IBM in Ethiopia: it’s all about data

by Katrina Manson

The link between one of the world’s most powerful corporate leaders and a small bank in Ethiopia might not be immediately obvious. In this case, it’s an IBM server, which powers Awash International Bank. But soon it could be a lot more if Ginni Rometty (pictured) has anything to do with it.

Rometty, IBM’s chief executive, is spending a week in Africa with her top 15 executives. It’s the first time so many of them have been in one place outside New York. It’s also the first time IBM has convened its chief executives from all over the continent.

Among them were 54 business executives who had flown in from across Africa for Wednesday’s “Smarter Planet Leadership Forum” in Nairobi on everything from “big data” to “the future of technology in Africa”.

It is part of a growing effort to make a play for the one-billion-person continent’s economic potential and its ability to take on new technologies to solve developing-world problems, from creating new traffic systems to identifying counterfeit drugs. It also fits with IBM’s recent figures: while the company’s overall fourth quarter revenues were flat, emerging markets were up 7 per cent.

Although only 15 per cent of Africans go online, more than three quarters have a mobile phone, helping overcome problems associated with remote regions poorly served by roads and electricity. In Kenya, an electronic banking revolution has enabled people to send money to each other, pay bills and buy goods with just a handset, setting off a race for the next “M-Pesa” (“mobile money” in Swahili).

“We see your strength… what a wonderful source of talent – and we are a talent company,” Rometty told the audience, noting the continent’s economic growth, embrace of mobile technology and rising youthful population. IBM last year opened its first Research Lab in Africa, its twelfth in the world to date. “It’s a very special time and I think it will last for decades to come in front of us.”

Rometty says this “special time” will bring a technological shift and a new era of society that will change the way people live and work. She argues Africa is well-placed to take advantage of the change.

“There is a new era of computing that is about to take over and it will go for decades ahead of us,” she says, promising that a combination of huge amounts of data along with cognitive computing systems will deliver “a new technological foundation upon which the world will operate”. Read More

Africa: Development vies with conflict resolution in African Union

Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) – The birthday party didn’t go according to plan. It was billed as a summit to celebrate 50 years of the African Union and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, and to promote an African Renaissance and Pan-Africanism. Then reality intervened in the form of a long list of conflicts in Central African Republic, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan.

Delegates to the AU summit in Addis Ababa on 27-28 January were frustrated that crisis talks on conflicts dominated the meetings at a time when Africa’s development prospects – its economies are projected to grow at an average 6.6% this year – are at their strongest since the independence years when the OAU was founded.

The new Chairwoman of the AU, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, shares these worries. She wants economic and social development to dominate the AU’s work, and the organisation to push forward plans for regional economic integration, mobilising funds to build roads and railways across the continent as well as promoting education. On 13 January, Dlamini-Zuma shared a platform at the AU headquarters with African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka and the Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes to launch a coordinated development plan for the next 50 years.

Details of the plan are to be released at the next AU summit, also in Addis, in May, which will be something of a cultural jamboree as well, with some of Africa’s most renowned musicians, writers and artists expected to join the 50-year celebrations.

Although the urgency of the Mali conflict dominated the summit, the AU’s response was faster and more business-like than in many previous crises. ‘We cannot over-emphasise the need for peace and security,’ Dlamini-Zuma told the summit and warned of a growing number of rebel movements trying to oust elected governments. She also called for governments to move faster to launch the planned 30,000-strong African standby force which is to be deployed to protect civilians and defend legitimate govermments.

According to the outgoing Chairman of the AU Assembly, Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi, the absence of such a force made the French intervention the only available option to save the Malian state. Others agreed privately, but Yayi used his valedictory speech to take a swipe at some of the hesitant African leaders: ‘How could it be that when faced with a danger that threatened its very foundations that Africa continued to wait?’
He also suggested that the AU should revisit its founding charter and recast the roles of the chair of the AU Assembly (of Heads of State), chair of the AU Commission (Dlamini-Zuma’s current role) and the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Algeria’s Ramtane Lamamra. Certainly, the AU’s reaction to the Mali crisis was initially a confused chorus: Yaya as chair of the AU Assembly had been calling countries from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to help the Malian government but Dlamini-Zuma and Lamamra kept schtum until the AU’s Peace and Security Council met three days after the French operation started.

Yayi’s remonstrations may have upped the bidding on the contributions for the Mission internationale de soutien au Mali (Misma) at a special conference after the summit on 29 January. It raised US$455.53 million with the AU itself contributing $50 mn. out of its members’ dues. That was to send a signal about the AU’s commitment to the Mali plan, and also perhaps to heal the rifts between it and the Economic Community of African states, whose member countries are contributing the bulk of fighting forces.

Other pledges came from Japan ($120 mn.), the United States ($96 mn.) and the European Union ($67 mn.). Then South Africa doubled its pledge to $10 mn. and added another $10 mn. for humanitarian needs. Nigeria, whose Major-General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir is commanding the mission, is providing 900 combat soldiers and 300 Air Force personnel at a deployment cost of some $32 mn., it says.

Nigeria, whose President Goodluck Jonathan was a ubiquitous figure at the summit’s key meetings, will send another $7.5 mn. for security sector reform and humanitarian needs. Total African troop commitments to the Mali campaign are just under 6,000 with the biggest single contingent of 2,000 coming from Chad. All this still falls far short of the 8,000-strong force that Ecowas chairman and Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara said would be necessary along with some $950 mn. in funding.

Requirements on the ground will be dictated by the shape of the mission in Mali, which is fairly unclear so far. French forces, with air support, seem set to chase after the jihadist fighters into the mountainous north-east of Mali, leaving Malian soldiers and the West African forces to consolidate control across the North. The big threat is that these forces will be seen as an easier target for jihadist insurgents than the better armed and high-tech French forces.

One plan is for the United Nations to join a joint peacebuilding mission in Mali alongside the Ecowas soldiers, similar to the operations it ran in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s. If that UN mission could draw on the organisation’s assessed contributions for peacekeeping, it would greatly reduce the burden of the West African troop-contributing countries – even if most of their soldiers were simply re-hatted as UN peacekeepers.

Elsewhere, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s innate caution on Mali has attracted some criticism for holding up the mission. In Addis, his team was blamed when an announced signing on 28 January of a deal between countries in the Southern African Development Community, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the UN was abruptly cancelled. The plan was to establish a Neutral Intervention Force along Rwanda’s border with Congo-Kinshasa under the auspices of the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo (Monusco).

UN officials billed the signing as a breakthrough. But Southern African countries, notably Mozambique and South Africa, which would contribute batallions to the border force, objected to some provisions in the framework agreement. South Africa said it received some amendments to the framework from the UN on 26 January and didn’t have enough time to assess them.

We hear Ban Ki-moon suggested that Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Congo-Kinshasa’s Joseph Kabila and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni could sign the agreement without the other five leaders. Museveni, an old ally of South Africa, said they should all wait until there was consensus. Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Africa Confidential: ‘Some countries are not ready which is fine. They need more time to carefully look at the framework… Rwanda is ready when everyone else is ready.’

The deal should benefit both sides of the dispute (AC Vol 54 No 1, Ailing and failing): Congo-Kinshasa’s Kivu provinces would be better protected against rebel forces; and Rwanda could claim that it has tried seriously to tackle the militia problem (that the UN expert panel accused it of fomenting) and try to renegotiate the unblocking of suspended aid programmes.

Source: Africa Confidential

African Union: Greater Efforts Needed on Crises and Conflicts Situations and to Ensure the Effectiveness of Human Rights Protection Mechanisms

FIDH welcomes the African Union’s commitment to prioritising the protection of civilians and restoration of the rule of law in conflict resolution, made during its recent Twentieth Summit. Our organisation calls on the African Union (AU) to now take all the necessary steps to give plain effect to these commitments; to intensify its efforts concerning all conflicts and political crises in Africa, and to take effective steps to strengthen African mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights.
African Union: Greater Efforts Needed on Crises and Conflicts Situations and to Ensure the Effectiveness of Human Rights Protection Mechanisms
Closing ceremony of the 20th Ordinary Summit of the African Union, 28 January 2013.
At a time when the security, social and political situation in Mali remains fragile, FIDH welcomes the African Union’s decision to deploy civilian observers to “monitor the situation of human rights in the liberated areas and help Malian authorities to create the conditions for sustainable reconciliation between the various components within Malian society and for the consolidation of peace”, within the AFISMA and with the support of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. FIDH calls upon the AU to take all the necessary steps to give effect to this decision without delay and to do so in cooperation with the United States and the European Union, who also provide monitoring and training mechanisms for human rights.

In South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, civilians are still being held hostage to the trampling of negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N, and the ongoing fighting between the two parties. The African Union must make all necessary efforts to ensure the effective and unconditional humanitarian support is provided as a matter of urgency to affected populations. It must also push for an immediate ceasefire protecting civilians from the risk of indiscriminate aerial bombing, summary executions, forced displacement or destruction of goods. Similarly, while the peace between Sudan and South Sudan remains fragile, the AU must intensify its efforts to secure the conclusion and respect of sustainable agreements between them – in particular on border demarcation and the status of Abyei. The imposition of sanctions, including individual sanctions, should be considered for negotiation failures.

Moreover, the African Union must maintain a continuing focus on the political and security situation prevailing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – where the situation is still fragile despite the ongoing negotiations between the Congolese government and the M23 in Kampala and the reaching of a first agreement yesterday – and the Central African Republic (CAR), where the African Union must bring all its political weight to bear in supporting the ongoing political transition and avoid resumption of the conflict in the country. While the African Union has expressed concern about “making the armed rebellion banal” in Africa and is considering “the best ways and means to overcome this threat”, FIDH wishes to remind the AU that impunity is one of the major causes of recurrent conflict in many countries, including in the DRC and the CAR. The African Union must establish and support, at national and international levels, judicial procedures allowing for the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes. A failure to do so seriously jeopardises the consolidation of peace and strengthening of the Rule of Law in the DRC and the CAR.

FIDH also reminds the Union that African mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights, like the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, constitute effective bastions of defence against the violation of fundamental rights. However, they can only do so if their effectiveness and independence of action are guaranteed. In this regard, FIDH welcomes the call made by the African Union for the ratification of the Protocol establishing the African Court and of the declaration allowing individuals and NGOs to bring their cases directly to the Court. However, our organisation is surprised that the AU has encouraged the ACHPR to independently contact States before the publication of resolutions relative to them. FIDH is concerned that this practice is a means of restricting the independence of the ACHPR, in particular when taking stand on State responsibility for the commission of violations of African Charter rights. This would be a step backwards for this body.

FIDH also notes the continued discussion on the extension of the African Court’s competence to crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, as well as the beginnings of reflection on the establishment of an International Constitutional Court “as the consultative and judicial body in charge of ensuring the respect of the promotion of democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law”. Whilst welcoming this clear display of willingness to take steps to end impunity and ensure respect for the rule of law, democracy and good governance, FIDH reminds the AU that there are some pre-requisites to the establishment, effectiveness and efficiency of the African Court and any International Constitutional Court. Thus, the definition of crimes within the jurisdiction of those courts must comply with applicable international law, and guarantees must be made regarding individual and NGO access to those courts (especially the African Court), their independence, and the allocation of appropriate funding to allow such bodies to ensure respect for human rights and to enable coordination between them, including between the African Court and the International Criminal Court.

Finally, FIDH notes the concerns expressed, at the opening ceremony of the Summit, by Boni Yayi, President of Benin, then President in office of the African Union. Indeed he mentioned structural dysfunctions which are undermining the effectiveness of the organisation, in particular its capacity to consistently answer to the various crisis and conflict’s situations. As the African Union will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary, FIDH calls upon the AU to seize this opportunity and take the necessary steps – in coordination with regional economic communities – allowing the organisation to strengthen its responsiveness and conflict and crises resolution capacity.

African Union’s Complicated Record Belies Continent-Spanning Narratives

By James Hamill,

A little more than a decade ago, in July 2002, the African Union (AU) was formed against an inauspicious backdrop. For Africa, the previous decade had been defined by conflict, state collapse, failed peacekeeping missions and even genocide. So dire had Africa’s condition become that in May 2000 the Economist captured its malaise under the infamous rubric, “the hopeless continent.” The AU’s mission over the past decade was in part to challenge and rewrite such bleak narratives. Looking back, its record is mixed, particularly in its attempts to position itself as the principal vehicle for the advancement of democratization on the continent.

The AU’s formation marked a break with the depressing history of its flawed predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which proved largely irrelevant as many African states descended into civil war or despotism and the continent became a theater of Cold War competition. The AU’s novel features included an explicit commitment to democratization and good governance and a recognition of the legitimacy of intervention in the event of crimes against humanity or genocide. The latter was an early articulation of the “responsibility to protect”  doctrine that placed the AU ahead of the United Nations itself and represented a firm repudiation of the OAU’s noninterference doctrine. In addition, the AU rejected unconstitutional changes of government, with suspension from AU membership for those states where such changes occurred. The AU has also been active in designing a new continental security architecture, and has already conducted peace operations with varying degrees of effectiveness in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. More

Life in an Ethiopian palace full of African leaders

africanunion2013reutersAt the Sheraton Addis Ababa, in the Ethiopian capital, Heads of State, diplomats and government officials exchanged pleasantries, talking about issues, as those at diplomatic loggerheads busily avoided each other.

 

Indulging in the padded lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, the President of Benin and outgoing president of the African Union, Boni Yayi – in spite of the seemingly omnipresent Malian crisis and the 2013 African Cup of Nations – could not be missed.

Guests at the superb Ethiopian-style hotel, built by Ethiopian-Saudi Sheikh Al Amoudi, quietly jeered at Yayi’s fondness for bright colours at his every passage.

Boni Yayi had chosen to spend his last days as President of the African Union dressed in a dandy, electric blue suit for the opening of the Summit of Heads of State and a golden yellow suit to close it.

Mesmerised by the sound of his own voice, the outgoing president was relentless as he paid endless homage to his peers.

Early on, his gallantry had been put to the test when he offered the President of the Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma a bouquet of flowers for her birthday.

As the day wore on, he was spotted seeking a tête-à-tête with French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, followed by a hearty stroll with Congolese president, Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The last gathering looked nothing like the last two pan-African summits, during which the polarised election campaign for the commission’s chairpersonship position had poisoned the atmosphere at the African Union gathering.

That evening, a fleet of limousines made their way to the Sheraton Hotel, bringing with them VIPs. Valets in impeccable tail-coats waited on the front steps of the hotel to welcome them.

Meanwhile, courtiers tailed the politicians, following their every gaze in the hope of clinching that friendly eye-contact, a warm handshake, a few words, but above all, a private audience.

As the big ones made a dash for their sumptuous suites, the diplomats were happy to stay behind in the lobby to engage with journalists, reciting their latest statements while testing their carefully honed antics.

As for Ban Ki-moon, he chose to isolate himself in one of the pavilions, surrounded by a legion of bodyguards. “Come thirty minutes early, because security checks are very strict before meeting the secretary general,” explains Ban’s spokeswoman.

Not all leaders and diplomats who paced up and down the long corridors of the palace hotel were in the mood to interact, however.

Some were noticeably walking gingerly down the corridor in a desperate attempt to avoid their rivals, like Saadeddine El Othmani, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), whose travel expenses were paid for by his Algerian friends.

[B]The Hague beckons[/B]

There was no love lost between brother-enemies Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, and his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir, as his bodyguards diligently kept watch without as much as batting an eye.

Al-Bashir obviously takes the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant very seriously, especially with chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda lodging in the same hotel, to lobby heads of state.

And then there was Joyce Banda, President of Malawi who had promised to have al-Bashir arrested and served to the ICC if he ever dared step foot in her country, forcing the change in venue of the AU summit last year.

Events in Mali and Egypt (the military storming of In Amenas and protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi) could not be avoided, as Arab leaders consoled each other.

Abdelmalek Sellal, outgoing Algerian Prime Minister wished Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs the best of luck.

But there was also much talk about the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Between lunch and coffee breaks and after a long day’s work, Heads of State accompanied by their ministers, counsels and guests would gather around televisions sets to watch the football tournament.

West Africans were the envy of all and sundry.

With seven West African teams qualifying for the quarterfinals, alongside South Africa, their superiority had been set in stone.

There were those who marveled at the technical prowess of the Ivorian Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor of Togo, Mali’s Seydou Keita and Burkina Faso’s Alain Traoré.

There were also those who more than frowned on the blunders of some players who had left their teams wanting.

In spite of all the issues facing the continent, discussions on the sidelines of the summit was dominated by football and French forces marching into Mali.

Source: Africa Report

Open Letter to Chairperson of the African Union Commission

08 February 2013

 

H.E. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma

Chairperson of African Union Commission

African Union Headquarters

P.O. Box 3243

Addis Ababa

Ethiopia

 

Your Excellency,

Re: Endemic conflicts, corruption, youth unemployment and civil unrest in Africa

 

I have the rare honor and privilege to congratulate You on Your election to the exalted post as Chairperson of the African Union Commission, more so that You are the first woman to rise to this lofty position since the creation of the defunct OAU on 25 May 1962 and its successor in Durban on the 9th of July 2002.

I have no doubt that You will be able to discharge given your experience as anti-apartheid activist and a politician who had held ministerial portfolios as Minister of Health under none other the Greatest Statesman of our time, President  Nelson Mandela(1994 – 1999); Minister of Foreign Affairs from (17 June 1999 to 10 May 2009), under Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Molanthe; Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma, (May 2009  to 2 October 2012).

Yours was indeed a distinguished service record, which eminently qualified You to be deservedly elected to Your present position on 15 July 2012 and subsequently take office on 15 October 2012 to engage in multiple draconian issues and problems including endemic conflicts, corruption, youth unemployment and civil unrest in Africa – pending unresolved due  to mainly dictatorial stance and corrupt practices of most African Heads of State and Government not to mention their incompetency and subservience to foreign interests.

Your Excellency,

President Nelson Mandela also adoringly called Madiba by his people made peace with his deadly enemies who kept him in prison under harsh conditions for 27 years at Robin Island. He created an all-inclusive Rainbow Nation of which he became its Founding Father and President. He served just one term as President and set the enviable example of transferring power to his successor peacefully. He gave the immortal lesson to African tyrants that lust for power and keeping it for too long would be to their detriment eventually.

The above is in sharp contrast to the divisive dictatorial rule entrenched in Ethiopia by the late tyrant Meles Zenawi since he took power in May 1991. The ethnic-based federal system of government, which is the brainchild of Zenawi, is proving to be a time bomb ready to explode unless checked in time. It is a cancer that must not be allowed to spread to the rest of African states.

The recent hospitalization of the beloved President Nelson Mandela caught the attention not only of the citizens of the RSA but also of the entire internationally community. There wasn’t a single day that renowned media outlets in our global village did not report about him for each and every day he has been in the hospital. Prayers for his recovery were held everywhere. Everyone was concerned that it would be a great loss RSA, the African continent, and the world at large to miss the icon architect of Truth, Peace and Reconciliation, which made him one of the world’s most beloved and recognized statesmen.

The worldwide accolade embellished on Madiba is testimony to the innate desire of people in our global village for leaders endowed with his foresight and impeccable integrity.

Meles Zenawi shunned any notion for holding Truth, Peace and Reconciliation in our troubled country, Ethiopia, despite my pleading with his government in writing to emulate the example of RSA. He chose the roadmap of brinkmanship and reckless political experiment couched in his so-called “Revolutionary Democracy”.

Your Excellency,

On that historic day of 07 May 2005 before the election on 15 May 2005, a truly mammoth crowd estimated at 2.5 – 3 million inundated the streets and squares of Addis Ababa to support the now defunct Kinijit Party (Coalition for Unity and Democracy). That sea of humanity was acclaimed internationally for its magnificent display of decorum and civility; it ended peacefully without a single incident of violence.

The unprecedented massive support for Kinijit was followed by an unprecedented turn out of massive voters on 15 May 2005 in which the ruling party suffered a humiliating defeat failing to win a single vote in Addis Ababa where the AU Headquarters is located. Tyrant Meles declared a state of emergency and swiftly implemented his plan B that resulted in killing close to 200 peaceful protesters by trained snipers; throwing the victors to filthy prison; incarcerating tens of thousands of opposition supports, mostly young shaving their heads with unsterilized blades without regard to widespread STDs of that time.

What is really shocking is that the African Union which had sent its observers to the above election pronounced the election free and fair and recognized the TPLF party as the winner.

What is even more shocking is that one of the senior diplomats of the AU, Ambassador Patrick Mazimhaka, hailing from Rwanda overstepped diplomatic norms and blamed the opposition in public for the popular unrest in the aftermath of the election. It is a shame that this Rwandan forgot so soon, in the comfort of luxury that dollar-paid diplomats enjoy in Addis Ababa, the close to one million victims of genocide in his country by the Hutu extremists inciting and exacerbating ethnic differences. The TPLF regime used the holocaust as an example in Rwanda to stifle dissent in Ethiopia in the aftermath of election 2005; but the scare didn’t work in a tolerant country, Ethiopia, where unity in diversity had lived in exemplary relative harmony for centuries.

It is bizarre indeed that Ambassador Mazimhaka sided with the brutal TPLF party in the face of condemnation of the state-sponsored atrocities by esteemed international institutions such as the Congress of the United States and prominent leaders in the United Kingdom including Prime Minister Tony Blair. His bias in favor of the ruling clique, even before the start of an independent investigation promised by Meles to the international community, is confounding and disappointing. It was bad news to those of us in Diaspora who want to return home to escape being victims of xenophobia and to the Ethiopian people who are fervently praying to avert the prospect of enduring another five years under the wicked rule of the TPLF despotic regime.”

In the subsequent Ethiopian election of 2010 the ruling party claimed 99.6% ‘win’ of the 547 parliamentary seats. The European Observer Mission decried the election process as not free and fair; the White House endorsed the ruling of the Mission. But the AU Observer Team declared free and fair!!

The dismal performance of the African Union, since its establishment officially in Durban on the 9th of July 2002, is a burning issue especially to genuine intellectuals who have the interests of Africa at heart and the young generation who see their future blighted due to rampant corruption, inept leadership, contagious dictatorial rule and robbery of votes set in motion by the TPLF regime and spreading for example to Kenya and Zimbabwe whose leaders sought to emulate the method applied by Meles Zenawi in the aftermath of the 15 May 2005 Ethiopian election. It is my contention that failure on the part of the AU Leadership to condemn the illegitimate regime of Meles set a bad precedence ushering in an era of instability and abject poverty in countries under despotic rulers.

Your Excellency,

To be fair to the defunct OAU performed beyond expectations, against many odds, in fuelling the liberation struggle giving birth to independent states.

It makes me proud as it does millions of my fellow citizens that the Headquarters of the OAU was decided to be located in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, founded by Emperor Menelik II – the Victor of the Battle of Adwa over Italy. This convincing victory over the evil forces of Italy in its own right became the beacon of hope for all black people in the Diaspora instilling hope, inspiration and confidence to their struggle for freedom and independence. The seat of the OAU in our capital city is a living tribute also to the foresight and arduous work of Emperor Haile Selassie.

Unfortunately, Addis Ababa of today has become a jungle of immorality comprising tall buildings and slums; a terrifying  dwelling place for thousands of homeless due to inordinate evictions, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, pimps, street dwellers, beggars, nude dancers, army of unemployed youth, undercover human traffickers, licensed cheap labor exporters to Arab countries and other dehumanizing habits all in full view of the corrupt former so-called first lady Azeb Mesfin, her late husband and his successor.  The Capital City would have been a green City envy of the world, but that opportunity has been lost by denuding it of its forest comprising enviable biodiversity and polluting its several rivers in the last 21 years the TPLF regime has been in power.

I should add that the AU Headquarters built by China as a ‘gift’ for the African continent is an eye soar standing tall as a symbol of beggary and betrayal of self-reliance. It demonstrates the failure of AU leaders to mobilize 200 million US dollars in contribution from member states and build one of our own with African characteristics employing African architects, engineers and other qualified professionals required for the job. This is in my sincere opinion a serious issue that needs to be resolved and use the present building for other purposes.

Your Excellency,

Ethiopia became a founding member of the United Nations when Emperor Haile Selassie was at the helm of power. His Majesty was loyal to the UN and OAU Charters to the core. As part of commitment to Collective Security under the UN elite Ethiopian battalions were sent to Korea and Congo where they received glowing accolades for their professional acumen; a small military contingent was sent to Nigeria during the civil war incited by Biafra seeking cessation; the Emperor dispatched the Air Force to assist President Nyerere when the unity of Tanzania was threatened by an uprising in Zanzibar. Several liberation movement fighters including the distinguished Statesman Nelson Mandela were trained in Ethiopia

Ethiopians are proud for the significant contribution their country had made to the noble struggle against colonialism and to the cause of unity when that is threatened by internal strife. But despite the fact that Ethiopia sacrificed her meager resources to help others gain their independence and maintain their territorial integrity in keeping with the OAU Charter, not a single member of the Organization whispered a word in public when Eritrea ceded from Ethiopia leaving it a land-locked country. Those who said anything in private blamed the cessation on the ruling TPLF regime who strongly solicited for that to happen.

The young generation has lost trust in the AU Leadership for all the reasons stated in the foregoing paragraphs. Arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings of peaceful protesters, state-monopoly of all pillars of democracy, rampant corruption, high unemployment and wastage of money on security forces as in the case of Ethiopia as one of the worst examples have dashed the hope of young generation to live in a prosperous and democratic continent endowed with enormous natural resources. The scramble by external powers for these resources is too obvious to state. The pervasive influence of neo-colonialism is being felt, but leaders have not prepared our citizens to counter it. With all due respect, the fault lies with the AU Leadership for failing to promote democratic culture and expedite the advent of a strong collaborative union in the best interest of all the citizens of the AU member States. 

In a nutshell, the OAU after the demise of Emperor Haile Selassie and its successor the AU became platforms for the late dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi to project himself as the Monarch in waiting for the African continent.

The onset of mass protest movement in Ethiopia and the split among top leaders of the TPLF party is already posing a grave danger to regional stability unless AU acts immediately to avert the catastrophe wrought by the party. TPLF is a terrorist entity which was included as such in the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the USA. As it were, old habits die hard. So, the Ethiopian Television under the monopoly of the TPLF has, against court order, unleashed a vitriolic attack on the Muslim Community leaders via a documentary film titled “Jihadawi Harekat” on a case sub judice in the High Court. The documentary is a despicable charade meant to scare the gallant Muslim Community which has admirably been demanding for their constitutional right peacefully for over a year.

The last election in Kenya claimed the death of 1500 Kenyans not to mention IDPs numbering hundreds of thousands all due to ethnic conflicts. Yet, the AU Observer Team declared that election free and fair. There is fear that the same horrible thing may be repeated in the impending election in Kenya in March 2013 unless the AU Team is irresolutely impartial. This is why President Obama is warning Kenyans to avoid violence.

I hope that Your Excellency’s leadership will rectify the grave shortcomings of the AU written above. I plead with You to all in Your power to stem arbitrary arrests and tortures of political leaders, human rights activists and journalists in Ethiopia and to call for their immediate prisoners including Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba, Reeyot Alemu, Leaders of the Ethiopian Muslims et al!

 

Most respectfully,

Robele Ababya

rababya@gmail.com

Ethiopian annihilation of the Ogaden people

By Graham Peebles

Ogaden peopleBesieged, abused, ignored

In the harsh Ogaden region of Ethiopia, impoverished ethnic Somali people are being murdered and tortured, raped, persecuted and displaced by government paramilitary forces. Illegal actions carried out with the knowledge and tacit support of donor countries, seemingly content to turn a blind eye to war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by their brutal, repressive ally in the region; and a deaf ear to the pain and suffering of the Ogaden Somali people.

Around five million traditionally nomadic pastoralists – live in what is one of the least developed corners of the world besieged by military oppression, drought and famine.

Democracy denied

When the British, with due colonial duplicity, arrogantly handed the Ogaden region over to Ethiopia in 1954, the ethnic Somali people found themselves under occupation by, what they regard as a foreign power. The centuries old struggle for self-determination, has since 1984 been taken up by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), predictably regarded as ‘terrorists’ by the Ethiopian government;  which hunts them down and, with impunity, tortures, imprisons and rapes its members and suspected supporters while carrying out widespread extrajudicial killings.

In 1992 as part of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) much trumpeted, never realized policy of Ethnic Federalism, that promised autonomy and cultural respect to the many tribal groups in the country; ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden were officially acknowledged and inaugural regional elections held. The ONLF, a secular group in a largely Muslim region, “won 60% of seats… and formed the new (regional) government” Human Rights Watch (HRW)[i] reported. Two years later, and in response to the will of the people, the ONLF called for a referendum on self-determination. The government’s reaction to such democratic gall was to kill 81 unarmed civilians in the town of Wardheer, disband the regional parliament, arrest and imprisons the vice-president and several other members of the parliament instigate mass arrests and indiscriminate killings; this brutal act ignited the current struggle and drove the ONLF into the shadows and its current guerilla war.

Resource rich

The region, rich in oil and gas reserves, is potentially the wealthiest area of Ethiopia. Resources that the indigenous people are understandably keen to benefit from, that the EPRDF sees as another party asset to add to its burgeoning portfolio. Genocide Watch (GW)[ii]tell us that, “immediately after oil and gas were discovered in the Ogaden, Ethiopian government forces evicted large numbers of [Ogaden Somalis] from their ancestral grazing lands and herded them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, causing a humanitarian disaster”. If the ONLF are correct and their view sounds more than plausible, the Ethiopian military intends to secure the resources for the government and exclude the local people. The Africa Faith and Justice Network[iii] confirms such suspicions, saying: “With the discovery of petroleum leading to exploration missions by foreign companies, the government’s motives are questionable.”

Upfront fees for exploration rights are reputed to have been sold to foreign corporations for between $50 – $100 million, paid by under-informed, overexcited multinationals, which subsequently pull out, having underestimated the logistical problems of working in the region. China Petroleum was one such; they were subjected to an unprecedented ill-judged attack by the ONLF in 2007 that caused the deaths of nine Chinese workmen and, according to China Daily[iv], “65 Ethiopian employees”. The Ethiopian government, itching to intensify the conflict that had been simmering for over three decades, retaliated with excessive brutality, by HRW reports, “launching a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in the five zones of [the] Somali Region primarily affected by the conflict… [Where] the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) has deliberately and repeatedly attacked civilian populations,” killing hundreds of men women and children.

Displaced & destitute

Thousands of terrified Ogaden Somalis have since fled the affected areas. They seek refuge “in neighbouring Somalia and Kenya from widespread Ethiopian military attacks on civilians and villages that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,“(ibid).Large numbers have been made homeless and destitute, accurate numbers are difficult to collate due to restricted access, however human rights groups estimate the number, to be greater than one hundred thousand.

The Ogaden, GW states “has been transformed into a vast military occupied area, with thousands in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.” Most displaced persons, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)[v] reports, “sought shelter with relatives or safety in the bush, rather than gathering in organized camps,” where widespread abuse is known to take place, including starvation that GW describes as “genocide by attrition”. These desperate, frightened people are not regarded as refugees and so receive no humanitarian aid support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). And the EPRDF, consistent with their duplicitous approach to governance, fails to meet dutiful obligations under the historic Kampala Convention[vi] which “reaffirms that national authorities have the primary responsibility to provide assistance to IDPs…. (And) … to address the plight of people uprooted within their borders”. The ruling party ignores these requirements, acting not in accordance with international law, the federal constitution or indeed their moral duty.

Especially violent

In 2009, after widespread condemnation of the Ethiopian army’s conduct in the region, the regime formed the highly suspect Liyu (Special) Police. Somaliland Press (26/9/12) [vii]states, the government “deliberately recruited unemployed youths from the streets”. This shadowy paramilitary force of 10,000 – 14,000, fits, HRW[viii] says, “into the context of impunity where security forces can more or less do what they want.”Not a group, then, that the British government should be supporting. In a baffling move however, according to The Guardian (10/1/13)[ix], the Department for International Development(DFID)[x] has submitted, a “tender to train security forces in the Somali region of Ogaden”, Amnesty International’s Claire Beston said: “It was highly concerning that the UK was planning to engage with the Special Police..…. There is no doubt that the Special Police have become a significant source of fear in the region.”(Ibid) The DFID in denying the report ambiguously states that, “reforming the Special Police is critical for achieving a safe and secure Somali Region”, failing to recognize that the Liyu force needs not reforming but disbanding and, along with all Ethiopian military personnel, marched out of the region immediately.

State-sanctioned terrorism and genocide

In addition to murder and rape, appalling levels of torture and extrajudicial execution are reported. Thousands, according to GW, “have been arrested without any charges and held in desolate desert prisons”. Mass detention “without any judicial oversight are routine. Hundreds—and possibly thousands—of individuals have been arrested and held in military barracks, sometimes multiple times, where they have been tortured, raped, and assaulted”, HRW report.

Children and women being the most vulnerable suffer acutely, the rape of Ogaden Somali women is a favored weapon of the Ethiopian paramilitary; held in military barracks women are imprisoned as sex slaves, where they are subjected to multiple gang rape and torture. African Rights Monitor (ARM)[xi] recount one woman’s story that mirrors many and shocks us all. She claims to have been, “raped by fifty soldiers for a period of twelve hours and hung upside down over a pit of fire that had chili powder in…. to suffocate her lungs”.

Statistics of abuse are impossible to state, the numbers are perhaps of less importance than the crimes and the suffering caused, survivors bear the physical scars and mental trauma of their ordeals, from which many may never recover.

A scorched-earth policy involving burning of crops and homes and killing cattle is part of the campaign of state terror, as HRW record, “Confiscation of livestock [the main asset], restrictions on access to water, food, and other essential commodities” have “been used as weapons in an economic war”. As has the destruction of villages, confirmed by evidence from the American Association for the Advancement of Science,[xii] proving, “that the Ethiopian military has attacked civilians and burned towns and villages in eight locations across the remote Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.”Such inhumane methods are employed by the EPRDF to instill fear in the Ogaden Somali people and suppress their legitimate demands for autonomy. It is shocking criminal abuse which staggeringly, “GW considers to have already reached stage 7 [of 8], genocidal massacres against many [Ogadeni, Anuk, Oromo and Omo] of its people”. International donors however, who provide a third of Ethiopia’s total federal budget – around $4 billion a year, to their utter shame say and do nothing; neglect constituting complicity.

Village executions

With the region virtually shut off, video evidence smuggled out of Ethiopia by Abdullahi Hussein, a former Ethiopian civil servant is rare. Revealing Somaliland Press (26/9/12)[xiii] say that, “whole villages have been emptied of inhabitants through executions and mass flight from terror… you can hear members of the Liyu Police desecrate a civilian they have just killed. They stomp on his head and poke his face with a stick.” Such attacks on settlements are routine: Demanding our attention is Qurille village in the Wardeer district attacked in September 2012: Ogaden Online [xiv] recounts how troops: “Shoot each resident of the town in their custody at point blank range” including women and children. Bodies are hung from trees in a public display of state terrorism, to engender lasting fear. This type of brutality is widespread. HRW[xv] records how in Raqda village in the Gashaamo district during March 2012, “the Liyu police force summarily executed at least 10 men – in their custody, killed at least nine residents… [and] abducted at least 24 men.”

The killing continued two days later on 17th March, when “Liyu police took another four men from their homes and summarily executed them. A woman whose brother was a veterinarian told HRW: “They caught my brother and took him outside. They shot him in the head and then slit his throat.” Defenseless villages are easy prey for the Liyu and their brutal methodology, as HRW[xvi] state, “troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and possessions destroyed—and risk death”. Page upon page could be filled with such violent disturbing accounts.

Exclusion of foreign media and aid workers

Contrary to constitutional and human rights law, the EPRDF has imposed a widespread blockade on the Ogaden region, seeking to control the flow of information outside the country as it does within its borders, where it allows no freedom of the media; of expression, of assembly or of political dissent. Add to this the outlawing of trade unions and the partisan distribution of aid and a picture of a brutal totalitarian regime emerges from the duplicitous mist of politically correct, democratic rhetoric.

Attempts to work in the region by international media and humanitarian groups are seen as criminal acts, punishable under the widely condemned anti-terrorist proclamation. Two Swedish journalists investigating human rights abuses in the Ogaden, made headlines in July 2011 when they were attacked and arrested by the Liyu police and subjected to a terrifying ‘mock’ execution. Charged and sentenced in Ethiopia’s kangaroo court to 11 years imprisonment, they were later released having served 400 days in appalling conditions. Reporters from the New York Times, The Telegraph and Voice of America have also been imprisoned and expelled, so too United Nations (UN) workers and staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who were arrested and accused of being spies! Wrapped in paranoia, the EPRDF suspended 42 NGOs in 2009 for reporting government human rights abuses in the region and, in 2007 in what must be the EPRDF’s Pièce de résistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross were expelled.

In addition to the information embargo, the region is subject to what HRW describe as “severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, minimal access to independent relief assistance, “and the “politicized manipulation of humanitarian operations, particularly food distribution”; meaning food supplied by donor countries is stolen to feed the Ethiopian army and the Liyu force.  This in one of the worst areas for drought and famine in the country, where, In-Depth Africa[xvii]reports, “1,539,279 people (30% of the population) in the region lack food, water and health services”.

Peace and justice for the people

The little known conflict in the Ogaden is a cause of intense tension between Ethiopia and Somalia and a destabilizing issue in an unstable region.  It is a fight that has been distorted by the former Government of Somalia, which sought to misrepresent the issue and transform it into a boundary dispute; a misconception that suits the Ethiopian regime keen to avoid the substantive point of regional autonomy.

All efforts to facilitate a lasting peaceful resolution to what is an age-old struggle should be urgently made, Ethiopia’s donors and facilitators, principally America, along with the European Union and Britain must act with due responsibility. Action should be taken to: Close down IDP camps and the people allowed to return to their communities; aid provided for rebuilding villages (not to train the Liyu) destroyed by the military; regional elections organized and a referendum on self-determination held.

The appalling atrocities committed daily by the Ethiopian paramilitary constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity that should immediately be referred to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. They are, though, just the deepest wounds within a scarred body of human rights abuses, violating federal and international law, being perpetrated by the EPRDF regime throughout the country and with utter impunity. This must end and the Ogaden Somali people, allowed to determine their own destiny and to live in peace.


[i] http://www.hrw.org/node/62175/section/4
[ii] http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html
[iii] http://www.afjn.org/focus-campaigns/other/other-continental-issues/80-democracy-and-governance/874-the-ogaden-crisis-the-horn-of-africas-invisible-humanitarian-disaster.html
[iv] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-04/24/content_858956.htm
[v] http://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/ethiopia
[vi] http://www.internal-displacement.org/kampala-convention
[vii] http://somalilandpress.com/ethiopia-a-wave-of-atrocities-against-villages-in-ogaden-35429
[viii] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/09/201291795840290803.html
[ix] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/10/ethiopia-forces-human-rights-funding
[x] http://www.dfid.gov.uk/news/press-statements/
[xi] http://www.africanrightsmonitor.org/pubs/1.pdf  Concerns over the Ogaden Territory Report
[xii] http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/0612ethiopia_intro.shtml
[xiii] http://somalilandpress.com/ethiopia-a-wave-of-atrocities-against-villages-in-ogaden-35429
[xiv] http://ogaden.com/hornnews/ogaden/1495-ethiopian-mass-murder-in-miirdanbas-qoriile.html – By Mohamud A. Dubet
[xv] http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/28/ethiopia-special-police-execute-10
[xvi] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/features/ethiopia/index.html
[xvii] http://indepthafrica.com/in-ethiopia-a-war-on-humanitarian-agencies-and-staff/#.UPBCpVRl8Xw In Ethiopia: A War on Humanitarian Agencies and Staff

Ethiopia: Did Gush Abera acted alone? FBI urged to probe ‘the sword of terror’ Bisrat Amare

Untitled(BY Getahune Bekele- South Africa)

Few weeks after terror suspect Gush Abera was cought by the FBI for  plotting to kill exiled Ethiopian journalist Abebe Gelaw in the US, another rogue and wellnigh pro Zenawi terrorist, Mulugeta Kahsay yet again exposed the genocidal and murderous nature of the ruling Agame junta by openly threatening to kill Abebe and burn his property in the land of freedom and justice, the US.

Shocked by Mulugeta Kahsay’s complete disregard for the law of the land and feeling encompassed by danger, Ethiopians are now urging the FBI to dismantle all Tigre People Liberation Front, TPLF, terror cells and spy rings strewn across the United States of America.

“Since the murder plot against Abebe became public, a simple  approch by any  TPLF member around this city is filling some Ethio-Americans with nervous apprehension. I think based on the evidence we have seen so far, it is time for the Obama administration to decree and declare the TPLF junta a terrorist regime.” An Ethiopian gynecologist living and working in Boston area told the Horn Times Magazine.

However, according to TPLF insiders, simply probing the damned murderer known by nicknames such as the black Pol Pot, Angel of death and the sword of terror; Bisrat Amare, would possibly uncover various other terror plots against prominent Ethiopians in the Diaspora.

 

During his reign of terror for nearly two decades as the commander of the infamous Bado-sedist prison, a network of dark catacombs in Tigraye republic, it was the dastardly Bisrat Amare who daubed northern Ethiopia with blood of more than 10,000 persons. He is also accused of sodomising hundreds of young TPLF gunmen in the 70’s and the 80’s with his accoplice Gen Samora Yunice, current army chief-of-staff.

But most Ethiopians will remember Bisrat Amare for the role he played in the brutal corngate scandal of the 70s where TPLF bandits at gun point removed thausands of  hunger-striken ethnic Tigres from their villages and drove them into neighboring Sudan in an operation semilar to the slave trade era’s forcible abduction of Africans.

Then the massive food aid obtained in their name was sold to the governments of Sudan and Yemen(as recently exposed in a BBC documentary) and the money was used to finance the lavish life style of the dead tyrant Meles Zenawi, his wife Azeb Mesfin and the inner circle of the TPLF junta who were by then happily ensconsed in the leafy  Nile valley of Khartoum.

Moreover, as TPLF’s peculiar killing machine, shooting percived or real enemy on the left side of the chest to reduce bleeding, hitting woman on their breast with blunt object to make them suffer slow and agonizing death were all Bisrat Amare’s inventions.

 

Nonetheless, when the warlords took power in May 1991, the sadist cannibal didn’t enjoy the fruit of his ‘labour and toil’ as he was driven from the land of Ethiopia after vehemently urged to leave by the dead despot Meles Zenawi for his own safty.

Bisrat’s next destination was the United States of America where he started life afresh, faraway from the bloodcurdling crime scenes. He kept low profile like a Nazi war criminal in Columbus- Ohio, until a courageous former TPLF rebel commander, Gebremedhin Araya spotted him and alerted the people of Ethiopia.

Although some are happy that Bisrat Amare is still alive to be a key witness for the inevitable war crimes prosecution of top warlords like Sibehat Nega, Bereket Semon, Arkebe ouqbay, Samora Yunice and Gebru Asrat; hundreds of his victims who survived the terrors of Bado-Sedist catacombs are in shock as to how the US government, a defender of human rights, offered sanctuary to the man they call the black Pol Pot.

“Unskilled and unschooled guys like Gush Abera and Mulugeta khasay must have been recurited by Bisrat Amare who returned to active politics after the death of the fuhrer, Meles Zenawi. We have repeatedly seen him attending meetings and embassy functions here in the US.” An observer who cannot be named told the Horn Times.

In additional news, the Horn Times obtained information from a reliable source that currently Bisrat Amare is working with a pro TPLF committee set up in Boston and Atlanta to raise funds to pay for legal expences of Gush Abera who is already hailed as a hero by TPLF members and supporters.

infohorntimes@gmail.com

Latest report on land grabs in Ethiopia

 Human rights abuses documented

The Ethiopian government has committed egregious human rights abuses to make way for agricultural land investments, in direct violation of international law, said the Oakland Institute in a new briefing paper released in New Delhi this week.

The report, entitled “Unheard Voices: The Human Rights Impact of Land Investments on Indigenous Communities in Gambella,” calls on Ethiopia to put an end to the illegal forced evictions of indigenous peoples in areas targeted for land investment.

Since 2010, the Ethiopian government has displaced hundreds of thousands of indigenous communities from their ancestral lands and has made these lands available to investors.

This relocation process, which the Ethiopian government calls “villagization,” has destroyed livelihoods, rendering small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities dependent on food aid and fearful for their own survival.

Ethiopian officials have also beaten, arrested, and intimidated individuals who have refused to comply with relocation policies. These actions are in direct contravention of Ethiopia’s obligations under international human rights law.

The Ethiopian government has systematically failed to answer for these abuses, and continues to tout the infrastructure and service-related benefits of villagization—benefits that, by and large, have failed to materialize.

“The [Ethiopian] government is depriving the Anuak people of their memories, homeland, and traditional farming system. And the Anuak are leaving behind homes [they have lived in] for generations,” said Nyikaw Ochalla, an Ethiopian human rights campaigner  . “The Anuak are now mov[ed] to a land that cannot be inhabited, with no water, and no access to education. This has created so much impact on their livelihoods.”

“The rights of indigenous communities are not expendable; they are enshrined in international law,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Foreign investors can no longer hide behind the policies of the Ethiopian government, especially when these policies violate fundamental human rights.”

The Oakland Institute called on the Ethiopian government to ensure that its agricultural investment policies are  carried  out  in  accordance  with  international  human  rights  law. Specifically, it called on the government to:

  • Ensure the rights of indigenous peoples, including securing their free, prior and informed consent before enacting any development or investment-related plans that affect indigenous groups’ territories.
  • Extend invitations to relevant U.N. Special Rapporteurs to conduct independent investigations into the abuses taking place in connection with land investments and the villagization process, thereby demonstrating the government’s commitment to human rights as a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

 

The Oakland Institute also called on foreign investors to:

  • Respect human rights by ensuring that any applicable investments do not infringe on the human rights of indigenous peoples and other affected communities.
  • Exercise due diligence by conducting impact assessments both prior to and during investment activity in order to mitigate and address potential adverse human rights impacts; and make these impact assessments publicly available.

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Travelling in Nigeria’s overcrowded Train

by Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

When the railway first begun its operation some years ago, I was in Kwara state and noticed the train attracted so much attention due to the kind of publicity given to it by the then governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki. The governor at the time ensures there is so much awareness about the functioning of the railway which attracted so many

citizens including my humble self.
After hearing so much of the train’s activities, yours sincerely decided to board the train from Ilorin to Lagos to access its operations. When I did, the trip took us between 12 to 13 hours to arrive Lagos from Ilorin. Though, the experience was not that regrettable, except for the delay and the condition of the railway coaches which were not in good shapes.
From experience, every newly introduced measure needs time to improve, but in all, I gave the railway a 25% performance at that time which I believe can be improved upon with time and dedication from the government and management of the railway cooperation.
Fast track to 2012, The Minister of information, Mr. Labaran Maku during his good governance tour made a lot of interesting remarks about the railway, boasting about its improved state, efficiency and conformability which gave the generality of Nigerians the impression that the railway is another heaven of achievement in the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. But in other to rate the government rightly in its transformation, I decided to take another trip via the train to have a first-hand information on what has improved since my last trip to ascertain the authenticity of the claims of the honourable minister.
I decided to travel via the train, although I have my worries, because In recent times, I have read so many false claims by the government and based on this several misinformation without any corresponding reality when investigated, I ensured the trip was not for any business purpose, but just pleasure.
The journey was on Wednesday 31st in the month of October, 2012, I informed some friends about my adventure trip via the railway from Ilorin to Lagos, what I refer to as an adventure of transformation.
I prepared that morning and head straight to the railway, and upon arriving to the station around 8:03 a.m. having known that the train would take off by 9 o’clock based on my pre-travel information seeking,I head straight to the ticket section; inside was a young dark short and robust lady in charge of the ticket sale. I initially wanted to purchase the first class ticket, but I was told the first class ticket has been exhausted, so, I had to take the economy ticket which was the only available option after the first class.

The first class ticket cost N1050 and the economy is N670. So, I took the economy which is N670, but because the staff in charge said there was no change, I had to leave the remaining N330 change behind.
While I sat by the side ways, I watch all kind people troop in to the railway station, ranging from students, older women and business women with loads and all sort of others.
During that period, a bus from Ilorin to Lagos cost between N1400-N1900 depending on the kind of bus and the motor park one is entering from and it takes between 4-6 hours to get to Lagos. So, considering the price differences, it is normal for the majority of the masses who are simply looking for a cheaper means of transportation to patronise
the railway, especially those business women with loads.
Some minutes to 9 o’clock which was said to be the official time for taking off, I expected a call to move to be initiated, but there was none. I had to go along with others to ask if the train was no longer moving and we were told the train shall take off by 11:00. You earlier said it’s taking off by 9 o’clock we queried; and they said some things came up and apologize for the delay.
Finally, some minutes to eleven, the call to board the train was initiated, I stepped up and boarded, but am wry, there was nowhere to sit. I walked from the 1st coach to the 14th coach which is the last in search for a sit, but there was no sit available.  At this juncture, I went down and approached the staffs to claim a refund my money because there was no available sit, but to my surprise, there were several others with the same query. The lady in charge who took the payment simple told everyone the money is none refundable.

She asked us to look behind the ticket that it was clearly written, it is the policy of the railway she said.  I turned to the back and saw it clearly written, ‘’none refundable after payment’’. Jeez and wry, I vehemently informed the lady that the ticket can only be none refundable if the passenger purchased the ticket and later decided not
to travel, but in this case when the railway couldn’t provide the service that was paid for, it doesn’t apply. In the course of this interaction, another staff came to address the passengers and said, ‘’they are very sorry for the situation’’. He explained that, they didn’t know the passengers would had exceeded the number of sits and that the the majority of the people on board are heading to Offa’’, the next terminal close to Ilorin which is around 1 hour’s journey away.

He pleaded that the passengers should please bear with the them that if we could get to Offa, everyone would get a comfortable sit after the majority of the passengers go down.
In the usual Nigerian style, the passengers were so considerate and willing to give it a try, endure a slight discomfort to experience the adventure of transformation. But unknown to us, the passengers over exceed what can be imagined. It is a situation which  ensured that a railway coach which should ordinarily contain maximum of 90 sitting passengers, eventually took close to 200 people, where most passengers on the train were either sitting on the floor, in the toilet, at the edge of other people’s sit, standing between two sits on top of the chairs, or just standing.

This was beyond my imagination and that of many other first time passengers, because ‘’I myself was standing in
the midst of the crowd’’. Over crowded railway passengers inside the train packed After facing so much discomfort in the 1 hours journey from Ilorin to Offa where we were expecting to have a sit after the majority of the passengers go down as we were told, we were wry to get to Offa to realize there were close to 200 additional passengers waiting to board the same train, and contrary to what we were told that majority of those on board would drop in Offa, less than 50 passengers went down and over 200 were there waiting to come on. It was after reaching Offa that I realize the staffs of the railway corporation had cajoled the passengers, some regular passengers revealed that it is their usual practice.
At this stage, I had no choice than go down from the train because I can’t travel from Ilorin to Lagos standing on my foot for God knows how many hours, but before I went down, a friend called and said, ‘’I was told you went on an investigative mission on the train, so how far?’’ I replied slowly, I am on and would call back when I get down.
It occurred to me that I could actually make the trip an investigative mission if I can bear the pain and inconveniences attached. I made up my mind about the journey and decided to stay on board and continue
the journey to have a full experience.
As I look straight behind me, I noticed from afar that the police were asking the passengers by the door side to open the door for more people to come in, I got angry and intervened and insisted they never open the door, but I was a little far away and there was no way I could get there except I am ready to step on the women and children sitting on the ground or push every other person standing.

The security men at the Offa terminal were harassing and threatening to shoot If the passengers refused to open the door, this is a cruel way to treat people, when the people inside are already suffocating for heat caused due to level of crowd, the police were still threatening to shoot. The police finally succeeded when the door was opened, more people were forced inside with the same story that more people would go down in Oshogbo. But from Ilorin to Offa, Oshogbo to Ibadan, we keep having more and more people at the terminals waiting to board with their tickets.
I say without exaggeration, the Molue in Lagos which is usually said to carry overload is better than this. I swear by God, the railway’s over crowdedness far exceeds what had ever been done by the Molue.
Let me explain how the passengers sit inside the train so you could understand me better. The railway had 14 coaches, each containing two chairs, one 3 seater by the left and another 2 seater by the right and there was 18 row altogether. The total available sit for passengers in each coach is 90.
After this 90 sits were occupied, people started to stand in the middle space, some sat on the ground and they are mostly women and children. When the middle space was filled up to an extent that everyone could not move, some people started to sit at the edge of the sit of those who are already sitting, after this, some had to climb the sit and sit on to top where those on the sit would rest their head in case they are tired or wanted to rest. At a stage, some had to climb the chairs and stand between the chairs.

Overcrowded railway passengers inside the train When the train had filled to a stage that there could not be movement what so ever, the focus shifted to the toilet and before you know it, the toilet had been filled to capacity with passengers. You may be wondering what would happen if anyone wanted to ease him or herself?
But am sad to tell you that, if any one wanted to ease him or herself, the other people just had to look the other way. It is so pathetic i must confess.
After standing for over 6 hours and witnessing all this strange stuffs, I lost the strength and courage to continue the journey, even though there was merriment inside the train taking attention away from the serious issues, but I later summoned the courage to see the journey to the end when I saw a child crying in discomfort; I said to myself, if this child can make it inside this train in his condition, I have to. The picture attached capture some passengers sitting on the chair, some also stood on the chair, placing a leg on the chair by the
right and the other on the left, holding the ring on top. It is indeed THE TRAIN OF HEL.
While the merriment is on-going, I noticed some railway staffs coming to check the children’s ticket to confirm if they took ticket before boarding the train, if not, the parents would be made to pay right there. I inquired about it and It was learnt that the railway charges a separate fee for children of three years and above.
When I challenged one of the railway staffs about the condition of the train, he said to me ’’ it is normal for us’’
In his words:
’’ the people ought to have known that there was no space to sit before taking the ticket, so when they take it, we believe it’s their business to cope with the condition of the train till we reach our destination. He maintained that, we didn’t force anyone to take the ticket and no one was forced to come to the railway.
When asked on how the people would know there was no place to sit on the locomotive before taking the ticket, he said, they should know.

When asked why they take separate fee for children, he also insisted that it is the policy of the corporation to charge children of 3 years and above a separate fee like others, but half the price of the matured people.

When we got down at osogbo terminal for refreshment, I noticed some passengers are on top of the train, I was dazed and shocked, how would anyone sit on the roof of a train from Ilorin to Lagos I asked myself?
Although, most people on top had already came down for refreshment, but I still managed to get a picture which capture some people on top.

Railway passengers from ilorin on top of the train at osogbo terminal I decided to enquire why those people would be allowed to be on top despite the security attached to the train, though the train was slow, but despite that, sitting on the roof shouldn’t be an option. I asked some regular passengers who said they probably didn’t have money to pay, so the railway staffs may have helped them to get to Lagos.

But when I manage to reach one of the boys on top, I told him how dangerous it is to be on that roof, that even though he had no money to travel, the roof of the train shouldn’t be an option. The innocent looking boy simply brought out his ticket, showed it to me and said, I paid. He explained that, ‘’the money I paid was the last money on me and I had to go home so as to resume back to school next week.

Are you a student I asked and he replied yes? A student of the kwara State polytechnic. I tried to get his name, but he refused to mention it. He explained further that, when he paid and they didn’t refund is money, there was no way he could survive in school without nothing, not even money to buy recharge card. But when he saw people climbing the roof, the guy beside him said to him, I am also going to climb the roof. And before you know it, there were close to 100 people on top, most of them also had their tickets, so i summoned the courage to join them he said.
His revelation was contrary to what those inside imagined and it was confirmed that these passengers on top of the roof also purchased the same ticket as those sitting inside.
In the course of the journey, I interacted with some passengers one of which was Mr. Bolaji Adegoke who said he is a business man and a first time passenger on the railway. When asked to comment on the state of the railway, he said, we have suffered in the hand of this government and its railway staffs and I regret ever coming to the railway. In fact, I regret that I listened to the advice of coming to board a train in my life.

He said Bolaji explained that, when we left Ilorin in anger that we could not sit on a chair, we were comforted that majority of the passengers on board would go down in Offa, but when we got to Offa, less than 30 passengers went down and we have multitude of others coming on board.

He concluded that, the railway is just like a shingles.
When we arrived to the Abeokuta terminal in Ogun State around 8:00 pm at night, unknown to the passengers, the railway staffs had abandoned the train and went away with no any information to the passengers. The passengers were left without information, no security, and no nothing. After sitting inside the train for about 1 hour with no movement, everyone became aware of the situation and we all came down wondering what was happening. It was close to 10 pm.

Where the railway staffs are everyone were asking with no body to respond. But unknown to most passengers, some elderly women had already fainted inside the train.
When the people became aware, everyone helped as they were rescued.
Children reportedly fell sick and were vomiting due to the condition of the locomotive as experienced While we were made to stay at the terminal, Women and children waxen and looking bushed were sited sleeping around the railway on the bare floor in the middle of the night before the railway staffs finally came back around 1:30 a.m.

Railway Passengers scattered in Abeokuta terminals around 1:00am As much as we are where we are not sure what will happen next, It could not deter me from making the appropriate usage of the venue to interact and interview some passengers. That place gave me the chance to interact with some more passengers since its midnight, around 1 am;
where everyone were unsure what to do or where to go. Everyone’s face was vehement, but they were helpless and unsure what would happen to them. They had earlier called their loved once, informing them about
their condition; many were scared, fearing for their life.
Male railway passengers sleeping on the  floor around 1:00am Adio lamented that, ‘We thought it was the normal 10 to 20 minutes rest, but we were wrong. we were abandoned since like 4 hours ago with no any idea of what is happening or idea of when we are leaving’’.

Kamoru further stated that, you would see women sleeping around on the floor with their children, no security, and no nothing. In his words, ‘’As you can see, we are exposed to all kind of dangers here and we only hope on God for protection. If we are attacked now, there is no one to protect us except God.’’
He concluded that, we have been abused, violated, unjustly treated, and oppressed by the railway Corporation.

Railway passengers,Women and children sleeping on the floor at the Abeokuta terminal where the train was abandoned around 1 :00 a.m Uthman Issa, another passenger who is vehement said, how on earth did such kind of people get employment to work in a railway? People that lack education or have any sense of justice. These are people who don’t care about other people’s life or health.
‘’you cannot Imagine all the health implication of this place; look at the spell, what about the danger? See the children, aged people, women and including myself. I was standing on my bare foot from Ilorin till we got here.’’ He said.

A woman who said she is a regular passenger on the train said, she is a business women and she had loads. She explained that, this is not the first time such thing is happening, to them; it is a normal thing now, though painful and regrettable, but she has no choice.

She maintained that, she had no choice than use the railway, since the railway is safer for her loads and cheaper. She lamented how her two children had fallen sick, but would treat them when they get home.
The railway finally departed Abeokuta, Ogun state the next day, November 1st,2012, around 2:00 a.m. and arrived Lagos around 6:00 a.m. the next morning.
This ensured that the railway spent approximately 21 hours in its journey from Ilorin to Lagos.
It is worth to note that, the railway from Paris in France to Madrid in Spain spend 9 hours to reach its destination, Paris (France) to Amsterdam (Netherlands) is 3 hours, Paris (France) to Rome in Italy is 11 hours, France to Belgium is 2 hours, Netherlands to Belgium is 2 hours or less, yet, we spent approximately 21hours from Ilorin to
Lagos.
When I got to the Agege terminal after standing on my foot from Ilorin to Lagos for about 19 hours, plus another 2 wasted hours at the ilorin station, I came down from the railway and say goodbye to THE TRAIN OF HELL.
This made me begin to wonder what kind of person is Labaran Maku and what the transformation of this administration in this sector that worth the praises? Is this what this government is proud to call an achievement? Is this what the Goodluck transformation is all about? I wonder.
The railway is no doubt a good means of transportation if managed properly, but as it stands, it is a shoddy venture and the minister who came to the public to make noise about it did so shirk. All that was said about the railway is a charade bolster.

When I boarded this train when it was first introduced, it was even better compare to what we have now, but after the government had claimed to spend so much money on the railway, this hell is what can be presented as a result.
If a minister of the federal republic is so proud to call this hell an achievement, I think the minister needs to be checked. I pray one day, the president and the minister would have to board the train and enjoy their transformation as enjoyed by the citizen.
Based on my experience on the brute railway, i can conclude that the railway is an affectation by the federal government, which is afflicting or causing afflictions to the people.
I therefore call on the federal Government to check itself and programmes to ensure it is doing the right thing and ensuring its staffs are upright, else, staffs who are venal would add to the woes of the government.

By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat
Discus4now@yahoo.com