Ethiopia

Israel: toward Zio-fascism

We don't use the word "fascism" lightly, but the growing consensus in Israel for a Jewish-supremacist state and genocidal solution to the Palestinian question has been further consolidated in the frightening election results. The coalition deal just announced forms the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Likud has signed a pact with the Jewish Home party, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the 61 Knesset seats needed to form the next government. The openly chauvinist Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett (who calls for annexing the West Bank settlements), won eight seats in the March elections. Under the pact, Bennett will hold two cabinet seats—education and diaspora affairs. The justice portfolio will go to the far-right party's Knesset member, Ayelet Shaked, while agriculture will go to Uri Ariel, another of its sitting Knesset members. The party is to get a further two cabinet posts, including that of deputy defense minister. Netanyahu has already formed coalition pacts with the centrist Kulanu Party (10 seats), the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party (seven seats), and the Shas Party (six seats). (Middle East Monitor, May 7)

Somalia: Shabab leader dead in US drone strike?

US forces carried out air-strikes against Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, with casualties reported but uncertainty over the fate of the main target, Somali officials said Sept. 2. Godane was traveling in one of two vehicles hit in apparent drone strike, a member of the Islamist group said. The spokesman would not say whether Godane was among the six militants killed. The two vehicles were heading toward the coastal town of Barawe, Shabaab's main base, when they were hit. The Pentagon confirmed the US military carried out an "operation," and that it was "assessing the results." The US has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethi­o­pia. The Pentagon quietly deployed a small team of advisers to Somalia last October to coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from Shabab.

Ethiopia charges journalists with terrorism

An Ethiopian court on July 18 charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law (PDF). The journalists, including six bloggers, were arrested in April and have been prevented from accessing their families or legal counsel since their arrests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in 2009, Ethiopian authorities have used it as a tool to limit journalism critical of the government. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that the government stifles the establishment of new media publications.

Greater Addis Ababa plan sparks Oromo protests

Another battle for control over urban space is heating up in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa—concerning plans to expand the city's municipal boundaries and absorb several smaller outlying towns where the traditionally excluded Oromo people are still dominant. The "Integrated Development Master Plan" has sparked a wave of protests, principally by Oromo students. Official figures say seven have been killed by police in the protests since late April, but independent reports claim the death toll is more than 20. 

South Sudan: Yes, another war for oil

Amid ongoing fighting in South Sudan, the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 7 notes that two of the regional powers supposedly attempting to head off further escalation through a "diplomatic effort" are Kenya and Uganda—whcih were "recruiting investors to back an oil pipeline in South Sudan in December when a rebellion upended the world's newest nation." Most reportage reads as if the "upending" came out of nowhere, but when a precursor rebellion broke out in Jonglei state last March, we noted widespread theories that Sudan was quietly backing it to interrupt plans for alternative pipeline routes through Kenya or Ethiopia, which would break South Sudan's reliance on old enemy Khartoum for getting its crude to market. So we may now be looking at a proxy war for South Sudan, pitting US client states Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia against Sudan. On the ground, the Dinka (the group most closely linked to the ruling faction) are pitted against the Nuer (whose legitimate grievances may be exploited by Khartoum). Of course the model of a ruling clique controlling oil wealth and distributing it in clientelist manner to build a power base is what is really at root of the conflict—and neither side has any interest in challenging that.

Mauritania: polls boycotted, slavery condemned

Parties that make up Mauritania's Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) have announced a boycott of November's legislative and municipal elections after talks with the government collapsed without agreement earlier this month. The ruling Union for the Republic is the only party fielding candidates in every district, with the next highest representation from Islamist group Tewassoul, the only member of the 11-party COD that will field candidates. Tewassoul calls its participation a form of struggle against the "dictatorship" of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in a 2008 coup. The opposition is demanding the polls be postponed until April to allow time for a voter census and guarantees of the independence of the electoral commission. A vote was due in 2011 but has been repeatedly delayed due to disagreements between the opposition and government. The last legislative election was held in 2006. (AFP, Oct. 29; Reuters, Oct. 4)

Egypt threatens Ethiopia over hydro project

Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, vowing not to give up "a single drop of water from the Nile," said June 16 he will go to Addis Ababa to discuss a giant dam that Ethiopia has started building in defiance of Cairo's objections. "No Nile—no Egypt," he said at a press conference. Last week, Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador after politicians in Cairo were shown on TV calling for military action or supporting Ethiopian rebels. Ethiopia says the $4.7 billion Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile will eventually provide 6,000 megawatts of power. Egypt was apparently caught by surprise when Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile to begin construction last month.

Pipeline intrigues behind South Sudan fighting

At least 163 were reported dead March 28 in clashes at Okello, in Pibor county of South Sudan's Jonglei state, pitting government troops against a rebel force whose commander David Yau Yau is said to be among the slain. (See map.) South Sudan accuses Khartoum of supporting the rebels, with military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer saying a seized airstrip was used for arms drops. He suggested Sudan is arming the rebellion in a bid to block the South's plans to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to a port in Djibouti. Aguer said the South's military, the SPLA, would continue to "deal with the militia group." (The Guardian, March 28) A Kenyan route for the pipeline has also been broached, with the aim of freeing the South from having to export oil through Khartoum's territory.

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