Wednesday, March 28, 2007

USAID's governance chief in Ethiopia acts dumb

(By Roha)
There was a meeting between DAG and Civil Society representatives here yesterday at the Hilton from 9:00 to 12:30 am. It was chaired by Isaac Dewan(World Bank) and Fidele Frassroto(UNDP).This meeting highlighted how much donor agencies are either bossed around or subservient to Meles Zenawi. That is why I want to share it.

The meeting had no particular team. So, I and fellow civil society representatives went there with nothing. We asked the organizers and the chairs what the agenda was. The issue of the draft NGO legislation was raised. The civil society here has no input on the draft which will certainly becomes law. In fact, one of the participants asked whether anyone saw the legislation. The main stake holders were not allowed even to have a glance at the draft legislation.

PBS(provision of public services) was also discussed. The DAG members told the participants that the government objected to the involvement of any NGO/Civil Society in the area of advocacy. It was stipulated in the PBS matrix that only mass based organizations, which have constituencies are allowed to participate and engage in advocacy work. NGOs can only give technical assistance. The DAG has endorsed this government position, the position that deprives Ethiopian NGOs and Civil Society organizations from engaging in advocacy work. What kind of self-respecting democratic government representatives would go along with that? Would they do the same in their own countries?

One of the participants in the conference was Steve Smith, Democracy and Governance Chief of USAID. Throughout the meeting, I had the feeling that this man was either dumb or unbelievably partisan. He said if the civil society here wanted to have changes in the legislation, it could work with opposition MPS. What? To set agenda in parliament, it need fifty plus one vote. Any foreigner who is slightly interested in Ethiopian politics knows this as this issue was one of the reasons why CUDP leaders boycotted parliament and landed in jail. This man leads USAID's democracy and governance department. Is it based on such facts that they make decisions and hold stances? Is it ignorance or a deliberate manipulation of facts?

Mr. Smith then went on advising participants that as EPRDF MPs are illiterate and do not know about the functions of civil society, they should give them trainings about that so that they will help make changes in the draft legislation. Nice try. If Smith doesn't have the knowledge about democratic centralism, he should ask to be assigned in another country. Democratic Centralism, my American hero is, a system of internal political organization where party members debate and vote within the internal frameworks of the political party, but once the decision is made all members have to reflect that in their dealings external to the party whether in parliament or other institutions and places. EPRDF's leading organizational principle is democratic centralism. There is no dissent from party line anywhere. What a waste of money will it be if the civil society gives training to EPRDF MPs and they just rubber-stump the decision of EPRDF's politburo?

Bereket compares Meles with Mandela

Haven't you missed Bereket Simeon, Ethiopia's megalomaniac official? Since he had a stroke, his public appearance has visibly declined. In private he is still doing what he is best at doing - coining the jibes and sound bytes which expose which are the true reflections of his psychopathic personality.
In the past few weeks, Bereket has been meeting with media professionals(government). In one of the meeting, he said something that blows your mind. "We like to see and admire people who aren't us. We admire Mandela. Why? The man leading in our country is taking Africa forward. He is regarded as one of the best and brightest leaders in the continent. Why should we look at the leaders of other countries. "
Well, well, well. If that was a statement uttered by any other person, we would have questioned his/her sanity. This is Bereket. As to the state of his mind...? I think we have made our minds about that long time ago.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Federal police on new training

(By Pan-Habesha)
This is what I got from a reliable source.
The federal police members are carrying new training on dispersing demonstrators and protesters. The training is taking place at the federal Police camp in the Legehar area. They are mostly using water. They shout as if they were in mayhem. Some of them act like police chasing the demonstrators.
This could normally be considered as a regular event in a peaceful context. But in light of the current tension and political dynamics(particularly the expected verdict on next Friday on CUDP leadership at kality), these federal police officers could be preparing for a possible public unrest and demonstration. It could also mean the government has already decided to put the CUDP leaders in to long-term imprisonment.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In the shadow of Kamilat's vigil

(By Tis Abay)
We were around 500. We were there to proclaim our solidarity to Kamilat-the victim of an acid attack.The crowd included the two other victims of the attack-Kamila's Sisters. There was also a man in a wheel chair who really felt the victim's pain.There I saw a Norwegian with his Ethiopian friends. Needless to say, the organizers and bunch of chroniclers(journalists and bloggers) were there as well.

As we all know,Ethiopians are denied the right to demonstration since May 15/05 by the official decree of Ato Meles. But these people were demonstrating their fury against the attacker with no permission for demonstration. For this march didn't have the power to shake Melese's throne or for it didn't have anything to do with "outrage against the constitution", it was permitted post facto...or didn't need permission at all. That is a technicality for lawyers in a country where there in no rule of law.

There were no members of Agazi force or Federal police around. The march was accompanied by a candle light vigil,which took place at the gate of Yekatit 12 Hospital on March 23rd from 5:30-7:00 PM. At the gate, Kamilat made the most touching speech. After the speech the gathered fellow citizens marched around Yekatit 12 Square singing a song- which condemn gender based violence.The ceremony was called and organized by the Network of EthiopianWomen Association(NEWA) and another Coalition of Women's Associations.

Kamilat will fly shortly either to France or SaudiArabia in the coming Tuesday,March 26th.The medical cost will be covered by the tycoon Sheik Mohammed Al Amudi.

Way before the tycoon's late arrival to lend a hand, the first person to pay her a visit in person,to comfort her,to pledge10 thousand birr and air ticket expenses, be a real friend in need was indeed Haile Gebreselase. That great Ethiopian.

This acid attack shocked the nation to core . Yet there is recklessness as well. The weekly Saturday newspapers which published the attacker's story were sold for double their price. I heard a furious man saying; "True,we are supposed to hear his side of the story,;but it is inhuman to throw acid even if it is an eye for an eye." Spot on.

Meanwhile, EPRDF has sensed an opportunity here. Their officials including Meles are stepping on each other to condemn the incident. Kamilat's wasn't the first acid attack on women here.Meles was nowhere to be seen when identical aggression was made in Arsi three years ago.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pan-Africanist rips in Ethiopian government

(Meqdela's diary)

Tajudn Abdul-Rahim may not be well-know internationally; but in this part of the world he is taken seriously. Serious he is.

Yesterday I went to the ECA to attend the opening ceremony of Africa Civil Society Forum 2007. This year's topic is Democratizing and Governance at Regional and Global Level to Achieve the MDG . The forum is organized by Conference of NGOs and FEMNET.

Ethiopian government representative who spoke at the ceremony was one Ambassador Mohammed. With halting English, He spoke of his government's commitment to the advancement of civil society blah...blah...; some routine government official speech.

Then Tajudin Abdul-Rahim stood to spoke. He had nothing but contempt to what the government was doing to civil society here. Reminding the conference participants about the trial of Danie Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, two dedicated civil society members, for treason, he said the African civil society can't have a conference in Addis Ababa where the trial is taking place and leave the issue un-raised. He told the participants that the only thing to happen to them if they speak out is to be disallowed from participating in another civil society conference in Addis Ababa.

Tajudin also criticized Mugabe. He said Africans shouldn't fail to stand up to Mugabe's abuse of power just because he challenged White people. We need principled position, he advised.

Now who is Tajudin?

He is currently the Deputy Director of the Millennium Campaign and Director of Campaign for Africa.

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