From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
AANA BULLETIN No. 03/03, January 27, 2003 (a)
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sun, 26 Jan 2003 20:36:05 -0800
AANA BULLETIN No. 03/03, January 27, 2003 (a)
All Africa News Agency
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Editor - Mitch Odero
Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba
Ethiopia's Educated Suffer Government Repression
LONDON/ADDIS ABABA (AANA) January 27 - Ethiopian government has been
accused of muzzling educators and students with actions of terror aimed at
denying them freedom of opinion and association.
A Human Rights Watch report released in New York on January 24, says
authorities in Ethiopia are harassing the educated elite through a "policy
of harsh repression that includes extra-judicial killings, and arbitrary
"Ethiopia's security forces have targeted students and teachers because
they are among the most politically active elements of Ethiopian society,"
said Saman Zia-Zarifi, academic freedom director for Human Rights Watch,
adding: "Ethiopia is on the brink of another famine, and it needs educated
people to lead the country out of this disaster."
The 52-page report, "Lessons in Repression: Violations of Academic Freedom
in Ethiopia," documents an ongoing pattern of impunity among federal and
state security forces accused of using excessive lethal force to disperse
protests by unarmed high school students and other civilians.
For example, five high school students were killed protesting economic
conditions in Oromia state last year, and hundreds of students, teachers,
and other intellectuals arbitrarily arrested.
The government claimed it could not afford to use non-lethal means of crowd
control like teargas or water cannons, and threatened to continue to shoot
students if they continued protesting.
"There is no excuse for shooting unarmed students or civilians exercising
their rights. The United States and the United Kingdom should question the
value of allying with a government that is so callous in dealing with its
own citizens," said Zia-Zarifi.
In April 2001, students at Addis Ababa University (AAU) went on strike to
demand academic freedom, including the right of their student union to meet
and publish a newspaper.
Federal Special Forces quelled their demonstrations with excessive force,
killing more than forty, and arresting thousands. The government admitted
wrong-doing, but has not prosecuted those responsible.
The government has imposed a system of evaluations known as Gimgema, which
may be used to pressure academics to tout the ruling party's ideology. Some
of the university's most distinguished professors resigned last month in
protest of the Gimgema system.
The government has also continuously harassed the independent Ethiopian
Teacher's Association (ETA) over the past decade, arresting the union's
leaders and some of its members, confiscating its assets and property, and
threatening teachers who support the union.
Teachers, who represent the largest educated population in the country,
have been critical of Ethiopia's education policy and other government
The government has used similar tactics to repress civil society groups
including the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and journalists in recent years.
Taken together, these actions create an environment strongly hostile to
The report says that Ethiopia has escaped international censure for many of
these violations because it is considered an important strategic ally in
the US-led war on terror, owing to its position in the Horn of Africa.
Following are samples of testimonies included in the report:
"They pushed me into a police car and took me to an unknown place. Once we
arrived at the compound, they pulled me out of the car. They started
beating me everywhere. They slammed me on my ears, and blood started to
come out. They beat me on my back, legs, arms and hands.... The officers
tied my hands and my ankles together with rope.... They pushed my head into
a bucket of water so I could not breathe .... They tortured me like that
for three days,"
- Student refugee about the AAU strike of 2001, Nairobi, April 4, 2002.
"We can't complain publicly or we will be arrested. The students are
afraid of such things. Not only the students. We teachers, too," -
Schoolteacher on the effects of torture, July 30, 2002.
"Teachers are expected to follow the [ruling party] line, or else they
will be blacklisted. To be blacklisted includes not getting promoted, not
getting a salary increase, being transferred to remote areas... having your
salary docked, losing your housing, getting fired, and even being excluded
from social events like weddings. I was blacklisted three times," -
Former teacher on harassment against Ethiopia Teachers Association,
Nairobi, July 10, 2002
Reported By Urmi Shah, Press Information Officer
Human Rights Watch, London
Authorities Take Stock Of Damage Caused By Floods
BLANTYRE (AANA) January 27 - Authorities in Malawi are taking stock of
damage caused by floods, following heavy rains that pounded the country
The extraordinarily heavy rains occasioned by a cyclone named Defina,
caused widespread damage to infrastructure and agricultural land. A number
of roads, bridges and railway lines were damaged. Large areas of crop
fields were washed away, killing at least 10 people and displacing tens of
thousands of people, now in need of relief aid.
A wash-away of a bridge along Zalewa highway caused a major disruption of
traffic between Blantyre and Lilongwe, but has since been partly repaired
to allow traffic to pass.
Road traffic authorities said three people went missing when the bridge
across Rivi-rivi river was swept away, following two days of incessant rains.
More bridges were washed away throughout the country, rendering a number of
areas inaccessible to motor vehicles.
This caused President Bakili Muluzi to declare a state of emergency. It
was the second time the president was making such a declaration in a span
of less than one year.
In February last year, President Muluzi declared a state of emergency
following widespread food shortages that led to deaths of hundreds of
people, especially children.
The Commission for Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Rehabilitation, said
in total, up to 15, 000 people have been displaced by the current floods.
Lucius Chikuni is the head of the Commission. He said work had started to
bring food and tents to the displaced people, who had sought refuge in
schools and churches in affected regions.
The most affected areas include Karonga and Rumphi in the northern region,
Lilongwe, Salima and Ntcheu in central part of the country, and Machinga
and Balaka in the south.
In Ntcheu district, the Malawi Television featured a cemetery where the
raging flood waters washed away coffins, leaving the graves open. Some
bodies were recovered several kilometers away.
Western aid agencies have promised to step up relief assistance, following
the declaration of a state of emergency by President Muluzi.
A representative of a western diplomatic mission based in Lilongwe, said
that the declaration would pave way for a suitable response by western aid
World Food Programme (WFP) information officer, Abbelgadir Musallam, said
his organisation was at pains to try to reach some areas in the districts
of Chikwawa and Nsanje in lower Shire Valley. He said they were forced to
divert relief food items to other accessible sites more than 20 kilometers
away from the strategic distribution centres.
"We have no money to airlift the relief items. Our movements have been
delayed and we don't know what is happening to those people."
When making the declaration, President Muluzi said the costs of repairs
could be expected to run into millions of Kwachas.
District officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations
have issued urgent appeals for food, medicines, blankets, tents and sheets
for the displaced people.
Over the past few weeks, teams of field workers from non-governmental
organisations, the department of disaster preparedness and relief
rehabilitation, as well as the international organisation of doctors
without borders have been forcing their way across washed out roads to
reach the displaced people.
District Commissioner for Salima, Gift Rapozo, said about 2,300 people in
18 villages were isolated and that government officials including those
from his office were failing to reach the displaced people.
"We have come up with the number after estimating the village population,
but we don't really know how many more people are isolated. It might be
possible that others left the areas when they sensed the dangerous
situation," he said.
Shadrick Matsimbe, who is the chairman of the Road Users Association, said
his organisation had difficulties to reach an isolated area because a
bridge had been swept away.
"People are starving in the villages as we are failing to supply them with
relief items because of the poor condition of the roads and bridges leading
to those areas," he pointed out.
Religious organisations were mobilising relief aid to the affected areas.
One of them, the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), donated maize
flour and cow peas to 1000 households displaced by floods in Salima.
Ironically, the floods have come after governments in the southern Africa
region were advised to plan for another season of little rainfall, and
possibly, a terrible drought.
Reported By Hamilton Vokhiwa
Churches Express Strong Opposition To 'Food Policy'
HARARE (AANA) January 27 - Zimbabwean church leaders are opposed to
President Robert Mugabe's food distribution programme.
In series of statements released here over last month, Bulawayo church
leaders, churches in Macicaland and Harare, pastors and clergy expressed
concern over the government's partisan attitude in distributing food to
The reactions followed Archbishop Pius Ncube's outburst last November, when
he spoken out against politicised food and land distribution by Mugabe's
government. Archbishop Ncube is the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo.
The churches condemned the government for being partisan in distributing
food supplies to the needy. They said they would not tolerate the
government's discrimination in the distribution of food.
The clergy criticised the government's orchestrated campaigns of violence,
intimidation and torture, that added to the already suffering people.
They called upon the government to repent and change its attitude, saying
"hi-jacking food supplies, hindering the work of NGO' and other concerned
bodies in feeding the hungry only increased the suffering of the people".
The church leaders from various faiths including Catholics,
Anglican,Methodists and Evangelicals, in show of 'Christian Solidarity',
said the situation they were facing on the ground was extremely serious and
demanded urgent resolution as famine stalked the land.
They accused President Mugabe for being responsible for frustrating efforts
by churches and NGOs to provide help.
"Efforts of churches, NGOs and other concerned bodies to feed the hungry
are greatly undermined in many areas by a callous and deliberate policy of
rewarding or punishing voters according to their political affiliation,"
said one statement.
The church leaders noted with concern that the Zimbabwe national crisis had
continued to deteriorate and that future peace and prosperity were at stake.
They also condemned government institutions like the public media, who were
being used to promote hatred and violence in favour of Zimbabwe ruling
One of the statements said the youth were being trained to embrace
brutality and violence.
They called upon the immediate closure of such training programmes in the
country, and the halting of all politically motivated violence.
Reported By Herman Kasili
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