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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

African Union fails to defend press freedom

Also in the news: [Censorship and repression in Ethiopia] - [CPJ: List of Journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia] - [Bush Creates New Military Command for Africa] - [Daylight mortar attack at president’s house in Mogadishu] - [Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, Jendayi Frazer] - [AU to Launch African Diplomatic Passport]

International: [Giuliani steps closer to a White House bid] - [Saudi King receives Fatah, Hamas leaders] - [U.S. denies hand in Iran envoy's capture] - [The dark side of Italian football] and more of today's top stories!


'Free Ethiopia’s Prisoners of Conscience'

[Action Center] [Resource Center]


Censorship and repression in Ethiopia

(Charles and Fred, recent visitors to Ethiopia)

We spent five weeks in Ethiopia and during that time almost every single person we met and spoke to about politics was very against the government, especially as they seemed to have cheated on the first parliamentary elections ever held in the country, which were held earlier in the year.

We had chiiling experince as well of the repression in Ethiopia, arriving in the capital a day after government forces had killed over 40 people on the streets and arrested many thousands more.(More...)

Ethiopia: List of Journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2006 (List does not include journalist imprisoned in 2007)

Dawit Kebede, Hadar
Feleke Tibebu, Hadar
IMPRISONED: November 2, 2005

Andualem Ayle, Ethiop
Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Addis Zena
Dereje Habtewolde, Netsanet
Nardos Meaza, Satanaw
Mesfin Tesfaye, Abay
Zekarias Tesfaye, Netsanet
Fassil Yenealem, Addis Zena
Wenakseged Zeleke, Asqual
IMPRISONED: November 9-14, 2005

Serkalem Fassil, Menilik, Asqual and Satanaw
Iskinder Nega, Menilik, Asqual and Satanaw
IMPRISONED: November 27, 2005

Sisay Agena, Ethiop and Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA)
IMPRISONED: November 29, 2005

Dawit Fassil, Satanaw

These editors and publishers of Amharic-language newspapers were arrested in a massive crackdown on the private press and opposition that followed antigovernment protests in the capital, Addis Ababa, in November 2005.

They were charged in December 2005 along with dozens of opposition leaders with conspiring to overthrow the government. The charges could bring death sentences upon conviction. All of the defendants were denied bail. (More...)

2006 report: African Union fails to defend press freedom

When African heads of state gathered in July in the Gambia’s sleepy seaside capital, Banjul, their host had just shut down a leading private newspaper, jailed journalists, and halted a planned freedom of expression forum on the fringes of the summit.

At the summit, the African Union swore in judges for a future pan-African court of justice and human rights, but said nothing about human rights abuses in the Gambia or the lack of due process for its detainees. In a declaration marking the 25th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, AU leaders vowed to rededicate themselves “to ensuring respect for human and peoples’ rights” as a prerequisite to their common vision of “a united and prosperous Africa.”

The charter, binding on all AU members, includes freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. Yet the heads of state failed to comment on the Gambia’s vicious repression of the independent press and its lackluster effort to solve the 2004 assassination of a leading editor. (More...)

Daylight mortar attack at president’s house in Mogadishu

Mogadishu - Unidentified militiamen launched a mortar attack on the presidential palace in Mogadishu Tuesday, in a continuing spiral of violence that has plagued the city since the arrival of Ethiopian-backed government troops in December.

Fierce explosions were heard outside the palace, known as Villa Somalia, but President Abdullahi Yusuf was at the government's base in the western town of Baidoa.

"There was heavy explosion but there have been no casualties," Colonel Abdurasak Hassan, the presidential palace's chief of security, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "Islamist militia are throwing mortar shells, but we will get rid of them the coming days." (More...)

Also see:
-Mortar shell lands near Somali president residence
- mortar bomb fired at the presidential compound in Mogadishu

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Somalia

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

Good morning, and thank you, Chairman Feingold and Ranking Member Sununu. At this first hearing of the Africa Subcommittee, I congratulate you both on your new positions. I look forward to working closely with you and the other members of this Subcommittee during the 110th Congress. Thank you, for calling a hearing on this timely and important issue. I am pleased to have this opportunity to publicly discuss U.S. policy and engagement with Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Mr. Chairman, given your longstanding interest in Somalia, I am not at all surprised that this is the subject of the Subcommittee's first hearing.

Somalia occupies a unique space, both geographically and strategically. The country sits at the crossroads of sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East. The overall security of the region is affected by Somalia's continued lack of internal stability. In this regard, U.S. interests in Somalia and in the Horn of Africa region are to promote and support regional stability and representative government, to eliminate any platform for al-Qaida or other terrorist operations, to provide humanitarian assistance in the wake of drought, flooding, and 16 years of near-constant conflict in southern and central Somalia, and to work with governments in the region to transform the countries through investing in people and good governance and promoting economic growth.(More...)

Bush Creates New Military Command for Africa

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 -- The Pentagon will establish a new military command to oversee its operations in Africa, President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today.

Creation of the United States Africa Command, which had been expected, will “strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The president said he had directed Mr. Gates to have the command established by the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, 2008. The location of the new command will be determined after discussions with Congress and officials of countries on the continent, Mr. Bush said.(More...)

AU to Launch African Diplomatic Passport

African Union will launch an African Diplomatic Passport to be issued for heads of state and government, ministers, ambassadors and leaders of African institutions, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

An AU official who declined to be named said the symbolic launch of the African diplomatic passport will be the highlight of African liberation day celebrations in Ethiopia on May 25.

Under the current arrangement, heads of state and government, ministers and leaders of major institutions need visa to enter most African countries, except in cases where both countries have signed reciprocal visa exemption agreements.(More...)

Today's Top Stories

-Giuliani steps closer to a White House bid
-Saudi King receives Fatah, Hamas leaders ahead of Mecca talks
-U.S. denies hand in Iran envoy's capture
-Suicide bomber dies at Pakistan airport
-Tragedy must bring change to the dark heart of Italian football