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- Category: News
- Created on Thursday, 05 December 2013 23:09
Posted: 12/05/2013 4:48 pm EST | Updated: 12/05/2013 5:59 pm EST
Obituaries, Obituaries, Obituaries, Barack Obama Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela Anniversary, Nelson Mandela Day, Nelson Mandela Hospitalized, Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela Death, Nelson Mandela Obituary, Nelson Mandela South Africa, Winnie Mandela, Black Voices News
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities and led his continent into a new era, has died at age 95.
South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the news:
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, the civil rights activist would become the linchpin in South Africans' move to end the country's notorious apartheid regime. The impact of his efforts -- to reconcile generosity with pragmatism and to find the common ground between humanity’s higher values and his own aspiration to power, as journalist John Carlin once described them -- would ultimately reach well beyond South Africa’s borders, and earn him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Prior to doing so, however, Mandela earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare, during which time he was elected onto the Student's Representative Council and suspended from college for joining in a protest boycott.
Mandela was qualified in law in 1942, an accomplishment that would ultimately help him make the kind of contribution to the freedom struggle of his people that he'd reportedly dreamed about since hearing stories of valor by his forebears during the wars of resistance in defense of their land.
That law degree allowed Mandela to practice law and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.
But by Dec. 5, 1955, he would be on the other side of the law following a country-wide sweep by police that would put him and 155 other activists on trial for treason. The case, known as the 1956 Treason Trial, dragged on until the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on March 29, 1961.
During the trial, on June 14, 1958, Nelson Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, a social worker. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.
Rising through the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC), initially by way of the organization’s youth wing, which he helped establish in 1944, Mandela was ultimately asked to lead the armed struggle and help form Umkhonto weSizwe ("Spear of the Nation").
On Jan. 11, 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela left South Africa secretly. He traveled the continent and abroad to gain support for the armed struggle. Before returning to South Africa in July 1962, Mandela also received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia.
His training would hardly be put to use, however.
In 1964, alongside eight members of the ANC and its armed wing, Mandela stood trial for plotting to overthrow the government by way of violent acts. The following year he was sentenced to life in prison, a term he served until Feb. 11, 1990.
The would-be South African president spent 18 of his 27 prison years on Robben Island confined to a small cell with the floor for a bed and a bucket for a toilet. During his imprisonment, Mandela was forced to do hard labor in a quarry and was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes.
Jack Swart, who served as Mandela's chef when he was moved to a private house inside the Victor Verster prison compound in 1988, recalled encounters with Mandela on Robben Island, in an interview for PBS Frontline's "The Long Walk Of Nelson Mandela," documentary:
...We got the order that while they worked in the quarries, we had to keep time on our watches ... of what their resting periods were, because they had to work. [A prisoner] was only allowed to rest or stop working if he wanted to go to the toilet and we had to keep note, and if one, for example, rested too much, then he was charged, and then Mandela was always the man who went to represent them ... they always went to him when there were problems, asked him for advice ... He was always the person, the central person. When they broke for lunch also, they always went to sit with him and talk to him. He was the person who sort of went to defend them when they were charged with a misdemeanor in prison.
As Swart noted, those years in prison would prove to be transformative, leading Mandela to become the most significant black leader in South Africa and the country's first black president in 1994, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election in South Africa.
During his presidency, from 1994 until June 1999, Mandela used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team.
Actor Morgan Freeman's portrayal of Mandela in the 2009 film "Invictus," based on events leading up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, is said to offer a glimpse of the leader's legendary sense of humor, which has also been described alongside his charisma and a notable lack of bitterness over his harsh treatment.
In addition to his continued fight for the civil rights of his people -- including the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like restorative justice arm of Mandela’s democratically elected government and a new constitution, which he signed into law in 1996, establishing a central government based on majority rule that would guarantee the rights of minorities -- Mandela worked to protect South Africa's economy throughout his presidency. In 1994, he established the Reconstruction and Development Plan through which the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic healthcare.
Mandela’s death comes months afer his 95th birthday on July 18, which his foundation, various charities and businesses vowed to celebrate with a nationwide day of service that includes painting schools, handing out food and books, and running a 41-mile relay marathon in the spirit of Mandela's 67 years of activism and public work.
Nelson Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and three daughters Pumla Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela.
Zuma has ordered that all flags in the nation be flown at half staff from Friday till Mandela's funeral.
"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human," Zuma said in his address. "We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."
- Category: News
- Created on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 22:48
November 17 2013 at 02:56pm
By Jenny Vaughan AFP
Ethiopians stage a demonstration at the Saudi Embassy in Addis Ababa on November 15, 2013. The protestors were demonstrating against a crackdown against illegal immigrants in Saudi Arabia that officials say has left three Ethiopians dead.
Addis Ababa - When Abdallah Awele moved to Saudi Arabia from Ethiopia last year, he thought he would land a good job and earn enough money to send home to his family.
But instead, Abdallah, 21, said he was beaten, robbed and jailed for living in the country illegally. “I wanted a good salary and a good life, that's why I crossed the border,” he said.
“When I was in Saudi Arabia, I was successful, I was saving a lot of money and I had nice things. But I lost all of it. Now I am home and I won't go back there.”
Abdallah was one of at least 23 000 Ethiopians living illegally in Saudi Arabia, and part of a group of close to 400 flown home on Friday after being expelled.
According to Ethiopian officials, three of their nationals were killed this month in clashes with Saudi police as the clampdown - set in motion after a seven-month amnesty period expired - got under way.
“I had 3 500 Saudi Arabian riyals (930 dollars, 690 euros). We were taken to prison, I lost my luggage, and all of my money was collected by the police,” Abdallah said.
“Even my shoes were collected by the police,” he said, speaking barefoot after leaving the airport with about 30 other men.
Abdullah, who had a job guarding animals, was jailed for six months - during which he said he was denied food and medical help.
“There is a lot of unhappiness in there,” he said, showing off scars on the back of his neck.
Facing limited job prospects and harsh economic realities back home, large numbers of Ethiopian men and women head to the oil- and gas-rich Arabian peninsula every year seeking work.
The International Labour Organisation said many face physical and mental abuse, menial pay, discrimination and poor working conditions, and the Ethiopian government announced last month it was banning domestic workers from travelling to the Middle East to look for jobs after widespread reports of mistreatment.
Like Abdullah, Abdurahman Kamal said he too was beaten before being jailed for ten days. His employer revoked his salary and his visa before handing him over to the authorities.
“The police asked for money but at that time I didn't have the money, so the police beat me,” said Abdurahman, 21, who worked as a driver.
Now he says he is relieved to be home after three years in Saudi Arabia.
“I get to go back to my family,” he said, wearing a torn shirt that revealed his scarred torso.
With 91 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, but also one of the poorest.
Ethiopia's unemployment rate - 27 percent among women and 13 percent among men, according to the ILO - is the main driver for young people seeking better opportunities abroad.
The UN refugee agency says that over 51 000 Ethiopians risked their lives this year alone on the risky sea crossing across the Gulf of Aden, where reports are common of ships sinking or refugees drowning after being thrown out too far from the shore.
It was greener pastures that led Ahmed Abduljebar, 25, abroad three years ago. He moved to Yemen to work as a waiter and was arrested when he crossed into Saudi Arabia without a visa.
He said he was robbed and beaten before being jailed for three months, and complained Ethiopian authorities should have responded faster to release Ethiopians from prison.
“The Ethiopian embassy is a very big problem, because it's not protecting Ethiopians,” he said. “If you're in prison, no one is asking after you, and they are not collecting you quickly.”
Ahmed said while he is happy to be home, he “feels sick” knowing there are still thousands of Ethiopians still in prison.
While they now face the difficult task of finding work at home, they agree they have no plans to return to the site of their nightmare.
“I would never go back again to Saudi Arabia,” Abdurahman said. - Sapa-AFP
- Category: News
- Created on Thursday, 14 November 2013 16:06
Ethiopians 'surrender' in Saudi after clamp down Ethiopia has complained about the treatment of its citizens in Saudi Arabia.
About 23,000 Ethiopians have surrendered to Saudi authorities since a clampdown on illegal migrant workers began in the oil-rich kingdom last week, officials have said.
The clampdown has led to clashes in the capital, Riyadh, with at least five people killed.
Saudi authorities say they are trying to reduce the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis.
An estimated nine million migrant workers are in Saudi Arabia.
They are said to make up more than half the workforce, filling manual, clerical and service jobs.
Ethiopia's ambassador in Riyadh, Muhammed Hassan Kabiera, said the embassy had been informed by Saudi officials that some 23,000 Ethiopians had so far handed themselves in.
Some of them have already been repatriated, with the first group arriving in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday, reports from Ethiopia say.
In renewed clashes on Wednesday in Riyadh's Manfuhah district, a Sudanese national was killed, Saudi Arabia's state-owned SPA news agency reports.
Illegal migrants "rioted, hurling rocks at passersby and cars", it quoted police as saying.
Many migrants do low-paid jobs in Saudi Arabia
Police said they intervened and "controlled" the situation, SPA reports.
Manfuhah is home to many migrants, mostly from East Africa.
On Sunday, Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom said he had information that three Ethiopian citizens had been killed in clashes since last week.
However, Saudi authorities say two foreigners have been killed, along with three Saudis.
Riyadh governor Prince Khaled bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz said the clamp down was aimed at illegal migrants, and not any "specific group".
"We will continue these campaigns until we ensure all residents in our country are staying legally," he is quoted by al-Riyadh newspaper as saying.
Earlier this month, the authorities began rounding up the migrants following the expiry of a seven-month amnesty for them to formalise their status.
Nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months.
More than 30,000 Yemenis have reportedly crossed to their home country in the past two weeks.
Four million other migrants obtained work permits before the deadline expired.
Saudi police in Riyadh clash with migrant workers Ethiopians are detained in Riyadh's Manfuhah neighbourhood
At least two people have been killed and scores wounded as Saudi police clashed with protesting foreign workers in a district of the capital, Riyadh.
A police statement said hundreds of people were arrested in the Manfuhah neighbourhood.
Later on Sunday, thousands of mostly African workers gathered in the capital to prepare for repatriation.
Last week police rounded up thousands of migrant workers after an amnesty linked to new employment rules expired.
One of the two people killed was a Saudi while the other was unidentified, police said. About 70 others were injured and there were some 560 arrests, officials added.
However, Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom said he had information that three Ethiopian citizens had been killed, one last Tuesday and two in the latest clashes.
He said Addis Ababa had formally complained to Riyadh.
"This is unacceptable. We call on the Saudi government to investigate this issue seriously. We are also happy to take our citizens, who should be treated with dignity while they are there," he said.
Police said they intervened on Saturday after foreign workers in the Manfuhah district rioted, attacking Saudi and other foreign residents with rocks and knives.
Hundreds of foreign workers were leaving the Manfuhah district on Sunday
Vigilante Saudi residents in Manfuhah reportedly joined the fighting and even detained some Ethiopians.
Manfuhah is home to many migrants, mostly from east Africa.
On Sunday, witnesses said police surrounded the district while units from the National Guard and special forces were sent in.
Hundreds of African migrants reportedly surrendered to police.
A long line of buses took the migrants to temporary housing along the airport road in Riyadh.
Last Monday, the authorities began rounding up thousands of illegal foreign workers following the expiry of a seven-month amnesty for them to formalise their status.
Nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months.
More than 30,000 Yemenis have reportedly crossed to their home country in the past 10 days alone.
Four million other migrants obtained work permits before last Sunday's deadline.
Saudi Arabia has the Arab world's largest economy, but authorities are trying to reduce the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis.
An estimated nine million migrant workers are in Saudi Arabia - more than half the workforce - filling manual, clerical, and service jobs.
Sri Lankan housemaids in Saudi appeal for help
By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala service
There are numerous reports of abuse and torture of housemaids in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia in particular
Continue reading the main story
"Please, sir... help us to go back to Sri Lanka," one woman after another cries and pleads over the phone from a detention centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
I cannot see these women but I hear them fighting to reach the mobile phone that belongs to the inmate that I am on the phone with. Thangavelu Sarojini, a young Tamil woman, says she was tortured by her employer.
"I still have wounds and scars in my hands, neck, legs. They beat me, pinched me and burnt me," she says from the Olaya detention camp where hundreds of migrant women from south and southeast Asia are held. Their crime, they say, was running away from employers to escape physical, sexual or psychological abuse. They are all now classified as illegal immigrants under Saudi law.
"I was not paid for one-and-a-half years, they tried to kill me, then I fled to the embassy," Sarojini tells me.
Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan women arrive in the Middle East every year and they are a major foreign revenue earner for the island. But many claim to be ill-treated, tortured, or not paid for the work.
In one notorious case in August 2010, 24 nails were removed from the body of LP Ariyawathie, a 49-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker in Saudi. Saudi authorities have pledged to investigate her case but there has been no reported progress in the investigation.
'Imprisoned and unpaid'
But it is not only physical abuse that forced these hapless women to flee their employers.
About 24 nails were removed from LP Ariyawathie's body after arriving in Sri Lanka in August 2010
Kusuma Nandani, a mother-of-two who has not returned to Sri Lanka since 1993, says she was not paid by her employer for at least 15 years.
She says that she suffered stress and depression because her employers did not allow her to keep in touch with her husband, son and daughter in Sri Lanka.
As Kusuma Nandani cannot read or write, she was was only able to write a few letters - and then only with the help of other Sri Lankans.
One day, she was told by the employer that she would not be paid anymore after she forgot to hand over pocket money to the children before dropping them off at school.
From then, she says she was imprisoned by her employers for more than a decade. Rescued by the Sri Lankan embassy officials in Riyadh in 2009 after a tip-off, she has been a detainee at the camp since then.
Her daughter says she is puzzled as to why the Sri Lankan embassy authorities have not been able to send her mother home even though Kusuma was granted an exit visa some time ago.
“I have no one in Sri Lanka. My parents are gone, my husband is trying to divorce me, I have only daughter who doesn't know who to approach to get help”
WG Mala Mangalika is another maid who fled alleged ill-treatment. She says she was told to work without pay for more than a year because her employer paid a Sri Lankan agency nearly 7,000 riyal ($1,866).
Now she is facing a lawsuit filed by the employer.
"The employer says he has paid to the agency for four years so he would not allow me to go back," says Mala Mangalika.
Detention centre inmates say that although Sri Lankan officials helped when they first arrived at the embassy, they are concerned about the delay in sending them back home.
Apart from those in the camp, hundreds more abused maids are currently staying in an embassy hostel.
Their plight is worsened because they become illegal immigrants as soon as they leave their employers, the legal "sponsor" for their work permits.
Migrant domestic workers, mainly from South Asia, regularly complain of abuse by employers
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has long been campaigning for more protection for domestic workers in the Middle East and has called for migrant domestic workers to be included into local labour laws so that they are better protected.
"My legs are still swollen and blackened after I fell from upstairs," Mala Senananayake weeps as she grabs the phone from others in the queue in Olaya camp, in Saudi Arabia.
"I have no one in Sri Lanka. My parents are gone, my husband is trying to divorce me, I have only daughter who doesn't know who to approach to get help."
"Please sir, please help me to go back to Sri Lanka," she repeatedly begs me.
The labour officer at the Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh told the BBC that the files of the detainees at Olaya camp have been transferred to the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) in Colombo.
But SLFEB head Kingsley Ranawaka did not answer repeated telephone calls to get a response.
In an open letter to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, HRW urged them to "ensure a timely and comprehensive response" to alleged abuse and implement "systemic reforms to prevent such abuses in future".
It has urged Saudi Arabia to "prosecute alleged perpetrators, allow victims to return to their home countries before the trial and seek both criminal penalties and financial compensation".
It also wants the cancellation of the Kafala system that requires the consent of the employer to repatriate migrant workers.
The BBC has had no response from the media office of the embassy of Saudi Arabia in London.
Google: Govt Requests for User Data Up 100+ Percent Since 2010
By Chloe Albanesius
November 14, 2013 10:05am EST
Google today released its latest transparency report with details about government requests for user data, which the search giant said have increased by more than 100 percent since it started releasing these reports in 2010.
"This comes as usage of our services continues to grow, but also as more governments have made requests than ever before," Google said in a blog post. "And these numbers only include the requests we're allowed to publish."
Google and its rivals are not allowed to publish specific details about national security-related requests. In the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, Google and others pushed the government for permission to publish this data. Thus far, the feds have only allowed for data to be published in ranges of 1,000 but Google today reiterated that it believes it should be able to publish more accurate data.
"Our promise to you is to continue to make this report robust, to defend your information from overly broad government requests, and to push for greater transparency around the world," Google said.
Today's report, meanwhile, covers data requests made in the first six months of 2013. In total, Google fielded 25,879 requests for user data from law enforcement officials around the world. U.S. officials accounted for 10,918 of those requests, 83 percent of which were honored.
This report - the search giant's eighth - includes additional information about legal process for U.S. criminal requests: breaking out emergency disclosures, wiretap orders, pen register orders, and other court orders. About 68 percent of U.S. requests were subpoenas, 22 percent were warrants, 6 percent were other court orders, 2 percent were pen register orders, and 1 percent were emergency disclosure requests.
Coming in at No. 2 was India with 2,691 requests, followed by Germany with 2,311 and France with 2,011. The U.K. and Brazil also had about 1,200.
Egypt's message to the US: We've got Russia
Russian officials are in Cairo today, reportedly to negotiate an arms deal. The US suspended some of its annual military aid to Egypt last month.
By Chelsea Sheasley, Staff writer / November 14, 2013
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov speaks to his counter part Nabil Fahmy, foreground, during their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Egypt’s foreign minister said on Thursday that Russia was too important to be a substitute for the United States as Cairo’s foreign ally and backer.
Once-cool relations between Russia and Egypt are quickly warming as Russian officials visit Cairo today to reportedly negotiate an arms deal worth up to $2 billion.
The visit – which Egyptian paper Al-Wafd hailed as “historic” – is the highest-level meeting between Russian and Egyptian officials in years, reports the BBC, and it comes shortly after President Barack Obama cut reduced aid to the Egyptian government following a July military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The Russian visit sends “a strong political message that stresses the desire” of Russia “to bolster relations and cooperate with Egypt in all fields,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Bloomberg by phone today.
Egypt is seeking MiG-29 fighter planes, air-defense systems, and anti-tank missiles, Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, told Bloomberg.
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Concurrent with the meetings, the Russian military is sending their flagship cruiser Varyag on a six-day visit to Alexandria. It will be the first Russian warship to visit Egypt since 1992.
Both Russian and Egyptian officials stressed that their meeting wasn’t meant to “replace” other countries, according to the Egyptian paper Ahram: [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov described the meeting as "very fruitful" and said collaboration between Cairo and Moscow had a long history going back to the 1950s.
He denied, however, that Russia was striving to replace "any country" - a reference to the US - as Egypt's key strategic partner.
[Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil] Fahmy confirmed that Egypt is not looking for a "substitute for anyone."
Yasser El-Shimy, an Egypt analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Reuters that the visit is meant to send a message to Washington:
"It's meant to send a message to say Egypt has options, and that if the United States wishes to maintain its strategic alliance with Egypt, it will have to drop the conditions it attaches to the military aid.”
The US sends $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt annually, but announced on Oct. 9 that it would suspend shipment of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters, missiles, and $260 million in cash until Egypt demonstrated improvements in democracy and human rights.
The question of whether the US will resume aid lingers over the potential Russian deal, as Reuters notes:
Washington has said it would consider resuming some of the suspended aid depending on Egypt's progress in following the interim government's plans to hold elections - a plan the government says it is committed to seeing through.
Seeking to mend fences with Egypt, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed guarded optimism about a return to democracy during a Nov. 3 visit to Cairo.
A Western diplomat in Cairo said the prospect of the United States resuming aid early next year was one factor diminishing the chances of a major new defense deal with Moscow.
Another unanswered question is how Egypt would pay for the new arms. A key source of funding is likely the Gulf, Bloomberg reports:
Egyptian officials are seeking financing from an unidentified Persian Gulf country to buy as much as $4 billion of Russian arms, Palestinian newspaper Dunia al-Watan reported Nov. 6, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged at least $12 billion to Egypt’s new government.
“The only issue is Egypt’s ability to pay,” Igor Korotchenko, [a] member of the Defense Ministry’s advisory board, said by phone from Moscow. “Russia is prepared to supply a wide range of arms to meet Egypt’s requirements.”
Russia and Egypt had close ties until a few years before Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, which opened the door to substantial US aid over the next three decades.
- Category: News
- Created on Friday, 08 November 2013 21:13
In the face of evidence, the UK and US continue to deny systematic human rights abuses are occurring in the Lower Omo as thousands are displaced for an irrigation scheme.
Article | 4 November 2013 - 1:23pm | By David Turton
Members of the Nyangatom, one of the communities affected by the project, loading donkeys by the river. Photograph by William Davison.
The US-based think tank, the Oakland Institute, recently accused the UK and US governments of aiding and abetting the eviction of thousands of people from their land in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley.
The accusation was not new – it had been made before by Survival International and Human Rights Watch amongst others. What was new about this report was that it made use of transcripts of interviews conducted by officials from the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), during a field visit to the lower Omo in January 2012.
The interviews were recorded by the report’s author, Will Hurd, who accompanied the officials and acted as their interpreter. The recordings contain vivid first-hand accounts of the abuses suffered by local people at the hands of the government, the police and the army.
Hurd, an American human rights activist who speaks one of the local languages, decided to release the recordings to journalists when both agencies claimed publicly, months after their visit, that they had found no evidence of the ‘systematic’ abuse of human rights. Having spent 40 years working as an anthropologist in the area myself, I am confident of the accuracy and authenticity of the report and of the interviews on which it is based.
The abuses being carried out by the Ethiopian government in the Lower Omo are incontrovertible. Thousands of agro-pastoralists are being evicted by government fiat and without compensation from their most valuable agricultural land along the banks of the Omo in order to make way for large-scale commercial irrigation schemes. By far the largest of these schemes is being set up by the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation. The evictions are being accompanied by a resettlement or ‘villagisation’ programme which, although described by administrators as ‘voluntary’, is forced in the sense that those affected have no reasonable alternative but to comply.
This is a glaring example of how not to do river-basin development. No impact assessments, feasibility studies or resettlement plans have been published. No plans have been announced for compensation, benefit sharing or livelihood reconstruction. And no attempt has been made to give the affected people a genuine say in decision making. In short, the project appears to have been conceived as a quasi-military operation, with the police and army acting as an occupying force amongst a recalcitrant and ‘backward’ civilian population. Not surprisingly in these circumstances, there have been reports of beatings, arrests and sexual violence by military personnel.
We know from 50 years of academic research on ‘development-forced displacement and resettlement’ as well as from countless reports by NGOs and development agencies that, if the project continues in this way, it will have a devastating impact on the economic, physical, psychological and social wellbeing of the displaced population. To use an expression from Michael Cernea, formerly the World Bank’s Senior Adviser on Social Policy and Resettlement, river-basin development in the lower Omo looks like its becoming yet another “disgracing stain on development itself.”
Aiding and abetting
Ethiopia receives $3.5 billion a year from international donors, which amounts to approximately half its annual budget. In March 2011, it was announced that the UK would be giving $2 billion in development aid to Ethiopia over the following four years, making Ethiopia the biggest single recipient of British aid money. The UK is also the biggest state contributor to the World Bank’s ‘Promoting Basic Services’ (PBS) programme for Ethiopia. PBS funds provide budget support for local government expenditure on education, health, agricultural extension and road construction. Since resettlement in the Lower Omo is the responsibility of the local administration, it would be stretching credulity beyond reasonable bounds to believe DfID’s claim that no UK money is being used to finance this activity.
Over the past two years I have tried to alert both the Ethiopian government and DfID to what I believe is a disaster in the making. The Ethiopian officials I have spoken to simply denied that there was any basis for my concerns. I have learnt that critics of Ethiopian government policies are liable to be treated either as ‘enemies’ of Ethiopia or as well meaning friends in need of remedial education. DfID staff were interested in what I had to say but the official line is that the British Government takes a ‘robust stand’ on human rights and, ‘where it has concerns’ it raises them ‘at the very highest level’ – to which the only answer, if you’ve had to stand by and watch your fields and grain stores flattened by a sugar corporation bulldozer, is ‘Yeah, right’.
Whatever is going on behind closed doors, public statements made by British officials about allegations of human rights abuses in the lower Omo have been consistently supportive of the Ethiopian government. On 5 November 2012, the Minister for International Development, Justine Greening, announced in reply to a question in Parliament that DfID had not been able to “substantiate” the allegations made to it during its visit to the lower Omo in January that year. She promised that another visit to the area would be made “to examine these further.”
Another visit was indeed made, by DfID and USAID staff, a week after the Minister’s reply. But no report of this visit has been released despite a Freedom of Information request from Survival International. Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chairman of the International Development Committee of the UK’s House of Commons, repeated the Minister’s line on a visit to Addis Ababa in March 2013. Speaking to a local newspaper, he said “we cannot make decisions based on allegations….what we have now is mostly allegations, many of which the government has already addressed”.
A robust stand with Ethiopia
On this showing, DfID’s proud boast that it takes a ‘robust stand’ on human rights looks like empty rhetoric – cynical, politically expedient and morally bankrupt. Nor would one have to be a great cynic oneself to at least wonder whether the allegations made to DfID and USAID staff by lower Omo residents in January 2012 would have seen the light of day if they had not been tape-recorded and published by Will Hurd.
It needs to be stressed that the allegations were not principally about rapes, arrests and beatings. These have certainly occurred, but they may or may not have been part of a systematic campaign of intimidation. What is undeniable is the forced, large-scale, ongoing and systematic eviction of whole communities from their land by their own government, without consultation and without compensation. And it is clear from the interview transcripts, published along with the Oakland Institute report, that this was the most deeply felt, vehemently expressed and frequently repeated allegation of human rights abuse made to DfID and USAID staff during their January 2012 field visit. Any “further examination” of this allegation, if indeed it is necessary, should not take long to complete.
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