A turning point?
The Bible’s book of Galatians, VI teaches, «as you sow, so shall you reap». And for Saudi Arabia, which has overtly and covertly supported rebellions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia, Philippines, and Lebanon that have led to civil wars and inter-religious strife, the day of reckoning may soon be at hand. The present Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the last of the sons of the first Saudi king, Abdul Aziz al Saud, who will ever sit on the Saudi throne. After Salman dies, Saudi leadership will pass to a new generation of Saudi royals. But not all the descendants of the first Saudi king are happy about how the future succession may turn out.
Salman named his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince after firing his half-brother, Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz, as crown prince after the death of King Abdullah in 2015. For good measure, Salman also named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, who is little-known outside the kingdom, as deputy prime minister. The 30-year old Mohammad bin Salman is seen by some as the eventual crown prince after King Salman figures out some way to ease Mohammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and close friend of the United States, out of the position of heir apparent to the throne.
Things fall apart: will the centre hold?
Almost exactly a year ago, Ethiopia entered its worst crisis since the arrival of the regime in 1991. Last month, a state of emergency was proclaimed. These two events have generated a flood of commentary and analysis. A few key points, sometimes underplayed if not ignored, are worth closer attention.
“Mengist yelem!” – “Authority has disappeared!”
People waited in vain for the government to react other than by brute force alone to the opposition it was facing and the resulting chaos. The unrest in Oromya, Ethiopia’s most populous state with 35% of the country’s total population, began on November 12, 2015; the uprising in part of the Amhara Region, the second largest by population (27%), on July 12, 2016.
Befeqadu Hailu, one of the best-known voices in Ethiopia’s stifled media environment, was arrested on November 10, 2016. In the morning hours, authorities took Befeqadu from his home to a jail cell in a nearby police station. He spent the day in there and was then transferred to a police station located in a neighborhood called Kotebe.
A member of the high-profile Zone9 blogger collective and a Global Voices contributor, Befeqadu is an active voice in the blogosphere and on Twitter. When the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency, he wrote:
Malware Attack Highlights Troubling Outbreak of State-Sponsored Digital Spying.
Ethiopia must be held accountable in the United States for an illegal malware and digital spying attack on an American citizen, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal appeals court today in a case where a foreign government claims it is immune from liability for wiretapping a man’s Skype calls.
Malicious digital surveillance and malware attacks against perceived political opponents, dissidents, and journalists have become all-too-common tactics used by governments with poor human rights records, such as Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam. When foreign governments carry out these digital attacks on Americans in their homes, violating our wiretapping and privacy laws, their victims must be allowed to take them to court, EFF and its co-counsels said in a filing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The UN’s human rights chief has used a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council to criticise Ethiopia for a recent crackdown on opposition which has included the kidnapping and sentencing to death of a British man, Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege.
Speaking this morning at the opening session of the Council, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “While Ethiopia has made impressive gains in terms of economic development, we are deeply concerned about repeated allegations of excessive and lethal use of force against protestors, enforced disappearances, and mass detentions, including of children, as well as by worrying restrictions on civil society, the media and opposition.”
The High Commissioner said it was “mystifying” that the Ethiopian government refused to allow his office access to parts of the country where human rights abuses – including the recent shooting of protestors – have been alleged.
There is every sign that Ethiopia is plunging into a crisis whose scale, intensity, and multiple and interdependent drivers are unprecedented since the founding of the regime in 1991.
The Ethiopian leadership remains in denial. The long meetings of its ruling bodies have culminated in a report on 15 years of national “rebirth”, in which it awards itself good marks, while acknowledging the existence of a few problems here and there.
Nonetheless, the odd warning signal may be heard – though very seldom – in counterpoint to the general complacency. Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister and chairman of what is essentially the single party, has gone so far as to warn that the issues facing the regime are a matter of “life or death”, and that Ethiopia is “sliding towards ethnic conflict similar to that in neighbouring countries”.
The killing of almost 100 street protestors in Ethiopia this weekend and a new round of political trials today raise fears for a British political activist on death row there, international human rights charity Reprieve has said.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege is a British citizen and leading figure in Ethiopian opposition politics who faces execution after a show trial sentenced him to death in absentia in 2009 whilst he was living in London with his partner and three young children. In June 2014, he was kidnapped by the Ethiopian authorities when changing planes at an international airport and rendered to the regime’s prisons. His kidnap was part of a wider crackdown on opposition voices in the country ahead of Ethiopia’s 2015 General Elections.