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Tef field near Mojo, Ethiopia WIKIPEDIA PHOTO - BERNARD GAGNON | Coastweek

Tef field near Mojo, Ethiopia. Eragrostis tef, also known as teff, Williams' lovegrass or annual bunch grass, is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is raised for its edible seeds, also known as teff. Teff was one of the earliest plants domesticated. Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. Teff has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller and cooks faster, thus using less fuel.  WIKIPEDIA PHOTO - BERNARD GAGNON

Ethiopia to downsize Ministerial Cabinet
in major bureaucratic overhaul - Official

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia was set to downsize its Council of Ministers (CoM) members from 28 to 20 in a major government overhaul, Fitsum Arega, Chief of Staff at the Ethiopian Prime Minister Office said on Thursday.

In a press statement, Arega said the Council of Ministers will be downsized in line with plans to merge some ministerial portfolios and create new ones, reflecting the government priority during the Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2018/19, that started on July 8.

Ethiopian aims to be a light industry manufacturing hub in Africa by 2025 and for this purpose has embarked on massive Chinese-backed infrastructure projects across the country.

"The Council of Ministers members downsizing aims to avoid unnecessary costs, ensure efficient running of government agencies and avoid overlapping of functions in government organs," he further said.

In line with plans to downsize the Council of Ministers members, Ethiopian government is planning to merge some ministries to fix the "bloated" government bureaucracy.

The Ethiopia Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Industry could be merged into one, creating the Ethiopia Ministry of Trade and Industry; the Ethiopia Ministry of Science and Technology may be merged with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to create the Ethiopia Ministry of Innovation and Technology.

Arega also said Ethiopia also planned to create a Ministry of Peace to help ensure harmony in the country.

Ethiopia had in recent months witnessed unprecedented communal violence across several parts of the country, leading to the number of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) to reach some 2.8 million people, according a report from UNICEF in September.


Ethiopian president hails recent reforms as turning point from potential crisis

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome on Monday stressed that recent socioeconomic and political reforms have saved Ethiopia from potential crisis and ensured peace and stability.

"The last Ethiopian year was so special that the country was evolving in major reform measures," Teshome told a joint session of the lower and upper houses of the Ethiopian parliament.

Speaking about the magnitude of the challenges encountered during the past Ethiopian year, which ended on Sept. 10, Teshome stressed that "tangible measures taken by the government so far, on the principles of love, forgiveness and synergy, have not only relived the country from potential crisis but also led to a comfortable situation where citizens started active participation."

"The sluggishness of the government in responding to the fundamental political and economic demands of the public had left the country in peril," he said, referring to the country’s situation last year.

"No matter what we have tried to build a strong Ethiopia with proper accommodation of its diversity, the unjust and undemocratic working systems that had existed have put a great challenge to the country’s peace and stability," Teshome added.

The president also stressed that the east African country was "not able to accomplish as much as we have sought to due to political turmoil we had encountered."

Widespread anti-government public demonstrations in different parts of the country last year forced former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign.

He was replaced by Abiy Ahmed, who transformed the country’s socioeconomic as well as political landscape by such steps as the release of political prisoners and opening up of key economic sectors to the private sector.

Teshome said responding to the grievances and demands of the public is necessary for the government to ensure effective stability and workable system.

"In view of the major gaps and challenges we had in the country, taking fundamental steps to fill the gaps, ensure the sovereignty of the nation and respond to public demands can by no means be optional; it is rather a must," he said.

Teshome stressed that releasing thousand of political prisoners, ensuring effective political dialogue with political organizations operating in Ethiopia and abroad, creating conducive environment for journalists, critics and political analysts were among the major reform measures implemented by the government over the past few months.

He hailed the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, following the invitation from the Ethiopian government for reconciliation and normalization of relations.

The Ethiopian government’s positive involvement in stabilizing the restive Horn of Africa region, mainly making peace between Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, is another triumph accomplished by the Ethiopian government during the past Ethiopian year, Teshome said.

He called on Ethiopians to contribute their fair share on sustaining the achievements by maintaining unity and peace and avoiding misunderstandings and confusions.

Teshome also stressed the need for economic growth so as to sustain the positive outcomes of reform.

"It is clear that political reforms that stand independent of economic reforms would not yield sustainable success over the long time," he said.

Ethiopia PM reveals swift democratic institutions reform ahead of 2020 election

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday disclosed his government’s decision to embark on swift reform of democratic institutions so as to ensure the upcoming general election is free and fair.

Ahmed, while addressing the closing session of the 11th Congress of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition - the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), on Saturday in Ethiopia’s southern city of Hawassa, stressed that the congress has set directions for the reform of existing laws, regulations, and directives.

Ahmed, who urged Ethiopia’s competing political parties to prepare themselves for the election, said that the Ethiopian government "will reform democratic institutions to make the upcoming election democratic," state affiliated FBC quoted Ahmed as saying.

Ahmed’s comments came as the east African country recently embarked on preparations to undertake its next general election, due in 2020.

Ahmed had previously ruled out suggestions by various Ethiopian political analysts that the upcoming elections should be delayed, with due emphasis given to Ahmed’s appointment as the country’s PM in April this year following the resignation of former PM Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned following crippling strikes that rocked different parts of the country since the second half of 2016.

According to Ahmed, the ruling party during its three-day congress has also "confirmed its unity more than ever before."

Ensuring rule of law, addressing unemployment and reducing poverty in urban areas were among the major decisions that the EPRDF congress meeting emphasized, according to the premier.

The ruling coalition, which commenced its 11th Congress meeting on Wednesday under the theme "National Unity for All Rounded Prosperity," on Friday concluded its closed meeting while the official closing ceremony was held on Saturday.

According to EPRDF’s congress meeting’s final outcome that was issued late on Friday, member participants have commended and vowed to sustain recent gains as the east African country’s government embarked on extensive reform processes over the past 6 months.

The EPRDF Congress, among other recent successes, hailed the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea as well the positive diplomatic ties among countries within the Horn of Africa region.

The ruling coalition further stressed on the "no tolerance" strategy in the fight against maladministration, organized corruption and disorder.

EPRDF, during its just-concluded congress meeting, has also re-elected Ahmed and Demeke Mekonnen as its Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, respectively. Mekonnen is also Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister.

Ethiopia ruling coalition vows to sustain ongoing
reforms as it concludes congress meeting

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), on Friday vowed to sustain ongoing socioeconomic and political reforms as it concluded its Congress meeting.

The ruling coalition, which commenced its 11th Congress meeting on Wednesday in Ethiopia’s southern city of Hawassa under the theme "National Unity for All Rounded Prosperity," on Friday concluded its meeting as its members affirmed joint decision to sustain the ongoing socioeconomic and political reforms.

According to EPRDF’s congress meeting’s final outcome, member participants have commended and vowed to sustain recent gains as the east African country’s government embarked on extensive reform processes over the past 6 months.

The EPRDF Congress, among other recent successes, hailed the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea as well the positive diplomatic ties among countries within the Horn of Africa region.

Ethiopia’s EPRDF is a coalition of four parties that are Oromo Democratic party (OPD), the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM).

The EPRDF Council elected Abiy Ahmed as its new chairperson in March 2018, who eventually was appointed as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister following the resignation of former PM Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned following crippling strike in different parts of the country.

EPRDF, during its just-concluded congress meeting, has also re-elected Ahmed and Demeke Mekonnen as its Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, respectively.

Mekonnen is also Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister.

The ruling coalition further stressed on "no tolerance" strategy in the fight against maladministration, organized corruption and disorder.

Border communities reap peace dividends of Ethiopia-Eritrea diplomatic thaw

ZALAMBESSA, Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Fiyori Bizen, an Ethiopian mother of three, used to live a challenging life, as her home on the country’s border with former bitter enemy Eritrea had suffered damages because of occasional armed clashes.

That all changed for Bizen, 28, on September 11, with the opening of the Ethiopia-Eritrea borders which had been closed for more than two decades ever since both nations fought a bloody two-year border war from May 1998 to December 2000, which left an estimated 70,000 people dead from both sides.

With the re-opening of the border earlier this month in the aftermath of fast paced diplomatic rapprochement since July between the two countries, Zalambessa and other Ethiopian entry points are busy serving as a gateway and meeting point in renewed commercial and cultural interaction between the two countries.

This renewed economic interaction between the two nations seemed unthinkable several months ago as thousands of soldiers from the two countries were in a state of armed conformation, a legacy of their bitter two-year border war.

Despite a peace deal signed in Algiers in December 2000 to end the armed conflict, the two countries remained in a state of bitter enmity, locked in a state of armed standoff along their 1100 km long border.

That hostility ended in July with Ethiopia and Eritrea signing a peace declaration, thereby ending their mutual hostilities, enabling the resumption of air services, re-opening of phone lines, restoration of diplomatic missions, in addition to re-opening of their common border.

Speaking to Xinhua, Bizen, whose house is on the outskirts of Zalambessa town, located in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray regional state and is just several meters away from the Eritrean border, said her house has transformed from a shelter to one that is facilitating her new business of providing coffee drinks to travelers from both countries.

"I have an increasing customer list of drivers, regular commuters and soldiers from both countries, ever since my coffee drinks business opened a week ago," said Bizen.

Bizen said because of the insecurity in the area, many of her neighbors had in previous years relocated their homes and businesses to cities like Adi-Grat and Mekelle, far from the border areas, but her economic weakness had prevented her from doing similar relocation.

However, her economic misfortune had overnight turned into an economic advantage, as passenger and vehicular traffic between the two countries has increased exponentially since September, making her home an ideal place to rest and have drinks for transiting people.

Bizen also said the transformation from a housewife to a rising small business owner helped her supplement her husband’s meagre income, allowing them to pay for school fees and daily needs of their three children.

"The good business opportunities enabled me to open other business portfolios including selling plastic products and hand-woven baskets, as I try to meet the various needs of my customers," she told Xinhua.

Nevertheless, the dividend for her from the re-opening of the border between the two countries has not only been monetary and security wise.

"With the border opening I have been able to reconnect with my long-lost relatives in Sahr town, just across the border in Eritrea, providing me mental relief and happiness," Bizen further said.

While, for border residents like Bizen the re-opening of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is tied to their localities, Kibreab Baraki, a part time lecturer and translator is hoping to literally cash in on his language skills.

Baraki speaks fluent Amharic, the working language of Ethiopia, Tigrinya, the working language of Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state and English which is increasingly being used by civilians and government officials in both countries.

"With rising business ties between the two countries after the opening of their common border, I believe I can use my language skills to help reconnect Ethiopians, Eritreans and other nationalities once again," Baraki told Xinhua while sipping coffee drink inside Bizen’s makeshift business stall.

However, Baraki is not limiting his ambitions to mere translation works, having already made contacts with tour operators in Eritrea to facilitate tourism opportunities between the two "brotherly nations."

"I’m currently studying the business prospects in translation and tourism fields and has devised plans to open with Eritrean colleagues joint business ventures," Baraki told Xinhua.

Nevertheless, Baraki cautioned the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea needs to be actively promoted at a ground level to ensure the newfound peace is lasting and has a win-win approach.

Ethiopian government warns it may use force to disarm Oromo Liberation Front

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Ethiopian federal government on Wednesday urged ex-rebel movement Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to disarm its fighters.

"The need for OLF and all other political groups to disarm, to engage in peaceful discourse is a non-negotiable stance of the government which has responsibility to ensure respect for the rule of law and security of its citizens," the Federal Government Communications Affairs Office (GCAO) said in a statement.

The Ethiopian government has invited various political groups and rebel movements to participate in the country’s democratic process in a bid to foster political reconciliation and consensus, the statement said.

However, the statement said, OLF has yet to disarm all of its fighters, a precondition for all political groups to participate in peaceful political struggle in Ethiopia.

Over the weekend, OLF leader Dawud Ibsa told state-affiliated media outlet Walta TV that his movement has not negotiated with the Ethiopian government over the disarmament of its fighters as a precondition to participate in the political process of the country.

It is estimated there are around 2,800 OLF fighters based mainly in the western and southern parts of Oromia regional state, the principal operating ground of OLF.

OLF rebels have in recent months been accused of conducting deadly assaults on military and civilian targets, including the Sept. 26 killing of four government officials.

The movement claims it fights for political, social and economic rights of ethnic Oromos, who make up around a third of Ethiopia’s estimated 105 million people.

Many ethnic Oromos have accused successive Ethiopian governments of ignoring their economic, political and social rights.

OLF was designated as a terrorist group by the Ethiopian parliament in 2011. It was removed from the terror list in July to help facilitate negotiations and foster reconciliation.

Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers stage rare protest in the capital

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers on Wednesday staged a rare protest in the capital Addis Ababa over "inadequate" salary and benefits, briefly blocking a road around the national palace.

Mobile and Wi-Fi internet connection was cut for several hours as confusion and rumors gripped the capital.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held discussions with the protesting soldiers to hear their grievances, state media outlets reported later Wednesday.

Zeynu Jemal, head of Ethiopia Federal Police Commission, told the media that the protest by around 240 soldiers created a brief standoff with other security forces around the national palace.

The protesting soldiers initially wanted an audience with the prime minister while being armed, but after negotiations, they were allowed to meet with Ahmed without holding their weapons, said Jemal.

The Ethiopian army, one of the strongest and largest in Africa, is known for strict discipline, and protests by soldiers is practically unheard of in the east African country in recent years.

African Union  commends Ethiopia for its move
to ease visa requirements for African travelers

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) on Thursday commended Ethiopia for its announcement to ease visa requirements for African travelers entering the East African country.

Speaking at the joint session of the House of People’s Representatives and the House of Federation of Ethiopia on Monday, President Mulatu Teshome, announced that his country would introduce a visa-on-arrival regime for all African passport holders entering the country starting from this Ethiopian fiscal year 2018/19.

Welcoming Ethiopia’s measure, Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, reiterated his appreciation to AU member states that have already taken steps to ease the travel of African citizens on the continent.

He also urged all member states that have not yet done so to take similar steps, according to an AU statement on Wednesday.

The chairperson said he looked forward to the day when all Africans can freely circulate in their own continent, said the statement.

Mahamat underlined the need for all member states to become parties to the January 2018 Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment.

So far, 32 member states have signed this instrument, while only one member state, Rwanda has ratified it.

Fifteen ratifications are required for the entry into force of the Protocol, according to AU.


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