The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
- The 28 Ethiopian migrants of Christian faith murdered by the Islamic State (IS) on Apr. 19 in Libya had planned to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of work in Europe.
Commenting on the killings to Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Ethiopian government spokesperson Redwan Hussien urged potential migrants not to risk their lives by using dangerous exit routes.
Husseinâs call sparked anger among hundreds of Ethiopian youths and relatives of the deceased, who took to the streets in the capital Addis Ababa this week before the demonstration was disbanded by the police, local media reported.
Protestors cited the governmentâs lukewarm response to the massacre of Orthodox Christians for their outrage, the Addis Standard reported. Later in the week, during a public rally organised by the government in the capital, violence again broke out between security forces and protesters resulting in injuries and the detention of over a hundred protesters, local and international media reported.
Almost two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians, the majority of those Orthodox Copts â who say that they have been in the Horn of Africa nation since the first century AD â as well as large numbers of Protestants.
In the widely-reported incident in Libya, IS militants beheaded 16 Ethiopian migrants in one group on a beach and shot 12 in the head in another group in a desert area. Eyasu Yikunoamilak and Balcha Belete, residents of the impoverished Cherkos neighbourhood in Addis Ababa, were among the victims, it was learnt, along with three other victims from Cherkos.
Seyoum Yikunoamilak, elder brother of Eyasu Yikunoamilak, told FBC that Eyasu and Balcha left their country for Sudan two months ago en route to reach the United Kingdom for work to help themselves and their families, but this was not meant to be.
âI used to talk to them on phone while they were in the Sudan,â Seyoum said in grief. âBut I never heard from them since they entered Libya one month ago.â Eyasu had previously been a migrant worker in Qatar and had covered his friendâs expenses with his savings to reach Europe, said Seyoum.
In defiance of the warning of the government spokesperson, Meshesa Mitiku, a long-time friend of Eyasu and Balcha living in Cherkos, told the Associated Press on Apr. 20: âI will try my luck too but not through Libya. Here there is no chance to improve yourself.â Mesheshaâs intentions came even after learning about the fate of his friends.
Ethiopian lawmakers declared a three-day national mourning on Apr. 21. The government also expressed its readiness to repatriate all migrants in dangerous foreign countries, the Washington-based VOA Amharic radio reported.
The rally earlier in the week came one month before Ethiopia holds parliamentary elections, the first since the death of long-time leader Meles Zenawi, and current prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to face little if any opposition challenge.
“We will redouble efforts to fight terrorism,” foreign ministry spokesman Tewolde Mulugeta said in response to demands for action from protesters.
Ethiopia is trying to create jobs so that people do not feel the need to leave to find work, he added. “We’re trying to create opportunities here for our young people. We encourage them to exploit those opportunities at home.”
Nevertheless, disenchantment marked by asserted claims of repression, inequality and unemployment has spurred a series of protests against the regime over the last few years.
These and other issues have prompted the exodus of Ethiopian migrants to Europe, according to several observers. âThe idea that the majority of Ethiopian migrants relocate due to economic reasons appears flawed,â contends Tom Rhodes, East Africa Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in an email interview with IPS. Rhodes also maintained that the violation of fundamental freedoms is closely tied with poverty and economic inequality.
In an email interview with IPS, Yared Hailemariam, a former senior researcher for the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, agreed. âPervasive repression and denial of fundamental freedoms has led to frustration, alienation and disillusionment among most Ethiopian youth.â
âCitizens have the right to peacefully protest,â said Felix Horne, East Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch. âItâs no surprise given the steps government takes to restrict peaceful protests that disenfranchised youth would use the rare opportunity of an officially sanctioned public demonstration to express their frustrations. Thatâs the inevitable outcome when there are no other means for them to express their opinions.â
The main opposition parties say that the government has failed to create job opportunities, making migration inevitable. The regime, they charge, favours members of the ruling Ethiopian Peopleâs Revolutionary Democratic Front and creates economic inequality.
Recently dubbed an âAfrican tigerâ, Ethiopia is one of Africaâs most populous nations with 94 million people (Nigeria has 173.6 million). It has been celebrated for its modest economic growth over the last years. But the average unemployment rate (the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force) was stuck at 20.26 percent from 1999 to 2014.
âThe regime allocates state resources and job opportunities to members of the ruling party who are organised in small-scale and micro enterprises,â noted Horne. The CPJ representative agreed. âEthiopian government authorities tend to reward their political supporters and ethnic relations with lucrative political and business positionsâ at the expense of ingenuity in the business sector.
Forest rangers putting out a fire at a charcoal burning kiln in Kenyaâs Mau Forest. The future of the countryâs indigenous forest cover is under threat but this has little to do with poverty and ignorance â experts say that it is greed which allows unsustainable practices, such as the lucrative production of charcoal and logging of wood. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS
- Armed with twigs and placards, enraged residents from a semi-pastoral community 360 km north of Kenyaâs capital, Nairobi, protested this week against wanton destruction of indigenous forest â their alternative source of livelihood.
With climate change a new ordeal that has caused frequent droughts, leading to suffering and death in this part of Africa, the community from Lpartuk Ranch in Samburu County relies on livestock which is sometimes wiped out by severe drought leaving them with no other option other than the harvesting of wild products and honey.
âPeople here are ready to take up spears and machetes to guard the forest. They have been provoked by outsiders who are out to wipe out our indigenous forest to the last bit,â Mark Loloolki, Lpartuk Ranch chairman, who led the protesting community members told IPS.
They threatened to set alight any vehicle caught ferrying the timbers or logs suspected to be from their forests.
Their protest came barely a week after counterparts from Seketet, a few kilometres away in Samburu Central, held a similar protest after over 12,000 red cedar posts were caught on transit to Maralal, Samburuâs main town.
Last year, students walked for four kilometres during International Ozone Day to protest against the wanton destruction of the same endangered forest tree species.
A report titledÂ Green Carbon, Black Trade, released by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol in 2012, Â which focuses on illegal logging and its impacts on the lives and livelihoods of often some of the poorest people in the world, underlines how criminals are combining old-fashioned methods such as bribes with high-tech methods such as computer hacking of government websites to obtain transportation and other permits.
Samburu County, in Kenyaâs semi-arid northern region, hosts Lerroghi, a 92,000 hectare forest reserve that is home to different indigenous plants and animal species. Lerroghi, also called Kirisia locally, is among the largest forest ecosystem in dry northern Kenya and was initially filled with olive and red cedar trees.
It is alleged that unscrupulous merchants smuggle the endangered red cedar products to the coastal port of Mombasa for shipping to Saudi Arabia where they are sold at high prices.
- The multinational education and publishing company Pearson PLC was challenged during its annual general meeting on Apr. 24 by representatives of civil society and trade union groups overÂ various profit-driven programmes aimed at expanding private education in numerous countries in the global South.Â
As people arrived at the AGM, they were greeted by protesters with placards saying âEducation is a right, not a commodityâ and âStop cashing in on kidsâ.
In an open letter to the Pearson boardÂ published Apr. 24, civil society groups and trade unions including Global Justice Now, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) wrote that the companyâs âactivities around the world indicate its intention to commercialise and privatise education at all levels.
âFrom fuelling the obsessive testing regimes that are the backbone of the âtest and punishâ efforts in the global North, to supporting the predatory, âlow-feeâ for-profit private schools in the global South, Pearsonâs brand has become synonymous with profiteering and the destruction of public education.â
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: âPearsonâs profit-driven agenda of pushing private education in the global south is at odds with the universal right of education that all children have.
âThere is significant evidence to show that private education, even when âlow costâ, ultimately increases segregation and marginalisation in society because access and quality depend on ability to pay. Itâs even more disturbing that Pearson is getting U.K. taxpayersâ money in the form of aid from DfID to subsidise them in this process.â
According to Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, âPearsonâs activities around the world indicate its intention to commercialise and privatise education at all levels.Â Pearson needs to end its involvement with fee-paying private schools in the global South; stops all practices that promote and support the obsession with high-stakes testing; and negotiates with teachersâ unions and others to secure agreement on the appropriate role of edu-business in education.
âEducation is a human and civil right and a public good, for the good of learners and society not private profit.â
Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL, said: âNo one should forget that education is a human right which should not be perverted by the profit motive.Â School curricula should not be patented and charged for.Â Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed.
âUnfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young peopleâ.
Against the backdrop of serious human rights allegations, Azerbaijan is gearing up to host the first-ever European Games. Credit: ResoluteSupportMedia/CC-BY-2.0
- Months after being denied access to Azerbaijanâs places of detention, the head of the United Nationâs Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) announced Friday that her four-member delegation had successfully conducted investigations of Azerbaijani prisons, police stations and investigative isolation units.
âThe Azerbaijani Government this time enabled unhindered access to places of deprivation of liberty,â confirmed Aisha Shujune Muhammad, head of the SPT delegation, in a statement published by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
This month, from Apr. 16-24, SPT members visited a range of sites including pre-trial detention facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and social care institutions.
The collapse of autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt broke the state's stranglehold on the local press, but journalists and bloggers must still be careful what they say. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS
- While technology has given millions greater freedom to express themselves, in the world’s 10 most censored countries, this basic right exists only on paper, if at all.
According to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which will be officially released at U.N. headquarters on Apr. 27, the worst offenders are Eritrea and North Korea, followed by Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, Myanmar and Cuba.
The town of IlhÃ©us in the Northeast Brazilian state of Bahia, part of whose coastline will be modified by the construction of the Porto Sul port complex, which environmentalists and local residents are protesting because of the serious ecological and social damage it will cause. Credit: Courtesy Instituto Nossa IlhÃ©us
- Activists and local residents have brought legal action aimed at blocking the construction of a nearly 50 sq km port terminal in the Northeast Brazilian state of Bahia because of the huge environmental and social impacts it will have.
The biggest project of its kind in Brazil has given rise to several court battles. With a budget of 2.2 billion dollars, Porto Sul will be built in AratiguÃ¡, on the outskirts of the city of IlhÃ©us, at the heart of the Cocoa Coastâs long stretches of heavenly beaches, where the locals have traditionally depended on tourism and the production of cocoa for a living.
- Rampant corruption across Southeast Asia threatens to derail plans for greater economic integration, according to Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption.
In a report titled ASEAN Integrity Community: A Vision for Transparent and Accountable Integration, released Apr. 24, the organisation calls on the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to create a regional body that integrates anti-corruption principles into the framework of a proposed regional economic community.
If not, it says, hopes for shared prosperity, upward mobility and entrepreneurship will not be fulfilled.
âSoutheast Asia is home to some of the richest, fastest-growing economies, as well as some of the planetâs poorest people. Battling corruption is an integral part toÂ sustainable growth andÂ reducing income inequality,â said Natalia Soebagjo, Chair of Transparency International Indonesia.
âRegional cooperation coupled with civil society and business community involvement in the development of an ASEAN Integrity Community are essential elements to ensure an economic community has a positive impact on the daily lives of Southeast Asians,â Soebagjo said.
According to the report, corruption continues to plague most of the 10 ASEAN member countries. Transparency Internationalâs Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014 shows that the nine of them scored an average of 38 out of 100 (where 100 is very clean and 0 is highly corrupt).