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  • Eritrea celebrated its 28th anniversary of independence

    May 24, 2019

    Eritrea celebrated the 28th anniversary of its independence. Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s Minister for information, announced on his Twitter page that the theme for this year’s celebration is “Resilience for Higher Progress”

    The Eritrean president, Isayas Afeworki, reminded his people as to what underpins Eritrea’s resilience.

    “To highlight a few of the principal values that underpin our resilience: Not to succumb and yield to force and intimidation!…. Not to cede to illicit and duplicitous machinations! Not to compromise one’s dignity and values for cheap rewards and inducements! Not to be distressed under extreme duress! Not to be disheartened by overwhelming challenges! Not to tire with hard work! Not to spare one’s toil and blood, including one’s life!… Not to relent until objectives are achieved! ”

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has conveyed a message for the government and people of Eritrea. “I would like to convey my congratulations to the people and government of Eritrea on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of Independence Day,” Abiy Ahmed wrote.

    Eritrean president Isayas Afeworki made a speech to the crowd gathered to celebrate the independence day :

    “In this new era and without departing from the fundamental principles of nation-building, our cardinal objectives consist of creating and augmenting national wealth through hard work and efficient productivity, and, ensuring equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. Our principal aim is to transform the primordial subsistence economy to a modern and developed industrial economy to bring sustainable change in the quality of life to vast segments of the population; especially those deprived in the past. ”

    as published on Eritrea’s Ministry of Information website.

    This year’s celebration is unique from the past twenty years’ of celebration in the sense that Eritrea is celebrating it after closing a chapter of two decades of ‘no peace, no war’ relation with Ethiopia.

    Tiffany Hadish, an American-Eritrean actress and comedian, has joined the celebration in Eritrea.

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  • This Ethiopian prince was kidnapped by Britain – now it must release him

    Seven-year-old Prince Alemayehu was captured – along with many national treasures – in 1868. His remains are held in Windsor Castle but pleas for their return have been rebuffed

    (The Guardian) — You see him first as he was soon after his father’s death: a seven-year-old boy staring, stunned, into the camera. He sits on a cloth-covered bench, next to a shield and a strip of animal hide. Around his shoulders, a long shamma drapes and gathers at his folded ankles. You note his bare feet, the way one toe, curled upward and tense, hints at the emotions he is keeping guarded. He wears the silver-baubled necklace that will travel with him from Ethiopia to England, the one also seen in pictures where he is made to sit for Julia Margaret Cameron and other photographers. His mother, if still alive, will soon die unexpectedly, leaving him in the hands of the same British men who came to confront his father. But for now, he has not lost everything.

    This photograph of Prince Alemayehu was taken during the 1868 Napier expedition, a British military incursion into Maqdala, Ethiopia, to rescue three dozen European prisoners. His father, Emperor Tewodros, took captives when his letters to Queen Victoria were ignored. Led by Sir Robert Napier, the punitive mission was extravagant: 13,000 soldiers, 8,000 auxiliary workers, and thousands of followers in search of adventure or a story. Several, like Richard Holmes of the British Museum, also came in search of loot.

    In the end, Emperor Tewodros released the prisoners unharmed, then committed suicide rather than surrender. What happened next would be described as a “deluge of fire” and one of the greatest looting orgies ever undertaken in the name of the British empire. Alemayehu, by now an orphan, was put on board the Feroze, the same ship as Holmes, who was taking back to Britain the largest haul of stolen artefacts in Ethiopia’s history. The objects went into British museums and libraries. Alemayehu became a ward of Queen Victoria and, despite his continual pleas to be returned to his homeland, he died aged 18 in England. He was buried at Windsor Castle, where he remains. A plaque, “When I was a stranger, ye took me in,” marks his vault.

    Today, we can recognise Napier and his forces for the marauders that they were. We can acknowledge the imperialist arrogance that would kidnap a young boy and trumpet the achievement through newspapers and photographs. The generosity of hindsight might even explain why Alemayehu’s pleas to return home were refused. But there is no longer any excuse for that same refusal and arrogance. There is no viable reason to continue to hold his remains hostage. He has become, like the sacred and valuable objects still in British museums and libraries, a possession.

    Alemayehu is still trapped, a plaque forcing on to the narrative of his life a sentiment that he would not have chosen

    In 2007, the then Ethiopian president Girma Wolde-Giorgis sent Queen Elizabeth a formal request for the return of the prince’s remains. Alemayehu’s plight has been the subject of radio plays, poems, and books. Scholars and concerned citizens have started campaigns; a young boy wrote a widely publicised letter to Tony Blair. Yet every request to the Queen or Buckingham Palace has been met with silence or refusal. Alemayehu is still trapped in the land of his kidnappers, a plaque forcing on to the narrative of his life a sentiment that he would not have chosen as his own.

    In her diary, Queen Victoria describes Prince Alemayehu as “a pretty, polite, graceful boy … There is nothing whatever of the Negro about him.”

    In photographs, Alemayehu is rendered fragile and exotic. Though she acknowledges that “his was no happy life, full of difficulties of every kind”, the queen does not seem to consider that this unhappiness might have broken this young boy, might have sent him spiralling into ugly, impolite anger. What the queen wanted to imagine in Alemayehu, what England still wants to possess, is a foreigner who earns refuge through politeness, quietness and grace.

    Alemayehu, like those who are today crossing borders to flee violence and oppression, endured a forced migration. Yet there is nothing graceful about the overloaded boats heading towards Europe. There is nothing polite about those who have rushed fences and tunnels to escape devastation. If there is beauty to be seen, it is in what they refuse to give up: aspirations and dreams, a love willing to risk all for family, the photographs and letters they clutch even when it requires superhuman strength. These people too are portrayed as strangers. But they, lacking in the refinements that Victoria praised in Alemayehu, are not the kinds of foreigners acceptable to a Europe still looking for comfortable narratives that can be condensed on to plaques and fit into museum displays.

    You think of him in what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum, wandering a room where the loot from the expedition is displayed. He pauses at the familiar gold crown. He stares at the necklaces and anklets worn by the women in his household. Over there, the torn fragments of an illuminated Bible.

    You see him look longingly at these mementos from home, now imprisoned behind glass. You see him, stoic, as he is guided from one vitrine to the other. You see his steps slow and falter as he approaches a beautiful long dress. You imagine that in that instant he wants to smash his fist through the glass and take back his mother’s dress, bury himself in her familiar scent. Instead, he turns to the queen and demands again to be sent home.

    Maaza Mengiste will be speaking on a panel about migration at the Africa Utopia festival at London’s Southbank Centre this Sunday 13 September

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  • U.S. Embassy, NEBE Hold Communications Workshop for Political Parties

    The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa in partnership with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) organized a half-day communications workshop for members of political parties in Ethiopia, according to press release from the US Embassy.

    The workshop focused on supporting the communications capability of the parties as they prepare for upcoming elections.

    In his remarks at the workshop, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor explained that “To have so many different political parties gathered in one place, and in a government building no less, is a testament to how far Ethiopia has come over the last year. But creating this new political space, as difficult and momentous as this has been, is just the first step. Now the question is what Ethiopians will do with it.”

    The Ambassador also encouraged the participants to look beyond winning or losing and think about how they can lead Ethiopia’s transition: “Whether your party wins or loses any given election, your leadership role within Ethiopia’s new political space is doing nothing less than ensuring Ethiopia’s peaceful, multi-party future.”

    The workshop was open to all political parties focused on the myriad ways they can connect with their constituencies and the general public while putting forward their policies and vision for Ethiopia so that the Ethiopian people can make informed choices when casting their vote in the upcoming election.

    Source: U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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  • Preparations Underway to Hold Free, Fair Elections - NEBE

    The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is making preparations for the upcoming 2020 Ethiopian national elections, according to the board spokesperson.

    According to ENA news, Communication Advisor for NEBE, Solyana Shimelis, said the board has started its 2020 election preparations in advance to ensure the electoral process is free and fair.

    Solyana stated that establishing impartial, democratic and fair electoral institution is at the core of the preparations of electoral board.

    She said the board is working on three main areas: amending laws and proclamations, establishing dialogue with political parties, and helping civic societies on how to engage on the election process.

    “Regarding amending the laws, we have already ratified proclamation on the reinstatement of the Board and we believe that this law will enable us to establish a neutral body,” she said.

    “We already started reorganizing the Board at the federal level, and this will be replicated at the regions. Establishing a neutral structure that’s free from any pressure is mandatory for us. So, we believe that the restructuring will be finalized very soon,” she said.

    The Board is going from delivering ‘free and fair’ elections to providing ‘genuine and credible’ elections at the root of which lies trust in the Board, she said.

    Ethiopia is expected to conduct national election next year as stated in the constitution and which must be conducted every five years.

    However, contrary to the board statement, it is unknown if the upcoming elections will be held on time. There are many issues that must be worked out in advance. Chief among these are the deteriorating security situation inside the country, as well as the lack of adequate preparations.

    For example, the national census that was supposed to have started earlier this year was indefinitely postponed.

    It is also unknown whether the ruling party will deliver on its promise of free and fair elections, especially if it meant that the ruling party will lose its power. The aftermath of 2005 elections is still fresh in the minds of many who saw many election winners go into jail or exile.

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  • Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party elected leaders

    Seven opposition parties in Ethiopia had merged to form a new party Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party which was unveiled during the founding meeting on May 9,2019.

    Opposition parties that joined hands to form the new party are Patriotic Genbot 7, Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), All Ethiopian Democratic Party (AEDP), Semayawi Party, New Generation Party (NGP), Gambella Regional Movement (GRM), and Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ).

    It means that these parties, and they are all national parties except Gambella Regional Movement which is in a way ethnic and regional as implied in the name, will no longer have their own separate existence.

    The founding congress was attended by representative of the ruling coalition and foreign dignitaries as well. Anders Osterberg, Swedish Social Democratic Party representative, is quoted by Ethiopian News Agency as saying “this combination is a brave huge step towards democracy in Ethiopia.”

    Representatives from 300 districts across the country have participated in the founding conference and about 1200 voting members took part in electing leaders of the party.

    On May 10, the founding congress elected Dr. Berhanu Nega as leader of the party. He won 912 votes. Andualem Arage is elected as deputy leader. As well, Yeshiwas Assefa and Chane Kebede are named as chairperson and deputy chairperson of the party respectively.

    The party’s priority, as stated by the leader Berhanu Nega who was also leader of Patriotic Genbot 7, is stability and democratization of the country. He, however, did make it clear that building democracy in the country is the responsibility of all Ethiopians. “We are always ready to contribute our part towards maintaining that” he added, as quoted by ENA.

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