Friday, July 31, 2015

The secret to Ethiopia's counterterrorism success - Yahoo Maktoob News

The secret to Ethiopia's counterterrorism success

After the fanfare accorded to the United States President Barack Obama by Kenya, the last stop was Ethiopia.
Of grand symbolic importance, Obama's visit to East Africa was clearly historic, as he is the first sitting US president to do so.
A source of infectious excitement, Obama is extraordinarily popular and despite the various inconveniences and disruptions to their daily activities, Ethiopians have been delighted to welcome him to their country.
While visiting Ethiopia's capitol city, Addis Ababa, Obama addressed both the Ethiopian government and the African Union.
His presence in the region is a reflection of just how far East Africa, and particularly Ethiopia, has progressed in addressing their various misfortunes.
Dealing with terrorism 
Security cooperation is an area of high interest for the US in Africa.
Obama has repeatedly expressed his administration's keen interest in learning from Ethiopia's counterterrorism (CT) efforts and its counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, which I call the "Ethiopian Doctrine" on CT and COIN.
Attesting to this fact, Obama said: "Obviously [the US and Ethiopia] have been talking a lot about terrorism and the focus has been on ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], but in Somalia, we've seen al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, wreak havoc throughout that country."
He continued: "That's an area where the cooperation and leadership on the part of Ethiopia is making a difference as we speak […] So, our counterterrorism cooperation and the partnerships that we have formed with countries like Ethiopia are going to be critical to our overall efforts to defeat terrorism."
For many experts closely following events in the Horn of Africa and the fight against terrorism, Ethiopia stands out as having been exceptionally successful.
But what makes Ethiopia's doctrine so successful?
Supremacy of politics
The Ethiopian Doctrine on CT and COIN differs from others in several highly related respects:
The first element refers to supremacy of politics over the military components of the CT and COIN strategies. Under the Ethiopian Doctrine, politics precedes and leads the military and criminal justice systems. Traditional military-led COIN and CT strategies (including peacekeeping missions) cripplingly depend on the expeditionary army, whereas the Ethiopian Doctrine focuses on liberating areas for local communities to organise, arm themselves, and fight back against terrorists.
It also focuses on traditional narratives of solidarity, thereby promoting credible voices and messages of hope against despair.
Additionally, the counterinsurgency soldiers must always follow and support the political and civilian officers. Thus, political work and community development advances before military operations.
Subsidiarity principle
The political work involves mainly consultation with local communities and helping them in organising and arming themselves in order to fight back against threats. A soldier has a place in CT and COIN, but only in a subsidiary role to the political officer.
The role of political and civilian officers cannot be replaced by a soldier or military representative. 
It is not a quick-fix solution, but instead, seeks to gradually weaken violent extremism by engraining anti-insurgency into the very local cultural attributes and historical legacies of toleration of societies that comprise Ethiopia.
Trust-building, understanding fears, and sharing a common vision is at the centre of this approach, but more importantly, it embraces the principle of subsidiarity that requires that any and all external actors should be backup supporters of efforts by internal forces and local communities in the fight against terrorism.
This approach also helps to build close-knit neighbourhood associations that provide community-based peace and security with effective oversight by the state.
Such a commonality makes it very difficult for both foreign and domestic extremist groups to establish themselves and operate clandestinely within communities.
Pockets of stability and sustenance
Another element relates to seeking peace and national unity through the gradual expansion of pockets of stability, legitimacy, law, and order.
While traditional anti-insurgency strategies focus on controlling territories and populations, the Ethiopian Doctrine focuses on public deliberations, training, arming, and establishing administrative units in liberated areas to ensure their own peace and security.
It is a gradualist approach. For example, beginning with the liberation of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, and then working outwards to liberate and secure more surrounding territory through community-based outreach.
Moreover, this strategy relates to the governance and delivery of basic services in order to build hope within communities and security to sustain their own livelihoods.
It aims at drying the swamps of poverty and unrest that breed violent extremism. Basically, this approach kills the problem at its source, before it spreads and expands beyond control.
Mobile military command posts
The last, and arguably the most profound aspect of Ethiopian Doctrine is that it recognises that there is no military solution to terrorism and insurgency.
That being said, it doesn't eliminate it from the equation. It simply acknowledges that the military is not the most important factor.
It prioritises a greater use of mobile field headquarters and command centres meshed in the community - centres that are primarily designed to support the local communities in their efforts against terrorism and to provide extra muscle when their efforts are outgunned by the enemy.

RELATED: Obama's impact on Kenyatta's imprimatur

In traditional anti-insurgency strategies, these mobile military operations would be pushing aggressive offensive measures and become static and easy targets for terrorist forces.
By adapting aspects of the Ethiopian Doctrine to local peculiarities, other regions facing chaotic security regimes could not only alienate the leadership of the terrorist organisations but could also offer opportunity and space for local community-based mobilisation of CT and COIN strategies.
Expansive and indiscriminate bombings without the active participation of local communities and regional actors would provide for more grievance-based terrorism and will fail to be effective and sustainable in the long term.
Mehari Taddele Maru is a specialist in international human rights and humanitarian law, an international consultant on African Union affairs, and an expert in public administration and management.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Obama, in Ethiopia, Calls Its Government ‘Democratically Elected’ - The New York Times

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — President Obama twice called the government of Ethiopia “democratically elected” on Monday as he stood by the country’s prime minister, two months after elections that handed every seat in Parliament to the governing party and its allies.

Although human rights groups had called on Mr. Obama to use his visit to press for change, the president took a mild tone in his public remarks. He gently urged the Ethiopian government to make room for opposition, while stressing his respect for the country and its challenges in emerging from a long era of monarchy and autocracy.

Continue reading the main story

Clean water being distributed among residents in Malakal. A civil war in South Sudan has displaced more than two million people.Obama Gathers Leaders in Effort to End South Sudan WarJULY 27, 2015
President Obama talked with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya after arriving in Nairobi on Friday.The Effects of Obama’s Presidency in Africa: Readers’ OpinionsJULY 24, 2015
A billboard in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, on Sunday, the day President Obama arrived there.Obama’s Visit to Ethiopia Promises Little for Human Rights ActivistsJULY 26, 2015
Government in Ethiopia Is on Track to Win With 100% of VoteJUNE 22, 2015
Voters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reading newspapers ahead of Sunday’s election. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which currently governs, is expected to win.Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Is Expected to Keep Grip on PowerMAY 23, 2015
“We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history, the hardships that this country has gone through,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. “It has been relatively recently in which the Constitution that was formed, and elections put forward a democratically elected government.” He added that “there is still more work to do, and I think the prime minister is the first to acknowledge that there is more work to do.”


President Obama with his national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, right, and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen of Ethiopia during a state dinner in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday. Mr. Obama was being toasted by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
The elections in May were condemned by human rights groups as a sham. The government made it hard for opposition candidates to register, raise money and mobilize supporters, according to watchdog groups. Peaceful protesters were denied permits, harassed and in some cases arrested. News organizations were shut down and reporters harassed, threatened or arrested.

American diplomats were denied accreditation as election observers and prohibited from formally observing the process, according to the State Department, and the only international observers on the ground were from the African Union. The State Department said at the time that it was “troubled” that opposition party observers were barred from some locations.

“The recent election in Ethiopia was anything but a democratic one,” said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “There may not have been widespread violence or blatant ballot box stuffing on Election Day,” Ms. Margon said, but “the systematic repression of basic rights” made it “extremely unlikely that Ethiopians would feel safe enough to express themselves, particularly if that expression included criticism of the government.”

David J. Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy under President George W. Bush, said that Ethiopia has a “very repressive regime” in which opposition parties are not given a fair chance to compete. “To suggest otherwise is both to misrepresent the true state of affairs there and to demoralize those struggling to promote human rights and freedom in Ethiopia,” he said.

Even Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, indicated at a briefing last week that the result of the election was not credible. “The prime minister of Ethiopia was just elected with 100 percent of the vote, which I think suggests, as we have stated in our public statements, some concern for the integrity of the electoral process,” she said.


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When a reporter at the briefing asked her whether Mr. Obama thought that was a democratic election, Ms. Rice repeated in a sarcastic tone, “One hundred percent,” as if no further answer were necessary.

With a busy diplomatic schedule during his two-day visit, Mr. Obama made the most of the little extra time he had during this first presidential trip. He managed to see the black-maned Abyssinian lions that famously live on the grounds of the National Palace (“I’m considering getting some for the White House,” he joked) and later he got a private showing of “Lucy,” the iconic 3.2 million-year-old remains of a human ancestor.

“It shows that every single person here, 7 billion people, including Donald Trump, came down through this chain,” the anthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged told the president. Mr. Obama laughed but did not take the bait. During his toast at a subsequent state dinner, though, he cited his meeting with Lucy and turned it into a message of unity. “We are reminded that Ethiopians, Americans, all the people of the world are part of the same human family, the same chain,” he said.

Trips to countries with repressive governments often present a challenge for Mr. Obama as he tries to balance other American interests against the promotion of democracy and human rights. Ethiopia has been an important partner in combating the Shabab, a ruthless Somalia-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. Ethiopia also has an important role to play in resolving ethnic conflict in South Sudan.

Mr. Obama is the first sitting American president to visit Ethiopia, and he defended his decision to come. “We don’t improve cooperation and advance the very interests that you talk about by staying away,” he said. “So we have to be in a conversation. And I think the prime minister will indicate that I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. But I do so from a position of respect and regard for the Ethiopian people, and recognizing their history and the challenges that they continue to face.”

Mr. Hailemariam acknowledged that the country’s system needed improvement. “This is a fledgling democracy, and we are coming out of, you know, centuries of undemocratic practices and culture in this country,” he said. “And it’s not easy, within a few decades — in our case, only two decades of democratization — that we can get rid of all these attitudinal problems and some challenges we face.”

“But,” he added, “we feel that we’re on the right track, and there is a constitutional democracy, which we all are obliged to observe, for the sake of our own people and prosperity.”

Asked about the arrests of reporters and bloggers, which have given Ethiopia a reputation as one of Africa’s leading jailers of journalists, Mr. Hailemariam said he supported journalism as long as it was “ethical” and not tied to terrorists.

“Maybe those of you who are in developed nations, you can help our journalists, domestic journalists, to increase their capacity, to work in an ethical manner,” he said.


Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story
After the news conference, aides to Mr. Obama rejected suggestions that the president had gone soft on the Ethiopian leadership, saying that Mr. Obama was merely trying to put the country’s journey in context. They said Mr. Hailemariam had acknowledged flaws in Ethiopia’s democracy in public and even more so during private sessions with Mr. Obama.

In those meetings, Ethiopian leaders “expressed some discomfort” with the ruling party’s sweep of the election because it was “not indicative of the kind of competition they want to have,” said a senior Obama administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private talks. After years of working on Africa, the official said, “I’ve never seen a day like today.”

Some Ethiopian journalists were less impressed. Reeyot Alemu, 35, who was arrested in 2011 under an antiterrorism law and then abruptly released on July 9, rejected Mr. Hailemariam’s assessment of Ethiopian journalism. “I don’t believe him, because we have ethical journalists,” she said. “We tried to work like that, and they arrested us because we criticized the government.”

She said Mr. Obama should not believe Ethiopian officials who tell him they want to make more room for political opposition. “They just want to pretend in front of Obama and the international community that they are democratic and trying to improve human rights conditions,” she said. “When these kinds of meetings happen, it’s always like that.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 28, 2015, on page A9 of the New Y

Obama challenges Ethiopia on democracy - Echonetdaily

Obama challenges Ethiopia on democracy

Ethiopian Deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen (L) clinks glasses with US president Barack Obama (R) during a toast at a State Dinner in Obama's honour at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2015. AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
Ethiopian Deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen (L) clinks glasses with US president Barack Obama (R) during a toast at a State Dinner in Obama’s honour at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2015. AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
Addis Ababa, AFP –US president Barack Obama has praised key African ally Ethiopia for its fight against Shebab militants in Somalia, but also challenged Addis Ababa on its democratic record.
Obama is on the first-ever trip by a US president to Ethiopia, a close strategic partner for Washington credited for beating back the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists but a country also much criticised for its rights record.
‘Part of the reasons we’ve seen this shrinkage of Shebab in East Africa is that we’ve had our regional teams,’ Obama said on Monday, referring to African Union and Somali government troops.
‘We don’t need to send our own Marines in to do the fighting: the Ethiopians are tough fighters,’ Obama said, adding: ‘We’ve got more work to do we have to now keep the pressure on.’
The Shebab has in recent days lost two key strongholds following a major offensive by AU troops – with Ethiopians and their local allies credited with doing much of the fighting.
While the United States does not have boots on the ground, it carries out frequent drone strikes against Shebab leaders.
Speaking after talks with Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose ruling party won 100 per cent of seats in parliament two months ago, Obama gave the blunt message that the country – while credited with strong economic growth – needed to perform better on basic rights.
‘There is still more work to do, and I think the prime minister is the first to admit there is still more to do,’ Obama said.
Rights groups have complained that Obama’s visit to Addis Ababa could add credibility to a government they accuse of suppressing democratic rights – including the jailing of journalists and critics – with anti-terrorism legislation.
‘There are certain principles we think have to be upheld,’ Obama added. ‘Nobody questions our need to engage with large countries where we may have differences on these issues. We don’t advance or improve these issues by staying away.’
Hailemariam, however, pushed back against criticism his government has quashed opposition voices and suppressed press freedom.
‘Our commitment to democracy is real and not skin deep,’ he insisted, adding that Ethiopia is a ‘fledgling democracy, we are coming out of centuries of undemocratic practices’.
The Ethiopian premier also said an independent press – currently virtually non-existent – was needed.

Ethiopia Excited But Cautious Over Obama Visit voa

An Ethiopia national flag, left, is seen next to a U.S. flag, center, in a busy street ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 25, 2015.
An Ethiopia national flag, left, is seen next to a U.S. flag, center, in a busy street ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 25, 2015.
Anita Powell

Ethiopia did not roll out the red carpet when a little-known U.S. senator decided, in 2006, to visit a flood-stricken rural town and pledged to lobby for aid from the U.S. military.
Nine years later, as president of the United States, Barack Obama is being welcomed with pomp and excitement in the nation that made such a strong impression on him as a junior senator.
Until Sunday morning, the only sign of his impending arrival in this security-conscious diplomatic capital were heavily armed federal police stationed on every major road. Local police also set up roadblocks and conducted vehicle searches and pat-downs on drivers and passengers.
But on Sunday afternoon, American flags began to pop up on Addis Ababa’s main Bole Road thoroughfare, alongside posters bearing Obama’s smiling face. 
WATCH: VOA's Anita Powell previews President Obama's visit to Ethiopia
Serious agenda in Ethiopia
Obama is getting a very different reception here than in his ancestral homeland of Kenya, where the preparations for his visit started weeks ago, and where presidential paraphernalia mushroomed on street corners.
Fittingly, Obama brings a very serious agenda to Ethiopia: terrorism, development and investment are dominating his discussions with Ethiopia’s government and with leaders at the African Union.
Ethiopia has long been praised for its rapid, double-digit economic growth, for its efficient use of international donor funds and for its success in keeping Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group at bay. Al-Shabab strikes often in its home country of Somalia, and has also hit targets in neighboring Kenya and as far afield as Uganda. But Ethiopia, which shares a long border with Somalia, has managed to stave off attacks.
Some critics of the government – among them, more than a dozen imprisoned journalists and bloggers – say this security often comes at the expense of their civil liberties and human rights. 
The U.S. State Department’s human rights report on Ethiopia reads like a laundry list of violations, starting with “restrictions on freedom of expression …  restrictions on freedom of association, including through arrests; politically motivated trials; and harassment and intimidation of opposition members and journalists,” and progressing to more severe crimes like “alleged arbitrary killings; alleged torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; reports of harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence.”
WATCH: Rights Groups Decry Treatment of Media in Ethiopia
Ethiopians mixed on Obama
Many residents of Addis Ababa, when approached by VOA, said they had no opinion on Obama’s visit. Critics of Ethiopia’s government say free expression is often stifled or punished by authorities.
“I’m not a politician,” shrugged one young man, “you cannot ask me these questions.”
Others agreed only to speak off-camera, saying they are disappointed in Obama – a common refrain in Africa, where many citizens say they expected more from the first American president of African origin.
Other Addis Ababa residents said they did not agree with Obama’s stance on gay rights – here in conservative Ethiopia, homosexuality is illegal.
But others said they were hopeful about his visit.
Information technology manager Samson Kiflom demurred before deciding what he wanted to see from the American president, saying more cooperation with the American IT industry would be nice.
But his biggest wish?
“Maybe better freedom,” he ventured. “Not technology, actually – better freedom.”
And bank employee Melaku Alameru echoed concerns from government critics that Obama’s carefully choreographed trip would shield him from the often harsh realities of life for many Ethiopians.
“The president shall see whether the development of Ethiopia is real or not and whether the government is true or the opposition is true,” he said. “... The government is saying that human rights are respected and the opposition are saying that not respected – rather the government is denying the human rights of Ethiopia.”
After speaking to Melaku, VOA was ordered by Addis Ababa police to stop filming and immediately leave the area.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Press Conference regarding Bilateral Relations between Ethiopia and US G...

Obama condmens ‘outrageous attacks’ from Donald Trump, others - LoneWolf...

Footage: Obama Speech in Ethiopia

Obama in Ethiopia for key talks with regional leaders - BBC News

Barack Obama, right is greeted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. 26 July 2015
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn greeted President Obama in Addis Ababa
President Barack Obama is in Ethiopia on the second leg of his African tour - the first serving US leader to visit the country.
He is due to hold talks with government officials and discuss the civil war in South Sudan with regional leaders.
President Obama will also be the first US president to address the 54-member African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.
Mr Obama flew to Ethiopia after a two-day visit to Kenya.
There he had discussed trade and security but also called for greater human rights and warned of the dangers of corruption.
The US president was greeted at Addis Ababa's international airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
On Monday, Mr Obama is due to discuss ways to bring South Sudan's 19-month-old civil war to an end.
Grey line

At the scene: Karen Allen, BBC News, Addis Ababa

Compared to the Kenyan leg of his tour, President Obama's arrival in Ethiopia signals a more sombre mood.
Ethiopia is a close ally of the US in fighting militant Islamists. Thousands of Ethiopian troops are in Somalia, where the capital Mogadishu was the scene of a major bomb blast on Sunday.
But despite security ties, Mr Obama is expected to raise concerns about what critics say is the erosion of democratic freedoms in Ethiopia.
Recent elections in which the ruling party secured all of the parliamentary seats, and a further clampdown on the media and the jailing of bloggers, are among the issues on which the US president is expected to express alarm.
Grey line
In talks with leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda as well as the Sudanese foreign minister, he is expected to call for tougher sanctions and a possible arms embargo if the warring factions do not agree on a peace deal.
However, a US official travelling with Mr Obama said Monday's talks were not expected to lead to a breakthrough.
"This is an opportunity to reinforce the effort that's on the table and to strategise... on next steps in the event that it doesn't succeed," the official told reporters.
Crowds cheer Barack Obama's motorcade. 26 July 2015
Crowds cheered Barack Obama's motorcade as it left the airport in Addis
Fighting in South Sudan has left thousands of people dead and displaced more than two million.
Security issues will also be on Mr Obama's agenda as Ethiopia, like Kenya, is battling the jihadist group al-Shabab.
Correspondents say he is also likely to call for greater democracy and human rights while in the country.
Ethiopia's ruling party, the EPRDF, and its allies won every single parliamentary seat in May's elections. Opposition parties claimed the process was rigged.
Media captionUS President Barack Obama says the repression of women is a "bad tradition" that "needs to change"
Some rights groups have criticised Mr Obama's visit to Ethiopia, warning that the trip could lend credibility to a government accused of jailing journalists and critics.
Amnesty International's Abdullahi Halakhe said: "We don't want this visit to be used to sanitise an administration that has been known to violate human rights."
Human Rights Watch and other organisations urged Mr Obama to put the "pressing human rights concerns... at the forefront of your discussions".
A legal case currently being fought through the US courts alleges that agents of the Ethiopian government eavesdropped on the internet activities of a man in the US state of Maryland.
The man, born in Ethiopia and now a US citizen, works for a political opposition group outlawed in his home country.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ethiopia President OBAMA arrived in Addis Ababa - YouTube

Ethiopia President OBAMA arrived in Addis Ababa - YouTube: ""

'via Blog this'

Obama's Visit Raises Ethiopia's Stature Amid Rights Concerns - ABC News

Obama's Visit Raises Ethiopia's Stature Amid Rights Concerns

Like the visit to Kenya, President Barack Obama's trip Sunday to Ethiopia represents the first time a sitting U.S. president has been to this East African country and according to its government, it is a sign of the nation's growing stature.
Grave concerns remain, however, over political freedoms in this nation of more than 90 million — Africa's second largest — and opposition figures fear that the visit, coming on the heels of an improbable 100 percent ruling party win in elections, will give international legitimacy to a repressive government.
With its history of pan-African activism, Ethiopia is also the home of the African Union and on Tuesday Obama will be addressing the whole continent from the organization's new headquarters in Addis Ababa.
After centuries of ties — the first bilateral trade agreement was signed in 1903 — only now is a U.S. president visiting, noted Communication Minister Redwan Hussein.
"The choice by a sitting U.S. President to visit us was made because we have become more visible and important enough to be visited," he told The Associated Press. "Being visited by the first sitting American president will enhance the confidence and aspirations of Ethiopians."
Obama is set to holds talks with his counterpart Mulatu Teshome as well as Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and is expected to discuss the conflict in southern Sudan, confronting the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab in Somalia and economic development.
Administration officials have also promised frank discussions over the lack of press freedom and political openness in Ethiopia.
In May, the ruling party took all the seats in legislative elections described by the U.S. and theEuropean Union as unfair.
Woretaw Wassie, a leader of the opposition Blue Party said members of his party were arrested ahead of Obama's visit on suspicion they would make a fuss.
"Visiting a country which is totally contrary to the values of the West is very controversial," he said. "But in any case, the U.S. believes that engaging can make a difference so maybe it will be a good opportunity to put some pressure."
Another touchy subject would be gay rights which Obama championed on Saturday in Kenya, calling for equal treatment for all under the law.
"All religions in Ethiopia should oppose the president if he raises the gay issue here," said Memihir Dereje Negash, of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church-linked Weyiniye Teklehaimanot 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ethiopia: Obama's Visit to Ethiopia Must Extend Relationship Beyond Security and Business

Rights activists and press freedom advocates are pushing US President Barack Obama to raise concerns over political space, press freedom and human rights in Ethiopia, ahead of his trip to Addis Ababa this weekend. Obama is expected to arrive on Sunday in his first visit to Ethiopia, which the White House says will help "accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions and improve security".
"The president should insist and give a talk about the press freedom situation in the country," Endalk Chala, a co-founder of the Zone 9 group of Ethiopian bloggers, told RFI. His group has been critical of Ethiopia's human rights records and governance.
"There are a lot of journalists in prison now," says Chala, who explains that two Zone 9 bloggers have been recently released from jail. Although he believes their release is perhaps a goodwill gesture ahead of Obama's visit, four of the group's members remain behind bars on terrorism charges.
Ethiopia is the second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In its 2015 report, press freedom group Freedom House ranked Ethiopia's press status as "not free", giving it 83 out of 100, with 100 representing the worst.
Besides non-existent press freedom, Ethiopia's political space remains limited. In May's parliamentary election the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took 100 per cent of the seats.
There are also crackdowns on political protests. Ethiopian security forces reportedly used live ammunition earlier this year at a student demonstration against extending the boundaries of the capital Addis Ababa.
"I think that the concerns about human rights in Ethiopia and the deteriorating human rights situation, that we and others have mapped over the last decade, has received short shrift," Leslie Lefhow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, told RFI.