Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Sport and Resistance: Lilesa’s Brave Stand for Freedom in Ethiopia

According to the late Nelson Mandela, the great South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, “Sport has the power to change the world.” It brings people together, offering unity and shared celebration. At the same time, however, sport frequently serves as an important outlet for social and political resistance. Specifically, for those suffering oppression, discrimination, and despair, sport is often so significant because it provides a vital means of retaining humanity, dignity, hope, and inspiration.

 

On Sunday in Brazil, as he crossed the finish line to take the Olympic silver medal after a grueling marathon race, Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head. Later, at the conclusion of his press conference, Lilesa repeated the gesture in front of the world’s media. Although at first glance the gestures appeared somewhat innocuous, they were strong and courageous acts conducted in solidarity with the thousands of people in Ethiopia and across the world protesting against the Ethiopian government. Hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed and countless others arrested by authorities amid the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. For months, hundreds of thousands of people from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups (primarily the Oromo and Amhara) have rallied to protest political marginalization and systematic persecution by the minority-led government. In Brazil, the young Lilesa, from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, not only won silver, he utilized his platform to stand up for justice and emphasized the underlying socio-political significance of sport.

 

For years, the banned colles castelleres (human towers) or trekking excursions and support for FC Barcelona were a reflection of Catalonian resistance against Franco’s fascistic regime in Spain, while support for Spartak Moscow was, at times, seen as a symbol of political resistance against the official establishment in the former USSR. Additionally, in Korea, football within the curricula of physical education created a platform for Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism (Numerato 2011: 109-110).

 

Similarly, in Eritrea, the most popular sport, cycling, became a symbol of resistance to Italian colonialism. The first sighting of a bicycle in the country was in the latter half of the 1800s in Massawa, having been introduced by the Italians. By the 1930s, clubs were being organized, and on 21 April 1937, the first race took place in Asmara. However, during this period, Eritreans were barred from races and clubs due to the segregationist policies of fascism. Not to be denied, Eritreans soon created their own competitions and formed their own clubs. Then, in 1939, a special “trial of strength” was organized by the Italian colonial administrators; Eritreans and Italians would compete together in the same race. In Mussolini’s Italy, sporting success was to embody the greater glory of the fascist nation-state, and the joint Eritrean-Italian race was expected to display the superiority of the colonial master. Instead, like Jesse Owens’ spectacular destruction of Hitler’s Nazi propaganda about Aryan supremacy in the 1936 Munich Olympics, Eritrea’s Ghebremariam Ghebru won the race and shattered colonial myths about Eritrean inferiority.

 

During the turbulent 1960s, in the midst of the growing black power movement, the civil rights struggle, and the anti-Vietnam war movement, Muhammad Ali, widely regarded as the best boxer ever, became a global symbol of resistance to racism, militarism, and inequality. He unapologetically raised troubling questions and forced society to come to terms with civil rights, race, religion, war, and imperialism, defying all convention and the US government (Rowe 2016; Zirin 2016).

 

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong,” Ali stated forcefully. “They never called me ni–er.” With that, despite being at the peak of his career and understanding the implications, he refused to serve in the US Armed Services. Subsequently, he was stripped of his heavyweight title, convicted of draft evasion (facing a 5-year prison sentence), fined thousands of dollars, and banned for several years. While he would eventually make a glorious return to the ring, it was his strongly principled stand and unwavering activism that truly made him “the greatest” and an inspiration for millions worldwide.

 

In 1968, a year after Ali was convicted of draft evasion, two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200 meters, made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against the continuing racial discrimination of blacks in the US. They stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American national anthem played during the victory ceremony. Although they were immediately booed and castigated by many, and then quickly suspended by their team and expelled from the Olympics, Carlos and Smith’s brave act, which soon gained much support from black athletes around the world, “shifted dissidence from the periphery of American life to primetime television,” and “was understood as an act of solidarity with all those fighting for greater equality, justice and human rights” (Younge 2012).

 

Although the authoritarian Ethiopian government has attempted to forcibly crush the protests and rules the country through the politics of fear, Lilesa’s gesture embodies strength, hope, courage, solidarity, and defiance, while poignantly illustrating the broader socio-political significance of sport.

 

 

 

Image 1: Fiyesa Lilesa crossing the finish line and showing solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia.

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Image 2: Fiyesa Lilesa showing solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia

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El Nino in East Africa: Update on Eritrea

In the Horn of Africa, a drought exacerbated by El Niño has directly affected the region, leading to an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition. This post presents an update on Eritrea.
According to a recent summary report by FEWS NET (a USAID-funded initiative),

“Consistent and above-average rain over the past few weeks has led to moisture surpluses throughout much of Eastern Africa. Torrential rain is forecast to continue over western Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, likely to elevate the River Nile and Al Gash River levels further and potentially resulting in flooding over many areas of Sudan during the next week.”

Furthermore, the report notes that,

“While the abundance of seasonal rain is expected favor cropping activities over many areas of the region, frequent and above-average rain over the western Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlands also raises the Nile and Al Gash River levels and thus increases the risks for river flooding along downstream areas in Sudan. For next week, the probability for above-average precipitation remains quite high…”
As well, a late July 2016 report by the FAO and the Global Information and Early Warning System, Good Prospects for Yields of 2016 Main “Kiremti” Season Crops, details that,

“The 2016 “kiremti” rains (June to September) started on time in Debud, Anseba and Gash-Barka regions, favouring land preparation and planting operations. As shown by satellite imagery, crops and pasture in most inland areas are currently in good conditions due to abundant and well‑distributed precipitation.”
Encouragingly, although vegetation health in some areas in the northern Anseba and southern Gash-Barka regions has been negatively impacted by soil moisture deficits, the report also states that the,

“Latest meteorological forecasts for the period from June to September 2016 indicate an increased likelihood of above normal rainfall amounts over most of the country, with expected positive effects on crop yields.”
This positive outlook is paralleled by the WFP which recently claimed that “the forecasts for the main rainfall season of July-October indicate on or above average rainfall across Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.” This is significant since it should promote favourable and improved crop production and pasture resources across the country. Furthermore, the FAO and WFP’s recently published 2016/2017 El Nino Seasonal Overview, which explores the ongoing and future impact of El Nino, suggests that Eritrea will be “moderately affected.”
Additionally, on 16 August 2016, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, released US$50 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for severely underfunded aid operations in six neglected emergencies, including Eritrea. Specifically, the press release states,

“An allocation of $2 million will support humanitarian partners in Eritrea in responding to current needs due to arid conditions and poor rains. Additionally, gaps in health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services will be addressed.” Furthermore, the aid will also help address the multi-sector needs of over 2,200 Somali refugees in Eritrea.

Importantly, this will continue to support Eritrea’s broad developmental aims. Notably, the United Nations and various other international partners have had a long presence in Eritrea, collaborating with the Government and other stakeholders to work towards a variety of socio-economic and development priorities. For example, the UN operational presence in Eritrea includes the WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNAIDS, FAO, OCHA and UNDSS, while the WFP  maintains a liaison office, and non-resident UN Agencies (such as IFAD, IAEA, UNIDO, ILO, and UNEP) are also represented and work in Eritrea.
In 2015,  US$ 3 million was allocated by UN CERF to support a range of development programmes (e.g. health, nutrition, etc.) in Southern Red Sea (SRS), Northern Red Sea (NRS), Debub, Gash Barka and Anseba regions. This was undertaken in close alignment and coordination with the 2013-2016 Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework (SPCF). The  SPCF, jointly signed by the UN and Eritrea, focuses on an array of programmes in the nutrition, health, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.
As a final point, it is important to properly understand Eritrea’s “unconventional” approach to external aid. Specifically,  Eritrea turns down aid when it does not fit the country’s needs or its capacity to use effectively. Eritrea does not reject external support – it actively welcomes it, but only when it complements the country’s own efforts. The Government has long encouraged aid that addresses specific needs which cannot be met internally, which is designed to minimize continued external support, and which complements and strengthens (instead of replacing) Eritrea’s own institutional capacity to implement projects. This approach is rooted in a strong desire to avoid crippling dependence and to foster a clear sense of responsibility for the country’s future among all citizens.

Unfortunately, this approach is often misunderstood (or even dismissed). Instead, the country’s determination to rely upon itself and promote independence should be encouraged, and external organizations and potential partners should be committed to working with it on that basis.

Figure 1: Total US Foreign Aid – 2016/17 ($US Millions)

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Figure 2: UN CERF Project Allocations by Sector (2006-2015)

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Image 1: Local market in Eritrea

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Image 2: Local market in Eritrea

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(Image 2 credit: Solomon Abraha [@solomonasmara])

 

 


Politics of Fear: Crisis in Ethiopia and the Role of the International Community

Dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed and arrested by government authorities amid ongoing unrest in Ethiopia. For months, hundreds of thousands of protesters from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups have rallied to protest political marginalization and systematic persecution by the government. In June, a 61-page human rights report was released, condemning the Ethiopian government’s heavy-handed response to the protests. According to the report by Human Rights Watch, Such a Brutal Crackdown: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests, during the widespread protests, largely arising within Oromia (but now extending to other regions), Ethiopian security forces have resorted to excessive and unnecessary lethal force and mass arrests, engaged in the harsh, ruthless mistreatment of those in detention, and restricted access to information. Estimates suggest that over 400 protesters or others had been killed by security forces, while tens of thousands more have been arrested, figures that will now have risen significantly.

 

Corruption and poor governance remain deeply embedded within Ethiopia’s socio-political structure, and the country consistently scores extremely poorly on a range of international governance indicators. The Ethiopian government has been consistently criticized by an array of international rights groups for its broad range of human rights abuses including its harsh repression of minorities and journalists, press censorship, draconian anti-terror laws that are utilized to silence all forms of dissent, and brutal crackdowns upon opposition groups and protestors.

 

Although the ongoing crisis encapsulates the government’s utter contempt for basic human rights and the overwhelming “politics of fear” that pervades the country’s socio-political landscape, it also reveals, in crystal clear detail, the highly troubling role played by much of the international community, led by the US and the West. Specifically, while the government’s brutal crackdown warrants a strong rebuke and condemnation, there has been a severely muted international response, with many of Ethiopia’s foreign supporters remaining silent.

 

Rather than condemn or censure Ethiopia’s brutal crackdown, the international community has turned a blind eye, abdicated its responsibility, and instead been acquiescent to Ethiopia’s persistent violations and repression. Last year, both US President, Barack Obama, and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, granted legitimacy to the Ethiopian government by praising its “democracy” – even though the country’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Ruling Democratic Front (EPRDF), swept the national elections by winning 100 percent of the parliamentary seats.

 

When the French statesman, Talleyrand, was told by an aide of the murder of a political opponent, the aide said, “It’s a terrible crime, Sir.” In response, Talleyrand answered, “It’s worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.” Likewise is the West’s propping up of the Ethiopian government. Unwavering support for and appeasement of Ethiopia are part of a policy approach based upon the misguided belief, dating back to the immediate post-World War 2 period but rearticulated more recently in terms of regional “anchor states” designations, that Ethiopia is vital to protecting US and Western geostrategic interests and foreign policy aims. However, not only is this approach morally reprehensible, with the US and West being directly complicit in the mass crimes, transgressions, and reign of terror perpetrated by the Ethiopian government, the misguided policy approach has largely failed to achieve its objectives, to even a minor degree, and instead only served to stunt regional development and destabilize both Ethiopia and the broader Horn of Africa region.

 

In seeking to address Ethiopia’s flagrant dismissal of international norms and blatant disregard for human rights, a number of measures could be undertaken (e.g. sanctions). However, the first, and possibly most far-reaching and effective, response by the international community should be to withdraw its unwavering support for the repressive Ethiopian government.

 

George Galloway, respected British politician, broadcaster, and writer, has frequently voiced concern of how the West’s support for dictatorial, tyrannical regimes in the name of security only results in “blowback” and harming the populations of those countries. Regarding Ethiopia, Galloway has decried how the UK and US policy of encouraging, arming, training, financing, and facilitating the Ethiopian government’s “reign of terror” is “morally vacuous.” Similarly, respected international economist, William Easterly, has recommended that the international community “stop financing tyranny and repression” in Ethiopia.

 

For decades, Ethiopia has been highly dependent on external economic assistance. In 2012, it was the world’s seventh largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.2B in total assistance, the latter figure representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget, while its 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan. Problematically, however, even while it is one of the world’s leading recipients of foreign aid, and is currently requesting even greater financial support, the Ethiopian government also annually spends hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons and arms – which are now being used against its own civilians.

 

With such a critical dependency on and misuse of foreign aid, threats to “turn off the tap” unless Ethiopia changes course may be a viable step toward improving the country’s rights record. Alternatively, rather than providing aid directly to the Ethiopian regime, which has a long track record of corruption and misappropriation, the international community should consider directly supporting local human rights and democracy groups (although this may be difficult due to Ethiopia’s draconian laws on civil society and NGOs).

 

An indication of the possible far-reaching effects of removing external support from a harsh, brutal regime can be seen in the example of Indonesia. Noam Chomsky, internationally renowned professor and activist, has written and spoken extensively on how US and Western support for the despotic regime in Indonesia played an indirect, yet extremely harmful, role in the carnage and deaths of hundreds of thousands in East Timor. However, in 1999, after much pressure, the US finally “pulled the plug” on its support for the Suharto regime, quickly leading to the end of Indonesia’s brutal campaign. Specifically,

 

“[f]or 25 years, the United States strongly supported the

vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, a virtual

genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the

Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated, after Dili

the capital city was practically evacuated. After Indonesian

attacks, the US was still supporting it. Finally, in mid-September

1999, under considerable international and also domestic

pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals “It’s

finished.” And they had said they’d never leave, they said

“this is our territory.” They pulled out within days, and allowed a

UN peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance.

Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done.”

 

While the socio-political dynamics and historical contexts of Indonesia and Ethiopia are admittedly quite different, the comparison also offers relevant and striking similarities. Both regimes received decades-worth of external economic, military, and political support (particularly from the US). Additionally, both regimes systematically and persistently violated human rights, transgressed various international laws (such as through military occupation), and engaged in large-scale campaigns described as “genocidal.”

 

With Ethiopia continuing to overlook basic international norms, standards, and laws in its brutal crackdowns upon opposition groups and protesters, the international community must end its complicity in and indirect support for the government’s various transgressions. As Clinton relayed to Indonesia’s leadership, the international community must tell Ethiopia, “it’s finished.”

 

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US President Obama Discussing Ethiopia

 

 

Wendy Sherman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Discussing Ethiopia

 

Figure 1: US Assistance to Ethiopia

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Figure 2: Ethiopia Military Expenditure

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World Hepatitis Day 2016: Examining Eritrea

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day (WHD), one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHD aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year.

 

The year 2016 is particularly important in the global fight to eliminate hepatitis. Earlier this year, on 28 May, 194 WHO Member States made a historic commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. During the 69th World Health Assembly, governments unanimously voted to adopt the first ever Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy, signalling the greatest global commitment in viral hepatitis to date. The strategy sets a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030 and includes a set of prevention and treatment targets which, if reached, will reduce annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives globally by 2030. Furthermore, as part of the commitments made during at the 69th World Health Assembly, Nohep, a global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis, is being launched on 28 July to bring people together and provide a platform for people to speak out, be engaged, and take action to ensure global commitments are met and viral hepatitis is eliminated by 2030.

 

Hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver, can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Although hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis, other infections, toxic substances (such as alcohol and certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis. Globally, viral hepatitis affects approximately 400 million people, with 6-10 million newly infected annually.

 

While hepatitis is a global problem, sub-Saharan Africa is particularly burdened. For example, hepatitis B prevalence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, where between 5-10% of the adult population is chronically infected, while with a prevalence of between 5-8% and an estimated 32 million people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of the disease in the world (Karoney and Siika 2013; Schweitzer et al. 2015). Moreover, sub-Saharan Africa has a high prevalence for the other viruses as well due to generally poor sanitary conditions and hygienic practices, lack of access to safe water, and poor awareness and education.

 

Eritrea’s efforts to combat hepatitis have involved a multidimensional, cost-effective, pragmatic approach and broad participation. A range of general public health and development initiatives that have been undertaken have helped to combat the prevalence and spread of hepatitis in the country. These include: sexual health education; widespread advocacy and awareness campaigns; the provision of condoms, the expansion of access to basic sanitation and safe, clean water, particularly in rural areas; improved disposal of sewage within communities; and harm reduction programs.

 

Another vital step has been immunization and vaccination which, according to the WHO, is, “the most effective and cost-saving means of prevention.” For many years in Eritrea, immunization and vaccination programs have been conducted through an array of cooperative agreements with various international organizations and partners, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the WHO, and the GAVI Alliance. These partnerships have increased important supplies such as vaccines, syringes, and other materials, while strengthening support for the development, production, and dissemination of social mobilization materials, regional plans, and logistics.

 

In 2002, Eritrea introduced childhood immunization against hepatitis B as part of the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Program on Immunization, which also delivers immunization for children against seven other vaccine preventable diseases (i.e. Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Polio, Measles and Homophiles influenza type B). According to recently updated data from the WHO and UNICEF, national HepB3 coverage (measuring the number of third doses of Hep-B vaccine administered to infants) in Eritrea is approximately 95%. By comparison, the global average national coverage rate is 87%, while the average for Africa is 81%. In terms of Eritrea’s neighbours, national coverage rates are as follows: Djibouti 84%; Ethiopia 86%; Kenya 89%; Somalia 42%; South Sudan 31%; Sudan 93%, and Uganda 78%.

 

Table 1: East Africa National HepB3 Coverage Rates 2015 (WHO 2015)

HepB3Coverage2015WHO

 

Hepatitis B vaccination programs are particularly important because they gradually result in the reduction of HBV-related chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer. Ultimately, Eritrea’s vaccination programs have played an important role in reducing the prevalence and spread of hepatitis, and recent research studies estimate that the country’s prevalence of hepatitis B is approximately 2.49%, the lowest in Africa (Schweitzer et al. 2015).

 

Table 2: East Africa Estimated Hepatitis B Virus Prevalence (Percentage)

HepBPrevalence

 

Overall, Eritrea’s multifaceted efforts have had a positive impact in combating and controlling hepatitis. With renewed commitment, effective immunization, vaccination, and prevention programs, an expansion of treatment and health services, as well as continued support from international partners, Eritrea can move towards eliminating viral hepatitis and continue to protect and improve the health and development of its greatest asset – its men, women, and children.

eritrean newborn - health


Why is the one of the world’s leading foreign aid recipients spending millions on internet hacking?

Last week, a large trove of emails was released showing how the Italian surveillance firm Hacking Team sold surveillance technology to governments around the world. The technology allows governments to infect smartphones and computers with malware to covertly record conversations and steal data. Amongst the numerous governments implicated was Ethiopia, with the leaked information showing that the government targeted Ethiopian journalists based in the United States. The Ethiopian regime possesses a deplorable record on freedom of the press, and the Ethiopian diaspora is vital in presenting coverage of the country’s domestic situation.

 

Notably, the leaked documents reveal how Hacking Team charged the Ethiopian regime $1 million in 2012 for services, while in recent years the regime has been one of the firm’s top clients (by total sales revenue). Somewhat amusingly, the emails also reveal that Hacking Team considered the Ethiopian government too “reckless and clumsy” in its use of the surveillance tools and thus representing a threat to expose the firm and its activities.

 

With little question, the leaked documents underscore the Ethiopian government’s status as a repressive regime with amongst the world’s worst records on human rights and free speech. However, serious questions arise when the leaked documents are considered alongside the fact that Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign economic assistance. For decades, various despotic Ethiopian regimes have been highly dependent on foreign aid. In 2012, it was the world’s seventh largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.2 billion in total assistance, the latter figure representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget. Moreover, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan, while over the years, the country has received tens of millions of dollars in western (especially US) military assistance. Ironically, just last week, the annual Global Humanitarian Assistance Report was published, revealing that across 2004-2013, Ethiopia was the world’s fourth largest recipient of foreign assistance, collecting US$5.9 billion.

 

Last week’s revelations mean that donors must ask why exactly is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a host of socio-economic and development challenges, spending large sums of money to illegally monitor journalists, rather than feed or clothe its people? While the international community has a moral imperative to assist governments and people around the world who are in need of help, it must also commit to ensuring that assistance is utilized appropriately. Otherwise, the international community becomes complicit in the oppression of the people it allegedly claims to want to help.

 

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Ethiopia’s $1 million bill from Hacking Team.

 

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A leaked email reveals that Hacking Team considers the Ethiopian government “reckless and clumsy” and thus a threat to expose the firm and its activities.

 

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Hacking Team’s Total Revenues per Country; Ethiopia is one of the firm’s top clients.


The World’s Poor – The OPHI Multidimensional Poverty Index

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative recently released its latest key findings for the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). As discussed in an earlier post, the MPI is a measure of poverty designed to capture the multiple deprivations that each poor person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and other aspects of living standards. The MPI reflects both the incidence of multidimensional poverty (the proportion of people in a population who are multidimensionally poor), and its intensity (the average number of deprivations each poor person experiences at the same time). It is especially useful since it may be utilized to create a comprehensive picture of people living in poverty, and permits comparisons both across countries, regions and the world, and within countries by ethnic group, urban/rural location, as well as other key household and community characteristics.

Key findings from the updated MPI include:

  • Of the 1.6 billion people living in multidimensional poverty, 54% live in South Asia, and 31% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Most (62%) MPI poor people do not live in failed states. However, in countries classified as in very high alert by the Fragile States Index, on average 72% of people are multidimensionally poor.
  • Most MPI poor people – 70% – live in Middle Income Countries.
  • The global MPI complements $1.25/day poverty, making visible other types of poverty. For example in Chad and Ethiopia, the incidence of MPI is about 87% whereas for $1.25/day poverty it is only 37%.
  • Nearly half of all MPI poor people live with such extreme deprivations – like severe malnutrition or no more than one year of education in the household – that they should be considered destitute – 736 million people.

Last, the 10 countries with the lowest scores on the MPI were (in descending order, and with MPI figures in brackets):

  • Mali (0.457)
  • Guinea (0.459)
  • Guinea-Bissau (0.462)
  • Sierra Leone (0.464)
  • Somalia (0.514)
  • Burkina Faso (0.535)
  • Chad (0.554)
  • South Sudan (0.557)
  • Ethiopia (0.564)
  • Niger (0.605)

Table 1 – OPHI: Multidimensional Poverty Index – 2015

graph poverty

 

 

Overall, poverty remains the gravest human rights challenge facing the world today. In combating poverty, the world has “a moral obligation to look more deeply at the issues of poverty so the most marginalised groups or regions [are] not left behind.” The OPHI’s Multidimensional Poverty Index shows not only who is poor but also in what ways, ultimately helping to better understand poverty and shape more effective policies and reduction measures.


Instability and Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the US, and UK

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently tweeted about “the volatile Horn of Africa.” The tweet provided a link to an interactive map presenting discussions of Regional Overview, Somalia’s Instability, Transnational Issues, and Armed Forces in the Region. Although useful, the CFR’s analysis fails to identify several of the key factors influencing instability in the Horn of Africa.

Briefly, while the CFR notes the harmful influence of Al-Shabaab, it should more clearly describe how and why Al-Shabaab arose. Doing so would reveal that, far from Somalia, Al-Shabaab’s rise, consolidation, spread, and ongoing attacks can be better attributed to failed policies originating in the US, as discussed by noted independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

As well, Professor Vijay Prashad, a distinguished scholar, has outlined how the West’s catastrophic approach toward and meddling within the region has helped fuel the rise of Al-Shabaab:

Additionally, in its discussion of the “strife” in Somalia, the CFR should delve further and note the toxic role of Ethiopia within the situation, supported financially, militarily, diplomatically, and politically by the West (especially the US and UK). Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, MP George Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK):

Last, the CFR erred in its use of phrases such as “border tensions” and “border dispute” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Instead, the CFR should have described the situation for what it is: an illegal military occupation in direct violation of long-accepted international norms and laws. Furthermore, the reference to dispute suggests there remain disagreements about the border. Rather, the dispute was settled long ago through a “final and binding” international judicial process, and only one party (i.e. Ethiopia) fails to implement. Instead of seemingly downplaying the gravity of this particular issue, the CFR would be better in noting that an end to the occupation would go a long way to normalizing relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa and, in the process, improving  overall stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

These are just initial, brief (and humble) thoughts in response to the CFR’s tweet and analysis. The CFR does well to note the importance of the Horn of Africa to broader geo-political and regional stability and security. However, within this context, it is imperative that analyses of the situation and region consider all factors and reveal uncomfortable truths.


Foreign Investment: Eritrea, Mining, Development, and the Resource Curse

Several days ago, the Fraser Institute released its annual Survey of Mining and Exploration Companies. Since 1997, the Institute, headquartered in Vancouver and ranked by a University of Pennsylvania study as “the top think tank in Canada,” has conducted an annual survey of mining and exploration companies to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulation affect exploration investment. Survey results represent the opinions of executives and exploration managers in mining and mining consulting companies operating around the world. Notably, the survey has expanded to include data on 122 jurisdictions worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica, and including sub-national jurisdictions in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Argentina.

It is noteworthy that Eritrea, often simplistically labeled as the “North Korea of Africa” or regarded as lacking the “characteristics” and “environment” to make it a sound investment destination, has tended to score within the middle of the pack. For example, on the Investment Attractiveness Index, the country scored 46.7 for 2014 and 57.5 for 2013, ranking it 77 (out of 122) and 48 (out of 112) respectively. For comparison, this places it ahead of Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Venezuela, China, Bulgaria, and Turkey, to name a few. Yet again, Botswana, which has experienced decades of sound economic growth, ranked as the top African country. The survey’s Investment Attractiveness Index is an especially useful measure since it combines several indicators and thus provides a thorough, holistic, multidimensional gauge of mining and exploration within a country or jurisdiction.

Another interesting area within the 2014 report is the Comments section. Here, global executives and managers are able to comment freely (since they retain confidentiality) on the mining and exploration environments of various countries and jurisdictions. In addition to other points, Eritrea was described as being “free from corruption” and possessing a “clearly set-out legal framework which is followed to the letter.”

Ultimately, the survey’s comments and indicators offer some cautious encouragement for Eritrea’s ongoing mining and development initiatives. Dating back to its initial days of independence, Eritrea has been aware of the need for a holistic, multi-level approach towards development, while being alert to the pitfalls of the resource curse. The stagnation – if not outright regression in development – of many countries with great natural resource endowments serve as clear, sobering lessons of the possible consequences of mismanagement. For Eritrea, this has meant that its own approach to development and resources has been cautious, pragmatic, and one where the nation’s resources represent only one variable within the larger equation towards holistic development, rather than a simple panacea. This is most clearly spelled out in a statement to the UN Security Council’s Thematic Open Debate on Conflict Prevention and Natural Resources (June 19, 2013), where Ambassador Araya Desta notes that “[t]he cardinal principle of Eritrea’s mining policy [is that]…all mineral resources are a public property, and that the conservation and development of these resources must be ensured for Eritrea’s present and future generations.”[1]

Amongst the most tangible outcomes of Eritrean developmental efforts are its successes within health and education, especially in regards to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.[2] It is within this broader developmental context that Eritrea’s natural resources and mining activities may prove useful; not only to accrue foreign capital and strengthen the economy, but also to promote continued national development.

Overall, Eritrea has witnessed several tangible developmental outcomes, especially within the socio-economic, health, and educational sectors, and the country’s natural resources hold the potential to augment these outcomes. At the same time, Eritrea is unquestionably faced with tremendous developmental concerns within a broad range of sectors. Challenges such as poverty are immediate areas the country continues to focus on, while the prolonged illegal military occupation of Eritrean land by Ethiopia represents an unnecessary, harmful distraction from broader development goals.[3] Moving forward, Eritrea should continue to promote investment and sound management of resources, while the international community should remain constructively involved in and supportive of Eritrea’s developmental efforts and promote the respect of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

~~Figure 1~~

Investment Attractiveness Index 2014

Untitled

*Source: Fraser Institute 2014

References

[1] http://www.dehai.org/archives/dehai_news_archive/2013/jun/att-0201/Statement_by_H.E._Araya_Desta_on_Conflict_Prevention_and_Natural_Resources..pdf

[2] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

[3] http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1150

Further reading:

Fraser Institute: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/default.aspx

Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2014: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=22259

 


A Rogues Gallery of Abusive Regimes- CC: “Abesha Institute”

I just wanted to extend a quick “kudos” to @AbeshaT (Abesha Institute) on the latest news of the US’ donation of Hercules aircraft to the Ethiopian military. The Abesha Institute describes itself as an “independent Ethiopian economic and political policy researcher,” and it claims that it focuses on “advocacy on trade policies and geopolitical strategies”. Although I was not aware of this latest development, the Institute ensured that the “wonderful news” did not pass me by. Thankfully, the story also allows me to kindly remind the Institute of the illustrious company that the Ethiopian government is a part of in being generously funded and armed by the US. This list, comprised of governments that systematically abuse(d) human rights, includes (in no particular order):

Indonesia’s General Suharto who, according to the CIA, committed “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century” during the 1965-66 massacres in Indonesia. SEE

Haile Selassie, who was a despotic tyrant who ruled oppressively, enslaved innumerable peasants via a draconian feudal system, and illegally annexed Eritrea. SEE

Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, who overthrew Selassie. Although heavily backed by the USSR, Mengistu also received millions in aid (at the same time!) from the US. Mengistu oversaw a reign of terror characterized by widespread violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. In repressing self-determination efforts in Eritrea and other areas, civilians were deliberately targeted and fell victim by the hundreds of thousands as a result of the indiscriminate violence against them. Further, his regime’s “villagization” program played a direct role in the further nearly half a million civilian deaths during the late 1980s. SEE

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. In 1953, the CIA and British intelligence orchestrated a coup d’etat that toppled the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran, and installed the Shah. The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy. SEE

Saddam Hussein, who received critical assistance from the Reagan administration in the war against Iran during the 1980s. Not only did Ronald Reagan turn a blind-eye to the Hussein regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Iraq’s Kurdish minority, but the US helped Iraq develop its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. SEE

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 20 years with dictatorial ruthlessness. His tenure was marked by the cracking down on civil society organizations and journalists, the illegal invasion and occupation of several neighboring countries (e.g. Somalia and Eritrea), the exclusion and marginalization of several of Ethiopia’s major ethnolinguistic and religious groups from political and economic life, the denial of humanitarian and food aid from “disloyal” segments of the country, and a counterinsurgency involving “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” SEE 1 and SEE 2

And to this list, we can add Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and dozens of others generously backed by Washington.* Of course, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the current Ethiopian regime’s “sterling” record. Led by Prime Minister Desalegn, who came to power following Zenawi’s mysterious and abrupt death, the current regime has utilized much of its aid “well” suggesting that the Hercules aircraft will likely be put “to good use”. Specifically, Desalegn has maintained the Zenawi regime’s longstanding harsh policies. Ethiopia has continued to crack down on all dissent via highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws, sustained the marginalization or persecution of various ethnolinguistic groups or homosexuals, retained the criticized villagization programs, and engaged in an ongoing counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – utilizing executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses. SEE 1 and SEE 2 and SEE 3

Cheers…

 

*However, due to time and space constraints, I am unable to delve further into these other cases.


George Galloway, MP: Condemns the Ethiopian and Egyptian Regimes

George Galloway, British Member of Parliament, recently weighed in with his opinion on the Egypt and Ethiopia Nile issue. In response to a caller’s question on the Comment live, phone-in show, Galloway, the host, condemned both the current Ethiopian and Egyptian regimes, and stated he’d “be happy to see the back of both of them”.

Recall that Galloway was also a very critical opponent of Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Likewise, Galloway has frequently spoken out against the regime in Ethiopia, denouncing its aggressive, destabilizing role in the Horn of Africa. Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK). Galloway is not new to the politics of the Horn. He visited the region during the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the 1980s, condemning the Ethiopian military dictatorship’s crimes and questioning how it was diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid to combat Eritrea’s pursuit of independence.

 

Comment with George Galloway (January 29th 2015) is below.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=JUHs9rTNyYg#t=1910

Transcript (excerpt)

Henn (caller from Ethiopia): Yes, hi George, how are you doing? Calling all the way from Ethiopia.

George Galloway: I’m doing well, and the better for talking to Ethiopia. A very long time since I’ve been there.

H: Oh you’ve been here before?

G: I have, in the 1980s, yes.

H: Oh, ok. That is great to hear. Well, we are talking about one country violating the territorial integrity of the other. And I just wanted to bring up Ethiopia into this discussion if you don’t mind, George, because your discussion forum is very open for a variety of opinions, I think.

G: I have no objections; as you’re on the line, say whatever you like.

H: Well, it’s just that I believe you’re aware of the current history between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Nile, and you’re one of the most critical “pro-poor” people, an advocate of the poor that I know of in this current day and age…and I just want to know your opinion about the current situation, and sort of a de-facto confrontation between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Nile. And also if your attitude about Ethiopia has changed over time? I used to hear you saying a number of, let’s say, politically incorrect statements about Ethiopia, that…

G: Oh, please. Enlighten me. Enlighten me, please. Enlighten me.

H: Pardon?

G: Enlighten me.

H: Like, like the country is an agent of the United States, you know…things like that. Which I don’t think are, you know, based on strong foundations (G: Really?).

H: So, we can set that aside, and I just want to hear your input on Ethiopia and Egypt, if you don’t mind.

G: Ok, ok. Well, I’m an opponent of both regimes involved in this argument. I’m an opponent of the Ethiopian regime, which I knew when they were pro-Albanian Maoists, and I’m certainly not any better inclined towards them now than I was then. There is absolutely no question at all that Ethiopia has regularly, in relation to its neighbors, played the role of United States agent. On the other hand, I am one of the leading opponents, I think, of the military junta, which has drowned democracy in a sea of blood in Cairo, in Alexandria, and indeed throughout Egypt. So when it comes to these two regimes, I have no dog in the fight. But I do care what happens to the poor masses in both Ethiopia and Egypt, and that’s why I say that this question of the course of the Nile and the share of the waters has to be negotiated. Has to be negotiated in the context of the OAU, of the African Union as it’s now known, the AU. And it has to be fair to the people of both countries. As for the regimes…I’m very happy to see the back of both of them. But thank you for remembering me.

[end.]

George Galloway, MP, speaking in the British Parliament on Somalia, Ethiopia, and the UK.

Galloway reveals the British government’s complicity in grave human rights abuses in Somalia, under occupation by Ethiopia in the name on the “war on terror”.

George Galloway in the 1980s, visiting Eritrea/Ethiopia


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