Tag Archives: rights

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)


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


Image 1: Local market in Eritrea


Image 2: Local market in Eritrea


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



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.




Ethiopia’s $1 million bill from Hacking Team.




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.




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.

UNDP and Eritrea’s Women – NUEW: Highlights and Brief Thoughts:

The longest African independence war of the 1900s, Eritrea’s three decades long struggle was about far more than just political emancipation; rather, it sought to usher in a complete and radical transformation of society. An important part of the latter agenda – giving special attention to egalitarian, popular democratic principles – was a particular focus on women’s and gender-related issues. No longer would women be viewed narrowly as secondary, subordinate figures within society; instead, they would stand proudly as full equals to men. Embodying the notion of equality through struggle, valiant Eritrean women served honorably, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly alongside men in the labyrinth-like trenches, on the battlefields, and across the frontlines. Ultimately, women would prove absolutely critical to the eventual achievement of independence. Following this legacy, the Government of the State of Eritrea has made the empowerment of women a national priority, and committed to a development agenda grounded in social justice and gender equality. This post highlights some findings from the recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report, 10 Years: Women in Eritrea – National Union of Eritrean Women. 

  • The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) was established in 1979 with the support of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (NUEW). The focus of NUEW is to improve the status of Eritrean women.
  • Over its 35 year history, NUEW has grown considerably, and in September 2014 it held its 7th Congress. Furthermore, over the past decade, it has forged relationships and shared experiences with a number of sister organizations from within Africa and around the world, including the General Union of Sudanese Women, the Support Initiative for Women’s Empowerment in East Africa and the All China Women’s Federation. NUEW has also participated in key international forums and initiatives championing the cause of women’s rights and empowerment, including the International Women’s Conference in Beijing and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (among others).
  • NUEW’s membership base has grown in numbers: from 178,000 in 2003 to nearly 300,000 in 2013. Its membership now represents a decent percentage of the female population in Eritrea and covers all 6 regions, 66 sub-regions, 681 districts and 2631 villages. Notably, women in the diaspora continue to play a key role at NUEW and in the struggle for gender equality in Eritrea. They serve as ambassadors of NUEW vision abroad and have been at the forefront of efforts to empower women inside the country, politically, socially and economically. For example, NUEW women abroad have mobilized resources and raised funds to build professional training centres and offices for their sisters in Eritrea.
    • As of 2013, organizational activities carried out in 120 secondary schools have increased the number of female student members of NUEW to 26,715. NUEW plans to continue activities that motivate female enrolment in schools until the female to male ratio is a balanced 50/50.
  • Since 2004, 569 NUEW management personnel benefited from training programs on campaigning, awareness- raising, leadership, management techniques, communication skills, budgeting, reporting and monitoring. Other training programs offered for district-level NUEW management have reached 4,442 people since 2009, covering topics including women’s and children’s rights, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, gender and HIV/AIDS, hygiene, and post-partum fistula.
  • More than 5,500 women have benefitted from NUEW legal counselling and educational programmes geared towards increasing women’s knowledge of legal issues.
  • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has worked with the Ministry of Education to eradicate adult illiteracy, both by organizing educational resources and campaigning for the increased participation of women in the programme. Since 2003, nearly 350,000 people – 92 per cent of them women – have participated in the adult education program.
  • NUEW has worked closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to raise awareness of women’s health issues and prevent and treat health challenges confronting women that are caused by poverty and backward traditions. NUEW has conducted multiple seminars and meetings attended by more than 1.7 million people – encompassing 93 per cent women – towards this end.
    Since 2006, more than 1.2 million participants, 73 per cent of them female, have attended meetings on FGM and early marriage. A testament to the effectiveness and importance of these initiatives are rates of FGM/FGC in the country. Whereas Eritrea once had rates of 80-90%, recent health surveys have shown that only 17.7 per cent of young women aged 6-15 have undergone FGM/FGC, while even fewer girls aged 5 and below – 7.6 per cent – were circumcised.

  • It is important to understand that economic empowerment, which refers to the resources and means an individual needs to achieve their desired goals, is an essential prerequisite for political enlightenment and organization.
    • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has recorded a number of impressive achievements toward this end. More than 2.9 million persons – 90% women – have attended nearly 25,000 meetings on women’s empowerment. 47 million Nakfa has been loaned to nearly 12,000 beneficiaries of the Microcredit Program across the country and professional training centres have been established in a number of regions. Remarkably, out of the total amount loaned, upwards of 85 per cent has been reimbursed by clients and is already being put to use for lending to other clients.
    • Over the last decade, NUEW has organized various professional handicrafts and artisanal programs to supplement existing skills. More than 5,000 women throughout the country have benefited from training in clothing design, sewing and embroidery, wickerwork, ornamentation, weaving, pottery, hairstyling, as well as computer applications and typing. Another more than 3,000 women received special trainings in video shooting, home economics, nutrition, doll making, childcare and midwifery. The programs have proven their practical worth by economically empowering women throughout the country.
  • Rural women have also been targeted as, between 2003 and 2011, NUEW allocated a budget of more than 14 million Nakfa to provide more than 11,000 women in remote rural areas with donkeys and water bags. Also, NUEW and partners such as UNDP have supported the women with funds for farming and livestock keeping. More than 1,400 women farmers have received water pumps to cultivate a collective 153 hectares of land. Strong progress has been demonstrated among women farmers as a result and two groups of women farmers have organized for integrated assistance.

Around the world, it has long been the rule that women are inferior, with little to contribute to society. In Eritrea, an old, out-dated, backwards proverb states that “like there is no donkey with horns, there is no woman with brains.” However, from the days of the long struggle and since independence, Eritrean women have proven resilient exceptions to such outdated, patriarchal rules through their wholehearted participation, struggle, contributions, and sacrifice. Today, Eritrean women are contributing in all areas of society and in many diverse, important ways, ultimately playing a crucial role in the country’s general development and socio-economic improvement. It is wonderful to see the large focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is clear that NUEW efforts have led to so many positive developments. Moving forward, we should continue to follow their lead to support women and girls in all aspects society.


Read the full report here: http://www.er.undp.org/content/eritrea/en/home/library/womens_empowerment/undp-nuew-publication0/


Multidimensional Poverty – important data from the OPHI

According to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “wherever we lift one soul from a life of poverty, we are defending human rights. And whenever we fail in this mission, we are failing human rights.”[1] However, in order to combat poverty (and thus fulfill rights), we must understand it. In this context, the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) represents a useful step forward. The OPHI aims to build and advance a more systematic methodological and economic framework for reducing multidimensional poverty in several ways, including: improving data, building capacity, and impacting policy.[2] Amongst the OPHI’s key contributions is its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI provides multidimensional measures of poverty, well-being and inequality, going far beyond traditional one-dimensional approaches to incorporate dimensions such as health, education, living standards, quality of work and more innovative dimensions.[3]

The latest edition of the MPI covers 110 developing countries (a total of approximately 5.4 billion people), and 803 regions in 72 of these countries. The 10 countries with the lowest scores on the MPI were (in descending order, and with MPI figures in brackets),[4]

  • Burundi (0.454)
  • Mali (0.457)
  • Guinea (0.459)
  • Guinea-Bissau (0.462)
  • Sierra Leone (0.464)
  • Somalia (0.514)
  • Burkina Faso (0.535)
  • Chad (0.554)
  • Ethiopia (0.564)
  • Niger (0.605)

Table 1

OPHI: Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014/15*


Further exploring the MPI reveals what percentage of the population are both MPI poor and are deprived within each particular indicator. For example, the region with the highest rates of people who are multidimensionally poor and simultaneously deprived in nutrition is Affar, Ethiopia, while the region with the most child mortality is Nord-Ouest, Cote d’Ivoire. The region most deprived in sanitation is Karamoja, Uganda, while Wad Fira, Chad is most deprived in drinking water, electricity, and years of schooling. Examining sub-national regions and inequality, Nigeria has the most extreme regional differences in multidimensional poverty: in Lagos, 8.5 percent of people are multidimensionally poor, whereas in Zamfara, the figure is 91.9 percent. It is also noteworthy that nearly 60 percent of people living in the world’s poorest regions are actually not in the least developed countries.[5]

Overall, poverty remains the gravest human rights challenge facing the world today.[6] 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.”[7] 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.



[1] LINK

[2] http://www.ophi.org.uk/

[3] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[4] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[5] http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/


[6] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDAQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ohchr.org%2FDocuments%2FPublications%2FPovertyStrategiesen.pdf&ei=7qC6VNuMHISfggT5pYBo&usg=AFQjCNEVWu9sEZ4nM_K_BEIpGxhQGtulvQ&sig2=maQRjwqrl3-OEjsYzKFbXw&bvm=bv.83829542,d.eXY

[7] LINK

* *Note that MPI ranges from 0-1. However, the scale in Table 1 runs from 0-100.

Explore the OPHI and MPI: http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/

Mendefera Factory: Menstrual Pads, Education, and Empowerment

It was nice to see Dr. Sleemi’s photo of a factory in Mendefera, Eritrea. The factory manufactures menstrual pads which are distributed to girls in middle and high school. This initiative is important since it promotes equality, empowerment, and general development.


Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and the developing world, millions of girls either skip school during menstruation or drop out entirely because of a lack of hygiene solutions – thus ultimately harming their (and the community’s or the nation’s) potential. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 10% of African girls skipped school during menstruation, with many girls missing up to 25% of the academic year or simply dropping out. Girls failing to complete secondary school are more likely to get HIV or become pregnant when they are young, and they are also more likely to have a greater number of children and earn lower wages. As well, studies have found that girls with access to menstrual pads report benefits to their self-esteem. Furthermore, girls with access to menstrual pads are able to concentrate better in school, witness increases in their self confidence, and they are able to fully participate in more daily activities while on their period. At the same time, they report that feelings of shame, isolation, and embarrassment improved.

As Eritrea continues to focus on a variety of national development challenges (including literacy, enrolment, and educational disparities), programs and initiatives like the Mendefera factory should be augmented and receive support.


More materials:

Dr. A. Sleemi (MD, MP): @globalgyno





Examining Ethiopia: Bahir Dar, Defections, and Indonesia.


As 2014 draws to a close, the recent defection of several high-level Ethiopian military personnel,[i] and the Ethiopian government’s bloody crackdown on protests in Bahir Dar[ii] highlight serious questions about Ethiopia’s tense internal socio-political situation and the West’s ongoing support for Ethiopia’s repressive government.


Late last week, in Bahir Dar, several people were killed and many others wounded after police abruptly opened fire on protesters defending a sacred site against government-sponsored demolition.[iii]On the heels of the crackdown, several military pilots and a technician absconded with MI-35 helicopters; notably, the defections are only the latest in a series of similar such high-profile desertions.


Although Ethiopia has witnessed several years of respectable economic growth, last week’s developments reflect “the politics of fear” that pervades Ethiopia’s socio-political landscape, and emphasize the country’s significant “challenges concerning human rights, political competition, good governance, and corruption.”[iv] Earlier this year, Ethiopian authorities arrested nine journalists and bloggers, subsequently denying them access to lawyers, family, and colleagues. They have been held on allegations they work for foreign human rights groups or used social media to incite violence.[v] Such allegations have become common-place, as Ethiopia’s highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws allow the government to hand down long sentences to anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, [or] disseminates” statements the government considers terrorism.[vi] The arrests of the bloggers coincided with mass non-violent protests led by students in the central Oromia region,[vii] ultimately seeing numerous protestors killed, wounded, and arrested.[viii][ix]


Furthermore, the Ethiopian army has systematically engaged in executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses in its ongoing brutal counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).[x]Ethnic groups residing within and around the region have endured arbitrary detentions, torture, and mistreatment in detention, as well as severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, and minimal access to independent relief assistance. Effectively, such abuses constitute direct threats to their survival.[xi]


As well, weeks ago, TV4 reported that H&M, the popular Swedish clothing company, has purchased cotton from regions in Ethiopia where land-grabbing and forced displacement have occurred.[xii] Problematically, a central component of Ethiopia’s developmental and agricultural strategy involves “villagization,” a program entailing the relocation of millions of people from locations reserved for industrial plantations.[xiii]Villagization has long been condemned by international organizations,[xiv] since it leads to greater food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods, and the loss of cultural heritage of ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s program, which utilizes forced evictions, has been plagued by a plethora of human rights violations, with a variety of human rights groups documenting beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities.[xv]


With national elections on the horizon (scheduled for May 2015), the potential for further instability, discord, and popular revolt loom large, especially considering past precedent. In 2005, following national elections widely believed to have been rigged, the Ethiopian government, under the late, authoritarian leader Meles Zenawi, “massacred” hundreds of protestors, many of them teenagers.[xvi] Moreover, in recent years, massive protests by the Blue Party opposition group and Muslim groups, have ended in deaths, repression, and state violence.[xvii] Finally, in November, a 166-page report on the plight of the Oromo people in Ethiopia was released.[xviii] Concluding that the Oromo people have suffered “sweeping” repression in Ethiopia, the report detailed that between 2011 and 2014, more than 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their opposition to the government, with the majority of those arrested being peaceful protestors or members of opposition parties.[xix] Looking towards the 2015 elections, Berhanu Nega, Professor of Economics at Bucknell University and former leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy in Ethiopia, asserts that the Ethiopian government can “never have free and fair elections.” Specifically, according to Nega,


“[t]he reason why there’s so much repression, the reason why there’s so much muzzling of the press, the reason why the Ethiopian government is arresting opposition figures inside the country is precisely because they know that this is a despised government. It cannot last a day in an environment of freedom. This is a government that will lose catastrophically if there were [a] free and fair election.”[xx]


Last, it is noteworthy that Ethiopia’s various internal challenges are compounded by its transgressions which extend beyond its borders. Specifically, Ethiopia has continued to occupy sovereign territory of its northern neighbor, Eritrea, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.[xxi] The 12-year-long military occupation has frozen any possibility of developmental cooperation or economic partnership between the two countries, and the military occupation is seen as an influential factor to much of the instability within the Horn of Africa region.


In seeking to address Ethiopia’s flagrant dismissal of international norms and laws, a variety of measures could plausibly 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 often voiced concern of how the West’s (led by the US and UK) support for dictatorial, tyrannical regimes results in 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.”[xxii]Similarly, renowned international economist, William Easterly, has recommended that the international community “stop financing tyranny and repression” in Ethiopia.[xxiii]


An indication of the possible far-reaching effects of removing external support for a harsh, brutal regime can be seen in the example of Indonesia. Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT) 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.[xxiv] However, in 1999, after much pressure, the US finally “pulled the plug” on its support for the Suharto regime, quickly leading to the cessation 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 quite different, the comparison presents several clear 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 characterized as “genocidal.” Consequently, with Ethiopia continuing to overlook basic international norms, standards, and laws, the international community must end its complicity in and (in)direct support for Ethiopia’s various transgressions. As Clinton relayed to Indonesia’s leadership, the international community must tell Ethiopia, “It’s finished.”



[i] http://www.tesfanews.net/two-ethiopian-pilots-abscond-with-two-mi-35-attack-helicopters/

[ii] http://ethiopia-chat.com/esat-breaking-news-19-december-2014-huge-protest-in-bahir-dar-ethiopia/

[iii] http://www.tesfanews.net/ethiopia-3-killed-scores-wounded-in-bahir-dar-protest/#gyAzuOrAISVspgYi.99


[v] http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/apr/30/press-freedom-ethiopia?CMP=twt_gu

[vi] http://www.newsweek.com/ethiopias-war-homosexuals-224457

[vii] http://thinkafricapress.com/ethiopia/addis-ababa-sleeping-beauty-no-longer-student-protests-police-response-oromo

[viii] https://twitter.com/BBCAfrica/status/461849684974505984

[ix]  1) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27251331

2) http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1126651

[x] http://www.hrw.org/node/74305

[xi] http://www.hrw.org/features/ogaden-war-crimes-ethiopia-0

[xii] https://fiqre4eri.wordpress.com/

[xiii] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xiv] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ethiopia0112webwcover_0.pdf

[xv] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xvi] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6064638.stm

[xvii] 1) http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/ethiopian-repression-muslim-protests-must-stop-2013-08-08

2) http://www.irinnews.org/report/96787/

3) http://www.voanews.com/content/new-ethiopian-blue-party-tries-again-to-demonstrate/1741733.html

[xviii] http://oromopress.blogspot.ca/

[xix] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR25/006/2014/en

[xx] http://www.voanews.com/content/former-us-diplomat-calls-for-free-fair-elections-in ethiopia/2568689.html

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

[xxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcxfrnRkwDQ

[xxiii] http://www.tesfanews.net/stop-financing-tyranny-like-in-ethiopia-william-easterly/

[xxiv] http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199910–.htm

H&M, Ethiopia, and…Blood Cotton? A note on TV4’s report and work by the Oakland Institute.

TV4’s recent report examines allegations that H&M, the popular Swedish clothing company, has purchased cotton from regions in Ethiopia where land-grabbing and forced displacement have occurred.[i] According to the Oakland Institute, an independent think tank that seeks to “increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums,”[ii] such practices by H&M are, if true, “shameful.”[iii] Upon viewing the report, two items stand out (among others) – development and corporate social responsibility.

Regarding the former, the report raises the question of the costs of development. Since the 1990s, development has come to be understood as encompassing more than just economic growth. Handley et al. (2009) outline that, although essential, economic growth is not always wholly sufficient to reduce poverty or inequality. Rather, an assortment of measures must be undertaken to ensure that poorer strata of society are incorporated into national economic growth.[iv] As well, development has been linked to individual, group, and environmental rights, as well as social justice. Increasingly, it has become nearly impossible to consider or discuss development without noting its implications for a variety of rights.[v]

Within that framework, TV4’s report leads to serious questions about the ramifications of Ethiopia’s growth and development. Nestled in the turbulent Horn of Africa (HOA) region, Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent modern nation-state and second most populous.[vi] The second poorest country in the world according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multidimensional Poverty Index,[vii] Ethiopia consistently ranks extremely low upon a variety of socioeconomic, development, and human rights indicators.[viii] Recently, Ethiopia has experienced economic growth – making it among “Africa’s best performing economies.”[ix] However, dramatic inequities in education and employment – and broad discrimination – along rural-urban, gender, and ethno-religious lines remain starkly apparent.[x] Further, the country’s land and agricultural strategies, underlying much of Ethiopia’s growth, are problematic.

Land-grabbing and the forcible “villagization” program entail the relocation of millions of people from locations reserved for industrial plantations.[xi] Issues arising from the program have led to greater food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods, and the loss of cultural heritage. Additionally, the program, which frequently utilizes forced evictions, has been plagued by a plethora of human rights violations. A variety of human rights groups have documented beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities.[xii] In this context, although Ethiopia has generated economic investment and growth, an important question remains: “but, at what cost?”

A second item for consideration in TV4’s video is corporate social responsibility (CSR), which simply refers to “companies taking responsibility for their impact on society.”[xiii] In recent years, CSR has become an important concern, particularly for companies doing work in the developing world. For example, over several decades, diamonds helped to sustain devastating wars throughout Africa, destroying millions of lives. Conflict diamonds (also known as blood diamonds) were sold in order to fund conflict and war, with profits from the rogue trade in conflict diamonds, worth billions of dollars, utilized by an array of groups to purchase arms several wars in Africa.[xiv]

However, after a global campaign and negotiations involving individuals, NGOs, governments, and private industry, an international certification scheme for diamonds was developed. Specifically, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which came into force in 2003, sets out the requirements for controlling diamond production and trade. Countries and companies, such as De Beers, became responsible for certifying that the diamonds they traded were “conflict-free,” and thus not negatively affecting the populations or regions from which they were sourced.[xv] In this context, H&M must develop (or more effectively and transparently enforce) mechanisms to ensure that the cotton it purchases is not tainted with blood.

 Useful Reads:

F. Bieri on blood diamonds: http://www.franziskabieri.com/diamonds/


[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-ImoKhymL4

[ii] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/about

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-ImoKhymL4

[iv] Handley, G., K. Higgins, B. Sharma, K. Bird, and D. Cammack. 2009. “Poverty and

Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Overview of Key Issues.” Overseas

Development Institute. Working Paper 299: 1-82.

[v] http://www.surjournal.org/eng/conteudos/getArtigo18.php?artigo=18,artigo_08.htm

[vi] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13349398

[vii]  1 http://theafricaneconomist.com/10-poorest-countries-in-the-world

2 http://hdr.undp.org/en/data

[viii] Kloos, H., D. Haile Mariam, and B. Lindtjorn. 2007. “The AIDS Epidemic in a Low-Income Country: Ethiopia.” Human Ecology Review. 14 (1): 1-17.

[ix] http://www.afdb.org/en/countries/east-africa/ethiopia/

[x] 1 http://www.irinnews.org/report/64382/ethiopia-inequality-gender

2 USGOV. 2011. “Ethiopia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.” United                            States Department of State. Retrieved: www.state.gov/documents/organization/186406.pdf

3 UNESCO. 2012. “UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education – One Year                  On.” UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/

[xi] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xii] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xiii] http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/corporate-social-responsibility/index_en.htm

[xiv] http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/business-and-human-rights/oil-gas-and-mining-industries/conflict-diamonds

[xv] http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/en/about

Can the US mediate Egypt and Ethiopia’s water dispute?: US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s lessons from the Ethiopia-Eritrea stalemate.

Earlier this week, US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, questioned several expert witnesses at a hearing entitled “Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace.”[i] While the primary focus of the hearing was on the ongoing Ethiopia-Egypt Nile dispute, an extremely interesting point was raised by Rep. Rohrabacher regarding Eritrea. Specifically, when discussing a potential US arbitration or mediation role in the Ethiopia and Egypt disagreement, Rep. Rohrabacher outlined the US’ failure in arbitrating the Eritrea-Ethiopia 1998-2000 war. Rep. Rohrabacher stated:

“Let’s just note that, we did convince the Ethiopians at one point to agree to arbitration of a major dispute that they were in with Eritrea. And, this happened during the last administration, so you’ll know this is not a partisan remark, but I thought the behavior of our government in that whole episode was disgraceful, and has undermined our ability to arbitrate other disputes in the sense that Ethiopia, the decision of the arbiters went against Ethiopia in their border dispute with Eritrea…and we extracted some kind of other deal with them to help us with some sort of defense related deal…and let them off the hook, basically said they didn’t have to follow their arbitration, which meant the message to all of Africa was you don’t…you better skip out the arbitration because that just doesn’t work, even the Americans are going to discard it, what the result is. That was very sad.”[ii]

Rep. Rohrabacher’s comments raise serious questions about any possible US mediation role between Egypt and Ethiopia. What is further striking is his acknowledgement of the US’ utter failure in mediating the Ethiopia-Eritrea 1998-2000 war. Not only were the US’ actions wrong ethically, they proved to be great strategic blunders, since they led to more tension and conflict. Ethiopia has continued to occupy swathes of sovereign Eritrean territory, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.[iii] Moreover, the US’ harmful role was further compounded when Ethiopia – supported by the US – invaded Somalia in 2006, leading to a sharp rise in terror and insecurity in the region.

For over a decade, Eritrea has been the scapegoat for the ills of the Horn of Africa – sanctioned, characterized as intransigent, and bearing the brunt of the blame for the region’s instability, conflicts, and tensions. In direct contrast, Ethiopia has been held up as a strong US and western partner, receiving millions of dollars in aid. In 2011, it was the world’s fifth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.6B in total assistance,[iv] representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget.[v] Additionally, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan.

While it is notable that US politicians, such as Rep. Rohrabacher, have begun to recognize – and publicly acknowledge – their administration’s mistakes in the region, much more tangible steps are required to ameliorate the situation and rectify past mistakes. With Ethiopia possessing a critical dependency on foreign aid, the US should end all assistance to the country unless Ethiopia abides by international law and respects Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.


[i] Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace. 2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515. Nov 18, 2014 2:00pm

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O1io-f-itY&feature=youtu.be (begins at 6:20)

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

[iv] http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/countryprofile/ethiopia

[v] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files

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