Ethiopia – State of Emergency Lifted

The government halts security provisions but the ethnic tensions continue to bring violence.

The government has announced a relaxation of its state of emergency, lifting restrictions on the media and restoring some personal freedoms, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa said on March 15th. Fegessa said the monitoring of media content and arbitrary searches would now cease.

Similar curfew restrictions that had been in place on industrial sites, which were targeted in arson attacks, have also been lifted. The state of emergency was declared on October 8th 2016 after a breakdown of law and order in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The crisis was catalysed by a stampede during the Irrecha festival outside the capital, during which witnesses claimed that police fired at the crowd.

The state of emergency had been intended to restore military style rule, but many armed incursions have continued along the borders into eastern and southern Oromoia, which borders the Somali regional state.

In east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Ababa, militiamen conduct cross border raids in various localities. The border incursions have also hit West Hararghe, particularly Bordede woreda where more than 30 people were killed on February 22nd.

In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km from the capital, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas. As well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state.

Many of those conducting raids are thought to be members of the Liyu Police, a paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state in 2007 to counter the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden region, in the east of the country.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa said, over the past six months hundreds of Liyu police have entered Oromia villages and attacked, killed and looted, with the number of dead at around 200.

Oromo Woman – CC 2013

The boundary line between Oromia and Somali regional state is contested, and a border referendum was held in 2004 to determine resident’s choices. According to official results residents in close to 80% of disputed areas have voted to be under the Oromia regional state.

However Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2012 accused the special police of executing 10 men, being implicated in many other abuses against civilians under the context of counterinsurgency operations.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has accused some local leaders of inciting the ethnic clashes.

(Addis Standard 3/3; © AFP 3/1 2017; BBC Monitoring 9/3)

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ETHIOPIA: South-East Tension
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21330A–21331A

ETHIOPIA: OFC Leader Detained [Free to Access]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21255A–21255B,

ETHIOPIA: State of Emergency
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21167A–21170C

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Somalia – Truce Collapses

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Communal violence erupts again in the Puntland border areas, as elsewhere in the country Al-Shabaab makes gains.

Reports suggested that at least 20 people died as violence gripped the border regions of the semi autonomous areas of Puntland and Galmudug on November 5th, with around 80 more left injured.

The town of Galkoyo, the provincial capital of the divided Mudug region, was the epicentre of the tensions. The north of the town is administered by Puntland, while the south by Galmudug.

Six civilians are among the dead and also journalist Mahad Ali Mohammed. According to the Union of Somali Journalists he was working for the Galmudug Radio Station and was hit by a stray bullet.

A military officer from Puntland, Mohamed Aden, said that “Galmudug does not want peace…We shall continue fighting till we cleanse Galmudug forces,” reported Deutschewelle. The United Nations (UN) says that about 80,000 people have already fled the town.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, said that Al-Shabaab was making gains in the town due to the ongoing conflict and called for a return to dialogue, and particularly for the deaths of civilians to stop, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Under terms of a ceasefire deal mediated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that came into force only a few days previously, forces of both regions were supposed to be withdrawn from the disputed area, reported Al Jazeera.

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Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas alongside Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe – CC 

According to a report by Shabelle Media Network, naval forces from the Puntland administration raided so-called Islamic State (Daesh) locations in the coastal town of Qandala in the Bari region – however there was no official statement on the operation.

Meanwhile, as Ethiopian troops have been withdrawn from the country, reports suggest that Al-Shabaab militants have taken it as an opportunity to make gains. The insurgent group have taken nine towns along the Ethiopian border and have threatened to disrupt presidential elections scheduled for November 30th.

Spokesperson for the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISON) Colonel Joseph Kibet, told The EastAfrican that the Ethiopian withdrawal is leaving a vacuum that is encouraging the re-emergence of Al Shabaab.

Ethiopian Information and Communication Minister, Getachew Reda, said the troop withdrawal is due to financial constraints and the failure of the international community to train and give support to the Somalia National Army (SNA), reported the East African.

Somalia has faced widespread conflict since the death of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the 1990s, and in recent years the presence if the Al-Shabaab has grown considerably.

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SOMALIA: Electoral Process Begins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21179A–21179C

ETHIOPIA – SOMALIA: Troop Pull-Out
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170C–21171A

SOMALIA: Deadly Standoff Between Rival States
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21191B–21192B

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Ethiopia – Oromia Violence Continues

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Without a fundamental change in development policy, rights groups claim that protests in the Oromia region will continue.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has deplored the lack of international coverage of protests in the Oromia region; the region has experienced widespread violence, with around 400 dead, many more injured and tens of thousands arrested, since November 2015.

The protests were originally triggered by the Addis-Ababa Master Plan, which proposed to extend the capital’s municipal boundaries outwards, forcing many Oromo farmers in the area to move. According to HRW there were at least 500 protests across all 17 regions of Oromia province, largely spurred by experiences of historic displacements and a lack of compensation.

HRW commented that Ethiopia has an ‘authoritarian development policy’, for example when large scale agricultural investments are made, local communities are rarely consulted about the decision and those who resist are often subject to heavy state repression.

Most of the protesters have been young students, particularly of primary, secondary and university age, many of the older generation have been more reserved due to past experiences of state crackdowns on dissent and protest.

The protesters have stated that it is a grassroots mobilisation organised mainly through social media and the independent Oromia Media Network. Despite the majority of protests being peaceful the Ethiopian security services have shot indiscriminately into crowds and made tens of thousands of arrests, with widespread allegations of violent methods and torture.

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Oromo Protest 2007 CC

In January 2016, the Ethiopian government did cancel the Master Plan in a rare concessionary move, but this did not stop the protesters, whose concerns had broadened to include the heavy-handed security response, arbitrary imprisonments and the discrimination of the ethnic Oromo.

One story, cited by HRW, said that a 17 year old student had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues, and after seeing his friend get shot he had ran to the Kenyan border, where he told a reporter that one minute he was worrying about school, the next he realised he may never see his family again. The story is familiar, with many thousands of student protestors forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

HRW commented that the United States (US) and other Ethiopian allies, particularly Britain, often highlight the regional counterterrorism initiatives the country is involved in, but turn a blind eye to the domestic violence; its position as the seat of the African Union (AU) and the fact that it hosts many thousands of refugees, makes public criticism of the security response more difficult.

Much of the limitations on the international coverage has been generated by the restrictions on reporting in the country, particularly for independent journalists. Similarly the ongoing food crisis – the worst famine since 1984-85 – has been the centre of global attention, which according to HRW has led “governments around the world to overlook or downplay the other very urgent crisis unfolding in Oromia.”

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Oromo Village CC – 2013

However, despite the cancellation of the master plan, the displacement of Oromo farmers is likely to continue, unless the government fundamentally alters its development trajectory by considering communities as meaningful partners.

The Addis Standard reported that despite the Ethiopian regime’s rhetoric of decentralisation to local governments, recent academic studies have shown that across different regions the service delivery from the local governments remained one of the most centralised, top down, hierarchical and government-controlled.

The experience of such a development apparatus has been a primary factor in catalysing protests. It contributed to a rising political consciousness for the Oromo people, through encounters with development and governmental administration, while also fostering a sense of invasion into their everyday lives and exclusion from consultation, reported the independent Addis Standard.

Earlier in April the Deputy Chairman of the largest Oromia political party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Bekele Gerba, along with 21 others, were charged under a counter terrorism law; Bekele was accused of having links to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Bekele described horrible conditions in detention at Maekalawi prison, including torture and widespread ill-treatment.

The security authorities also charged 20 young university students for protesting in front of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa in March this year, reported HRW.

The Oromo unrest marks the most serious domestic political crisis in Ethiopia in over a decade, with land becoming an increasingly prominent issue. Since 2009 the Ethiopian government has leased around 2.5m hectares to more than 50 investors from countries such as India, Turkey, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.

While the government has accused outside factions, particularly the diaspora, over stirring the protests, Executive Director of the Oromia Media Network, Jawar Mohammed said, “the diaspora magnifies news of what is happening, yes, but no matter how much it agitates it cannot direct at the village level in Ethiopia – this is about dissatisfaction,” reported the Inter Press Service.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: Oromia Region Crackdown
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20934C–20935C

ETHIOPIA: Addis Master Plan Scrapped
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20861B–20862B

ETHIOPIA: Violent Repression of Oromo Protests (Free to Read)
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20828C–20829B

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Ethiopia – Oromo Protests

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Government development plans spark protests as concerns mount over continued state repression.

Since November 2015 large scale protests have swept across Oromia, the largest region in Ethiopia, prompting a heavy handed response from the security services. Reports suggest that as many as 140 people have been killed and numerous opposition members arrested.

On January 12th the Ethiopian authorities announced the cancellation of its development master plan, which had been the catalyst for protests, although the unrest and state violence has continued. The master plan, proposed by the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) and the Addis-Ababa authority, intended to expand the borders of the capital outwards into the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital.

Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country, have felt marginalised and excluded from decisions on government policy. Those who do voice their opposition are arrested and accused of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which the Ethiopian authorities have declared to be a terrorist organisation, even though the group has long been largely inactive.

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Source

According to independent reports as many as 140 people have been killed, although the Ethiopian government has disputed these figures. Abiy Berhane from Ethiopia’s London embassy said that the protests were hijacked “by people whose intention it was to induce violent confrontation”, reported BBC News. 

However a message on a Facebook page of a leading campaigner stated that Oromo activists have “dismissed” the government’s change of heart by cancelling the plans “as too little too late”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) commented that the protests could be the biggest political event in Ethiopia since elections in 2005 that led to a crackdown on protestors, with almost 200 killed and tens of thousands arrested.

According to one Oromo student, cited by HRW, “All we hear about is development. The new foreign-owned farms and roads is what the world knows, but that just benefits the government. For us [Oromos] it means we lose our land and then we can’t sustain ourselves anymore.”

Additionally, accessing information about incidents in the country is tricky, with Ethiopia one of the most restrictive environments for independent journalism. The last independent publishers closed down before the elections in May 2015.

State-run media has followed the government line, labelling the Oromo protestors terrorists who are “aiming to create havoc and chaos”. Even many ordinary people are scared to speak out, as those who have voiced their opinions to international media groups have also been arrested.

It is media outlets situated within the Ethiopian diaspora that play a key role in disseminating information, but in 2014 many people were arrested in the Oromia region for watching the diaspora-run Oromia Media Network (OMN). Social media has also played a big role in providing access to information, where people share photographic evidence of the ongoing state repression.

While the government has conceded to some degree by cancelling the development plan, there are concerns that the protests and violent state crackdown will continue until the government involves the Oromo communities in a meaningful way in the development process, claimed HRW.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

ETHIOPIA: Violent Repression of Oromo Protests
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20828C–20829B

ETHIOPIA: Defection of Rebels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20720A–20720B

Ethiopia Oromo People Targeted?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20358B–20358C

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Ethiopia – Mobile Technology for Childbirth

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Mobile app aims to improve the safety of childbirth across the country, particularly in rural areas.

A new mobile app, ‘Safe Delivery App‘, developed by Danish organisation the Maternity Foundation, is hoped to improve the safety of childbirth in the country by providing simplified instructions and films for emergency situations such as haemorrhaging, birth complications and infections, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

In Ethiopia, where roughly nine out every ten births are at home without medical support, the app intends to provide life saving guidelines when things go wrong. The foundation aims to use the sharp rise in mobile phone users in Africa, which offers “abundant unexplored potential” to quickly reach otherwise hard to access areas, it said.

Maternity Foundation Program Manager for Ethiopia, Mesfin Wondafrash, said that “midwives may have skills and knowledge…but they may not apply the right procedures when complications arise”. Many midwives are ‘traditionally educated’ and may lack training in up-to date procedures, particularly in rural areas.

Described as an “emergency training tool”, the app is available in local languages and in English. Additionally it can be pre-installed on a mobile telephone so it works even without a network connection or Internet access.

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DFID CC – Malawi

For the roughly 85% of babies who are born at home, if a complication arises, hospital is often the only option, which generally means lengthy travel; Mesfin added that issues such as bleeding can have dire consequences and often prove fatal.

A trial run was undertaken in the small town of Gimbie in the Oromo region, around 450km west of the capital Addis-Ababa, and proved to have promising results. Seventy-eight phones containing the app were distributed to midwives and Mesfin explained that “After a year, the capacity of the app users to manage bleeding rose from 20 to 60 percent, and for new born resuscitation, from 30 to 70 percent”.

The Maternity Foundation says the preliminary results “show a remarkable improvement in the skill and knowledge level of the health workers”. Chief of the Foundation, Anna Frellsen, said that “the advantage of the app over a medical book is that it is easy to understand, easy to access and easy to update”.

The app is also being tested in Ghana and will soon be deployed in Tanzania, Guinea and other African countries. The foundation’s stated goal is to equip 10,000 health workers by 2017; “If we achieve that, we will have ensured a safer birth for approximately one million women,” said Frellsen.

Estimates suggest that worldwide around 5 million babies and 289,000 mothers dies from complications related to childbirth worldwide each year, with the majority in developing countries.

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MATERNAL HEALTH: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.46, Issue.12, Pp.18239A–18241C

HEALTH: Ethiopia, Zambia
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.47, Issue.3, Pp.18346A–18347B

HEALTH: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.50, Issue.7, Pp.19796B–19797B

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Eritrea – ‘No Peace, No War’

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The Eritrean diaspora remains crucial for the survival of political opposition, as human rights abuses continue and many are choosing to flee the country 

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki heads a one-party state through the only legal political grouping, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); constitutional decrees have never been implemented, press freedom is some of the world’s worst and all independent political activity is banned. A recent report by UK-based the Guardian explores the current situation.

Afwerki came to power as the leader of the  ruling Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in 1991 following a 30-year independence struggle with Ethiopia. During the conflict, ideological differences amongst the political and military leaders  led to a civil war within the country; by 1980 the EPLF had driven the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) into Sudan. Since independence the EPLF have remained the sole party, although renaming themselves the PFDJ in 1994.

The Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict flared again in 1998 in the border village of Badme; during this period many Eritrean officials accused Afwerki of mishandling the war. These dissenters, known as the G-15, were rounded up in September 2001 and remain imprisoned. A peace treaty was signed in May 2000 although today repression and divisions linger in the the country.

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Earlier in March this year a four month United Nations (UN) investigation concluded that there had been”very clear patterns” of violations and abuses. According to Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea Mike Smith, the investigations involved testimonies from over 500 members of the Eritrean diaspora, reported the UN News Service.

One particular measure justified by the regime as necessary due to the “existential threat” from Ethiopia, is compulsory national service of indefinite duration from the age of 17. The “no war, no peace” situation with Ethiopia that has become a “pretext for almost all the states actions that generate and perpetuate human rights violations…the entire society has been militarised, the Constitution has never been implemented and there is no rule of law” said Smith.

According to another recent report by the Guardian, citing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),  Canadian company, Nevsun Resources have been accused of using  conscription labour since 1998 on the only active mine in the country, the Bisha copper and gold mine.

Three Eritreans had filed a lawsuit against the company in December 2014 but Nevsun denied all allegations; CEO Cliff Davis said that “we are confident that the allegations are unfounded…we are committed to ensuring that the Bisha Mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner”. The Eritrean government also responded saying that the report was “devoid of all merit”.

The Eritrean economy has become increasingly dependent on mining revenues; such revenues provide financing for a regime hindered by international sanctions, which were implemented after a report accused Afwerki of training and funding the al-Shabaab militant group, although these allegations were denied.

Canadian company Sunridge Gold is due to start gold output on a mine in Asmara this year, and Australian Danakali is expected to announce potash production at its Colluli mine. The African Development Bank (AfDB), in light of recent investments revised forecast economic growth to 2.1%, up from 1.3% in 2013.

Soviet military equipment abandoned by retreating Ethiopian troops in 1991 can still be seen along many roads in northern Eritrea. This tank is just east of Keren.

The Mail & Guardian Online reported the story of Daniel Mekonnen, an exiled lawyer and activist who has been repeatedly targeted by the Eritrean regime after he founded the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR). Mekonnen referred the regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC), prompting wide-ranging threats that forced him to be placed under temporary police protection.

Victoria Bernal, an academic who has charted the Eritrean diaspora’s history commented that the internet has emerged as a crucial space for the diaspora to engage with the country.  Initially during the 1998-200 war with Ethiopia, to promote nationalist sentiment, today the internet is used to mobilise communities abroad and for remittances.

Recently Eritrean has also made international headlines as many tens of thousands are embarking on a journey through Sudan and Libya, or Egypt and Israel, in attempts to reach European soil; with an estimated 5000 leaving every month according to the Guardian. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) commented that they were dealing with 357,406 Eritrean refugees as of 2014, making that the second largest group after Syrians attempting to enter Europe.

Annette Weber, a Senior Fellow of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), commented in a recent report that in this context, “reintegrating the country in regional structures could build trust and neutralise the Eritrean narrative of Ethiopian aggression and international conspiracy”.

Weber explains that fleeing conscription is “tantamount to treason”, and “because it is more or less impossible to leave the country legally, a dense network of organised traffickers has arisen… A string of beneficiaries, including members of the border police and the Eritrean and Sudanese armed forces, members of nomadic groups in eastern Sudan and the Sinai, and trans-African trafficking networks, profit enormously from Eritrean asylum seekers, whose journey and ransom cost upwards of $10,000”.

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ERITREA: Horrific Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20610A–20611A

ERITREA: UN Monitoring Group Report
P
olitical, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20369C–20370C

ERITREA – ETHIOPIA: Rising Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.49, Issue,3, Pp.19187C–19188B

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Ethiopia: Impressive Growth, Exclusive Development

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As the government seeks to maintain high growth rates, forced relocations cause widespread anger and levels of human development remain low.

The 2015 National Human Development Report, launched  by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA), indicates that Ethiopia has seen some of the highest economic growth rates over the last 15 years but has not encouraged widespread inclusive development, being ranked at 174 out of 187 on the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI).

Africa’s oldest independent state and second most populous nation has marked itself as amongst the continents top performing economies after being amassed in a discourses  of poverty and conflict in the 1990s, largely propagated by the international media.

Between 2003 and 2013 growth rates in Ethiopia averaged around 10.9%, with the most recent estimates in 2012/13 revealing a GDP growth rate of 9.7%; the country was the 12th fastest growing economy in 2012 indicates the UNDP report. The government has set out aims to make Ethiopia a middle income country by 2025, investing in economic and social infrastructure, public services, tax collection systems, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Ethiopia figures

Catalysing this growth, according to the UNDP report, has been strategic policy decisions aided by political stability, weather conditions, high levels of foreign direct investment amongst reforms to economic activities, trade and public sector management, with the government prioritising development in agriculture and industry.

At the launch of the report the atmosphere was dominated by the defensiveness of the government in the wake of UNDP conclusions that while growth has contributed to reduced poverty levels, the absolute number of people in poverty has remained largely unchanged over the last 15 years, due to high population growth. Development has concentrated on certain socio-economic groupings, according to the Addis Fortune, who explained that “Ethiopia has attained success in providing access to more, but not necessarily better quality, social services”.

Outside observers have criticised the state-led development strategy, particularly the forced removal of local populations to make way for industries needed to support continued growth. Recent work on the Gibe III Dam has seen communities living around Lake Turkana in southern Ethiopia predict widespread conflict as the dam reduces water levels and increases competition for scarce resources, report UK-based the Guardian.

Ethiopia’s state agricultural development strategy has been characterised by a ‘villagisation’ programme facilitating the removal of indigenous communities from areas reserved for large scale development. A report entitled ‘Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley‘ produced by international advocacy group the Oakland Institute, explores the forced removal of populations in the name of development in Ethiopia.  .

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Omo River Valley (CC 2013)

Such disparities in economic and human development are surprising considering recent praise for Ethiopia’s ‘green economy’; East Africa Business Week report Fritz Jung, a representative of the German government who have financed Ethiopia’s Sustainable Land Management Programme, as saying “it is proof of Ethiopia’s visionary engagement for combining socio-economic development as well as environmental sustainability”.

Perspectives and priorities differ; while Ethiopia continues to see growth, some 37 million people still remain in poverty and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has identified that more than half of  farmers are cultivating plots barely large enough to provide sustenance, resulting in large swathes of rural-urban migration. Moreover state ownership of land is creating unfair competition in the economy, favouring government supported conglomerates, reported the Inter Press Service.

While for some Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth is seen as an “economic miracle” for  large sections of the populace very few benefits seem to have materialised.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Ethiopia: Building First Class Infrastructure
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue 3, Pp. 20770B-20770C

Ethiopia: Poverty Down 30% Since 2000
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue 1, Pp. 20701A-20702A

Ethiopia: Huge State Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue 11, Pp.20628C-20629B

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