Category Archives: Ethiopia 2015

JEFCAS Seminar Series: “Eritrea- Repression and Resistance”

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date:  Wed 22nd March 2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Martin Plaut (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Martin Plaut

About Martin Plaut:

Martin Plaut is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of   Commonwealth Studies and author of “Understanding Eritrea” published by Hurst October 2016. The book explains how the country operates and why President Isaias Afwerki has retained in power. His main research interests and publication include Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, International Relations, Modern History, Political Institutions, Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism. Mr. Plaut research focus is Africa in general, South Africa and Horn of Africa in Particular.

Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa

The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.

The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

Conference cluster themes include:

1) Natural Resources and Conflict

2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding

3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development

4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus

5) Regional Integration, Security and Development

6) Africa and the Rest of the World
The conference is open to doctoral students and early career scholars, researchers and practitioners. Potential participants and paper presenters are required to submit an Abstract of 200 – 300 words on or before 15th November 2016 to:              africanistpgrc2017-group@uni.bradford.ac.uk
All shortlisted participants will be required to submit the first draft of their papers at least two months before the conference. The conference is expected to result in a co-edited book (Lead Editor: Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnora Ferguson Centre of African Studies, University of Bradford). Kindly note that all short-listed participants will be responsible for the full-cost of their participation, including visa, travels, accommodation and subsistence.

For full details on the conference: conference-call-oct-2016-revised-version-1

Enter Ethiopia: Guest Blog Chijioke Chiebonam Ogbogu

[Image credit: photo taken by author at the Rastafarian Museum, Shashamane, Ethiopia]

Chijioke Chiebonam Ogbogu is a MA student in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, and participated in the recent Africa Study Visit to Ethiopia. She frequently writes on her own blog- https://jmadreflects.wordpress.com/, this post is reproduced here with her kind permission.

In February I went on a two weeks African Study Visit with eleven students to Ethiopia; aJapanese and a British have both written their experience. I had been procrastinating but I’m glad I’m finally writing. The aim of the visit was to broaden our understanding of Peace-building in Ethiopia. It’s a module for Post-Graduate students in Peace Studies. What made the trip more interesting was the diversity of all of us; we had people from the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, UK, Kenya, DRC, Czech Republic and Nigeria.

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Ethiopia is in the East of Africa also known as one of the countries in the Horn of Africa; it’s bordered by Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. It is a unique country in Africa; civilisation dates back to over 2000 years ago, the only country never to be colonised apart from an Italian invasion of 5 years. They have had their fair share of conflicts ranging from internal conflicts to external conflicts. The two main conflicts were centred on Land Distribution and Identity; the Derg military regime that took over by a coup dealt with the issue of land although down the road gross human rights violation occurred. A guerrilla force known as Tigrayan People’s Liberation Force [TPLF] eventually took over power from the military regime which led to a democratic republic. The political wing of TPLF known as Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front led the country in 1991 and is still ruling the country now. They resolved the issue of Identity by the establishment of an Ethnic based Federalism where ethnic groups are allowed to govern themselves at the local level as well as the ability to be taught in their native language while making Amharic the official working language of the country.  This system has brought relative peace but the question remains if the peace will be sustained. We had interviews with Government and Non-Government agencies and all I can say is Ethiopia should be studied as a country. Let me take you through the entire journey.

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We arrived Ethiopia in the early hours on the 7th of February to be shocked to the chilly weather, apparently Ethiopia has the Highlands and Lowlands. Addis Ababa which is the capital is in the highlands hence the weather although during the day it gets hot. Did I mention one of us was held back at the airport on the suspicion of Ebola as a result of a high temperature. I knew we were going to have fun; that had to be the beginning, but thankfully was released and given an emergency card to call just in case their suspicion was valid. We checked into a descent place called Yeka guest house; thank heavens I was able to skype on some days because we were all concerned with the Internet before we arrived. I think the breakfast in the guest house was pretty good with the freshly squeezed fruit we were served every morning; I think I miss that a lot. We had most of our dinners in different continental restaurants except on two occasions where we had our meals cooked by the ladies and the men. I think seeing the men cook was pretty interesting accompanied with their ‘Everything is awesome’ song they danced and sang to from the Lego movie. I’m currently nodding to it while typing this post.

All through the week we had interviews, meetings with some really hard questions we threw at them; I must commend the research everyone made because the questions put them on their toes but I can say we all left each meeting either more confused on what to believe or puzzled. This was reinforced when we met each evening with our lecturer to discuss the day’s activities as well as get an update on the activities of the next day. Once again I’ll say this Ethiopia as a country needs to be studied.

We were really excited when we left the capital city to have a weekend getaway in a village called Hawassa. On the way we stopped at a strawberry and raspberry farm where we bought fresh smoothies with a mixture of yoghurt and experienced the beautiful sunset. Our first night had us eating in a recommended restaurant; I was excited when I saw Indian chicken curry on the menu, I ordered for that, did I enjoy it? Let’s just say it came 30 mins after everyone had eaten and it wasn’t anything close to Indian curry. The next day we were hosted in this outdoor seat-out with the view of the sea; the avocado-mango smoothie served was life-changing and the food was good too and some of us went on a boat cruise. Later that night we visited Haile Resort which I can recommend, top-notch services and a good place to getaway, we had fun that night while the world was celebrating Valentine ’s Day we had ours together.

On our way back to Addis we stopped at a place known for its Rastafarian heritage called Shashamane; from the tour guide telling us they take everything fresh (weed) to some guys smoking cigarette outside professing marriage and to the fact that we were told we needed to change our clothes to enter into a sacred house (which we declined and left); it was an interesting place to visit although I can’t say I didn’t have a good laugh. We visited Lake Abiata where we saw Ostriches and falcons. Headed to Lake Langano; where we danced to some good music and some of us swam in the private pool and then we headed back to Addis Ababa.  Even though we had one meeting  we still had an amazing time.

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The meetings, interviews and questions continued and by Wednesday we were rounding off and took a day off to visit the market; I was often referred to as Habesha (which is equally known as Abyssinians, a group of people in Ethiopia). Going by what I saw and what I’ve heard Ethiopians are good-looking; now I’ve this wide grin on my face if you understand what I’m trying to say. And by Thursday we had our last fun by visiting the Ethiopian Cultural Centre. I think that was the climax of the visit for two reasons; the local food that is popular is Injera and I had eaten it a few years ago in Nigeria and didn’t quite like it, tried it again in a restaurant for dinner and I wasn’t convinced again but this cultural centre raised the bar. There was something different of their own Injera; it tasted better and I learnt a few lessons. Never write off anything in a hurry, look at the current president of Nigeria he had contested for the office of the president on 3 occasions and lost and still tried again, yes my experience is food, his is political and yours could be anything. Secondly I had the dance of my life with the entertainers; I have a huge smile just thinking of that night.

We finally packed our bags and headed to the airport Friday night; let’s just say the whole experience wanted to ruin a great trip. We had a flight delay of 4 hours in Ethiopia, 2 – 3 hours in Istanbul and finally arrived without our luggage; talk of Murphy’s law but everything is awesome. We got them a few days after, we’ve all written our essays on different topics; gotten the scores with the feedback. Regardless of our individual performance I can say it was an experience of a life time. We were able to see Africa through a different lens for those who haven’t been to Africa before and for those who are Africans could draw some parallels with their home country. I can say beyond the stereotype associated with Africa; there’s a lot that is not been reported in the media. You may not be opportuned to make a trip like mine but you can educate yourself and never limit yourself to just one opinion. Research from different sources and ask questions where necessary.

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Enter Ethiopia: Africa Study Visit 2015, The Gallery

[See blog post part 1 & part 2]

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National Museum of Ethiopia.
National Museum of Ethiopia.
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Lion of Judah Monument

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Seen on road barricade across entrance to Yeka Guest House.
Seen on road barricade across from Yeka Guest House.
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Meeting with the Federal Minister for Education His Excellency Ato Shiferaw Shigutie
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Meeting regional administration in Hawassa
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The streets of Addis Ababa
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Meeting with regional administration in Hawassa
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Final dinner with students at IPSS
Having an ‘Adbar’ in the garden
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Dinner at the guesthouse
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The night the two men cooked for the ladies
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St Gabriel Church, Hawassa

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Enter Ethiopia: Africa Study Visit 2015, Part 2

[Image: Preparing for departure to Addis Ababa from Turkey]

Andrea Alvord is a student in the University of Bradford’s African Peace and Conflict Studies Master’s programme.  She is a native of Zimbabwe and a naturalised US citizen.  She graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with a B.A. in English and was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy, where she served for eleven years prior to returning to the world of academia. 

[Part 1 of this series can be found here and the photo gallery here]

In the weeks of class meetings leading up to our departure for Ethiopia, the students and leaders of the African Study Visit discussed how Ethiopia is or is not the exception in Africa. The country is unique in both its history and current ethnic-federal government structure. Europeans never colonized Ethiopia, although not for lack of effort. The Ethiopian Army defeated the Italians in the Battle of Adwa in 1896, a point of immense national Ethiopian (and pan-African) pride. The Italians returned for five years during World War II and reminders of their occupation are found across the country from supermarket shelves flush with pasta, to the merkato (famous as the largest market on the continent), Addis Ababa’s piazzas, and the incongruous sight of a coffee shop quality espresso machine in a tiny tin shack on a dirt path next to Lake Hawassa. One of my Italian classmates who was not part of the study visit had referred to Ethiopia as “our colony” and I hastily corrected (or should I say, educated) him!

His comment proved salient as the question of “who’s history?” repeated throughout the trip. If we were speaking of Ethiopian history in general, did it include the lowland groups that Emperor Menelik the First had brought into the territory during the great expansion and who now make up most of the country’s 70 plus (the number varies depending on the source) “nations, nationalities, and peoples”, or did it privilege the Ethiopian highlanders? Did the highlanders, in effect, colonize the lowlanders? Contemporarily, we also wondered how ethnic-federalism was working. Is the system creating more opportunities for conflict or is it bringing peace? When almost all African countries have seemed to embrace Samora Machel’s motto that “for the nation to live, the tribe must die,” the Ethiopians have turned it upside down, prioritizing their “ethnic” differences over their Ethiopian-ness.

While only there for two weeks, we met and spoke with a wide variety of people: from government ministers, to civil society leaders, political opposition candidates, regional council members, federal police, street vendors, journalists, researchers, NGO workers, and our indispensable student liaisons from Addis Ababa University’s Institute for Peace and Security Studies who provided us with exceptional and intimate insight to our many, many questions. It is not a robust survey, but everyone we spoke with seemed to favor the ethnic-federal structure, although many commented that it “works better on paper.” The older generation emphasized that they had not been allowed to speak their home languages under the communist Derg regime and they praised the current system and the efforts of the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) government to honor the country’s many diverse cultures.

Ethiopia is a fascinating country and though similar in certain aspects considered typical of Africa, it is indeed an exception on the continent. This study visit was only the start of a process of peeling back the country’s complex layers. In this short space, I cannot even touch on Ethiopia’s policies as a developmental state; its history of political repression; civil society legislation; the fact that several Ethiopians referred to it as “the capital of Africa”; it is the home of the Rastafarians; and perhaps what we found most surprising and remarkable – that Addis Ababa has an amazing collection (thousands plus) of classic VW Beetles that we saw driving all over the city! Ultimately, the trip left us with more questions than it answered and different questions than we had going into it! From beginning to end, the study visit was a remarkable experience and I must thank Sara Njeri (now Doctor Njeri!) for her dedicated work in setting up and managing logistics (especially her diplomacy with the bus driver!) and Dr. David Harris for shepherding this little flock of students as we applied classroom theories to the real world. Namasiganalen! (Thank you all!)

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[Image: ASV group visiting Hawassa at the Rift Valley where they met with the Regional Administration]

Enter Ethiopia: Africa Study Visit 2015, Part 1

[Image: Lion of Judah Monument in Addis Ababa]

Dr. David Harris is a Lecturer in African Studies at the University of Bradford. In addition to leading the Africa Study Visit programme, he has also recent published Sierra Leone: A Political History

[Part 2 of this series can be found here and the photo gallery here]

The latest in a long line of Africa Study Visits (ASV) took us this year to a new destination for the ASV: Ethiopia. Somewhere between 10 and 20 MA students have undertaken the ASV to countries such as Sierra Leone (2008 and 2014), Liberia (2013) and Rwanda (2011 and 2012). This year a party of 14 – myself as Academic Leader, Sarah Njeri, the Coordinator, and 12 students – flew out to Addis Ababa in February. And we came back much more the wiser two weeks later.

The ASV goes every year to an African post-conflict country and the choice of the country is decided bearing in mind language and security priorities. The main objective of the ASV is to allow students to broaden and deepen their understanding and practical experience of the complexities involved in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa. A themed schedule is put together where students meet and interview government ministers, security officials, society leaders, domestic and international civil society activists and staff, academics and, very importantly, other students. Our mantra is that it has been a particularly successful visit if everyone comes home with more questions than when they left.

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[Image: The ASV group with the Federal Minister for  Education His Excellency Ato Shiferaw Shigutie]

In Ethiopia, we stayed most of the time in Addis and met with, amongst many others, the Minister of Education, the police, the African Union which is headquartered in Addis, opposition politicians, local NGOs, Western donors, and postgraduate students from the University of Addis Ababa. At the weekend, we went down into the Rift Valley to Hawassa, where we met with the Regional Administration and spent some earned leisure time at three different lakes, including Lake Abijata with its thousands of pink flamingos. We were accompanied almost all of the time by two postgraduate students who were a mine of information for us and who became very much part of the team.

Amongst all this activity, it is of great concern that there is a daily forum for just ourselves to discuss findings, experiences, concerns and thoughts of the day and to relate these to theoretical frameworks and comparisons elsewhere. This forum has previously been named after local fora for discussion – for instance, the Palaver Hut in Liberia – and in Ethiopia, we duly inaugurated the Adbar. For at least an hour every day, this became our open discussion time before we went for a shared dish of injera (the Ethiopian staple) and sauces accompanied by tej (Ethiopian honey wine), a Sudanese feast, or a bowl of pasta.

It is not always easy to get along all the time, particularly when faced with what are often new experiences and what are always new and difficult intellectual challenges. This group, made up of nine nationalities, and twelve women and two men, emerged unscathed – despite being delayed by snow and losing our luggage in Istanbul on the way home – and we even managed to have two nights of communal cooking, one of which was prepared by the two males in the part….

Indeed, my thanks go to everyone for an enjoyable ASV.