Category Archives: Education

US Must Support Ethiopia’s ‘Fragile’ Reforms, Diplomat Says

The United States should strengthen its ties to Ethiopia following unprecedented reforms in the East African nation, a top U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.
Tibor Nagy, the newly appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs, told members of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in Washington that Ethiopia has earned praise for its historic changes.
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has initiated groundbreaking reforms across most every area of Ethiopian society,” Nagy said. “He deserves tremendous credit for his boldness in tackling issues previous governments have not addressed.”
But Nagy also outlined a number of unresolved concerns and urged the United States to continue to engage with Ethiopia, mobilize resources to provide aid and assistance, and maintain dialog with the country’s leadership in the wake of momentous reforms that, nonetheless, remain “quite fragile.”
Eritrea’s ‘re-emergence’
Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee, outlined Abiy’s accomplishments: releasing thousands of political prisoners, lifting a state of emergency and securing peace with neighbor Eritrea.
Officials at Wednesday’s hearing celebrated the July peace deal that ended nearly 20 years of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but they expressed concerns about the internal dynamics in Eritrea, a country that has faced U.N. sanctions since 2009 for allegedly supporting the extremist group al-Shabab and a border dispute with Djibouti.
Smith said Eritrea could become a “critical U.S. strategic partner,” and Nagy welcomed “Eritrea’s re-emergence on the regional and global stage.”
But Nagy also expressed “significant concerns” about the countries’ bilateral relationship, citing the Eritrean detention of American citizens, possible arms deals with North Korea and human rights concerns.
“The United States has deliberately engaged with Eritrea in recent months with both these opportunities and concerns in full view,” Nagy said.
Peace with Ethiopia eliminates Eritrea’s reasons to militarize its population, particularly through the use of indefinite forced conscription, Nagy added. And, although the “atmosphere” between the United States and Eritrea has improved, he said, concrete actions will need to be taken to introduce internal reforms before sanctions can be lifted.
As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the United States has the power to veto any vote to remove sanctions.
Youth factor
In his remarks, Nagy underscored the importance of Ethiopia’s youth. Some 70 million people — about 70 percent of the population — are under age 30, Nagy said, and they have high expectations of their government.
As the country’s demographics shift, many additional people will enter the workforce, emphasizing the need for new jobs.
So far, Ethiopia has turned to China as a stalwart economic partner, Nagy said, but that may soon be changing, especially as the country’s economic concerns shift from building an infrastructure to supporting a workforce.
“Ethiopians understand that China isn’t the long-term solution to their problems,” Nagy said, adding that the U.S. government should reach out to American companies to forge new relationships with Ethiopia and engage in more trade.
Unresolved threats
Smith; California Democrat Karen Bass, the subcommittee’s ranking member; and Nagy outlined unaddressed concerns with Ethiopian governance and civil society, including ongoing reports of torture, a high incidence of human trafficking, and what Bass described as “hardliners within the EPRDF [Ethiopia’s ruling political coalition] that hope to stall his [Abiy’s] reform agenda.”
Smith emphasized the need to redress victims of torture, repeal laws that encourage gross human rights abuses and resolve a mass displacement that has resulted in 2.5 million people fleeing their homes.
Experts on the region identified other fault lines.
YosephBadwaza, a senior program officer at Freedom House, a nongovernmental research and advocacy group in Washington that focuses on democracy and human rights, said Ethiopia faces enormous challenges and is still grappling with much-needed reforms to its judicial system, electoral system and other democratic institutions.
Emily Estelle, a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington, highlighted the volatile nature of fast-changing regional dynamics.
“The potential for Ethiopia to destabilize persists. It faces a rapid political transition and ethnic conflict across multiple regions,” Estelle said in prepared remarks. The United States must prepare for “worst-case scenarios,” Estelle added, by recognizing “the dangers of rapidly changing domestic and regional dynamics in the Horn of Africa.”
But changes this year indicate just how much can happen when leaders commit to peace, and both committee members and invited experts emphasized the region’s accomplishments in recent months.
Citing a series of rapprochements between Eritrea and its neighbors, Nagy said, “In my 40 years of following Africa, I’ve never seen this type of transition happen.”

Source: Voice of America

At Least 19 Killed in South Sudan Plane Crash

Nineteen people were killed in a plane crash in South Sudan Sunday, officials said.
At least 22 people were aboard the flight from the capital Juba’s international airport to the city of Yirol when it crashed.
An Italian citizen working with a non-profit was identified as one of the survivors, and was reported to be in stable condition after being flown back to Juba.
Several crashes have occurred in war-torn South Sudan in recent years. In 2017, four passengers were injured when a plane crashed into a truck trying to land in the city of Wau amid bad weather.
In 2015, 36 people were killed when a Russian-built cargo plane with passengers crashed shortly after taking off from Juba.

Source: Voice of America

Who Is Chinese Professor Wenguang Sun?

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Professor Wenguang Sun since he was removed from his home during a live interview earlier this week.

The professor, who lives in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, has not responded. Sources in Shandong told VOA on Thursday that Sun was in a military-run hotel.

On Wednesday, Chinese police broke into the home of the retired Shandong University professor, who is critical of China’s human rights record, as he was expressing via a telephone interview his opinions on the Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin television show, Issues & Opinions.

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Sun by cellphone and WeChat, a popular social media platform.

In response to the incident, Congressman Chris Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, said on Thursday, “In an apparent attempt to chill an open exchange of ideas and opinions, Chinese police may have forcibly stopped a Voice of America interview with Professor Wenguang Sun.

“There is currently no information about Professor Sun’s whereabouts, but we urge his immediate release if detained for engaging in what should be his right to free speech,” said Smith, who also chairs the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

“The Chinese and American people must continue to work toward a day when someone like Prof. Sun can openly share his opinions, via a free press, without fear of reprisal,” he added in a statement Thursday.

Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday tweeted: “Every time you hear overblown rhetoric about how we are on the verge of ‘tyranny’ or ‘authoritarianism’ in America remember what real tyranny looks like. In #China the police arrested a Xi critic while he was in the middle of a live interview.”

A look at Sun’s background:

* Born in 1934

* Graduated from Shandong University Department of Physics in 1957, where he stayed on as a teacher

* Detained in “cowsheds” during the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s

* Sentenced in 1978 to seven years in prison for “attacking Great Leader Chairman Mao”

* Rehabilitated in 1982, returned to teaching at Shandong University

* Retired from Shandong University in 1994

* Most recent book, A Century of Disasters: From Mao Zedong to Jiang Zemin, published in Hong Kong in 2004

* Passport application denied in 2005, unable to travel aboard since

* One of initial co-signers of Charter 08, a petition for democracy in China

* Shandong University reduced his pension in March

* Criticized China’s checkbook diplomacy in an open letter posted on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s July trip to Africa

* Police break into his home in Jinan during a live interview with Voice of America on Aug. 1, 2018. Last words via telephone were: “I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech.”

Source: Voice of America


JOHANNESBURG– Women’s Month in South Africa will kick off Wednesday with widespread marches across the country to protest against gender-based violence (GBV).

Protests organized under the hashtag, Total Shutdown, want women to stay away from work and school for one day. Demonstrators will, among other issues, demand stronger sentencing by the courts in gender-based violent crimes, crimes against women to be included in school curricula and strengthening the presence of social workers at schools.

The Women’s League of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has called on women to call out men who have abused women.

The League’s young women’s unit has posted the names of men, some of whom are members of the ruling party, who have been found guilty of violence against women on its Facebook page.

Women’s Month begins on Aug 1 and commemorates the women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in August 1956 to protest the apartheid-era Pass laws.


Ex-Slave Seeks Office in Mauritania to Fight for Freedom

Born into slavery and kept as a servant for 30 years, Haby Mint Rabah is now running for parliament in Mauritania to fight for freedom in a nation with one of the world’s worst slavery rates.

Rabah’s candidacy is a first for the West African country, where more than two in every 100 people � 90,000 in total � live as slaves, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index.

Slavery is a historical practice in Mauritania, which became the last country to abolish it in 1981. Black descendants of ethnic groups in the south are typically enslaved by lighter-skinned Mauritanians, often as cattle herders and servants.

Rabah, 44, was born into bondage and forced to work from age 5 as a maid and a field hand. She hopes to be a role model and show that freedom and a life after slavery are possible.

“I submitted my candidacy because I was a slave, like my parents and my parents’ parents before me,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital, Nouakchott. “And I never saw a slave candidate in elections.”

Mauritania criminalized slavery in 2007, but few slave owners have been penalized. Some members of the political elite deny that slavery still exists, and several activists who spoke out against it have been arrested and even jailed.

Mauritania’s government has repeatedly denied restricting the activities of rights groups or making arbitrary arrests.

‘I know that they exist’

“The day that I’m in parliament I will defend the slaves … because I know that they exist and that they have many needs,” Rabah said. “I’ll be there for them.”

Rabah will stand in the September 1 elections as a member of the Mauritanian Rally for Global Action, the political wing of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), in coalition with the more established Sawab party.

Rabah was freed in 2008 with the help of the IRA after one of her brothers escaped and alerted the anti-slavery group.

As a slave, her chores included carrying water and herding animals. Her master repeatedly raped and beat her, Rabah said.

“I suffered every kind of mistreatment,” she added.

Slaves in Mauritania do not tend to escape because they are unaware of their rights and cannot envisage a life beyond slavery, said Boubacar Messaoud, president of rights group SOS Esclaves.

“[Rabah’s candidacy] is something that should encourage slaves to lift their heads … to see that when you are free, you have the possibility to access everything the others always had,” Messaoud said.

Source: Voice of America