What Happens Next in Ethiopia’s Political Turmoil

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, arrives for the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on Feb. 9 AP

This week Ethiopia’s government entered the controversial sixth year of its five-year mandate. But the administration of Abiy Ahmed isn’t going anywhere… not even after a particularly violent summer. Covid-19 has produced plenty of political drama these last few months, but Ethiopia has experienced more than most—here’s why.

Why It Matters:

Ethiopian politics operates in a system of “ethnic federalism”—while there is a central government to this federation, its constituent parts are carved out along ethnic lines and jockeyed over by parties promising the best deal for the ethnicities within them (of which there are dozens throughout a country of 112 million). Yet for all its diversity, political power in Ethiopia has long been concentrated in the hands of the few—first a string of emperors and eventually a Marxist military junta that attempted to centralize power and homogenize the country. When the junta was overthrown in the early 1990s, the ethnic federation prevented the breakup of Africa’s oldest nation state. Enter current prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who ascended to power in 2018 on a wave of activism spearheaded by his own Oromo—Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, accounting for roughly a third of the population—seeking to finally have one of their own hold the premiership after years of feeling marginalized.

But while ethnic federalism might have helped propel Abiy to the premiership, it was also holding the country back… at least from Abiy’s perspective. Abiy is a reformer, but to enact those political, economic and social reforms he had in mind for one of Africa’s most repressive nations, he needed the central government to have more power. To that end, Abiy began pushing a national political vision, dissolving several ethnic parties into his pan-Ethiopian Prosperity Party last year. What may seem intuitive—the less ethnic politics in federal government, the better—divides Ethiopians, many hailing from ethnic groups wanting greater recognition and a bigger seat at the table. Abiy’s pan-Ethiopian orientation was particularly frustrating to the Oromo, who had high expectations for the Abiy government and the windfall it would bring them.

There were more frustrations to come. With the eruption of Covid-19, the election board postponed elections indefinitely, beyond the expiry of Abiy government’s mandate in October 2020. To regularize the decision, the government proceeded to use parliament’s ruling party-dominated upper house to extend Abiy’s mandate. In what the opposition considered a power grab, it was now up to the administration to decide when elections would be and for how long it would govern. The backlash was felt strongest from those parties representing the Oromo and the Tigrayans (the political leaders of whom had long played an outsized role in the country), which had hoped Abiy would enter into a power-sharing agreement to help bridge the gap between the expiry of the mandate and next elections. The government had other plans.

Unrest was the predictable result. But the fallout reached fever-pitch with June’s assassination of well-known Oromo singer and political activist Hachalu Hundessa. For its part the government has bungled messaging around Hachalu’s death and went on to accuse a variety of figures and groups as being behind the plot. As the protests swelled, Abiy’s government began arresting opposition figures it accused of fomenting the unrest and ensuing communal violence. His Oromo rivals were joined behind bars by other party leaders, leading people to accuse Abiy of using the upheaval as pretext to solidify his hold on power.

Elections have been tentatively postponed until next year, but certain ethnic groups like the northern Tigrayans refused to recognize Abiy’s extended rule; Tigray defiantly went ahead and held regional elections last month, producing a regional government Addis Ababa doesn’t recognize and which doesn’t recognize Abiy’s government in turn. Which is pretty much where the situation stands today.

What Happens Next:

For now, the government will try to keep a lid on future flare-ups until the country can hold national elections, most likely in the second half of 2021. Opposition groups are already calling for the Abiy government to enter into a “national dialogue” to find a common way forward through compromise, overtures that have already been rebuffed by Addis Ababa. In the interim, the federal government will withhold budget transfers earmarked for the Tigray to squeeze what it sees as a “rogue state,” but will for now avoid seeking outright confrontation.

The pandemic—and the election postponement it led to—has turned out to be a mixed blessing for the Abiy administration. It’s managed to use the unusual circumstances to sideline opposition leaders while also cracking down on critics, producing an election environment it can be comfortable with. But the longer the current political climate persists—and the longer opposition leaders remain locked up—the more likely it becomes that the election is dismissed as illegitimate by the Ethiopian people. Make no mistake; Abiy’s reforms require serious political capital for his government (and by extension, himself), but lasting reforms will also need buy-in from the Ethiopian public. A sweeping election victory is half the story; finding acceptance for it is the other. Hence the mixed blessing.

The One Major Misconception About It:

You might be surprised to see these developments in a country whose leader just won a Nobel peace prize in 2019 (for pushing forward a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea) and is regarded as a genuine reformer. But while Abiy is a true reformer, a lot is missed about what he’s trying to reform. He’s done a much better job laying out what his goals are with economic reforms and has made progress towards that end, but his political reforms were always much more hazy. The reversal of some of his early victories in reforming one of Africa’s most repressive countries, like re-arresting journalists and undermining opposition groups he only recently welcomed back from exile, was a disappointment for many looking for “reforms” as commonly conceived of in the West.

Abiy’s ultimate goal is to move Ethiopia away from ethnic politics, closer to the kind of secular federalism that exists elsewhere. The problem? It’s not clear that’s what Ethiopians want, and it’s not clear he can drive that in a democracy.

On Baidoa visit, International Representatives discuss elections, security and economic issues

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On a visit to Somalia’s South West State today, representatives of some of the country’s key international partners highlighted the importance of the Federal Government and Federal Member States working together for the good of all Somalis.   

“We are encouraged by the revitalization of the dialogue between the Federal Government and all of the Federal Member States. This has included the series of meetings in Dhusamareb in recent months and consultative meetings in Mogadishu in September during which the agreement on the elections model was reached,” said the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan.    

“We appreciate President Abdiaziz’s leadership at many stages of this process,” he added, at a brief press conference in the interim capital of Baidoa following a group meeting with the President of South West State, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen.’   

The UN envoy traveled to Baidoa with the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Ambassador Francisco Madeira; the European Union’s (EU) Ambassador to Somalia, Nicolas Berlanga Martinez; and, from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Head of Mission, Jamal Ahmed Ibrahim. 

In his remarks, Mr. Swan said the results of the Dhusamareb and Mogadishu meetings demonstrated what can be achieved when Somalia’s leaders come together in a spirit of consensus and collaboration.   

“We urge the leaders to continue with the preparations for the national elections so that they are underpinned by transparency, fairness and inclusivity,” the UN Special Representative said. “This applies to all aspects of the electoral process, such as the formation of federal- and state-level independent electoral committees, the Dispute Resolution Committee and Elections Security Committee.” 

Mr. Swan also noted the importance of close collaboration to ensure security around the elections, and recognized the efforts of the South West State administration in this regard, despite persistent threats from Al Shabaab.

The partners also encouraged Somalia’s leaders to extend their cooperation further in areas such as the constitutional review and other processes that can help advance national priorities, democratic reforms and essential freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.    

“These are all key components of a lively democratic system that will allow Somali voices to be heard,” Mr. Swan, adding that the AU, EU, IGAD and UN will continue to stand with the people of South West State as they build a better future.   

On the economic front, the international partners recognized the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of economic growth in South West State, and also underscored the importance revenue collection and good governance for the future development of the state.

Refugees find help in Utah running club during pandemic

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Ubah Yusuf, center, runs with volunteers in the Athletics United program, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

Logan • Local officials and educators have been concerned about the effects of COVID-19-related shutdowns and closures on children’s’ education. But according to local advocates, it’s been hardest for those who were already struggling to begin with: local refugees and immigrants.

“Under normal circumstances, refugee children are disadvantaged,” said Halima Ali, an organizer and advocate for the Somali refugee community. “Their parents are new in the country, and they lack familiarity with our education system. In some cases, the parents had no formal education. So COVID-19 made that situation worse.”

While Ali and her family immigrated from Somalia well before the pandemic, she said it was a struggle to adjust, and for families where parents received no formal education, it can be even worse.

This was the case for Salman Yusef, whose family immigrated to Utah in 2018.

“When I came here, I didn’t know how to read and write,” he said. “And I was learning, but then COVID-19 came. And it still is hard for me to read and write.”

But local nonprofit Athletics United helped him find his footing both on the track and in the classroom. What started as a local running club to unite the community and get kids active outdoors morphed when founders Mike and Kristi Spence identified many of the kids needing additional help with schoolwork.

The twice-weekly tutoring sessions held at the Logan Library were halted in March due to the pandemic, and the library has yet to allow private groups back into the space in order to comply with virus-mitigation efforts.

Like every other industry, the nonprofit had to get creative to adapt to physical distancing.

“The last three years have been crucial relationship building time that’s allowed us to use word-of-mouth and the friendships that we’ve already established to help out with individual needs,” Spence said. “And so that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”

Language barriers are the basis of many problems — such as with Yusef, whom Spence helps weekly since teachers are already spread too thin.

“Teachers sometimes are not available for you, because they’ve got meetings,” he said. “They got other things to do, too. You can’t really stay after school because of the COVID-19 stuff … but before, when we needed to get help after school but it was not enough, you would still get help from the program.”

According to Frank Schofield, the superintendent at Logan City School District, the push to get students in the classroom to build relationships with teachers was critical to build trust — similar to how Athletics United has been in the community for years and proved to be a resource for refugees and immigrants, or anyone who needed help.

“If we don’t have in-person, face-to-face learning, we know that those challenges are greater for those families because of a lack of access to technology in many cases,” Schofield said.

But even with technology and providing students computers and tablets, the system is not infallible.

Yusef’s cousin Mowlid Nur has been with the group since the nonprofit was an informal club. The two attend Logan High School together and said depending on the teacher, extra help can be difficult to find.

“It’s just always, ‘If you have any question or anything, send me an email,” Nur said. “It’s only through email, and when I email, you never know how long they might take them to respond. It might take days, hours, minutes, however long, and it depends on your teacher.”

Yusef’s niece Sabrin, goes to Thomas Edison Charter School-South, and she said while it was a similar struggle at first, the school was able to hire two new tutors to help.

In the past four weeks, Spence has started up more informal running groups. While the club used to meet at Ellis Elementary, Spence and several volunteers meet at 4:30 p.m. twice a week, Mondays at the Logan River Trail and Thursdays at Logan High School, to give the kids something to look forward to and a bit of contact in as safe a setting as possible.

And while losing access to the library was a hard turn for the group over the summer, Spence said it could be even more detrimental this winter if there is no indoor space for the group to gather.

Somali pirates Somali operate in Nigeria’s territorial waters – official

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Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Bashir Jamoh, has said that Somali pirates are now active in Nigeria’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

He said this when the new Consul-General of the Korean Embassy, Kang Haenggu, and Ambassador-Designate of Belgium, Daniel Bertrand, paid courtesy calls on him, according to a statement.

The statement titled ‘Maritime security, trade: Korea, Belgium pledge more support for NIMASA’, was emailed by the agency’s Head, Corporate Communications, Philip Kyanet, on Sunday.

The NIMASA boss was quoted to have said, “We discovered a correlation between crimes in our waters and the activities of the Somali pirates.

“They have a means of navigating from the coast of Somalia to Nigeria, through the waters of our West African neighbours.”

“In some cases, they enter through the land borders and commission boats to carry out their activities.”
Jamoh, however, stated that Nigeria had developed an action plan to monitor the progress of its national maritime security strategy, saying, “Our goal is to achieve a sustainable end to criminal attacks in our territorial waters.”

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Somalia: Turkish company to manage Port of Mogadishu

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MOGADISHU, Somalia

A Turkish company on Monday signed a 14-year contract in Somalia to operate and rehabilitate the port of its capital city, Mogadishu, local media reported on Monday.

“Turkish ports operator Albayrak and the federal government of Somalia have signed an agreement that grants the company a new 14-year concession to manage the Port of Mogadishu,” said Somalia National Television.

The inking of the deal came after days of discussions between the Albayrak Group and the Somali government on revenue sharing, among other key issues surrounding the deal.

Ports and Marine Transport Minister Mariam Aweys Jama told reporters that the company would help in rehabilitation and investment to upgrade the port’s facilities amid increasing trade through the key entryway into the Horn of Africa.

Somalia has benefited from aid in various sectors — mostly development and social projects — via the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).

Turkey has also constructed the Somalia Mogadishu Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan Training and Research Hospital and rebuilt the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu.

Source: Anadolu Agency

The post Somalia: Turkish company to manage Port of Mogadishu appeared first on WardheerNews .

Somalia President appoints his New Prime Minister

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Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo has appointed Mohamed Hussein Roble as his new Prime Minister just hours after he reached an electoral agreement with the leaders of federal member states.

The new premier of Somalia Mohamed Hussein Roble is new to politics.

He is a graduate of Somali National University in civil engineering, according to people who known him.

Most recently, he was working for the International Labour Organisation office in Nairobi

Phrasing in Sexual Offences Bill Sparks Controversy

Mogadishu (PP News Desk) — The Speaker of Federal Parliament Mohammed Mursal today chaired a session on the Sexual Offences Bill.

The Sexual Offences Bill, submitted by the Federal Government of Somalia, caused controversy in July when the SRSG James Swan criticised the Parliamentary Speaker for “attempts to table a deeply-flawed new bill that allows child marriage and contravenes relevant international conventions.”

Mursal read out article four of Sexual Offences Bill. “I was too shy to read articles in the Bill but today I have to share the draft with you” said Mursal. “Article 4 reads: “ Any person who intentionally inserts something in the female genitals or the anus either by using a part of the body or an object without consent commits crime “ Mursal said

Mursal: The Sexual Offences Bill contains offensive articles.

The Parliamentary Speaker found fault with the phrasing of the article. “Consent is the only requirement” to do what the law otherwise views as rape.

“Somalia is war-torn country where patriarchy still reigns. The drafters of the Bill should have let the parliamentarians debate the phrasing of what constitutes a sexual offence because the definition in the Sexual Offences Bill runs counter to the definition of rape in the Somali penal code” Mas’ud Yusuf, a legal analyst in Mogadishu, told Puntland Post.

Consent is the justification rapists will use because many rape case are settled out of court before or after the case is submitted to a court for prosecution.

“The drafters included a caveat in the Bill: ‘it should not be passed by the Parliament if the Bill contravenes Islam’. When the Federal Government submitted the Bill to the Parliament, the Parliamentary Permanent Committee members met to study the Bill. They decided to refine it through wider consultation with the lawyers and Islamic jurisprudence experts” said Mursal.

A Somali Clan Raises Alarm About Illegal Sale of Land in Baraawe

Baraawe (PP News Desk) — Tradiotional leaders of Tunni clan have called on South West State President Abdiaziz Laftagareen to intervene to stop Illegal sale of plots of land in Baraawe, the administrative capital of South West State.

South West President Abdiaziz Laftagareen faces a host of challenges including illegal sale of land in Baraawe.

“We are calling on the South West President to deal with illegal sale of land in Baraawe. People are coming to the district with money to buy land illegally. Those selling and buying land in Baraawe are breaking the law” said one elder.

Another elder warned sellers and buyers about the consequences of illegal transactions involving land belonging to other people. “Selling one thousand plots of land to one person at five dollars for each plot of land is absurd. People involved in illegal sale of land in Baraawe have the intention to destroy the district. No land can be sold without the knowledge of the government and elders” said another elder.

Baraawe is an old Somali coastal district in Lower Shabelle region. It is one of the districts whose original inhabitants were forced to flee as a result of occupation by armed clan militias from other Somali regions.

Mass exam failure stirs up a storm in Somalia.

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Somalia’s education policymakers are under pressure to explain how secondary schools in the capital Mogadishu reported massive failure in the national examination, while those in regions bordering Kenya had high grades.

Results released on Sunday for Grade 12 exams for the 2019/2020 school calender showed that 33,727 students sat the national tests.

Of these, 25,177 students, representing about 75 percent, passed the exams and qualified to join tertiary institutions. But, of the 8,550 who failed most of them are from Benadir, the metropolitan region that includes Mogadishu.

Jubbaland State, which borders Kenya, produced the best five students nationally and only 33 out of 987 candidates scored below average.

Schools from four federal states – Hirshabelle, South West, Jubbaland, and Galmudug  – as well as Benadir, Somalia’s administrative region, registered candidates for the national exam.  Puntland, a semi-autonomous state, set a parallel local exam for its students.

Questioned over the mass failure in Mogadishu, Education Minister Goddah Barre blamed students and teachers, claiming the learners spent too much time smoking tobacco and recording Tiktok videos, while tutors were of poor quality.

For the good performance in Jubbaland, Mr Barre said they had better teachers from neighbouring Kenya.

Challenges

Benadir had 25,000 students who sat the exam, but none was in the top ten. Instead, the region had the highest number of failures with 7,873 students scoring below average, representing 92 percent of those who scored poorly.

Education stakeholders in Somalia have lampooned the minister for allowing the sitting of national exams despite the insecurity and Covid-19 challenges.

Thabit Mohamed, a former Mayor of Mogadishu, said the results were indicative of the “impending collapse of the school system in Somalia.”

“The Federal Ministry of Higher Education must produce empirical evidence on this unprecedented secondary school exam results,” he said.

Mr Barre admitted that Covid-19 and insecurity may have contributed but was unconvincing as to why the capital region had massive failures.

Students sat the exams across 122 centres most of which were private schools, who ran their affairs unregulated. In Jubbaland for instance, only about ten percent of the schools are public, while nearly every school in Benadir is private.

While experts reckon that private schools can hire qualified teachers and charge fees suitable to run their affairs, all face the same threat of insecurity.

An analysis by the Somali Open Data, an online portal, showed that nearly all the schools were under threat from the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, the Covid-19 pandemic, and general environmental risks. But the platform did suggest that availability of books, ownership of schools, and teachers hired to deliver lessons mattered.

A July 2020 report by the Heritage Institute, a think-tank in Mogadishu, said most Somali schools lack qualified teachers, a result of poor training. Until last month, there had been no unified curriculum, which means it might take another three years to implement it.

“The complete privatisation of basic education led to compromised quality and commercialisation and left millions of Somali children from impoverished or rural families out of school,” the Heritage Institute said in its report titled ‘Fostering Skills through Demand-driven Education System.’

Literacy 

Somalia, once Africa’s top country with the highest literacy levels, is now one of the lowest following three decades of civil war and the al-Shabaab menace. The World Bank says only three in ten people in Somalia can read and write. It is worse for girls. Just a quarter of the female population can read or write.

By 2019 for instance, only three in ten children were enrolled in primary school, while only one in five were admitted in secondary school.

Dahir Hassan, the Rector of Simad University in Mogadishu and the chairperson of the Association of Somali Universities said there is unlikely to be any changes in performance until the conditions in which children learn are improved.

“Students’ school performance will not improve unless socio-economic issues surrounding ordinary Somali families are addressed,” he said.

“Exam failure and school dropout are likely to continue and grow.”

Somalia’s exams have faced crises before.  In May last year, the Ministry cancelled thenational secondary exams after papers leaked on social media, forcing students to retake the tests several weeks later.

Puntland

Despite the chaos, Somalia says it will not recognise Puntland certificates after it administered its own exams. Authorities have said none of the Puntland students will be admitted to the national universities.  The best 100 students benefit from full government scholarship in public universities.

“In reality, it does not matter who manages education —federal ministry or regional ministry — what matters is that the system in place is effective and efficient,” said Abdirashid Hashi, the Director of the Heritage Institute, on Sunday.

“To give education a national character the federal government could give resources to states and monitor and evaluate it.”

He further stated that Somalia’s foremost challenge is hiring qualified teachers.

Most countries in the region like Kenya and Uganda run a national curriculum for both public and private schools. Others in the world like Germany allow varied curriculum for each federal region but which the federal government endorses.

Abu Shahid, a political strategist and founder of the Kulmiye Institute of Political Studies cautioned against turning the results into a political issue. 

“They should ask themselves forensically what were the underlying causes? Were there gaps or lapses or disparities somewhere within the system?”

9/11 attacks: What’s happened to al-Qaeda?

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On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, the perpetrator – the then-Afghan based jihadist group al-Qaeda – is in a state of disarray.

Its branch in Syria was silenced in June by a rival force; in Yemen it suffered a defeat at the hands of rebels shortly after losing its leader in a US drone strike; and the leader of its North Africa branch was killed in a French raid in Mali in June and is yet to name a successor.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been uncharacteristically absent for months, prompting speculation that he might be dead or incapacitated.

Ideologically, al-Qaeda faces a familiar dilemma for the jihadist movement: to modernise and show flexibility in order to win over ordinary Muslims, and basically survive; or stick to strict jihadist principles and risk alienating Muslims.

Each path has its risks.

The first could jeopardise the group’s jihadist credentials and lead to splits and defections by hardliners, while the second could significantly limit operational capacity, even to the point of the group’s demise.

Recent setbacks

In Syria, al-Qaeda – represented by its unannounced branch Hurras al-Din – has failed to make inroads. This is partly the result of jihadist rivalries on the one hand, and the eagle-eyed surveillance of al-Qaeda officials by the US-led coalition on the other.

The group is also not popular on the ground as Syrians see the al-Qaeda brand as a threat and a magnet for government and international action.

Hurras al-Din has been inactive for over two months now following a crackdown by a more powerful jihadist group and the targeting of some of its top officials in suspected US air strikes.

The group’s branch in Yemen – al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – was once the most feared of all al-Qaeda chapters, but it has suffered a number of blows this year and is currently one of the organisation’s least active branches.

AQAP lost its leader in a US drone strike in late January, and recently lost its stronghold in the central Bayda province at the hands of the Houthi rebels.

For years spies appear to have infiltrated the group and facilitated the accurate targeting of its leadership figures.

It is also beset by internal divisions.

But one event this year showed that AQAP was still playing the role for which it was previously most feared: orchestrating “lone wolf” attacks in the West.

In February, the group said it was behind the deadly shooting last December at the Pensacola naval base in Florida that was carried out by Saudi military trainee Mohammed Alshamrani – a link the US later confirmed.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of the franchise’s least active branches, lost its Algerian leader in a French raid in Mali in early June.