While the world is focusing on the humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia caused by the war between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, brutal repetitive attacks have taken place in the Metekkel zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz state in western Ethiopia.
Some of the reasons for the attacks include neighbouring Amhara state’s claim to ownership of the Metekkel zone. The Amhara state wants the right to administer Metekkel because it wants to control the zone’s mineral deposits and arable lands. Metekkel residents, including the majority Gumuz community, are opposed to Amhara occupation.
There are also competing interests from actors in Sudan and Egypt who are opposed to the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Metekkel, and local elements who are unhappy with the formation of Ethiopia’s new ruling Prosperity Party.
Thousands have been killed and buried in mass graves, forced out of their homes, and properties looted and set ablaze.
The attacks by armed militia, mainly from the Gumuz people against the Oromo, Amhara, Shinasha, and Awi residents of Metekkel, escalated in September 2020 and continued into March of 2021. The Gumuz are one of the indigenous groups in Metekkel.
Some observers are now saying that the atrocities committed in Metekkel are reaching “holocaust proportions”.
The Amhara question
Metekkel zone is one of three zones in the Benishangul-Gumuz state. It borders the Amhara and Oromia states, and Sudan. Its main inhabitants are the Gumuz, Oromo, Awi, Amhara, and Shinasha communities.
Within the federal political arrangement, the Gumuz and the Shinasha control the six districts in the local administration structure. The other communities are not well represented in the local leadership framework.
Back in 2003 when I was doing fieldwork for my book on inter-ethnic relations in Metekkel, people from the different communities were unanimous in their desire to coexist peacefully. Eighteen years later, marginalisation, ethnic exclusion, poor governance and the absence of workable democratic mechanisms have significantly affected community relations.
Muferiat Kemal, Ethiopia’s minister of peace, now says that the “area has become a juncture for different interest groups.”
These interest groups include actors from the neighbouring Amhara state who claim ownership of the Metekkel zone. This claim gained momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed power in April 2018.
The Amhara regional state and Amhara activists say that Metekkel was forcibly included under the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front took power in 1991.
Their claim to the entire Metekkel zone has fuelled Gumuz militia attacks on non-Gumuz residents. The militias want to protect the Gumuz’s 30-year rule of the region.
The attacks have been aggravated by recent land grabs by Amhara and other non-indigenous investors who want to control the zone’s agricultural and mining sectors. Many Gumuz people have been displaced and they are not happy that the investors are hiring non-Gumuz workers to aid in their occupation of an area that is rich in resources like gold, marble and fertile agricultural land.
There are also Sudanese and Egyptian interests to consider. Both countries are opposed to the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without negotiation. The dam is in Guba, one of the six districts in Metekkel.
Guba is the closest district to Sudan. Both Egypt and Sudan argue that the dam affects the flow of the Nile waters into their respective countries. Ethiopia started filling the dam, which is over 70% complete, in July 2020 and is getting ready for the second filling in July 2021.
Sudan’s recent claim to Metekkel and particularly to Guba district has shocked the region. The claim stems from the belief that Guba was gifted to Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (1889-1913) by Khalifa Abdullahi, a Sudanese Mahdist leader, in 1897. The boundary was confirmed in 1902 by Ethiopia and Sudan.
On the other hand, Egypt considers the dam a major threat to its food security. This is because the Blue Nile, which originates from Ethiopia, supplies up to 80% of the Nile waters.
Finally, Benishangul-Gumuz local government officials have owned up to orchestrating ethnic targeted killings in Metekkel as push back against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s new Prosperity Party, which replaced Ethiopia’s former ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.
The officials believe that the Prosperity Party, to which they now belong, wants to eliminate the existing federal arrangement which guarantees self-rule to ethnic groups in the country. The Gumuz enjoyed administrative rights over Metekkel zone. But if the ethnic federal framework is altered by the Prosperity Party, that would affect the interests of the majority Gumuz community profoundly.
They encouraged attacks on non-Gumuz inhabitants who they felt would gain the upper hand in the administration of the Metekkel zone if the current federal arrangement were to be altered.
In the end, the violence in western Ethiopia is a confluence of local, regional, national and, possibly, foreign interests.
Metekkel zone has been placed under a command post that is directly responsible to the prime minister. But attacks and tensions remain high. The violence might have ethnic undertones but this is a political conflict at heart.
The Amhara claim should be handled through constitutional means; not by force. And all the ethnic groups in the Metekkel zone should be protected and their issues addressed lawfully. The diplomatic dispute with Sudan and Egypt should be solved through dialogue and the dam negotiations should proceed amicably.
Hitsats was opened in 2013 to accommodate Eritrean refugees. In 2018, it housed over 15,000 refugees, nearly half under the age of 18. It was closed in February 2021.
Ethiopia has a reputation for hosting long-term refugees. It’s the second largest host country in Africa with a hosting history that dates back to the 1950s.
During the 2016 Refugee Summit it made nine pledges to increase opportunities for refugees to engage in legal work, education and land ownership. Most components of these pledges have yet to be fully enacted and most refugees remain confined to camps.
One of the pledges promised to build more secondary schools and expand access to a refugee university scholarship programme.
But even before the Tigray war, as many as two-thirds of Eritrean refugees, the majority of whom are young men and unaccompanied minors, chose not to take advantage of educational opportunities designed to keep them in Ethiopia. Instead many of them chose the dangerous journey to Europe, where they risk falling prey to human traffickers, abuse, detention and death.
We conducted research with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia to find out why they choose to move on rather than take advantage of the opportunity to get an education.
We found that education and local integration programs focus on providing refugees with a safe place. However, refugees also care about time – specifically the future. To feel safe, they need to be able to work toward a desirable future. In other words, they want a life that is ordered teleologically.
Weighing the risks
Our research took place between 2016 and 2019. We did our fieldwork in three Eritrean refugee camps in the Tigray region and in Addis Ababa, with urban refugees and policymakers. We also used social media to connect with participants.
We discovered that although refugees are aware of the risks of leaving, there are risks to staying, including the despair of being stuck in ‘camp time’ with no prospects for a future. For some refugees, going to school can alleviate these feelings of hopelessness. One of refugee we spoke to said this:
I used to spend my time idle, walking around the camp, thinking about nothing. It stressed me. It’s better to spend your time meaningfully in school rather than sitting at home or in a shelter.
But this is not always the case. We found that refugee schools struggle to enrol and retain students. They have low enrolment rates and many students drop out.
The question is this: why do so many refugees leave despite grave risks and the presence of programmes designed to stop them from migrating?
Long before the war in Tigray and the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees weighed the risks of migrating versus remaining. We found that for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, the promise of a good education is not enough to make them stay because there are limited prospects for advancement beyond academic qualifications.
Educational opportunities are meaningful to refugees, but also a cause of suffering, particularly for those who have done well. Educated refugees expect to make progress and attain social status. This is difficult in a camp setting.
In the end, the institutions designed to help them move towards their desired future fail them and make them feel responsible for that failure. Although they are restrained by legal and structural barriers many internalise the blame.
Refugees exist in a painful, unending present. Time in the camps doesn’t move forward. Educated refugees are stuck, without real opportunities to create a path for a better future.
Why refugees choose Europe
Global migration policy focuses on local integration as the most viable solution for an estimated 26 million refugees around the world; half under the age of 18.
Protracted conflicts and widening inequality prevent the return of refugees to their home countries, and less than 1% of refugees are resettled each year.
Education potentially anchors refugees in host countries, promising opportunities, advancement and the chance to fulfil aspirations. But our research suggests that even before the war in Tigray put refugees at more risk, they distrusted Ethiopia’s commitment to its pledges.
We spoke to Berihu, an Eritrean refugee who graduated from an Ethiopian university and became a teacher in the Hitstats camp, who said:
I was happy to get this opportunity to have a bachelor’s degree. But nobody is happy after graduation because they return to the camp and live like the others. We have to use our knowledge to give something back to society.
Graduates like Berihu feel like they can’t use their education to advance their careers in the camps. They also worry about their wellbeing, the possibility of political violence, or cuts to rations. While educational pathways have opened up, pathways to legal work have only recently become available. Refugee graduates are confined to “incentive pay” positions in the camps working for small stipends.
Habtom, another refugee in Hitsats, was offered a university scholarship. But he worried about falling into “empty time” in the camp, saying:
Simply sleeping and eating is boring to me. We are like animals.
A few months later he began the dangerous journey north.
Dead end pledges
Despite Ethiopia’s 2019 refugee proclamation, the promised future for refugees is distant. They are still primarily housed in camps. The details of how they can work or own businesses are still being worked out, leaving them vulnerable to low wages and exploitation.
And in 2020, Ethiopia announced the end of prima facie status for Eritrean refugees, meaning there are more bureaucratic hurdles for them to clear. Additionally, there are widespread food shortages in the region. The risks of staying have gotten even greater, which will lead more Eritrean refugees to take the perilous trip to Europe.
Ethiopia is set to hold general elections for members of the federal parliament and regional councils on June 5, 2021. It will be the sixth such elections, and another chance for Ethiopia to transit to democracy.
For many centuries, Ethiopia was ruled by a long line of absolute monarchs . The last emperor was overthrown by a popular revolution in 1974. However, the revolution was hijacked by a military junta that ruled the country until its overthrow in 1991.
There was hope that Ethiopia would embrace democracy for the first time when the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of four ethnic political parties, took power in 1991 and introduced multiparty elections. This was not to be. The front conducted five sham general elections and ruled the country with an iron fist for 28 years.
From 2016 up to 2018, the coalition faced a popular uprising against increased human rights violations and massive corruption. It also faced an internal power struggle between reformists who sought the opening of the political space and those who wanted to maintain the status quo.
The political crisis climaxed in the exit of prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and entry of prime minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018.
The new optimism of a democratic transition springs from several important developments. In the last two years, the government has taken political and legislative reforms that may contribute to a more competitive election. For example, the electoral board which oversees the polling has been re-established as an independent institution.
Despite the upbeat expectations, the June elections face serious challenges. Ethiopia’s party system is extremely volatile. Political parties are weak and fragmented. And the elections will take place amid the upheaval in Tigray, one of the country’s 10 federal regions.
There are many reasons for the optimism.
Firstly, several exiled opposition politicians and political parties are allowed to operate inside the country.
Secondly, a new electoral law has set out new rules for political party registration. These have had the effect of pushing out a large number of weak and fragmented political parties from the party system. Previously, there were more than 130 political parties many of which were weak and volatile. The majority were not active in elections or any political movement. The new law requires re-registration on the basis of standards such as proof of endorsement from voters and constituencies.
Alongside this, political parties that have previously been marginalised in the regional states of Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, Harari, Gambela, and Somali are now part of the national political discourse.
Thirdly, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is now accountable to the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the federal legislative house. And, in a significant compromise between the ruling and opposition political parties, a prominent former opposition politician and political prisoner, was appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives in late 2018 to lead the board.
Fourth, the Federal Supreme Court and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission are now led by prominent professionals. Both worked for the advancement of human rights and social justice for many years.
And a new law on civil society has made it possible for nongovernmental organisations, professional associations, and consortiums to engage in the advancement of human rights and democracy. These include civic and voter education, capacity building for political parties, human rights institutions, and courts.
Nevertheless there are still serious challenges.
Parties continue to exist that don’t have strong links with voters and constituencies. In addition, most of the political parties that make up the party system are regional and continue to be focused on ethnicity to mobilise supporters.
The problem with this is that ethnic political parties use extreme ethnic propaganda to win the support of the ethnic groups they claim to represent. They are also unlikely to seek political compromises.
Another challenge is the first-past-the-post election rule. The rule makes representation of diverse interests and views in the federal and regional legislative organs difficult. Likewise, some leaders of opposition parties are in prison, limiting the diversity of views and interests that should be represented in the general elections.
The lack of security in some constituencies poses an additional challenge to the general elections. In the regional state of Tigray, the election for the regional council has been postponed by the National Electoral Board until security is improved, and election polls are established by the provisional regional government.
Also, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat against several aspects of the election process. This includes voter and candidate registration, voter education, organisation of polling stations and constituencies, election campaigns and voting.
Postponed ballot and fallout
The 2021 elections were originally set to be carried out on 29 August, 2020. But they were pushed back by the House of Peoples’ Representatives because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to an extension of the mandate of the federal government that run out on 5 October, 2020.
Both processes faced criticism from opposition politicians and political parties. The Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front, the political party which governed the regional state of Tigray for 30 years, opposed the extension. Moreover, the front refused to recognise the federal government beyond 5 October, 2020.
The front conducted its own regional election on 20 September, 2020 and declared itself the winner. This was in violation of the Federal Constitution and against the mandate of the National Electoral Board. This action led to the escalation of political differences between the front and the federal government.
The Tigray Peoples’ Libration Front had been on a collision path with the federal government from the first day of its fall from a federal to regional power in 2018.
In addition, the fact that the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front is an armed ethnic political group arguably made it inherently susceptible to resort to violence as a way of resolving political differences.
The upcoming 6th general elections are yet another historic chance for Ethiopia to hold free and fair elections. Through democratic competition, Ethiopia can avert conflict, strengthen its democratic institutions, and begin the transition to democracy. The elections are a matter of survival.
In Ethiopia, the national army claims to have taken “complete control” of Mekelle, the capital of the dissident region of Tigray. But since the fighting started in November, there have been concerns for civilians in the region who may have been injured or displaced due to the conflict.
What is known is that providers of humanitarian aid haven’t been able to reach civilians. There are also reports that hundreds of civilians have been killed. However, because parts of the region have been cut off from mobile phone and internet network, it’s hard to ascertain the exact situation on the ground.
As well as governing relationships between countries, international law applies to the conduct of hostilities within a country.
At the core of international humanitarian law are the Geneva Conventions. These were a series of meetings that produced rules for times of armed conflict. They seek to protect people who are not taking part in hostilities. The agreements originated in 1864 and were significantly updated in 1949 after World War II.
I argue that there are several instances in which Ethiopia could have already violated these conventions. For instance in the denial of humanitarian aid and if civilians were attacked.
Serious violations of these laws can be considered war crimes and can be prosecuted in national or international courts, such as the tribunals established to investigate violations of the law in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court. Victims of humanitarian blockade could also sue the government in Ethiopian courts.
Under international law, the Ethiopian federal government has the right to suppress rebellion, riot or mutiny by parts of the population against the established government. But it must respect the rules of international humanitarian laws. For instance, it must ensure the protection of all civilians.
The conflict was triggered when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – the region’s ruling party – attacked a federal military base, killing federal soldiers. This act constitutes an insurgency and the government has legal grounds to suppress it.
The Tigrayan government also refused federal government orders to postpone the organisation of regional elections because of COVID-19. This constitutes a rebellion, which again gives the government legal grounds for military action.
But the Ethiopian government must respect the rules of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva conventions. They cover legitimate violence, proportionality, respect for human rights and the prohibition of the use of torture.
These laws also include the protection of civilians. It appears – though the government denies it – that civilians have been bombed. If this is true, this is in violation of international humanitarian law: it’s not lawful to attack civilians in a conflict.
It’s difficult to verify the extent to which civilians have been affected, because of a media blackout. But some rare reports show that many people have been injured.
The government is also legally bound to protect its people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This is known as the “principle of the responsibility to protect”. States must ensure that their armed forces respect this.
It is not enough for the Ethiopian army to tell people living in Mekelle to “save themselves from any artillery attack”. Not protecting them is a violation of international law.
In addition to this, any denial by the Ethiopian government of humanitarian assistance to people in Tigray is a violation of international humanitarian law.
Under various conventions, it’s the responsibility of the warring parties that control the territory to ensure that the needs of the civilian population are met. This includes their access to humanitarian assistance, such as food, water, clothing and medicines.
In Tigray, nearly one month after the conflict had started humanitarian organisations were still not able to access civilian populations trapped in Tigray. This was because the Ethiopian government refused to grant access to humanitarian organisations.
Minorities and displacement
There’s one more area of concern regarding international human rights law: the question of displacement due to the conflict.
Tens of thousands of people have already been displaced by the violence. The African Union’s “Kampala Convention”, to which Ethiopia is party, obliges the state to allow the relevant agencies to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons.
If the situation gets much worse, the African Union can intervene militarily and hold the government to count.
The Ethiopian government has emphasised its commitment to restoring order in the Tigray region. But some of its actions violate international humanitarian law. The government must respect international law. And the UN and other institutions must remind Ethiopia of its obligations.
Forces of Ethiopia’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have destroyed an airport in the town of Axum, state-affiliated Fana broadcaster said on Monday, after federal troops gave them a three-day deadline to surrender.
TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters the ultimatum was a cover for the government forces to regroup after what he described as defeats on three fronts.
There was no immediate response from either side to the other’s comments, and Reuters could not confirm the latest statements. Claims by all sides are hard to verify because phone and internet communication has been down.
At the core of the current war between the Ethiopian central government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front is the realignment of politics and the contest for political hegemony.
In my view, it is about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed allying with the Amhara to destroy Tigrayan power. This is an attempt to consolidate his position and that of his Amhara supporters.
Abiy declared war on the Regional Government of Tigray in early November 2020. The region is led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. He accused the regional government of attacking and looting the armaments of the Northern Ethiopian Military Camp.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front controlled and dominated Ethiopian politics for 27 years through the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. The coalition included the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement. The Tigrayans were the dominant force in the coalition.
The Tigrayan elites squandered their political opportunities by attacking the Oromo Liberation Front. They violated the human rights of the Oromo and others. This is what gradually led to the demise of their power in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee).
Ethiopia has about 80 ethno-national groups. The major ones are the Oromo (the largest), the Amhara and the Tigrayans. Emperor Menelik, the architect of the Ethiopian Empire, was from the Amhara. His rule resulted in the Amhara elites and Amhara culture and language dominating the empire for more than a century. These elites now claim that they are the rightful group to shape Ethiopia today in their own image.
The other most powerful groups are the Oromo and Tigrayans who have been fighting their own corners, often through liberation armies. Abiy, a political chameleon, has been manipulating ethnic divisions among the Amhara, the Oromo, and the Tigrayans.
Tigray’s dominance of Ethiopian politics
For nearly three decades – from 1991 to 2018 – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front dominated the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The democratic front controlled Ethiopian politics and economics.
Throughout this period, the Tigray front and its collaborators were accused of gross human rights violations against Ethiopians of different ethnicities. In Oromia, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation was a partner in the looting of Oromo resources such as land and in committing heinous crimes.
Meles Zenawi , a Tigrayan by birth, was the master of coalition politics. His deputy, His Haile Mariam Desalegn, became prime minister when Zenawi died in 2012.
In response to pressures for reform, and to placate the Oromo Youth Movement, the then-coalition replaced Desalegn with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy used his affiliation with the Oromo people to come to power. He promised to address issues such as the right to self-determination, political and cultural freedoms, sovereignty (Abbaa Biyyummaa), democracy, making the Oromo language a federal language, and enabling the Oromo to repossess their lands. After coming to power, Abiy ignored all these Oromo demands.
Abiy’s father is Oromo. But he was raised by his Amhara mother, a fact that he has used extensively. Considering his cruelty against the Oromo who embraced him at the beginning, most Oromos now think that his close affinity with his mother shaped his values, philosophy, ideology, and culture.
Abiy’s leadership triggered a realignment within the coalition. One of the consequences was the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation becoming an ally of the Amhara party. For its part, the Tigrayan front retreated to its home state to reorganise.
Reform agenda gone wrong
On coming to power Abiy launched a reform agenda. It included releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled and banned political leaders to return to Ethiopia.
He also promised to expand the political space, respect human rights, build independent institutions such as an elections board and independent judiciary, and to institute economic reforms.
Based on these promises – and because he initiated peace with Eritrea – he was awarded the 2019 Noble Peace Prize.
But since then, things have gone downhill. Abiy started to implement his political objectives by using the empire’s economic resources and the army. He ignored most stakeholders demanding the collective formulation of a political road-map for the transition to democracy. He began to attack and delegitimise the Oromo movement that had propelled him to power.
He even went as far as deploying the military in the Oromia regions of Wallaga, Guji, and Borana. Civilians have been killed extra-judicially. There has also been widespread killing and imprisonment of Oromo political opposition activists, sympathisers, and journalists. And elections have been postponed.
Abiy claims that it it is necessary to establish command posts in many Oromia regions to fight and defeat the Oromo Liberation Army.
Abiy also spearheaded the disbanding of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He replaced it with the new Prosperity Party. Since the launching of the party on 1 December 2019, Abiy has dramatically shifted his focus from a democratic transition to consolidating power through violence and terror.
Abiy has introduced four interrelated political initiatives that consolidate his personal and party power. A combination of these factors has led to the current crisis and war in Tigray.
His first approach was the medemer philosopy. Medemer means “coming together” in Amharic. Abiy has co-opted political organisations, activists and politicians by appointing them to state positions. He has also tried to bring ethno-national groups together but without addressing historical and existing collective grievances and contradictions. These include unequal access to political power and economic resources as well as the denial of the right to self-determination and democracy.
Secondly, his use of the Prosperity Party to centralise political power under his leadership has led to Abiy’s critics characterising his government as a modern version of the authoritarian and colonial models of previous Ethiopian leaders, namely Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
His third initiative was to gradually diminish the power of the Tigray ruling elites. He removed them from the central government and important political positions.
The fourth initiative has been to suppress and dismantle the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress, the most popular and influential parties in Oromia.
Some scholars argue that the central government is uneasy with the autonomy of Ethiopia’s federal units. Others say the conflict is about unresolved ethnic tensions and the underlying battle for control of the state.
Either way, the Abiy government and its supporters are keen to dismantle the Tigray region’s autonomy. It’s a paradox of history that Tigrayan elites used their control over central government to suppress and exploit other ethno-nations, only to lose control of central government and return home.
Abiy’s main aim is to replace Tigray’s leadership with a government that is subordinate to the central state. Abiy’s position as premier would be stronger without pressure from the Tigrayans and the Oromo. These two groups have been most aggrieved by his reforms.
To his advantage, the war is fully supported by key federal allies. These include the Amhara regional state, former Oromo Democratic Party members, and political parties such as the Amhara National Movement, the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, and the Baldars party. All are dominated by the Amhara elites.
Using the Abiy government and the Ethiopian army, the Amhara elites want to recover from Tigray the land they claim belongs to them and to demolish Tigrayan power in order to dominate the empire.
But I believe that Abiy and the Amhara are naive in their belief that they can subjugate ethno-nations such as that of Tigray and Oromo by war.
An immediate ceasefire is needed. And an independent, neutral, and internationally endorsed body should be established to investigate major crimes committed over the last three decades to facilitate a national reconciliation. Also, the transition that has been derailed must be resuscitated and negotiations must begin on how to establish a transitional government that will prepare Ethiopia to become a true democracy. Otherwise, Abiy and his supporters are leading the empire in the wrong direction, one that may result in the collapse of the state, more humanitarian disasters, and the end of the empire as we know it.
Ethiopian Airlines Group has successfully completed a new passenger terminal at its hub Addis Ababa Bole International Airport with emphasis on Bio Security and Bio Safety measures.
The new terminal has a capacity to accommodate 22 million passengers annually, the spacious terminal is designed to offer contactless and a convenient experience with the help of digitally equipped amenities. Besides the spacious check-in hall with sixty check-in counters, new immigration, security screening, boarding gates, travellator and panoramic lifts, the new terminal also features shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment areas, fully air-conditioned and features a ultra-luxurious new 5000 square metre lounge, plenty of relaxed seating and offering a first class dining experience. .
In addition, for departing passengers it has three contact gates for wide body aircraft along with ten remote contact gates with travellator, escalator, and panoramic lifts. It will house thirty-two arrival immigration counters with eight e-gate provisions at the mezzanine floor level.
Regarding the expanded infrastructure, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines remarked:
“I am very pleased to witness the realisation of a brand-new terminal at our Hub. While Addis Ababa Bole International Airport has overtaken Dubai to become the largest gateway to Africa last year, the new terminal will play a key role in cementing that position. What makes the new terminal unique is that it’s the first terminal in the world to be completed after Covid-19. It was designed, not re-purposed, with Bio safety and Bio security in mind. I’m sure our esteemed customers will highly appreciate that. "
Aviation infrastructure expansion is one of the core pillars of Ethiopian’s Vision 2025. Ethiopian is continuously working on expanding airport facilities. The features of the new airport play a key role in protecting passengers’ and employees’ safety as airport experience becomes contactless.
Ethiopia has the potential to harvest more than 500,000 tons of honey annually, Expert said.
Because of its unique production environments and suitable climate, Ethiopia has comparative advantages to produce and supply high-quality honey and beeswax for the global market at competitive price.
International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) More Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey (MOYESH) Programme Coordinator Dr. Workneh Ayalew told The Ethiopian Herald that the country has a wide potential for honey production.
Currently, the country is producing honey below its potential. Despite, the potential to harvest 500,000 tons of honey, it is harvesting not more than 60,000 tons of honey annually.
Besides, there is a potential to harvest up to 50,000 tons of beeswax but the country is harvesting below 10,000 tons of beeswax annually.
The Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategies and the ongoing comprehensive forest rehabilitation efforts could contribute a lot to generate more income from the beekeeping sub-sector.
The millions of hectares of protected and rehabilitating degraded habitats, forests, and bushlands can be used to establish commercial beekeeping, according to him.
Ethiopia is endowed with diverse agro-ecologies that are very suitable for raising honeybees where indigenous bee forages can support commercial beekeeping and promote honey sector investment, he said.
By making sufficient inputs available, conserving indigenous plant species, allocating suitable area of harvesting and infrastructure, designing proper policies, promoting market linkage, among others, are fundamental towards harnessing the honey sector potential, Dr. Workneh said.
Research surveys indicate that there are more than 7,000 indigenous plant species that help to harvest quality honey products countrywide.
Pesticide chemicals application on crops, lack of modern honey harvesting technologies, and the low attention given to the sector are challenging the sector's production and contribution for the national economy, he said adding, ensuring integrated pest management and reducing the application of chemicals on crops is important.
"Every chemical has its own short-term and long-term consequences on vegetation and insects like bees. Thus, utilizing organic-based and pro-environment agricultural inputs is important to maintain the safety of biodiversity," he stressed.
Beyond honey and beeswax production, bees play a significant role in facilitating pollination for the flower industry, coffee, crops, and fruit and vegetables.
Rehabilitating bees is essential not only for the honey production but ensuring sustainable ecological services.
Credit: The Ethiopian Herald
The political crisis in Ethiopia is not showing sings of abating. Ongoing riots in Oromia and Wolayta; state fragmentation in the Amhara region, and the standoff between the federal government and the Tigray region have put the survival of the government in question.
To address this crisis, the African Union has been called upon to mediate between prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Similar in tone, a US-based Ethiopian working group has urged Washington to play a more vocal role in the deepening crisis.
Most recently, some members of the US congress wrote a petition calling on the US secretary of state to encourage the Ethiopian government to engage in an open dialogue with the opposition for a peaceful transition.
These are all encouraging signs. But there needs to be greater clarity on the nature of the crisis for an informed and meaningful intervention.
It is my view that the crisis in Ethiopia today is not a conflict between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the regional government in Tigray. It is a crisis of the federal government manifest in Tigray and other regions. The governance of the federal government has become more of an exercise in seamanship (staying in power) and less of navigation (reaching a destination) falling short of coherent and democratic approaches to address the crisis.
Therefore, defining the problem as a disagreement between the federal government and Tigray is, to say the least, simplistic. There are concurrent crises in Oromia and the Southern regions that also need urgent attention. And to call for dialogue without taking some confidence building measures, such as the unconditional release of political prisoners, is a non-starter.
The ongoing unrest in Oromia
The killing of a popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundiessa in June sparked massive communal riots. Most parts of western and southern Oromia were engulfed in fighting between armed forces Oromo Liberation Front fighters and government forces. The opposition parties in Oromia – protesting the decision of the government to continue in power beyond its mandate at the end of September 2020 – began preparing for resistance. The killing of the artist occurred in the middle of this political crisis.
The protests engulfed much of the Oromia region where many businesses and shops were torched or looted. The government response to the riots left 178 people dead and a further 9,000 detained without due process of law . Curfews were imposed and a complete closure of the internet enforced.
The public mistrust of government grew amid inconsistent statements and its knee-jerk decision to arrest opposition political leaders. Its failure to set up an independent inquiry into the artiste’s killing further fuelled suspicion.
In reaction to the resistance of the Oromo elites, Abiy has gone about purging over 1,700 local administrators and civil servants. The dismissed officials included Lemma Megersa, the Defense Minister, a politician considered pivotal in prime minister’s rise to power.
But resistance in the Oromia region continues in different forms. With over 9,000 people in prison, including key Oromo political leaders, the crisis has immense potential for escalation.
The Wolayta crisis
The Wolayta people in the country’s south have long agitated for a regional state of their own. The claims have become louder since December 2018 when the neighbouring Sidama people secured a referendum to form their own regional state – breaking away from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Regional state.
The constitution recognises the right of any nation or nationality clustered in any of the regional states to form its own state. Following the steps required, the council of representatives of the Wolayta zone unanimously voted for a regional state, and presented its decision on December 19, 2018. But this has yet to be considered at regional or federal levels or referred to the Electoral Board.
In protest at the silence, the Wolayta organised a massive rally and the 38 representatives to the regional council declined to attend the council meeting. The federal government responded to these developments by detaining dozens of zonal officials, elected members of the Wolayta statehood council, political party leaders, and civil society actors.
The regime also acted violently against peaceful demonstrators demanding the release of those detained. The government also suspended a community radio station and shut down offices of civil society organisations.
A national crisis
Events in Oromia and Wolayta illustrate the point that the current Ethiopian problem is not limited to a dispute between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). It is a national one.
The decision of the federal government to postpone the scheduled elections using the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic was rejected by most substantive opposition political groups calling for a dialogue to avert the consequences of the constitutional crisis.
The best-organised of these groups, the TPLF, has the capacity to hold its regional elections on schedule. This has brought the crisis to a head. But the dispute with Tigray cannot be resolved with a simple compromise: there is much more at stake, and the TPLF leaders are unlikely to make a short-term bargain when they see the problem as more fundamental.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, including leaders of the opposition, are in prison for political reasons. All media outlets, except those fully controlled by or affiliated to the Prosperity Party, are closed.
For a meaningful dialogue to start, the federal government should take some unilateral confidence building measures. All political prisoners should be released without condition and all media outlets closed by the government opened immediately. It should also end the unlimited and unlawful state of emergency.
This can then set the stage for a national dialogue with two main objectives. First is to agree an early date for elections and determine how the country transitions to an elected government. Second is a discussion on some of the fundamental questions on the political future of Ethiopia. This is currently obscured by a focus on the crisis of the moment.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has hailed the "historic" early filling of the massive dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Addis Ababa had long said it planned to begin filling the dam's reservoir this month, in the middle of its rainy season, drawing objections from Cairo and Khartoum who wanted to first reach a trilateral agreement on how the dam would be operated.
Ethiopia's announcement on Tuesday that it had hit its first-year target for filling the dam came as the three countries were participating in talks overseen by the African Union (AU) to try to resolve the dispute.
"The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians' commitment to the renaissance of our country," Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace laureate, said in a statement read on state television on Wednesday.
"The fact that we reached this milestone by our own efforts when no one else believed in our capabilities to accomplish such initiatives makes the moment even more historic.
"We conducted the filling of the dam without causing harm to anyone," said Abiy.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.
Ethiopia said the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter.
Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat. Sudan also views the dam as a threat to its water supplies.
After Tuesday's call with the AU, leaders from the three countries said they had agreed to continue with the negotiations, though it was unclear what concrete progress had been made.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Egypt's foreign ministry stressed "the necessity of reaching a binding legal agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Renaissance Dam" that would "include a legally binding instrument to resolve conflicts".
Ethiopia has resisted a legally binding dispute resolution process. Its officials said the dam would not harm downstream countries.
They have also said this year's filling was a natural and inevitable part of construction.
By filling the reservoir with 4.9 billion cubic metres (173 billion cubic feet) of water, Ethiopia is now in a position to test its first two turbines - an important step on the way towards actually producing energy.