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Ethiopia

Clashes threaten Ethiopia’s delicate ethnic balance

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AFP — She was not one of them, but Saada Youssef had lived alongside the Somali people of eastern Ethiopia for years. Then came the day local officials told her to leave or die.

“Even on the truck, people were throwing stones at us,” Saada said, recalling her escape in a vehicle sent to rescue people of Oromo ethnicity living in the Somali region where tit-for-tat ethnic violence killed hundreds last month.

Saada found refuge in a collection of abandoned buildings in Adama, a city far from her home in the eastern town of Wachale, one of several areas in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions that have seen fighting between two of the country’s largest ethnic groups.

The bloody clashes threaten to upset the delicate ethnic balance of Africa’s second most populous country, where the all-powerful ruling party last year declared a state of emergency to end months of sometimes deadly anti-government protests spearheaded by the Oromos.

The unrest raises questions about the future of Ethiopia’s “ethnic federalism” system of governance, which is supposed to offer a degree of self-determination to the country’s diverse peoples but which critics say is often overruled by the federal government.

– A permanent rupture? –

What triggered September’s violence is unclear, but its results are not.

A government spokesman said hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks and a local official in the eastern city of Harar said that more than 67,800 Oromos alone have fled, not to mention the Somalis who have moved in the opposite direction.
Survivors of the ethnic fighting blamed the government for not doing more to stop the bloodshed. They are worried it might lead to a permanent rift between the country’s Somali and Oromo communities.

“This could be ethnic cleansing,” said Molu Wario, an Oromo who fled fighting in Moyale in the south along the border of the Somali and Oromia regions, after a land dispute turned ugly.

“It has led to hostility, and the relationship between us will never be the same as before,” he said.

The logic of ethnic federalism sees different communities running their own affairs, so Somalis are in charge of the Somali region while Oromos run Oromia, but communities mix in all nine of Ethiopia’s regions and squabbles over land and resources are common, though not always so violent.

This time, Somali and Oromo leaders alike allege atrocities committed by the other to justify their attacks.

Somalis point to a clash in Awaday, a town in Oromia, where they claim Oromos killed 18 Somali traders who were selling khat, a leafy plant that is a mild stimulant when chewed and is hugely popular in Ethiopia.

They also claim Oromos burned eight children to death in a district along the shared regional border and murdered patients in a hospital.

The claims could not be independently verified, though a diplomat in the capital Addis Ababa said the Oromia region’s police force took part in the clashes.

Whatever the truth of the allegations, the retribution they have spurred is real.

– ‘I have nothing left’ –

Fleeing Oromos say the Somalis who chased them away from their homes with knives and guns cited the attack in Awaday.

Abdel Jabbar Ahmed, who escaped from Wachale, said he was told: “The Oromos killed 20 Somalis in Awaday, so we are going to take all the Oromos inside Somali region out.”

Other dispossessed Oromos said their Somali friends and neighbours sheltered them when violence broke out, but that the regional security force — known as the Liyu police and repeatedly criticised by rights groups — was responsible for the worst of the excesses.
Ayub Abdullah, an Oromo day labourer who lived for 15 years in the Somali regional capital Jigjiga, said he was confronted by a mob at work, who demanded to know his ethnicity.

Then, four Liyu police attacked him and throttled him with a rope. Afterwards Ayub fled to a camp for displaced Oromos on the outskirts of Harar, a walled city near the border between the two regions.

“I work with lots of different people, but it was only Oromos who were being targeted,” he said.

The military now guards major roads along the flashpoint border areas, gradually restoring calm to restive areas such as Jigjiga and Moyale.

But among the displaced, there’s little talk of return.

“I saved all I had for 20 years and I lost it at once. Why would I go back there?” Saada said. “I have nothing left there.”

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Ethiopia

As Violence Flares in Ethiopia, Internet Goes Dark

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VOA — Amid reports of violent clashes that have led to at least 15 deaths, the Ethiopian government has partially blocked internet access to its citizens, suppressing information about the exact scope of the violence and the response of federal security forces.

Ethiopians have been unable to reliably reach Twitter and Facebook since Tuesday, and other services may also be affected. Restricting internet access is a common tactic for the government when protests break out and security forces crack down.

The government has justified such action in the past as a response to unverified reports and rumors, noting that social media become flooded with unconfirmed claims and misinformation when violence erupts. But blocking internet access also makes it more difficult for citizens to assemble peacefully or monitor what’s happening on the ground.

Full control

Unlike most nations, which have multiple internet service providers (ISPs), Ethiopia’s sole ISP, Ethio Telecom, has almost full control over internet access in the country.
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To block traffic to and from certain websites, or even shut down access altogether, the government needs only to coordinate with Ethio Telecom, a state-owned company. In contrast, it would require the cooperation of more than 2,600 ISPs to shut down internet access in the United States.

Ethiopia is one of 61 countries with only one or two ISPs, according to a 2012 report by Dyn, a company focused on internet traffic and data management. Countries with few ISPs face the severe risk of an internet disconnection, according to Dyn, because these providers often are state-owned, making it easy for repressive governments to control and monitor access.

But even when a government shuts down the internet, information can trickle in and out of a country via dial-up connections on international phone lines and satellite links.

In the case of a partial shutdown in which a government blocks access to certain websites and services, citizens can still gain access to blocked content via proxies and virtual private networks (VPNs). These tools use encrypted intermediary connections to acquire access to blocked sites. Rather than connect to Twitter directly, for example, a citizen would connect to a server that’s still accessible and then request the blocked content.

The Addis Standard, an English-language website with extensive coverage critical of the government, has servers in Orlando, Florida, enabling it to stay active, even in the midst of crackdowns.

Legal enforcement

The Ethiopian government has given itself legal authority to maintain its technological monopoly. In 2012, the government issued a proclamation outlawing the formation of any new ISPs or bypassing of any existing communications infrastructures.

That keeps control in the hands of Ethio Telecom, now the largest telecom operator in Africa, according to its website.

“Ethio Telecom is the sole provider of telephone services and internet in Ethiopia, and it is traditionally seen as a government cash cow,” said Mohammed Ademo, a freelance journalist and the founder and editor of Opride.com, a news site that highlights opposition voices. That gives the government a financial incentive to prevent privatization, in addition to the political power it can wield with full control over the country’s communications infrastructure.

Some observers have questioned whether government efforts to control information accomplish their intended purpose.

Soleyana S. Gebremichael is a human rights advocate and former lawyer. When protests broke out across Ethiopia in the summer of 2016, she raised doubts about the effectiveness of a 48-hour outage.

“With or without the internet, people already had the urgency of going out to protest and then presenting their question and petitioning the government,” Gebremichael said.

Range of tactics

Partial or full internet blackouts in Ethiopia have become routine in recent years, and outages don’t coincide only with unrest. Earlier this year, the government restricted mobile internet access during a national exam period to discourage cheating.

Analysts say the government employs a range of tactics to stifle dissent with technology, including the use of electronic surveillance to spy on dissidents, journalists and other perceived enemies.
Earlier this month, a Canadian research group concluded that agencies in the Ethiopian government monitored dozens of people around the world with sophisticated spyware that provides full access to remote computers.

Last year, a joint report by the Open Observatory of Network Interference and Amnesty International concluded that the Ethiopian government was deploying Deep Packet Inspection technology, a powerful tool that facilitates mass surveillance and censorship.

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Djibouti

Ethiopian Government Cancels Ethio-Djibouti Fuel Pipeline Project

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THE REPORTER — The Ethiopian government canceled the planned Ethio-Djibouti fuel pipeline project, reports the Ethiopian weekly English newspaper, the Reporter.

In 2014 the South Africa-based infrastructure investment group, Black Rhino, proposed to the Ethiopian government to build a 550km long pipeline to transport diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from the Port of Djibouti to central Ethiopia.

A senior Ethiopian government official stated that the government has canceled the project due to financial reasons. The official said though the pipeline project is viable, the government wants to protect the Ethiopian Railway Corporation which will soon start transporting petroleum products.
“We have built a new railway line to Djibouti with an investment cost of four billion dollars. And 100 fuel tanker wagons are ready to transport fuel from Djibouti. We have to maximize the use of the railway and pay back the loan to the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China first,” the Ethiopian official said.

The project is estimated to cost 1.5 billion dollars. The Ethiopian government had reviewed and accepted the proposal in principle. Backed by the US investment group Black Stone, Black Rhino has undertaken a feasibility study on the project, which was going to be the first fuel pipeline in Ethiopia.

He said that while the country has a newly-built railway line, the construction of another expensive infrastructure cannot be justified. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the investment arm of the World Bank – had expressed interest in financing the planned Ethiopia-Djibouti fuel pipeline project.

“It is not that the project is unable to secure loan but while we are having the railway line in place building another fuel transport infrastructure is not economically a sound decision,” the Ministry of Transport official said. However, he said the construction of the pipeline can be considered after four or five years.

Ethiopia’s annual fuel import, which is growing at a rate of ten percent, has reached 3.8 million MT. The country so far uses tanker trucks to transport the fuel from the Port of Djibouti to central Ethiopia costing the country dearly. Fuel theft, adulteration and waste are also other challenges with the road transport.

The governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti signed a framework agreement on the planned pipeline construction in 2015.

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Ethiopia

Ethiopia summons diplomat over misconduct in Turkey

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The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday revealed that it is investigating the alleged misconduct that an Ethiopian diplomat committed while on duty in Turkey recently.

Various media outlets reported earlier this week that an unnamed staff member from the Ethiopian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was involved in two accidents, and refused to cooperate with police forces.
The diplomat was also reported to be involved in a car accident on same occasion, after his car hit another car and caused it to collide with a taxi, an incident that injured one person.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Friday that it has summoned the diplomat following his alleged misconduct.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia has summoned an Ethiopian diplomat who was assigned at the Ethiopian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey following his alleged misconduct occurred over the weekend,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry, Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopian Foreign Minister, has ordered the establishment of a committee to make inquiries into the case.

The ministry has also pledged to deal with the case with “no tolerance” and subsequently plans to take appropriate disciplinary measures.
The diplomat has returned to Ethiopia to appear before the recently established committee, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry, however, did not disclose the identity of the diplomat.

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