ሪፖርተር - Ethiopian Reporter | Latest Ethiopian News Today (2022)

Ethiopian Reporter Political News

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture are worried about the global fertilizer scarcity as the nation becomes unable to endure the increase in the price of the agriculture input owing to the conflict between the Ukraine and Russia.

The global fertilizer crunch continued as the country sees a growth in demand for fertilizer due to expansion of irrigation farms and new agriculture projects that prompt farmers to increasingly shift to artificial fertilizer with subsidized price.

“Demand is growing substantially as Meher farms expand and irrigation activities surges across the country,” said Umar Hussein, the Minister of Agriculture, in an event held at Skylight Hotel to honor stakeholders who have been involved in the timely delivery and distribution of fertilizer.

Last year, the price of fertilizer more than doubled in the international market, a situation that have bulged Ethiopia’s annual budget for the commodity from USD 600 million to USD 1.2 billion.

“The last year has been very challenging due to forex shortage and security concerns that have affected distribution,” Umar said.

This week, the World Bank warned that there would a further increase in price of fertilizer, with the rapid increase in gas prices turning into an increase in the cost of the commodity.

“The challenge is meeting the immediate demand for fertilizers to support next season’s crops. Current projections suggest that Africa’s unmet demand could reach four million metric tons this year, with West Africa facing the most acute challenges this growing season,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass, during the opening of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) on Tuesday, 13 September 2022.

Last year, the Ministry had to float a tender more than twice as suppliers failed to fulfill contracts due to the global fertilizer crisis, which was first caused by the coronavirus pandemic and then worsened by the war between Russia and Ukraine, which supply over 50 percent of inputs needed to produce urea.

“Taking a lesson from last year, we are in contact with potential suppliers to avoid delays. Invitations have been already made,” said Sophia Kassa (PhD), State Minister for Investment and Input Sector at the ministry, toldThe Reporter.

During the last fiscal year, almost 13 million quintals of fertilizer was supplied by Fertiglobe, one of the largest producers of the nitrogen fertilizer in the Middle East, and Morroco OCP, a renowned supplier in Ethiopia, where it is currently building a fertilizer plant in partnership with the government.

The government expended a total of 64.5 billion birr for the procurement, shipment and distribution of fertilizer last year. It accounts for 11.4 percent of the budget during the same period.

The government had to allocate another 15 billion birr in subsidy as farmers become unable to withstand the surge in price of fertilize quadrupled in the local market.

Three directives on broadcast media go operational effective this month

The Ethiopian Media Authority enacts three directives to regulate the public, community, and commercial broadcast media. They are part of the eight directives the Authority has been issuing since the ratification of the media proclamation in April 2021.

To be applicable beginning this month, the directives list the rights and responsibilities, and how licenses are granted for the public, community, and commercial broadcasting media. The directives rule on how television and radio media should conduct their reports during national occasions like elections.

Lists of administrative measures by the Authority as well as legal actions have also been stated. Beginning from warnings to suspension of licenses and legal actions, several measures would follow should the media houses engage in illegal activities.

One of the actions, as it was the practice before, was to prohibit the dissemination of a program considered to be a danger to national security before going public on any of the broadcast media.

On the issue of impounding and injunctions, article 45 of the proclamation states that prosecutors might request a court order to stop publication of the programs. In the event of an emergency, the broadcast of the programs will be called off with the order of the Ministry of Justice. This should be notified to the court of law within 48 hours.

The Authority also prepared and approved several other directives to govern the media landscape in Ethiopia. These include directives for religious broadcasting services, online media, and print media.

Following the approval of the religion broadcasting service directive, which forced the registration of religious-based media, several of them have been registered.

Among the 46 media outlets that started the process and are working with the Authority to finalize registration, 23 have received their licenses, according to Dessie Kefale, communications director at the Authority.

“There was a deadline on which all had begun the registration process. Some of them were already operational for a long time, of course,” he said.

Before the ratification of the proclamation, as Dessie explained, there had not been adequate legal frameworks for all kinds of media houses.

All the directives and regulations before last year’s proclamation were based on the Mass Media and Access to Information issued in 2008, and Broadcasting Service Proclamations issued a year before that.

“There are several other laws under discussion and preparation, which includes a directive on hate speech and misinformation,” Dessie toldThe Reporter.

It is the “largest pandemic fraud” in the US

Ethiopians are among 47 people who have been charged in connection with a fraud scheme in the US involving Feeding Our Future. The alleged fraud is said to be the largest pandemic fraud in the country, involving USD 250 million.

The defendants are charged across six separate indictments with charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery. The defendants are suspected of creating dozens of shell companies to enroll in the program as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites, while allegedly creating shell companies to receive and launder the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.

The defendants submitted false invoices purporting to document the purchase of food to be served to children at the sites and submitted fake attendance rosters purporting to list the names and ages of the children receiving meals at the sites each day, according to the US Department of Justice.

“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In partnership with agencies across the government, the Justice Department will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”

Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted. She is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and federal program bribery. She oversaw the USD 240 million fraud scheme carried out by sites under Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship, according to the US Department of Attorney.

An Ethiopian born Abdikerm Abdelahi Eidleh, 39, of Burnsville, Minnesota, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and money laundering. Eidleh was an employee of Feeding Our Future who solicited and allegedly received bribes and kickbacks from individuals and sites under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. Eidleh also created his own alleged fraudulent sites.

Ethiopian born-US nationals, Bekam Addissu, 39, Hadith Yusuf, 34, and Hanna Marekegn, 40, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Another six siblings who are originally from Ethiopia have also been charged with wire fraud, federal programs bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.

Another Ethiopian-born US national, Liban Yasin Alishire, 42, the president and owner of Community Enhancement Services Inc., a company located in the JigJiga Business Center in Minneapolis, is charged with receiving more than USD 1.6 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Ahmed Yasin and Khedir Jigre have also been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in the same center. These three defendants have been accused of buying properties, including beach property, in Kenya.

Another defendant with links to Kenya, Salim Ahmed Said, 33, of Plymouth, Minnesota, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. Said was the owner and operator of Safari Restaurant, a site that received more than USD 16 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, the US Department of Justice said.

“An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the department said.

A startling revelation regarding the war in northern Ethiopia was announced last week by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, an independent organization tasked by the UN Human Rights Council with conducting a thorough and impartial investigation in Ethiopia. The stern warning emerged after the organization released a study that stated there are reasonable grounds to believe that parties to the conflict had violated and/or abused human rights since combat began in November 2020.

It was a report that not only angered federal government officials but also countries and experts that had already questioned the mission and real interests of the recently formed committee of experts.

“The report of the commission is prepared in defiance of the UN best practice guidelines such as professional independence, impartiality, and standard of proof,” said Tadesse Kassa (PhD), secretariat of the inter-ministerial taskforce that was formed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, slamming the UN Commission of Human Rights Experts report of human rights violations in the northern Ethiopia war.

At a press conference held on September 21, 2022, he referred to the Commission’s initial report, which was created with only two full-time human rights investigators and remote interviews, as nothing more than mediocre. At the press conference, the Ministry of Justice unveiled the task force’s first phase report, which was prepared by 158 experts deployed in the conflict-affected Amhara and Afar regions.

In its first phase investigation report, which covers violations committed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the inter-ministerial taskforce (IMTF), formed to implement the recommendations of a joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented its findings.

The Task Force found reasonable grounds to believe the commission’s findings that there were 2212 rapes, 2831 extrajudicial executions of civilians, and other violations during the war. According to its 46-page report, the team came to this conclusion after analyzing the testimonies of 10,000 witnesses and analyzing thousands of videos and material evidence.

For Tadesse, who has been monitoring the task force’s research and report-writing process, the UN Commission of Human Rights Experts’ report on Ethiopia is only a “snippet” of the full extent of the damage that has been inflicted throughout all three regions.

“The report’s conclusions are presented on the basis of either no evidence or evidence whose credibility is highly questionable,” the secretariat told the room full of reporters questioning the report in regard to its standard of proof and data collection. Tadesse even went on to call the report “a political statement” that was prepared to “help implement” the agendas of “some forces.”

This week, the commission accused all combatants in the conflict of committing various human rights crimes. In order to reach the conclusion that there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the offenses amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Commission listed incidents that it employed as a basis.

The selected incidents were the shelling of Mekelle and attacks on civilians and civilian objects; killings in Kobo and Chenna; and a drone strike on an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Dedebit. Rape and sexual violence, and denial and obstruction of humanitarian access were also selected themes for the investigation.

The commission’s two-month investigation into selected incidents and themes found “reasonable grounds” to believe the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), Tigray forces, and Eritrean Defense Force (EDF) committed war crimes, according to the report. In this case, the report accused the ENDF of using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.”

It further stated that it found “reasonable grounds” to believe extrajudicial killings, rapes, and sexual violence were committed by ENDF members “as part of a widespread attack” directed against “the civilian population of Tigray.”

The accusations were part of a joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that was adopted by the federal government.

The federal government, on the other hand, blasted the commission’s report, adding that it had opposed its formation from the start. It described the report as “substandard quality” and its allegations as “unsubstantiated.”

“It makes grave accusations against the government and its armed forces without offering proof, just based on telephone conversations and web-based submissions. This is irresponsible,” Zenebe Kebede (Amb.), the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, told Federico Villegas, Human Rights Council president, at the Interactive Dialogue with the commission on September 22, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland.

As the commission was not allowed to go to the war-affected areas of northern Ethiopia to investigate by the federal government, all the 185 interviews with victims, survivors, witnesses, and other key interlocutors were conducted remotely, it said. Even the governments of Sudan and Djibouti haven’t granted the Commission access to interview Ethiopian refugees within their borders.

Authorities in Benishangul Gumuz Region are preparing a conflict recovery project that would need a 38.5 billion birr budget to be implemented. It is an initiative that arose as the security situation improving.

The plan is expected to be implemented in five years in three phases, with execution scheduled to begin next month.

The region’s sectoral bureaus will start adapting the plan and mobilizing resources based on their needs. The region is drafting a directive that will guide resource mobilization.

The required budget for the recovery plan is nearly six times the region’s 6.7 billion birr budget for the 2022/23 fiscal year.

“Non-governmental organizations and UN agencies have already expressed their interest in supporting the initiative,” Tarekegn Tasisa, the region’s disaster risk management commissioner, said.

The recovery and rehabilitation project, based on a study prepared by the region’s disaster risk management commission, will be implemented in the region’s 17 districts in the Metekel, Kamashi, and Asosa zones. The plan outlined a list of main activities that would be carried out in six sectors, including disaster risk management, agriculture and natural resources, health protection, and education.

The study for the plan was conducted using the regional government’s root-level apparatus. They have identified the extent of the damage, and the commission compiled it, according to the Tarekegn.

Besides the study carried out by the commission, another study is also being prepared led by Assosa University. The university’s study estimated that the region sustained 79.4 billion birr damage due to the conflicts in the past years.

The conflict has resulted in the loss of 16 million quintals of crop, valued at 44 billion birr, according to the study.

“The university’s study has already been presented to the regional government, but it’s not finalized yet. That’s why we are using what we studied. Ours is already ratified by the recovery steering committee,” the commissioner said.

Officials say the security situation in the region is improving now. The number of civilians killed in the past five months is at its lowest.

The region has been a place of horrific civilian killings and conflicts between government security forces and Gumuz rebels since 2019. While the Metekel and Kamashi zones are the main fighting grounds for the rebels, Metekel zone has seen killings targeted at ethnic Amharas.

Even though the region is rich in gold and coal mining resources, investors are not able to mine the reserves, especially in the Kamashi zone. The region ranked second in the country in terms of gold production, with artisans producing more than 90 percent of the region’s gold.

475,384 residents are displaced from their villages due to the insecurity in the region, of which 77,500 are children under the age of five, and 20,000 are breastfeeding mothers, according to the conflict impact assessment. The conflict is also a reason for the destruction of 43,640 houses.

The region, which has been witnessing conflict and the killing of innocent people in various places, saw 113,000 students are out of school due to instability. The destruction of schools has created a difficult situation for students to return to school. In the conflict-affected areas of the region, 201 schools were completely destroyed and 86 schools suffered partial damage.

The region’s 142 health facilities, including 126 health posts, have also sustained damage due to conflicts.

Benishangul Gumuz, which provides agricultural land to investors who engage in large scale farms, has had its 109 agricultural institutions’ warehouses looted and partially or completely destroyed.

The study showed that 291 farmer training institutes and 140 animal health facilities met the same fate.

The recovery and rehabilitation plan has prioritized the implementation of the return of internally displaced people and the rehabilitation of those people in their former homes in a sustainable manner. It also focuses on rebuilding social and economic institutions and providing the necessary equipment for the institutions.

The project need assessment showed that 38.5 billion birr will be needed to implement the plan in disaster risk management, agriculture and natural resources, health protection, education, water irrigation and energy resource development, women, children, and youth sectors, as well as peace building and security sectors.

“The cost of the recovery budget is so much higher than the region’s capacity. But we are planning to mobilize resources from diaspora communities that are from the region,” Tarekegn stated.

Funds from donors including the federal government and the World Bank recovery project are expected to be part of this project.

The Benishangul Gumuz region is one of the six regions, including Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, where rehabilitation project was launched by the federal government together with the World Bank this year. In May 2022, the bank signed a USD 300 million grant to assist the reconstruction, and the federal government has allocated 20 billion birr in the current fiscal year for reconstruction.

In areas that have security threats, the project will be implemented by a third party. The Ministry of Finance has delegated United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to implement the reconstruction in the Tigray region.

The Ministers of Health and Education studied the damage in all six regions and prepared a report detailing the cost of the five-year reconstruction project.

The Ministry of Education stated that USD 96.5 million is needed to recover from the damage to schools in the Benishangul Gumuz region, while the Ministry of Health stated that USD 22.35 million is needed to recover from the damage in the health sector of the region.

However, the question of equitable distribution of wealth is being raised in the reconstruction project of the federal government. The Boro Democratic Party, which shared power in the region’s government, blamed the federal government for not paying enough attention to reconstruction.

In a statement issued by the party a month ago, the party urged the federal government to pay attention and allocate resources to the replanting zone in the same way that attention and resources are allocated to the destruction and displacement of citizens in northern Ethiopia.

Yohannes Tesema, the party’s Political Sector head, believes the government is not giving enough attention to the recovery as much as it gives to the Amhara and Afar regions.

He claims that out of the USD 300 million granted by the World Bank, the amount of funds allocated for the Benishangul Gumuz region is small.

It says there is no military solution to this conflict

The US Department of State called on “Eritrea and others to cease fueling” the conflict in Ethiopia and urged Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Ethiopian borders. The department accused Eritrea of increasing tensions throughout the Horn of Africa region.

The US also called on “both the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray regional authorities to halt immediately their military offensives and pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks under the auspices of the African Union.”

At a press briefing on September 15, 2022, Ned Price, spokesperson of the US Department of State, stated that Ethiopia should look for a non-military solution to the conflict.

“We are increasingly concerned by the growing military activity in northern Ethiopia. We strongly condemn the resumption of hostilities. There is no military solution to this conflict. These actions are inconsistent with the government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan regional authorities’ stated willingness to go to talks,” Price said.

The US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, who is in Ethiopia over the week and canceled his expected press brief on Friday, is also advancing a similar position to secure a peaceful resolution to the third wave of war that resumed in Ethiopia on August 24, 2022.

The special envoy is reportedly making efforts to bring warring parties to the table, while Olusegun Obasanjo, the designated AU official to broker peace in Ethiopia, has been silent since the third wave of war broke out.

Both optimism and worry dominated the just-ended Ethiopian year. A year that began with aspirations for wider peace and stability in the nation ended with the resumption of another deadly conflict. In a war with no apparent end in sight, thousands of people are still dying in the highlands. The economy is still in a difficult situation after recovering a little in the last Ethiopian year, on the top of the stockpiled macroeconomic problems.

It was such a challenging year. In the last year, more than the year before, the effects of the one-year-old conflict was felt. This is especially true in terms of the economy. The cost of living remains high despite recent indications that inflation is slowing down nationwide.

“The government found it difficult to contain inflation and in the third quarter of the past fiscal year started to slow down the pace of depreciation of the national currency. Maybe this contributed to stabilize the inflation rate somewhat but it may also have contributed to foreign exchange shortage in the economy,” Patrick Heinisch, an economist said.

Some conflict-affected areas are experiencing a more than 1000 percent increase in commodity prices as a result of severe supply shortages. It is still a problem in the country’s north, particularly in Agew Zone, Tigray Region, and parts of Afar Region.

“Up until the resumption of the war, I was sending money to my family living in Tigray, paying 30 birr for every 100 birr I transfer,” said Kirubel, whose last name is withheld for security reasons. “For obvious reason, this is not something normal in a country with a sound economic condition.”

Kirbuel’s story is actually the tip of the iceberg. Just two months after the previous Ethiopian year began, Ahmed Shide, the Minister of Finance, was among the first to voice concerns about the status of the economy. In the same broadcasted speech on the state broadcaster in November 2021, his comrade Yinager Dessie, the governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), did not conceal the fact that the economy was poised to collapse because of the war.

It didn’t take long for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to react. While also paving the way for a negotiated settlement with the warring party in the North, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which the Parliament designated as a terrorist organization, his administration declared a humanitarian truce. Humanitarian organizations had relatively easier access to provide food supplies to people in the war-torn region.

First, some progress was made in the effort to bring about peace. The economy showed signs of improvement, and the IMF, which had previously included Ethiopia on its list of nations with unpredictable and unstable economies, predicted that it would rebound. Soon after the ceasefire in North Ethiopia, the other Bretton Woods organization, the World Bank, similarly predicted Ethiopia’s economy would revive.

Though such encouraging developments helped the government rebuild its ties with the West and western financial institutions, they did little to prevent the country’s fundamental problem—the shortage of foreign currency. From approximately USD two billion to barely USD 290.7 million in loans, development partners and lenders cut their commitments.

The net inflow of external debt was negative USD 551 million, indicating that the amount of creditor loans disbursed was less than the principal amount of debt the government was servicing.

Businesses have also faced a financial crisis due to the forex shortage, a situation that has plagued them for decades, though some found last year to be their most difficult ever.

More than any other businesses, those involved in the water bottling industry felt the pinch. Twenty water bottlers had to shut down because they were no longer able to run their businesses due to a lack of inputs, and they had even reached a point where they were unable to pay their employees’ salaries.

Overall, access to foreign currency remains challenging for businesses. At the end of 2021, foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 1.6 billion, or 1.3 months’ worth of imports of goods and services.

The authorities tightened foreign exchange regulations numerous times over the previous fiscal year in response to the shortage, upping the percentage of foreign exchange companies’ must surrendered to the government (central bank) to 70 percent. Even exporters had to deal with the shortage because the restriction prevented them from using more than 20 percent of the foreign exchange they had earned.

Another major economic burden that persisted in the country last year was the widening budget deficit, made worse by the war in the North, which increased spending for military. The budget deficit widened and is now expected to exceed 300 billion birr this year, which is more than twice what it was in the just-ended fiscal year. These difficulties compelled the government to take desperate decisions, such as freezing loans or introducing new taxes, in an effort to increase revenue and narrow the mounting deficit.

However, not every problem can be solved.

For many workers in industrial parks, the suspension of Ethiopia from the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade benefit granted by the US to developing countries so they may export their goods without paying an import duty, has been a bad news.

Due to significant layoffs brought on by the suspension, more than five factories have left the park, and over 5,000 workers have lost their jobs as a result.

“The year has been tough for all workers in Ethiopia. From the inflationary pressure to the war that has made many jobless, they have been in a pickle. Some had to live in poverty since their salary is not enough to cover expenses,” said Kasahun Follo, president of Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU), urging employers to consider the challenges and make adjustments in the coming New Year.

Although the amount of jobs created by industrial parks is relatively low compared to the agricultural sector, the country had planned to industrialize. For Heinisch, these efforts are now being thwarted.

“Worryingly, since 2019 the share of the industrial sector in GDP has actually decreased. The trend is likely to have continued in the past fiscal year,” he said.

Despite the difficulties last year, industries did well.

The export of industrial items reached a record-high USD 500 million in exports during the previous fiscal year. However, this is negligible in light of the development in the coffee industry, which generated USD 1.4 billion in revenue during the previous fiscal year. It is a success that has helped officials to record the nation’s record-high exports revenue, which exceeded the USD four billion mark during the previous fiscal year.

Despite some progresses, however, the overall economic condition seems to be in worst shape, according to economists.

“We have undertaken a study and discovered that the economy is not in a stable condition, which is indicated by the unpredictability of the exchange market, the fiscal policy and the forex market, adding to global-wide problems,” said Tewodros Mekonnen (PhD), an economist and a policy analyst.

Another economist, Mengistu Ketema (Prof.), also believes the economy had not been in a good condition last year.

“Inflation was growing, above 30 percent throughout the year. External debt are maturing, thus forcing the country to allocate more budget for debt servicing. The drought in the south also worsened the already tense situation. And when you add all these to the global economic challenges, including the war in Ukraine, it indicates the economy is between a rock and a hard place,” Mengistu said.

For Heinisch, who believes Ethiopia did not experience a “post-COVID” recovery in 2021/2022 as many other countries did, the outlook is more benign, assuming that the war that has broken out again will come to an end quickly and the country can focus on its economic reforms again. “Debt restructuring could free up resources that the country needs for reconstruction but also new investment projects. So there is still reason for hope,” Heinisch concluded.

Both optimism and worry dominated the just-ended Ethiopian year. A year that began with aspirations for wider peace and stability in the nation ended with the resumption of another deadly conflict. In a war with no apparent end in sight, thousands of people are still dying in the highlands. The economy is still in a difficult situation after recovering a little in the last Ethiopian year, on the top of the stockpiled macroeconomic problems.

It was such a challenging year. In the last year, more than the year before, the effects of the one-year-old conflict was felt. This is especially true in terms of the economy. The cost of living remains high despite recent indications that inflation is slowing down nationwide.

“The government found it difficult to contain inflation and in the third quarter of the past fiscal year started to slow down the pace of depreciation of the national currency. Maybe this contributed to stabilize the inflation rate somewhat but it may also have contributed to foreign exchange shortage in the economy,” Patrick Heinisch, an economist said.

Some conflict-affected areas are experiencing a more than 1000 percent increase in commodity prices as a result of severe supply shortages. It is still a problem in the country’s north, particularly in Agew Zone, Tigray Region, and parts of Afar Region.

“Up until the resumption of the war, I was sending money to my family living in Tigray, paying 30 birr for every 100 birr I transfer,” said Kirubel, whose last name is withheld for security reasons. “For obvious reason, this is not something normal in a country with a sound economic condition.”

Kirbuel’s story is actually the tip of the iceberg. Just two months after the previous Ethiopian year began, Ahmed Shide, the Minister of Finance, was among the first to voice concerns about the status of the economy. In the same broadcasted speech on the state broadcaster in November 2021, his comrade Yinager Dessie, the governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), did not conceal the fact that the economy was poised to collapse because of the war.

It didn’t take long for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to react. While also paving the way for a negotiated settlement with the warring party in the North, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which the Parliament designated as a terrorist organization, his administration declared a humanitarian truce. Humanitarian organizations had relatively easier access to provide food supplies to people in the war-torn region.

First, some progress was made in the effort to bring about peace. The economy showed signs of improvement, and the IMF, which had previously included Ethiopia on its list of nations with unpredictable and unstable economies, predicted that it would rebound. Soon after the ceasefire in North Ethiopia, the other Bretton Woods organization, the World Bank, similarly predicted Ethiopia’s economy would revive.

Though such encouraging developments helped the government rebuild its ties with the West and western financial institutions, they did little to prevent the country’s fundamental problem—the shortage of foreign currency. From approximately USD two billion to barely USD 290.7 million in loans, development partners and lenders cut their commitments.

The net inflow of external debt was negative USD 551 million, indicating that the amount of creditor loans disbursed was less than the principal amount of debt the government was servicing.

Businesses have also faced a financial crisis due to the forex shortage, a situation that has plagued them for decades, though some found last year to be their most difficult ever.

More than any other businesses, those involved in the water bottling industry felt the pinch. Twenty water bottlers had to shut down because they were no longer able to run their businesses due to a lack of inputs, and they had even reached a point where they were unable to pay their employees’ salaries.

Overall, access to foreign currency remains challenging for businesses. At the end of 2021, foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 1.6 billion, or 1.3 months’ worth of imports of goods and services.

The authorities tightened foreign exchange regulations numerous times over the previous fiscal year in response to the shortage, upping the percentage of foreign exchange companies’ must surrendered to the government (central bank) to 70 percent. Even exporters had to deal with the shortage because the restriction prevented them from using more than 20 percent of the foreign exchange they had earned.

Another major economic burden that persisted in the country last year was the widening budget deficit, made worse by the war in the North, which increased spending for military. The budget deficit widened and is now expected to exceed 300 billion birr this year, which is more than twice what it was in the just-ended fiscal year. These difficulties compelled the government to take desperate decisions, such as freezing loans or introducing new taxes, in an effort to increase revenue and narrow the mounting deficit.

However, not every problem can be solved.

For many workers in industrial parks, the suspension of Ethiopia from the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade benefit granted by the US to developing countries so they may export their goods without paying an import duty, has been a bad news.

Due to significant layoffs brought on by the suspension, more than five factories have left the park, and over 5,000 workers have lost their jobs as a result.

“The year has been tough for all workers in Ethiopia. From the inflationary pressure to the war that has made many jobless, they have been in a pickle. Some had to live in poverty since their salary is not enough to cover expenses,” said Kasahun Follo, president of Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU), urging employers to consider the challenges and make adjustments in the coming New Year.

Although the amount of jobs created by industrial parks is relatively low compared to the agricultural sector, the country had planned to industrialize. For Heinisch, these efforts are now being thwarted.

“Worryingly, since 2019 the share of the industrial sector in GDP has actually decreased. The trend is likely to have continued in the past fiscal year,” he said.

Despite the difficulties last year, industries did well.

The export of industrial items reached a record-high USD 500 million in exports during the previous fiscal year. However, this is negligible in light of the development in the coffee industry, which generated USD 1.4 billion in revenue during the previous fiscal year. It is a success that has helped officials to record the nation’s record-high exports revenue, which exceeded the USD four billion mark during the previous fiscal year.

Despite some progresses, however, the overall economic condition seems to be in worst shape, according to economists.

“We have undertaken a study and discovered that the economy is not in a stable condition, which is indicated by the unpredictability of the exchange market, the fiscal policy and the forex market, adding to global-wide problems,” said Tewodros Mekonnen (PhD), an economist and a policy analyst.

Another economist, Mengistu Ketema (Prof.), also believes the economy had not been in a good condition last year.

“Inflation was growing, above 30 percent throughout the year. External debt are maturing, thus forcing the country to allocate more budget for debt servicing. The drought in the south also worsened the already tense situation. And when you add all these to the global economic challenges, including the war in Ukraine, it indicates the economy is between a rock and a hard place,” Mengistu said.

For Heinisch, who believes Ethiopia did not experience a “post-COVID” recovery in 2021/2022 as many other countries did, the outlook is more benign, assuming that the war that has broken out again will come to an end quickly and the country can focus on its economic reforms again. “Debt restructuring could free up resources that the country needs for reconstruction but also new investment projects. So there is still reason for hope,” Heinisch concluded.

The envoy is wrapping up two weeks in the Horn region.

“He remained actively engaged with the Government of Ethiopia, with the Tigray regional authorities, with the African Union, and with international partners to seek to advance an important effort to bring peace. He met on September 12 with the AU’s high representative, Obasanjo,” stated Price.

On September 16, 2022, the US embassy in Addis Ababa also stated that Hammer held productive meetings with Ethiopian government officials, civil society representatives, the African Union, and international partners.

Moussa Faki, the AUC chairperson, who extended Obasanjo’s mandate on September 10, 2022 to continue engaging with warring parties in Ethiopia, also met with Hammer on the next day. On the other hand, the UN Security Council, which was set to discuss the situation in Ethiopia, was postponed.

The five months of ceasefire and humanitarian assistance to Tigray were shattered when the third wave of war broke out on August 24, 2022. The ongoing peace initiative under the AU umbrella hit a deadlock, which the special envoy is trying to reactivate.

The Tigray regional government, which has been refuting AU-led peace negotiations prior to the latest war, also issued a statement on September 11, 2022, agreeing to negotiate under the AU umbrella.

Nonetheless, reaching a ceasefire agreement and resuming the peace talks remains farfetched, worsening the humanitarian crisis, as Eritrean forces are reportedly drawn into the war and regionalizing the conflict.

“These actions are worsening the humanitarian situation at a time of pronounced drought and food insecurity,” stated Price.

He called on the government of Ethiopia, Tigrayan authorities, and all parties to allow the unhindered delivery of humanitarian relief.

“Humanitarian assistance should not be used for military purposes—it should be used to save lives. And we urge the parties to cease the fighting and to begin talks under the auspices of the AU as soon as possible. Peace needs to be given a chance. Too many people have died, and too many more are suffering,” he added.

“Our region doesn’t have the capacity to mobilize this amount of budget for the recovery. It definitely needs the federal government’s support more than this,” he asserted.

The commission’s requests to various UN entities operating in Ethiopia to share documents and materials of interest were largely deflected, or responded to after an inordinate delay. Its request to access the internal database of the joint investigation team was also delayed.

“Despite these challenges, the Commission is confident that its findings are supported by information that satisfies the standard of proof for UN investigations,” the report reads.

The commission’s recommendation, which asks the UN Security Council (UNSC) to include the war in northern Ethiopia on its agenda for the 14th time since December 2020, worries the Ethiopian government more than the report’s findings and conclusions do.

In order to stop further violations and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian laws, it also calls on the council to take action targeted at restoring peace, stability, and security in the area. During a session held this week, officials of the federal government have already expressed their resentment at the recommendation of the commission.

“The Commission’s political pronouncements referring to the UN Security Council are ultra-virulent and betray political motivations that go beyond human rights,” Zenebe said.

It is a sentiment shared by countries that are members of the Human Rights Council.

“The Commission went beyond its mandate and made a statement on things that were not in its remit,” said Konan François, a representative of Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of a group of African States.

Wondemagegn Tadesse (PhD), an international human rights lecturer at Addis Ababa University, believes there are three options in which the UN Human Rights Council can decide to approve the commission’s report and recommendations. The first option is to end the matter within the council itself.

“In this case, there will be nothing more to do than call on the warring parties in the country to implement these recommendations,” Wondemagegn explained.

The second option is to refer the matter to the UN General Assembly. “However, since the assembly gathers over a long period of time, it may not have a big impact on Ethiopia,” he added.

Apart from that, even if it is presented to the General Assembly, its voting system does not have veto power, so there is a high possibility that it will not be approved. A large number of developing countries at the General Assembly will not vote in favor of the resolution as they consider such decisions as interference, according to Wondemagegn. Moreover, experience so far shows that if the country in which the decision is made does not accept the decision, the chances of its implementation are low.

However, if issues are referred to the UNSC, the third option may take a different path than the two options.

“The Security Council is the only institution that has the power to take military action among the UN institutions, but as we always see, the proposal to the Council is overturned by the veto power, so it does not make a difference,” Wendmagegn asserted.

In the past two years, the council has not passed any decisions on Ethiopia. The war in northern Ethiopia and the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have been on the agenda tabled before its members for discussion. When a resolution was proposed, China and Russia, who have veto power, supported Ethiopia.

For Wondemagegn, even if the Security Council passes a resolution, it is difficult to implement it. If the Council decides to send troops to stop human rights abuses, there may not be many countries to contribute troops to a country as large as Ethiopia.

“Even if countries contribute soldiers and send them to Ethiopia, they will have to fight a war with Ethiopia because the Ethiopian government will not accept the decision. No one wants this,” he said.

Another human rights expert, who asked not to be named, explained that even if the UN Human Rights Council does not pass any decision as a result of this report, countries that want to take unilateral action can use it as a cause for their measures.

“Those like the US and the EU may use the report to suspend loans and impose sanctions,” the expert said, adding, “but this would only hurt the people affected by the war more.”

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission also agrees with this idea.

“Decisions should be made to reward the people affected by the war and bring reconciliation, not where parties with differences of opinion are dragged into a corner,” said the Deputy Chief Commissioner for Human Rights, Rakeb Melesel, while underscoring that EHRC is ready to share its database if the Commission is willing to undertake another investigation.

The Ethiopian government is exerting pressure to block any attempts by the Commission to extend its mandate. “The Council should reject the report and oppose any attempt to extend the mandate of this Commission beyond December 2022,” the government emphasized.

Farmers reject the much-anticipated Bt cotton.

Cotton growers in Ethiopia resort to unauthorized GMO cotton illegally smuggled from Sudan. Bt-RR cotton seed is currently being cultivated in Afar, Metema, Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regions after being smuggled via Metema, Humera and other border areas between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Once the first generation of open-pollinated (OT) is acquired, it can be sown for between three and five years, after which the seed cannot be recycled. Ethiopian cotton farmers are currently buying the smuggled cotton seeds and multiplying them locally at 10,000 birr to 13,000 birr per quintal.

Bt-RR originated in Brazil, and was largely cultivated in Sudan. Most other GM cotton seeds are non-OT, which means they cannot be used after the first year. As a result, the farmer has to buy the seed every year.

The cotton farmersThe Reportertalked to underlined that the smuggled cotton seed is preferred mainly because it resists bollworm, which has been devastating the existing local cotton breeds. This is because a one-time chemical spray on the vegetation is also highly effective in eliminating all weeds except the cotton itself.

The productivity of the Bt-RR is between 10 and 14 quintals per hectare, slightly superior to the local varieties. But the Bt-RR is advantageous mainly because it beats the bollworm, and requires less pesticide.

“A number of farmers are now multiplying the Bt-RR seed and selling it to cotton farmers across the country. The farmer liked the seed, instead of the local existing varieties and the GM cotton approved by the government,” said a manager of a large-scale cotton farming company. He cultivated the new seed on 200 hectares in Amhara regional state.

Melkamu Telake, board chair of the Ethiopian Cotton Producers, Ginners, and Exporters Association, says farmers are resorting to smuggled seed as access to other cotton seeds depletes. “The government failed to provide the type of seed preferred by the farmer.”

After the Parliament legislated the GMO proclamation in 2015, the Biosafety and Invasive Alien Species Follow-up and Control directorate at the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and EIAR commercialized Bt cotton for the first time in 2019.

However, a number of commercial cotton farmers in Gambella have tried Bt cotton and lost interest after the first year. The first reason was that the authorized Bt cotton could not effectively resist the bollworm.

The other major reason was that the authorized Bt cotton, which is imported from India, is expensive costing USD 28 per kilo. As a result, the EIAR picked Indian-based JK Agri Genetics Ltd. to open a subsidiary company in Ethiopia and multiply the seeds in Ethiopia to avoid the forex problem required to import the seeds annually. However, this plan also bore no fruit, as the Ethiopian farmers rejected the authorized Bt cotton.

“All the cotton farmers in Ethiopia are boycotting the authorized Bt cotton. It did not effectively resist the bollworm. It necessitates the repeated application of insecticides and pesticides. We have to buy the seeds every year at an expensive price. Plus, our farmers lack the technology required to cultivate the authorized Bt cotton with the right agronomical practices. So the farmers are resorting to the smuggled variety, instead,” said Melkamu.

Mesele Mekuria, Cotton Development Director at the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Center, also said the authorized Bt cotton did not work.

The productivity of existing cotton seeds in Ethiopia, which are Ggedera and DP90, dropped, especially after the varieties were in use for over 30 years and were unable to resist diseases. Currently, rain-based farming of traditional seeds offer anywhere between eight quintals and 28 quintals per hectare.

However, if irrigation is coupled with precise agronomical practice, the local seeds can offer between 45 quintal and 54 quintals per hectare, according to Melkamu.

“Big cotton farmers like Lucy in Afar, and other farmers in Arbaminch have achieved this level of productivity. But there are certain interest groups who are trying to enforce certain Bt cotton on Ethiopia. We need GMO cotton only after we achieve maximum productivity with the existing local varieties,” Melkamu said.

These interest groups, according to him, do not want the local varieties. “Global GMO patent holders are behind these interest groups. Once we start using such GMO varieties, we will be their slaves because the existing local varieties will be ousted in five years and we have to buy their seed every year.”

Yet, other cotton farmers argue that the EIAR has to take samples of the Bt-RR that are smuggled from Sudan, study them, and approve them for Ethiopian farmers.

The meager productivity of local cotton farming has been the Achilles heel for Ethiopia’s aspirations to become the manufacturing hub of Africa, mainly capitalizing on textiles, garments, and apparel.

Damage to health and education infrastructure in six regions of Ethiopia resulting from conflicts need a USD 3.6 billion recovery budget, according to a new Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan document released by the Ministries of Health and Education.

The ministries outlined an intervention plan for the five-year rehabilitation project that will be implemented in three phases. The recovery intervention plan is part of the “Response – Recovery – Resilience” project launched by the Ministry of Finance in March 2022.

The ministries assessed the damage that occurred in Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, and Konso zones of the Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regions. The assessment and recovery plan were prepared by the government, with a technical assistance from the World Bank.

Education suffered the most harm. According to the recovery plan, the sector requires USD 2.2 billion to recoup lost learning and rebuild destroyed facilities.

The Ministry of Health’s plan proposed a USD 1.4 billion intervention.

As the assessment shows, the conflict destroyed 2,681 schools completely and another 4,158 schools partially in these regions. 38 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions and three universities have also sustained varying levels of damage. The number of destroyed TVETs and universities in the Tigray region is not included due to a lack of data.

This destruction of the education sector has affected more than 4.2 million learners and close to 200,000 teachers and education staff, the report reads.

The number of people affected by the damage to the health sector is estimated to be close to 24 million people. The people in conflict-affected area have been “adversely impacted.”

The assessment showed that 3,217 health posts, 709 health centers, and 76 hospitals were partially or completely damaged in the six conflict-affected regions.

Among the six regions that were affected, the Amhara region suffered the most damage to the sectors. Out of the 3,217 health facilities that sustained damage, 69 percent of them are found in the Amhara region. Furthermore, out of 248 ambulances that were damaged or looted, 50 percent were in the region.

The region’s 4,020 schools have also been destroyed, accounting for 58.7 percent of the total damage across all six areas.

However, given the region’s penetration of health institutions, the damage to health facilities in Tigray is substantially greater. 82.9 percent of the region’s hospitals have been damaged. The same fate has befallen Tigray’s 76 percent of health posts and 50 percent of health centers.

In the health sector, out of the overall estimated recovery cost, USD 1.4 billion, the largest share, USD 501.19 million, is for health centers. General and specialized hospitals follow at a cost of USD 342.54 million.

In the education sector, USD 1.36 billion is planned to recover damaged primary and secondary schools in the six regions.

The recovery and reconstruction program will be implemented for five years in three phases, according to the documents prepared by the ministries. The program’s early recovery phase needs will be met within the first six months. Short-term demands range from six to 24 months, whereas medium-term needs range from three to five years.

According to the ministry’s Stakeholder Engagement Plan document, the implementation of the program will be led by a Federal Project Coordination Unit (FPCU) in the Ministry of Finance. Various sectoral ministries and other mandated offices are responsible for the implementation of the program.

In the Tigray region, where the ministries have no access, the recovery project is planned to be implemented by a third party. The Ministry of Finance signed a third-party implementation agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) last month.

The World Bank granted USD 300 million in May for the implementation of this project. While the government, which has just begun its fiscal year, has allocated 20 billion birr.

Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) time as Ethiopia’s prime minister is not without difficulties. He even called himself “a Prime Minister with no time to even undergo a medical checkup” in front of lawmakers. Since taking over after Hailemariam Desalegn’s departure, Abiy has ruled a nation that has been plagued by economic distress, political unrest, and even a civil war that has lasted for more than a year. On top of the never-ending problems he dealt with, with most of the incidents occurring in the northern part of the country, there was another heavy task that challenged his leadership. Thatis the statehood question brought by ethnic groups living in the south.

A few months after taking office, Abiy was inundated with requests from the leaders of more than a dozen zones and woredas, placing pressure on his government to help them realize their desire for a regional state. Participation in the endeavor to achieve statehood recognition ranged from low-level bureaucrats to zonal leaders and officials in the federal government. Ten zones filed a resolution with the House of Federation (HoF) adopted by their separate councils to hold a referendum on statehood. Abiy was aware right away how urgent it was to fulfill the regions’ desire.

Soon after taking office, Abiy traveled to almost all of the South Region’s ethnically divided zones. It was an attempt to win political support as he rushed to replace the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) at the time and establish the ruling Prosperity Party. But his administration’s stance on their desire for statehood was the main topic that dominated the debates at the zones. He promised to respond to their request, which by all legal criteria is legitimate.

However, it was easier said than done to keep the pledge. Sidama was the first regional state to be established following a referendum, with 98 percent of voters supporting the establishment of a new regional state. But civilians paid a price for the government’s efforts to push through Sidama’s desire for statehood, as enraged protesters set fire to the homes of many Hawassa inhabitants and forcibly evicted many others.

In particular, ethnic Amharas were targeted in all incidents involving statehood questions across the South Region. The Attorney General recently released a report that the homes of ethnic Amharas were burned to ashes, which led to the arrest of dozens of people on suspicion of being involved in the violence.

It appears the government understood the consequences of ignoring statehood questions were brought by Ethiopians to the south. Abiy formed a team of experts and high-level government officials two years ago to launch a study on the issue after realizing the consequences of disregarding statehood requests.

The team sent out three recommendations. The first option is to maintain the South Nation, Nationalities and People’s Regional State in its present configuration while making changes to the region’s appropriate number of political seats. The second suggestion was to establish the Sidama region while keeping other ethnic groups as members of the SNNPR. The third involved splitting the region into five, clustering the ethnic groups together.

The third alternative seems to be what the federal administration chose after the first two became unworkable due to rising animosity among ethnic group elites in South Ethiopia.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but caution should be exercised to avoid making the same mistake as SNNPR, which is now being dismantled due to growing resentment over resource sharing, political participation, and infrastructure development,” said Keyredin Tezera, assistant professor of Social Anthropology who participated in the study carried out at the request of the federal government.

Following Sidama’s victory for independence from the SNNPR, Kaffa, Sheka, Bench Sheko, Dawuro, and West Omo Zones, as well as the Konta Special District, joined to form the South West Region through a referendum. The local council members of five special Woredas – Amaro, Ale, Basketo, Burji, and Derashe – as well as the Konso, Gedeo, Gamo, Gofa, South Omo, and Wolayta zones voted last week to restructure their administrative units into a newly established regional state.

In a similar fashion, members of the Hadiya, Halaba, Kembata Tmbaro, Silte, and Yem Special Woreda local councils have begun the process of creating a new regional state. However, activists and political organizations active in the zones contested the action.

The Gurghe people, with whom the federal government wants to construct a cluster along with Hadiya, Silte, Kembata, Silte, and Yem, are among those who have objected to the concept of forming regions in clusters. The Guraghe zone has a population of approximately six million people and a land area of approximately 5932 sq.km. Its council was one of the zones that submitted a request to hold a vote on becoming a separate region.

Social activist, Misbah Kedir, is one of the ethnic Guraghes who have contested the federal government’s proposal to partition SNNPR into five cluster areas. He thinks it is wrong for the central government to “forcefully” incorporate the Guraghe Zone into the cluster.

“In addition to Guraghes, other zones that had voted to create a cluster region had also supported the motion after receiving an order from the federal government,” said Misbah.

Wolayita’s opposition wants to be heard too.

“First and foremost, the council, whether in Wolayita or other zones, does not have the power to accept such a resolution on behalf of the people because their term period ended almost seven years ago. Second, this is something that the cadres, not the people, want,” said Amanuel Mogiso, leader of the opposition Wolayita National Movement, which is active in Wolayita Zone.

Amanuel exhorts the federal government to pay attention to what the people want, comparing the situation to sitting on a ticking time bomb. “The Wolayita people have peacefully expressed a desire for their own territory. They need to be heard,” he added.

The politician urges the federal government to avoid meddling and let ethnic communities in SNNPR, including Wolayita, exercise their constitutional rights. “To reject their right to have their own regional state is unlawful,” Amanuel continued.

Jember Abdo, a legal expert, agrees.

“The state is turning into an enabler of violence. In the case of Guraghe, this is what I saw. The people exercised their right to form a region but the federal government’s response was to militarize their hometown,” Jember said urging the federal government to uphold the constitution.

There are economic reasons driving the pursuit of statehood.

“In order to obtain a permit from SNNPR officials, farmers and businessmen must travel hundreds of kilometers from distant areas in the Guraghe zone to Hawassa. And after the cluster region is established, they might be required to follow suit in order to obtain a permit from Hossana, which will likely serve as the cluster region’s capital city,” Misbah said.

Amanuel is worried too.

“The political structure is to blame for the underdevelopment of zones. When you have a significant budget and tax in a region, it is not the same,” Amanuel concluded.

Regardless of the final outcome of the campaign to achieve statehood for Ethiopians in the South, there are still many unknowns about the future of the region, which will depend on the government’s decision on how to manage the grievances of the ethnic groups it intends to organize into a cluster region.

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, affirmed that his country is in favor of giving Africa a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The Foreign Minister also concurred with Ethiopian officials that the Security Council should undergo reform in a bid to take into account the current state of the world.

Lavrov arrived in Addis Ababa on July 26, 2022 for a two-day trip, where he met President Sahlework Zewde; Demeke Mekonen, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and other high officials. Lavrov also traveled to Egypt, Congo, and Uganda, before wrapping up his Africa trip by conferring with the diplomatic community at the AU headquarters.

“Ethiopia and Russia share similar stances on issues on the global and regional agenda. These approaches rely on adherence to international law, particularly the tenets of the UN charter and the respect for the sovereign rights of states,” said Lavrov.

During the 35thordinary session of the AU summit in February 2022, PM Abiy Ahmed (PhD) exceptionally raised the urgent topic of reforming the UN and securing a permanent seat for Africa in the UNSC.

As a result, the AU passed a resolution that requests “full representation of Africa in the United Nations Security Council, including not less than two permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership, including the right of veto.

The AU also proceeded to request the Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government to continue to intensify its engagement at the highest level with other interestedand regional groups and key stakeholders, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with a view to building on progress made in advancing, canvassing and promoting the Common African Position.

The AU’s quest for reform of the UN began in 2005 when African states approved the Ezulwini consensus and Sirte Declaration on the Reform of United Nations Security Council.

In 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, told the UN General Assembly, “The exclusion of Africa from the permanent member category of the Security Council can no longer be justified.We urge the UN to quicken the pace of its reforms. Not only to better reflect the current global realities but also to ensure that it enjoys genuine legitimacy.”

Africa does not have a proportional representation in the global body.However, the consideration has become critical, as Africa is frequently impacted by decisions over which it has no say.

In particular, both Ethiopia and Russia have been haunted by the UNSC particularly since last year. In the past year, the UNSC discussed sanctioning Ethiopia in relation to human rights violations in the Tigray war. However, the considerations were vetoed by Russia and China. Ethiopia also paid back by refraining from voting, when the UNSC introduced emergency voting in March 2022 to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Demeke appreciated Russia’s “unwavering support during difficult times of need, particularly in the recent struggle to safeguard Ethiopia’s sovereignty.’

The major purpose of Lavrov’s trip to Africa, amidst a propaganda war with the west, is also to secure Africa’s support in similar UN voting scenarios in the future.

Gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council will position Africa as a balancing force between the power struggles of the east and west, as well as the rapidly changing global geopolitics. However, reforming the western-dominated organization might not be easy, according to scholars. But once the UN begins processing the AU’s request, Russia and China can play a decisive role in making Africa earn its place in the UN structure.

Over 60,000 foreigners have registered so far

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged foreigners with expired visas and resident permits to get registered in 125 selected areas of registration established for this purpose.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ministry Spokesperson Meles Alem (Ambassador) has urged all foreign nationals living in Ethiopia without proper documents to be registered immediately before authorities start to take legal action as per the international law Ethiopia has signed.

Foreigners without any visa or residence permit, as well as refugees or asylum seekers requesting status and residing in Addis Ababa and its vicinities with or without an urban refugee permit, are also requested to register as of July 25, 2022.

According to Meles, within the last five days of the official announcement for registration, over 60,000 people have registered from countries including Canada, America, Eritrea, Congo, Italy, Syria, China, Turkey, Ghana, Burundi, Liberia, India, Bangladesh, South Sudan, and other countries.

The first phase of registration sites is installed in Addis Ababa and some Oromia administrative zones, and the second round of registration will be opened soon in regional states and the Dire Dawa City administration, the spokesperson told the reporter.

Registration is conducted under the auspices of the Immigration and Citizenship Service, through the Vital Events Registration Offices of all Woredas and the Immigration and Citizenship Service, as per its mandate given by a proclamation to register and administer legal permits for foreign nationals living in Ethiopia.

“We have started this to make sure that immigration work is proceeding as per the legal procedures,” said Meles (Ambassador), adding that there is no further intention of expelling or any other form of stunt.

The spokesperson has further called on foreigners to take advantage of this chance before officials start to take legal measures against those who failed to register as per the rule. However, the formal registration process will not be applied to the diplomatic community.

Over 180,000 foreigners are expected to be registered in Addis Ababa, Meles added.

In a similar presser, the spokesperson announced the cancellation of 162 million US dollars of rolling debt by the Russian government, which Ethiopia has borrowed since the Soviet Union period. According to Meles, Russia has changed the modality from debt to a development grant for purposes of modernizing the Melka Wakana Hydroelectric Power Station and upgrading Balcha Hospital’s technical capabilities.

Over 60,000 foreigners have registered so far

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged foreigners with expired visas and resident permits to get registered in 125 selected areas of registration established for this purpose.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ministry Spokesperson Meles Alem (Ambassador) has urged all foreign nationals living in Ethiopia without proper documents to be registered immediately before authorities start to take legal action as per the international law Ethiopia has signed.

Foreigners without any visa or residence permit, as well as refugees or asylum seekers requesting status and residing in Addis Ababa and its vicinities with or without an urban refugee permit, are also requested to register as of July 25, 2022.

According to Meles, within the last five days of the official announcement for registration, over 60,000 people have registered from countries including Canada, America, Eritrea, Congo, Italy, Syria, China, Turkey, Ghana, Burundi, Liberia, India, Bangladesh, South Sudan, and other countries.

The first phase of registration sites is installed in Addis Ababa and some Oromia administrative zones, and the second round of registration will be opened soon in regional states and the Dire Dawa City administration, the spokesperson told the reporter.

Registration is conducted under the auspices of the Immigration and Citizenship Service, through the Vital Events Registration Offices of all Woredas and the Immigration and Citizenship Service, as per its mandate given by a proclamation to register and administer legal permits for foreign nationals living in Ethiopia.

“We have started this to make sure that immigration work is proceeding as per the legal procedures,” said Meles (Ambassador), adding that there is no further intention of expelling or any other form of stunt.

The spokesperson has further called on foreigners to take advantage of this chance before officials start to take legal measures against those who failed to register as per the rule. However, the formal registration process will not be applied to the diplomatic community.

Over 180,000 foreigners are expected to be registered in Addis Ababa, Meles added.

In a similar presser, the spokesperson announced the cancellation of 162 million US dollars of rolling debt by the Russian government, which Ethiopia has borrowed since the Soviet Union period. According to Meles, Russia has changed the modality from debt to a development grant for purposes of modernizing the Melka Wakana Hydroelectric Power Station and upgrading Balcha Hospital’s technical capabilities.

Special Forces of Somali regional state and a coalition of other regional and federal security forces have conducted an all-out counter attack to purge Al-shabab fighters that entered Ethiopia’s borders on Friday. The regional government deployed hundreds of Special Forces to conduct the operation.

“A number of Al-shabab fighters entered the Ethiopian border, after they conducted an attack at a time nobody expected. They first engaged with Somali Special Forces. And heavy casualties occurred on both sides. But we are clearing them out,” said an official in the regional government, who spoke toThe Reporterrequesting to remain anonymity since the federal government is also involved and information is to be disseminated from the center.

“We have also captured their fighters, and the operation will continue until they are cleared out from the area,” added the official.

The terror group first attacked two border towns in Somalia’s side on July 20, 2022, on the same day Somali regional state officials convened to evaluate its security forces performance.

After the first clash at Yeed and Aato towns in Ethio-Somalia border, the militants reportedly killed twenty Ethiopian forces including three civilians. The group lost 63 of its own.

The al-Qaeda linked group tried to enter Ethiopia through Afder zone in southern part of Somali region.

Apart from a strong presence by Ethiopian forces in the border areas, Ethiopia also deployed close to 4,000 troops in Somalia under the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), a reconfigured version of the former AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Ethiopian troops maintain a stronghold in Baidowa.

However insiders question why Al-shabab is attacking Ethiopia at this moment.

“The attack is intended to divert the attention of Ethiopia. Al-shabab is conducting the attacks in coordination with the TPLF and other insurgents in Ethiopia,” said a security expert who focuses on Al-shabab.

Other insiders also link the rising Al-shabab attacks with the instability in Ethiopia. The restructuring of AMISOM and controversies shadowing the continuity of ATMIS, is also contributing to Al-shabab’s resurrection.

Over the past few months, Al-shabab’s attacks have evolved from suicide bombings to attacking military bases in Somalia, including an AU military base. Experts stress that the group is gaining momentum as Horn of Africa countries are occupied with domestic conflicts and the EU, the largest financer of AMISOM/ATMIS, is backtracking.

A few weeks ago, the newly elected Somalia President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said negotiations should be considered with Al-shabab, a rare gesture, which is becoming almost a shadow state.

However, the militant group in a statement said it fights to establish an Islamic state in the Horn.

In a continued conflict in West Wollega Zone, over 1,105 civilians are killed this year, including 28 officials who were shot in one day. The zone has also lost properties worth over three billion birr to extended conflict during the just ended fiscal year.

Reports of the devastating impact of the conflict presented to the Caffee Oromia, council of the Oromia regional state, which held its annual meeting over the week. Gammachis Dabala, administrator of West Wollega zone, told the council that both ethnic Amhara and Oromo are killed in his zone.

The regional government has repeatedly launched operation to eradicate the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shene) group, which designated terrorist by the House of Peoples Representative (HPR) and still maintaining West Oromia as its stronghold. During the last month alone, the group has killed hundreds of civilians, according to Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reports. PM Abiy Ahmed called it “a massacre.”

Most of the zones of Oromia are currently under threats of the insurgent group, according to official reports. Loss of life, property damages, and closure of schools are also tolling across the regional state. In North Shewa alone, some 195 schools remain closed, while over 75,000 students were out of school, according to the report presented during the Caffee meeting.

Taye Dendea, member of the Oromia Prosperity party and state minister of Peace, was at dismay after attending the Caffee meeting. “Last year, only few woredas of Oromia were affected by conflict. Currently, eight zones of Oromia have security threats. We failed the people that elected us just last year. The Oromia Regional Government failed to fulfill its duty to protect the civilians. The damage up on our people is shocking. Externalizing the problem cannot be a solution,” he wrote on Facebook after the meeting was concluded on Friday.

The state minister also harshly criticized the budget allocation of the just started 2022/23 is not enough to fight the insurgents. Nearly 400 million birr is allocated for the regional security budget, which the state minister argues should be more than one billion birr. This accounts for less than one percent of 158.6 billion birr budget approved by the Caffee.

However, the state minister did not mention shortcomings of his ministry why the insurgent group is remaining at large.

Businesses that are registered in Tigray region as a federal taxpayer but are currently located outside the region will be paying their taxes at the Northwest Branch of the Ministry of Revenue in Addis Ababa.

The federal revenue that should have been collected in the region will be collected directly by the ministry. The tax that should have been collected by the regional government will be deposited in a trust bank account.

The ministries of finance and revenue are implementing this temporary procedure because organizations and individuals registered as taxpayers in Tigray are having a difficulty to continue their business activities in other parts of the country, according to Abaynesh Abate, the ministry’s tax declaration director.

Despite their desire to continue working in their current location, the taxpayers were unable to renew their business licenses, vehicles or construction equipment.

Abaynesh said that they could not obtain loans, bid on contracts or receive other government services. “Some of them even claimed that the house they rented for their business was in trouble since their business license had not been renewed.”

More than 100 complaints from Tigray’s taxpayers have been lodged to the ministry, and the number continues to grow. The majority are taxpayers who must pay taxes to the regional government.

Abaynesh says among the complainants, ten are Tigray registered firms that are managed by Commercial Nominees and pay federal taxes.

She explained that after the ministry informed the Ministry of Finance about the complaint in April, it allowed taxpayers to get a temporary tax clearance through a temporary procedure or register as taxpayers elsewhere.

In a letter written by the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Revenue last month, it acknowledged the regional government’s authority to collect the tax revenue in Tigray region.

The minister cited Article 96 of the Constitution to explain saying, “Since the income collected from individual businessmen and regional public enterprises is a regional income, it is clear that it is the regional government that can levy and collect tax.”

On the other hand, the letter explains that the tax collected from private organizations located in the region is the joint income of the federal and state governments, levied and collected by the federal government. But the income collected from federal public enterprises located in the region is the income of the federal government.

Nevertheless, since both taxpayers registered in Tigray are facing difficulties to conduct their activities due to the “emerging security problem,” State Minister, Eyob Tekalegn, in a letter stated that it is necessary to establish a temporary system.

The Ministry of Revenue, which has designated the North West branch in Addis Ababa’s Lideta neighborhood, will ensure that these taxpayers receive their tax clearance.

Abaynesh added that a request has been made to the Ministry of Finance to open a trust bank account where regional taxpayer revenue will be put.

“It will be held in a trust for later transfer to the region,” she explained.

According to Abaynesh, the ministry would only collect the taxes submitted by taxpayers because there is no means to check how much the region’s taxpayers owe.

“We don’t have any information to show how much they should be paying at that point. When the situation in the region stabilizes, it will be thoroughly examined” Abaynesh elaborated.

If taxpayers want to shift their workplace to their current address after receiving their tax clearance, registrations will be completed at the preferred address.

Under typical circumstances, changing a company’s address requires amending the company’s establishment document and submitting meeting minutes. Providing permission to change address is the authority of the regional government. All these requirements are not necessary expected to be meet in the temporary procedure.

However, even though both federal and state taxpayers registered in the state will be issued a tax clearance certificate from the Ministry of Revenue, they cannot sell their property. According to the Ministry of Finance’s letter, it is impossible to verify whether they have tax debt or not in the current situation.

Berhane Mewa is not only the former president of the Ethiopian and Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations, but is also a lifetime patriot in Ethiopia’s private sector struggles against state domination in the economy. Before he was forced into exile eighteen years ago by the EPRDF regime, he took up the struggle to create an independent chamber system and a real private sector in Ethiopia.

An industrial chemist by profession, Berhane came back to Addis to process a pharmaceutical investment license, to the tune of USD 22 million. He already has a plastic and rubber factory, which he established before his exile to the US.

Despite positive signs in the politics arena, Berhane argues the chambers system is still far from defending the private sector’s interests and contributing to the economy. Ashenafi Endale was granted audience. Excerpts:

The Reporter: What was at the core of your struggle for the Ethiopian private sector?

Birhane Mewa:I was forced to leave Ethiopia eighteen years ago. The government at the time was not happy with struggle in the Chamber, to create a strong private sector. I had no political interests. But after I left Ethiopia, I became a member of Kestedemena and Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit) political parties in North America. I was the secretary in Kinijit’s international leadership wing.

After Kinijit’s leadership were released from prison, I went back to normal life and started working as a business consultant, and then as a project manager. Of course I traveled to Ethiopia in between to attend my wife’s funeral. But now, I came to Ethiopia to process an investment license.

We are in the process of establishing a pharmaceutical factory in Ethiopia, in cooperation with Ethiopians engaged in the pharmacy business in the US. In general, we are here following PM Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) call to the diaspora.

What is the kind of Chamber you want to see in Ethiopia?

The Chamber was first established as ‘the Addis Ababa Traders Association,’ during the Emperor’s era. Then it was re-established as Ethiopian Traders Council. It was free and active in advising the government, until Derg completely changed that trend. Derg made memberships mandatory and all businesses had to pay a chamber membership fees after they get their licenses.

Derg also shrunk the number of board members representing the private sector in the council, from eleven to one. At that time, nine of the eleven board members were general managers of state corporations; with only Wubshet Werkalemahu was representing the private sector.

After EPRDF took power, the general managers of state corporations left the chamber. At the time, I was president of the Ethiopian Private Manufacturing Association. So I became vice president of the Chamber to close the vacuum. And when Kebour Gena left, I became president of the chamber, through competition.

The fundamental objective of the Chamber is to advise the government before it introduces polices that affect the private sector and the economy. The second is to provide services for the private sector including trainings, information and arbitration. We were successful on both. Both the Addis and Ethiopian Chambers won various international awards, including the ‘best chamber in Africa’ award.

Nonetheless, the EPRDF was working hard to create divisions amongst, Addis Ababa, regional and sectoral chambers and associations. I worked hard to cut out such divisions and create a stronger chamber. We also managed to get back the chamber’s assets taken by the government. We also managed to access 100,000 sq. m of land for the chamber, on which the Addis-Africa exhibition center is currently being established.

Where is (should be) the exact line between state and private sector roles in the economy?

In principle, the private sector is the backbone of the economy, especially in a free market system. But during the TPLF dominated EPRDF regime; the government tried to replace the private sector by state affiliated endowment companies and state owned enterprises, which are still under party control. They enjoy access to finance, bureaucratic support, information, monopoly and other privileges. This has been stunting the growth of the private sector. I am not sure whether the situation still changed. Party affiliations still control the media, not only businesses and the economy.

Besides those parastatals, there are private businesses parasitic on preferential treatments, provided from the parties. Preferential treatment is still given for businesses, in accessing land, finance, foreign currency, and other privileges. A real private sector, which is self-created and hardworking, is very limited in Ethiopia.

The parties and government affiliated private sectors, still prevail, only changing its face. If you look at past private businesses currently, it is not hard to find a party or state support.

The right private sector should be represented only by the Chamber. It should be free, with no political interests, but defend the interests of the private sector. When we say ‘private sector’, it includes the street vendor andGulit, to the factory and bank owners. The similarity amongst them is that they have a business license, and a common interest. There are various obstacles that hinder the chamber.

Ethiopia’s future depends on the real private sector. Foreign Direct Investments are also necessary but the domestic private sector is critical in terms of self-sufficiency, sovereignty and retention of repatriation. FDI’s can leave anytime.

Even in the USA, the private sector supports either democrats or republicans. Can a real private sector exist without any affiliation with the ruling party?

If you go to Mercato, everyone works for their own interests. They are not paid by the government but they pay taxes to the government. What the government can do is improve and equalize the playing ground.

Of course the private sector in the US supports parties. The difference is corruption is legal in the US. It is called lobbying and it is not a crime. It is also regulated. But in Ethiopia, parties establish affiliated businesses and keep taking money. The biggest problem appears when the parties themselves engage in the business. This is the biggest problem in Ethiopia. Nobody knows where the money from public enterprises goes to.

Political parties must exit from businesses and the economy. In the US, individuals and businesses giving money to parties, is publicly known, and audited. The tax authority also knows it.

Do you think the existing private sector in Ethiopia can be changed into a real private sector, or should we start over?

A real private sector is not something we create. What the government should do is create conducive environment for a ‘real private sector to emerge.’ It is the demand and supply dynamism that creates a real private sector. There are shoe shiners who have become millionaires. Did the government create them? Of course the government can facilitate support, but without political affiliation.

PM Abiy’s administration rolled out privatization and liberalization initiatives in the past three years. Do you think it is sufficient to re-balance the state dominated economy previously under the EPRDF?

There are positive signs but still some individual businesses are close to the government, instead of organized business communities under the Chamber. I do not think this is good. The government must recognize, capacitate and work with the Chamber. There are improvements regarding regulatory issues and public services. But still there is a chain of corruption in the government system. It is related to power and partisanships, which is a big obstacle that must be reduced. The government has good intentions. There are various issues studied and forwarded by the chamber and sectoral associations. Things will improve if the government reacts on those issues. If it does not start punishing corruption and avoid party affiliation and preferential treatments for selected businesses, the problem will get worse. It is the government that creates a corrupt private sector.

Corruption is also unavoidable when the public servants are paid meager salaries. The government must pay public servants sufficiently. So, corruption is high not because people are bad, or the officials are greedy, but the civil servant takes corruption as supplementary revenue.

The government also drafted a new proclamation to re-establish the Chamber. The draft proposes membership as mandatory, among others. How can a strong chamber be established? Recently, two chamber officials also defected to the US. Why is there always an internal feud inside the chambers structure?

There is a structural problem in the Chamber. It is intentionally created. Making memberships mandatory generates revenue for the chamber. But it hinders the chambers from providing quality service for their members. This was seen during the Derg regime. Immediately after the EPRDF came, it worked hard to weaken all institutions, including the chamber, teachers association, and others. The EPRDF made memberships willingly, to shrink the chamber’s revenue and finally close the chamber due to a lack of fund. But we managed to survive, by improving services and generating revenue from creative works.

Especially, the Addis Ababa Chamber became stronger, at the time, while there were some problems in the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce. When I was about to leave, there were efforts to change the Chamber’s laws and the government wanted to re-design the Chamber, to fit to the politics.

The Chamber serves wherever there are private businesses, not government structures or political leaderships. But the government shadowed and dominated cities’ chambers, by chambers of regional states. These regional state chambers are under the control of party officials. The Ethiopian chamber also fell under the influence of party members. We tried to avoid those influences and somehow succeeded to maintain a Chamber that represents only the interest of businesses.

The proclamation tried to further divide the chamber across sectors, on top of the regional structure, dissecting the interest of the private sector. Kiosk and garage owners have different interests, but also have common interests. These specific interests should be solved under sectoral associations, and their common interest under the chamber. But what the government did is bundle the sectoral associations and the Chamber together. Businesses with different interests sat on the same table, and failed to agree. So, there is still a structural problem.

I have seen the new draft proclamation too. We are unfortunate the draft did not address the problem still. The chambers and the business community still did not reach a consensus on the draft. The Addis Ababa and Ethiopian chambers are in agreement and sectoral associations have also their won perspectives.

Chambers should work only on general issues that represent the common interests of all businesses and the economy at large, aided by sectoral associations formed separately, representing interests of businesses in specific sectors. Thus, the chamber and sectoral associations should be established separately. I do not know the status of the draft proclamation currently, but if it is ratified, it would take another generation to amend.

So, do you believe the Ethiopian chamber should be the all-encompassing strong umbrella?

Not necessarily. My point is the chamber system should be separate from sectoral associations. Whether at local, cities or a national level, chamber must be strong. But they must align. The issue of sectoral associations is completely different. For instance, leather industries have problems that can be solved both through the chamber, and their association platforms. This is the right way.

For instance, there was the Ethiopian Manufacturing Industries Association. It was challenging the government regarding manufacturer’s interests. Its strong momentum even empowered the chamber. Then the EPRDF practically dismantled it. It even prohibited the association from renting an office. The EPRDF regime never wanted such strong associations and chambers. The reason why the government overlapped chambers and sectoral associations is to deny them on common grounds.

If the draft is ratified, it only maintains the problem. Currently, the government’s system prefers individual businesses, than the organized private sector.

So the draft should be revised and discussed again?

The process of crafting the proclamation has problems from its very inception. The chamber members and business communities have no consensus on the draft. The Ethiopian, Addis Ababa, and regional chambers must sit down and discuss on the issue.

The Ethiopian government is trying to allure investments by the diaspora. If the diaspora invest and save in US banks, or in Ethiopia, which return on investment is attractive? Or do you think the government should design incentive packages for the diaspora?

Businesses in Ethiopia are more profitable than other countries. The reason the US government devised AGOA from the beginning, is because African businesses can be profitable. Even in terms of savings, the return in Ethiopia is higher than Europe or elsewhere. The problem in Ethiopia is not on returns, but convertibility. Repatriation might be difficult. Saving in Ethiopia by itself is profitable, let alone investment. There are so many profitable business sectors in Ethiopia. Many sectors are emerging, and not exploited yet.

The other problem is that the Ethiopian diaspora has lost trust in the government back home. So, the current government must reverse that perception, through transparency, commitment and service efficiency.

Thirdly, the diaspora needs information supply on feasible businesses and projects in Ethiopia. Then the diaspora can form share companies, joint ventures, PLC’s or other investment modalities. If the diaspora know feasible businesses and the laws, then they can invest. Currently, the diaspora is placing their money on the stock market and other businesses abroad. They can divert that money to go back home.

Especially, the profitability in the financial industry in Ethiopia is very lucrative; but the government should facilitate currency convertibility. Plus, most diaspora’s in Europe and the US left Ethiopia three to four decades ago. They are at s retirement age now. So if the health system in Ethiopia is improved, most diaspora’s would prefer to go back to Ethiopia.

The diaspora also wants transparent systems to complain in cases of corruption and bad services. There is corruption in Europe and the US. But it is political corruption not work corruption. Political corruption is trying to twist or influence introduction of policies, proclamations or directives. Work corruption is bribing officials, institutions, and public services. There must be a complaint window for this.

The west has been shifting away from Ethiopia and imposed sanctions. Substantial number of Ethiopians vote, especially in the US. Can Ethiopians and black Africans use their voting power to discard unfavorable officials or parties in the US or influence to reverse such sanctions?

The diplomatic system has a more crucial role in this. To be specific, the US faced unprecedented situation in Ethiopia. A government that refuses foreign pressure emerged in Ethiopia.

The US even used the UNSC to pressurize Ethiopia, meeting twelve times within six months. On top of the strong refusal of the Ethiopian government to surrender, the #nomore movement strengthened the support for Ethiopia, rallying Africans behind Ethiopia. The movement is stronger than election powers. The movement eroded US’s credibility in Africa, and in the world.

Even during calls that Addis Ababa will fall to the hands of insurgents, one million diaspora opted to come back home. I believe Ethiopia will regain its rightful place in the international stage.

Unlike any time before, the diaspora is on the same page now, regarding national issues. Before this, the diaspora’s were highly divided and turned against each other. The division created a negative energy. If the diaspora was united before, the EPRDF could have been long gone. The Diaspora and opposition figures abroad were used to strife, not unity.

Can we say that the US’s pressure is normalizing since the tension with China over the horn escalated?

Their strategy differs. The US wants to ensure its interests through political influence, while China does it through investment and economic empowering. The US’s and China’s struggles will continue, whether Ethiopia is there or not. China, Russia, Turkey, Iran and India, to some degree, are joining the friction now. They have certain interests with or against the US.

The US’s fear is not what China will do in Ethiopia, but the kind of measures Ethiopia takes. For instance, Ethiopia’s normalization with Eritrea and the alliance with Somalia is a threat for the US. When the US told Ethiopia to stop the war, Ethiopia rather turned a deaf ear. Ethiopia filled the renaissance dam, when the US opposed it. These are some of the bold moves against US interests.

These moves have nothing to do with China, but they are decisions emanating from the nature of Ethiopians. So, the confrontation between the US and China continues, while Ethiopia strides to protect and implement its national interests fully.

I do not think Ethiopia will completely shift its diplomatic ties towards China. Imperialism is always imperialism, but it changes its face. The US always wants a government that listens to them. If a government refuses to carry out their interest, they depose that government, including assassinations. In cases such as Libya, Iraq and Syria, the US’s footprints in the countries politics can be seen from afar.

The US put the same type of pressures that worked before, and in Ethiopia’s case, it has failed. But the pressure will continue. Ethiopia has passed a major obstacle. Yet, Ethiopia needs to sharpen its diplomacy more.

At what stage is your investment process currently? What are your future plans?

We are establishing the pharmaceutical factory in Ethiopia, in collaboration with highly professional pharmacists, scientists and business people in the Ethiopian diaspora. Finance, knowledge and vision are required to establish a medicine factory. If you have capital, you can buy knowledge, since it is a commodity.

Our vision is to manufacture medicine and medical equipment’s in Ethiopia and provide for Ethiopians. It is not even about profits. We wanted to improve the medicine supply shortages in Ethiopia.

We have been preparing for the past two years. We came to invest in Ethiopia, amidst the rhetoric that Addis Ababa is about to fall. Our team strongly believes in Ethiopia. Currently, we are processing the investment license.

How much is the investment?

The initial investment will take us between USD 20 million to USD 22 million.

What is your conclusion on the soundness of the Ethiopian economy, especially in post-pandemic and post-conflict endeavors?

My first impression when I came to Ethiopia after almost two decades was that all the negative narratives about Ethiopia and Addis Ababa are wrong. There is still an active economy. Across streets of Addis Ababa, day and night, residents are scrambling to buy from street vendors. This indicates to a huge demand in the economy. This is a living economy.

But it does not mean there are no problems in the economy. There is a forex shortage, industrial inputs shortages, logistics problems and others. Yet, the economy has a big potential, especially if public services are improved, corruption is eliminated and bureaucracy is improved.

Do you think the government should maintain protectionism?

The US and Europe are not afraid of protectionism. Why should Ethiopia be afraid of it? Ethiopia is eager to join the WTO. But Europe is still protecting its agriculture. The US is prohibiting import of wood, aluminum and other items, especially trump did everything to protect local industries. So, Ethiopia must also protect its industries.

After America banned Ethiopia from the AGOA, US companies left the Hawassa industrial park. If it is a local factory, they would not do so.

Before, the US’s private sector had no national interest, instead they go for profits. That is why US industries moved factories to China, in search of a cheap labor. But now, the US government is asking them to come back and create jobs in the US.

The country needs a nationalist private sector. The private sector cannot just seek profits and become a pure capitalist. It must contribute to the social wellbeing and development of the country.

Even FDI’s must be undertaken in a joint venture scheme. If it has a local element, the investment can be sustainable.

How can one balance profit seeking versus national interests? Scholars also say the psychological make-up of Ethiopians is not compatible for capitalism.

Corporate governance, labor unions and social responsibility can balance capitalism. National security should be a concern of the private sector. If there is no security, there is no transport, meaning there is no market. Drought should concern the private sector. These make the private sector become a nationalist by default.

One of the major tasks of the Chamber is to make businesses discharge their social responsibility.

Thus, your conclusion is capitalism can work in Ethiopia.

The old way of capitalism, which is seeking only profits, does not exist anymore. Of course, you are responsible for your shareholders and board members. At the same time, you have to be responsible to the society.

Why you are not investing in the banking sector rather than pharmaceuticals?

The government said it opened the banking sector for the diaspora, but still, there are unsettled problems. It said the diaspora had to invest in foreign currency. This is an obstacle.

But the major reason I joined the pharmaceutical project, is because it is a matter of professionalism. Manufacturing is difficult in Ethiopia. We have a big purpose to bring change in the medical supply shortage in Ethiopia. We will produce capsules and tablets. We will also export, once we address the domestic demand. The company will also establish an R&D wing, which will conduct studies for other firms. Most of the founders are also researchers.

Are you a chemical engineer by profession?

I studied chemistry. I also studied industrial chemistry at Bahir Dar polytechnic. I already have a factory in Ethiopia, which produces plastic and rubber. It is expanding now.

Berhane Mewa is not only the former president of the Ethiopian and Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations, but is also a lifetime patriot in Ethiopia’s private sector struggles against state domination in the economy. Before he was forced into exile eighteen years ago by the EPRDF regime, he took up the struggle to create an independent chamber system and a real private sector in Ethiopia.

An industrial chemist by profession, Berhane came back to Addis to process a pharmaceutical investment license, to the tune of USD 22 million. He already has a plastic and rubber factory, which he established before his exile to the US.

Despite positive signs in the politics arena, Berhane argues the chambers system is still far from defending the private sector’s interests and contributing to the economy. Ashenafi Endale was granted audience. Excerpts:

The Reporter: What was at the core of your struggle for the Ethiopian private sector?

Birhane Mewa:I was forced to leave Ethiopia eighteen years ago. The government at the time was not happy with struggle in the Chamber, to create a strong private sector. I had no political interests. But after I left Ethiopia, I became a member of Kestedemena and Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit) political parties in North America. I was the secretary in Kinijit’s international leadership wing.

After Kinijit’s leadership were released from prison, I went back to normal life and started working as a business consultant, and then as a project manager. Of course I traveled to Ethiopia in between to attend my wife’s funeral. But now, I came to Ethiopia to process an investment license.

We are in the process of establishing a pharmaceutical factory in Ethiopia, in cooperation with Ethiopians engaged in the pharmacy business in the US. In general, we are here following PM Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) call to the diaspora.

What is the kind of Chamber you want to see in Ethiopia?

The Chamber was first established as ‘the Addis Ababa Traders Association,’ during the Emperor’s era. Then it was re-established as Ethiopian Traders Council. It was free and active in advising the government, until Derg completely changed that trend. Derg made memberships mandatory and all businesses had to pay a chamber membership fees after they get their licenses.

Derg also shrunk the number of board members representing the private sector in the council, from eleven to one. At that time, nine of the eleven board members were general managers of state corporations; with only Wubshet Werkalemahu was representing the private sector.

After EPRDF took power, the general managers of state corporations left the chamber. At the time, I was president of the Ethiopian Private Manufacturing Association. So I became vice president of the Chamber to close the vacuum. And when Kebour Gena left, I became president of the chamber, through competition.

The fundamental objective of the Chamber is to advise the government before it introduces polices that affect the private sector and the economy. The second is to provide services for the private sector including trainings, information and arbitration. We were successful on both. Both the Addis and Ethiopian Chambers won various international awards, including the ‘best chamber in Africa’ award.

Nonetheless, the EPRDF was working hard to create divisions amongst, Addis Ababa, regional and sectoral chambers and associations. I worked hard to cut out such divisions and create a stronger chamber. We also managed to get back the chamber’s assets taken by the government. We also managed to access 100,000 sq. m of land for the chamber, on which the Addis-Africa exhibition center is currently being established.

Where is (should be) the exact line between state and private sector roles in the economy?

In principle, the private sector is the backbone of the economy, especially in a free market system. But during the TPLF dominated EPRDF regime; the government tried to replace the private sector by state affiliated endowment companies and state owned enterprises, which are still under party control. They enjoy access to finance, bureaucratic support, information, monopoly and other privileges. This has been stunting the growth of the private sector. I am not sure whether the situation still changed. Party affiliations still control the media, not only businesses and the economy.

Besides those parastatals, there are private businesses parasitic on preferential treatments, provided from the parties. Preferential treatment is still given for businesses, in accessing land, finance, foreign currency, and other privileges. A real private sector, which is self-created and hardworking, is very limited in Ethiopia.

The parties and government affiliated private sectors, still prevail, only changing its face. If you look at past private businesses currently, it is not hard to find a party or state support.

The right private sector should be represented only by the Chamber. It should be free, with no political interests, but defend the interests of the private sector. When we say ‘private sector’, it includes the street vendor andGulit, to the factory and bank owners. The similarity amongst them is that they have a business license, and a common interest. There are various obstacles that hinder the chamber.

Ethiopia’s future depends on the real private sector. Foreign Direct Investments are also necessary but the domestic private sector is critical in terms of self-sufficiency, sovereignty and retention of repatriation. FDI’s can leave anytime.

Even in the USA, the private sector supports either democrats or republicans. Can a real private sector exist without any affiliation with the ruling party?

If you go to Mercato, everyone works for their own interests. They are not paid by the government but they pay taxes to the government. What the government can do is improve and equalize the playing ground.

Of course the private sector in the US supports parties. The difference is corruption is legal in the US. It is called lobbying and it is not a crime. It is also regulated. But in Ethiopia, parties establish affiliated businesses and keep taking money. The biggest problem appears when the parties themselves engage in the business. This is the biggest problem in Ethiopia. Nobody knows where the money from public enterprises goes to.

Political parties must exit from businesses and the economy. In the US, individuals and businesses giving money to parties, is publicly known, and audited. The tax authority also knows it.

Do you think the existing private sector in Ethiopia can be changed into a real private sector, or should we start over?

A real private sector is not something we create. What the government should do is create conducive environment for a ‘real private sector to emerge.’ It is the demand and supply dynamism that creates a real private sector. There are shoe shiners who have become millionaires. Did the government create them? Of course the government can facilitate support, but without political affiliation.

PM Abiy’s administration rolled out privatization and liberalization initiatives in the past three years. Do you think it is sufficient to re-balance the state dominated economy previously under the EPRDF?

There are positive signs but still some individual businesses are close to the government, instead of organized business communities under the Chamber. I do not think this is good. The government must recognize, capacitate and work with the Chamber. There are improvements regarding regulatory issues and public services. But still there is a chain of corruption in the government system. It is related to power and partisanships, which is a big obstacle that must be reduced. The government has good intentions. There are various issues studied and forwarded by the chamber and sectoral associations. Things will improve if the government reacts on those issues. If it does not start punishing corruption and avoid party affiliation and preferential treatments for selected businesses, the problem will get worse. It is the government that creates a corrupt private sector.

Corruption is also unavoidable when the public servants are paid meager salaries. The government must pay public servants sufficiently. So, corruption is high not because people are bad, or the officials are greedy, but the civil servant takes corruption as supplementary revenue.

The government also drafted a new proclamation to re-establish the Chamber. The draft proposes membership as mandatory, among others. How can a strong chamber be established? Recently, two chamber officials also defected to the US. Why is there always an internal feud inside the chambers structure?

There is a structural problem in the Chamber. It is intentionally created. Making memberships mandatory generates revenue for the chamber. But it hinders the chambers from providing quality service for their members. This was seen during the Derg regime. Immediately after the EPRDF came, it worked hard to weaken all institutions, including the chamber, teachers association, and others. The EPRDF made memberships willingly, to shrink the chamber’s revenue and finally close the chamber due to a lack of fund. But we managed to survive, by improving services and generating revenue from creative works.

Especially, the Addis Ababa Chamber became stronger, at the time, while there were some problems in the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce. When I was about to leave, there were efforts to change the Chamber’s laws and the government wanted to re-design the Chamber, to fit to the politics.

The Chamber serves wherever there are private businesses, not government structures or political leaderships. But the government shadowed and dominated cities’ chambers, by chambers of regional states. These regional state chambers are under the control of party officials. The Ethiopian chamber also fell under the influence of party members. We tried to avoid those influences and somehow succeeded to maintain a Chamber that represents only the interest of businesses.

The proclamation tried to further divide the chamber across sectors, on top of the regional structure, dissecting the interest of the private sector. Kiosk and garage owners have different interests, but also have common interests. These specific interests should be solved under sectoral associations, and their common interest under the chamber. But what the government did is bundle the sectoral associations and the Chamber together. Businesses with different interests sat on the same table, and failed to agree. So, there is still a structural problem.

I have seen the new draft proclamation too. We are unfortunate the draft did not address the problem still. The chambers and the business community still did not reach a consensus on the draft. The Addis Ababa and Ethiopian chambers are in agreement and sectoral associations have also their won perspectives.

Chambers should work only on general issues that represent the common interests of all businesses and the economy at large, aided by sectoral associations formed separately, representing interests of businesses in specific sectors. Thus, the chamber and sectoral associations should be established separately. I do not know the status of the draft proclamation currently, but if it is ratified, it would take another generation to amend.

So, do you believe the Ethiopian chamber should be the all-encompassing strong umbrella?

Not necessarily. My point is the chamber system should be separate from sectoral associations. Whether at local, cities or a national level, chamber must be strong. But they must align. The issue of sectoral associations is completely different. For instance, leather industries have problems that can be solved both through the chamber, and their association platforms. This is the right way.

For instance, there was the Ethiopian Manufacturing Industries Association. It was challenging the government regarding manufacturer’s interests. Its strong momentum even empowered the chamber. Then the EPRDF practically dismantled it. It even prohibited the association from renting an office. The EPRDF regime never wanted such strong associations and chambers. The reason why the government overlapped chambers and sectoral associations is to deny them on common grounds.

If the draft is ratified, it only maintains the problem. Currently, the government’s system prefers individual businesses, than the organized private sector.

So the draft should be revised and discussed again?

The process of crafting the proclamation has problems from its very inception. The chamber members and business communities have no consensus on the draft. The Ethiopian, Addis Ababa, and regional chambers must sit down and discuss on the issue.

The Ethiopian government is trying to allure investments by the diaspora. If the diaspora invest and save in US banks, or in Ethiopia, which return on investment is attractive? Or do you think the government should design incentive packages for the diaspora?

Businesses in Ethiopia are more profitable than other countries. The reason the US government devised AGOA from the beginning, is because African businesses can be profitable. Even in terms of savings, the return in Ethiopia is higher than Europe or elsewhere. The problem in Ethiopia is not on returns, but convertibility. Repatriation might be difficult. Saving in Ethiopia by itself is profitable, let alone investment. There are so many profitable business sectors in Ethiopia. Many sectors are emerging, and not exploited yet.

The other problem is that the Ethiopian diaspora has lost trust in the government back home. So, the current government must reverse that perception, through transparency, commitment and service efficiency.

Thirdly, the diaspora needs information supply on feasible businesses and projects in Ethiopia. Then the diaspora can form share companies, joint ventures, PLC’s or other investment modalities. If the diaspora know feasible businesses and the laws, then they can invest. Currently, the diaspora is placing their money on the stock market and other businesses abroad. They can divert that money to go back home.

Especially, the profitability in the financial industry in Ethiopia is very lucrative; but the government should facilitate currency convertibility. Plus, most diaspora’s in Europe and the US left Ethiopia three to four decades ago. They are at s retirement age now. So if the health system in Ethiopia is improved, most diaspora’s would prefer to go back to Ethiopia.

The diaspora also wants transparent systems to complain in cases of corruption and bad services. There is corruption in Europe and the US. But it is political corruption not work corruption. Political corruption is trying to twist or influence introduction of policies, proclamations or directives. Work corruption is bribing officials, institutions, and public services. There must be a complaint window for this.

The west has been shifting away from Ethiopia and imposed sanctions. Substantial number of Ethiopians vote, especially in the US. Can Ethiopians and black Africans use their voting power to discard unfavorable officials or parties in the US or influence to reverse such sanctions?

The diplomatic system has a more crucial role in this. To be specific, the US faced unprecedented situation in Ethiopia. A government that refuses foreign pressure emerged in Ethiopia.

The US even used the UNSC to pressurize Ethiopia, meeting twelve times within six months. On top of the strong refusal of the Ethiopian government to surrender, the #nomore movement strengthened the support for Ethiopia, rallying Africans behind Ethiopia. The movement is stronger than election powers. The movement eroded US’s credibility in Africa, and in the world.

Even during calls that Addis Ababa will fall to the hands of insurgents, one million diaspora opted to come back home. I believe Ethiopia will regain its rightful place in the international stage.

Unlike any time before, the diaspora is on the same page now, regarding national issues. Before this, the diaspora’s were highly divided and turned against each other. The division created a negative energy. If the diaspora was united before, the EPRDF could have been long gone. The Diaspora and opposition figures abroad were used to strife, not unity.

Can we say that the US’s pressure is normalizing since the tension with China over the horn escalated?

Their strategy differs. The US wants to ensure its interests through political influence, while China does it through investment and economic empowering. The US’s and China’s struggles will continue, whether Ethiopia is there or not. China, Russia, Turkey, Iran and India, to some degree, are joining the friction now. They have certain interests with or against the US.

The US’s fear is not what China will do in Ethiopia, but the kind of measures Ethiopia takes. For instance, Ethiopia’s normalization with Eritrea and the alliance with Somalia is a threat for the US. When the US told Ethiopia to stop the war, Ethiopia rather turned a deaf ear. Ethiopia filled the renaissance dam, when the US opposed it. These are some of the bold moves against US interests.

These moves have nothing to do with China, but they are decisions emanating from the nature of Ethiopians. So, the confrontation between the US and China continues, while Ethiopia strides to protect and implement its national interests fully.

I do not think Ethiopia will completely shift its diplomatic ties towards China. Imperialism is always imperialism, but it changes its face. The US always wants a government that listens to them. If a government refuses to carry out their interest, they depose that government, including assassinations. In cases such as Libya, Iraq and Syria, the US’s footprints in the countries politics can be seen from afar.

The US put the same type of pressures that worked before, and in Ethiopia’s case, it has failed. But the pressure will continue. Ethiopia has passed a major obstacle. Yet, Ethiopia needs to sharpen its diplomacy more.

At what stage is your investment process currently? What are your future plans?

We are establishing the pharmaceutical factory in Ethiopia, in collaboration with highly professional pharmacists, scientists and business people in the Ethiopian diaspora. Finance, knowledge and vision are required to establish a medicine factory. If you have capital, you can buy knowledge, since it is a commodity.

Our vision is to manufacture medicine and medical equipment’s in Ethiopia and provide for Ethiopians. It is not even about profits. We wanted to improve the medicine supply shortages in Ethiopia.

We have been preparing for the past two years. We came to invest in Ethiopia, amidst the rhetoric that Addis Ababa is about to fall. Our team strongly believes in Ethiopia. Currently, we are processing the investment license.

How much is the investment?

The initial investment will take us between USD 20 million to USD 22 million.

What is your conclusion on the soundness of the Ethiopian economy, especially in post-pandemic and post-conflict endeavors?

My first impression when I came to Ethiopia after almost two decades was that all the negative narratives about Ethiopia and Addis Ababa are wrong. There is still an active economy. Across streets of Addis Ababa, day and night, residents are scrambling to buy from street vendors. This indicates to a huge demand in the economy. This is a living economy.

But it does not mean there are no problems in the economy. There is a forex shortage, industrial inputs shortages, logistics problems and others. Yet, the economy has a big potential, especially if public services are improved, corruption is eliminated and bureaucracy is improved.

Do you think the government should maintain protectionism?

The US and Europe are not afraid of protectionism. Why should Ethiopia be afraid of it? Ethiopia is eager to join the WTO. But Europe is still protecting its agriculture. The US is prohibiting import of wood, aluminum and other items, especially trump did everything to protect local industries. So, Ethiopia must also protect its industries.

After America banned Ethiopia from the AGOA, US companies left the Hawassa industrial park. If it is a local factory, they would not do so.

Before, the US’s private sector had no national interest, instead they go for profits. That is why US industries moved factories to China, in search of a cheap labor. But now, the US government is asking them to come back and create jobs in the US.

The country needs a nationalist private sector. The private sector cannot just seek profits and become a pure capitalist. It must contribute to the social wellbeing and development of the country.

Even FDI’s must be undertaken in a joint venture scheme. If it has a local element, the investment can be sustainable.

How can one balance profit seeking versus national interests? Scholars also say the psychological make-up of Ethiopians is not compatible for capitalism.

Corporate governance, labor unions and social responsibility can balance capitalism. National security should be a concern of the private sector. If there is no security, there is no transport, meaning there is no market. Drought should concern the private sector. These make the private sector become a nationalist by default.

One of the major tasks of the Chamber is to make businesses discharge their social responsibility.

Thus, your conclusion is capitalism can work in Ethiopia.

The old way of capitalism, which is seeking only profits, does not exist anymore. Of course, you are responsible for your shareholders and board members. At the same time, you have to be responsible to the society.

Why you are not investing in the banking sector rather than pharmaceuticals?

The government said it opened the banking sector for the diaspora, but still, there are unsettled problems. It said the diaspora had to invest in foreign currency. This is an obstacle.

But the major reason I joined the pharmaceutical project, is because it is a matter of professionalism. Manufacturing is difficult in Ethiopia. We have a big purpose to bring change in the medical supply shortage in Ethiopia. We will produce capsules and tablets. We will also export, once we address the domestic demand. The company will also establish an R&D wing, which will conduct studies for other firms. Most of the founders are also researchers.

Are you a chemical engineer by profession?

I studied chemistry. I also studied industrial chemistry at Bahir Dar polytechnic. I already have a factory in Ethiopia, which produces plastic and rubber. It is expanding now.

Aklilu Wubet is a veteran in the banking industry. He joined Wegagen Bank on March 2020 as the Vice President of Corporate Service, having served in different capacities in many financial companies, including the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, in the last 25 years. He was also the deputy CEO of Nile Insurance, Bank of Abyssinia and Lion Bank, and also served as a lecturer at Addis Ababa University.

The Reporter’s Samson Berhane sat down with Aklilu to reflect on his journey at Wegagen and the challenges ahead, as the acting president attempts to bring the bank back to its usual top status it has held for the last two decades. Excerpts:

The Reporter: You have joined Wegagen during a challenging time, when it faces decline in revenue from different sources particularly due to the tense political situation in the country. How are things going since you joined the Bank?

Aklilu Wubet:Banking is always challenging, especially in a world where resources are limited. And leadership is critical during a challenging time. Leading a company during its challenging moments is a great task and makes me happy. Especially, if you have strong team, challenge is a good thing. One thing you should also understand is that Wegagen is still a very strong bank, despite the challenges it has faced.

When I decided to join the Bank, I was confident that I would overcome all the challenges by working with a strong management and team the Bank has. The conflict has impacted all commercial banks. Peace is very important for the industry than any segment of the economy since banks deal with liquid resources. The impacts of the war, in particular, were severe on us because we are among the financial institutions with large number of branches in the areas affected by conflict.

When I joined Wegagen, my priority was to help the Bank withstand the impacts of the war. That requires being prudent and to closely work with regulatory bodies, investors and other stakeholders.

In the last 25 years, Wegagen was among the most profitable financial institutions in Ethiopia. Why was it not solid enough to withstand the shock brought on by the war in Northern Ethiopia?

To begin with, the Bank has been effective in withstanding the impacts of the war. Even though the profit is low, and has declined drastically, it is still profitable. It still has a large customer base and a huge amount of assets. Thanks to the strong base, which the bank is built on; it has been successfully coping with the conflict, even though more than a third of its branches are closed.

The profitability of the Bank in the last two decades has helped it build its asset base, enabling it to withstand the impacts of the war. The rules of the central bank and its strong regulations have had its contribution in enabling us to remain strong in such a challenging period.

The strong expense management that we have applied and the strong marketing system implemented by our management team has also contributed to the success of the Bank. If it was not due to such factors, the history of the Bank would have been ruined. But thanks to our efforts, we have defied the prediction made by some, who have forecasted that we will face a loss due to the war. But we are still in a good shape.

We have devised a strategy and are also undergoing restructuring, and increasing the number of vice presidents we have. We are still among the big players in the industry, hiring elite bankers.

According to industry insiders, the bottom line in the banking industry is profits and shareholders’ return. How did you come to the conclusion that the Bank is in a good shape, while its profit dwindled from one billion birr to 193 million birr?

Business is not only about making profits. Business is about being sustainable and staying competitive in an industry. The conflicts, coupled with macroeconomic challenges, have impacted the banking industry last year and banks would have profited much higher than they did, if there was peace.

Wegagen has declared a positive profit, while much of its branches are closed, and at a period when it was not able to collect loans given to businesses operating in war-affected areas. We even held a provision in case of loan defaults. We did not use a penny from the capital invested by shareholders, despite being in the midst of series of challenges. Overall, our objective was to make Wegagen the bank of all Ethiopians, by making it solid. I believe we have been successful in doing that.

There are critics that say Wegagen is a victim of an undiversified ownership structure which exists in the banking industry. Even though Wegagen is not the only financial institution established based on affiliation or along ethnic lines, some say its recent underperformance is an outcome of lack of diversification in terms of shareholders and customer base. Do you agree?

There are those that say banks are established based on affiliation.

Is that not the reality?

I cannot be sure because I have not had a chance to look through the list of shareholders of each commercial bank. In case of Wegagen, the story is different. Wegagen is wrongly misunderstood. If you see its shareholders, no bank is as Ethiopian as Wegagen. Its shareholders are highly diversified. Many big investors from different ethnic backgrounds have a stake in Wegagen. Name any investor and they are a shareholder of our bank. If you see the board, it is highly diversified. The same is also true if you see the management.

Did you bring that change?

No. I was the vice president 13 years ago at Wegagen and it was the same back then.

Okay, but in case of customer diversification, the reality is opposite to what you have said since the Bank’s profit declined drastically, when a third of its branches closed in one region. So is it not obvious that your bank did not work on diversifying its customer base?

Not only in Tigray. We also have many branches in Gambella and Somali than any other private banks. Of course, we have many customers in Tigray but that does not mean our customers in other areas like Addis Ababa are from the same region. We have over 2.5 million customers, way higher than the adult population eligible for banking services in Tigray. That shows how diversified our customer base is.

How about loan disbursement?

It is the same. More than 75 percent our loan portfolio is in Addis Ababa. However, in terms of deposits, the northern part of Ethiopia is known for being a big source. If you go to Mekelle, many commercial banks have many branches there. Some have more than seven or eight branches and the reason is obvious. This is because there is a good saving culture there. But that does not mean we have to work on the business mix because it is important to manage risks.

Then how did your non-performing loans surge because of the conflict if your borrowers are diversified?

We have provided five billion birr in loans to our customers in Tigray. We don’t know whether it can be paid or not because of the conflict. But that is enough to increase our non-performing loans. The whole industry faced similar problems because of the same reason. We held provisions in case of defaults. If it was not due to the higher provision we held, our profit would have been over one billion birr. That would be added to our income in the future, if we recover our loans. This means that we are investing in our future and if things go smoother and peace prevails, we hope things change drastically.

How is the liquidity position of Wegagen Bank? How capitalized is the bank?

We have a strong capital base. It used to be one of the largest in the industry, though some overtook us recently. Understanding its importance, our shareholders decided to raise the Bank’s paid-up capital to six billion birr before the end of the new deadline set by the central bank. We are also thankful that we don’t have a major shareholder because that gives us room for the management to do its job.

Regarding liquidity, when the central bank raised the reserve requirement from five to 10 percent, many feared that our bank would be among those that cannot meet the new threshold. But we are among the few banks that have fulfilled the requirement first. Our liquidity is now over 17 percent. However, that does not mean we are not facing liquidity shortages, because the whole industry is experiencing similar problems due to the sluggish growth of deposits.

Shareholders want to know when the bank would reach pre-war levels in terms of profitability. When do you think that would happen?

There are two assumptions. The first assumption is that the war would stop, peace would prevail and the government puts its energy towards the economy, a scenario which would benefit the banking industry. If peace prevails, our closed branches would be opened. We will be fully operational and our deposits would surge.

The second assumption is that if the conflict continues, we will operate with our existing resources and branches that are active. New banks are joining the industry. So I am sure we can perform better even with our active branches. We have already devised a strategy to mobilize more resources. We are hopeful that we will return to pre-war levels by the next general assembly.

Founded in September 2017, Eshi Express is a pioneer and one of the successful startups in tech-based delivery businesses, in an emerging business frontier in Ethiopia. Tigabu Haile, co-founder and CEO of Eshi Express sat with Ashenafi Endale of The Reporter, to talk about his business journey.

Excerpts:

The Reporter: What was the business pitch behind Eshi?

Tigabu Haile:If you buy an avocado in Yirgalem, it is around five birr per kilogram. But in Addis Ababa, it is around35 birr. So, we believed that Ethiopia needs an efficient logistics system in the supply and logistics service. Even in Addis, we do not see companies that provide end-to-end payment systems, sourcing and delivery services.

Sending packages in Addis is expensive. There are players like DHL, the Post Office and individual motorcycle owners. But Eshi can provide the service up to 50 percent cheaper than the market.

Basically, Eshi is a logistics company. So, how do you manage your fleet? What are the types of services you provide?

We have three types of services. We have Express service, in which we deliver any package in Addis within 90 minutes. The second type is delivery in half a day. If you order in the morning, we deliver in the afternoon. We charge 90 birr anywhere in Addis. The third category is delivery in 24 hours, which costs 70 birr anywhere in Addis.

Our main operation is in Addis. We use vans, pickups, motors and other types of vehicles. Most of the Ethiopian population is in the regions. We believe the logistics problem in the supply chain can be best addressed if we expand to regional states. Currently, we have been in the piloting phase in Adama and Hawassa, since last year. We will reach other regions in the next two years.

Do you own the whole fleet of vehicles?

We deployed the hybrid model. Around ten motorcycles and a van are owned by Eshi. But owning many vehicles is not feasible, so we stopped purchasing vehicles. We launched a technology six months ago, that enables any individual vehicle owner to register to our platform and deliver packages. Our model is called ‘from foot to fleet’. People can deliver on foot. Especially when we have big events, mass publications and other large deliveries many individuals deliver on foot.

How can these individuals or private vehicle owners access your platform? Is the technology similar to a taxi hailing platform?

It is almost similar but slightly different regarding registration system and insurance policies. Huge packages might be damaged in transit by individual vehicle owners. So, we always require courier insurance or insurance for goods in transit, for any private vehicle who works with Eshi.

How many vehicles that are not owned by Eshi are working with Eshi?

Right now we have more than 25 vans, pickups and different vehicles. There are also around fifteen motorcycles.

How many packages does Eshi deliver per day? How do you evaluate the demand?

The demand of the service is huge. There are thousands of delivery demands daily in Addis, while it is in the hundreds of thousands in the regions. The hard task is to make people use Eshi just once. Then they cannot stop using it.

Right now, Eshi delivers close to 115 packages per day. In the next three years, we plan to deliver thousands of packages daily.

How do you see the competition from other players in the market?

There is no really established company we see as competitors. There are legacy players like the DHL, Ethiopian Postal service, and individuals who have motorcycles. It is difficult for many startups to emerge and become competitors in this business.

Online payment, e-tax, e-commerce, delivery and packaging are involved in the business. How are these all done as one business?

Right now online transactions can happen but there are no e-receipts. It is impossible to make online transactions now. Payment is possible for internet and mobile banking. But if you cannot provide e-receipts, you cannot have a complete e-commerce transaction. There are shops that have an online presence. They just show their packages on their sites.

Does Eshi own warehouses or source from other suppliers?

Eshi collects the packages from companies who have warehouses. Receipt is issued traditionally. So, e-commerce is a work in progress. Eshi is the instrument that provides the logistics service. We do not sell any stuff online. Shopping happens between the customer and e-commerce companies. Once the order is placed and shopping done, either the customer or the e-commerce company orders Eshi to deliver the goods.

The number of e-commerce companies has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. Has online delivery orders increased too?

E-commerce is taking off in Ethiopia and the government is also nearing to ratify the e-transaction law. All Shops will have an online presence. The outsourcing culture in Ethiopia is immature. Most companies want to do the e-commerce and delivery businesses by themselves. One company, especially startups, cannot handle both at the same time. So, after trying both for a year or two, they fail or specialize only in one.

Currently, big global e-commerce players are coming to Ethiopia. Probably they will launch in the next six months. Eshi has entered agreements with these global players, to do the delivery part. E-commerce companies should focus on what they can do best, because they cannot do it all, with limited time, energy and resources. We want to support their job, from the delivery side.

We will have many package drop-off points soon. If the customer is not at home when the delivery arrives, the drivers can place the packages at those points and the client can take it at anytime. This way, we are planning to drop many deliveries within one kilometer radius. This reduces our cost. That is why we charge 50 percent cheaper than the market. One delivery vehicle can cover many shops, pharmacies and supermarkets within an area.

Does Eshi plan to deliver beyond Ethiopia?

Ethiopia will operationalize the Africa Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) soon. Intra-Africa trade will boom in the near future. Eshi plans to become a Pan-African Delivery Company within the next three years.

Lack of automated addressing is a major bottleneck to delivery businesses in Addis. How are you solving it?

Absence of digital address system is a major problem for social services, health, banking, census, elections, apart from delivery business. Address is critical. If you do not have an address, you do not exist. Due to the lengthy communication between our delivery dispatches and clients, and usually missing locations, Eshi is losing resources, time and energy. The customer experience is also bad, because it is annoying when delivery personnel call repeatedly to find the address.

Currently, we have a project in the pipeline, named Eshi Locator, with our technology partner. It gives a code to each house’s. The codes are regenerated, when our partner localize using Google technology. We will imbed Google generated codes into our technology. It will take some time. Right now we are using Google maps, to locate the customer. But this has accuracy problems. Many things should improve to solve the location issue. Eshi Locator will be the solution.

What about using GPS locations or networks, if the customer uses a smart phone?

There are four mechanisms to order on Eshi Express. Customers can order on our website, use an application in Play Store, or call on one of our call centers. For Customers who have mass orders, like event organizers, big corporate or ecommerce companies, we have a separate technology platform, which can receive bulk orders and integrate it to our fleet system.

How much is the profit?

We cannot say it is profitable, even after staying four years in the business. At least we have survived, because we could also fail. The global data shows, less than two of ten startups celebrate their fifth year of establishment. Initiating and running a startup is very difficult. Access to capital is one of the biggest problems.

Was Eshi an angel investment?

Initially, Eshi was founded by me and my partner, who has similar business ideas with me. Eshi started with 1.3 million birr. We saved up the capital. We have also advisors. Last year, the Addis Ababa Angel Investors Network invested in Eshi. Delivery business is a capital, technology and skill intensive venture. You need to hire highly talented people. You have to scale-up fast. We hope the profit will come soon, once our delivery capacity grows.

So the angel investors are shareholders now. How much did they inject in the company?

We have an agreement not to disclose the amount. They injected the capital and immediately became shareholders. We gave them equity share worth their capital injection.

So return on investments has not come to fruition yet?

It will take time, especially with startups like us, in which you have to hire huge staff. No question, we are solving one of the top five challenges in Ethiopia. Lack of efficient logistics in the system is a major reason behind the rising inflation in Ethiopia. Food is being wasted because it cannot reach the market. For instance, there is surplus in the southern part of Ethiopia, while it is extremely scarce in the northern part of the country. That is because we do not have a robust logistics system.

Eshi still needs more cash injections to scale-up its capacity. Delivery is not only about packages, it is about the stories behind the packages. For instance the national blood bank of Ethiopia is one of our customers. We deliver blood every day. We collect blood from donation centers to the national blood bank. People are living because of that. NEBE is also among our customers. We did almost all deliveries in the past national election. We are behind the success of many big achievements. We are becoming instrumental in delivery in Ethiopia.

How many institutional customers do you have?

Currently it is close to 35. For instance, we deliver laboratory results for hospitals, on a daily basis. Embassies, hotels, optical shops, are some of them.

What are the incentives provided by the government for delivery companies, such as allowing duty free import of vehicles?

The government is not providing any support or incentive for delivery companies. There were no private courier service providers in Ethiopia, for long. So, only the Post Office and the DHL were known in this business.

For instance, driving motorcycles has been banned under the State of Emergency since some individuals might use motorcycles for crime. But Eshi had hired many staff, branded the motorcycles and there is no way motorcycles registered under delivery companies can be used for crimes. After all, we are delivering critical packages like blood and other essential services.

Secondly, there is an extreme lack of clarity among government institutions, regarding delivery businesses. Especially, the tax authorities are creating major obstacles to delivery companies. The government has no clear policy on delivery businesses, let alone support incentives. The delivery sector could not grow in Ethiopia, because the government has failed to understand it as a newly emerging sector.

There is the Ethiopian Couriers Association, to which Eshi Express is the board president. The association is trying to change the grim fate of the sector. We have submitted a letter to the government, asking the ban on motorcycles of delivery companies to be lifted. But the response from the government is slow.

Motor cycles cannot move after 6PM. So, we are forced to stop taking orders after 4PM. Otherwise, we cannot deliver last minute orders until the next day. This is especially affecting food delivery courier companies, because there orders are largely during dinner times.

What is the government’s response to the associations’ letter?

It has been three weeks since the association submitted the letter. But the government says it is still being considered. The letter was submitted to the Addis Ababa traffic management office. The city transport bureau has also failed to respond.

A new logistics regulation allows up to 49/51 partnership with foreign logistics companies. Is Eshi considering a joint venture with foreign companies?

JV is allowed for logistics companies engaged in sea, air and land transport. Ours is light package and fast delivery logistics. So JV is not allowed for us.

How much does the absence of e-receipts affect your business? How does Eshi cover the costs, if delivery is defaulted?

Online ordering, online payment, and e-receipts are not active at a national level in Ethiopia. Ethiopians consider online shopping, or e-commerce, as a luxury service reserved only for developed countries. That is acutely wrong. Delivery services extremely benefit developing countries. The purpose of e-commerce is to cut expenses and reduce prices. Companies do not have to open shops everywhere. So, it cuts out rental costs. End user customers also usually visit as many shops, to find a reasonably priced good. With e-commerce, you can find any items at your fingertip. You can order a delivery company, saving your time, energy and money.

The progress slows in Ethiopia, because the digitization pace is slow. But the Parliament is currently working on the e-transaction proclamation. The draft document has been under review for a year now. The Ministry of Science and Technology crafted the document and the Council of Ministers has passed it on to the Parliament. It was said that it would be ratified before the current Ethiopian year enters. But I think it is delayed because the government is busy due to the war.

But even after the proclamation is ratified, is there the technology that interfaces with the payment facilitator, end user, delivery companies, shops, tax authority and other regulators?

Eshi has end-to-end technology that enables the ordering and tracking of goods. The technology also enables us to publish the transactions in excel or PDF file formats.

E-commerce companies also have a similar technology. Ethiopia has all the basic ingredients to kick start e-commerce. We have the laws, graduates, and emerging e-commerce companies. The service quality will improve gradually.

Does Eshi use other payment mechanism like mobile money, tele birr and others, apart from e-commerce companies?

So far, our transaction is largely cash-based. But we are integrating with Fintechs like tele birr, CBE birr and others.

The starting price for delivery of a kilogram of package is 20 birr. It increases by12 birr per additional kilometer and three birr per additional kilogram.

How do you evaluate the competition with other emerging delivery companies?

It is difficult to say there is stiff competition. There are delivery companies that participate in bids with us. A lot of institutions like banks float bids for their bulk delivery contracts. There are only close to six active players.

The DHL, the Ethiopian Postal Service and Balderasu are active in Addis, while there are other startups emerging in regional delivery services. The DHL has no interest in the domestic delivery business in Ethiopia, leaving the market in Addis for us. Even in Europe, DHL works with local companies, specializing on the international market rather.

Close to 100,000 packages are delivered in Addis Ababa every day. Eshi, which delivers 115 packages per day, is comparatively better performing, than other players. Yet, the share of delivery companies is completely insignificant, relative to the demand.

All of close to six delivery companies in Ethiopia, including DHL and the Post office, are delivering less than 6,000 packages per day. The market is untapped.

The delivery demand in regional states is much higher than Addis. We have assessed the demand and mapped delivery services in 100 cities in Ethiopia. There is close to 200,000 package delivery demands in these cities.

Who is filling this demand now?

This demand is bridged traditionally. The Postal Service has some market share, but mostly; people send packages via cross-country buses. But this method of delivery has two major problems. First, it has no insurance if the package is damaged and second, the bus owners charge as they wish. Cross-country busses have no standard pricing for delivering packages.

Eshi is 100percent insured. When a client orders Eshi to deliver a package, the customer declares the value of the package. If it is damaged, Eshi refunds 100percent of the value stated.

Do you work with all insurance companies?

The local insurance industry is underdeveloped, thus, local insurance companies usually do not accommodate our insurance packages. So, we cover the insurance fund by ourselves. Eshi has been incurring cost due tothis. But now, we are communicating with insurance companies. All other delivery companies operating in Ethiopia do not have such insurance coverage, except for Eshi.

Is Eshi using its own vehicles for the piloting phase in Adama and Hawassa?

We deploy our own vehicles to deliver high risk packages. But usually, we use private vehicles which have insurance coverage.

Which sectors have high demand for delivery services, is it exporters, households, or wholesalers? And Ethiopia is ranked low on the logistics index. How can delivery companies improve this?

Our business is last mile delivery. We deliver from shops to end users, or consumers. Last mile delivery is the most difficult business in a given economy. One is due to a lack of precise addressing technology. It is also the most expensive logistics system. So the demand could be consumer goods, medication, and invitation or gift cards.

Last mile delivery also creates job opportunities. Millions of youth can deliver goods door to door. So, it is the best logistics sector for job creation. If we could make the delivery price cheaper, it can activate the economy, and affect millions of lives positively. It is a phenomenal sector.

By how much rate is Eshi growing from a startup to a large enterprise?

Our package delivery business size is growing at close to 10percentper month. It is not an impressive growth but we are making good progress.

We plan to grow by 15 percent on a monthly basis. Comparatively, Eshi is growing faster, because most of the delivery companies operating in regional states are highly affected by the conflict in Ethiopia.

How much does Eshi deliver in Adma and Hawassa?

Our delivery in these towns is just a couple of packages per day, for now.

But Blood Bank, the NEBE, Goh Betoch, Nile Insurance, Ramada hotel, hello market, and Ethswitch are some of our major institutional clients across the country. We do cash-up-on-delivery for our customers. We also provide full insurance coverage, which no delivery company does in Ethiopia. We also have warehouse for e-commerce companies.

Does Eshi directly buy goods and deliver?

Usually customers order e-commerce companies to supply the good. Then the e-commerce company orders us to deliver the packages to the customer who has placed the order. Hence,Eshi does not purchase the packages. The package is purchased by the e-commerce company. Since the customer cannot pay online, we collect the payments and give it to the companies, usually on a weekly basis.

If we directly engage in buying and delivering, it will take a huge capital. The e-commerce companies have the packages and the digital presence. I believe e-commerce should be much cheaper. Some e-commerce service providers give up to 15 percent discount, but the business is just taking up in Ethiopia. It is at very early stage.

Eshi does not want to play the role of e-commerce companies. If there are 40 e-commerce companies in Ethiopia, we do not want to become their competitors. Rather, we want to deliver their packages. But if there are packages not found in e-commerce warehouses and if Eshi can find those goods, we can supply it directly to the customer. Under this circumstance, we receive orders of packages worth less than 2,000 birr.

English Version News

Suzuki vehicle prices explode, shaking up the automobile industry

Yoseph Asfaw, a mid-level manager of one of the branches of Bunna Bank, was excited when he learnt he was eligible to take out a two million birr interest-free loan, courtesy of the performance his branch achieved last fiscal year. He did not hesitate to take the opportunity. After a few weeks of deliberation about what to buy with the money, he decided to purchase a vehicle. His choice was the 2022 model of the Suzuki Dzire, the most sought-after automobile in the car market. He was asked to pay 1.5 million birr.

“Are you sure I will recoup the money within a short period of time,” Yoseph asked the car retailer.

“Trust me, give it one month, and the price will surpass two million birr,” the retailer replied.

The trader was right. The price of Dzire 2022 has shot up to 2.2 million now, a development that helped Yoseph net a profit of 700,000 br in just a month. “You cannot get this money by saving or opening a trade store. And not surprising at all, given the volatility of the market,” said the banker, adding, “I don’t want to sell it as this is a treasure whose value appreciates every second, and the most profitable venture without adding value.”

It is not unusual to see the price of vehicles spike in Ethiopia. Cars are believed to be a big treasure, the same way apartments or houses are. A car costing less than USD 2,000 in neighbouring countries, the Toyota Vitz, costs nine times more in Ethiopia. The high tax on old cars, which could reach 500 percent, was used to justify the hike. Though the same is true for old cars now, the story is different in the case of new vehicles, a category given to automobiles produced within three years of imports.

Three years ago, the government introduced a new tax law to encourage the imports of new cars while discouraging the old ones. Such a reform was meant to make new cars cheaper, though it was a target that never materialized. A case in point is the Dzire 2022, an automobile imported through a duty-free scheme and flooded the market, along with other brands of Suzuki, including Espresso and Swift.

Toyota is still the dominant player in the vehicle market, though traders say Suzuki is now commanding the lion’s share, probably as high as 60 percent in the last two years. It is partly because the cost of new Toyota vehicles is higher than in the past, as older ones were less costly. For the same reason, Suzuki is the most preferred brand for importers now because the lower the cost, the lower the amount of foreign exchange importers needs to get.

“We get the forex from the parallel market with a premium, as banks barely cover the cost of the imported cars. Suzuki has become a preferred option for many importers as it is less costly and brings a better return with a higher profit margin than Toyota, which is expensive and requires a tiresome process to get the forex needed to import it from countries like Dubai,” said an importer.

Last year saw a spike in demand for new vehicles, largely due to the huge amount of finance availed by banks to borrowers eligible to take a loan to buy automobile. During the third quarter of the last fiscal year, 330 million birr was imported, twice what was imported in the preceding quarter. It is also 20 percent higher than what was imported during the same period in 2020/21. The increase is the outcome of the growing demand in the market, according to retailers. But that comes with a cost.

“The demand is way higher than the supply. We are receiving orders more than what is available in our stock,” said Ezra Hailemariam, marketing manager of Tamrin, one of the major market players in the car market and known for importing Suzuki brands.

The change in the global market has also contributed to the spike in price, according to Ezra.

“Over 90 percent of Suzuki cars are imported from India, which is not producing much now due to a shortage of inputs because of the tension between China and Taiwan, which is the major supplier of semiconductors for the factory in India,” Ezra added.

According to a senior company official, Maruti Suzuki said “it could not produce 51,000 units in the April-June quarter owing to the ongoing chip shortage situation.”

India’s largest carmaker, which sold 1.4 million vehicles this year, underscored that the semiconductor shortage is a challenge in planning its production activities.

“The electronics component shortages are still limiting our production volumes. In this quarter (Q1), the company could not produce 51,000 vehicles,” said Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) CFO Ajay Seth in an interview with a local media in India.

The scope of the fighting between government forces and militants of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) along the border of the Tigray region has widened with both sides acknowledging that the conflict has spread to more areas in addition to the area where it initially erupted. The fighting between government and TPLF forces resumed on August 24 after a five-month lull. Though combat had been heaviest around the southeastern border of Tigray, TPLF militants have pushed into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, sending residents fleeing. Clashes on the ground and air raids over Tigray have poured cold water on the efforts underway since June to find a peaceful solution to the 21-month war that began following an attack on federal army camps based in the region. The warring sides have accused each other of firing first and shattering the months-long relative calm that has been prevailing in the northern part of Ethiopia following the federal government’s announcement in March of a truce to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Tigray.

The federal government has also blamed what it calls the west and Ethiopia’s “historical enemies” for using the TPLF as a Trojan horse to advance their evil design on the nation. Ever since the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) commenced a military operation in Tigray in November 2020 in response to attacks on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) the country has been subjected to unprecedented pressure at the hands of Western governments, the U.N., mainstream media, think-tanks and rights groups. The U.S. particularly has sided with the TPLF, slapping a slew of sanctions on Ethiopia and withdrawing its benefits under the United States’ tariff-free African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) while it gave the TPLF a slap on the wrist. Furthermore, the U.S. and its allies at the U.N. Security Council have tried over a dozen times to formally admonish Ethiopia but failed thanks to the vote of China, Russia and India. Apart from exerting undue diplomatic pressure, the West has also been waging an information warfare against Ethiopia through a disinformation campaign undertaken by the mainstream media, think tanks and so-called rights advocacy organizations. Its end-game, as some analysts plausibly argue, is to engineer a regime change or if that does not work to coerce Prime Minister Abiy’s administration into accepting to the demands of the TPLF.

It’s not only over the Tigray conflict that the West is pressurizing Ethiopia though. The filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a bone of contention between Ethiopia, whose highlands supply more than 85 percent of the water that flows into the Nile River, and the lower riparian states of Sudan and Egypt. In 2020 the U.S. tried to force Ethiopia into signing a binding agreement on the filling period. The Ethiopian government declined to sign-off a U.S.-drafted agreement regulating the filling time of the dam, which Egypt insisted should be completed over 12-21 years, saying it has the right to fill the dam at its own pace and would do so in no more than seven years. Although Sudan initially supported the building of the dam, since then it has taken Egypt’s side on the ground that filling the dam without the agreement of downstream countries imperiled its national security. Again the Security Court, at the behest of Egypt and Sudan, convened on several occasions to consider a resolution calling on Ethiopia to cease filling the GERD’s reservoir and pushing for a binding agreement between the three sides on the operation of the dam but failed to adopt it.

The West’s motives driving its pressure campaign on Ethiopia, its long-standing regional ally, are purely self-centered and zero-sum. It is wary of Ethiopia’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy, which may very well frustrate the accomplishment of its strategic goal in the Middle East and Africa. First, Ethiopia’s apparent reluctance to do toe the West’s line has been perceived to make it harder to protect the interests of Egypt—the cornerstone of its Middle East policy. Second, its attempt to thread a needle as animosities between the West and China ramp up is not appreciated by the West, which feels threatened by Beijing’s growing clout on the global stage. Given Ethiopia has been a beacon of black Africans’ struggle for freedom and could inspire continental resistance to neo-colonialism, the West might deem that forcing Ethiopia to forsake China is instrumental in containing the influence of its top geopolitical rival in Africa.

The West better realize that the essentially undemocratic and unipolar global world order that had prevailed over the last several decades following the end of the Cold War is ebbing. As a country that has never been colonized and is home to a fiercely patriotic people, Ethiopia will never cave in to the West’s demands. Needless to say this requires on the part of the federal government to develop and implement a robust diplomatic policy aimed at nullifying the threat posed by its historical enemies through a variety of tried and tested mechanisms. Some of the steps it can take in this regard include forging a compromise with its adversaries where possible and failing that to foil their destabilizing policies and measures. Ethiopia has the capacity to find a resolution to the political crisis engulfing it. Any nation or organization which has its interest at heart should stop meddling in its domestic affairs and instead support it in seeking enduring solutions.

The abrupt eruption of fighting between government forces and militants of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) along the border of the Tigray region this Wednesday has left Ethiopians apprehensive and disheartened. The resumption of active hostilities shatters the months-long relative calm that has been prevailing in the northern part of Ethiopia following the federal government’s announcement in March of a truce to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Tigray. Predictably the warring sides have blamed each other of provoking the hostilities. The Ethiopian government has accused the TPLF of striking first, saying it had “destroyed the truce”. In a statement it issued on the same day the Government Communications Service said, “Disregarding the numerous peace options presented by the Ethiopian government, the armed wing of the terror group TPLF, pushing with its recent provocations, today committed an attack” around southern Tigray. The TPLF though has said government forces and their allies had launched a “large scale” offensive towards southern Tigray early Wednesday after a months-long lull in fighting, adding its forces were defending their positions in the southern front.

The lead up to the current round of conflict portended the escalation of the now 21-month civil war. War drums were repeatedly being beaten with all the sides in the conflict issuing statements pointing to the outbreak of an impending war. The TPLF said on several occasions that the peaceful path to resolve the situation was not working and that it was considering “other options.” The government of Ethiopia on its part accused the TPLF of engaging in extensive military mobilization in preparation to restart the war and called on the international community to condemn the terrorist-designated organization and dissuade it from its ill-fated move. The government of neighboring Eritrea, whose troops have been operating in Tigray since the war began, also pointed the finger at TPLF for plotting to launch attacks on the country to reclaim lost territory.

Since November 2020, the bloody war has exacted a heavy humanitarian toll and ravaged the nation’s economy. In addition to the tens of thousands killed and injured, millions more were displaced, psychologically traumatized and left needing emergency food assistance. Social and economic infrastructure has been totally or partially damaged, including schools, universities, health institutions, and other facilities in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions. The economy has taken and continues to take a battering. Its growth, which stood at around 10 percent annually before the conflict, has contracted by half; scores of industries have been damaged while some investors have suspended or totally quit operations, resulting in a surge in unemployment; the undoubtedly huge sums of foreign exchange the war has eaten up has contributed to its dearth at levels rarely seen before and to driving inflation higher. Although it’s difficult to quantify the true cost of the war, the destruction is sure to have cost Ethiopia billions of dollars.

The renewed conflict comes as efforts underway since June following the establishment of a government-appointed committee tasked with starting peace talks hit a snag. The government’s announcement in late July that it was ready to hold talks with the TPLF “anytime, anywhere” and the TPLF’s expression of its willingness to ending the war through peaceful means raised the prospects of peace. The apparent readiness of the two parties to engage in peace talks was hailed as an important initiative locally and by the international community. However, both sides have laid down preconditions that they say must be met prior to the commencement of talks—the declaration of a formal cessation of hostilities in the case of the Ethiopian government and the resumption of basic services to Tigray by the TPLF. They also disagree on who should lead negotiations, with the government demanding that the African Union oversee the process but the rebels insisting that outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta should chair it. While we are not apportioning blame here it’s disappointing to say the least that war has broken out again due to the inability of political leaders to do whatever is necessary to prevent it.

War is generally regarded as something that cannot guarantee a win-win solution to political conflicts. This said some contend that war is not necessarily the worst option as long as it fulfills certain considerations that lend it moral acceptance. Critics, however, argue that all war is essentially indefensible regardless of how justifiable the cause behind it may be. They also attempts to justify a particular type of war as being just serve to rationalize violence instead of constraining it. Philosophical differences aside, many agree war is a failure of imagination. Ethiopians have had enough of the internecine conflicts that they have endured for centuries. The blame squarely lies with political leaders and elites bereft of the desire to settle differences through constructive dialogues. In any kind of armed conflicts it is innocent civilians who bear the brunt, not their architects. That’s why the Ethiopian government and the TPLF need to immediately stop fighting and thrash out a durable peace accord at the negotiating table. Let’s not go back to square one!

Hopes of a negotiated political settlement to the war that erupted in northern Ethiopia in November 2020 following the attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces based in the Tigray region by the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have been high ever since the Ethiopian government established in June a committee tasked with holding peace talks. The government’s announcement in late July that it was ready to hold peace talks with the TPLF “anytime, anywhere” and the TPLF’s expression of its willingness to ending the war through peaceful means, albeit the fulfillment of certain preconditions, led many to believe that peace was finally within Ethiopians’ grasp. The apparent readiness of the two parties to engage in peace talks was hailed as an important initiative in bringing a conflict that has exacted a terrible toll on the country and its people to an end.

Efforts to start the peace talks seem to have hit a snag lately though. First, this week the Main Peace Committee—the committee the Ethiopian government established to explore the possibility of talks with the TPLF—declared while announcing it had drawn a “peace proposal” that the resumption of basic services to the war-stricken region was contingent up on the creation of an enabling environment once a formal ceasefire is concluded. Meanwhile, the TPLF immediately dismissed the committee’s statement as “obfuscation”, blaming the Ethiopian government for openly defying “their oft-repeated promise to take measures aimed at creating conducive environment for peaceful negotiations”. It further accused it of “taking provocative actions against [Tigrayan] forces” and warned that “it will be solely responsible for the eruption of a second round of war that will lead to the total destruction of the country”.

The condition laid down by the Main Peace Committee in a statement it issued, namely that the declaration of a formal cessation of hostilities is a prerequisite to resume the provision to Tigray of, among others, electricity and telephone services belies the Ethiopian government’s recent unambiguous assertion that it was committed to hold negotiations without any precondition and as such represents a step backwards. While the committee has legitimate security concerns regarding the safety of federal government employees that need to be deployed to Tigray in order to restart the basic services, it should also be mindful of the fact that the continued disruption of the services only serves to exacerbate the plight of ordinary Tigrayans, not the leadership of the TPLF. It needs to demonstrate in deeds its avowed commitment to alleviate the suffering of citizens in the conflict-affected parts of the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regional states. On its part the TPLF must stop beating the drums of war in the realization that throwing around belligerent statements is counterproductive to peace-building endeavors and just prolongs the ordeals of the very people it claims to stand for.

A host of hurdles stand in the way of the proposed talks. TPLF forces still occupy parts of the Amhara and Afar regions they invaded. Similarly, the Amhara region has ruled out negotiating over the fate of areas its forces wrested from Tigray soon after the war erupted, arguing they were forcefully incorporated under the Tigray region in 1991. The continued presence of the Eritrean troops in some of the territories they occupied in Tigray poses a challenge that complicates negotiations. Moreover, disagreements over who leads the mediation process—the African Union (AU) as the Ethiopian government insists or Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the preferred choice of the TPLF—can torpedo the entire process.

Trying to bring about a complete end to the fighting in northern Ethiopia followed by a political settlement which leads to a lasting peace is an arduous task to say the least. Nevertheless, no price is too high to pay for peace. Now is the time for the warring parties to show a genuine determination and commitment to peace. The deep-seated antagonism between the two sides understandably makes it difficult to strike a peace deal. Engaging in dialogue and making the necessary compromise requires more courage than continuing the war. Embarking on a peace process should not be about total victory for one party and a defeat for the other. It is about achieving an outcome in which all the protagonists and more importantly the people of Ethiopia emerge victorious. For the sake of Ethiopia and its people the Ethiopian government and TPLF must recommit themselves to peace.

The rule of law is a mechanism, process, institution, practice, or norm which strives to ensure that no one is above the law, everyone is treated equally under the law and held accountable to the same laws, there are clear and fair processes for enforcing laws and human rights are guaranteed for all. Ethiopia has the sad distinction of being a nation with a checkered track record when it comes to upholding the rule of law. Among the different metrics by which a country’s overall rule of law performance may be measured, Ethiopia has particularly fared badly in assuring order and security as well as respect for fundamental rights. The act of turning back some people travelling from the Amhara region en route to the capital Addis Ababa constitutes a clear example of the latter.

For over three weeks now security forces in the Oromia region have been preventing citizens travelling by cross-country bus from the North and South Wollo zones of the Amhara region to the capital through Oromia from getting to their destination if they do not carry a residence ID of Addis Ababa. Federal government officials claim operatives deployed by the terrorist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were recently arrested while trying to infiltrate Addis Ababa using residence IDs and administrative seals it had looted when it occupied some parts of the Amhara region, adding the measure is part of a security operation aimed at thwarting the evil designs of the terrorist group. True, a government’s primary responsibility is to protect the safety and security of citizens. Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that the manner in which any operation to ensure law and order does not trample basic liberties enshrined in the constitution.

One such right is freedom of movement. Article 32 of the constitution stipulates that any Ethiopian or foreign national lawfully in Ethiopia has, within the national territory, the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence, as well as the freedom to leave the country at any time he wishes to. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights — the international instruments Ethiopia has ratified and in conformance with which the fundamental rights and freedoms specified in the constitution must be interpreted — also afford protection to this right. Absent a duly declared state of emergency, there can be no justification for the indefensible prevention of Ethiopian citizens from enjoying their freedom of movement on the ground that they pose a potential security threat.

Aside from flouting the rights to liberty of movement, the action of the Oromia security forces has other troubling ramifications. First, it creates a perception of discrimination and ostracization in the individuals victimized by the travel restriction. Moreover, the fact that they are unable to travel to their intended destination entails damaging economic and social consequences for them. This is liable to sow the seeds of resentment and down the line to political conflict. Second, it encroaches on the federal government’s constitutionally granted power to regulate major roads linking two or more regional states. Such intrusion into the federal government’s exclusive preserve sets a bad precedent for other regions. In short it spells danger for the integrity of the constitutional order and the rule of law.

Freedom of movement is a fundamental right all levels of government must respect. Any perceived security threat its exercise may pose should be handled in a manner that does not result in the violation of the right and subjects innocent citizens to inconvenience. There can be no sugarcoating the fact that the act of preventing certain classes of people from travelling to wherever they want is an unequivocal infringement of not only freedom of movement, but also the right to equality. As such it is incumbent on the federal, Oromia and Amhara regional governments need to hold consultations on ensuring that everyone travelling from the Amhara region via Anwar Soussa has been the Managing Director (MD) of Safaricom Ethiopia since July 2021. He was the Managing Director of Vodacom DRC and the Chairperson of Vodacash (M-PESA), a position he has held since 2017 until joining Safaricom Ethioia. During his tenure, Vodacom DRC made major strides in operational performance, crossing the USD half a million in service revenue mark for the first time in 2020. The Reporter’s Samson Berhane sat down with him to understand his new beginnings in Ethiopia.

The Reporter: First, tell us about your journey in the telecom sector.

Anwar:I have been in the telecom sector since 2006. But I started in the technology sector since 1996 in Montreal, Canada. I joined Safaricom Ethiopia, the project, when I was in Vodacom in Congo. I was a CEO there. My experience perfectly suited for this type of operation.

Safaricom has been preparing for more than a year to launch service. Why did it take so long? What were the problems that you have faced while doing so?

I don’t call it a problem. I call it a challenge. Initially, when we come into the market, the idea was to launch using ethio telecom infrastructure. That agreement took longer than expected to finalize. As a result, we choose to build our own towers. We did not want to wait. To build towers, you have to find land, import materials like steel and find cement as well as hire sub-contractors. That means you need more time than the initial plan. That is the real reason why it took longer than expected to launch service. Now, we signed a deal with ethio telecom and things are gonna move faster.

Tell us about the detail of the deal. I heard you are going to pay in both local currency and USD to lease the infrastructure of ethio telecom.

I am going to keep the deal private because that is between us and ethio telecom. But there is a dollar component. The reason is, as well all know, there is a forex shortage in the market and to prepare a site for us, they are required to import materials from abroad. We recognize that. We agreed to make the component in dollar for them to make the site ready for us.

So, the negotiation is now over?

Ethio telecom has been a very good partner. The CEO, Frehiwot, has been gracious in terms of engagement with us. Everything is proceeding well. The delay was due to operational issues. How many juniors were available? How fast we can get steel? How fast we can upgrade the site? All of these are operational issues.

When you launch service in Dire Dawa, you have used your own infrastructure.

That’s correct. When we launch service, initially, we are using our own infrastructure. But as we move forward, we will be sharing infrastructure of ethio telecom and build our own in the meantime.

Is there any change in equity contribution of shareholders in Safaricom Ethiopia? Some say, there is. Is that true?

No, there is change.

As Safaricom is listed in the stock market, a change is expected when something new happens. Have you seen any change recently after you launched service?

I don’t think it is possible for you to attribute any change to a certain element. The reality is the World’s stock market has been very volatile over the past six months. There is a war and a global recession coming in. Certain things happening are way beyond the control of a certain company or what we do here in the ground.

What should Ethiopians expect from Safaricom? Many hope Safaricom will come up with a better quality of service with a lower fare.

The pricing move from ethio telecom last year was very strong. They brought down massively. I am not sure if it will be possible to bring down price from what is in the market now. However, in terms of quality, my expectation is that the quality overall in the market will improve. And the reason I say that is because we are setting up a new network and ethio telecom, or the competition, will not stay still, I expect they will bring the best game in the table. Quality of service, both in technological level and in customers’ service, will be improved massively. How customers’ complaints are going to be taken care of? I think these are areas where you see a major improvement.

The price that you are charging is almost similar with ethio telecom. Do you think you can be competitive in the market, while charging the same price, as people expect a lower fare from you?

The price for voice is one of the most aggressive in Africa. And I don’t think there is a room to drop voice prices. So do I think we can be competitive? Yes, I do. The most important thing we want to flag is that we don’t want a price war with ethio telecom. If we start a price war, that means they will automatically react. There is no way there is going to sit by and see us dominate the market because our price is cheaper. I think that will a detrimental impact on the market, not only on us. I don’t think you see a change in terms of price.

The infrastructure deal took more time than you anticipated. The global market is not helping too. Did you make any change in your financial targets, considering the challenges you have faced since you secured the license to operate in Ethiopia? For instance, do you still think it is possible to achieve breakeven within five years, as outlined in your initial plan?

Yes, I do think so. I think the biggest challenge is the global inflation. The price of fuel is increasing. The same is true for cement and steel. All these things are going to be more expensive. I think this element of the business will be very challenging. Yet the plan is still to breakeven within four or five years. But we have to pay attention to the cost.

You are investing heavily in infrastructure development. And can you tell us how far you have gone thus far?

We will continue to invest with the money that we allotted when we started the business. Some places are easier. Addis is easier than the regions. This is because there are a lot of buildings to put on the antennas. So it is simple to deploy in Addis than other areas.

If it is easy, why did you first launch service in Dire Dawa?

That is a small town. It requires fewer sites. It is easy to optimize. The network rollout was very fast.

How long it would take to launch service in Addis?

Six weeks. We believe there is a massive opportunity in the capital, in every element. I have been working in 12 countries. I never had been in a country where a single company dominates everything. The market will be split.

Is there any place that you want to capitalize on, especially an area where ethio telecom has a little presence?

That is a nature of businesses. You grow until there is no place to grow.

How long it would take for you to be independent from ethio telecom?

I don’t think we want to be independent. The reason I say that is because old days where everyone builds its own infrastructure are gone. You have to share infrastructure. That makes more sense because that does not have any impact on your competitiveness. Why do you build a fiber where there is a fiber? That will be a waste of money.

There has been a social media outcry against your recruitment process. What is your reflection on this?

To be honest, I think it was not only on the recruitment process but also on the language we are using. It was also about distributors and how we are allocating distributors across regions. It was also about the religious mix of what we have in the office and what we have employed everywhere. There were a bunch of requests the activists raised with us. So, we did not respond immediately because we were supposed to understand whether these are true or not and see ourselves if there are problems. To be honest, I don’t think the problems are as acute as people are saying. What they did say is to be careful. For instance, if we go to Oromia, we have to use Afan Oromo. We have to pay attention to laws. We have put signs saying coming soon. It was us not being sensitive. We met guys behind the campaign. They were very moderate. None of them want to hurt Safaricom. They want what we do to be fair. They did not make extraordinary demands. That’s why we are comfortable to engage with them. I understand we have to be sensitive to the history, the culture and the current politics without going too far. It has to merit-based. Everybody coming to the company should be the best of the best. We have received a lot of advises from the government. All of them said “you must choose the best but be careful.”

Do you think it is possible for Safaricom to apply meritocracy in light of the current situation in Ethiopia?

I think there has to be a meritocracy. The qualification of the candidates has to be there. There should be no compromise. However, as we choose candidates, the priority must be given to the people within the region. It is not appropriate to start shifting from one region to another. Not because of other issues but language considerations are critical. People have to speak the language of the area where they are working.

Now let us talk about mobile money. I know you are in the process of launching M-Pesa here. Do you see any progress from regulatory body in introducing a legal framework to govern the sector?

The legal element is going fine. I think it is gonna be available very soon. Our shareholders are engaging with the government. From operational perspective, things are going well. We have put the app in place. We have put configurations in place. Everything is in a good shape. In technically perspective, we will be ready to launch service in the next three months.

The approval process of the bill may take another three months. Do you think that will have an impact on your plan?

No. We got so much to do. We have 25 cities to cover. We have massive network to build.

Do you think you can repeat the success of M-Pesa in Kenya here in Ethiopia?

Absolutely. Kenya is particularly amazing story. Wherever we launched M-Pesa, we were successful and we are leading the market. So we don’t see any way it is not going to be successful in Ethiopia.

Ethio telecom is already advancing in the mobile banking market. Are you expecting fierce competition when you launch M-Pesa?

I do expect very strong competition. They have done a great job in recruiting customers and strengthening the network.

From what I have observed, ethio telecom is taking an advantage of its link with public offices to facilitate payments in the public sector? Have you get any promise from government officials whether you will get the same opportunity when you launch M-Pesa?

We are talking them to now. There is no one said we are not going to get this opportunity. Yes, they had a one year head start. They have done great job in services they have launched. Yet I believe we can catch up.

How is the war in North Ethiopia affecting you?

We have a huge amount of work to do. I think it will slow us down in certain areas but we will continue doing our work in other areas. But everyone is sad to see the resumption of conflicts.

Are things in place to launch service in North Ethiopia, particularly in Tigray, if the war ends?

We will be ready as soon as communications are stored and get the blessings to go back in. We want to reach all over Ethiopia.

My last question is on repatriation. Many international companies usually complain about the difficulty of repatriating profit in Ethiopia. Some say it takes over a decade. How is your plan in that regard?

Repatriation is not a big issue. The issue is finding dollar to buy equipment after the investment window closes. After our money runs out, we need to get forex to buy equipment. Regarding repatriation, we knew the issues when we came. If it takes 10 years, it takes 10 years. We gonna be here longer than that. Of course, we want to repatriate but we are here for long term.

Oromia without fear that they will be turned back before getting to their journey’s end. Given upholding the fundamental rights laid out in the constitution is vital to assuring the very survival of Ethiopia as a cohesive polity, overstepping the constitution in the name of containing elements bent on wreaking havoc cannot and should not be tolerated. That is why it’s imperative to put an immediate stop to the blatantly unconstitutional violation of freedom of movement and see to it that it’s not repeated ever again. Goitom Tsegaye is deputy chairperson of Arena Tigray, an opposition party popular in Tigray. He has been voicing his concern over the war in Tigray since it broke out almost one and half years ago. The second time the conflict started, Goitom found it heartbreaking. He thinks that in carrying out the eagerly anticipated negotiations between the two warring groups, the African Union did not fully fulfill its obligations to the organization. The Reporter’s Selamawit Mengesha sat down with the opposition leader to get more of his perspective on the recent resumption of hostilities.

The Reporter: Let’s start with the war that erupted anew this week. Before the battle resurfaced, there were talks of a peace agreement. Is there still hope for negotiations?

Goitom: It is heartbreaking that the dispute has resurfaced this week. Since it began, there is a potential that it will continue, although much will be lost if it does.

War’s casualties are well known, and hopefully we have a government that cares enough about its people to put an end to it. They should have learned from their previous mistakes and avoided them, in my opinion.

Both parties demanded that mediators be appointed. What was the reason the two parties couldn’t agree on who should undertake the mediation?

Essentially, I believe there is one thing we should all remember: everyone must be fair and impartial while looking at things.

In a war, not everyone carries a weapon, but what we’re seeing in Tigray is people lacking necessities such as banks, water, transportation, telephones, and electricity.

We were taught to believe that these services were destroyed during the war and that the government was unable to repair them, but it is now clear that this was not the case all along.

According to the Tigray regional government’s discussions with the EU, the federal government is leveraging these necessities when it could simply provide them to the people; it’s using them as a weapon of sorts.

War has laws, but the warring side is separate from the people. The people of Tigray are also Ethiopian citizens; hence the administration is harming its own people. Personally, I believe it is not the best way to proceed.

I believe that the federal government should have learned from its failures from the beginning. I don’t think initiating a full-fledged war with the TPLF was the best course of action. Instead of attacking, it should have been defending.

It was not a prudent move, especially with other powers involved. What I mean is that the items the Tigray regional government is requesting from the federal government are essentials for the people.

Both parties bear responsibilities for doing the right thing by the people. I’m not sure why it’s framed as a difficult choice. It is for the people of Ethiopia; hence the government should have established a consensus for its people by now.

To return to the subject of the negotiations, the government already pledged to begin them without any preconditions. However, the offer was to negotiate solely with the TPLF, without including Amhara, Afar, or even Eritrea. Do you think these groups should have been taken into account during the negotiations?

I believe the government’s strategy was flawed from the start. We’ve observed unlawful acts such as Tigray transferring land to Amhara with the assistance of other forces, so what has the Amhara area lost from Tigray?

We’ve heard on several times, particularly in the case of Welkait, that the region is attempting to reclaim their land. Is it even their land is the question?

The structure of the regions, in my opinion, is fairly apparent.

I say this because there was a region called Show that later became part of the Amhara and Oromo region, a place called Bege Medhir became part of the Tigray and Amhara region, and if Welo became part of Afar, Tigray, and Amhara, then there is really nothing new that happened between Tigray and Amhara, unless there is a belief that if I am living here, there is no one else there, which in that case makes comprehension difficult.

Ethiopia and its land are inextricably linked, so stating the land was mine and I want it back makes no sense to me. Questioning the demarcation system is understandable, just as arguing “using language as a way of defining regions is wrong,” but claiming land in the same country is not.

Ethiopia’s land is reserved for Ethiopians. Sitting and talking with Tigray and the federal government makes sense because the government is clearly offending Tigrayans and requires mediation.

Because Eritrea was involved in the attack, having Eritrea participate in the talks makes more sense than having the Amhara region participate in the talks.

Understanding this, I believe, is critical.

As a representative of Tigray, Eritrea and the federal government should have discussed Bademe and other issues. However, in actuality, the federal administration has not been representing the people and territory of Tigray.

Negotiations have been attempted by international groups. We’ve seen people like Obasanjo come to the country and make attempts, and many people were optimistic that the talks would take place. Do you believe the conflict resurfaced because those bodies failed to carry out their duty properly? Or do you believe they carried out their responsibilities correctly?

I believe we should have taken the initiative.

Both the federal government and the Tigray regional government should have demonstrated interest in the negotiations from the start; only then could other groups assist in getting the talks started.

According to my knowledge, they did not fulfill their obligations, particularly the African Union. Aside from creating articles and laws, I do not feel the AU has a consistent and capable ability due to one of their articles; Article 2H, titled humanitarian integration.

Although the article has been ratified, the Union lacks the resources to put it into action. According to that provision, the Union has the right but not the resources to intervene in cases of humanitarian rights breaches.

For example, the AU did nothing to address the Tigray situation; there were words but no action. For these reasons, I didn’t have high hopes for the AU. It still has a long way to go, in my opinion.

Other international organizations with influence and power have their own military intervention regulations as well. The west has previously attempted to exert pressure on the administration, but international organizations such as the EU and countries such as the US are preoccupied with other matters such as the Ukraine-Russia war.

They have the ability, but their focus has been diverted away from Africa. They, too, lack consistency, as evidenced by their actions in Ukraine. As a result, I don’t believe they’ve done their part

They have the power and capability, and yet here we are.

Who do you believe is to blame for the re-ignition of the war? Could the difference in negotiation beliefs be the cause, or do you believe the absence of the Welkait and Humera concerns is a contributing factor?

As I stated at the outset, if we refer to the Oromia area, we need to know which cities and counties comprise that region. That is, the problems of Tigray and Welkait should not be a problem. I cannot argue that the requirement should not be met because the federal government granted the land without Tigray’s approval and is now requesting that Tigray accept it.

People who lived there before are now refugees. People are unable to use their own funds because banks are closed. All of these difficulties should be considered as prerequisites.

It’s not difficult to grasp, even for the federal government. People are hungry, so shouldn’t that be addressed first as a prerequisite before any negotiations begin?

I cannot accept the idea that there are no prerequisites. Negotiations would be conducted with a boot on the people of Tigray if those demands were not met.

I don’t have any information on who restarted the war. To be certain, I would have to live there. I am like everyone else, listening to all sides’ arguments.

What will the people of Tigray face if the fighting continues? You’re already aware of the issue. What do you think about the present humanitarian crisis?

I don’t believe that anything positive can come from conflict.

War will take innocent lives, destroy property, and deplete the economy, and what could be worse than that? Tigrayans are at a significant disadvantage.

They are under attack from their own government, former foes such as Eretria, and adjacent territories such as the Amhara region. It’s painful to see how something that should have been resolved amicably has turned into an injustice against the people of Tigray, which is also an injustice against the rest of the country.

Hopefully, people will realize this soon. I’m sure there will come a day when our empathy will be tested. Ethiopia will pay a high price as a result of the conflict. In the war, there are no winners, but all are losers.

Do you believe the constitution can deescalate and resolve the conflict? What are your thoughts on the matter? Is it possible to resolve the disagreement based on the current constitution and the new statute established by the federation under which regions could decide directly to be regions?

There aren’t enough people organized to hold a referendum. Furthermore, Tigray has no representatives in the House of Federations. How will Tigray make its case? Who will be Tigray’s representative?

At this stage, it would be child’s play; the most serious offenses have already been committed. Atrocities in violation of the constitution have occurred. International agencies have branded it ethnic cleansing, and some have even called it genocide.

So this is pretty strange. On paper, the constitution is just and fair, but its implementers are not.

Is it truly conceivable to exclude Eritrea from the war in the future if Eritrea’s government refuses to withdraw its troops? Will their departure solve the problem in any way?

I believe we must consider how they got to be involved in the war.

Did the federal government request that its troops participate? Was the Parliament able to represent them? I mean, there are multiple options, right? Who delegated authority?

These points must be addressed first.

It would be pointless to question something that has no legal foundation. Was a formal agreement reached between the Ethiopian government and President Esaias? If so, what were the terms, and where are the documents?

Is it even conceivable for an Ethiopian Prime Minister to pull out such a deal out of the blue? He cannot. To begin with, it must go past Parliament.

As a result, the question of whether Eritrea should withdraw has become extremely convoluted, with numerous loose ends.

We have observed that since the beginnings of the war, a large number of Tigray-born residents living in various cities throughout the country have faced discrimination and harassment everywhere they go. They couldn’t return to Tigray due to the war, and during this time, everybody from Tigray or of Tigrayan ethnicity was in a plight. That had been subsiding to a degree in recent months, but now that tensions have resurfaced, what does this mean for Tigrayans living around the country?

This is a clear problem. Kibrom authored a book and was detained because of his ethnicity; he traveled to Afar and got into a lot of problems; I’m using him as an example, but there are many others like him.

What is the UN peacekeeping mission doing now? To be honest, I don’t think it was even this horrible during Derg’s reign.

Innocent people are openly mistreated based on their race, with some even losing their lives as a result. Tigray is not being represented by the government, and this must change. It must reflect on its previous activities.

We are on the verge of a major crisis, which must be examined thoroughly.

It is unacceptable to feel unsafe and to face severe discrimination in your own country because of your heritage. There was a glimmer of hope. As you stated, the current circumstance may pass as it always does, but it may leave wounds and scars that will not go as readily.

Do you believe Ethiopia will be restored to its former glory in the future? What is the hope in a situation when many already believe Tigray is no longer a part of Ethiopia or that it would have a referendum? Do you believe Ethiopia is one of them?

It depends on the next steps we take.

As far as I am aware, Tigray is still a part of Ethiopia. Even Eritrea would have been a part of Ethiopia if not for the Adwa war and its consequences.

Right now, looking at the government’s actions against the people of Tigray, such as refusing to reopen banks, the internet, and transportation, it appears that there is a power that does not want Tigray to be a part of Ethiopia, which is incorrect. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that was established in 1989 as one of China’s largest charity organizations dedicated to poverty alleviation.

The foundation, among other things, provides healthcare and nutritious food to vulnerable populations, with a focus on mothers and children; supports education programs; provides scholarships; builds infrastructure; and distributes stationery to help communities thrive.

The Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations Authority registered the Foundation in 2019, and it has been actively working since 2015 by collaborating with local and international non-governmental organizations on various projects such as school feeding, clean water, women’s economic empowerment, and refugee support. Sisay Sahlu of The Reporter spoke with Emma XiaocenXuang, the country director of the foundation’s Ethiopian office, about some of the project activities in Ethiopia.

The Reporter: It is unusual to see the Chinese government involved in such areas, particularly in poverty alleviation. What are the goals of establishing this foundation?

EmmaXiaocenXuang:This is the basis of a total charity organization founded in 1989.

The Chinese government’s fund for social enterprises provides 99 percent of its funding. In China, the foundation works in the fields of health, education, rural development, and livelihood. We are now investing in similar international engagement areas.

In Ethiopia, our official implementation agreement began in 2015 in collaboration with Ethiopia’s First Lady, Roman Tesfaye, specifically to begin school feeding in Addis, in over 43 schools.

We were collaborating with a local organization called E-network at the time, but they changed the name to Hailmariam and Roman Foundation. We were officially registered as a civil society organization in Ethiopia in 2019 after working with this foundation for about four years.

We started the registration process in 2017, but the government changed, so we put it on hold. We restarted in July of 2019.

What is the foundation’s international experience?

In 2005, we began working as an emergency aid provider, and in 2015, we officially began in Myanmar and Nepal as our first steps in Asian countries, with Ethiopia becoming our first African destination.

We began our project in Ethiopia and Sudan in 2015. However, we chose Ethiopia as the location of our regional office.

The Chinese government has extensive experience in poverty alleviation. What is the secret to their success? Are there any suggestions?

One component of the foundation is poverty alleviation. The People’s Republic of China has a very strong system, and China is very good at mobilizing all of the parties involved, such as companies, non-governmental organizations, the public, the government, schools, and research institutions, to engage in poverty alleviation.

All of those parties are working within this system, and there are numerous methods and areas for collaboration in the education and nutrition sectors. We incorporated the school feeding system into children’s basic rights and the education system, not just the Zero Hunger plan.

We also give quotas to poor areas, particularly at China’s two best universities, Tsinghua and Peking. According to policy, we provide a quota for the poor. This is because if you want to end poverty, you have to invest in education.

Similarly, we must construct a very strong housing system to ensure that all citizens receive the full package so that they won’t have to stress over things like, “Oh, I’m sick right now, so I’m going to the hospital and spending a lot of money, since the government is covering most of the cost.”

Both the government and non-governmental organizations offer benefits like insurance.

For instance, I was born in China. Both the government and my company provided insurance for me. However, I believe that identifying the poor is the most difficult task because doing so is the first step in providing aid to the underprivileged.

In this regard, the Chinese government created a system that can store all of a person’s information on a card that serves as an ID card. You can discover a person’s complete information using this card.

A person also has a complex set of criteria and evaluation standards.

If you have an income of up to 2300 Chinese RMB, that means you are getting out of poverty, and the next step is to observe and follow-up for a few years until you make steady progress out of poverty.

If they are in an accident or become ill, they will be forced to return to poverty and their names will be added to the poverty list again. So this is a national system implemented with strong leadership and complex evaluation criteria to identify, follow-up, and evaluate the entire system.

How can we balance the demands of the expanding population with the available resources? Is there any advice, particularly with regard to the food system?

You know, it could be the geographical location, but if you look at China, we have a very large land area. Even the climate in the north and south is vastly different. People in the south, for example, prefer rice as their main food, whereas people in the north prefer wheat. The majority of Ethiopians consume Enjara.

I believe it is about food diversity and nature’s gift. I couldn’t find any seafood in Ethiopia. Everything is imported. So, in comparison to geography and location, it is the gift of nature that I want to emphasize.

The second point to mention is that China has made substantial investments in its agricultural sector. We simply devised a number of methods for producing more food while working with limited resources.

For example, there is a well-known Chinese man who developed a type of improved seed by changing the genetics and received an international award. In the same situation, this new seed can produce more than ten times the yield of the original local seed.

Thus, we put more time, effort, technology, and other resources into our endeavors. The northwest region of China is characterized by extremely dry land devoid of any water. In order to effectively use rainwater for farm work during the dry season, we constructed a water sailor.

The other thing we do is drip irrigation, and we make good use of all the available resources. There are just too many aspects to it for me to list them all now.

When the land is distributed in pieces, the government in some places tries to use the entire land and bring all of the necessary equipment to do the farming all at once, saving money, time, and human resources while producing more products.

What can Ethiopia learn from Chinese agricultural practices in order to make better use of its resources?

The most important industry is agriculture. Ethiopia is also dependent on it.

I noticed teff is a main product, and it appears that farmers are having difficulty making a living from it. I recently traveled to the Amhara region, Somalia, Oromia, and other parts of the country. I noticed how friendly and hardworking the people are.

Their farming equipment, however, only uses cows; such farming was abandoned in China more than 30 years ago.

When I see this practice, I think to myself, “Is it possible for Ethiopia to develop without using adequate technological instruments?” And I believe it is preferable to bring more technology and do it more efficiently.

I want to be modest. I sometimes admire how they learn this from their ancestors and local wisdom, even knowing the direction of the wind and when it might rain.

However, because I am not an expert in the field, it is difficult for me to speak out without conducting an assessment and a survey. In China, there are numerous agricultural universities with a large number of professors and college students working in the sector.

They are professionals who are learning from both abroad and at home, and they provide an excellent representation of Chinese planting culture. Farmers are constantly being introduced to new cultures, technologies, and skills. We also organize farmers into groups to teach them how to plant properly in order to produce more products.

Another experience is that you are aware that individual farmers are extremely vulnerable and lack the clout and knowledge to bargain with the market and the upper chain. They only sell the original fruit for a very low price. They put in a lot of effort and got very little in return.

There is something in China known as a “cooperative” or “organization.”

It is a unified organization made up of all farmers, and the farmers choose just one or two people to lead their organization and send representatives to determine the prices of all products.

They bargain to determine the market price, and if they work together and make a profit, they split it.

The majority of Chinese practical and recognized engagement in Africa mostly takes the form of investments, loans, and credit provision. Humanitarian commitment to Africa is little known, particularly in comparison to the Western world. What prompted the Chinese government to get involved in such foundations and poverty-relief efforts?

The first point I’d like to make is that the China Foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, and we take great care when discussing political issues. We are always neutral and on the side of the vulnerable.

My personal observation is that, initially, international aid is provided all over the world, particularly after World War II. So there is a tradition, and 40 years ago, China suffered greatly and received significant assistance from Western and other developed nations.

They invested heavily and brought some goods to China. You know, for example, for people like me, I have received an English education from the UNDP.

China was the first recipient of aid, and now that the country has matured and can no longer ignore these countries, it is time for China to accept responsibility.

So, doing business is one thing, and taking on social responsibility is quite another. There is no conflict, and we must proceed.

You earn money and support your people there, but you must invest locally to support the local community, which is natural. Here, we share common sense and concepts with both the government and the general public.

But, you know, because we only recently developed our economy to support the Chinese public, the concept of social responsibility is something that comes from a good heart. China has done a lot to eradicate extreme poverty, but poverty still exists, and people are becoming wealthy in a very short period of time. We sometimes solve the poverty problem, but we still need to work on the nutrition problem.

We can’t solve it quickly because it’s a long-term process.

However, the Chinese government is always concerned with the need to do something for the locals, and they encourage businesses to assist the locals and take more responsibility. It also encourages companies to invest abroad while also taking on social responsibility.

The funds for this foundation did not come from the government; rather, they came from the South-South cooperation initiative.

How much money have you put into Ethiopia?

We used USD two million this year, but depending on the project, the fund may grow if the situation allows us to move forward.

What have you done in Ethiopia thus far?

We want to do a lot of things, but some of our plans have to be put on hold, not only because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but also because of the conflict in Ethiopia.

We are now investing in education, especially in school feeding, panda bag, wash, and solar light projects. But school feeding is the first thing we’ve focused on because we believe the children deserve it and that it’s a basic human right.

In addition, we intend to construct the school kitchen and provide cooking supplies for the students.

We have received funding for it, but we have yet to make a decision.

The city of Addis Ababa has adopted the full standard of cooking that we developed based on Chinese experience combined with the first lady’s local experience. Initially, it was 40 birr for two meals (breakfast and lunch) per child.

We recently visited the Oromia region and plan to visit the Amhara region; we simply want to share our limited resources’ experience, models, and any other relevant information.

Our main goal is to create a model and share it with the government and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that want to get involved and contribute to the local community.

Do you believe this school meal can be sustained?

Of course, we will conduct an evaluation, and once we see how the school feeding program is working, we will not suspend it for at least three years. We need to ensure that once the program is running smoothly, we can extend it for more than three years.

But our aim and goal is to keep this school feeding program running from kindergarten to grade eight, and that is how we will proceed.

However, if the government says, “We have money and we don’t need you anymore,” we suspend it and shift our focus to other sectors.

Addis Ababa has started the program, but if you look at mothers’ cooking, you will notice that they only use three stones in the pot to cook the sauce, which consumes a lot of energy and is bad for their health.

They must get up early and are paid very little. As a result, we are attempting to provide more integrated and comprehensive support, such as building and maintaining the kitchen as well as providing cooking materials.

We commissioned some Chinese construction firms to create the design, which we have already implemented in one school.

It is a pilot project, and if it is useful and effective, we will undoubtedly expand it. However, the first step is to obtain electricity in order to provide modern cooking materials, which can also save energy.

How are schools chosen for this project?

We communicate and collaborate with the government, and they know which areas and schools require the most attention. We will go there on the ground and compare one school to another based on their recommendations.

Are you planning anything else?

Yes, there is a Panda Bag project that aims to provide kids with school bags that contain more than 100 school supply items, such as lunch boxes, water bottles, hygiene items such as soap and toothpaste, and all the necessary materials for the students.

Every year, we conduct an assessment by asking children, teachers, parents, and members of the local community what kinds of items they most need and which items they do not want.

We need to make more adjustments if any item is more needed. We make every effort to avoid any political or religious content in this gift. The donation was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

We will send the entire quota to the Afar and Amhara regions this year because they are affected by the conflict.

What exactly is the challenge?

Of course, there are numerous challenges. Each project has its own set of implementation challenges. We have to buy the panda bags from local factories when we need to provide them to the children. We talked, argued, and bargained about the price and shipment from China with them during this process, because we couldn’t find the item in the local market.

Actually, we made it easier for you to invest in it in the local market, but you couldn’t find the right quality.

And something that worries me is that when we try to collect some items from the local market, I notice that they are coming from India or Turkey, and I believe that if we need to invest in the local market, we should get the materials from here, because buying imported materials is very expensive.

Of course, not this year. We paid nearly one million birr per year for the damage in the previous three years because we did not receive the tax-free letter. However, we received this letter this year. This entry was published on August 1, 2010. Yohannes Benti (PhD) began his career as a chemistry teacher for a high school in West Oromia in 1992, the same year he got his degree in chemistry from Addis Ababa University. He has been the president of the Ethiopian Teachers Association since 2009, having been elected three times. He is the lobbying group’s longest-serving leader, having ruled over it for more than a fifth of its existence.

He immediately became an active member of the Association. Before getting his master’s degree in Educational Planning and Management from Addis Ababa University in 2005, he earned a second bachelor’s degree in law from a private university. While running the Association, he got a certificate in Advocacy and Citizen Management from the Coady International Institute in Canada and a PhD in Educational Policy and Leadership from Addis Ababa University in 2019.

The Association has 700,000 members at all levels. For the past six months, university instructors have been protesting about inadequate remuneration and other difficulties, but the government appears to have mainly ignored them. They have even vowed to strike in the coming month if the administration does not present a satisfactory solution.

Yohannes is the president of the association that represents each university’s associations, as well as a member of the Board of Education International, a 32-million international union organization.The Reporter’s Samuel Bogale sat down with him to discuss the concerns of lecturers and the education sector.

The Reporter: What compelled university academics to issue an ultimatum as they request the government to make an adjustment on salary and work grade? Can you tell us what they asked, and why they didn’t get a response?

Yohannes Benti (PhD): The query from university lecturers is on Job Evaluation Grading (JEG) and its implementation, which the government decided to impose for all civil servants in 2019.

There were approximately 65 salary scales among civil servants when the government agreed to reduce these scales in 2010, but it was later reduced to 22 scales in 2019 and applied immediately.

Since 2016, the Association has represented both general education and university teachers in the study to implement the JED on civil servants.

We detected a problem with the scales and wages of general education instructors when it was brought to us for comments in 2019, soon before implementation. We later requested an adjustment to increase their grades from the Ministry of Education, which then met with the Civil Service Commission.

During the process, the requirement for university instructors was disregarded.

What substantial modifications were made to the pay scales for general education teachers but not for university lecturers?

The highest work grade for teachers, regardless of experience, was only six. When the JEG was established, we asked the government to help them improve their grades, and they eventually made it to grade nine.

These are the salary adjustments that university lecturers did not have the opportunity to make. High school teachers with a bachelor’s degree currently earn more than 12,500 birr per month, or 1,400 birr more than university lecturers.

The higher the grade point average, the better the salary.

What has been the reaction of university instructors since then?

They have been complaining during our series of meetings since its deployment in 2019, and have even requested back pay.

Last year, the associations at each university formally developed a list of approximately 14 questions. Our association was then part of a committee that made the requests to the then-Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which was later dissolved before responding to our queries.

The petitions have since been passed on to the Ministry of Education, which is now the regulator of Ethiopia’s universities.

They had complained not just about the JEG and salary scales, but also about overtime pay, consultancy fees, housing allowances, and tax-related difficulties.

Housing has long been a demand of the teachers, and the government has always claimed that it is taking action. So far, how has it been?

Since the implementation of a directive in 2016, teachers have been given preference for housing at their places of employment, either by building on a plot of land or by purchasing condominium homes in cities like Addis Ababa.

University academics are excluded from this due to claims that they were receiving housing benefits, and their universities may be in a better financial position to have their own buildings and house the teachers. However, some city administrations, such as Addis Ababa, have already started offering housing subsidies to their general education instructors.

For teachers, a home is not just a place to live but also a place to work. Regions like Oromia have long been doing outstanding work in providing teachers with houses by giving them land to build on. In Addis Ababa, some 5,000 instructors were also given condominiums.

For the obvious reason that many other people of the community also urgently require homes, the housing question does not receive a prompt response. However, up until the end of the previous year, roughly 110,000 teachers received land on which to construct homes, along with a few condominiums.

The government was recently warned by university teachers to respond to their inquiries or face a strike by the end of September. What is the position of your association on that?

Discussions can help solve issues. Such actions have a significant negative influence, thus we don’t advise them. We should keep asking and be open to the strong arguments we hear while at work.

The administration views raising the scale and compensation as a difficult task, given the current economic climate. The Association also understands the situation.

The homogeneity of pay across various universities is one of several other issues that are currently being addressed. Our Association is attempting to mediate disputes between the government and educators. Both the things that the nation can change and the things that should be put on hold should be done.

Threatening with prerequisites is useless. We condemn that.

The government has been supportive of general education teachers at primary, secondary, and vocational schools, including acts such as granting land for them to build their homes.

We will continue to request the same perks for university instructors.

The government recently announced that universities will have autonomy, beginning with Addis Ababa University this academic year and expanding to ten universities in two years. What are your thoughts on this development?

The proclamation for university’s autonomy has been in existence for a long time. It is unclear how it would be used at all universities at this point, but they are starting with Addis Ababa University and expanding to other campuses. That is something that universities would like as well.

Several teachers work at schools, primarily private ones, despite not having completed the teachers’ training program, also known as the Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching (PGDT). Who are the association’s members and who are the teachers?

Any educator working at any institution is eligible to join. A teacher is someone who possesses the necessary credentials, such as the necessary training, education, and capacity. The worldwide standard is also being followed in our nation.

Not everyone who attended school for a certain field of study is qualified to teach. Additionally, it is essential to possess the required pedagogical skills. Teaching abilities and expertise should be present.

You can’t teach English because you studied it. This isn’t just a problem in private schools.

Do government schools hire teachers who have not received PGDT training?

Sure. When schools experience a teacher shortage, one option is to train applied science graduates in PGDT and hire them in schools.

Initially, the goal was for these graduates to be trained and deployed, but due to an acute shortage of instructors, they were authorized to begin teaching immediately.

This is an issue in both private and public schools. After much deliberation, the government decided to require instructors in both private and public schools to complete the PGDT program.

The requirement that teachers need to fulfill after completing PGDT training has actually been a part of government legislation for quite some time. This training is offered by a small number of universities to all teachers, domestic and foreign. Private schools will be required to pay for their own staff training.

Teachers in universities and in general education are unemployed in northern Ethiopia’s conflict zones. How is your organization supporting these educators?

University professors from the universities in the Tigray Regional State would be able to register online and request reassignment, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education.

Even while we know that some lecturers accepted the risk and continued to work, there may still be individuals in the area who are unable or reluctant to do so.

We have a list of the teachers who were displaced in relation to general education teachers. We are giving a small sum to a few of them as a sign of solidarity.

Our request for assistance in reassigning 43 instructors was made to the Ministry of Education and even the Ministry of Finance, but we heard back that neither the Ministry of Education nor the Ministry of Finance oversee any elementary or high schools.

We will continue to support them while putting pressure on the government to transfer them to any school and location around the nation.

How is the Association, a significant player in the education industry, reacting to the most recent changes and new rules?

The education reform research, which began in 2016, was the catalyst for reform. The public then debated it in 2019 prior to its implementation. University education was expanded to four years, and a national high school graduation exam was administered in grade twelve. In Ethiopia’s justice sector, Tamiru Wondmagegnehu is a colossal figure. He has been working for fifty years and has witnessed four regimes in addition to becoming a walking library. He has a master’s degree in legal studies and international law.

Hestarted out as a judge under the imperial regime and eventually worked his way up to become the vice president of the Supreme Court, Special Court, and High Court under the socialist Derg regime. However, he was detained along with three other Supreme Court justices when the EPRDF seized power.

Following his release from prison, he founded the Tameru Wondm Agegnehu Law Office, which rose to prominence in the nation. Ashenafi Endale Of The Reporter sat with Tamiru to talk about Ethiopia’s legal system.

The Reporter: What similarities and differences can you find between the legal system, the institutional makeup of the judiciary, and its operations under the imperial rule, the socialist Derg, the EPRDF, and the current administration?

Tamiru Wondmagegnehu:The Ethiopian legal system can be divided into four periods: before 1900, between 1900 and 1941, between 1941 and 1974, and since 1974.

Since Derg, we have been ruled by autocrats akin to the French Revolution. Under these regimes, the courts have been altering their characteristics and duties.

Ethiopia’s triumph at Adwa falls under the first category because it is known around the world and has received attention. Four diplomatic consulates started operating right away in Ethiopia. Ethiopia became the only nation of color to be acknowledged under international law.

Following the 1648 Westphalia treaty, Europe came to the conclusion that there was no other nation state than Europe and decided to establish a European nation state. Therefore, only European nation-states were subject to international law before 1900.

According to international law, Muslims and Blacks in particular were not eligible. That is why Europe began its colonization of the western hemisphere, including its policy of rushing to conquer Africa.

No international law imposed sanctions on Europe. They consequently run ferociously to satisfy their need for resources and markets. Ethiopia was the only African nation at the time to have created its own state boundary.

In circulars he sent to England, Germany, France, and Italy, Emperor Menelik described and mapped Ethiopia’s active boundaries. Ethiopia did not draw its border with other African governments, but rather with European invaders. At the period, as to this day, Ethiopia was surrounded by European colonial governments.

What modifications were made to the foundational rules of justice by the regimes?

Fetha Negest, a 500-year-old written code of justice in Ethiopia, was created under Zerayacob’s rule. However, the zufan chilot (the king’s court) was the only institution at the top until 1900. All the officials of the kings judge matters according to their ranks.

Foreigners began to enter Ethiopia after 1900, and Fetha Negest was no longer useful for adjusting to modern rules. The first cabinet was founded in 1900 by emperor Menelik.

The emperor was under pressure from the foreigners, particularly the French ambassador, to create a consular court. Foreign judges were therefore permitted to sit as judges alongside Ethiopian justices after 1900. The consulate court operated from 1900 until 1941.

Emperor Haileselasie I disliked the consulate court system when he returned from exile in 1941. Thus, in 1941, he issued the Negarit Gazette’s founding proclamation for the first time. The second Negarit, which announced the development of a modern legal system in Ethiopia, was released that same year.

Haileselasie gave the order for English professionals to set up police and court institutions in Ethiopia, which were established at the supreme, upper, Awraja, and woreda levels.

The head of the Supreme Court was a foreigner. Experts received their education elsewhere. However, all of the judges on the supreme and higher courts were foreigners. This persisted up until 1965, when Niguse Fithawok, the first Ethiopian, assumed the presidency of the Supreme Court.

The final judge during the emperor’s reign was Hailessilase. After the emperor was deposed, there was a void. Thus, in 1987, the cassation bench was formally constituted.

I served as one of the justices on the cassation bench during the Derg administration.

Derg didn’t interfere with the system of civil courts. However, the government formed the military court system in addition to the already-existing civil court system. It never presented its cases before a civilian court; instead, it either executes its victims immediately or takes them to a military court.

Judges were therefore shielded from political interference.

The judges were fully removed when the EPRDF came to power. It stocked the legal system with cadres and individuals who could advance EPRDF interests. This persisted up until the 2018 inauguration of the present administration. There are several things that the present administration is working to fix.

What aspect of Ethiopia’s legal system is most lacking?

The practice of law is not based on reason but rather on experience. Justice must be acrobatic, just like life. Every judge gains knowledge from the rulings of earlier judges. Of course, some claim that this only applies to “common law” and not “civil law.”

Ethiopia adopts a system of “eclectic law.” This indicates that the principles were taken from several legal systems. Ethiopia’s legal system, however, is a little unclear.

On the one hand, we have the civil law cassation bench. However, a cassation bench’s ruling becomes law, and all courts below the bench must follow the sentence. The model is now comparable to common law.

The Ethiopian justice system has been disrupted by this difference in legal systems. Continuity refers to the use of prior judgments as standards for upcoming cases. Continuity is crucial.

Continuity provides predictability and confidence, two important advantages. Your win-loss ratio must be accurately known before you file a lawsuit. All of the stepping stone articles are already familiar to you. The courts would be unable to accomplish their jobs if every case required an interpretation of the law. A predictable life cannot be ensured by a judicial system like this.

In both the United States and Europe, attorneys provide clients with percentages indicating their odds of winning and losing. Ethiopia is the only nation without consistently applied laws. The main flaw in Ethiopia’s justice system is this.

The court systems and Ethiopian Bar Association must cooperate on this.

The Ethiopian justice system’s organizational structure is the second significant shortcoming. Ethiopia’s legal system was totally centralized, like one sun, one sky above everyone, prior to the EPRDF.

Ethiopia was divided by the EPRDF into nine different states, and that number is currently rising. There was discussion about how to reorganize the legal system after the EPRDF came to power and Kifle Wodajo was selected the leader of a group of specialists.

Some contend that, like prior governments, the justice system must be centralized. But the head of the Indian Supreme Court, Bagwati, present to offer advice, contended that Ethiopia cannot afford a decentralized court system. Others, however, believe that since the EPRDF formed a federal government, it must be decentralized.

Finally, the regional states and nine distinct court systems with nine supreme courts were approved by Parliament.

Ethiopia became the second nation after the US to implement a decentralized judicial system.

Under the US Supreme Court, there are 52 supreme courts. Because of this, America is the nation with the most lawyers. It is a new jurisdiction every time you enter a US state, thus the lawyers have to learn numerous laws in one nation.

The American federal structure is imitated by many countries, including Germany, but not its legal system. A decentralized court system was rejected by Nigeria, India, and many other federal governments because it was too expensive.

A decentralized court system appears advantageous at first glance. However, it is also expensive in terms of resources, both human and governmental. All we can do is hope and pray that Ethiopian leaders will be able to change this and unify the legal system.

How can the two main bottlenecks be eliminated at this time?

The constitution ties everything together. Ethiopia’s judicial system, however, can be centralized despite the fact that the structure is a federal one. India and Nigeria are two prime examples.

Currently, if a lawyer in Ethiopia wants to practice in many regional states, he must obtain a license from each of the regional states. However, if Ethiopia’s justice system is centralized, all of the regional states use the same article. A single license allows a lawyer to practice law across the entire nation.

In comparison to a federation, Ethiopia’s legal system is more like a confederation of states. Such a system is unique to the US, and only they can afford it.

Ethiopia is a small nation when compared to the size of America. Therefore, a decentralized justice system is not needed. It is incredibly difficult to reform and modernize Ethiopia’s judicial system. There may still be ineffective judicial systems in remote areas of the nation even after creating a centralized one.

How can the present border disputes with neighboring nations be resolved given that Ethiopia’s boundary was shaped by colonial powers?

England, France, and Italy all had boundary accords with Emperor Menelik. However, agreement does not imply demarcation. Ethiopia naturally agreed with England but not with Sudan. The current issue with Sudan stems from this.

The Prime Minister of Sudan, Alnimeri, and Haileselasie got along well. Just before the emperor was ousted in 1972, they were about to start demarcating the border. I hope Sudan and Ethiopia will start the delineation process right away.

Emperor Yohannes pleaded with England in the 1870s for assistance in keeping Masawa under control. Even though Yohannes assisted them in rescuing English troops in Sudan who were being surrounded by Mahdists, England refused. Meles Zenawi voluntarily gave over Assab a century later.

This is a huge contradiction.

But the situation with Sudan is becoming increasingly complicated.

As long as the 1972 agreement is in force, it can be resolved. The issue is that the borderlands’ value has increased recently. Ethiopia’s biggest issue is the absence of a succession plan whenever a new regime takes power.

Haileselassie came to an accord and was about to draw the line with Sudan. Sadly, Derg surpassed Hailesselasie. Derg, however, started over after stumbling everything the emperor had begun.

No Ethiopian administration adds on the successes of the preceding administration. Whether it be with the legal system, politics, development, or anything else, this is the root of practically all of Ethiopia’s problems.

Others have suggested Ethiopia may be able to reach the Red Sea via Ras Dumera, a thin free line that runs between Eritrea and Djibouti border.

Africa is home to fourteen landlocked nations. There is no other nation, however, that is as big, and as populous, as Ethiopia. The thirteen African nations that were already landlocked begged the UN to intervene before Ethiopia became landlocked.

Aid couldn’t get to these landlocked African nations. Even when a machine is replaced by a different brand, spare parts still come in. Because perishable goods take longer to reach the landlocked countries, importing them was unimaginable.

In order to negotiate between the African states, the UN tasked Yusuf Ahmed, at the time Ethiopia’s transport minister. This occurred under the Derg, shortly after which Ethiopia became a landlocked country.

A Kenyan academic once stated that Africa shouldn’t have more than 20 ports-accessible nations. He claimed that because even tiny governments are permitted to be countries, landlocked nations are created, dividing Africa into 55 countries.

However, the AU is introducing a very efficient procedure to grant all African nations access to ports. This will become a reality once the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is completely operational.

Of course, until Ethiopia uses them, the ports in Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and other countries on the horn of Africa stay inactive. Masawa Port was undoubtedly a crucial tactic in WWII, acting as a stepping stone for the allied troops’ advance into Eastern Europe.

Currently, Ethiopia is attempting to enter Berbera port, which is positive.

Haileselasie made every effort to integrate Eritrea into Ethiopia in order to get access to the port. Assab port is obviously useless if there is a blockade of any type at the Suez Canal or Babel Mandab. Ethiopia is better off using Berbera port. There is nothing anyone can do because Berbera is the gateway to the ocean.

How can Ethiopia’s efforts to secure ports be impacted by Somaliland’s de facto status and lack of recognition?

The issues in the Horn of Africa can only be solved by peace. The horn has a sizable population. The chaos persists if this force is not used to development. Countries in the Horn of Africa must work together for the benefit of all.

The fewer jobs we produce, the more unstable we become.

Why do young people join OLF-shene, TPLF, or other armed organizations when they could get a respectable job, a home, a car, and vacation packages? Everyone wants to see equal development because they want to see their own country prosper.

Progress can lead to peace.

Due to the absence of an independent African state at the time, Haileselasie was banished to England. For that matter, there was no state.

Many people agree that Africa’s instability stems from the distribution of the same ethnic groups among its various states. Can African countries redraw the borders that colonial forces drew and reestablish nation states?

Ethiopia was at the vanguard of African decolonization in 1963, when the Organization of African Unity was established in Cairo. The main issue when the UN decided to decolonize was how to recognize and define the borders of African states. War was imminent amongst Africans if they had to trace frontiers back in time.

The UN and OAU ultimately opted to keep things as they were. In other words, borders and states begin at the location of the colonial boundary.

Each nation in Africa has territorial claims. We can’t, however, go back in time and fix it.

Ethiopia once ruled a sizable region, including the modern-day nation of Yemen, during the administration of King Kaleb in the fourth century. But we can’t claim it now.

The answer is that by uniting Africa through the AfCFTA, the AU’s economic integration agenda can eliminate the need for political frontiers.

Of course, Ethiopia is the nation that will be most negatively impacted by the status quo. The Congo, a sizable nation abundant in natural resources, was about to become landlocked. However, they were able to enter the Atlantic Ocean by Kabinda that was incredibly small. By the way, Congo provided the uranium for the bomb dropped on Japan.

A little opening between Djibouti and the Eritrean border allowed Ethiopia to reach the Red Sea. However, nobody is willing.

A serious hunger broke out during the Derg, and Nordic nations wanted to send aid cargoes. However, there was no way for the supplies to reach Ethiopia. Nobody would have protested if the Derg had taken one of the ports in the Horn of Africa at the time by force.

Ethiopia’s survival will depend on how its ports are handled in the current context of rising import volumes and growing population. It will either receive a peaceful response or a harsh one. Ethiopia must have a port, if only to use the congested route between Eritrea and the port of Djibouti.

The Ethiopian government also has to improve diplomatic connections with the surrounding nations so that they will consent to us establishing our own port.

Do you believe that Ethiopia’s conflict and ongoing instability are a result of the country’s power structure?

Ethiopia’s primary issue is underdevelopment as a result of missing out on the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Agrarian Revolution, and the Technical Productivity Periods of the middle Ages.

According to Gibbon, who lived two hundred years ago, “the Ethiopians slumbered for over a thousand years, oblivious of the world by which they were forgotten.”

Of course, since we remained closed, we were not colonized. The mountains of Ethiopia were impenetrable to any force. Due in part to the progress that colonizers sparked, several African nations outperformed us.

Ethiopia nevertheless continues to be rich in resources and treasures. The only nation in Africa with a written past and its own alphabet is Ethiopia. 80 percent of Ethiopia’s bibles were completed and authored in the sixth century. At the time, the western bible was still in its infancy.

Additionally, Ethiopia was crucial in the spread of Islam and Christianity. Ethiopia was the destination of the first Hijira, not to Meca and Medina.

Unfortunately, because we were isolated for a millennium in between, Ethiopia’s civilization did not maintain its early impetus. We woke up when the world is already way ahead of us. We were still plowing the ground with oxen and yolk when Ethiopia awoke once more.

Youth in rural communities no longer have access to land for farming as a result of the land policy. Therefore, everyone is moving to the cities. Not only are Ethiopian towns crowded, but the proportion of farmers is out of proportion to the country’s growing consumerism.

Unemployment is widespread. There is a shortage of farmland. Ethiopia’s current issue stems from this. For the first time, PM Abiy Ahmed is attempting to spread large-scale agriculture to lowland areas in addition to the rain-based, often small-scale farming in highland areas.

What do you think of the administrations ongoing judicial system reform?

We voluntarily submitted to Ethiopia’s complicated legal system. One institution cannot bring about justice system reform. Huge amounts of public resources are being used by the decentralized justice system.

Ethiopia cannot support a decentralized judiciary when dozens of regional entities each have their own legal framework. This has to be combined.

Abiy recently complained to the parliament about how corrupt the legal system and police are. A few judges have been furious. It is well known that some judges accept bribes. Even judges of the top court experience this.

It is incorrect to hold the PM responsible in a legal system as tainted as Ethiopia’s. Though it is a challenging undertaking, we must find solutions to fix the issue rather than pointing the finger at one another.

The Court has the most authority in any nation that wants to advance. The future of the nation, business, and daily life depend on the Court.

What big setback do you believe has occurred since PM Abiy came into power? Was the transition peaceful?

We must research the causes of our ups and downs. Ethiopia has not done a very good job at nation-building. There are distinct state borders in Europe. However, the societies are very interconnected and quite similar. They are similar in terms of culture, languages, and universities. But the Ethiopian society has been segregated from one another, living in separate cultural enclaves.

Social media is currently dividing our society even more and pitting everyone against one another. Nobody is accepting accountability. We have much work to do in order to build a civilized society.

Ethiopia’s unemployment and unrest don’t surprise me because I am aware of our incapacity to provide quality labor and excellent jobs.

Five years ago, nation-building and good governance were the social movement’s top demands. Today, the issue has expanded to include the state’s continued existence. The student movement during Haileselasie began with a “class struggle” and concluded with ethnic politics in a similar manner. Why do political groups in Ethiopia consistently fail to achieve their goals?

Due to the students’ limited exposure to other ideas and the “class struggles” popularity in Cold War-era politics, the students’ movement adopted it. However, the class battle diminished and gave way to an ethnic conflict, which Meles Zenawi pursued.

Many Ethiopian academics today, particularly those in the diaspora, believe that ethno-nationalism poses a threat to the state’s very survival.

This indicates that the nation-building process in the country has been derailed by ethnic identity politics, which is having an impact on both the nation-building process and the state’s very existence.

Nationalism is not necessary for Ethiopia. The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and even Italy are examples of nation states. The US, however, is not a nation-state. Europeans make up half of the American population.

One hundred years ago, Ethiopia became a nation-state. However, due to a number of criteria not being met, Ethiopia was unable to become a nation-state.

Many academics, particularly those from Addis Ababa University, continue to vehemently inform the media that Ethiopia needs to become a nation-state.

Talking about nation states now is a farce. Instead of a nation state, Ethiopia needs to be a patriotic state. Everyone in their own ethnic group is patriotic. Every Ethiopian, including Oromo, Kembata, Amhara, and everyone else is a patriot. That is what the United States is.

Everybody is present in America, including Latinos, Chinese, Indians, French, and Blacks. However, they never give up on the United States, which is their nation. Although they are patriotic states, they are not nation-states. To advance a patriotic state, we must work together.

In Gojam, there is no such thing as a pure Amhara. Every ethnic group has ancestors from different ethnic groups. Only our names reflect our racial origins.

Ethno-nationalists and ethio-nationalists swing back and forth in Ethiopia’s politics all the time. This constantly sparks conflict and a struggle for dominance. How can we transform it into a nation of patriots?

The constitution may impose restrictions on it. It can be written into the constitution if everyone agrees to it. Otherwise, Ethiopia will experience civil conflicts and revolutions.

Many people concur that the majority of Ethiopia’s issues can be resolved if the present constitution is altered. Do you agree?

It should be altered, in my opinion. Both educated and uneducated individuals are condemning PM Abiy for sticking with the current constitution. The constitution is frequently compared to an Ark. If the public does not believe in the law, it is just a piece of paper.

Therefore, if a carefully considered constitution is substituted, Ethiopia’s issues can be resolved.

Human rights advocates and even government representatives claim Ethiopia’s judicial system, especially the court system, is unprepared to handle cases involving human rights violations. They advise Ethiopia to start accepting the jurisdiction of extra-national judicial systems as a result. This means that Ethiopia must recognize the authority of regional and international tribunals over any violations of human rights.

Does doing so undermine Ethiopia’s sovereignty?

Only when the executive, judicial, and legislative branches operate in accordance with the check and balance principle can Ethiopia’s justice system be said to be in operation.

Judges are only answerable to the law. Because I criticized the Derg’s military court system, I was removed from my court position. Since 1948, Ethiopia has fully embraced the rule of law. Judges must, however, exercise their authority.

Courts have full authority to resolve any dispute, with the exception of arbitration disputes. Ethiopian courts have the authority to adjudicate matters involving violations of human rights, particularly at the high courts and Supreme Court.

The establishment of a different type of court system in Ethiopia must be spelled out in the constitution. For human rights matters, we can set up special benches, but we cannot establish a separate court or division.

The UN human rights commission is currently requesting entry to the country in order to examine human rights abuses that occurred during the Tigray war. The agreements and treaties were approved by Ethiopia. What would happen if Ethiopia resisted?

We have observed that the west consciously wants to harm Ethiopia in numerous instances. Since the founding of the League of Nations, this has been the case. Sanctions are being imposed on Ethiopia.

Mussolini would not have been able to attack Ethiopia if only the US had imposed gasoline sanctions on Italy. Because the US continued to supply fuel to Italy at the time, Mussolini resumed the invasion.

Ethiopia was brought up thirteen times in UN Security Council discussions last year.

International law thus serves as a vehicle for both justice and abuse.

The US regularly uses the UN to impose sanctions on nations it wants to destroy.

Never should Ethiopia yield to outside pressure.

Ethiopia has ratified a number of international human rights accords and conventions. By the way, Theodore Roosevelt’s wife was the one who first proposed the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

It forbids the use of cruel or inhumane punishment. Ethiopia had a death penalty at the time. The emperor delayed ratifying the UDHR rather than repealing the death penalty law. Ethiopia, however, is the first country in Africa to sign the deal.

Politics is at play right now, not just a general worry about human rights abuses. Before authorizing foreign investigators and acknowledging their jurisdiction, it is imperative to exhaust all domestic options. Extra-national venues may be taken into consideration if there is no statute allowing human rights victims to appear in court or if the court is unable to uphold the law.

America commits to defending democracy. Democracy is the majority’s way of ruling. Therefore, by simply agreeing, the majority can flip the truth on its head.

Can the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court call the executive to inquire of him or her? How are checks and balances made?

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court lacks any judicial or executive authority. The president only serves as the court’s speaker. The president only responds when asked.

By the way, a judge on the Supreme Court is distinct from a judge in a lower court. The author ofye’ ewunet Mirkuz, and a lawyer, Wondimu Ibsa was born in 1947 in Arsi. Having survived the 1969 revolution, he joined Wez League and then started teaching. In his career as a former politician, Wondimu had gone through several challenges as a former politician before becoming a lawyer. He survived the 1969 revolution in Ethiopia and was arrested in the famousMaekelawifor 150 days. When he decided to become a lawyer, his first task was serving political prisoners facing terrorism charges. Lately, he is more known for sharing his political views on main stream media outlets. The Reporter’s Selamawit Mengesha sat down with him, as he reflects on current affairs and his journey in politics of Ethiopia.

The Reporter: can you tell us a bit about yourself?

WendemuIbsa:I was born in what is considered a large family. I had 17 sisters and brothers and my father had 47 children from 3 different women.When I was growing up the schools in Arsi used to encourage us to learn Amharic. And some people associated it with racist remarks but it was purely to help us learn other languages.

I was amongst the students who survived the 1969 revolution, I was in ninth grade and I remember crying to my mom when soldiers would beat us senseless. When the ‘edget behibret’ campaign started, the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party (EPRP), wez league (ወዝሊግ) and All Ethiopians Socialist Movement (AESP) were wreaking havoc across the country.

I joined senay leke’s party Wez League.Students whose average was above 90 were selected to give after class courses back then, for which I was selected. I started working as a teacher starting from 1969 to 1971 with a 180 birr salary. Through all of this, we were running the revolution on the side.

I’ve went from having my parent’s religion to having no beliefs but I eventually got baptized at 40 years of age and became an orthodox Christian. I then worked as a money collector at the church for four years.

I was also detained in the famous ‘Makelawi’ for 150 days, when EPDRF took power in 1983.

I’ve also worked as a supervisor and a director in Hawassa. As a lawyer in Adama, I joined the Oromo Federalist Congress in 1998–2002. In 2006, when more than half of OFC members, including Merara got arrested, I decided to give my services as a lawyer. Back then, lawyers used to charge more than 300,000 birr to represent people accused of terrorism, because representing people accused of terrorism could label them as terrorists as well. Knowing this, I offered my services atmakelawifor free, and since then I have represented 600 people accused of terrorism.

When I was serving free of charge, I faced a lot of opposition from people including my family. I remember a judge telling me that I can’t defend people charged with terrorism anymore, but 17 of my colleagues had already decided to represent those accused of terrorism.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has said they will not arrest anyone without due diligence, yet we are seeing a lot of people arrested abruptly and detained for several days without cause. What do you think changed?

“We don’t arrest without due diligence,” is just a political way of speaking. Currently, the parties in Ethiopia including the incumbent follow a party politics system, meaning it is the top executive’s playground. A political party stands for justice for those that are with it or against it. The parties in America, the republicans and democrats, are political parties, while Prosperity Party, Ezema, ABEN, Enat, amongst others, look like they are trying to shift from party politics into political parties.

A lot of Ethiopians were involved in the green legacy campaign. But out of the 53 parties, not more than 10 were involved. Why weren’t the rest involved? The legacy is not for the PM but rather for generations to come. They could have contributed to something that made a difference but the only objective of party politics is to obtain power.

When Abiy said that, it was in the essence of party politics. To whom does the PP belong to? Is it for the prosperity of the city, the rural area or the farmers? It should have been called “Ethiopia’s prosperity political party.”

Political parties care about the country, its people, history and culture. Even if political parties try to gain power they still stand for the people. The Civil Code, which has been in action since 1952, says that people can be arrested based on suspicion with or without a court ruling. Back in the feudal days, it was only allowed to arrest suspects from 6 in the morning till the sun sets but not after even if they were guilty. Police can surround him but they can’t arrest him, no matter who the person is. If Abiy does not practice this law, then the EPRDF and Derg’s plague hasn’t quite left his system yet.

The practice that is becoming normal these days where they hold people in prison for eight or nine days is not acceptable by law. Statements like “We don’t arrest without due diligence” are said with a political intent. Politicians and political parties think about what to say to get more applause instead of thinking what would actually benefit the people.

What is the cause for the killings of innocent people in Ethiopia? Who do you think is responsible for these acts?

The instability in Ethiopia has its roots dating hundreds of years back, back when colonizers had their eyes on Africa. The victory at Adwa was not just a victory against Italy but against the whole of Europe. Ethiopians used to unite to defeat these outside forces. When the west found out the secrets to Ethiopia’s victory happened to be in our unity, they needed to dismantle this unity through civil wars and parties. These parties who have a budget from the west have the sole purpose of creating conflict and rift between ethnicities.

Controlling the source of income was also a measure used by the west since the country is dependent on donations.After the 1945 World War, Japan was forced to adopt a strong military system. Within 30 years, Japans capacity was just as good as the UK, after changing the policies they were forced into. The donations are an indirect attempt at colonization.

The crimes we’re witnessing today is a result of years of planning by the west. There is this thought process circulating where people think their ethnicity came first or that it is better.

Even banks organize themselves based on ethnic lines; they have the “divide” mentality. People that are losing their lives are Ethiopians and there is no need to classify them based on ethnicity. Being proud of your ethnicity only validates Ethiopia more, because our ethnicities are found within Ethiopia.

If we take the religious approach on how humans originated, it started with Adam and Eve. They were human beings and not Amhara or Oromo. We are Ethiopian’s first then ethnicity follows; so, to refer to the atrocities in Wollega as atrocities committed on Amhara women is accepting the narrative pushed by colonizers.

Amhara’s policy is Oromia’s policy and vice versa; we can only salvage Ethiopia when we stand all for one and one for all. Being Oromo, Amhara or any of the other 80 ethnicities is natural but claiming one is superior over the other is immoral.

How do you think this can be mitigated?

Parties and politicians that stand for terrorism should be dealt with to make way for the people to have an active role. The government feeds 1.7 million students in Addis Ababa and its surrounding. It provides books, uniforms and bags. The only thing families worry about is providing the dinners. This is not something to overlook. When I say this am not saying prosperity party or Dr. Abiy are without flaw, all governments have flaws.

The community’s outlook on laws and courts is relatively better than it was before. Do you think this has anything to do with the organizational change? If there is change since most organizations are individualistic, how can that be mitigated and continue long after the individuals have left?

Prosperity Party asks organizations to help it achieve democracy. A strong military can only be formed when there is a strong organization. Law enforcement is the government’s duty while respecting the law is everyone’s responsibility.

In a meeting amongst 1000 lawyers in Oromia held by the Oromia Lawyer’s Association, a lawyer said “there are no courthouses in Oromia, or judges. The only place where judges and courthouses exist is at the Oromia Supreme Court.” But there are Oromo judges and courts in Ethiopia. If we’re accounting for injustices, then every other supreme court could come into question. The acts of a few lawyers and judges that are deeply intertwined in ethnocentric beliefs do not dictate the profession as a whole. Even the PM has no right to misjudge the profession because there are honest judges and lawyers.

What should be done to promote accountability? Would people who have violated human rights be questioned in the court of law?

The current atrocities are due to terrorists, whether they are Oromo terrorists or Amhara terrorists. Both cultures have their own way of justice that involves forgiveness. The involvement of the elderly is needed.

Political parties are creating a better life for their children while condemning the innocent. Those responsible for these acts of terrorism shouldn’t be judged in court. All the region’s religious leaders and elders should judge and reconcile things themselves.

The newly formed National Dialogue Commission plays a vital role for this, but political parties have been skeptical since its inception.If all Ethiopians come together, it will help the national dialogue to be successful. As politicians put it, the dialogue is not one carried out between parties but one that involves farmers that make up 85 percent of the population. As of now racist politics and ethnocentric politics have spread.

The current problem will not go away easily. It will take several years of working together.

There is a noticeable change in courts after Meaza Ashenafi took power, but there are also a lot of problems at the same time. Just like how a teaspoon of poison could ruin a barrel of water, the acts of a few taint the entire institution.

How can we stop the problems in all the regions of Ethiopia? How can the region’s questions be answered while maintaining peace?

The people should give information as a way of solidarity with the government. The 547 representatives at the Parliament represent 120 million people. For a parliament member to talk about their own ethnicity alone is really shameful, they are not there to represent the Wereda that put them there but to represent the people of Ethiopia.

If there are people in Parliament that spread fake news, then prosperity party is negating its own progress. There are a few that are openly opposing the death of fellow citizens. When a citizen is hurt in wollega, there should at least be an opposing brief against it from the Parliament. If prosperity is leading the country, a region’s Special Forces should be able to help another region’s army. The defense force alone cannot save the country.

Rophnan Nuri, commonly known as Rophnan, is a prominent performing artist,musician, DJ, singer, songwriter and an audio engineerthat blazed a trail for Ethio-infused electronic and house music. The Artist made a name for himself as DJ Rophi before releasing his first album, Reflection, in 2018. The album made him the first ever artist to release an electronic music LP in Ethiopia, becoming an influential figure locally and internationally.

Mixing traditional sounds with futuristic undertones and a powerful lyric, he dedicated his debut work as a voice for his generation.His work earned him multiple awards, featured with world famous groups like Major lazer, and collaborated with the Zambian rapper Chef 187 on the coke studio stage. He also held a successful country wide tour for a year and half.

His work and demeanor has earned him a feature on Forbes Africa’s 30 in the creative category, making him the first Ethiopian to feature on the list.

He recently released a successful album “3” earlier this year, which he followed up by “6” this past week. The two albums, which were released after his deal with Universal Records, offer incredibly produced music directed at the youth.

Rophnan announced the final album of the trilogy will be released before the end of 2022. Yosthena Aynalem of The Reporter sat down with Rophnan to talk about the mystery that is Rophnan Nuri.

The Reporter:let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell us about your upbringing and how you got into music?

Rophnan:Funny enough, it did not start out with music for me. Yes, I have known and loved music all my life but my journey did not start there. I am a singer but I am not just a singer, or just a writer. I am a recording artist that engineers and produces as well, but I am also a DJ. I think when you’re all of these things your journey must start with one thing. For me, it was recording.

I started recording sounds from a young age and little by little I went from recording to learning the guitar, DJ’ing and then singing. It all unfolded gradually to make me the artist I am today.

I remember I started recording my mom when I was 10 years old. That was my first experience of getting into music. Because to me it wasn’t just music, I thought everyone had the same relationship with sound and music as I did. Through time, I came to realize that not everyone was drawn to it the same way. At that age, I used to perform in front of students and they would love it, but I thought that was normal at the time.

I started recording my mom out of the love I had for her, I would use tape recorders that I make from scraps; I have always been a physics head because it helped me know the world better. I would always make things up from run down electronics or collect parts like dynamos; I have always been that kid.

I always wanted to keep a record of my mom’s voice in my tape recorder, so I’d play it on repeat until my battery dies and that was a 10-year-old me falling in love with sound and frequency. From then on, I started recording my little brothers, my neighbor’s kids, and my friends.

It became my way of keeping a photograph or picture of some frequency, those records painted pictures in my head that ensued emotions in me just like a picture would. I have recorded my mom till my last conversation with her, she is not here anymore, but I’ve kept her voice till our last conversation, so I have basically recorded my mom for 21 years.

So, how exactly do you experience sound?

I always see colors when I think of sounds, even when I am asked to do commercials. I will always ask them what their theme color is so I have a sound for that color. Every color in the way it’s painted or crafted has the same pattern in music because in order for something to exist it needs pattern. Music and creativity have a pattern of their own. A very good example for this is the project I did in Dorze in my first album, it was literally the pattern of their denguza (Welayeta Traditional Cloth) that inspired the music, and it is a mixture of black and red patterns.

So, the pattern on this attire is that when one color goes in, the other goes out, their song is the same way, so you can represent the color in different voicings and you have a pattern which is a harmony and the Dorze people are one of the most harmonious people and that is one of the things I learned from them.

Harmony is everything. It is embedded in their music, their day today life, culture; they know how to sing and be in sync within. That is how I see sound no different than pictures or any creative work.

What classes have you taken to master your craft?

Endless practice and my experiences were my lessons. I remember building my first studio with Abu-Walad biscuit box and Miyota DVD microphone when I was 13. I continued performing in class rooms and jamming, and I have also been listening to FM Addis 97.1 from the first day they opened. Eventually I started working there for three years later on in my life.

I think I was 10 or 11 when they started and from that moment on, my whole teenage time was spent listening to a lot of radio. Radio became a huge part of me, sound was everything because my experience is my mom’s voice but I started hearing her voice through other moms. Even when I travel and record, I know that tone, it has the same spirit.

A sound does not lie. That is why mostly my music is based on tone and notes. These are my inspiration when I make my music especially when I am trying to go deeper in the culture and get something out from it.

At what point did you start DJ’ing?

I started DJ’ing or I would say playing in mini media at the age of 15. I got introduced to computers at the same time and realized there is a thing called “software,” which allows me to record vocals and play with instruments that are already recorded, make patterns out of them and make music. So, I started doing that when I was 15.

What most people don’t understand is the reason my recordings are clear is because I’ve been recording for 21 years. I am more experienced than most people who are in my age group. I have been producing for 17 years now and I just turned thirty-two. So the reason why my production is this good and I am getting better every day is because I have been doing it for a long time. You have to understand that this recording, this clarity and this skill doesn’t come easily. You have to work on it and you really have to put your time.

When I turned 17, I actually started DJ’ing. I got introduced to a DJ mixer. I put out my first mixtape when I was 16, remixes of songs at that time, whether Amharic or English, I literally did what I used to do in the classroom and changed it into a record.

I already had recorded data in my head and the computer allowed me to turn that into a recording so I started DJ‘ing that music. It was a way to put my music out. It became the best platform for me instead of being a guitarist, a vocalist or anything else. DJ’ing was the first introduction for me to put my music out and then it goes on to working in Radio.

I used to play my mixtapes on the radio when I was 18, 19 or 20 and that gave me the platform to be famous. After that, I put out my second mixtape and then I continued producing even more, production has been there since I was 15 till now.

When I turned 21, I stopped putting out mixtapes after the third one because I wanted to do an album of my own. It took seven years of my life in the studio, worked day and night, 16 hours a day, every day, while DJ’ing at night and paying rent. That circle went on for seven years straight and then Netsebraq was born.

I went from 21 to 28 years old doing nothing but producing, learning how to write, learning to sing better, learning how to record, buying new better equipment, working on myself and my craft. It took everything out of me.

That is why Netsebraq sounds the way it does, it was crafted from scratch and I found a new sound for my generation the world has never heard of, a new sound for my country and for the industry and that took time.

I found myself in music, in a new way of writing, progression, of sounding, recording and all this took time. It was not just a project. Its impact can be seen through DJs coming into the mainstream, singers to find themselves. I hope I am not fooling myself when I say this but, I think Netsebraq proved to artist to be themselves and to sound like themselves. It brought free thinking to this industry but it didn’t happen overnight. It was something that was crafted for a long time.

When was the first time you Disk Jockeyed professionally?

I started doing my own Day Party’s after high school in college where I started throwing parties for people in my own age group and a lot of people came to my sessions. Back then, there was no platform you can use like Tik Tok so people just attended my parties using flyers and a lot of people showed up because of the mixtapes I used to release. At those parties’ attendees didn’t pay attention to the music, just how it made them feel, they don’t really understand the craft.

Out of the whole experience, what has been your favorite part?

Definitely my first album release party, because I had been working none stop before that and when reflection happened, I was famous in most cities as a DJ. I would go to Arba Minch and pack a place of 2000 people, as a DJ I was doing really well. I was making good money and had good exposure as well, especially on the last year before Netsebraq.

Netsebraq brought me to the stage as a singer, song-writer plus a DJ. The DJ part has been subtly following me. But my first album release party was a very special moment for me. It was three months after the album had dropped and the place was packed, people were at the gates lined-up because the place filled up early.

All of that happened within three months and it was very historic. An up-and-coming artist, who is a DJ, selling out a concert was not common; it was unheard of then. For me it was a moment I will never forget, because I remember the energy that night. I had never seen an energy like that in my life, that made me think to myself “oh wow, I have made it this far.” Seeing people sing along to songs that I wrote felt surreal, something I created spoke to them enough for them to know it by heart and that truly astounded me.

To answer the question, the release party truly stands out for me, especially when I was playing the piassa song. I remember time freezing, my friend and fellow DJ, who I grew up with, was back stage with tears in his eyes because of how amazing it was. We used to walk back home after DJ’ing because the first two years of my career, I didn’t have enough money to even pay for my taxi-fare home, so we walked to places instead. I dropped opportunities my family offered me to go to the US, I dropped out of Piloting school after completing almost everything, and I then joined computer school.

And were your family supportive through all this?

Well, my brother wanted me to go to Pilot School, he was ready to pay for it and arrange everything. I went and did everything, I didn’t think I would get in but then I ended up getting in. When I did, I went to my mom and told her that I made it in, that I could follow this path and that I didn’t think it was for me.

The only thing closer to music for me at that point was computers and I would rather go and study that. And she was very supportive, she said ok and that I should be careful. My family had always been supportive of my aspirations which I am forever grateful for.

I remember when I finally got the deal with Universal Records, the first thing I did was to tell my mom and record her in the process. She was always willing, she never turned me down. She was always there for me, had she said no to me backing out of pilot school back then, I would not be where I am today. Rophnan, as a musician would have never existed. I am forever indebted to them for that.

My father on the other hand used to always tell me “Whatever you do, sell it.” He never told me what to pursue or to stop music just that I should do what I love and whatever that is I should sell it. He raised all of us like that, if you love something learn how to sell it, so you’d learn to perfect it and love it even more. Selling it would give you the money, time and opportunity to grow it and polish it into something better.

If I never sold my first mix tape, even if my first salary was just 500 birr, I wouldn’t have had the resources to support my endeavors down the line. Money is money no matter how small it may seem; it will serve as a stepping stone. I am not saying to just do it for the money but you have to account for your time with something; gain something from it, no matter how small it may seem because your time is the most valuable thing you have.

You are currently amongst one of the top artists in the country, yet you are very private, not very active on traditional media but you’re also active on social media, why is that?

I wouldn’t say I am private, because I am always posting. People know what I eat, what the studio looks like, where I work out, when I’m working. If you ask an average person who follows me on social media what I do, they’ll tell you that “he eats healthy,” I go to gym at midnight.

But as for media, I usually don’t go out unto media because I don’t really have anything to say. I have been away from media for around two years now and that’s mostly because I didn’t believe I had anything substantial to say and I don’t want to come on and lie, so I chose not to say anything.

I am the kind of person who likes to understand people’s truth and delve in to it. I believe a lot of truth is subjective and I am open to hearing other people’s truth but I know that a lot of people don’t see it that way.

What I consider my truth might not be what people want to hear. So, if I were to come out on media and say what people want to hear and not my truth, it would be a lie. I never want to lie to my fans; that is disrespectful. I would rather communicate with my people through social media and show them what I hope would inspire them, show my craft and take them through my creative process. And when this album comes out, it wouldn’t be alien to them because they saw the work that went into it through my social media posts.

I would rather communicate through that because who am I to comment on things I don’t know and understand.

I know and understand that everyone also has their truth that they’re exposed to and I am nobody to negate or support that. Until we all find a common ground of saying I respect your truth as much as you respect mine, I don’t see the importance of going out in public and creating controversy instead of looking for a solution because we can see that nobody is listening to anybody anymore.

Everyone is looking for voices and opinions that confirm their truth instead of openly listening to everyone unbiased. So, of course I am private, because I have nothing to share that my fans don’t already know. I am just as confused as everybody else and if I can’t help, I would rather listen and try and learn about everyone’s pain and truth.

And to me, music helps me do that.

Interesting, steering a bit off topic, you’ve mentioned you regularly attend the gym at midnight, why do you do that?

For me, it’s more mental than physical, because I don’t want my studio to be the hardest thing that I do in my day. Because the hardest thing is always seen in comparison, the hardest part of your day is the most dreaded part no matter how much you love it.

To not lose the love, I thought I would create something more challenging for myself. Now for me, the studio will continue to be more exciting because it’s not as hard as getting up at midnight and going to the gym. Contrary to what most people would think being in the studio is very tiring. You sit there for hours and hours daily; the not knowing of what will come out of each session creates a lot of anxiety as well, so when I add the midnight gym on top of that, I would have a much harder thing to do, which pushes me to like the studio better.

I needed that push because I had to finish three albums in two and a half years. It took a lot out of me and not just me but it took a lot out of my management as well. To deliver three albums in this time frame was really hard. Normal working hours don’t quite cut it.

Back in the days, it was really hard for artists to make a living off of music but the tides are changing now and artists like you are making a difference in that. What do you think propelled that change from your part and your peers as well?

I know it is getting better comparatively but it is not on the trajectory it needs to be at. There are still artists that are not earning their fair share but I think YouTube democratized so many things. It gave the power to artists to some extent. What got better is not the payment but the exposure. Artists get to be discovered in a quicker, better way.

As for back in the day, if the person who worked at ‘hire treat’ did not like you personally no one would know your name. Now, we’re exposed to more artists because we have access on our own terms. Young artists have better platforms now and bigger exposure where their music gets the chance to be discovered by many.

For me personally, I am rooting for all of us. When I hear an artist getting paid a million birr or dollars for music, it makes me ecstatic whether I like the music or not. It makes me so happy because the industry is getting paid this much, which is a win for all of us. It would mean fewer artists who are unable to support themselves and their family through their craft.

At least they would set a standard of artists earning a good life. I think what is happening is there is the YouTube market that is supporting local artists. Even if the public isn’t directly paying for the music, they are exposed to it at least. There are platforms that would support artists even more like Awtar but people barely use them.

When people buy the music, the artists will directly benefit from that so I encourage listeners to get their music from platforms like that. I think that is the main market but for now, YouTube works wonders for the industry.

What are your thoughts on people saying Ethiopian music died after the golden age? Some might say today’s music is more diverse and the time for it is now. What is your input on that?

Whoever says the time for Ethiopian music is now, I just want to say that I appreciate you all. Because a lot of people discourage what the industry is right now, saying it could never amount to what it was back then. The way I see it, if you grow up listening to any type of music, even if it’s just whistling, you’re going to have an attachment to it because it would be nostalgic.

It is hard to compare today’s music to something that has been part of people’s memory for 40 plus years. There is a lot of memory attached to it that can’t be compared. It is like expecting a new born baby to win a race against a 40-year-old, if you were to give 20 more years to the new born they will definitely win against a 60-year-old.

So, if you give us time, we too will have that nostalgia factor that would make us amongst the classics in people’s mind. Every generation has a favorite and it mostly has to do with the memory attached to it. I think it has more to do with nostalgia rather than production, quality. The golden age music was well produced, very powerful and well written too but I don’t think they need to be compared with today’s music.

Today’s musicians are very creative. They too have things to say, they too are well written; the people making the comparison probably grew up with those songs and they might not understand today’s music. Not understanding something does not make it lesser.

Considering artists back then, even the greats, did not put out a lot of albums or singles when compared to today’s artists who put out music more often. Why do you think that is?

I think it was very hard to put out albums back then than these days. But artists suffer to put out albums these days as well. There are easier platforms to make and sell your music on but I think artists are still suffering in a sense that studios are not easy playgrounds to play on.

The industry still does not really pay creatives; studios, composers and writers are not paid the right way. So, until that day comes, don’t expect too much creativity because creativity is also run by the freedom of time that you can make music.

If I am not getting paid well, I’ll just do something to pay my rent. Something that is easier. That is why getting paid can make a difference. When I say this, people might automatically say in the 60s they were not paid but they did so many things, no they were hired by the government.

These writers were hired by the Ethiopian National Theatre, Ras theatre, Cinema Ethiopia, and all those bands in mazegaja were hired and they were workers who were paid a monthly salary especially during the time of Haile Selassie I. That’s their actual job. They were workers who went in at 2 o’clock and left at 8. Most of us are self-employed so that also has its own impact on what you’re going to do and what you’re going to deliver to the art because you can abuse that freedom as well.

In general, I don’t agree with the comparison and I don’t think it’s fair. My generation is putting out a lot of good stuff. Think about it, if you call your days the good days and things were so well in the 60s and everything was nice, then why you would expect better things from me then, while you understand I’m living in a worse time.

So, coming to the new album, you said earlier that you were into physics; does that have anything to do with the 3, 6, 9 and the universal numbers?

Yeah, I mean you have to understand the Orthodox Church has a big explanation over this because it has a lot of knowledge about the world and the universe and everything from ancient times, but also those teachings were spread throughout the world in different ways and one of the people who understood this in early times wastesla.

He brought this idea of these three numbers being the key to unlock the universe and to understand the whole thing. If you understand things from the perspective of frequency, vibration and energy, you’d understand the world in a much better perspective.

Instead of saying me, me, you will start to say us; instead of just boosting up your ego and saying, man is everything in this world. You will understand the relationship of man in the world. And then you will protect the world.

What I’m trying to put here is for my generation to see things from a bird’s eye view. Let me put it this way, everything that we use today, phones, computer, internet, technology, all these things that we kill each other for is made by the people who understood this, these higher understandings of the world. Because how can a person make a phone that can do miraculous things without understanding the world holistically. I think the perspective that we have about ourselves and the universe is distorted and that’s why we’re very tribal and biased.

The bottom line is, I think the understanding we have about ourselves and the world should change or should be in check.

So, what I try to do with this 3, 6, and 9 is to show people that there is a higher perspective of looking at yourself, the world, how it goes and how it functions. If you understand that, everything becomes lighter, everything becomes a shape that will be understandable by the next person.

The names are inspired from that. So, when people say, oh, it’s three, it’s six, it’s nine, it’s like you’re engaging with these numbers, raising curiosity amongst listeners to look into these numbers, which will hopefully raise a question in people’s head so that they can have a better understanding of the world.

It’s always much better to look at yourself within the world. What I mean by that is like, yes, you are you, but you are in the world so know the relationship you have with the world, and then you’ll have a healthy thought, instead of saying what did the world give me? You’ll understand and you’ll start to say, what did I give to the world, what are the things that I said this morning? Most of us we’re just living inside our head, we don’t really live.

How has the experience been with Universal Records?

Well, I’m learning a lot from how the world moves, how it works, how everything is intentional; intentional in a sense that the world is moving faster. It was like going from being a small fish in a tank into a small fish in an ocean, it’s so big and sometimes it’s challenging but exciting for the most part.

I’ve seen a lot of people working day and night to make things go the right way. For me, it starts from my management company, Dots, all the way to universal music Africa and the whole team who have worked tirelessly to make things go smoother for me. I am very thankful.

The one thing I’m most thankful for is getting to release6at this moment, because according to our deal with the record company, I wasn’t supposed to release it now but we demanded it because I felt my generation needed it. There are songs in the album I really want to put out at this moment because my generation needs it.

They’ve been willing to compromise on things for me and understand that I’m coming from a different side of the world that they never existed in. So, it’s been challenging for them and I can understand but they they’ve been nice to me, I feel like I’m in great hands to join the world.

Other artists like Aster and Gigi have signed to international companies and represented our country. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get to do that as well. I’m following in the footsteps of giants. I hope I deliver something worth a while. Honestly speaking, to join the international world has been a dream come true.

Do you still get to work on crafts that are still true to yourself?

Of course. They do not affect my craft, rather they just help. That’s what people don’t understand. People thought they’ll make me do things their way, if that was the case, I would have never signed anything.

They’re here because they loved what I do. So, why would they touch it? But they will help me delve in deeper. They want me to experiment in our cultural music more and they also allowed me to stay here. I’m still based here; I’m producing my music on our soil. I’m still intact with the people. I’m still a part of the community.

The future is exciting. I have a full control over my artistic freedom. They don’t bend my music into anything, they even provide me with more freedom and guide me through the lines, and present me with better opportunities.

What is the perspective of6and what does it mean?

Yeah. So6means a perspective of a six-year-old. When we were at that young and impressionable age, our intentions were clear and our ego was not built the way it is now. We were not stiff. We were eager to learn and we had a better understanding of the world.

I think in order to become a better generation, we have to learn how to become young and find our inner child. To tap into my inner child, I went to kids. I went to orphanages and just spent time with the kids, communicating with them, asking them to paint me stuff.

I’ll give them words and learn their perspective. For example, I’ll ask them for testify. Like, what do you think about the word testify? And they’ll just paint me stuff. Through the genius of my graphic designers Fanuel Leul and Tsegaw Tesfa, we were able to incorporate those paintings on the album art.

I also wanted for those six-year-olds to see themselves being represented, so that they can have better guts, that our traumas cannot hurt them, for them to have a thicker skin to say no to us, if we are ever to push our biases onto them.

I want my generation to be purposeful in not passing that trauma to the young. I am hopeful this would empower them both. We are alien to kids because our biases have molded us somehow. They don’t quite vibe with us that much. When they hear their voice in my album, they’re automatically engaged through the things that I say and to the songs that I put in there. It will eventually become theirs. So, when they grow up people will not manipulate them, the way we have been manipulated.

What can we expect going forward?

“9”is coming out in December and somewhere between then and now, we’re planning on having a festival celebrating all my music with fans.

It’s going to be a series of beautiful engaging events, and till then I hope everyone enjoys6and gets the message.

The TPLF is the enemy of Ethiopia and the people of Tigray point blank. The government says that it would make peace with the group but as Ethiopians we can’t forgive that party even if the government fulfils its diplomatic responsibilities. I did not say the people of Tigray, rather just TPLF.

The role of Ethiopia’s government should be identified; the election board should not be giving out certificates for parties that work with terrorists. If they get a certificate, then the TPLF would need one as well.

The country is on the precipice of prosperity now. Our current state could be depicted as a nine month pregnant women ready to give birth on any day. It is always darkest before dawn, Ethiopia’s people come together even stronger when there problems pile up.

We should be careful with parties that try and create the gap between ethnicities.

How can the government enforce a justice transition? What should be included?

Justice transition means the world did not get civilized through a revolution, but rather through reforms. Reform means averting the negative impacts and carrying on already started projects.

Justice transition implies those that refuse forgiveness and acceptance from the recently started national dialogue and the people that are being accused. Each one of the perpetrators will not be brought before court but instead will have to reconcile their differences in the regions customs, which is according to justice transition.

This is the outcome of the reforms. A new education law is now being drafted, in addition to changes to the education policy. These and other innovations in teacher education are greatly appreciated.

The Association applauds the improvements and supports the next developments.

In the last three years, for example, the panda bag arrived in Djibouti and stayed for more than a month, and we were required to pay tax. We would not pay that money if the Ethiopian government was facilitating faster. We occasionally lose bags or items in a warehouse where we keep the bags.

It’s pointless for me to go over what happened. It is all well known that we simply need to take our time and evaluate everything before coming up with a way to mediate it.

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