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Posts Tagged ‘Horn of Africa’

New Mission Commander for EU training mission in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on December 18, 2013


BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was today appointed new Mission Commander for the EU training mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia).

General Mingiardi, from Italy, will take up his duties on 15 February 2014. He will succeed Brigadier General Gerald Aherne, who had been in the position since February

2013.

EUTM Somalia, launched in spring 2010, has contributed to training about 3,600 Somali troops so far, with a special focus on officers, specialists and trainers. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach for a stable, democratic and prosperous Somalia and embedded in the EU strategic framework for the Horn of Africa.

The mission provides specialised military training and mentoring in the training domain. It also delivers political and strategic advice to the Somali ministry of defence and the chief of defence forces and advises on security sector development. This is to lay the foundations of a Somali-owned military training system. In the first months of 2014, the mission is set to conduct all its advisory, mentoring and training activities in Mogadishu,

Somalia.

Today’s decision was taken by the EU’s Political and Security Committee.

Brigadier General Massimo MIGIARDI

Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was born In 1963 in Florence. He joined the Army in 1982 and was commissioned Into the Airborne Brigade Folgore as a Platoon

Commander In 1986, after completing the four-year course at the Military Academy In

Modena and at the School of Military Studies In Torino. After two years he was appointed as an Instructor to the Military Academy.

In 1991 he was commissioned as a Company Commander In the Airborne School in Plsa.

In 1992 he was appointed as a Company Commander In the 186°Airborne Regiment In

Siena and with his company took part in Operation RESTORE HOPE and In UNISOM II In Somalia. After one year at the war college , 1994 to 95, he was appointed as a staff officer to the General Army Staff In the Intelligence Branch until 1998:

From 1998 to 1999 he attended the Joint Senior Staff Course and after one year as a staff officer In the General Defence Staff, he commanded the 5th Airborne Battalion In Siena from 1999 to 2001 taking part In Operation JOINT GUARDIAN In Kosovo.

From 2001 to 2006 he was appointed as Chief of Section In the J5 Plans Division In the IT

Joint Operations Headquarters (Italy’s PJHQ equivalent). From 2006 to 2008 he commanded the 183°Airborne Regiment Nembo In Plstola (Tuscany).

He joins the Royal College of Defence Studies In London upon completing two years as Chief of J5 Plans Division at the Italian Joint Operations Headquarters in Rome.

In October 2011 was appointed as Commander of Airborne Brigade Folgore.

From Aprll2013 Is the Deputy Commander of Infantry School.

He graduated in Political Science at Bologna University and In Military Studies at Torino University. He got a Master In Strategic Science at Torino University and a Master In International Strategic and Military Studies at Milano University.

He attended the European Security Defence Polley Orientation ourse. He enjoys a wide variety of sports (in particular skydiving} and hobbies.

SOURCE

European Council

 

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Ethiopian political leadership must respect human rights; says Bizualem Beza

Posted by African Press International on August 13, 2013

www.africanpress.me/ - Mr . Bizualem Beza - Ethiopian Human Rights Activist based in Norway

http://www.africanpress.me/ – Mr . Bizualem Beza – Ethiopian Human Rights Activist based in Norway

Ethiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 91,000,000 inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populated nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

The sudden death in August 2012 of Ethiopia’s long-serving and powerful prime minister, Meles Zenawi, provoked uncertainty over the country’s political transition, both domestically and among Ethiopia’s international partners. Ethiopia’s human rights record has sharply deteriorated, especially over the past few years, and although a new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took office in September, it remains to be seen whether the government under his leadership will undertake human rights reforms.

Ethiopian authorities continued to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly in 2012. Thirty journalists and opposition members were convicted under the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009.The security forces responded to protests by the Muslim community in Oromia and Addis Ababa, the capital, with arbitrary arrests, detentions, and beatings.

The Ethiopian government continues to implement its “villagization” program: the resettlement of 1.5 million rural villagers in five regions of Ethiopia ostensibly to increase their access to basic services. Many villagers in Gambella region have been forcibly displaced, causing considerable hardship. The government is also forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley to make way for state-run sugar plantations.

Hostility for independent media

Since the promulgation in 2009 of the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO Law), which regulates nongovernmental organizations, and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, freedom of expression, assembly, and association have been increasingly restricted in Ethiopia. The effect of these two laws, coupled with the government’s widespread and persistent harassment, threats, and intimidation of civil society activists, journalists, and others who comment on sensitive issues or express views critical of government policy, has been severe.

INTERVIEW:

“One on One with Bizualem Beza, Human Rights Activist: Part 1 of 2″

“One on One with Bizualem Beza, Human Rights Activist: Part 2 of 2”

Ethiopia’s most important human rights groups have been compelled to dramatically  scale-down operations or remove human rights activities from their mandates, and an unknown number of organizations have closed entirely. Several of the country’s most experienced and reputable human rights activists have fled the country due to threats. The environment is equally hostile for independent media: more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world due to threats and intimidation in the last decade—at least 79, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is being used to target perceived opponents, stifle dissent, and silence journalists. In 2012, 30 political activists, opposition party members, and journalists were convicted on vaguely defined terrorism offenses. Eleven journalists have been convicted under the law since 2011.

On January 26, a court in Addis Ababa sentenced both deputy editor Woubshet Taye and columnist Reeyot Alemu of the now-defunct weekly Awramaba Times to 14 years in prison. Reeyot’s sentence was later reduced to five years upon appeal and most of the charges were dropped.

On July 13, veteran journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega, who won the prestigious PEN America Freedom to Write Award in April, was sentenced to 18 years in prison along with other journalists, opposition party members, and political activists. Exiled journalists Abiye Teklemariam and Mesfin Negash were sentenced to eight years each in absentia under a provision of the Anti-Terrorism Law that has so far only been used against journalists. Andualem Arage, a member of the registered opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was sentenced to life for espionage, “disrupting the constitutional order,” and recruitment and training to commit terrorist acts.

Activists demand respect for human rightsin Ethiopia because the government is insensitive for good governance and allows corruption to be the order of the day. According to the U.S. Department of State‘s human rights report for 2004 and similar sources, the Ethiopian government’s human rights“remained poor; although there were improvements, serious problems remained.” The report listed numerous cases where police and security forces are said to have harassed, illegally detained, tortured, and/or killed individuals, who were members of opposition groups or accused of being insurgents. Thousands of suspects remained in detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Prison conditions were poor. The government often ignores citizens’ privacy rights and laws regarding search warrants. Although fewer journalists have been arrested, detained, or punished in 2004 than in previous years, the government nevertheless continues to restrict freedom of the press. The government limits freedom of assembly, particularly for members of opposition groups, and security forces have used excessive force to break up demonstrations. Violence and discrimination against women continue to be problems. Female genital mutilation is widespread, although efforts to curb the practice have had some effect. The economic and sexual exploitation of children continues, as does human traffickingForced labor, particularly among children, is a persistent problem. Low-level government interference with labor unions continues. Although the government generally respected the free exercise of religion, local authorities at times interfere with religious practice. In order to improve Ethiopia’s image, they hired US agencies to improve Ethiopia’s image for 2.5$ million.

During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat an European colonial power and retain its sovereignty as an independent country. It was the first independent African member of the 20th-century League of Nations and the UN. When other African nations gained their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag. In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie I‘s reign, Ethiopia became a federal republic ruled by a communist military junta known as the Derg, until it was defeated by the EPRDF, which has ruled since 1991.

Ethiopia is a multilingual society with around 80 ethnic groups, with the two largest being the Oromo and the Amhara. It is one of the founding members of the UN, the Non-Aligned MovementG-77 and the Organisation of African Unity, with Addis Ababa serving as the headquarters of theAfrican Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UNECA, theAfrican Standby Force and much of global NGOs focused on Africa. Despite being the main source of the Nile, the longest river on earth, Ethiopia underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, exacerbated by civil wars and adverse geopolitics. The country has begun to recover recently, and it now has the largest economy by GDP in East Africa and Central Africa

End

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Despair at a migrant dead-end in Yemen

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013

Ethiopian teenage migrants taking part in a voluntarily programme to return home

HARADH,  – In temperatures in the high forties around 1,000 Ethiopian migrants, sweating profusely, turn their backs to Saudi Arabia and start the walk south – away from the Yemeni border town of Haradh and their dreams of a new life.

On the road they silently pass others heading north, still hopeful of crossing the border.

Haradh is at the crossroads of these dreams – a potential gateway to a new life in Saudi Arabia, but getting there is becoming increasingly difficult.

To get here, the migrants have endured considerable hardship; often taking on debt to fund the journey, walking for weeks to get to the East African coast and then crossing the shark-infested Red Sea.

Thousands get picked up by smugglers in Yemen who kidnap and torture them to extract ransom money.

Then, they reach what for many is the end of the road and their hopes: a dusty poverty-stricken town, 10km from an increasingly impenetrable Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money”, Fatwa Abdok, psychiatrist, MSF

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money,” Fatwa Abdok, a psychiatrist working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Haradh, told IRIN.

She describes hearing testimonies of “torture you can never imagine” from those held captive by smugglers.

“Some of them are completely destroyed. Some get consumed just coping with it. It all depends on the strength of the person. Some recover when they have food and a place to sleep. Ethiopians are strong people, but some go crazy,” she said.

The numbers of arrivals in Yemen from the Horn of Africa in the last three years has doubled – from 53,382 in 2010 to a record 107,532 in 2012.

Ethiopians make up the majority of arrivals – up from 64 percent in 2010 to 78 percent last year.

The fence

“The Saudis have cracked down. The border’s not closed but it’s more difficult to get in,” said one aid worker who asked not to be named.

“You see the migrants on the road and they’re stuck. They trudge up to the border from Haradh. It’s an awful place. There’s nothing there. They trudge up to the border and they come back and they’re stuck.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to resume construction of a 3m-high fence along its 1,800km border with Yemen.

Work on the controversial project initially started in 2003, but was suspended a year later. In 2008 a fence was put up along the coastal area around Haradh where much of the cross-border smuggling of people, drugs and weapons is concentrated.

In addition to the fence, Saudi Arabia has also cleared the border areas of settlements and uses floodlights and thermal detection cameras to try to stop the often heavily-armed smugglers.

Growing crisis

These restrictions have led to a build-up of pressure in Haradh and the surrounding Hajjah Governorate, where poverty is widespread.

The governorate, which depends on economic ties with Saudi Arabia, already supports more than a 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled neighbouring Sa’dah Governorate after the 2004 Houthi uprising and subsequent conflicts.

Some of the IDP families at the al-Mazraq IDP camps a short drive from Haradh rely on breadwinners in Saudi Arabia, but residents complain that the border restrictions have pushed them into poverty.

“We used to work in construction in Saudi, but now because of the fence, lots of Yemenis have been jailed there. Now there are video cameras and machine guns stopping us getting across,” said one camp resident, Saleh Hassan.

Recent changes to Saudi labour laws have also threatened tens of thousands of Yemenis with expulsion, which would further add to the country’s economic difficulties two years after the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

Press reports quoted government officials this week saying 53,000 Yemenis had been deported from Saudi Arabia since the beginning of June, and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming days.

Women migrants at the IOM centre in Haradh

Community leaders in Haradh say the new restrictions have led to a significant decrease in economic activity, making it more and more difficult for the town to support the tens of thousands of African migrants.

“We are afraid for the migrants because of the torture they often suffer, and also of them. Now with the fence up, they are creating more problems,” the head of the local council in Haradh, Sheik Hamoud Haidar, told IRIN.

“We are afraid of them because they are hungry. A hungry man is an angry man.”

Around 2,000 migrants have also been freed around Haradh in recent months following army raids on smuggling yards to free them from captivity. Deportations from Saudi Arabia also push African migrants back into Haradh – an estimated 40 percent of the 3,000 migrants using the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Haradh have come from Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear that it is the right of any country to close its borders to clandestine operations. Having said that, we are today faced with 25,000 people who are trapped in the border,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

“Every time there is a military operation, we discover another 500 or 700 who have been in this or that camp controlled by human traffickers and abusers. So the number is only increasing – 25,000 is something that Yemen today cannot absorb.”

Repatriation

The increase in demand for migrant services in Haradh this year came at just the wrong time for the supply of humanitarian relief services, which face cutbacks due to funding shortfalls.

IOM suspended large-scale repatriation flights in September 2012, and the World Food Programme’s provision of hot meals to around 3,000 migrants at the IOM centre was scaled back temporarily in January by 90 percent, though these have now been restored.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with NGO InterSOS and the Yemeni government in supporting a Child Protection Centre in Haradh, where IRIN met 50 Ethiopian children getting ready to fly back home.

“We were beaten, tortured and scarred by armed gunmen when we arrived in Yemen. We escaped and made it into Saudi Arabia, but we were caught,” said Saed Oumar Youssouf, 16.

“After a night in jail, and 12 nights elsewhere, we were shipped back to Yemen.”

All the children said they were looking forward to returning to Ethiopia. Preliminary registration for repatriation at the IOM centre in Haradh restarted at the end of May, and since early June 633 migrants have voluntarily returned on IOM-organised flights to Ethiopia, with places given as a priority to the most vulnerable.

Health

IOM’s operations in Haradh are focused on the Migrant Response Centre set up in October 2010. It has voluntarily repatriated nearly 10,000 migrants since then, and treated 52,000 at the health centre, where they deal with 100-150 cases per day depending on the season.

New arrivals in Yemen
Year Total arrivals Ethiopians
2010  53,382 34,422
2011  103,154 75,651
2012  107,532 84,376
2013* 42,137 35,240
*up to 31 May                                                Source:UNHCR

“The numbers are just growing. Many of the cases we see are infectious diseases and diarrhoea; their immunity is very weak due to malnutrition,” said IOM’s doctor at the centre, Fadl Mansour Ali.

He said a large number of patients had malaria and other parasite infections, and also depression and anxiety.

Not everyone recovers. The morgue in Haradh has room for 17 bodies, but has been keeping around 50, almost all unclaimed bodies of dead migrants. The electricity supply is unreliable and the single generator repeatedly breaks down creating a terrible smell.

Korom Asmro Noqassa from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia shares a bed with another patient inside the small cabin that forms the main part of the IOM clinic.

After four months in Haradh, he says he is ready to go home. “I wanted to go back as soon as I realized it was so hard to get across; back home maybe I can find a job and support my family. Most here want to go back home now,” he said.

“I’m going to tell people my own story. Smugglers cost money and aren’t reliable. But it’s very hard for people to say that they have failed.”

Changing perceptions

There is broad recognition that tackling the migration at source can really help reduce the suffering.

“IOM is talking about flying back 500 but by that time there will be another 2,000 here,” said Haradh local council chief Sheik Haidar.

“I’m willing to go to Ethiopia and Djibouti to explain how challenging migration is because the picture there now is that you can go to Saudi, [and you can get] thousands of dollars and dream jobs,” he added.

Conversations with migrants in Haradh suggest many think it will be socially difficult to explain their lack of success, and that means thousands continue to cross into Yemen with little appreciation of the risks and difficulties.

“The problem is that somehow at the origin people are not receiving the information. They are still thinking that this is an El Dorado and it will change their lives,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

“The reality is that the border is now totally fenced or closed and the camps that are receiving them in Yemen are completely overwhelmed, so it’s a dramatic situation.”

He says part of a solution would be a regional conference between the concerned countries including Yemen, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia among others.

“It’s a case that has to be addressed with a sub-regional approach. The point is simply to say that it goes beyond the possible effort of the government of Yemen and the possible financial means and capacity of Yemen.”

jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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