On June 10, 2014 our family returned to Africa as we do every year. Kenya’s Masai Mara was again selected. There were fourteen of us, including twelve family members and two close friends, ranging in age from eight to eighty. The youngest family member had been to Africa six times. Marcia and I first visited Africa in 1970, on a fact-finding mission to review CARE, UNICEF and World Food Program operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We have since been to over twenty-five countries–some a number of times. As U.S. ambassador from 2002 to 2005, I oversaw three Indian Ocean island nations off the coast of Africa–Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles.
Tag Archives | Ethiopia
Ethiopia was never colonized and along with China has a long imperial history. China’s imperial period came to an end with the fall of the Qing dynasty and formation of the Republic of China as a constitutional republic in 1912. The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by a left-wing military junta ended Ethiopia’s empire. In 1970, four years before the end of Ethiopia’s empire, the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations with Haile Selassie’s imperial government.
Earlier this year, the Afghan Taliban called for an end to violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic, where ethnic cleansing has been occurring since the government was overthrown last year. The highly unusual commentary on events so far removed from Afghanistan is significant for the Taliban, demonstrating that it considers itself to be a de facto state actor and has influence on groups allied to Al Qaeda (AQ). Doing so is, in essence, a call to arms for jihadists to descend on the CAR.
The symbolism that lays behind the Taliban statement is significant, and may prove to have a profound impact on the future outcome of the CAR conflict and beyond. In conjunction with Boko Haram (which has proven links with AQ in the Islamic Maghreb) and Somalia-based Al Shabab (which joined AQ in 2012), AQ threatens to establish a presence in the CAR. It is believed that up to 80 percent of Seleka fighters originally came from Chad and Somalia , which would indicate an orientation and predisposition to subscribing to AQ’s ideology and tactics. Seleka’s lack of a clear ideology and direction should make it more susceptible to influence from strong external groups such as AQ.
Earlier in May, the South Sudanese government resumed its negotiations with the rebels.
That very week, The Sudan Tribune reported that numerous civilians, who had sought shelter at a United Nations base in Bor, were killed by an unknown mob. Also, trainee soldiers were shot in Mapel, and several other civilians were killed in Bentiu, allegedly by the rebels. The international media, on the other hand, either refused to cover the crisis in South Sudan, or simply chose to highlight the fact that both sides are now negotiating with each other. Sadly, the negotiations seem to be headed nowhere, and chances of peace in South Sudan do not look good.
The ongoing violence is ripping apart South Sudan’s cohesive nationhood. Human rights violations, especially against civilians, have become the norm. Take the case of Bor and Bentiu: non-combatants were actively targeted, based on ethnic lines. Of course, the commanders of both the army and the rebels insist that their troops acted only in self-defence, but the truth is evident. As such, collateral damage keeps piling up. ReliefWeb International counts over a million people as internally displaced refugees, whereas Oxfam has noted acute food shortage for almost 70% of the South Sudanese populace.
The Pew Research Center published on 4 April 2014 a study on Global Religious Diversity. It gives a score to all countries of the world on their degree of religious diversity. Higher scores indicate higher diversity. The 10-point scoring system designates countries with scores of 7.0 and higher (the top 5 percent) as having a very high degree of religious diversity. Countries with scores from 5.3 to 6.9 percent (the next highest 15 percent of scores) have a high level of diversity. Countries with scores from 3.1 to 5.2 (the following 20 percent of scores) have moderate diversity. The remaining countries have low diversity.
South Sudan (6.0), Tanzania (5.7), Ethiopia (5.6) and Eritrea (5.4) have high religious diversity. Kenya (3.1) has moderate diversity. Uganda (2.7), Sudan (2.0), Djibouti (0.7), and Somalia (0.1) have low diversity. The study also provides the percentage of different religions for each country.
Preparing for teaching my classes at Haile Selassie Secondary School required a lot of reading.
Most of my students did not have textbooks nor did I have a syllabus to follow. Marty Benjamin, my housemate, and I compared notes and discovered that between the two of us we were asked to teach every subject except home economics, physical education, Amharic and morals because our Indian colleagues refused to teach more than one subject area. We were responsible for all the other classes.
Early on in my stay in Gondar I discovered that the only things family and friends could send me that would not be “lost” in the Ethiopian postal system were books. My mother kept me well supplied with books for teaching and recreational reading. In a previous entry “Peace Corps Diary: 1962-1964 Part 17” I discussed how I enjoyed Alan Morehead’s Blue Nile. Reading another book she sent, Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, made me feel like a young child who was reading some illicit work under the covers at night with the aid of a flashlight. That was because I was led to believe that it was banned in Ethiopia because of its scathing satirical portrayal of a mythical progressive African leader, Seth.
In 1962 the Haile Selassie Secondary School in Gondar, Ethiopia had a diverse teaching staff.
In addition to many Ethiopians there were Indians, Peace Corps teachers and a couple from Britain, Pamela (Hebe) and Larry Marsdon. Larry was a New Zealander and Hebe was English. We were told her nickname, “Hebe,” (cup bearer to the gods) was from her time as one of the senior stewardesses on British European Airways (BEA). Although now middle aged, she was a very beautiful woman. Larry was a consummate story teller and led us to believe that during the war he had been on a British navy submarine. Maybe so? They always invited us PC teachers to their raucous and memorable parties and they socialized with those in power in Gondar and thus were a source of many rumors and, at times, actual news.
It was not until I returned to the states that I could begin to understand their behavior. Hebe and Larry would enter into vociferous argument and if a hapless bystander would innocently take the side of one or the other, Hebe and Larry would jointly “attack” the third party. It all became clear in 1966 when Dallas (one of my fellow PC teachers) and his wife, June visited from Madison, Wisconsin. We decided to go see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It was only a short time into the movie before Dallas leaned over and said with amazement “We know these people!” Sure enough George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Liz Taylor) were Larry and Hebe Marsdon. As we watched George and Martha devour the hapless young couple Nick and Honey we could only think back to what we witnessed in Ethiopia.
Good Governance Africa published on 1 March 2014 an article titled “Treading a New Path” by Elissa Jobson, a freelance journalist, that deals with Chinese investment in Ethiopia. She notes China’s investment in shoe manufacturing and wonders if this will lead to additional Chinese investment in Ethiopia.
The House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations held a hearing on 26 February 2014 titled “U.S. Policy toward Sudan and South Sudan.” The hearing, chaired by Chairman Smith, examined the need for a more unified, wider- ranging and proactive policy that can advance long-term U.S. goals in Sudan and South Sudan.
The full text of the opening statements of each witness is available by clicking the name of the witness. The witnesses included Donald Booth, special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, U.S. Department of State; John Prendergast, co-founder, Enough Project; Walid Phares, co-secretary general, Transatlantic Group on Counter Terrorism; and Adotei Akwei, managing director for government relations, Amnesty International US.
It has been twenty years since the genocide that devastated Rwanda. Over 800,000 people lost their lives—for no other reason than belonging to the wrong tribe. The slaughter by the Hutus of the minority Tutsis took place in 1994. The Clinton administration stood by not wanting to admit that genocide was taking place. It was one of our darkest chapters in history. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, special assistant to President Bill Clinton on African affairs at the time, advised him not to become involved. It was a political decision not to call the slaughter of ethnic Rwandans genocide. “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election,” Rice had stated.
Rising from Ashes is an internationally acclaimed documentary, about hope for the future, for a generation of young men who went through the Rwandan genocide–survived and overcame adversity—but lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, and other family members. The conflict was about hatred, killing neighbors and friends, and destroying entire communities. The documentary tells the story about the first Rwandan National Cycling Team– composed of both Hutu and Tutsi riders–making history representing Rwanda internationally, and qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics.
“It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” – William Ralph Inge
On January 22nd, Ethiopian troops officially joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), contributing about four thousand soldiers. If past experience is anything to go by, when troops from Somalia’s neighbouring countries have joined the peacekeeping effort in Somalia, this has damaged the credibility of AMISOM as a neutral force. Furthermore, the presence of Ethiopian troops as part of AMISOM will probably fuel factional fighting in Somalia, and strengthen Al-Shabaab in the process.
There are three main reasons why Ethiopian troops should not be part of AMISOM. First, their is a long and bloody history between Somalia and Ethiopia and unresolved land disputes that should be settled first. For example, it would be inconceivable to contemplate sending Indian troops to Pakistan for peacekeeping purposes, or Iranian troops to Iraq for the same reason. Immediately after Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2007 to combat the Islamic Courts Union, after being encouraged by the United States to do so, the United Nations reported, “Public sentiment of the continued presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia has created a volatile situation, which has seriously constrained humanitarian delivery and emerging operations in the centre and south of the country.”
“The negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan.” – John Kerry
Hopefully the recent ceasefire agreement between the warring parties in South Sudan will halt that country’s downward spiral into civil war. But if it does it will have to buck the convergence of two powerful historical streams: a legacy of colonial manipulation dating back more than a hundred years, and the current policies of the U.S. vis-à-vis the African continent. South Sudan became a country in 2011 when its residents voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Sudan, at the time the largest country in Africa.
But a falling out late last year between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, has plunged the country into war. Cities have been sacked, thousands killed, and almost 200,000 people turned into refugees. The birth of continent’s newest nation was largely an American endeavor, brought about by a polyglot coalition of Christian evangelicals, U.S. corporations, the Bush and Obama administrations, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights supporters.
The Muslim-Christian relationship in Ethiopia has a mixed historical background. Ethiopia is located on a religious fault line, although the relationship between the two religions has been reasonably cordial in recent decades.
Christian rule has prevailed in the Ethiopian highlands since the early 4th century. Early in the 7th century a group of Arab followers of Islam in danger of persecution by local authorities in Arabia took refuge in the Axumite Kingdom of the Ethiopian highlands. As a result of this generosity, the Prophet Mohammed concluded that Ethiopia should not be targeted for jihad. Not all Muslims took this message seriously and subsequent contact was less cordial. In the late 15th century, Islamic raids from the Somali port of Zeila plagued the Ethiopian highlands. In the first half of the 16th century, the Islamic threat became more serious when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi rallied a diverse group of Muslims in a jihad to end Christian power in the highlands. The Ethiopians finally defeated this threat by the middle of the 16th century.
Although Wahhabi missionaries from the Arabian Peninsula made efforts to penetrate Ethiopia beginning in the 19th century, they had little success until recent decades. During the first half of the 1800s, Egyptian/Ottoman power in neighboring Sudan made periodic incursions inside Ethiopia. In 1875, the khedive of Egypt tried unsuccessfully to conquer Ethiopia entering from the Red Sea. The last major organized threat from Islam occurred in 1888 when the forces of the Mahdi in the Sudan sacked the former Ethiopian capital of Gondar and burned many of its churches. Subsequently, both the Ethiopians and the Mahdists harbored rebels opposed to the other side, creating a tit-for-tat situation that has periodically continued to the present day.
From Kim Jong-Un’s newfound love of basketball to India’s dowry culture, International Policy Digest has covered some pretty meaty subjects over the past year.
In this list we’ve included an analysis of Kim Jong-Un’s love of basketball and the motives behind his decisions and what to expect in the year ahead by Daniel Wagner and J.K. Joung, the recent ruling against the NSA’s metadata program by Binoy Kampmark, John Lyman and Eric Jones’s analysis of President Obama’s appearance at the Saban Center where he offered his most forceful defense yet of the Iran nuclear agreement reached in Geneva, Conn M. Hallinan’s analysis of the ongoing negotiations with Iran and the recently concluded Third Plenum in China that offered few actual reforms by Andrew Ludwig.
We’ve also included for your consideration, a lengthy analysis of neoliberalism in India by Abhirup Bhunia, a backgrounder on Ralph Miliband by Binoy Kampmark, Kerry Sun’s analysis of the escalating Syrian refugee crisis and a list of thirty-five young foreigners making an impact throughout Africa by Scott Firsing. By all means read through the list and see if you agree. Be sure to share any of the article’s with your friends on Facebook and Twitter and leave a comment, we’ve made it quite easy to do so.
In July 2011, after a long civil war, South Sudan split from Sudan and became an independent country.
However, even though statehood was achieved and a new country was born, the efforts to transform South Sudan into a functioning nation-state seems to be stalled. Is South Sudan a failed state? Even worse, is the country almost on the brink of collapse? Until the creation of South Sudan, Sudan was Africa’s largest country. It experienced its share of disasters like the famines in the Darfur region, but overall, its primarily agrarian economy was doing well. Around 1999, Sudan also started exporting oil, thereby adding to its GDP.
The civil war lasted for nearly 23 years, ending in 2005 when a peace agreement was signed between the Sudanese state and the southern rebels. However, the separation occurred in 2011, when South Sudan decided to break away from Sudan and form a separate country. This had a negative impact on the economy of both nations. Most of the oil-rich regions are now in South Sudan and almost all the refineries are in Sudan.