Human rights on the Horn of Africa
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Human rights on the Horn of Africa
An analysis of the history of Eritrean stances on Human Rights
Curated by Mr. Rodrigues
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The Scramble for Africa: Who held the Horn of Africa

The Scramble for Africa: Who held the Horn of Africa | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

In the period from 1881 to 1914, the European Empires entered a new period called “The New Imperialism.” Escalating hostilities over land in Europe and foreign holdings were threatening to bring war to Western Europe. In an attempt to quell the oncoming storm, the “Berlin Conference” demanded by Portugal and hosted in Germany by its first Chancellor: Otto von Bismarck.

 

The continent was seen euphemistically as a “cake” and each Empire demanded their piece. This shows a disdain for the native populations and polities in Africa, and that sentiment ruled much of the following colonial period.

 

Insofar as the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia remained fiercely independent, while Eritrea and the southeastern part of Somalia were claimed by Italy, the northwestern portion of Somalia was under the British Commonwealth and Djibouti was a French colony.

 

The real history the lack of human rights begins here, as native peoples were summarily moved, divided and relocated to suit the colonizers. This began to breed feelings of inequity that formerly had a power structure behind them, but now all the locals were essentially the “lowest” caste in the new system.

 

Long periods of this dehumanization resulted in the socio-political climate seen today, further enhanced by the very late “release” of some colonial areas along this essential trade route.

 

Had the Horn of Africa not been along such a lucrative sea-trade coast, it is very likely that due to the fairly limited resources, harsh environments and easily upset balance due to weather, most Imperial powers would have relinquished them far sooner than they did.

 

 

map via: Oswego City School District (http://bit.ly/OPSD-Sfa)

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The Horn of Africa: rebuilding or in meltdown?

The Horn of Africa: rebuilding or in meltdown? | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it
“There could hardly be a more poignant or devastating reminder of divisive instability that has spread throughout the Horn of Africa. On Monday, I moderated a discussion panel on how arts and literature can help rebuild society in the Horn of Africa.”

APR-

In the wake of al-Shabab attacks to Kenya’s only MP of Somali descent, a panel discussing the “progress” or lack-there-of in the Horn of Africa.

As international forces assist in pushing al-Shabab out of power in Somalia, the people there are quick to remind the world that for a generation there have been periods of stability quickly followed by tremendous hardship and war.

Culture is on the rise, once jailed poets and artists are being embraced in ways not previously seen. They are asked to create comic books to educate about HIV, radio dramas to promote equality for the sexes, but these same artist say that they cannot speak out on political or government issues.

Just as one writer released a critical article on government corruption, he heard the shot that killed one of his colleagues.

“‘The space for expression is being narrowed down to pro-government,’ says Eluzai.”

Movement forward is important, but at what cost? If art for arts sake cannot be practiced, and only government sanctioned work is allowed, how can the nation truly move forward?
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Interactive Map: Horn of Africa

Interactive Map: Horn of Africa | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it
APR-

It's hard to imagine Human Rights being a deciding factor when the world you live in is in a state of constant turmoil.

This map allows you to view issues affecting the Horn of Africa, from instability to areas controlled by armed forces. When looking at the map, its best bit of information is about issues surrounding transition. Border wars, piracy and even U.S. air strikes have riddled the region with pockets of people who have no hope of maintaining a lifestyle, let alone who feel they can now champion Human Rights.
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Eritrean footballers seek asylum in Uganda

Eritrean footballers seek asylum in Uganda | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

APR:

With such a history of mistreatment and ill will toward "anyone who attempts to leave the country" it's no surprise that even top athletes will take a chance to remain in a "free" area. This is a calculated risk, however. If UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, denies them asylum they could be punished as severely as receiving the death penalty in Eritrea.

 

There have been many stories such as this in the past few years with the World Cup and Olympic Games giving athlete-citizens access to “free” countries in which they often apply to remain in under refugee status to escape the horrors they face at home.

 

This is however very sad, due to the fact that according to Freedom House’s ratings for 2011, Eritrea scores 7's in both Political and Civil rights (categorizing it as "Not Free"), Uganda only fares slightly better scoring a 5 for Political Rights and a 4 for Civil Rights (categorizing it as “Partly Free”).

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Land grab in Oromia and displacement of Oromo People in Ethiopia

APR - Who owns farmland? In the United States, farmers, or cooperatives own the land. Increasingly, a large firm buys out foreclosed land and then “rents” it back to the farmers.

 

In the Oromo Region of Ethiopia (which the current government calls the Gibe region) the government owns the land, and for the Oromo people this means that Karuturi Agro, an Indian farm management and development firm, now holds a nearly free 50 year lease on your ancestral lands.

 

The Ethiopian government claims that this is to provide better food resources through industrialization and modern crop cycling techniques, but there has been a long standing “official” position on Oromo people in the new Ethiopia: removal by attrition.

 

The Oromo once ruled Ethiopia, and prior to that the Kingdom of Kingdom of Jimma. Although prosperous, they were mainly a slave-trading nation who saw agriculture as an afterthought. They had unusually humane official policies for slaves, who could marry, own land and other property and inherit along family lines. They were an independent polity until 1932, when armed troops took over and by 1942 the Ethiopian government had swept all traces of the former kingdom away.

 

These people have been subsistence farmers since that time, and have know nothing else for nearly four generations, but now they must work for what amounts to roughly 80¢ a day as hired hands on their own lands. Again, this is purely to increase domestic food production – with the secondary outcome of forcing the Oromo people out of what little they had.

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Ethiopia Peacekeeping and Human Rights

VOA's State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi peacekeeping and human rights concerns.

 

APR-

 

While lauded for his work in assisting the Sudanese and South Sudanese peace, and stabilizing the Horn of African in general, many now feel that Meles Zenawi was given “too much” latitude in his own country.

 

This is a common issue in this region of Africa. If something in demand (such as oil) or support (with the U.S. “War on Terror”) is being obtained from one of these countries on the Horn, world powers will often overlook more basic rights issues.

 

While Meles Zenawi did improve commerce in Ethiopia, his restrictions on free speech, cultural minorities and basic human rights would have been seen as deplorable, if not at least distasteful, by non-interested world powers.

 

It’s often hard, when dealing with tumultuous regions to “see the forest for the trees,” and now that Meles Zenawi is dead many world powers are stating their concerns and voicing hopes that his successor will take great strides to improve the situations (although they speak in guarded political suggestions, so as not to upset current relationships).

 

Tesfaye Gebre Kidan, while only acting, is a General formerly in command of Eritrea (itself a repressed nation under Ethiopia until 1991) so all signs point to the fact that as usual, the status quo will remain.

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Ethiopia: NGOs Call for Ethiopian Human Rights Reform

Ethiopia: NGOs Call for Ethiopian Human Rights Reform | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

APR-

 

Supranational organizations, or Non-Governmental Organizations, are a product of Globalization. Often then can erode the sovereignty of a country or destabilize a region in the interest of business, but on decreasingly rare occasions they flex their geopolitical muscle in areas of true need.

 

A case in point: Ethiopia. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are all NGO’s who have “urged” Ethiopia, as a UN nation to reform in the areas of civil freedoms and basic human rights.

 

This is in response to Ethiopia’s 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) that restricts the movements, work and efficacy, and funding of human rights organizations, which when passed forced many of the afore mentioned groups out of Ethiopia.

 

A direct result of this is that since 2009 11 journalists, writing on humanitarian concerns, have been jailed for “terrorism” charges. In addition to this, Ethiopia has forced “villagization” onto it’s citizens, where they are relocated by force from regions of Ethiopia that had strong civil rights or human rights groups.

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Sudan’s former PM treated southerners ‘like slaves’, Djibouti’s president says.

Sudan’s former PM treated southerners ‘like slaves’, Djibouti’s president says. | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

“December 15, 2011 (PARIS) – The president of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh defended his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan al-Bashir saying that he . . .”

APR –

While not famous for it’s treatment of people, or stance on the legality of slavery and human trafficking, the Djiboutian President states that the former Sudanese Prime Minister treated the people of South Sudan as slaves.

He also is quick in the article to praise the new leader of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for being “the only Sudanese leader to have had the courage to negotiate with the South, and accepted the amputation of his country in the name of peace.”

This goes so far as to protect Bashir from the UN’s International Criminal Court (ICC), and the African Union (AU) put measures in place that allow countries, even those who are signatories of the ICC, to prevent the arrest of Bashir in an AU nation.

For clarity, Omar al-Bashir is the same man who currently faces charges of willful genocide against the south Sudanese people from the ICC . . . so the position stated in this article of both President Guelleh and the African Union may have other intentions. What can be gleaned from this, though, is that a stable Horn of Africa is considered a benefit.

The source, the Sudan Tribune, is based in Paris, France, and run by a team of Sudanese and international editors and journalists.It is generally viewed as opposed to the current regime in Khartoum.This is important in understanding the bias of the piece.
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Ethiopia: Hot Spot Map

APR-

This map has many unique features; among them are the displays of "borders" that are currently disputed by regional powers in Ethiopia, tensions, skirimishes and outright conflicts on the national borders and current health crises. It also shows the demography within the country insofar as the ethnic cultures that reside in an area.

These all paint a picture: even with total governmental stability, many issues would keep the Ethiopian people from truly being a cohesive people. Large swaths of land on the east are ethnically and culturally Somali, while Sudanese people have migrated heavily into the western area.

Even with the bleak outlook this map gives, the international community has it’s hopes resting on Ethiopia to bring overall stability to region, assisted by Kenya.

map via: reliefweb (http://bit.ly/VxOc2H)
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Democracy on the Horn of Africa, pt. 1

APR -

Dr. Tsehay Demeke and Jeri Hilt speak to Dr. James Haney covering issues affecting Kenya, which in turn have widespread effects on the whole Horn of Africa. They have gone so far as to have the U.S. Senate pass H.R.2003, to protect human rights to any country that receives aid from the U.S. Government.

He rightly points out that the current government of Ethiopia is and "ally" in the war on terror, but should support for Democracy be pushed in the area that any government that rose up would also be an ally to the United States.

part 2 (http://bit.ly/ST7EJR) also covers the impact that Democracy will have in Ethiopia.
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With 18 killed this year, Somalia is the deadliest post for media workers | World | News | National Post

With 18 killed this year, Somalia is the deadliest post for media workers | World | News | National Post | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it
APR –

Key to free speech is the freedom of the press, which also holds the key to keeping the citizens of a nation informed about their government, but if you were to seek a journalism career in Somalia, they would have to ask if you had a death wish.

44 reporters since 2007 were killed and another 250 have fled, and this has an over all chilling effect on the press in Somalia. When the “beats” covered by the lost journalists is investigated, it shows that culture, human rights, politics and war were the topics that most often resulted in a death.

“It has reduced journalists into silence, damaged the quality of independent reporting and instilled fear in the hearts of journalists who would dare to report on critical issues,” Omar Faruk Osman, secretary-general of the Somali journalists’ union, said in an email.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda formed militant group whose sole purpose is to wage a jihad against anyone who opposed strict adherence to Sharia law in Somalia. They have tortured and killed anyone who mocked Sharia law, opposed bans on sports or music and any who have views that they simply don’t think should be shared. This places journalists in Somalia on high alert, as they may be targeted by Al-Shabab.

66% of the killings happened in the capital city of Mogadishu, and three quarters of those killed received verbal death threats before. Most of these journalists worked in radio, the primary mode of news in Somalia

Because of how Somalia is shaped, it’s easy to gain control of part of the country, which is exactly what Al-Shabab has done, controlling nearly all of the southern portion of the country. The Transitional Federal Government, with the help of Kenya has been able to push back the militants, and since no journalists were killed in November – so even in a country renowned for it’s lack of support for human rights, steps are being taken to protect the forth estate.
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Somalia: Journalist jailed for interviewing Islamist rebel

Somalia: Journalist jailed for interviewing Islamist rebel | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

APR-

 

Somalia has been a state under martial law since 2004, and journalists have never been safe. When Abdifatah Jama Mire, a journalist in the Puntland region, aired an interview with insurgent commander Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom, the government sent armed “police” to arrest him.

 

This was claimed to be for the security of greater Somalia, but when the long standing record on free speech/free press are weighed, it seems to be normal operating procedure if the message shared was something against what the Somali Government wants it’s population to hear/see.

 

During the current martial law period, the government has banned political demonstrations, and Puntland has outlawed opposition parties, and with more than 18 journalists killed this year alone, it’s not showing that the rights of it’s citizens are of paramount importance.

 

As a point for the position though, Sheikh Atom had vowed to wage holy war against leaders until his strict version of sharia law was implemented. If this is true, was the government simply acting to protect its sovereignty and its people, or are other forces simply using the al-Qaeda connection as a red-herring

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CNN - Eritrean Refugees in Israel

APR-

This is hard to watch. Two young women recount stories of how they paid some Bedouin men $2500 to guide them from Eritrea to Israel, only to be beaten, starved and raped along the way. Once they finally arrived in Israel, they discovered that now penniless in a new home they were also pregnant.

 

A man leaves family behind for a better life, but is instead sold into slavery - a $4000 ransom is demanded for his release, but once paid he is tortured to a point where he can no longer work. He fianlly manages to reach Israel - and says "he's glad to be alive" and that his decision to leave Eritrea was the right one.

 

These shocking stories illustrate just how bad life in Eritrea really is.

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Somaliland: Proof That Democracy in the Horn of Africa Is Possible

Somaliland: Proof That Democracy in the Horn of Africa Is Possible | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it
"Today, citizens of Somaliland head to the polls to elect their local municipal council representatives."

APR-

So, while most of the content on this topic may seem to lead ever deeper into a chasm, there are small victories to be seen as well in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland, an automatous region of Somalia that is internationally recognized, held elections on November 28th 2012, the fifth such election in the region since 2002. This is seen as part of a broader initiative by the government to decentralize the government and become a better representative of its people.

The election, as with the previous four, has its issue: there is no voter roll so fraud is easy, and much like early western democracy, the candidates are “open list” rather than party affiliated. This can be difficult, since much of the populous is illiterate, the election officials devised a symbol for each candidate, and with up to 225 candidates on each ballot finding unique symbology is daunting to say the least. The last major issue is that if a ballot has two votes for the same position, very common among the illiterate Somalis, the overall ballot is considered void. The vote is still counted though, but only for a political party in that case.

To paraphrase the article:
Unlike the U.S. elections, this is far more representative, as each vote counts – there is no electoral college – “to win parties must garner at least 20% of the vote.” [With the current 7 parties competing, a ranking system must be used.] “The results [of the vote] that the parties have gained in each region will be given ranking numbers, and the three winners will be selected through the ranking system of the votes cast in the six regions based on proportional results.”

While less than perfect, they have been increasing in frequency and accuracy since the first public referendum was held 10 years ago. It’s citizens see it headed in the right direction, and consider themselves part of a democracy.
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Eritrea, since 1993

Eritrea, since 1993 | Human rights on the Horn of Africa | Scoop.it

via Freedom House

 

APR-

This is very detailed history, created by Freedom House, of the various forms of injustice in Eritrea. It's detailed, if somewhat biased, information is presented as different facets of the scale and grade system Freedom House uses to delineate the freedom of a country's citizenry.

 

Accepting that there is some political bent inherent in the text, it’s still a very detailed account of issues in Eritrea and provides good context in the “free” period after sovereignty was declared and accepted by the UN in 1993.

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