Posts filed under ‘People’
By Martha van der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — The United Nations Development Program has released its 2013 Human Development Index. Despite recent economic growth, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of the index.
Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, unveiled by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on Friday.
The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world.
Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index.
However, Samuel Bwalya, an economic advisor for UNDP, says that not only the ranking is important.
“I think what matters in the index is how you’re moving, your own human development progress within the country, so you’re moving from 0.275 to 0.378, that movement is what matters,” said Bwalya. “It means that your country is making progress in human development. Now the ranking depends on how other countries are also faring.”
This year’s Human Development Report focuses on the major gains made since 2000 in most countries in the global South.
UNDP believes sub-Saharan Africa can achieve higher levels of human development if it deepens its engagement with other regions of the South.
But those countries must overcome many challenges, such as low life expectancy, high levels of inequality and the growing threat for environmental disasters that could halt or reverse the recent gains in human development.
Bwalya says that government policies are central to human development in Ethiopia:
“The most important is to continuously commit to two policy arenas: the economic program in the country is robust and the government should have continuous commitment to development,” he explained. “The second is that it should continue the social protection program that has been so important in reducing poverty.”
While the Human Development Report and Index celebrate improvements across the developing world, a hard fact remains – 24 out of the 25 lowest ranked countries are on the African continent.
CAIRO: The health situation for Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi continues to remain uncertain, even as government officials say he is “improving.”
But they have thus far refrained from detailing what the PM is suffering from, leaving many in the country wonder over what comes next for the East African country.
On Monday, Amsterdam-based Ethiopian Satellite Television said the prime minister was dead, saying it based the report on information from a Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group.
However, the ICG released a statement saying it has “no direct knowledge” of Meles condition and is not in a position to speculate about it.
Meles Zenawi is 57 years old and has ruled Ethiopia since taking power in a 1991 coup.
For many Ethiopians, the health situation for their leader has sparked a debate over where Ethiopia is heading and if a post-Meles country will be better.
While the Prime Minister continues to use his power to crackdown on newspapers over reports that his situation is serious, many in the country, especially the youth, are wondering what their country will look like when the hardliner has left his position atop the country.
“It will definitely be interesting to see how we all react,” said one student activist, who asked not to be named due to the security crackdown on those speaking about the PM’s health.
The activist told Bikyamasr.com that “Ethiopia will be better when we are all, Christians and Muslims work together to build a country based not on one group dominating the other, but on the idea that we can have a solid country for all Ethiopians.”
According to most reports, Zenawi is gravely ill, although little else is known on what exactly he is suffering from. Newspapers have been silenced for reporting on his health condition as censorship and tightening of the government’s power takes form.
For many, it appears to be the final wind for the PM and his government, which activists have called “ruthless.”
Writer Buri Waddesso argues that the continued show of force by the government means that even without Zenawi at the helm, the government is likely to persist.
“The fact that the regime held together, even if haphazardly, without its leader of three decades at the helm augurs well for its continuing vitality. In the same vein, the failure of the opposition to even make a stir after the window of opportunity presented by Muslim protesters speaks volumes about its state as well as its preparation,” Waddesso wrote in an article published by opride.com.
“The problem is that these observations hold only in the short-term. There are a number of dynamics at work to make the future less certain than the present.”
One of those issues that Ethiopia will have to come to terms with is the near split in demographics of Muslims and Christians. Although Christians claim a majority in the country, it is likely the two faiths are closer in numbers than official statistics show. Add in the animists in tribal areas of the country and many fear a breeding ground for sectarianism.
But both Christians and Muslims tell Bikyamasr.com that Ethiopians do not want to battle over faith.
A student group in Addis Ababa has repeatedly said they do not see a battle over Islam coming in the country.
For them, the future of Ethiopia will be determined by how the government reacts in a post-Zenawi world, if it comes.
“We, and including our Christian brothers and sisters, believe that the future of Ethiopia will not be determined by politicians who have been in power for decades, but by our voices,” the student group said. “We are not afraid to take to the streets if we have to in order to be heard.”
And for many, despite the exodus of Zenawi from the political picture, his government is likely to remain, however tedious, and the people could be faced with a situation that demands their participation in protests in order to change the status quo.
“Ethiopians are ready and we have seen from the Arab world that protests can achieve more than working within the system. It is an uncertain period that we all are watching closely,” added the students.
Gebrselassie overnight could only finish seventh in the 10,000 metres in an event in the Dutch city of Hengelo which Ethiopia was using as a qualifier for the Olympics.
The 39-year-old two-time Olympic 10,000m champion – who had already failed to post a qualifying time for the marathon – admitted his hopes had been dashed after his disappointing performance against 12 of his compatriots.
“The Games in London, is over for me,” he said.
“I ran a good race till the last lap. I felt good but I manifestly didn’t have the speed to compete against my rivals.
“That’s life. I am not disappointed,” added Gebrselassie, whose epic defeat of Kenyan great Paul Tergat at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, his second Olympic title, is one of the great finishes of all time. Indeed for the ever cheerful Ethiopian great it is to be his last track race.
“The ‘spikes’, it is finished for me. I am 39. I have failed to qualify for the Olympics. And there is a very strong younger generation in Ethiopia now.
“I tried to qualify for my fifth Olympics. And I don’t regret trying to do so. “I simply came up against stronger rivals on Sunday.”
Tariku Bekele and Leleisa Desisa Benti finished first and second respectively – with the former posting the best time in the world this year of 27min 11.70sec – to book their tickets for London.
The third spot is being kept for Bekele’s older brother and world record holder Kenenisa, who has been struggling for several months with a calf muscle problem.
Gebrselassie said that he felt he was handing over the baton of Ethiopian track running to a golden generation.
“I am leaving the track in a calm frame of mind because there is a super generation taking over,” he said.
“I haven’t in any case run on the track since the Beijing Games (2008).
“Ethiopia will be stronger in London.
“I gave all that I had. It is why I am not sad or disappointed. I am always happy to run. These next months, I will devote solely to marathons and half marathons.
“In three years, I envisage a political career. I would like to become a member of parliament.”
Gebrselassie, a four-time world 10,000m champion, had come into the race boosted by his victory in the 10km Great Manchester Run in northwest England last week in 27min 39secs.
By Laurie Mazur for the Wilson Center
Certainly, the landlocked East African nation faces outsized challenges. One in ten Ethiopians is chronically food insecure, and nearly one in five go hungry in drought years. With almost half its people under the age of 15 and an average fertility rate of nearly five children per woman, Ethiopia’s population is the fifth fastest-growing in the world.
Given these challenges, does continued rapid population growth consign impoverished Ethiopians to chronic hunger? Some, in the spirit of Thomas Robert Malthus, would answer yes. Malthus famously argued in the 19th century that human numbers would inevitably outstrip food supply, because population grows geometrically while food supply can only increase arithmetically. Others, inspired by Ester Boserup, contend the opposite is true: population growth spurs invention that keeps supply ahead of demand.
A closer look at Ethiopia shows that neither the Malthusians nor the Boserupians quite get it right. The connections between population and food security are extraordinarily complex. Numbers matter, but so do other dynamics, such as migration and age structure. And context is paramount: the right policies are essential to encouraging – and reaping the benefits from – positive demographic trends, but those policies must be tailored to local circumstances.
Contrasts and Contradictions
Ethiopia is a land of stunning contrasts and seemingly contradictory truths.
Most Ethiopians live in brutal poverty, their per capita income among the lowest in the world. And yet, Ethiopia is one of the so-called “African lions:” its economy grew at a brisk 7.5 percent last year, more than twice the rate of emerging economies as a whole.
Ethiopia is a nation where small farmers struggle to eke out a living on tiny, degraded plots of land: in the densely populated highlands, roughly half the land is significantly eroded. Yet Ethiopia is also the target of aggressive “land grabs.” Since 2008, the government has leased or sold nearly 10 million acres of prime farmland in the less-populated lowlands to investors from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, according to Human Rights Watch.
How do we reconcile these contrasts?
First, national averages are of limited use in a country like Ethiopia, with its diverse topography and staggering inequities. Geographically, Ethiopia’s regions are as distinct as, say, Arizona and Minnesota – and the outlook for environmental quality and food security vary accordingly. There are also huge disparities between rural and urban Ethiopians. To understand the relationship between population dynamics and food security, then, it is helpful to remember that there are many Ethiopias.
It is also helpful to set aside any preconceived notions about population and food.
Malthusians argue that population growth inevitably leads to hunger, as the resource “pie” is divided into ever smaller slices. The most obvious flaw in this theory is that technology has thus far allowed the size of the pie to increase. Another is that food and other resources are not distributed equitably; some people get much larger servings than others. The pie as a whole may be big enough for everyone, but only the slices of the poor continue to shrink.
The Malthusian narrative doesn’t fit Ethiopia, where the areas with the highest population densities are not usually the hungriest. In The Demographic Transition and Development in Africa: the Unique Case of Ethiopia, Charles Teller found that “high density can either increase vulnerability or strengthen resilience,” depending on a host of other factors, including technology, infrastructure, education, urbanization, and effective implementation of population and development policy.
On the other hand, Boserupians would contend that population growth can actually diminish hunger, by forcing societies to modernize agriculture and improve productivity. But realities on the ground in Ethiopia don’t fit that narrative, either.
Tewodaj Mogues of the International Food Policy Research Institute said in an email, “The [Ethiopian] government’s various attempts at increasing agricultural intensification have not been very successful, therefore continued population growth creates substantial pressure on the land, especially in Ethiopia’s northern highlands.”
Of course, agriculture is modernizing in Ethiopia, but the benefits don’t necessarily accrue to the nation’s hungry. In the western lowlands, where land grabs are underway, tens of thousands of small farmers have been removed from their land to make way for agribusiness. According to Oxfam International, Ethiopia now supports the export of fruit, vegetables, and flowers worth $220 million a year. Those exports boost the nation’s foreign exchange, but they may also undercut the food security of poor farmers and reduce production for the domestic market. One displaced farmer told Human Rights Watch, “We want you to be clear that the government brought us here…to die….They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back.”
Beyond Malthus and Boserup
If the Malthusian and Boserupian explanations fall short, what are the root causes of hunger in Ethiopia, and how might they be addressed?
Mogues cited several “deep determinants” of hunger, including geography (for example, rugged mountainous terrain and a changing climate) and institutions (a broad term that includes the rule of law, governance, policies, investments and property rights). Many small farmers in Ethiopia lack secure land tenure, for example, which removes incentives to improve the land and discourages them from seeking employment off the farm, lest their land be taken away. The government’s ineffective aid to small farmers and concessions to agribusiness also fall under this heading.
Population dynamics matter too, especially at the household level. Mogues observed that high fertility rates affect food security in several ways:
In Ethiopia, women in rural areas play a key role in agricultural production, food purchases, non-production activities in the agriculture value chain, and in home preparation of food. Thus, high fertility rates mean that women are less able to devote time to these agricultural activities as they need to allocate more time and resources to child rearing, which has food security implications above and beyond the fact that produced or purchased food will have to be shared with household members in a larger household.
Age structures are also important. Nearly half of the Ethiopian people are “dependents” – under age 14 or over 65. This high dependency ratio diminishes productivity in agriculture and other sectors, because a lower share of the population is in the workforce.
Finally, migration – or the lack of it – plays a role. Government policies aimed at keeping ethnic groups in their home regions suppresses migration to cities and more productive rural lands. Freer migration could reduce pressure on overworked land, allow more appropriate division of labor, and energize development.
A Comprehensive Approach
How can the government and donors address the myriad causes of hunger in Ethiopia? With a “comprehensive approach to food security that includes attention to the full spectrum of population dynamics and geographic distribution,” said Charles Teller in an interview.
That means a robust safety net for the most vulnerable, integrated with ongoing programs to bolster nutrition and health. It means flexible migration policies and stronger rural-urban linkages, coupled with better planned urban development.
It also means agricultural policies that help small farmers improve their productivity, rather than displacing them. According to Ethiopian development expert Fantu Cheru, those policies can include foreign direct investment, as long as the government negotiates terms of engagement that are transparent and fair. For example, the proceeds from cash crops should be invested in improving production of staple foods through extension services, infrastructure, and better equipment for poor farmers.
And it means policies that support – and capture the benefits from – the transition to lower fertility. That demographic transition could improve food security in Ethiopia by freeing up women’s time and lowering the dependency ratio. But the transition is not automatic; it requires supportive policies, such as girls’ education, employment opportunities for women, and enforcement of laws against child marriage.
Importantly, it requires access to family planning and reproductive health services. Today, just 27 percent of married Ethiopian women use modern contraception. One in four have an “unmet need” for family planning – they wish to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using an effective method of contraception. Addressing that unmet need would have important benefits for women and their families, and it could also help fight chronic hunger.
In this land of contrasts and contradictions, the causes of food insecurity are numerous and complex. Neither Malthus nor Boserup could fully capture that complexity, but both perspectives offer insight on the limitations of current policy – and help point the way to a less hungry future.
Laurie Mazur is a consultant on population and the environment for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and director of the Population Justice Project.
Sources: CIA, Central Statistical Agency (Ethiopia), Food and Agriculture Organization, Human Rights Watch, Journal of Peasant Studies, MEASURE DHS, Overseas Development Institute, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, Rodrik (2002), Teller (2011), The Economist, The Global Mechanism, UN Population Division, U.S. Geological Survey, United Press International, World Bank.
Photo Credit: “Early morning in Lalibela,” courtesy of flickr user Dietmar Temps
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
An imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and blogger who could face the death penalty for advocating peaceful protests in his Horn of Africa homeland was honored Tuesday with PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” award.
Eskinder Nega was arrested in 2011 under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws, which PEN says criminalize any reporting deemed to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes the government deems “terrorists.”
Nega is still in jail after a judge in Addis Ababa found him guilty Jan. 23 on terror charges. He could face the death penalty at sentencing.
Ethiopia has arrested close to 200 people, among them journalists and opposition politicians and members, under last year’s anti-terrorism proclamation.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world over the past decade.
Nega was honored at PEN/America’s annual gala dinner Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History, with some 500 PEN members and supporters in attendance.
PEN/America granted him the year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.
Accepting the award was his wife, Serkalem Fasil, a free expression advocate in her own right, who served 17 months in prison for treason starting in 2005 and gave birth to their child behind bars. She won the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2007.
“The Ethiopian writer Eskinder Nega is that bravest and most admirable of writers, one who picked up his pen to write things that he knew would surely put him at grave risk,” said Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center. “Yet he did so nonetheless. And indeed he fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting, Ethiopia’s draconian `anti terrorism’ laws that criminalize critical commentary.”
Nega has been publishing articles critical of the government since 1993, when he opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, which was soon shut down by authorities.
He was the general manager of Serkalem Publishing House, which published the newspapers Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik, all of which are now banned in Ethiopia.
Nega has also been a columnist for the monthly magazine Change and the U.S.-based news forum EthioMedia, which are also banned in Ethiopia.
He has been detained at least seven times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, including in 2005, when he and his wife Serkalem were imprisoned for 17 months on treason charges for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections, and briefly in February 2011 for “attempts to incite Egyptian and Tunisian-like protests in Ethiopia” after he published articles on the Arab uprisings.
Nega has been denied a license to practice journalism since 2005, yet he has continued to publish columns critical of the government’s human rights record and calling for an end to political repression and corruption.
Nega was again arrested Sept. 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week.
Shortly after his arrest, Nega was charged with affiliation with the banned political party Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government considers a terrorist organization. On Nov. 10, Nega was charged and further accused of plotting with and receiving weapons and explosives from neighboring Eritrea to carry out terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. State television portrayed Nega and other political prisoners as “spies for foreign forces.”
He is being held in Maekelawi Prison in Addis Ababa, where detainees are reportedly often tortured.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
Ethiopians give lacklustre welcome to Kwame Nkrumah statue: This is an insult for the founding fathers of OAU
The arrival of Ghanaian great Kwame Nkrumah in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 40 years after his death has been met with notable local resistance.
Ethiopians are signing a petition demanding that a statue of the pan-Africanist leader which was recently unveiled outside the new African Union headquarters be joined by one of the late emperor Haile Selassie or removed.
As well as the signatures, a group of Ethiopian elders, opposition politicians and scholars have written to the AU Commission voicing their disappointment at its decision to “ignore” the deposed emperor.
The golden statue of Nkrumah was erected to commemorate his founding role in the Organisation of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor.
The late Ethiopian monarch’s supporters have argued that their man, who became internationally famous for his resistance against the Italians under Mussolini, was a longer-standing supporter of African liberation than Ghana’s founding president.
“It is Haile Selassie who is described by African leaders as the father of Africa not Nkrumah,” said Yacob Hailemariam, an opposition politician who has spoken out against the choice of the Ghanaian.
The campaign has, however, infuriated Ethiopia’s current leader Meles Zenawi who said it was “crass” to question Nkrumah’s choice as an African symbol and has repeatedly denounced Selassie, who died in 1975, as a “feudal dictator”.
“It is only Nkrumah who is remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism,” Mr Meles told local media. “It is a shame not to accept his role.”
The AU confirmed that it had received a letter signed by prominent Ethiopians, many of them living abroad, but declined to comment. The protest letter says that Selassie who ruled Ethiopia for 40 years had “the legal, moral, historical and diplomatic legitimacy to have his statue erected next to Kwame Nkrumah.”
The inauguration of the new headquarters in Addis Ababa was meant to underline Ethiopia and Africa’s burgeoning friendship with China which funded the $200m construction. However, the summit served to remind the outside world of the AU’s reliance on foreign funding and on its propensity for squabbling as Cameroon’s Jean Ping and South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma fought each other to a draw over the leadership of the 54-nation club.
The revelation that the AU relies for two-thirds of its funding on Western donors and that many members had both failed to pay their dues or fulfil their aid promises made during last year’s Horn of Africa famine, dampened the occasion. The empty coffers reminded many observers that the main patron of pan-Africanism in recent years was the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was killed last year.
The statue row has enabled Ethiopia’s downtrodden opposition to rally support and opposition blogs have started to refer to the AU’s new 100 metre tall marble home as the “sarcophagus of Africa”.
Under Prime Minister Meles, who backtracked on his promise to leave office and ran again at the last election, the country has become increasingly authoritarian, imprisoning opposition leaders, curtailing non-governmental organisations and harassing political opponents.
The two competing African champions might have found the whole row quite strange as they were close supporters of each other’s causes before the emperor was deposed by the Derg coup leaders in 1974.
No observer of present day Ethiopia can fail to be inspired by the high ideal, vigilance, dedication, and far-sightedness of Emperor Haile Selassie I; architect and builder of the nation.