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  • FIGHTING INJUSTICE THROUGH MUSIC

    FIGHTING INJUSTICE THROUGH MUSIC 05 May, 2017

     
     

    David “Dread” Hinds was born in 1956, in Handsworth, Birmingham, England, to parents who migrated to England from Jamaica in the mid-1950s. He is the founding member, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist for roots reggae band Steel Pulse. He was influenced with reggae music from a young age and the band was founded at Handsworth Wood Boys Secondary School in 1975. Besides David, the band is also composed of Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals), and Ronald McQueen (bass). Steel Pulse were the first non-Jamaican act to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album with their 1985 album Babylon the Bandit. They have also received Grammy nominations for Victims (1991) and Rastafari Centennial (1992). The band has toured in various countries and collaborated with many reggae icons over the years. Their studio albums Handsworth Revolution (1978), True Democracy (1982), Earth Crisis (1984), African Holocaust (2004) and others echo pan African messages and they are known for songs against racism and political corruption. David and the rest of the band’s members have been part of political and social protests, especially in the UK and other countries as well. David has written songs for various films including “I-Spy," which was featured in the movie "Klash" (1995) and "Can’t Stand the Heat," which was featured in "Do the Right Thing". David recently visited Ethiopia and Meheret-Selassie Mokonnen of The Reporter spoke with him about Steel Pulse’s decades-long revolutionary journey.

     

    The Reporter: Let’s start with why you are in Ethiopia? And since this is your first visit, how does it feel to be here?

    David Hinds: My being here must have been through some sort of divine intervention. I was supposed to be en route to Costa Rica to do a show, but it got cancelled. I have an album to complete and it was tossing between going back to the US but, work visa has not allowed me to get back to the US yet, and I wasn’t going to go back to England. Out of the blue, something told me to head to these vibes here. Special to the fact that I have a friend, Doctor Dread, who is already coming here, but I have dismissed the idea of coming to Ethiopia because of the show.

    When it was postponed to July I took a plane and came. My plan is to go to Shashemene and Lalibella to learn more history, to get more information about how the economy is doing, how the people are interacting socially and how they relate to people visiting from other parts of the world. I didn’t come to perform because I am here without the band, but we want to come back before the year is out to do a show.

    Shashemene, part of the land was granted by Emperor Haile Selassie Ι, and christened the ‘Promised Land’ by the Rastafarian community, what are your expectations going there?

    In the eyes of the Rastafari, we see Shashemene as the ‘promised land’ given to us by Haile Selassie. One of the first encounters I had was through pictures going back 25 to 30 years. A friend who did an essay project would show me pictures. One of the questions that came to my mind looking through images in the book was, ‘where are the Rastas?’ I hadn’t come across anyone with dreadlocks before. When I started investigating, I realized many came and decided to cut their dreads. Then I heard about the land being taken away from them during the Derg regime.

    I heard there was probably going to be time where that land is going to be taken away and there wasn’t much development from the time people have been occupying the land. I have not been hearing anything promising, but I know how propaganda can be. Especially when it comes to Rastafari, it can be somewhat negative. So I want to see for myself. I am hoping it is going to be interesting and there is going to be hardships. If I am thinking it is going to be like walking through a palace, I got another thing coming. I want to be left with someone from another walk of life, say from Jamaica or other parts of Babylon who are trying to make something of themselves. I hope I can go back home knowing people have come and made an effort to make things happen.

    Your latest album was expected to be released in 2013, how is it coming along?

    The last album was released in 2004. A new album is coming out this year. We have been putting out singles and making comments about sociopolitical situations throughout the world. One is the situation in the US where the police shot a lot of black youth, especially during the time of Barack Obama’s administration. We put out “Put Your Hoodies On,” a song dedicated to Trayvon Martin and “Don’t Shoot” for Michael Brown. Another song is “From Natty to Hattie,” a rendition of what Bob Dylan did in 1963. Four years ago was the 50th anniversary of the killing of Hattie Carroll, a hotel kitchen worker murdered in Baltimore.

    When Obama got elected we put out “Paint it Black”, we talked about painting the White House black. “Vote Barak” is an initiation of him becoming president. We are not a political band and we are not saying we support his politics. We do not support people being killed by drones. However, we became supportive of the administration because he is the first black president. That represented all black people all over the world. In the West, there has always been this psychological brain-washing that we the descendants of slaves can’t achieve much. As a result, black people didn’t set their goals so high. Obama broke another barrier and raised the bar where a black kid cannot only think that they can become a basketball player or a rapper, but can even aspire to be a president of a country outside of the continent of Africa.

    Walk us through the formation of Steel Pulse through the sociopolitical situation of England in the 1970s?

    My parents were part of the post-war wave of migration. We being born as blacks in Britain never felt we belong there. They always were a bunch of people known as the National Front, in this particular case a racist movement. In our teens, with reggae music influencing us about Rastafari, Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey and the Back to Africa movement, we automatically thought we found something we could finally latch onto. We have been told, ‘you don’t belong here, get back on your banana boat, etc.’ With the Rastafari movement, we were able to stand up, no longer having our chins placed to our chest. Walking tall knowing full well that we have a history that dates back way before the Europeans came to play. We started as a band writing songs based on our experiences from a British standpoint and we started to sing about our suffering.

    What were the challenges when it comes to being a reggae act?

    It was the first time reggae was trying to gain a foothold in the UK. We had nothing to follow. Black people are brain washed into finding it hard to accept new things. The black community initially couldn’t relate to black bands based in England playing reggae music. As far as they were concerned, the original forms of reggae music come out of Jamaica. The white people gravitated a lot quicker to what the blacks were doing in roots reggae music. There was a time when black music wasn’t played much on the radio, especially reggae music. One of the platforms we jumped on was being the opening act for the punk rock period. Another road that wasn’t easy was that a lot of blacks that wanted to establish nightclubs had a problem in keeping their license if they invited reggae acts to their clubs because people associated that with marijuana smoking.

    What was the band’s role in Rock Against Racism (RAR), a campaign that grew as a response to white nationalist groups you mentioned such as the National Front and involved acts with an anti-racist theme?

    It came about a rock legend Eric Clapton who in 1975 put out Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”. Within a year of doing that hit record, he makes a statement on stage in Birmingham saying negative things about black people going back to their own countries and keeping Britain white. A lot of people decided to act up on it and turn the negative experience of what he said to a positive one by having a movement called Rock Against Racism. It hosted itself at Victoria Park in London. There were about 80,000 people. We as a young band were at the time playing in my father’s basement. The movement set the template of how England was going to be from then on as regards how people feel about racism.

    Steel Pulse have been preaching about peace and love and fighting injustice for over three decades. How do you see your music’s impact with regard to echoing what you believe in?

    It brought about awareness everywhere. The music industry was categorized but, once reggae got established in the UK, there is a lot more in regards to TV presentations and more airtime on radio. There still wasn’t enough black music played on the radio so stations started to launch when it was illegal to have a radio station playing music that was interfering with corporations of the UK. That was slightly eroded because whites were realizing the idea of not respecting blacks in the UK was having a negative impact and decided in trying to twist things to be more harmonious. We became part of that and everywhere we went was sold out. We got recognized through Bob Marley, and we got more exposed going on tour with him in Europe. We opened the eyes of people to look into themselves in their own environment and realize what was going on. We became spokesmen to the hardship that was happening in the communities.

    What’s your reflection on this struggle being fought by the young reggae acts today?

    When we started out, it was roots reggae music -- mentally, politically and spiritually. There was a time when we needed to keep the music alive by exposing it to the rest of the world and in the industry to give the musicians a reason to survive. When Marley died, the industry collapsed. Reggae music went underground for a long time. It surfaced again when guys like Capleton, Sizzla and Bobo Shanti came. Acts like Turbulence and Junior Reid came back with a rebellious side of music. But, there was still the question what else do you offer us other than Jah Rastafari and we are going to burn down Babylon. Here the rest of the world had to be involved with Alpha Blondy, and other acts even white reggae in the US.

    Now reggae music is transcending from Jamaica to countries that have established it in a positive way and held on to roots aspects of it. This is where the youth can now relate. They will not probably know Steel Pulse, but when the bands they love mention to them there were bands like us that became part of that trailblazing scenario, they will go back to looking the momentum of what we are about. Reggae is still an underground movement compared to other music. There are music selling more than reggae. Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga sell a lot. But, when it comes to the heart of the people, especially the majority of the world being poor, reggae is the music that the world gravitates to. Because reggae is about poverty, oppression and, in general, about people surviving hardship.

    You said reggae is still an underground movement and there is low responsiveness of the mainstream media towards conscious music. What is the artists’ role in changing this?

    The acts themselves are becoming more business savvy. Acts like Chronixx, Protoje, Jesse Royal and Jah9 are not only doing music but they are going about it in a professional, business way. Acts like ourselves weren’t doing that before. We were always relying on agents and managers and when the dossier is settled, the band has nothing. These guys now incorporate themselves with promoting their shows. Once you start doing things yourself there is no stopping. If you got money, then you can have your own radio stations and TV network to get more exposure. There are a lot of acts that are making a lot of money and they are not putting themselves in a position to bring the others that are in the barrel. When it comes to black music, the industry is still having a negative impact. Once they start exposing themselves and become more media-savvy, they can attract other acts. Once they start doing this, the youth can see what these acts are trying to achieve.

    Where do you think Ethiopian music fits in this scenario?

    Ethiopia has become an established country through a lot of channels. When it comes to reggae music, the whole world knows it. The musicians see Ethiopia as the utopia, the paradise, the Zion and as the pinnacle of anything. I am hoping Ethiopia realizes this. For example, I was surprised not to see the lion on the flag because that’s what we were used to seeing. Ethiopia should promote anyone who has a strong following in their communities, like Teddy Afro. I understand there was a time he couldn’t do a show and that’s absurd. For me, he is the greatest Ethiopian act. Ethiopia needs to open up more. There will be Ethiopian musicians in Spain in few months and having the country with good representation of its music in a festival is a good way to go. Another thing is having a reggae festival in Ethiopia. It might not be able to attract Africans because for the majority ticket prices might not be affordable. There needs to be a way where Ethiopia can attract people from other parts of the world and, in that way, Ethiopian culture can be promoted.

    Your album “African Holocaust” included songs that criticize African politicians and what is going on in the rest of the world. Can you elaborate the themes of the album that also includes tracks dedicated to prominent activists?

    The album’s sleeve speaks for itself; it is based on people I have admired throughout history, including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., H. Rap Brown and Patrice Lumumba. These people were assassinated by the intelligence agencies of the US or killed on the street by racists. They became prominent figures in my life because they wanted to change the plight of the African diaspora. “Tyrant” is based on the negative legacy of African post-colonial leaders that became puppets of countries that had colonized them. “No More Weapon” is about how we are living in a world of weapons of mass destruction where at the end of the day it is always the poor people that did nothing in the first place who get hurt.

    We feature Damian Marley in the song, and he did an excellent job. Throughout history, I see people using people as a political tool to get what they want. I believe religion has always been and will always be a tool to manipulate and control the minds. We are in a religious war right now. It is the mineral that the land is endowed with that is at the root of every war. If it’s not the oil, diamond or gold, then it is the land itself.

    That is a Grammy-nominated album and you have won a Grammy for the album “Babylon the Bandit”. This being part of your journey, along with having three generations of fans, how do you explain your expedition and the element that kept you moving forward as a band?

    We are putting out a documentary and being in Ethiopia is going to be part of the journey. We have written about Ethiopia in our songs. What kept us alive is not selling records. The journey started when we decided to lay down the ideology of what we are about. Out of all bands with similar messages, Steel Pulse became the most efficient in holding up the concept we had. We were able to sustain ourselves knowing people believed in what we are about. It is the children and grandchildren of the people that were about the band that attend our concerts. We have kept real and the people have kept us real.

    I understand you have recently started painting. How do you use visual arts as another form of self-expression and to transmit your views?

    I started painting when I was a kid but stopped when I was 18 because I thought music was the way to go. When I had sprained my shoulders and I was unable to carry a guitar, I was moping around in the living room. One of my family members threw a sketch-book in my hand. I got a few lessons, and started out after not touching a brush in over forty years. I spent two years in art school when I was a kid and those years became catalyst of how I see things as a musician. I learned about political figures that make painters paint like Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”.

    I have been involved with portrait paintings of Mandela, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie, and I am also working on Muhammed Ali because the end of April is the fiftieth anniversary since he was stripped of his title. He has been one of my mentors as far as being brazen. I am a coward at heart really, so I try to latch on to people that are seen with bravery radiating through them. From all the decades I have lived through, the 60s were the most revolutionary.

    Haile Selassie founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, Lumumba was executed in 1963, Muhammed Ali was stripped of his title in 1967, Malcolm X was shot in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. I’m glad I am old enough to have lived through all that and understand it to present it to the world today.

    Can you tell us about the charity song you did to raise money for Ethiopian famine victims, especially as opposed to that of “We are the world”?

    Bob Geldof was the European representative where they had all acts at the time singing to raise money, which Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wasn’t much into, so she wanted to tax it. This shows where the politicians in Europe had their hearts when it comes to African problems. We recognized they were talking about a country where reggae acts have as number one in their hearts and minds, but not one reggae act was featured. We went to Jamaica and made “The Land of Africa”. Obviously it is not going to have the credibility and generate the money the others generate. But we made an effort to do something to help.

    You also did “Hold on [4 Haiti]”, can you elaborate these activist works with regard to black people helping out other black people in need?

    Haiti is the most African country outside of Africa. Haiti is the first black nation that liberated itself from colonialism and slavery, and for which it is paying a price to this day. They remain poor and owe France several million dollars as payment for their freedom. When it comes to earth-quake and famine, Europeans are going to pretend they are going to rush to their aid but they spend a lot of time using aid as an example to the other Caribbean countries saying this is what you are going to be like when you decide to become independent.

    We have to dismiss the idea of a white savior. Every time they come to save it is under conditions. We went to Haiti and teamed up with Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). The idea is to supply Haiti with solar panels. A friend of mine helped me along the way and now he has a program based on the Haile Selassie School in Jamaica. When Haile Selassie visited Jamaica, he donated money to build a school there. It is located in the ghettos of Kingston and the school got run down over the years. He wants me to be a part of that. But funds are tight, and we don’t have a major label. In the 80s once you had an album, there was money thrown at you by record labels. Now the Internet has taken over the sale of music. But we intend to try to cater for everyone, including putting things back because the people served us and we want to start serving the people.

     

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  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, EXPRESSION STILL UNDER THE DAGGER! 05 May, 2017

    FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, EXPRESSION STILL UNDER THE DAGGER! 05 May, 2017

     
     

    There is no denying that as the International Workers’ Day and World Press Freedom Day are celebrated freedom of association and the press, integral components of fundamental rights, are in great danger in Ethiopia. Though the government repeatedly invokes the fact that Ethiopia is an emerging democracy to justify its inability to live up to international standards in protecting human and democratic rights, freedom of association and the press are increasingly under an onerous yoke. Despite the enshrinement of the rights of thought, opinion, expression, assembly, demonstration and petition as well as freedom of association in the constitution, there is daylight between the constitution’s commandment and the reality on the ground. The grievances regularly voiced by citizens at the curtailment of these rights have been in vain owing to the government’s disinclination to heed them. This has exacerbated the problem further.

    When it comes to freedom of association Article 31 of the constitution provides that every person has the right to freedom of association for any cause or purpose. The sole limitation the article puts on this right is the formation of organizations in violation of appropriate laws, or to illegally subvert the constitutional order, or which promote such activities. Although the establishment of political parties which engage in the peaceful and lawful political struggle is therefore in compliance with and encouraged by the constitution and subsidiary laws, decades-long experience has shown that becoming a member or supporter of opposition parties poses a grave risk in Ethiopia, thus deterring many from contemplating the prospect of taking up organized politics. Such intimidating atmosphere has not only discouraged the peaceful pursuit of political programs, but also marred the country’s political landscape. The government’s heavy-handed approach has forced numerous opposition party figures to either quit politics altogether or resort to non-peaceful means to accomplish their goals. As correctly assessed in the ongoing “deep renewal” exercise of the ruling party this has given rise to the perception that a peaceful political struggle is unviable and as such needs to be addressed promptly.

    Similarly it is more difficult than ever before to achieve one’s objective through professional associations, interest groups and other civil society organizations. It’s the nation that suffers when they are emasculated in fear that they will be used to further sinister political motives in spite of their multi-faceted benefit for the country and its people. Particularly organizations that carry out activities which inspire the youth to become politically active and generate innovative ideas through research and development are being hobbled instead of nurtured. This ought to worry Ethiopians as a nation. Throughout the country labor unions celebrated May Day even as they lament about a litany of grievances. Complaints over unfair and discriminatory work conditions, physical abuse at the hand of employers, arbitrary firing without proper compensation, injury and death due to neglect for safety and health as well as employers’ hostility to unionization abound. Why are actions that infringe workers from exercising their right to organize and thereby disrupt industrial peace? This too requires to be addressed posthaste.

    Volumes can be said about the perennial gripe on the sad state of freedom of expression in Ethiopia. It was underscored at the marking of the World Press Freedom Day that press freedom faces a plethora of challenges in the country. The conversation would have been different had Article 29 of the constitution, which was adopted verbatim from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), been faithfully implemented. The article states that everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference and to freedom of expression without any interference. It goes onto say that this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice. It also stipulates that freedom of the press and other mass media and freedom of artistic creativity is guaranteed and sets out the specific elements it constitutes. In addition it provides that any citizen who violates any legal limitations on the exercise of these rights may be held liable under the law. Moreover, Ethiopia is a signatory to other international instruments affirming the fundamental importance of freedom of expression including the UDHR, the International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, the Windhoek Declaration, the African Charter on Broadcasting and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) program. These instruments would also have gone a long way to augmenting the constitution’s protection of press freedom had they seen the light of day. There still lie testing challenges ahead.

    Though the press has a 120-year history in Ethiopia, the private press commenced full-fledged operations just 24 years ago. As a nascent profession, it is beset with a raft of internal and external problems. The absence of journalism schools that produce journalists in the quantity and quality the market demands, the private press’s lack of capacity to enhance professional skill, and the resulting poor level of professional ethics required shortcomings are worth mentioning in this regard. A significant chunk of the private press is devoid of a code of conduct and editorial policy; it also suffers from chronic organizational weaknesses plus the propensity to spurn neutrality and display political activism. The fact that it took more than 20 years to establish the press council, the self-regulatory organ, is indicative of the extent of the problem. The pathetic state of the various journalists’ associations and the blatant factionalism characterizing the private press also serve to demonstrate this point. The problem is compounded by the government’s reluctance to provide incentives for and overt animosity towards the private press. This is evidenced by Ethiopia’s designation as the fifth worst jailer of journalists in the world and its enactment of a draconian mass media law. How long can this be countenanced?

    The testing challenges that attended the founding of the press council have left a scar on the right to organize of the press. Although the media council was officially established after many trials and tribulations in September 2016 with 19 media institutions and journalists’ associations, its failure to be registered to date on account of the non-existence of a licensing entity has cast a cloud over its future. No solution has been found to the problem despite bringing the matter to the attention of several government agencies.

    Government clampdown and discouragement of the private press has rendered it operationally and financially weak, prone to extremism and partisanship, and incapable of attracting private investment and qualified professionals. Ethiopia, though, needs a strong private press if democracy is to flourish truly given it plays a vital role in the free flow of alternative ideas. After all the ruling party or the government it leads do not have a monopoly in finding solutions to the multitude of challenges staring the nation in the face. This requires of the government to introduce fundamental behavioral and policy changes with a view to enable the private press enjoy the rights guaranteed to it by the constitution and international agreements ratified by Ethiopia. Sadly its track record leaves a lot to be desired. Leave alone other occasions it’s difficult to reach a consensus on such a simple matter as deciding the agenda items for a panel discussion held on the day World Press Freedom Day is marked. And it’s customary to label as an enemy anyone who “dares” to propose ideas that diverge from the official line however rational they may be. Shunning the free expression of diverse ideas on the very day press freedom is consecrated speaks volumes. It’s not in the national interest to fail to seek solutions whilst in the middle of all these grave challenges. Freedom of association and the expression should no longer be under the dagger!

     

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  • DJIBOUTI TO HOST ANOCA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

    DJIBOUTI TO HOST ANOCA GENERAL ASSEMBLY 05 May, 2017

     
     

    The 17th ordinary session of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) General Assembly is to be held in Djibouti from May 9 to 11, 2017. The ANOCA presidency election will also be held at the assembly.

    The General Assembly will thus be expected to renew the Executive Committee of the supreme governing body of the African Olympic Movement and ratify the election of representatives of various development zones in the Executive Committee.

    Incumbent Lassana Palenfo of Ivory Coast and Cameroonian Hamad Kalkaba aare the presidential hopefuls. Palenfo, who is being challenged for his position by Cameroon Olympic Committee president Hamad, has vowed to improve cooperation with the African Union Sporting Council (AUSC) to avoid a repeat of the debacle at the All African Games, which was held in Brazzaville in 2015.

    The 2015 All-Africa Games were organized by the Sporting Council of the AU rather than ANOCA after the collapse of talks between the two parties over a possible agreement for joint organization.

    Palenfo, 76, has now named seven main projects he hopes to accomplish should he secure another term in charge of the organization, including the successful launch of the ANOCA Beach games in 2019. The Ivorian is targeting the establishment of further program in cooperation with the athlete’s commission to tackle doping.

    Meanwhile, Malbuom is president of the confederation of Africa Athletics and a vice president of International Association of Athletics Federations. After officially declaring his candidacy, he said that transparency is one of his key targets.    

    Ashebir Woldegiorgis (MD), the newly elected president of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee (EOC), will be in attendance.

    Elsewhere, the final report of the Executive Committee for 2013-2016; Treasurer General’s report; Audit reports for 2015 and 2016 by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and scrutiny and adoption of the budgets for 2017-2020 will be presented.

    The draft agenda also features a number of other items, including: an opening ceremony featuring some addresses; Adoption of Minutes of the 16th ordinary session of the General Assembly held in Mauritius Flic en Flac on November 24 and 25, 2015.

    Djibouti is also scheduled to host a session of the ANOCA Executive Committee ahead of the General Assembly on May 5 and 6, 2017.

     

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  • SOMALI PRESIDENT VISITS ETHIOPIA 06 May, 2017

    SOMALI PRESIDENT VISITS ETHIOPIA 05 May, 2017

     
     

    Ethiopia clarifies intention towards Somaliland

    Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed, paid a two-day visit to Ethiopia beginning May 3 upon the invitation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn. In discussions they later held, the two leaders agreed to closely work together towards elimination of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group from Somali soil within two years.

    During a joint press conference held at the National Palace, Hailemariam said that Ethiopia is ready to support Somalia to enable it take over the responsibility of securing the country from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), AU’s regional peacekeeping force in Somalia.

     The premier also noted that his government always respected “the territorial integrity of the Somalia republic”. Replying to a question put to him from a Somali journalist, Hailemariam denied any intent by his government to bestow recognition on Somaliland.

    He further pointed out that, “Ethiopia has never had any official relations with Somaliland. We always do that with the consent of the federal government in Mogadishu.”

    On his part, President “Farmajo” noted that Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab has been around for the last ten years "causing havoc and destruction”.

    “It’s a threat not only to Somalia but to the whole region,” he said, and appreciated the support by Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries contributing troops to AMISOM.

    He also stated that in collaboration with Ethiopia, his government has already prepared a comprehensive strategy to fight and eliminate Al-Shabaab.

    Meanwhile, the Ethiopian prime minister assured the Somali president that, as chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he would work to make the forthcoming London conference on Somalia a success.

    He also talked about the need for international efforts to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia caused by severe drought.

    Meles Alem, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the visit would open a new chapter in the relationship between the two nations.

    The two leaders also agreed to implement previous agreements reached between the two countries and are looking for economic integration and the free movement of goods and people. In this regard, an agreement was reached to set up a joint ministerial commission that would work on finding areas of cooperation in the political and economic spheres.

    Meanwhile, the Somali president expressed interest in engaging the Ethiopian government with a view to amicably resolving boundary issues between the two neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa.

     

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  • Andargachew Tsege is approaching his 1,000th day on death row | Boris Johnson ‘should not leave Ethiopia’ without freeing condemned man, rights group says

    Andargachew Tsege is approaching his 1,000th day on death row | Boris Johnson ‘should not leave Ethiopia’ without freeing condemned man, rights group says

    by Jon Sharman

    Boris Johnson has visited Ethiopia as a father-of-three from London nears his 1,000th day on death row there, following his kidnapping by Ethiopian security forces.

    Andargachew Tsege, known as Andy, has been a vocal critic of the Ethiopian government. He was granted political asylum in the UK in 1979 and has lived in Britain ever since, though he continued to advocate for democratic reform in his home country.

    He was abducted in June 2014 while en route to Eritrea, and in July 2015 moved to the infamous Kality prison outside Addis Abiba, dubbed “Ethiopia’s gulag”. A death sentenced had been imposed on him in 2009, in his absence.

    The rights group Reprieve, which has been representing Mr Tsege and his family, said on Thursday the Foreign Secretary “should not leave Ethiopia without Andy Tsege beside him on the plane”.

    Mr Johnson was due to discuss regional security and prosperity on his visit, a Government announcement said.

    Reprieve’s Maya Foa said: “Andy has endured 1000 days on death row for daring to criticise the Ethiopian Government, which kidnapped him in an international airport and rendered him to the country’s gulag.

    “A failure to seek Andy’s return home would send a dangerous message that the UK is willing to tolerate the abuse of its citizens overseas, with no consequence for the Governments responsible.”

    In an open letter to campaigners last August, Mr Johnson said: “I am aware of the suggestion that the UK Government should directly call for Mr Tsege’s release.

    “As my predecessor has previously stated, Britain does not interfere in the legal systems of other countries by challenging convictions, any more than we would accept interference in our judicial system.

    “We do, however, lobby strongly and consistently against the application of the death penalty, and against the carrying out of such sentences when they are imposed.

     

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