Friday, May 25, 2007

Shimeles Kemal Loses Out In MoJ Shake Up

The predictable demise of Shimeles Kemal, Chief Prosecutor in the case of Hailu Shawel et al., is on the corner after a surprise hurricane hitting the Ministry of Justice blew away some of the prosecutors he hand picked to be part of the team in charge of the Kinijit Trial.

Seid Mohammed, the impeached judge who later on joined the prosecution team with the invitation of Shimeles Kemal, was fired this week by the order of the Minister of Justice, Civil Service College graduate Assefa kessito. The decision brought a public spat between the minister and his deputy, Hashim Mohammed. Sources at the MoJ said Seid's dismissal was the result of Shimeles kemal's ending romance with top EPRDF officials who have now started to privately blame him for the embarrassing conduct of the trial. His once blooming relationship with Bereket Simon has severely strained, with Bereket looking for fresh faces to fill in Shimeles' role as a de facto personal legal advisor to him.

Shimeles is soon expected to be removed form his post as head of the Legal Department of the MOJ, and be replaced by Yohannes Seifu. Sources said he is already suspend from the post. But the the decision hasn't been made public. If the reports are accurate, Shimeles will be another victim of the theory of "Yezaf Lay Enkilf".

Meanwhile, the MoJ has terminated the employment of 47 support staffers on Wednesday under the procedure called 20/40. This procedure gives employees a right to leave their work on pension if they have worked for 20 years and have reached the age of 40. But the procedure, according to lawyers, is a right given to the workers, and not the Ministry. Workers have a right to choose not exercising the procedure, and the MoJ terminated the contracts in disregard of the basic tenets of the procedure. The support staffers claimed that they were victims of Assefa Kesito's projection game. Assefa has been criticized several times by the Prime Minister for failing to execute government policies properly.

(More soon)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Arrest Exposes The Shady Dealings of The International Media

(By Meqdela and Ethio-Zagol)
When news that three New York Times reporters were caught in Deghabur while they were trying to cover rebel activity in the region sipped through last week, American diplomats in Addis Ababa immediately contacted Ethiopian government officials, including the Prime Minister to demand their release.

That triggered a chain of reactions from the government, the diplomats and the press which reveal a curious collusion between a rogue government and institutions which claim to be the agents of the public.

The Ethiopians were insistent that they would only release the captives if the press didn't report about it. The message was immediately passed to Nairobi where most of the media have their regional bureaus. "Government officials were, not surprisingly, talking about the fact that the journalists went to Deghabur without permission, and about the disrespect for the rule of law. They were confrontational, and we were in deep shit, " said one American diplomat.

In Nairobi, regional bureau chiefs of the major international media agreed to put the story under the carpet. The decision was communicated to reporters here in Addis. "It was a gag order basically," said a foreign journalist in Addis Ababa. In the mean time, the captives were being dragged from one jail to another.

Some media observers here express their surprise with the agreement. AP, AFP, Reuters and the BBC are very competitive with each other. And in the country where getting and verifying news is hard, the slightest opportunity to outpace the competitors in breaking the news is grabbed with both hands. In fact, the observers claimed, the whole saga reveals one operational philosophy of the international media here - being cosy with the government.

"With threats of expulsion, withdrawal of accreditation and shutting them out from information, the Ethiopian government makes sure that the foreign journalists in Addis Ababa and their editors in Nairobi get into self-censorship and the policy of appeasement, " cried one observer. "They try hard, sometimes too hard, to write good stories about Ethiopia and the Ethiopian government."

Even within the correspondents here, there are some who are concerned about the implication of self-censorship Vis-a-Vis the public's right to know and the journalistic duty to impart information, but usually keep quiet to avoid diversely affecting their careers. Instead, these young journalists hob-nob with government officials and apologists of human rights violations in the grand hotels of Addis Ababa, and write reports which are at the very least neutral to the government. Those who dare to break this culture of comfort lose out as their editors reject their stories. "It is Nairobi, stupid!" said one journalist referring to the heavy censorship by the editors.

In the Kenyan capital, editors are more worried as to whether their presence in Ethiopia will be jeopardized if they write bad stories about the government than the public's right to know and fairness to the victims of human rights abuses. "They are obsessed with presence. This has partly to do with their career, but partly with the lack of role-theory," said a foreign journalist here in Addis Ababa. And there is also an agreement among many of them that, however bad the government is, it is better than the unknown or untested alternatives, and other African governments; a political judgement that not only contravenes their supposed objectivity, but the facts on the ground. Far from the close scrutiny of journalistic watchdogs in their homelands, these editors also collude with the diplomats of their countries in Nairobi and Ethiopia. They push the official line of their capitals. The foreign correspondent speak for this unholy collusion is "Protective Alliance." "It is like get closer to me baby and I will get you out when you are in trouble," Explained one journalist. It is a security insurance.

It took the release of the journalists for the news to get out. Even then, most of the wire services reported it after The Times issued a statement about it. "To put a counter factual question, Would they have reported it if The Times kept quiet?" asked one observer. We will never know. But we know that the decision to report it wouldn't be informed by accountability, but rather, by the interests of the Ethiopian government, and its foreign protectors.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good Cop, Bad Cop

(by Ethio-Zagol)
After getting its journalists released, the NY Times had this to say about the arrest.
We would like to thank Ambassador Yamamoto and his colleagues at the
American Embassy in Addis Ababa, and Prime Minister Meles for their help in
freeing them.

Honestly, this statement is so silly that it is laughable. The Ethiopian army doesn't operate without the authorization of the PM in cases which have international implications. Meles arrests...Meles kicks...and Meles releases. That, at least, is our folklore.

NY Times reporter released

After negotiation between the Ethiopian government and the American embassy here in Addis, Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman was released yesterday late afternoon. According to sources, the Americal embassy asked the international media here in Ethiopia not to report about the arrest of the Times journalist and the three people accompanying him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Breaking News: Ethiopian Government Arrests New York Times Reporter

New York Times' East Africa correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman was arrested by the Ethiopian government while he was sneaking to rebel territory in the Ogaden region. EZ Post's security sources confirmed that the correspondent was taken to a prison in Jijiga with his wife, unidentified cameraman and a British journalist.

Gettelman who has been reporting well-researched articles about the Horn of Africa from Nairobi had gone deep into the volatile Ogaden region with fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a group fighting for the independence of the Ogaden region from Ethiopia. He was caught by government soldiers patrolling the area on Friday afternoon. According to security sources, Gettelman's plans to cross the border might have been obtained by the government before hand from phone taps of his exchange with a stringer in Addis Ababa.

Gettelman had changed the dynamics of reports from Horn of Africa with his thorough investigation and uncompromising reporting. His reports about the Somalia war has been lauded here in Ethiopia by independent observers, but his report about EU probe on war crimes allegedly committed by Ethiopian troops had angered the government.
See Gettelman's Africa reports here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Counterfeit Solomon Tekalign

(By Ethio-Zagol)
There was something phony about Solomon Tekalign. His over-the-edge patriotism(bordering bigotry), vitriolic rhetoric, implausible sense of self-importance and tendency to exaggerate his political persecution all suggest a Lidetu in artist's clothing. Now that he has chosen to enjoy Al Amoudi's consummate hospitality at the grand Sheraton in Addis, his veil is taken down big time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

American ambassador pushes for guilty confession

(By Ethio-Zagol and Meqdela)
Donald Yamamoto, America’s mild-mannered Ambassador in Addis Ababa has thrown his weight behind the mediation efforts of Professor Ephraim Issac. The renowned Ethiopian linguist has started the mediation between the government and Kinijit leaders who have been in prison for a year and half now, but has been stung with accusations that he has so far failed to be even-handed mediator in trying to push the prisoners to accept whatever the government proposes. In the last proposal, the government asked CUD leaders to fill a form which makes all of them individually responsible for trying to overthrow the government. The prisoners have declined to sign the form.

In a letter addressed to professor Ephraim and obtained by a contributor to EZ Post, Ambassador Yamamoto, says he stands with the professor’s attempt to mediate between the two parties, and that he prays for the success of his attempt to make the prisoners sign the form. His letter also says the American Embassy will facilitate a medical travel to America by Kinijit’s Chairman, Hailu Shawel, and Ethiopia’s greatest human rights activist, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam.

Observers say that the Ambassdor’s stance is outrageous because he knows how Prime Minister Meles broke down the mediation after preliminary agreement was reached by the parties two weeks ago.

(Roha will be back with his views on Addis Ababa University on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mediation breaks again after EPRDF and political prisoners appear to reach preliminary agreement

Final efforts for mediation between the government and Ethiopia's famous political prisoners broke down last week due to Meles Zenawi's Intransigence. Hope that this time the mediation would be successful was high after preliminary agreement was reached between the parties last Tuesday. Meles Zenawi, however, sent a guilty form for the prisoners to be filled individually a day after the agreement was reached. The form states that the CUDP council members admit that they have tried to subvert the constitutional order. The prisoners refused to sign the form.

Sources who have closely followed the mediation said that the blame squarely lied on the mediators who didn't even censure Meles Zenawi when he went back on his agreement a day after he made it. "Meles is playing a game here. He doesn't want to release them, but at the same time, he wants to alleviate foreign pressure. The tactic is to appear as if he were involved in mediation without doing anything. The mediators are chickens in this game," one source said.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Anthony Mitchell, courageous journalist

Greg Swift, deputy news editor of the Express, said this about Anthony Mitchell, the British journalist who is thought to have died after the Kenya Airways plane he was on board crashed yesterday:

"He is a really old-fashioned journalist who can pin down a story with intelligence and determination."

There is a classic debate in journalism classes about whether a journalist could care about the object or sometimes the subject of his/her report and be objective enough. I think "objectivity of result" as we know it in traditional journalism is a lexicon for journalistic passivity: try to stand so far from the object or the subject of your report and consider all assertions and viewpoints as equal. So when the Ethiopian government killed scores of people during demonstrations, the concern for these traditional journalists wasn't where, in the context of the shootings, the main responsibility lied. Instead, they focused on how many lines they would give to Bereket Simon, then Information Minister, and how many to the victim families and eye witnesses. So the story they wrote went like this: "Forty six people died in Ethiopia election demonstrations which officials said was intended to overthrow the government." This narrative went on and on.

Anthony Mitchell was, in that sense, quite unorthodox. He cared about the object and the subject of his story without being sloppily acting like a post-modernist who would claim that "truth is just a social construct" and reject objectivity in total. Instead, he applied rigorous objectivity of method, objective in his gathering and interpreting of information; but went to where the facts lead him. If the facts lead that the Ethiopian government had massacred people, he would bluntly make it a headline. As a non-consequentialists, he would tell "the truth and let the chips fall". But he was, in a different way, consequentialist as he had utter belief in truth as a better guide for better consequences.

For me, he was the best foreign journalist to be stationed in Ethiopia for the last decade. Apart from his journalistic philosophy, he would also be remembered as incredibly courageous correspondent. I don't think AP reports about Ethiopia would have been the same, had he not been directly and indirectly responsible for those stories - In Ethiopia as a reporter and in Kenya, as an editor.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The limits of free speech

Andrew Heavens summarized the debate regarding the frontiers of free speech which was sparked following the Ethiopian review's shocking comment, applauding the acts of ONLF. Obviously, that kind of speech is even graver than shouting fire in a cinema hall. Andrew Heaven's summary would have been more complete if he had included another recent writing by Samuel Gebru, a stomach-churning article which unashamedly apologized for war crimes.

There is no doubt that the Meles administration will seize this opportunity to justify its cyber-censorship; and I feel that by integrating the issue of censorship with the limits of free speech in one post without cautioning against the urge to linking them, Mr. Heavens has unintentionally lent credence to that justification.

I have made my article of faith clear before. Excesses in free speech can only be diluted by "more speech not enforced silence". And there is no more proof to that than the reaction of shocked bloggers to ER's comment. After all, most of those bloggers were very critical of the government, and would in most other issues found themselves with ER than Aigaforum.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Counselor Kevin Sullivan gets more power in US Embassy as the Somalia situation worsens

(By Ethio-Zagol and Meqdela)
The political and Economic Counselor of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Kevin Sullivan, has become the single most important figure in Ambassador Yamamoto's leadership, even eclipsing the influence of the Ambassador himself in Ethiopian political issues. The Ethiopian staffers in the embassy call him "the Deputy Ambassador", in reference to his growing power.

His assistants say he is a hard-core realist who shows distrust to values like human rights as the center of cooperation between states. His convictions have led him to support the Meles administration even though there is open acknowledgement by key embassy officials that Ethiopia's bad human rights record is indefensible. "He is from the old school, obsessed with security and economic interest in the Horn of Africa; and he believes that the only power in Ethiopia which can guarantee that is the Meles administration," a US embassy staffer said.

Although Ambassador Yamamoto has since his arrival tried to press the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia, the Somalia war has complicated the situation with diplomats like Mr. Sullivan, insisting on the policy of appeasing the Meles administration. "His views are clear. He thinks as long as the Ethiopian government continues to act as the proxy of US interests in the Horn of Africa, the Americans should staunchly support it, “the staffer told me.

The counselor has looked a little shaggy in the last few days, working punishing hours. Shiro Meda insiders claim that the Somalia war and the insurgency have made embassy officials stand on their toes. One insider thinks the whole issue has given diplomats like Mr. Sullivan an upper hand in the embassy's little internal politics. "They don't want to call it an insurgency. They label it with less flattering terms as opportunistic violence; but the truth is they are unsettled by it. They think their only option is to stand with Meles whatever he does. That is why Mr. Sullivan is getting more and more de facto power and ears from the embassy and the State Department" He said.

Mr. Sullivan also thinks US Congress Representative Donald Payne's new bill is damaging to US interest in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Insiders say that embassy officials believe that there is an inevitability that the bill will pass in the House of Representatives this time as its introducer, Donald Payne, has a good working relationship with the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi.Mr. Sullivan was so unhappy about the developments in US congress that he was even heard criticizing the visit here of Ted Dagne, Africa Specialist at the Congressional Research Service.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


It seems now the blogger page one needs to access to post on is blocked. It is difficult to access and post using free proxy servers. The Ethiopian government might have finally figured out how to stop people writing; in addition to how to block readers from reading. But the only blog in Ethiopia(run from Ethiopia) which deals seriously with Ethiopian politics is Ethio-Zagol Post... and its subsidiary blogs. The government should and will know(after this post)that it can't block us from writing, whatever technology it uses. Finally it is done. But sorry, it isn't.

Zemedkun Tekle and Internet Blockage

(By Ethio-Zagol)
What does it feel to be a Zemedkun Tekle? Poor man, he has to defend the dumbest action by his bosses in the dumbest way possible. Today OpenNet Initiative, an Internet watchdog partly funded by my favourite billionaire, George Soros, accused Ethiopia of blocking opposition websites and blogs, after running tests which produced overwhelming evidence that the sites were blocked. Zemedkun's reply?
We may have technical problems from time to time. But we have not done
anything like that and we have no intention of doing anything like that.

What is it really, really, really like to have a job where your main responsibility is to act idiot?