Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Concert

The Creative Arts Ministry at McLean Bible Church in McLean, VA, presented a spectacular Christmas concert this past Friday, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The show was extremely well presented and captivating. It was simply the best Christmas concert I have ever witnessed! The concert will be re-broadcast on the internet on Christmas Day, Saturday at 6:30 PM Eastern Time, and I highly recommend that you watch it.

Here is the instruction to watch, go to and wait for the countdown timer in the top right to reach zero. Streaming will begin 15 minutes before the show. The show
runs about 1:45 minutes and is composed of two Acts with a 10 minutes intermission. Merry Christmas!

Here are a couple of teasers for you from the concert. This one is an original music titled "Proclamation."

And this one is probably the best version of "Rejoice" you will ever hear.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Music is Really Good for You - V

I love to listen to both secular and Christian music. In my opinion, the quality and creativity in today's Christian music scene is better than what I see in the secular music scene. Here are a couple of my favorites Christian songs of late. The first one is a reflective song by a soloist named Bebo Norman and the second one is an upbeat song from is a group called Casting Crowns. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Haile to the Chief!

Haile Gebrselassie retires! "It is better to stop here." Maybe not yet.

Thanks for the memories and best wishes on your next adventure(s)!

Eskinder Nega takes Haile to task for his recent flirtation with Meles. He also takes a critical look at Haile's rash announcement of his retirement and his political aspiration. Read here.

A shellacking for Obama's agenda

I was expecting the American electorate would rebuke President Obama's leftist agenda in last Tuesday's US midterm election. Instead, what they actually delivered was a strong repudiation of that agenda. When I voted for Obama in 2008 I did so with the hope that he would govern from the political center and that he would offer a more pragmatic foreign policy. What the country got from him and the Democratic party, unfortunately, was an unbridled expansion of government in a time of high economic distress and an apology tour by Obama that sent the wrong signals to enemies of the US. Now that the Democrats have been given a shellacking, one would expect that they will moderate and tack to the center. But judging from their early reactions to the elections, I highly doubt that that will happen. As for me, I will do what I can to defeat their redistribution of wealth and social engineering agenda here in the US and elsewhere.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Obama's loss Africa's gain?

I read an opinion piece by G. Pascal Zachary yesterday titled "Midterm elections could give a boost to Africa – if the Democrats lose." The article suggests that the expected rebuke for President Obama and his party at the polls next Tuesday will force Obama to intervene more vigorously in African affairs than he would otherwise prefer.

I think this is wishful thinking. I do not expect to see a significant policy shift on Afican issues by the Obama Administration whcih will result from the outcome of the election. Obama has been pursuing essentially the same policies of his predecessor, with only minor tweaks, when it comes to US policy towards African issues. If Obama was inclined to make his mark on Africa, we would have seen him get engaged personally at least a year ago.

Now that Obama is more likely to be viewed as a lame duck president after the election, I doubt that he will be any more proactive in African affairs. Besides, his more intimate knowledge of Africa, which he acquired by virtue of his African heritage, will likely inform him that Africa is not the place where he should expend his limitted polical capital. The more likely scenario for Obama's Africa policy in the next two years is an ad hoc policy dictated by crises.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Witnessing the Birth of a New Nation

The referendum that is to take place early next year in Southern Sudan is sure to give birth to Africa's newest nation, though there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome before this becomes a reality. But are Ethiopians ready to welcome a new nation-state to their west and all that it entails, both good and bad? Here is a fascinating music and dance to help you ponder this thought. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The practice of pardoning Birtukan Mideksa

"...given her past practice, I wouldn't be surprised if she asked for pardon again, and given the practice of the government, I wouldn't be surprised if the government were to pardon her again..."

Video starts at the 46:36 minute mark. The quote is found at the 52:00 minute mark.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reaganomics vs. Obamanomics

A Tale of Two Recoveries: The state of the economy after a year of 'rebound.' (WSJ, 9/22/2010)

Recession May Be Over, but Joblessness Remains (New York Times, 9/20/2010)

The verdict is clear: most of Obama's economic policies have proven to be ineffective in stimulating a recovery and job creation. It's no wonder that most of the architects of his economic policies have left the administration or are planning to leave soon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ethiopia's trends compared with some selected countries

The graphs below are made using Google's public data explorer. What's neat about this tool is that it allows you to quickly visualize data and spot trends. I wanted to see how Ethiopia's trends compared with some selected countries. The results speak for themselves, but I think you should take them with a grain of salt since the data comes from the World Bank which, in turn, gets a lot of its data directly from member countries.

Friday, September 03, 2010

"Radical Islam is world's greatest threat"

Tony Blair believes so and I agree.

Here is another example of radical Islam asserting its political muscle in the streets of France.

A quote from Tony Blair's new book "A Journey: My Political Life" makes this point crystal clear:

Here is where the root of the problem lies. The extremists are small in number, but their narrative—which sees Islam as the victim of a scornful West externally, and an insufficiently religious leadership internally—has a far bigger hold. Indeed, such is the hold that much of the current political leadership feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing

...Defeating the visible and terrifying manifestations of religious extremism is not enough. Indeed I would go further: This extremism won't be defeated simply by focusing on the extremists alone. It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.

Dreams Dashed

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Katrina Retrospective: 5 Years After the Storm

The more humans try to control nature, the more they will be surprised by the force that is behind nature. Katrina is a great example of this.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

February Sea - George Winston

George Winston is one of my favorite musicians. This song is my favorite of all his compositions, so much so that I used it as one of the song choices for my wedding. This kid does a great job playing the song. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Opposition candidate wins presidential vote in Somaliland

Somalilanders went to the polls on 26th of June and elected an opposition party candidate, Ahmed Mohamud Silanyo of the Kulmiye party, to be their next president. The incumbent president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, which came in a distant second, has promised to honor the result.

If this comes to fruition and Mr. Kahin hands the reigns of power to Mr. Silanyo, then we are at the cusp of witnessing history being made in the Horn of Africa, namely the first peaceful transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition party. What a tremendous accomplishment for Somaliland this could turn out to be!

This golden opportunity to put Somaliland in the spotlight could be a waisted opportunity if Mr. Silanyo fails to deliver. I hope he will listen to voices such as Soyan Guled's and other moderate voices, and I wish him best of luck -- he needs all the luck he can get in that dangerous corner of the world.

On a sour note, the Woyane regime that did all it can under the sun to prevent the Ethiopian people from freely expressing their hopes and wishes in the election held just six weeks ago has sent its praise for the outgoing president, Mr. Kahin, for "his high sense of obligation to the people of Somaliland." Strange, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Proud of Team USA

Update: I was disappointed with the US team's performance yesterday against Ghana, but I am still proud of the team's performance as a whole in the 2010 World Cup. I want Bob Bradley to continue in his head coaching job, but only if he is going to give younger and promising players more chances to prove themselves in meaningful games.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

Advice to the opposition

I hope the Ethiopian opposition leaders will heed and act on these sound advices.

Eskinder Nega
Addressing the immediate challenges:

Now is the time for the legal opposition to address the challenges it faces, exploit the political opportunities, and isolate the hazards that need to be shunned. Sadly, so far, avoiding the hazards seems to loom larger than addressing the challenges and exploiting the opportunities. And perhaps the role of the Shimagles (elders) -- who are shuttling between Meles and opposition leaders -- is influencing the course of events. But this may be a fatal error for an opposition facing an existential threat. Certainly, imprisonment must not be avoided at the expense of relegation to permanent irrelevance.
Ayal-Sew Dessye
The ball once again is in the opposition's court:

As egregious as the conduct of the elections and as unacceptable as the results are, this undeclared calculated risk by the Meles regime could be, I believe, an opportunity for the opposition. Election 2010 has disrobed this regime's leaders and shown their naked self to the whole world. They can no longer continue to pretend to be, as they say, "building democracy" or claim that the country is an "emerging democracy", etc. The results announced by the regime have clearly shown to what illegitimate and shameful extent EPRDF leaders could go to stay in power. Only under totalitarian regimes of the bygone era could there be such an outrageous and indefensible outcome in any election.

Nonetheless, I believe that there is no better environment and a better time than now for the opposition to reinvent itself and make a badly needed paradigm shift. But this is not a time to rush things through and engage in self-serving and short-sighted endeavors. It would be prudent to take enough time to reflect on the whole, self examine, reassess the situation, regroup and reorganize as a national (country-wide) force, chart a new course with comprehensive and clear strategy, and embark on a united and decisive struggle to do away with tyranny once and for all. Priority should be given to encourage and help those inside the country. They need to be assisted to stay afloat and function as much as they could.
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Give Young People a Chance to Lead:

The older generation in the opposition needs to learn to get out of the way. Let's give the younger generation a chance to lead. After all, it is their future. We can be most useful if we help them learn from our mistakes and guide them to greater heights. Zenawi thinks he can mold the young people in his image so that he can establish a Reich that will last a thousand years. He will never succeed. If there is one thing universally true about young people, it is that they love freedom more than anything else. Let the older generation be water carriers for the young people who will be building the "future country of Ethiopia," as Birtukan would say.

Think Like Winners, Not Victims:

Victory is not what it seems for the victors, and defeat is not what it feels for the vanquished. There is defeat in victory and victory in defeat. Both victory and defeat are first and foremost states of mind. Those who won the election by a margin of 99.6 percent project an image of being victorious. But we know they have an empty victory secured by force and fraud. The real question is whether the opposition sees itself as winners or losers. Winners think and act as winners, likewise for losers.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Best wishes to US MNT

Cheering for the US men's national team at the World Cup in South Africa is one of the few things I agree with Obama. Just two weeks to go before the World Cup. Go USA!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We know who we voted for!

Don't mess with our Dear Leader! He is the one who will get us [not Ethiopia] out of poverty.

The US Spate Department is clearly acquiescing to Woyane's "overwhelming victory" as its tepid statement on the "elections" indicates. They've also said, with a straight face, that they are not surprised by the results. Message to opposition supporters: Get over it! Strange as it may seem, I agree because the opposition camp, from A to Z, was complicit in giving legitimacy to the election.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

US criticizes Ethiopian Election

U.S. says Ethiopa vote not up to international standards
"While the elections were calm and peaceful and largely without any kind of violence, we note with some degree of remorse that the elections there were not up to international standards," Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson told a House of Representatives panel.
Some degree of remorse...really?
"It is important that Ethiopia move forward in strengthening its democratic institutions and when elections are held that it level the playing field to give everyone a free opportunity to participate without fear or favor," Carson said.
Blah, blah, blah...

Mr. Carson: I do not think even yourself expect Ethiopians to take your comments seriously. Do you? After reading your writings in Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, I had predicted that this kind of low key reaction is what Ethiopians should be expecting from the US after an election that the US knows to be not free and fair. Be honest and tell Ethiopians to stop looking to Washington for any kind of help in their quest for freedom.

Ethiopians: Let's be honest to ourselves: this election should have been boycotted. But this is now a mute point. Let's put this election debacle behind us as quickly as possible. Let's invest in a younger generation of leaders, like Birtukan, while taking advantage of the wisdom and experience of some of the older generation leaders. Let's be realists and not given to simple emotions.

It's a landslide, make that super landslide!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Prayer for Birtukan

As we were preparing to say grace before eating breakfast this morning, I asked our five year old son if there is anything that he wants me to pray about. Without the slightest of hesitation, he said: "let's pray for Birtukan". And, so, I prayed to God to protect Birtukan from harm while she is in jail. May He sustain her spirit and also give her the strength to endure her separation from her daughter, Hale Mideksa. Amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ESAT interview with Beyene Petros

The brand new Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) had a phone interview with Beyene Petros, the current chairman of Medrek, on today's "election". The crux of the interview is found at the 5:49 minute mark. That is where Beyene states that the election needs to be rerun based on a set of rules that all parties can agree to. He referred to Medrek's rejection of the Election Code of Conduct back in October to make this point. Duh, why bother to repeat that point now? Didn't Medrek participate in the "election" while fully knowing that it was going to be a total sham? Boycotting the election would have been the correct course of action for Medrek to take. Wasn't it? I am sure Beyene won't admit to this.

There is a funny bit at the end of this interview when the reporter attempts to reach Bereket Simon, the Woyane honcho. Bereket informs the reporter that he is hard at work.

Election quote #2

I thought I had already heard the best quote of the 2010 "election" courtesy of an old Oromo man last week. I was wrong. I think this gem from Hailu $hawel beats that one by a mile. He was quoted by VOA, just after participating in an election he absolutely knew would turn out to be a sham election, as saying:
"I am not participating in a ridiculous election. Never again."
Isn't it a bit too late to say this, Mr. $hawel? A job well done, Mr $hawel! You and Meles have really come to an understanding! You are a disgrace! I hope you will remain true to your word and quit politics.

Update (June 8): $hawel claims he was fooled (wink wink) by Woyane.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I'm Woyane, we all should be Woyane

I know what you are thinking. Now that I've got your attention, please allow me to explain what I meant by "I'm Woyane".

As you may be aware, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a dialogue forum among the nine Nile riparian states (Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda) for a fair and mutually beneficial use of the Nile river has been going on since 1999. Other similar initiatives have preceded the NBI, but the NBI is the most sustained of these dialogues. It is mainly funded by the World Bank and other external donors.

After 11 years of hard negotiations, five of the nine states have agreed to a draft agreement called the Cooperative Framework Agreement. This agreement is the first major step before the establishment of a permanent Nile River Basin agreement. Two more countries, the DR Congo and Brundi, are expected to sign on to the agreement soon. The remaining two, Egypt and Sudan, are not happy with the draft agreement and have voiced their opposition.

Egypt, however, does not only object to the agreement, she is working very hard to derail the agreement in a last ditch attempt to maintain its obscene monopoly over the use of Nile's water. Here is Egypt's reaction to the signing of the draft agreement:
Responsibility for the Nile issue had been taken from the Irrigation and Foreign ministries and handed over to the National Security Authority headed by Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman when Egyptian diplomatic efforts against the new Nile basin treaty failed, news portal Masrawy reported Wednesday.

The reason for the handover is the inauguration of the Tana Beles hydropower station and dam in Ethiopia last Friday, the day a new treaty was signed by four Nile basin countries. Egypt insists that projects such as Tana Beles station need to be approved by it first....

Egypt has decided to freeze all forms of bilateral cooperation with the Nile basin countries that signed the agreement regarding river rights, Al-Shorouk newspaper reported Wednesday.
But all talk from the Egyptian side is not jingoistic. There are some realist Egyptians who recognize that clinging to an unjust 1959 colonial treaty which gives Egypt 87% of the Nile water is plain foolish:
Yet Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies researcher Nabil Abdel-Fatah had criticized the official approach, saying that the Egyptian response to Nile issue has been "slow and lacking in dynamism."

He added: "The Egyptian political and diplomatic structure still perceives Africa from a position of superiority; they still see it as the old Africa just after colonialism."

"Egypt must stop perceiving Africa in such a regressive way," he said, "And our dealings with Africa should be revised on a more equitable and developmental level."
When it comes to the equitable use of the waters of the Nile river basin, I believe all Ethiopians should support whatever regime is in charge of Ethiopia so long as that regime jealously guards Ethiopia's national interest. On this particular score, I am of the opinion that the Woyane regime is pursuing Ethiopia's national interest and I, as an avowed opponent of the regime, declare myself to be a Woyane.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Election quote

A question from a Reuters reporter prompted an old Oromo man to give the best quote of the 2010 Ethiopian "election":

They [Woyane] can build roads to the moon but I won't vote for them until we're equal.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Samantar v. Yousuf

Continuing on the theme of prisons from the last post, I read about a very interesting legal case, referred to as Samantar v. Yousuf, that is pending at the US Supreme Court that has to do with human rights abuses. The case was argued in early March and a decision is expected within the next few weeks.

The case was brought to court by Somali victims (the "respondents") of torture during the Barre regime from the 1980s. The respondents are attempting to bring to justice a former defence and prime minister of Somalia by the name of Mohamed Ali Samantar (the "petitioner") who now lives in the US. What the US Supreme Court is deciding now is whether or not the petitioner has immunity from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the respondents, then Mr. Samantar can be taken to court to face justice.

From what I've read about the case, it was not convincingly argued by either side. But, to its credit, the Obama Administration has sided with the respondents, and that may help sway the court's opinion towards a loose interpretation of the FSIA. If this comes to fruition, then that will send a strong message to all human right abusers, like officials of the Woyane regime, that they may be held accountable to what they are doing to political prisoners as officials of the Ethiopian state. I am sure there are also some officials of the Derg regime who are nervously watching the Supreme Court's decision on this case.

Update (June 1st): US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that "the respondents" can sue the ex-Somali prime minister. Here is the decision.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Those Secret Prisons

This story from the BBC today about a US secret jail in Afghanistan reminded me of a similar story from April of 2007, which was reported by the late Anthony Mitchel, about secret jails in Ethiopia visited by CIA agents.

I was wondering if any of those jails are still operational and, if so, whether or not the CIA is still engaged in a similar scheme with the Ethiopian government. To be clear, I am strongly in favor of the CIA or any other US intelligence agency using all legal means at its disposal in the hunt for terrorists while, at the same time, I am also strongly against any branch of the US government coddling up with dictators anywhere in the world who terrorize their population, just like what the Ethiopian government does everyday.

In the context of the upcoming "election" in Ethiopia, it will be interesting to watch how the US government will react to an "election" that it knows is taking place in an atmosphere of intimidation and a severely restricted political space for the opposition.

Will the US turn a blind eye, once again, to the aspirations of Ethiopians to freely elect their leaders in exchange for the opportunity to interview a few third-rate terrorist wannabes? If it does, then Ethiopians' view of the role of the US government in their country's affairs will fundamentally change for the worse. This, in my humble opinion, will neither serve the interests of the US nor that of Ethiopia.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hunger Strike for Birtukan Mideksa

Thank you guys for what you are doing to publicize Birtukan's case. But will anyone in the Obama Administration listen?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Defiant Beyene Petros?

A few days ago the Woyane regime accused Prof. Beyene Petros, the current leader of the Medrek political grouping, of planning to change the government "through street fighting" referring to a campaign speech recently given by him. I have not heard the speech where Beyene was purported to have said this, but it is obvious that this cheap swipe at Beyene is a part of Woyane's overall intimidation strategy it has adopted since the 2005 stolen election.

Beyene, to his credit, has come out swinging and challenged the Woyane to substantiate its charge (please listen to this VOA interview with Beyene from yesterday). The last time I heard Beyene this combative and animated was during the 2000 election when he led the Southern Coalition to victory over Woyane in Hadiya, Kembata and Tembaro regions. Is this the new Beyene? I doubt it. But it is good to see him on the side of the people again.

Ethiopian Academy of Sciences

There is not much good news coming out of Ethiopia these days, but the news about the establishment of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences early last month is a rare exception. The science magazine Nature has an in-depth and balanced article on this story and it is well worth your time to read it. The academy has elected a veteran medical professor by the name of Demissie Habte (pictured above), who has a lot of research papers to his credit, as its president. I hope the government will grant the academy the independence it needs to grow and inspire young scientists to flourish in Ethiopia, just like the Haileselassie and subsequent Ethiopian governemnts did for Ethiopian Airlines.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Meles out, preferably peacefully...

A widely disseminated statement of declaration from the group that conducted a "Conference on Good Governance, Peace, Security, Sustainable Development in the Horn of Africa" about a week ago had the following paragraph:
[We] have agreed that the quagmires that Ethiopia finds itself are by and large a result of the 19 years of poor political leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his TPLF/EPRDF party. We strongly believe that neither peace nor development can be achieved and sustained while Ato Meles Zenawi is in power. Hence, he must immediately exit the Ethiopian political scene, preferably peacefully.
Less than a week after the declaration statement was put out, the paragraph above was replaced with this one:
[We] strongly believe that Ato Meles Zenawi does not enjoy the popular support of the majority of the Ethiopian people and would lose a free and fair popular vote. We are concerned that Ato Meles Zenawi will use force to stay in power. We call on Meles Zenawi to peacefully adher to the will of the Ethiopian people.
This raises some serious questions, least among which is a question about the competency of the individuals who approved the original statement. The first sentence of the first paragraph is only partially true and a bit unfair. Obviously, the last sentence of the first paragraph is a poorly veiled reference to an overthrow of the regime in power. It is beyond me why any group that includes many reputable and experienced individuals would approve such a reckless statement for press release. At least, it is good to know that this group recognized the mistake and corrected it quickly. Sanity has prevailed, it seems.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Siye's Election

I had previously argued, albeit breifly, that taking part in the election scheduled for next month is a pointless exercise which could harm the cause of democracy in Ethiopia and had suggested that boycotting the election might be a better alternative. I have not learned any new set of facts in the last three months which would persuade me to change this point of view, a view which I believe is also shared by many. Of course, there is a possibility, though remote, that something big happening between now and the election which could dramatically change the playing field in favor of the opposition. If that comes to pass, I would be more than happy to be proven wrong on my prognostication.
Having said that, there could be something to be gained by the opposition in the upcoming election. If handled right, the participation of former top officials of the Woyane regime in the election on the side of the opposition could prove very useful in showing Ethiopians what's on the horizon beyond Woyane era. The former Woyane official who best represents this transitional period is none other than Siye Abraha, the former defence minister, thus the label "Siye's Election". I wish Birtukan was leading the opposition in this election, but that was not to be at this time [I hope her suffering is a blessing in disguise]. For now, Siye is the next best thing the opposition has got. I just watched Siye address some tough questions on this video and I have to say I was very impressed with the maturity level he displayed in addressing them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This Music is Really Good for You - IV

The tremendous impact that this relatively small Icelandic volcano has had reminded me of the songs "God of Wonders" and "Awesome God", probably the two most popular Christian songs of the last quarter century. Great music, beautiful visuals. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Airport Status Map - Iceland Volcano

Image courtesy of the New York Times. Click on the image for latest info on airports. Check this web site to see how the volcanic plume has spead over time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Suspend Gibe III Dam Project

I had been following the controversy surrounding the Gibe III hydroelectric dam project with passing interest until a couple of months ago. That changed when the recently completed Gibe II dam tunnel collapsed just two weeks after its inauguration. I am for the development of Ethiopia's infrastructure regardless of whatever regime is in charge. But development that is done without transparency and full consultation with all the stakeholders is bound to fail or bring about unnecessary conflicts or both.

Unfortunately, this is going to be case with the Gibe II and III projects. That is why I signed the Stop Gibe 3 Dam petition last night. The Woyane regime is well advised to take into consideration the complaints of the tribal communities of the lower Omo river basin, in both Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as the concerns of those critics who are making a legitimate case for tranparency and accountability. This would be the right thing to do.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Mr. Paster Prison

Hey, my name is Daniel. Make that Paster Daniel. I like my job. It brings me fame and provides me with a very well paying job. I was making my prison rounds the other day and I ran into Birtukan. She is doing very well. Trust me. See you after the election.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Revisiting Size of Ethiopian Population in the US

The decennial US census is currently underway and tomorrow, April 1st, is the National Census Day, meaning that this is the day when we are supposed to return our filled out census forms. So, it is fitting that we revisit the post on the size of the Ethiopian born US population at this time.

The 2000 U.S. Census had stated that the number of people in the US who were born in Ethiopia was 69,530. Of course, this figure does not include children born to Ethiopian parents in the US. I thought this figure seemed a bit low for Ethiopian population in the US at that time, but I thought it was closer to the true figure than the figures that most Ethiopians seem to bandy about. What will the 2010 census reveal when it is released in 2011? It is anybody's guess, but one can make an educated guess. Why not?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, where the Citizenship and Immigration Seervice resides, gives a detailed information for Ethiopians who became US residents from 2003 to 2008. The total for Ethiopians who became US residents for this six year period is 67,305, which averages to 11,218 per year. If you extrapolate this average to the other years which are not mentioned (2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010) and assume that the same number of Ethiopians had gotten US residency in those years, then the total Ethiopian immigration for the past decade would be about 112,175.

If you add this figure to the above 2000 US Census Bureau figure, the total for Ethiopian born population in the US in 2010 would be 181,705. I know I have to take motality rate into account, but I will assume that Ethiopian mortality is very low compared with native born Americans and also that there are probably more Ethiopians in the US living illegally and not counted by the census than those who have passed away after immigrating to the US. So, there you have it: 181,705.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reforesting Ethiopia

All Ethiopians, regardless of political persuasion (on climate change and other issues), should be able to agree on the need to reforest Ethiopia and preserve what little virgin forests that remain, which was estimated to be about 4% of land area in 2000 according to Earthtrends. Here below is "one" person who is doing something to reforest Ethiopia. Another group which is engaged in a similar effort is the Ethiopian Tree Fund Foundation, an organization created for the "singular task of reclaiming the land of Ethiopia" according it its web site. These efforts and others like them should be applauded.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I am a fan of

I have been reading for over four years now. I understand that Gadaa does not bill itself as an Ethiopian web site (they prefer to be known as an independent online media outlet that serves the Horn of African region and its Diaspora), but I think they are one of the best Ethiopia news portals, if not the best, out there. Instead of taking my words, why not read a couple of their recent posts and make your own judgement.

In a post titled "
There is No Ethiopia Without Oromia – Minnesota OACC Panelists", Gadaa reports on a human rights conference organized by the Oromo-American Citizens’ Council (OACC) this past weekend. I thought a quote from one of the participants was of particular importance:
“Justice for Oromo people is a question of access to state power and the exercise of equitable power,” said Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, president of the Worldwide Union of Oromo Evangelical Churches.

The Reverend pleaded with Oromo political groups about the dire need for a shift in paradigm in the Oromo national movement. He said because tens of ethnic groups shared long-stretching borders with Oromia, an independent Oromia would be infeasible as that would lead to the demise of Ethiopia as we know it, hampering the security and economic development of future Oromia.
A few weeks ago Gadaa had carried a well done article titled: "Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy Enriches the Few and Impoverishes the Majority". This article debunks Woyane's much touted GDP growth rate figures with facts and figures. It is well worth your time to read these articles and others posted on Gadaa.

PS: I do not personally know of any one who is associated with My observation is based totally from what I read on the web site.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A former aid worker says the truth lies somewhere in between

Nicholas Winer, former director of Oxfam in Sudan and Ethiopia writes that the truth in the controversy about the BBC report of the diversion of food aid to buy arms in the 80s lies somewhere between the assertions of Geldof/current-TPLF and BBC/ex-TPLF:
The recent angry response to the BBC by aging colleagues that every effort was made to build checks and balances into the purchase and distribution process speaks volumes about their real anxiety that many things could've gone wrong. They wanted to be sure that if food or money did go astray, it wouldn't be because they'd been negligent. On that basis -- and the detailed explanations of Paul Vallely -- the more extreme claims made by the BBC must be discounted. But for the very same reason, so too must any outright denial that anything did go astray.
He also suggests that the Eritrean rebels may have benefited the most from the diversion of aid money:
It was always evident that greater access, and thus greater accountability, was more possible with the structures established by the Tigrayeans than with those of the Eritreans. That this was so is still reflected in the different political realities of the two countries. So, I ask myself if the story even has the right focus. What happened to aid to the Eritrean rebels, where accountability was much harder to establish? What of the tales of an underground TPLF political prison in Gondar, to which no aid worker was ever granted access? No surprise there. This wasn't just famine, but a nasty and brutal war zone. To suggest that the TPLF never pulled a fast one and took their share would be a very foolish and naive assertion.
I think the integrity of current and future aid requires that all concerned people should demand a full accounting of all the aid money that has gone to Ethiopia in the last 25 years.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The BBC stands by Martin Plaut's reporting

Bob Geldof and others who were involved in the Ethiopian famine relief effort of the 80s are vociferously denying that aid money was diverted by Woyane to buy arms. The BBC is standing by its reporter:
The documentary did not say that most famine relief money was used to buy weapons - it did not suggest that any relief agencies were complicit in the diversion of funds - it explicitly stated that "whatever the levels of deception, much aid did reach the starving".

But there is a clear public interest in determining whether some money given as famine relief ended up buying guns and bullets.

And that's what the evidence suggests.
Why are Mr. Geldof and some of the aid agencies so adamant in denying the diversion of aid money? Smells fishy. They should, instead, collaborate with the BBC and call for a thorough investigation.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Woyane Blood Money

The story of how the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), commonly known as Woyane, stole famine aid money in the 80's has been an open secret among Ethiopians for quite sometime. Only now it is getting the attention it deserves by the international press (see yesterday's BBC expose on the subject titled "Ethiopia famine aid 'spent on weapons'").

The picture above shows two Woyane representatives receiving the money channelled to them through an "aid worker" named Max Peberdy. Mr. Peberdy wants us to believe that the money he helped to transfer went to the starving. Mr. Peberdy's profile on his employer's web site states that "his specific area of expertise is evaluation of development and emergency programmes and the management of projects." What a job description!

The BBC wanted to interview the current Woyane honcho, Meles, to clarify the story, but he refused to be interviewed. Surprise, surprise! Obviously, they did not really need to get his side of the story because they had already gotten plenty of first hand witness accounts and other supporting documents to the theft of the aid money to corroborate the story. Sadly, the diversion of food aid money still goes on unabated with full knowledge of the donors!

Martin Plaut, the BBC reporter who broke this story, has additional reporting: On the trail of Ethiopia aid and guns. Here is a portion:
For years the rains had failed and by 1984 millions were starving.

Thanks in no small part to the help of Bob Geldof and Live Aid, people responded as never before.

Millions of dollars were raised. Food was brought in. Many died, but the worst was averted - or so I thought.

But a year ago, I began hearing a different take.

I was contacted by Ethiopians who said we had all missed the real story of how money given with such worthy objectives had ended up being used to buy weapons.

I began making enquiries.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Email scams with a new twist

Be on the look out for email scams (like the one below) that are more cunning than the types you may have been used to. I got this email scam from a person whom I had seen in public meetings before and had received an unsolicited email trumpeting his views on Ethiopian politics but with whom I never had a personal communication with.
Sorry I didn't inform you about my trip to the United Kingdom, I'm presently in Scotland and am having some difficulties here.I misplaced my bag on my way to the hotel where other valuable things were kept including my passport. I will like you to assist me with a loan of $2,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with and I promise to Refund the money as soon as i return.
I was surpised to get the email, but I figured it was some kind of a hoax and clicked the spam button on it. I did not think too much of it until a few weeks later when a friend of mine forwarded to me a very similar email he had received from a person that he knew very well. My friend almost fell for the scam. Lucky for him, he got suspicious after a brief communication with the perpetrator and saved himself from being a statistics in internet crime.

What makes these scams dangerous is that these scam "artists" want their victims to think that the email they have received has come from some one they know or are familiar with. It seems to me that these email addresses are harvested from bulk emails, such as funny bits and news links, that friends and acquaintances send to one another. So, beware whom you include in your "Send To:" list when you send those innocent emails, because they may come back to haunt you. Keep your guards up and don't fall for these scams.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Isaias Comes Unhinged by a Gutsy Reporter

This guy is a joke (listen and find out)! Sadly, his actions are not for Eritrea and the Horn region. I hate to say it but Isaias makes Meles look good, very good. Since he unambiguously asserts that the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea border war was instigated by the US, I think it is appropriate that the Obama Administration should offer to sit down and talk with him as they have done with Iran :)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

The Washington DC-Baltimore region was pounded with record setting snowfall last weekend. We are expecting more tonight. Click on the image for a detailed map view of the snowfall amounts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Boycott as a Tool of Democracy

Maimire Mennasemay wrote an article recently titled "Retooling the 2010 Election as a Weapon of Democracy" in which he suggested that the upcoming Ethiopian elections in May could be used as a means to advance the cause of democracy if handled right. Here is the crux of his argument:
...Elections are political tools, and like any tool, every election could become a tool for democracy if we “hold it right”, which means that if we hold the 2010 election right, it could become a powerful weapon for effectively de-legitimating the TPLF/EPDRF regime....

...Using the COC [Code of Conduct] as a political boomerang that comes back to its originating context and knocks it open to expose what it tries to hide—the anti-democratic and exploitative nature of the TPLF/EPDRF regime—is an action that those who signed and did not sign the COC, and those who participate and do not participate in the election, could take....

...But this is possible only if the members of the Ethiopian democratic family abide by a democratic code of conduct, implicit or explicit, based on mutual respect and tolerance.
Oh, how I wish this could be the case! Unfortunately and sadly, the Woyane regime has been preparing diligently for the last five years to make sure that there is very little chance of this scenario unfolding during the upcoming election. Besides, opposition groups of all hues had participated in elections in 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2005, and all of them have already proven that the ruling regime is not interested in being a partner for building a democracy in Ethiopia. Been there, done that. This is not to suggest that the weaknesses among the opposition has not contributed to democracy not taking root in Ethiopia under Woyane rule, but the blame rests squarely on Woyane's shoulders, no question.

So, what is the point of participating in another election, especially one that is highly scripted, which will not provide Ethiopians with any hope for representative government they desire and deserve? It is pointless.

It is not that I disagree with the notion that "every election could become a tool for democracy if we 'hold it right'”; it's just that I think Ethiopia, 18 years into Woyane rule, has reached the point where participation in yet another sham election will cause an irreparable harm to the larger task of laying the foundations for a democratic order in Ethiopia. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the best tool to use to advance the cause of democracy in Ethiopia at this point in time is through BOYCOTT, not participation in yet another sham elections.

I do not reach this conclusion lightly. As any long time reader of this blog can easily surmise, I have a lot of respect to those politicians who take tremendous risks to their own safety to fight the Woyane dictatorship on the ground in Ethiopia by using all peaceful means at their disposal. The supply of such politicians is limited and I see no need to waste precious resources and energy in the upcoming election. What is the logic behind sacrificing these kinds of politicians for a meaningless objective? I can't justify.

Isn't the sacrifice of Birtukan Mideksa and the thousands of others who are currently and have previously been incarcerated and the hundreds who have already given their precious lives for the cause of democracy not sufficient enough to prove the Woyane regime is an illegitimate one? I think it is! I would rather see the Mideksa type of Ethiopian politicians wise up and live to fight another day.

My view is that even if the parties that are currently registered to run in the elections, especially those with the Medrek coalition, end up taking part in the election, the political forces that are left out of the process are way too significant to consider the election a useful tool for democracy. I say: Why not boycott the 2010 election and let the chips fall where they may?

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to Fix American Health Care

A little more than half of the visitors of this blog are from the US. This post is for their benefit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"A crisis is a terrible thing to exploit"

This was the subtitle for today's Wall Street Journal editorial on the Massachusetts Senate special election. While the phrase is an accurate description of President Obama's first year in office, the WSJ was also taking a shot at the now infamous "You never let a serious crisis go to waste" quote of Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, regarding the financial meltdown of 2008. The Journal editorial goes on to say that:
Whether or not Republican Scott Brown wins today in Massachusetts, the special Senate election has already shaken up American politics. The close race to replace Ted Kennedy, liberalism's patron saint, shows that voters are rebelling even in the bluest of states against the last year's unbridled pursuit of partisan liberal governance.... The lesson of Mr. Obama's lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit.
Obama and the Democrats have overreached. They knew all along that the result of the 2008 elections was not a mandate to expand entitlements and increase the size and scope of government, but they went ahead with it anyhow.

Now that voters from New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, states which Obama easily carried in 2008, have clearly rejected the expansion of government, Obama and the Democrats should stop pursuing their highly divisive domestic agenda. Instead, they should put their efforts into issues that have the support of most Americans, issues like: job creation, energy independence and incremental health care reform because the very essence of America is what is at stake. (See Not a Transformational Figure.)

Thank you voters of Massachusetts for putting the brakes on the march towards a nanny state!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

PBS Series: This Emotional Life

If you have six hours to spare, the three-part PBS TV series which premiered last week titled "This Emotional Life" is well worth your time. The series "explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals." The host is Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert and you can watch the whole thing online.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mideksa: Not Forgotten

The Guardian's East Africa correspondent, Xan Rice, wrote a touching piece today on Birtukan Mideksa, perhaps Ethiopia's best hope to break out of its violent cycle, and the toll her incarceration has taken on her elderly mother and only child. There are many lines worthy of quoting in the article, but here is the one that stands out for me:
"The government says the more we make noise the more difficult it will be to get her [Mideksa] out," said one western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Are we going to risk our entire aid budget for one person? No."
Does any one get what this anonymous western diplomat is saying? Is he/she saying that the reason they do not make noise is because they (the donors) can't afford to offend the aid recipient? What kind of twisted logic is that? What a heartless diplomat!

It is in moments like these that I feel Ethiopia would be better off without Western aid. But that would be heartless, wouldn't it?