our areas, so we have a right to attack them in their bases," Rage said.
The government and African Union had no immediate comment.
The attacks came a day after 40 people, mostly civilians, died as the two sides sought to gain ground in strategic towns.
Violence and anarchy
The fighting began on Thursday in Bula Burte, about 210km north of the capital, when government soldiers moved into the town controlled by al-Shabab.
The US says al-Shabab, which is fighting to remove the current transitional federal government and impose sharia, or Islamic law, has ties to al-Qaeda, a claim the group denies.
About 4,000 African Union peace keepers from Burundi and Uganda are stationed in Mogadishu to protect government installations.
They have occasionally clashed with al-Shabab fighters as they try to ward of the fighters' advance.
Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew Mohamed Siad Barre, a former dictator, in 1991, before turning on each other.

An Ethiopian singer freed : Movement of Jah people


Medeshi
An Ethiopian singer freed Movement of jah people
Aug 20th 2009 NAIROBI
From The Economist print edition
The country’s Bob Marley can return to what he does best, at a price
IT WAS a euphoric week for younger Ethiopians. The country’s great long-distance runner, Kenenisa Bekele, ran down an Eritrean rival to win gold in the world athletics championships. Even better, the country’s most popular singer, Teddy Afro, was released from prison.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, says there are no political prisoners in his country. Human-rights activists and diplomats say there are thousands—and a lot of Ethiopians believe Mr Afro was one of them.
Mr Afro was jailed for a hit-and-run incident in 2006, despite always insisting that he was not in the car which the prosecution said knocked down and killed a homeless man in Addis Ababa. He served 16 months of a two-year sentence, which had already been reduced on appeal from six years on grounds of shaky evidence. His supporters, though, allege that his jailing had more to do with his third album, “Yasteseryal”, released just before the country’s last election in 2005. A lusty patriot who often sings, with funk and reggae influences, in praise of Ethiopia’s deposed emperor, Haile Selassie, Mr Afro got into trouble for songs which compared Mr Meles’s lot to a brutal junta.
The decision to release him was probably pragmatic. The government knows that it will have to win over unhappy young voters—Mr Afro’s fans—if it is to win next year’s general election convincingly. Officially, the singer’s release was for good behaviour. But it was probably also conditional on his avoiding political songs in the run up to the election. Mr Afro seems to be playing along, at least so far. He told the state media that he had a “nice” time in prison.
The worry for the government is that the release of Mr Afro will now throw the spotlight back on its jailing of Birtukan Mideksa, a charismatic young opposition leader, judge and single mother. Ms Mideksa had already spent 18 months behind bars before she was jailed again earlier this year for denying that she had asked for a pardon. Her supporters say she has had to spend much of the year in solitary confinement.

Somalia’s Government to Soon Sign State of Emergency Law


Medeshi
Somalia’s Government to Soon Sign State of Emergency Law
By Peter Clottey 21 August 2009
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is expected to soon sign into law a state of emergency approved by parliament. This follows the recent escalation of violence perpetrated by hard line Islamic insurgents who have vowed to overthrow the government.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hands with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed during a press conference at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, KenyaThe state of emergency, approved Wednesday, gives President Ahmed special powers to make decisions without consulting the legislature.
It will last for the next three months as the government struggles to wrestle control from the Islamic had liners, including al-Shabab.
Abdi Kadir Walayo , the Somali government spokesman told VOA that neighboring countries are concerned about the violence spilling over into their territories.
"This was a long process and it passed through the Council of Ministers and it was subject to the approval of the parliament. And yesterday the parliament unanimously adopted the state of emergency, which is subjected to be ratified by the president soonest," Walayo said.
He said the government is determined to quell the insurgency.
"The president has the liberty to exercise the emergency (powers) to contain the menace of the opposition armed groups… it will also improve the security situation in the country (and) I hope it will end in the next three months," he said.
Walayo said Somalia's neighbors are concerned about the potential overflow of the ongoing violence.
"You know our neighboring countries are really worried about the spillover of these people (insurgency)… they have an agenda to express what they call fundamentalism in this part of Africa," Walayo said.
Somali Islamist militants carry their weapons as they patrol the streets of northern Mogadishu (File)
He said the insurgents are using Somali territory as their base to launch insurgencies across the horn of Africa region.
"They want to use Somalia as the springboard because they see Somalia as the green ground because of the weakness and nearly 20 years old civil strife," he said.
Walayo said the insurgents are incapable of seizing total control of the entire country.
"This kind of tug of war exists for the last 20 years and no part has the possibility of capturing the whole country. It is just an ambush by the insurgents and they have no ability to capture the country," Walayo said.
He accused the insurgents of cowardly attacking innocent civilians.
"Now what they are doing is only of some urban guerrilla warfare, which is hit and run and it
Somaliais not a full-scale war. It is just and assault and ambush and they make a lot of noise…and as I told you before they are losing ground," he said.
Walayo said the government is determined to ensure that the insurgents do not succeed in their objectives to overthrow President Ahmed's administration.
Meanwhile, a group of Somali elders led by former President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan is attempting to broker a ceasefire deal between the beleaguered government and the hard line Islamic insurgents.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Somalia Illustrates the High Cost of Failed States

Medeshi
Somalia Illustrates the High Cost of Failed States
Thursday, August 20, 2009
By Barrett Sheridan
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Africa visit earlier this month disappointed experts who’d hoped for groundbreaking new policies. But it certainly made one man happy: Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, president of Somalia’s transitional government, who won promises of more money, equipment, and training for his beleaguered country.
If the promised millions have much effect, Washington will be getting a bargain. The global cost of anarchy in Somalia and other failed states like Haiti is far higher than most assume. The total bill, according to new estimates by political scientists at Oxford University, comes to $270 billion a year and includes the damage from civil war and the lost income due to nonfunctioning economies. Even in the era of trillion-dollar financial bailouts, that’s still a shockingly high figure, and a conservative one at that—it doesn’t include the impossible-to-pin-down costs of the global threats, such as drug trafficking, spawned by failed states. Still, the brunt of the tab—some 87 percent—is borne by the neighbors of failed states, whose national incomes are depressed by the nearby chaos. That can drag down -vital U.S. allies like Kenya, which now hosts some 300,000 Somali refugees, and expand the region in which pirates, terrorists, and other international dangers thrive. Such a calculus should revise U.S. thinking, as it makes the price of nonintervention much higher than previously thought—even when the immediate risk is far from American shores.
Newsweek

Deep concern at prospect of one-party race in Somaliland.

Medeshi
PRESS RELEASE for immediate release
**Deep concern at prospect of one-party race in Somaliland presidential vote, international election observation coordinators say**
The UK-based team coordinating election observers for the forthcoming presidential elections in the internationally unrecognised Republic of Somaliland has expressed its "deep concern" at political developments in the run-up to the much-delayed vote scheduled for 27 September 2009.
Progressio, the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL) and Somaliland Focus UK say in a joint statement: "In recent weeks, two of the three political parties in Somaliland have announced their intention to boycott the vote. While we remain committed to the need for an election as soon as possible, under the current circumstances the only possible outcome of a one-party race would be seen by a significant proportion of Somalilanders as lacking legitimacy."
The statement continues: "We are therefore concerned about whether we are able to provide the coordination and observation role to which we have been committed to date, unless the situation changes markedly."
The coordination team also urges stakeholders in Somaliland to come together to solve the "critical dilemma" surrounding the elections and calls on the country's National Electoral Commission to ensure all political actors and parties who have demonstrated a commitment to participation in the electoral process are actively engaged as participants.
The UK-based team was invited to lead the election observation mission by the Somaliland National Electoral Commission in January. The team has been tasked with coordinating international election observers from four continents and preparing a report on the conduct of the campaign and poll following the vote. Support for the mission is being provided by the UK government.
Somaliland has long stood out as a "remarkable example of indigenous democracy in a corner of Africa that possesses more than its share of problems," the statement notes. It concludes: "Somaliland has a number of unparalleled opportunities to improve its standing internationally and domestically, with a successful presidential election standing as an essential next step on that path."
To read the full text of the joint statement, see: http://www.progressio.org.uk/progressio/internal/98220/deep_concern_at_prospect_of_one_party_race_in_soma/
*Notes to editors*
1.For further information or to arrange an interview with a member of the coordination team, contact: Jo Barrett, Media Officer, Progressio, London on +44 (0)7940 703911 or jo@progressio.org.uk
2.Somaliland's Presidential elections have been repeatedly delayed, including polling days in December 2008 and on 29 March 2009.
3.Somaliland is situated in Somalia's northwest. It declared unilateral independence from the failed Somali state in 1991 and has since been a haven of relative peace whilst violence and instability has characterised Somalia, its capital Mogadishu and more recently the Gulf of Aden.
4.Progressio's involvement in the mission follows its leadership of the international monitoring team for Somaliland's inaugural parliamentary elections in 2005, judged by observers as "basically free and fair".
5.Progressio has been working with local communities in Somaliland since 1995 by placing skilled workers with local organisations specialising in advocating for the rights of women, youth and people with disabilities as well as supporting basic health service provision and people living with HIV and AIDS. Progressio also actively supports progress towards democratisation and stabilising the country.
ends

Man or woman?


Medeshi
Man or woman?
Tom Fordyce Wednesday, 19 August 2009
When Usain Bolt is no longer the main topic of conversation at the World Championships, you know something dramatic must have happened.
There had been whispers circulating about South African 800m prodigy Caster Semenya ever since she ran a spectacular 1 minute 56.72 seconds in a low-key meet on 26 July.
Not only was it the fastest time in the world this year by more than a second, it meant she had improved her personal best by seven seconds in less than nine months. And, she said afterwards, she could have run even quicker had it not been for a strong wind on the back straight.
For once, the tittle-tattle was not the usual sort about performance-enhancing substances. This was more basic and a whole lot nastier: was the 'she' actually a 'he'?
It wasn't just the rapid time. Semenya has a well-muscled physique. She also has a dusting of facial hair. Mix those three things together and ugly rumours spread like wildfire.
What no-one quite expected was the way the story would suddenly develop with the 800m final just hours away.
Earlier in the week, it had been the stuff of bar-room banter. The favourite quote was from Semenya's coach Michael Seme, who had told reporters: "I can give you the telephone numbers of her room-mates in Berlin. They have already seen her naked in the showers and she has nothing to hide."
Seme also recounted how, when Semenya recently tried to use the women's toilets at a petrol station in Cape Town, the attendants tried to direct her to the gents instead.
"Caster just laughed and asked if they would like her to take off her pants to show them she was a woman," said Seme. "We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It's a natural reaction and it's only human to be curious."
So far, so amusing - but the atmosphere began to change when Semenya charged through her heat and semi-final in such dominant fashion that she was suddenly the red-hot favourite for gold.
What had been a story known only to athletics aficionados suddenly had legs. Questions started being asked of athletics' ruling body, the IAAF. The jokes started getting more unpleasant. The 'c' word - cheat - rose to the surface.
Cynics recalled the famous case of German high jumper Dora Ratjen, who competed at the Olympics here in Berlin in 1936 but was later revealed to be a chap named Hermann. The comparison was ridiculous - Ratjen was forced to conceal his gender by the Nazi government and had been born and raised a man - and the reaction from the South African team indignant.
'She is a female," insisted general manager Molatelo Malehopo. "We are completely sure about that. We would not have entered her into the female competition if we had any doubts."
Then, with just three hours to go until the final, news broke in Berlin that the IAAF had asked Semenya to take a gender test.
The story fizzed round the Olympiastadion. What did the test involve? When would the results be known? Would Semenya even be allowed to run?
Gradually the prevailing mood shifted. Why was this coming out now? In the case of a doping test, the media are not notified unless both 'A' and 'B' samples have tested positive. Until then there is silence. Yet here a cloud of official suspicion was being allowed to gather before anything had been proved.
That any woman would be confronted with such serious accusation in front of a worldwide audience of millions struck many as callous. That it was an 18-year-old from Limpopo province at her first major senior championships seemed cruel in the extreme.
Semenya was on the warm-up track while inside the gossip flew round the adjacent main stadium. "The timing has caught us out," admitted an IAAF spokesman as the eight finalists were called together.
As Semenya emerged onto the track from the pre-race call-room, the photographers' long lenses swung in unison and locked on her face.
She looked implausibly calm under her neat corn-rows. On the blocks she waited for the television camera to come in close on her and then mimed brushing something from her shoulders. That there were two British girls in the final - Jenny Meadows and Marilyn Okoro, both with a chance of a medal - had almost been forgotten.
As if trying to escape the furore, the South African went off at breakneck speed. Reigning champ Janeth Jepkosgei took over for a few brief seconds on the back straight but was left struggling as the teenager took them through the bell in under 57 seconds, a blistering pace.
While the rest of the field went backwards, Semenya went again. Coming into the final straight she had a lead of five metres. At the line it was two and a half seconds, the biggest margin in World Championship history and another big personal best.
Yet while Jepkosgei and Meadows - a brilliant third - went off for laps of honour, Semenya was ushered away by officials, straight past the hordes of waiting journalists.
At the winner's news conference half an hour later, there was no sign of the teenager. "To protect her," explained a weary IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss.
For the hundreds of reporters waiting, this was not enough. Where were the tests done? "At a special hospital here and in South Africa." When were they finished? "They are ongoing." Why was this not sorted earlier? Semenya had run the 800m at the Commonwealth Youth Games as long ago as last October, albeit in a vastly slower time. "She was unknown three weeks ago. Nobody could have anticipated this. We are fast, but we are not a lion."
What had Weiss heard so far? "Personally," he said, his moustache drooping even lower than normal, "I have no clue what is going on. I rely on and trust our doctors."
One thing was made clear: if the tests, whenever they do come out, subsequently show that Semenya cannot legally compete as a woman, she will be stripped of her medal and the placings revised.
The trouble is, those results could be weeks away. From all accounts they are also incredibly complicated and open to various interpretations. In the meantime, Semenya will be under media siege. The most private aspect of her life will be the subject of intense public scrutiny.
"Running is just a game to me," she had said after her semi-final win. Not any more.
On Thursday she is due to be awarded her medal. No-one could blame her if she asked for it to be posted to her instead.

Harassment of journalists continues in Somaliland with two arrested and one beaten

Medeshi
Harassment of journalists continues in Somaliland with two arrested and one beaten
MOGADISHU, Somalia, August 20, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ —
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of two journalists employed by Radio Horyaal, an independent station based in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland. They are Fowsi Suleyman Awbindi, held since 30 July, and Yasin Jama Ali, a website editor and Radio Horyaal stringer, who has been held since 13 August.
The press freedom organisation is also worried about the condition of freelance journalist Ali Adan Dahir, who was attacked and badly beaten in Somaliland on 17 August.
“Within three days of the release of Radio Horyaal journalists Ahmed Saleyman Dhuhul and Sayid Osman Mire, two other journalists working for the same station were in detention,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the Somaliland authorities to put a stop to this harassment by freeing them and by recognising the legality of independent radio stations.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Meanwhile, the release of Ali Adan Dahir’s four assailants is a real bonus for impunity.”
Yasin Jama Ali was arrested on 13 August in the port city of Berbera, 125 km northeast of Hargeisa, because of comments about Somaliland’s coming elections that readers posted on Berberanews.com, the website he edits. The Berbera authorities accused him of spreading “scandals against the nation.
Awbindi was arrested in Buro, 155 km east of Hargeisa, on 30 July for sending a “false report” to Radio Horyaal. He is still being held in the Buro police station.
The governor of Erigabo, 250 km east of Hargeisa, yesterday ordered the release of the four armed men who had given Dahir a severe beating the day before for unknown reasons
The Somaliland authorities adopted a law in June 2002 that outlaws independent radio stations. The region, which unilaterally declared independence in 1991, is preparing to hold a presidential election on 27 September.
SOURCE : Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UK : My trip to Degmo

(Medeshi ) - Trip to Degmo -  Updated : 02/06/2010 - Written by M. Ali (Medeshi) Earlier published on August 18, 2009.

Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid


Medeshi
August 19, 2009
Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF and SHERYL WUDUNN
NY Times
(Edna Adan A former first lady of Somalia and World Health Organization official, she built her own maternity hospital in the enclave of Somaliland.)
People always ask us: How can I help the world’s needy? How can I give in a way that will benefit a real person and won’t just finance corruption or an aid bureaucracy? There are innumerable answers to those questions, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of them involve women. From among the examples in our book “Half the Sky,” here are a handful:
Choose a woman to lend to on kiva.org. The minimum amount is $25, and you can choose from people all over the world. The money will be used to support a business and will be paid back. Or go to globalgiving.com, find a woman abroad whose cause you identify with and make a small gift. On GlobalGiving, for example, we have supported a program to prevent runaway girls from being trafficked into brothels.
Sponsor a girl abroad through one of the many child-sponsorship organizations. We do so through Plan USA (planusa.org), but there are many other great ones, including Women for Women International (womenforwomen.org).
Become an advocate for change by joining the CARE Action Network at care.org. CARE is now focused on assisting women and girls for the pragmatic reason that that is where it can get the best results. The network helps people speak out and educate policy makers about global poverty.
Find a cause that resonates with you, learn more about it and adopt it. For example, we send checks to support an extraordinary Somali woman, Edna Adan (see above), who has invested her savings and her soul in her own maternity hospital in Somaliland (ednahospital.org). Even school kids can make a difference. Jordana Confino, an eighth grader in Westfield, N.J., started an initiative with friends to help girls go to school in poor countries. The effort grew to become Girls Learn International (girlslearn.org), which now pairs American middle schools and high schools with needy classrooms in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
An expanded list of organizations that specialize in supporting women in developing countries is available here.

Cheney Uncloaks His Frustration With Bush


Medeshi
Cheney Uncloaks His Frustration With Bush'Statute of Limitations Has Expired' on Many Secrets, Former Vice President Says
By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009
In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the "far left" agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney's White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.
Cheney's disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.
"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times -- never apologize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."
The two men maintain respectful ties, speaking on the telephone now and then, though aides to both said they were never quite friends. But there is a sting in Cheney's critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end.
Cheney's post-White House career is as singular as his vice presidency, a position he transformed into the hub of power. Drained of direct authority and cast aside by much of the public, he is no less urgently focused, friends and family members said, on shaping events.
The former vice president remains convinced of mortal dangers that few other leaders, in his view, face squarely. That fixed belief does much to explain the conduct that so many critics find baffling. He gives no weight, close associates said, to his low approval ratings, to the tradition of statesmanlike White House exits or to the grumbling of Republicans about his effect on the party brand.
John P. Hannah, Cheney's second-term national security adviser, said the former vice president is driven, now as before, by the nightmare of a hostile state acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists. Aaron Friedberg, another of Cheney's foreign policy advisers, said Cheney believes "that many people find it very difficult to hold that idea in their head, really, and conjure with it, and see what it implies."
What is new, Hannah said, is Cheney's readiness to acknowledge "doubts about the main channels of American policy during the last few years," a period encompassing most of Bush's second term. "These are not small issues," Hannah said. "They cut to the very core of who Cheney is," and "he really feels he has an obligation" to save the country from danger.
Cheney's imprint on law and policy, achieved during the first term at the peak of his influence, had faded considerably by the time he and Bush left office. Bush halted the waterboarding of accused terrorists, closed secret CIA prisons, sought congressional blessing for domestic surveillance, and reached out diplomatically to Iran and North Korea, which Cheney believed to be ripe for "regime change."
Some of the disputes between the president and his Number Two were more personal. Shortly after Bush fired Donald H. Rumsfeld, Cheney called his old mentor history's "finest secretary of defense" and invited direct comparison to Bush by saying he had "never learned more" from a boss than he had as Rumsfeld's deputy in the Ford administration.
The depths of Cheney's distress about another close friend, his former chief of staff and alter ego I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have only recently become clear. Bush refused a pardon after Libby's felony convictions in 2007 for perjury and obstruction of an investigation of the leak of a clandestine CIA officer's identity. Cheney tried mightily to prevent Libby's fall, scrawling in a note made public at trial that he would not let anyone "sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder." Cheney never explained the allusion, but grand jury transcripts -- and independent counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald -- suggested that Libby's false statements aimed above all to protect the vice president.
Last month, an account in Time magazine, based on close access to Bush's personal lawyer and White House counsel, described Cheney's desperate end-of-term efforts to change Bush's mind about a pardon. Cheney, who has spent a professional lifetime ignoring unflattering stories, issued a quietly furious reply. In the most explicit terms, he accused Bush of abandoning "an innocent man" who had served the president with honor and then become the "victim of a severe miscarriage of justice." Cheney now says privately that his memoir, expected to be published in spring 2011, will describe their heated arguments in full.
Despite an ailing heart and reduced mobility, the former vice president at age 68 retains a prodigious capacity for work. He rises early, reads voraciously about history and current events, and acquired a BlackBerry in modest recompense for the loss of daily intelligence briefings. He allows himself some indulgences, Liz Cheney said in an interview. She said her father relishes his new freedom to take a morning drive to Starbucks in a black SUV, toting home the decaffeinated latte on which his doctor and his wife, Lynne, insist. He attends the soccer and softball games of his oldest grandchildren, Kate and Elizabeth, and spends more time than he could as vice president fly fishing near his vacation homes in Wyoming and on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
But Cheney passes most of his days at the top of the garage at his new house in McLean, where he built an office under the dormered roof and filled it with books and binders of his vice presidential papers. He kept copies of the unclassified ones and consults the rest on visits to the National Archives. He took detailed notes in the White House, head bobbing up and down as he wrote and sometimes disappearing from the screen in videoconferences. Those notes, according to one person who has discussed them with Cheney, will form the core of his account of the Bush years.
"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience. There was no sense in which he looked back and said, 'I wish I'd done something differently.' Rather, there was a sense that they hadn't gone far enough. If he'd been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they'd have been able to push further."
Some old associates see Cheney's newfound openness as a breach of principle. For decades, he expressed contempt for departing officials who wrote insider accounts, arguing that candid internal debate was impossible if the president and his advisers could not count on secrecy. As far back as 1979, one of the heroes in Lynne Cheney's novel "Executive Privilege" resolved never to write a memoir because "a president deserved at least one person around him whose silence he could depend on." Cheney lived that vow for the next 30 years.
As vice president, according to one witness, Cheney "was livid" when the memoir of L. Paul Bremer, who led the occupation of Iraq, made the less-than-stunning disclosure that Cheney shared Bremer's concern about U.S. military strategy. A Cabinet-level Bush appointee recalled that Cheney likewise described revelations by former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill and former White House spokesman Scott McClellan as "beyond the pale."
"If he goes out and writes a memoir that spills beans about what took place behind closed doors, that would be out of character," said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House spokesman during Bush's first term.
Yet that appears to be precisely Cheney's intent. Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets. "When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him," Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. "Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened. . . . And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views."
Liz Cheney, whom friends credit with talking her father into writing the book, described the memoir as a record for posterity. "You have to think about his love of history, and when he thinks about this memoir, he thinks about it as a book his grandchildren will read," she said.
What the former vice president assuredly will not do, according to friends and family, is break a lifetime's reticence about his feelings. Alluding to Bush's forthcoming memoir, Cheney told one small group recently that he had no interest "in sharing personal details," as the former president planned to do.
"He sort of spat the word 'personal,' " said one person in the room.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ex-wife admits Kuwait wedding arson


Medeshi
Ex-wife admits Kuwait wedding arson Kuwaiti
The ex-wife of a groom at a Kuwaiti wedding party has admitted starting a blaze that engulfed a tent, killing 43 women and children.
(Kuwaiti mourners carry the body of a victim of the fire that ripped through the wedding party [AFP]
The 23-year-old told police she poured petrol around the packed wedding tent and set it on fire to avenge her ex-husband's "bad 'treatment" of her before their divorce, Kuwait's Al-Qabas newspaper said on Monday.
Colonel Mohammad al-Saber, an interior ministry spokesman, said: "We have identified the perpetrator who confessed to committing the crime for personal reasons."
He told Kuwaiti television the fire engulfed the tent in just three minutes.
The bride escaped injured, but her mother and sister were killed.
Petrol blaze
Al-Qabas said the woman's maid had told police she saw her employer pouring petrol around the large women-only tent in the town of Jahra before the blaze started on Saturday night.
Ninety other people were injured in the inferno, which was the deadliest civilian disaster in the modern history of the Gulf state.
Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and forensics specialists were working to identify the victims, officials said.
Sixteen of the dead were buried on Sunday.
Five people remain in critical condition with severe burns. At least seven of the dead were children.
Medical officials have said that specialised medical teams from Germany and Britain were coming to Kuwait to treat the injured.
The government of the oil-rich state has formed a high-level committee to investigate the incident after sharp criticism by politicians that authorities were too slow in the rescue operations.
Investigation demanded
A number of MPs have demanded a probe into why authorities failed to apply strict safety and security rules for wedding tents.
The interior ministry has advised citizens against setting up tents in residential areas as they could obstruct any rescue operations.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah expressed deep sympathy with the families of the victims and said he will not accept greetings on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, expected to start this weekend.
Several MPs have called on the government to declare a state of national mourning.
Last year, two women died and several others were wounded in a similar incident in Jahra, 50km west of the capital Kuwait City.
Most wedding parties in the conservative Muslim Gulf state are segregated in line with local tradition.
AJZ

Eritrea to pay Ethiopia millions

Medeshi
Eritrea to pay Ethiopia millions
An international tribunal in The Hague has ruled that Eritrea will have to pay Ethiopia millions of dollars in compensation for war damages.
Both were ordered to pay each other damages for the 1989-2000 border war, but the verdict leaves Eritrea with $10m (£6m) more to pay.
The ruling covers compensation for businesses and goods lost and villages destroyed during the bitter conflict.
Eritrea has already said it accepts the ruling of the tribunal.
The Claims Commission, set up at the end of the war, ruled on awards across a range of issues.
It gave a monetary value to the damage suffered by Ethiopians during a notorious incident when Eritrean jets dropped cluster bombs on a school in the town of Mekele.
It also awarded Eritreans living in Ethiopia, whose homes and properties were seized by the government.
Some claims - such as an Ethiopian demand for $1bn of environmental damage - were dismissed.
In total Ethiopia was awarded $174m, while Eritrea got $164m - a net payment to Ethiopia of just over $10m.
The chief legal adviser to Ethiopia, Don Pickard, said he did not think the amount reflected the level of damage suffered by Ethiopia during the war.
BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the real tragedy is that the money, like the rest of the internationally supported peace process, will settle very little.
The border between the two countries is still in dispute and tens of thousands of troops remain entrenched along the border, over its bleak mountains and deserts.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Ethiopian Woman Gang raped and murdered in UAE

Medeshi
Gang raped and murdered
Friday 14 Aug, 2009
By Ali Al-Shouk
Police have arrested four men on suspicion of the gang rape and murder of a young housemaid.
The Emiratis were arrested following the discovery of a woman’s body last week on farmland in the Al-Daid region of Sharjah. The victim, an Ethiopian aged in her 20s, had suffered extensive wounds to her head.
Police believe she had been repeatedly struck with rocks until she died.
Sources at Sharjah Police said the woman had been working as a maid at a house in Khor Fakan in Sharjah and disappeared at the beginning of this month.
“She had been working for the three months before she disappeared from the house,” the source said. “She had no reason to disappear and no friends in the area.”
The source added: “Our investigations led us to the main suspect who is an Emirati and who has had a previous conviction for carrying out such a crime.”
During investigations the man confessed to the murder and said he had carried out the attack with three other men.
The source said the main suspect had previously been jailed for the rape and murder of a Pakistani teenage girl and had been sentenced to death for the crime.
However, after serving a number of years in jail he was then released and pardoned after paying blood money to his 13-year-old victim’s family.
According to the preliminary police investigations, the gang watched the housemaid for a number of days before kidnapping her. She was gagged and then repeatedly gang-raped.
Despite escaping from her attackers, the men hunted her down, raped her again and then killed her to prevent her identifying them to police, according to the source.
The men are being held in custody while the investigations continue.

Defence, foreign ministers changed in Somali reshuffle

Medeshi
Defence, foreign ministers changed in Somali reshuffle
(AFP)
MOGADISHU — Somalia's prime minister reshuffled his cabinet Tuesday, replacing his foreign and defence ministers as his embattled administration struggles to fend off a bloody Islamist insurgency.
The reshuffle saw one minister sacked, two new portfolios created and appeared to mark an attempt by the transitional federal administration to defuse clan tensions and be more inclusive of some key regions.
"After lengthy discussions between the president and the prime minister, a decision was made to reshuffle the cabinet in order to help improve the situation in the country," Abdulkader Mohamoud Walayo, a spokesman for the transitional federal government (TFG), told AFP.
"I hope this cabinet will be able to perform better and restore stability in Somalia," he added.
Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke reshuffle comes three and half months into a bruising military offensive by a coalition of hardline Islamist insurgents groups aimed at toppling internationally-backed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
One of the most notable changes was Mohamed Abdi Gandi's removal from the defence ministry. He was replaced Abdallah Boss Ahmed, a politician from the self-proclaimed northern region of Somaliland.
Gandi was criticised for failing to significantly beef up the TFG's military capacity and not taking the fight to the Shebab -- an Al Qaeda-inspired rebel group -- and their allies from the more political Hezb al-Islam.
Significantly, Sheikh Yusuf Indahhade -- a powerful Islamist warlord who recently joined forces with Sharif -- was appointed deputy defence minister.
Sharmarke also appointed Ali Jama Ahmed Jengeli as foreign minister, in place of Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, who was given the water and mining portfolio.
Jengeli is from the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland and was already a foreign minister under Sharif's predecessor, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who resigned last year.
Dahir Mohamud Gele was named the new minister of information, replacing Ali Mohamed, who will now be in charge of militia rehabilitation.
A new post of treasury minister was also created to work alongside the existing finance minister and handed to Abdirahman Omar Osman.
The changes in the cabinet bring to 39 the total number of ministers and appear to address the grievances of some key Somali clans.
"There are two new Abgal ministers. They had been unhappy with the previous distribution of portfolios and this reshuffle looks like an attempt to prevent any internal destabilisation," one official said on condition of anonymity.
With or without changes to the cabinet, observers remained sceptical as to the administration's ability to make any impact on the situation in Somalia, which continues to be ravaged by an 18-year-old civil conflict.
Sharif, a young radical cleric who spearheaded the 2006 struggle against Ethiopia's invasion, was elected as the country's president in January.
He has since failed to assert his administration's and remained largely boxed into his presidential compound in Mogadishu, owing his survival mainly to the presence of African Union peacekeepers.

Drought and Famine: Ethiopia's Cycle Continues

The times
















Medeshi
Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009
Drought and Famine: Ethiopia's Cycle Continues
By Kassahun Addis / Addis Ababa
As Ethiopia remains caught in a deadly cycle of drought and famine, aid agencies warn that erratic rainfall and ever-rising food costs are compounding the problems carried over from last year's drought to leave 6.2 million people in need of food assistance, on top of the 7.5 million already getting aid from the government.
Close to 14 million Ethiopians — 20% of the country's total population — now have difficulty finding enough to eat, including, according to UNICEF, 62,000 children under five in the worst-affected areas who received treatment for severe acute malnutrition during the first half of 2009. And that number is set to rise. "There are growing concerns about the impact of relief food shortfalls on already vulnerable children," UNICEF said on Aug. 6. "As therapeutic feeding programs reach more hot-spot districts, the number of severely malnourished children receiving treatment will increase." The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) says the problem in the ethnic Somali region, Ogaden, is complicated even further due to "insurgent activity and security operations" that are disrupting trade networks and the movement of people and livestock. (See pictures of Ethiopia's harvest of hunger.)
Reports of rising numbers of nutrition-related deaths and illnesses in Ethiopia are coming out amid tense times for humanitarian organizations, who face various obstacles in their attempts to deal with the effects of the drought. Unlike in previous years, the current crisis is not getting much play in the media. Part of the reason could be that after last year's drought put Ethiopia in the headlines, the country's government — no fan of negative attention — decided this time to take matters of food relief into its own hands, pushing international NGOs to the sidelines. "Giving publicity to the issue angered the government so much that this year they decided to handle most of the activities by themselves, far away from the spotlight of non-governmental actors," a coordinator of a European NGO (who requested anonymity) tells TIME. (See pictures on the front lines of hunger.)
Earlier this year, Ethiopia's parliament passed a tough new law seeking to regulate charities and foreign humanitarian groups in the country. The law, which labels as foreign any local organization that gets more than 10% of its funding from abroad, restricts charity work on issues related to gender, ethnicity, children's rights and conflict resolution, and bars advocacy activities. The government says the law is meant to ensure that charities focus on development, but many fear it will deter those working in the field from taking bold actions like advocating for the hungry.
International aid organizations are also struggling with a shortage of supplies. So far this year, donors have contributed a total in cash and kind of almost $176 million, equivalent to 271,000 metric tons of food — less than 50% of last year's contributions. Many aid workers blame the financial crisis, but while recession-hit donors are keeping their wallets closed, the situation in Ethiopia is only getting more urgent. (Read: "Ethiopia: Pain amid Plenty.")
Ethiopia's rain-fed agriculture is "shockingly vulnerable" to small variations in the patterns of rainfall, says one Western diplomat, and the country has no chance to recover from the last drought before the next one hits. "The impact of last year works through this year," says Jolanda Hogenkamp, the World Food Program's Deputy Head of Programs in Ethiopia. "The picture we see now is more or less the same as last year. Largely the same numbers and same areas." (Read: "Famine: Hunger Stalks Ethiopia Once Again.")
Another top Western diplomat puts it more plainly: "This year's problem is very serious because last year's was serious." And with aid funding drying up and the Ethiopian government restricting help from NGOs, next year can only be more serious still.


Famine Hunger stalks Ethiopia once again - and aid groups fear the worst

They look like the scrawny camp followers of a medieval army as they gather under a huge bluff called Dongordo. The earth is boiled beige, with hardly a blade of green. There are nearly 7,000 of them, and they began assembling here long before dawn. Dressed in ragged homespun cotton and wrapped in long shawls called netela, they come in entire families, grandfathers and grandchildren. The men hold herding sticks; the women carry babies bound to their backs with cloth. And then there are the youngsters, some of them naked and with their heads shaved except for a single tuft in front. They are strangely silent.
The multitude comes from two Ethiopian villages, Asbi and Habes, in the dusty, barren hills to the north. Some walked all day and all night across 31 miles of craggy terrain to reach this scorched patch just outside Wukro, a district capital in the province of Tigre. Once again a drought has cursed Tigre, and once again the hungry have come to receive food from relief workers. Family after family moves past the rough wood table to register for the donations. Each supplicant dips a finger in purple dye to ensure that there is no cheating for seconds. "It is worse this year than it was in 1984 and 1985," laments Chief Elder Muboulle Osman, a tall, worried-looking man of about 50. "There are 72,000 people in this area, and we have no food, not even grazing for our animals. Without this," he gestures toward a long, green tarpaulin piled high with wheat flour, beans and grain, "we would starve and die."
Before the families receive their ration of food, the children are examined by health workers. Their eyes are peered at; their skin is checked. The aides take measurements of each child. If he or she is too small, it can be a sign of chronic malnourishment. Danish Nutritionist Birthe Pedersen, who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross, is measuring an eight-year-old boy. The upper part of his sticklike arm is 9.8 cm around; a normal child's arm is about 15 cm. After the boy walks away, Pedersen looks grim. "He will not live very long," she says.
Three years ago, a famine began to strike Ethiopia with apocalyptic force. Westerners watched in horror as the images of death filled their TV screens: the rows of fly-haunted corpses, the skeletal orphans crouched in pain, the villagers desperately scrambling for bags of grain dropped from the sky. What started out as a trickle of aid turned into a billion-dollar flood. The U.S., the largest donor, sent $500 million, and that does not include millions in private contributions. Irish Rocker Bob Geldof enlisted the help of his fellow musicians, dubbed his crusade Band Aid and raised $140 million. The rescue effort was plagued by delays and controversy, and some 1 million Ethiopians eventually died. But more would have perished if the world had not responded so generously.
Today Ethiopia is in the midst of another drought, and thousands of peasants are again on the move, trekking across the parched landscape in search of that bag of flour or handful of beans that will keep them going for a few more days or weeks. Ethiopia, which has earned the unhappy honor of being rated the globe's poorest country by the World Bank (average annual per capita income: + $110; infant mortality rate: 16.8%), is on the brink of disaster again. At least 6 million of its 46 million people face starvation, and only a relief effort on the scale of the one launched three years ago will save them. Some of Ethiopia's needs have already been met, but the grain still required could be the difference between hunger and death for millions. As the cry goes out once more for food and money, the sympathetic cannot be faulted for wondering why this is happening all over again. Is the latest famine wholly the result of cruel nature, or are other, man-made forces at work that worsen the catastrophe?
Elsewhere in Africa, conditions are only slightly less precarious. Millions of people up and down the continent face spending Christmas Eve on empty stomachs. Many will surely die unless food shipments arrive early in 1988. The United Nations' World Food Program puts relief requirements for 15 needy countries at 2.7 million metric tons (the 15: Angola, Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Only half of this goal has been met so far by donors.
The situation in Ethiopia is not yet as bad as it was two years ago, when hundreds died daily of hunger and disease in mass feeding camps. As of last week there was enough food to last for a month and enough promised in the international aid pipeline to nourish the country through April. While thousands of peasants have been temporarily uprooted from their villages, they have learned the lesson of 1984-85 and have gone in search of food before they are too weak to travel. U.N. officials say that for the moment there are no permanent feeding camps, where more died of rampant infectious disease than of hunger the last time around. Those who gather at Wukro go back to their villages after receiving a month's supply of food, then return in a month or so.
But things could rapidly deteriorate if the available food cannot be distributed quickly enough. "The next few weeks are crucial," said Dr. Goran Hanson, a Swedish Red Cross worker in Addis Ababa. "If food and transport do not arrive in time to keep people in their villages and prevent them from gathering in famine camps, it will simply be disaster. We desperately need food, trucks and planes. We are now short of all three."
The response from the West has again been generous. Last week BBC Correspondent Michael Buerk, whose reporting first alerted the world to the scope of the last famine, led an appeal that raised $650,000 in five days. Weeks before the latest drought attracted publicity, the major private food- aid agencies -- the Red Cross, Oxfam, Caritas, Care and Catholic Relief Services -- were shipping food by sea and air and distributing it to the needy.
Why, after two short years, do hundreds of thousands, even millions, again face starvation? While Western experts primarily blame the lack of rain, many place much of the responsibility on the shoulders of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose rigid and secretive Communist regime has done little to avert another tragedy. Not only does the Addis Ababa government seem more concerned with putting down various insurgencies than with feeding the hungry, but it has also continued policies that seem designed to aggravate rather than resolve problems of poverty.
Those policies include a population-resettlement program, the opening of Soviet-style collective farms and a "villagization" effort that moves farmers off their isolated homesteads and into government-built settlements. The collective farms are such a doctrinaire Stalinist scheme that even the Soviet Union has urged officials in Addis Ababa to scale back their ambitious plans.
Geldof, who received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his Band Aid efforts, was back in Ethiopia last week, and his indictment of Mengistu's role in the new famine was harsh and to the point: "I would say that the cardinal responsibility of any government is to feed its own people, and any government refusing to do that is irresponsible."
In 1984 hundreds of thousands had already starved to death before the government admitted to a famine. And Mengistu, a former army major with a tendency toward the grandiose, was widely denounced for spending an estimated $100 million to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the revolution that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie. There are signs he may be curbing his spendthrift ways: in September, when the country was renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mengistu opted for a cocktail party instead of a banquet.
Like much of Africa, Ethiopia has always been subject to ecological disaster. Droughts and famines were reported as early as 253 B.C. In the great drought of 1888, a third of the population is said to have died from malnourishment and disease. This latest calamity is part of a 30-year pattern that has seen the rains repeatedly fail along the Sahel, the wide swath of land that cuts Africa in half just below the Sahara. After the 1984-85 drought, which killed an estimated 2 million people in Africa, there was a brief period of uncommon optimism in Addis Ababa. In 1985 and 1986 the rains were good for the first time since 1981. Though hunger persisted, no one was starving. When the rains came on schedule last June, it looked as if the nation would have a third year of good luck. But July was bone dry -- not a drop of water the entire month. Stubbornly hopeful, farmers replanted. In August the rain sputtered, then, late in the month, stopped. The crops withered and died.
Worst hit was the far northern province of Eritrea along the Red Sea, where the crop failure exceeded 80%. More than 40% of the harvest was lost in Tigre, 44% in Wollo and 35% in Harar, the Ogaden desert region that juts into Somalia. Altogether, nine of Ethiopia's 14 provinces are suffering food shortages.
In this age of the green revolution, with crop yields skyrocketing, drought no longer automatically means famine. India, for example, is now in the midst of its worst drought in decades, but because it has a food surplus and a relatively organized system for feeding the hungry, few are expected to starve. Usually it is the combination of drought, mismanagement and civil war that brings famine. Ethiopia is afflicted with all three.
Getting the food to the hungry is made more difficult by inadequate port facilities, poor or nonexistent roads and insufficient planes and trucks to transport food to rural areas. But the biggest block in the pipeline is civil strife. The government is battling 23 rebel groups and factions in every part of the country. The two strongest insurgent armies are in Tigre and Eritrea, the provinces hit hardest by the drought. Eritrea has been in rebellion against the government ever since it was annexed by Ethiopia in 1962, and a guerrilla movement began building in Tigre in 1977.
During the last famine the rebels and international agencies had a policy of live and let live. But in late October, Eritrean People's Liberation Front guerrillas attacked an unguarded convoy of 23 trucks on its way from Asmara, capital of Eritrea, to Mekele, capital of Tigre. One driver was killed, and the trucks -- loaded with 674 tons of food, enough to feed 30,000 people for a month -- were destroyed by grenades. The E.P.L.F. claimed that some of the trucks contained military equipment, a charge that U.N. officials deny. Since then, the E.P.L.F. has attacked two Ethiopian military-civilian convoys that reportedly included food trucks.
The rebel sabotage brought the entire operation for Tigre and Eritrea to a halt for more than a month. Not only were the convoys under threat from Eritrean and Tigrean rebels, but even those agencies willing to risk assault could not move their trucks because the government closed the roads. "If many people die this year and next, it will not be due to drought but the politico- military situation," said one relief worker.
Convoys are moving again during daylight hours in Eritrea, with agency staffers driving the perilous roads at their own risk. But much of Tigre remains cut off; the Tigrean People's Liberation Front has demanded that the Mengistu government rescind its resettlement policy before it guarantees the safety of the food trucks.
Resettlement is an ambitious government scheme to move 1.5 million peasants from the overcrowded and barren north to the more fertile south. While international agricultural officials acknowledge that the program is a legitimate effort to solve some of the country's long-term social and economic problems, they charge that in past years the Mengistu government carried it out with unnecessary cruelty. According to some Western diplomats, the regime broke up families and forced villagers to move to camps that had no housing, no water, no health facilities and often no food. Of the 600,000 northerners who were resettled during the last famine, 100,000 died, according to Doctors Without Borders, a Paris-based relief group. The government ejected the group from the country at the end of 1985 after labeling its charges "preposterous." Nonetheless, Mengistu suspended the resettlement program in early 1986, only to restart it last month. So far, 7,000 "volunteers" have been moved south, and the government plans to transfer up to 300,000 next year.
The rebels assert that the real motive behind the program is to persecute Eritreans and Tigreans and drain the rebel fronts of potential recruits. Dr. Frederick Machmer, head of the U.S. relief team in Addis Ababa, believes the rebels are disrupting the aid effort so the international community will accept "that they are a force to be reckoned with and that they control areas of the north." Geldof, whose organization owned some of the trucks blown up in October, finds the tactics of both sides despicable. Said he last week: "To attack food trucks and seal off roads in these conditions is tantamount to mass murder."
The convoy attacks are all the more tragic because the international agencies were well prepared to cope with the famine this time around. The U.N. and the Ethiopian government kept abreast of agricultural conditions through an "early warning system" that included satellite surveillance of farming areas. Months ago, at the first sign that the rains might fail, the agencies acted. One of the first nations to dispatch aid was the U.S., whose Agency for International Development is still bitter over charges that it did not do enough during the last crisis.
AID dispatched 10,000 tons of food to Ethiopia on May 7, when crops failed in Harar. When the rains failed in the highlands in July, 10,000 tons were sent to bolster the country's reserves. And when it was certain that a new drought had begun in August, the U.S. approved the delivery of 115,000 tons, valued at $43 million. The first 30,000 tons are scheduled to arrive this month.
In Washington, Reagan Administration officials speak proudly of the U.S. contribution two years ago and now. Said one: "The last time around we got criticized for not doing enough, but we spent half a billion dollars trying to help starving people. What did the Russians do? They gave Ethiopia two planes." The Soviets insist they gave much more, including food, medicine, blankets and tents, and they are pouring in humanitarian aid now. Western experts say these claims are overstated.
Despite a continuing flow of arms from Moscow, Western diplomats suspect that the Soviets are not happy with their ally. When Mengistu visited Moscow in April, Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev cautioned him to "proceed from realities and not outrun stages of development." Politburo Member Lev Zaikov was reportedly blunter when he visited Addis Ababa in September.
Last Saturday the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which has been monitoring the drought situation from the start, issued a new report that increased the projected food need for 1988 from 950,000 tons to 1.3 million tons. So far, 550,000 tons have been promised by aid groups, or 42% of what will be needed. Michael Priestley, the U.N. official who coordinates the overall relief program in Ethiopia, stresses that more aid must be committed immediately. "It will take five months for a food shipment to get here if it ) is pledged this week," he said. "If we don't get the pledges now, there will be a break in the pipeline."
Forty-two thousand tons of food are currently in Ethiopia, with shipments arriving daily. By the end of this month, an additional 90,000 tons are expected, thus ensuring Ethiopia enough food through Christmas if some of the hungry are put on three-quarter rations. Relief workers are racing to distribute food. Rebel attacks and logistical problems have cost valuable time, however, and in the past few days the pace has quickened. Last week three transport planes left Europe for Ethiopia and are now airlifting food from Asmara, near the Red Sea port of Assab, to Mekele. The European Community, which organized the operation, eventually hopes to deploy ten planes. "The airlift is vital," says Priestley. "But 700,000 people in Tigre need food immediately, and the aircraft must be backed up by trucks. If we don't start widespread distribution, there will be famine camps."
FAO officials are also sounding the alarm. "In terms of organization, we are better equipped this time," says Peter Newhouse, a senior FAO economist. "But if donation decisions are not made immediately, and it's not raining in Ethiopia by March, then we are in trouble. We will move from a disaster to a catastrophe."
The tragedy that afflicts Ethiopia also plagues much of Africa. The belt of privation cuts a ragged T through the continent. The horizontal bar is made up of the famine-prone nations of the Sahel; the vertical bar extends from the Sudan down through Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and into tiny Lesotho. To the west of this scythe of hunger lie Zaire and Angola.
The worst threat of famine is in war-torn countries and their neighbors. Sudan, for example, is home to about 975,000 refugees, 70% from Ethiopia and the rest from Uganda, Zaire and Chad. While traditionally gracious hosts to those in need, the Sudanese are also enduring a drought and are rapidly losing patience. Earlier this year Ethiopian refugees streaming into the Sudanese border town of Kassala were attacked by mobs. "We have been involved in refugee problems since the Congo crisis of the 1960s," says Al-Amin Abdul Latif, Sudan's Ambassador to Egypt. "Enough is enough."
One of Africa's neediest cases is Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony on the Indian Ocean that is almost as poor as Ethiopia. Mozambique has been embroiled in civil war from the moment it became independent in 1975. Its economic infrastructure has been destroyed by rebels, and the U.N. estimates that 6 million people face starvation in the west and north, where reliefworkers are afraid to go. Says a Mozambican army officer who recently toured some of the worst-hit areas: "I talked to people who had barely enough flesh to cover their skeletons. Their bones made noises under the skin."
In Angola, where the Soviet-backed government is battling South African- supported rebels, the famine is mostly man-made. In some disputed areas, there are acres of ripe grain that cannot be harvested because the fields are laced with finger-size mines. Relief convoys find few passable roads and are in constant danger of attack from rebels. Though statistics are hard to come by, those who suffer most in Angola seem to be the young. The U.N. Office of Emergency Operations reported in 1986 that up to 45% of the children in Huambo province, where guerrilla activity is common, suffered from malnutrition.
Another nation in agony is Malawi, which is suffering from both disastrous crop failures and an influx of 300,000 refugees from neighboring Mozambique. "Unless massive food supplies are brought in urgently," says a Western aid official, thousands will die.
Even when the rains come, they can be a cruel gift. Heavy downpours swept over parts of southern Africa two weeks ago, breaking a harsh drought. But they also destroyed some of the more delicate plants that had survived the dry spell, and the soggy ground will hamper distribution of maize meal recently shipped into the area by the U.N.
Will Africa, fabulously rich in natural resources, ever end the cycle of war, disease and overpopulation that helps to keep it poor and famished? Most African governments, including those much less radical than Ethiopia, continue to be wedded to quasi-socialist, postcolonial economic policies that reduce agricultural productivity, even as populations soar and create a voracious demand for more food. "In contemporary Africa, both rural starvation and rising levels of urban employment are the outcome of a set of agricultural policies designed to subsidize the cost of living of urban consumers at the expense of rural producers," says Michael Lofchie, an Africa expert at UCLA. Since 75% of Africa's people still live in rural areas, such a policy is a prescription for deepening poverty.
Only now have some governments, encouraged by the U.S. and Western Europe, acknowledged that farmers have to be given financial incentives to produce more. With the continent $200 billion in debt to the West, the lending nations have not hesitated to twist arms. The E.C. and the World Bank are currently withholding $250 million in development aid for Ethiopia until its leaders agree to raise artificially low prices for agricultural products and allow farmers to sell more of their products on the open market. "For humanitarian aid, there are no conditions," says an E.C. spokesman. "For structural aid, there are conditions."
In Ethiopia, says Jay F. Morris, deputy U.S. AID administrator, "the problem is fundamental. They are taking a bad ecological situation and making it worse. By forcing farmers who do grow more than they consume to sell to the state at prices below the cost of production, they are not providing the incentive to produce the maximum that the land, however poor, would yield." Ethiopia's food production now totals 6.8 million tons a year, with little prospect for future growth; Western experts say the country will require an estimated 2 million tons of imported food in 1990. It almost seems, says Morris with a sigh, that the Ethiopians are "determined to render themselves a perpetual beggar nation."
Meanwhile, the people of Ethiopia seem rich only in patience. As the sun climbs in the sky, those awaiting food donations outside Wukro quietly sit on their haunches. One man, Gebre Yohanes Haile, 50, has brought along his chief resource: his ox. His family is sick with hunger, and so only he and the animal made the journey. Thus he will receive just one ration: twelve kilos of wheat, two of beans and two of oil. He will sell his ox for $200, and then pay $150 for 100 kilos of grain, twice the usual cost. "We have food for today," Gebre says. "I don't know about tomorrow."
A dull roar rises from the crowd. Registration is over, and distribution has begun. Men in white shirts decorated with big red crosses dole out the rations. Elders load the 100-lb. bags onto their backs and scurry back to their village groups, shoving people out of the way as they go. As the grain is divided, the people smile. They laugh. Some even sing. They are happy. They have food.
"They won't be laughing in a couple of weeks' time," says an Ethiopian official with tears in his eyes. "Now they smile even on half rations because today they can exist." His gloomy prediction seems true. The road between Mekele and Wukro remains c
; losed most of the time. And nobody knows just when the next food convoy will come.