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Posts Tagged ‘Ethiopia’

The African Union at 50

May 27th, 2013 No comments
An African Union billboard outside the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia featuring the four main languages of the international body- Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An African Union billboard outside the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia featuring the four primary languages of the international body- Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- While it’s memorial day here in the United States, this past Saturday it was the 50th anniversary of the African Union [formerly the Organization of African Unity until 2001]. I visited the AU/OAU’s original headquarters in 2011in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the hectic melée’s of Egypt, Libya and Bahrain when I needed a bit of a break.Upon reading of the AU’s 50th anniversary festivities, I thought a short photo essay was in order.

I initially ventured to the AU’s grounds from my hotel on Churchill Road to try and gather information on the possible creation of Jubaland astatelet  in southwestern Somalia as well as the doings of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Dolo Odo refugee camp on the Somali border. But I quickly discovered that a Chinese government construction outfit was building a gleeming new AU conference hall and tower on the adjoining lot which captured my attention.

An Ogadeni woman exits the Chinese government's construction of the new African Union complex on April 13, 2011. Just after I took this photo the Chinese man in the pink shirt ordered an Ethiopian security guard at the site to wrest my camera from me because he deemed it forbidden to take photos of the Chinese foremen and engineers. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An Ogadeni woman exits the Chinese government’s construction of the new African Union complex on April 13, 2011. Just after I took this photo the Chinese man in the pink shirt ordered an Ethiopian security guard at the site to wrest my camera from me because he deemed it forbidden to take photos of the Chinese foremen and engineers. Fortunately for myself, the burly security man had no clue how to erase the flash card on my Olympus DSLR ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the China State COnstruction Engineering Corporation builds the new African Union conference center, goat herders push their flocks past. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the China State COnstruction Engineering Corporation builds the new African Union conference center, goat herders push their flocks past. Despite the vast poverty surrounding the Chinese project, Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated: “China, its amazing reemergence and its commitments for a win-win partnership with Africa is one of the reasons for the beginning of the African renaissance.” ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Despite being adjacent to war ravaged Somalia, the then coming partition of north and south SUdan, and and hermetic Eritrea, the AU's Situation Room was a dim office of tranquility in the comparative safety of the Ethiopian capital. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Despite being adjacent to war ravaged Somalia, the then coming partition of north and south SUdan, and and hermetic Eritrea-not to mention the rest of the conflicts spread across the continent, the AU’s Situation Room was a dim office of tranquility in the comparative safety of the Ethiopian capital. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In the courtyard of the original AU headquarters before the Chinese project was completed in 2012. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In the courtyard of the original AU headquarters before the Chinese project was completed in 2012 stands a monument for the 25th anniversary of the OAU as it was then called in 1988. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A poster promoting the AU's peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. ©2011 Derek Henry Flod

A poster promoting the AU’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. ©2011 Derek Henry Flod

As the AU's new tower took shape over Addis Ababa's low rise skyline dotted with corrugated aluminum shacks coated in red dust. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the AU’s new tower took shape over Addis Ababa’s low rise skyline dotted with corrugated aluminum shacks coated in red dust, the contrast between Chinese influence and African ground realities never seemed more stark. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

 

TWD Inside Free Syria

January 31st, 2012 No comments

Man vs War. I was so ill prepared for this trek. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Antakya- I have a new article out in today’s edition of Asia Times Online on my journey into rebel-held northern Syria. In over a decade of jihads, war zones and civil unrest, I think this was the most difficult thing I have ever accomplished in terms of logistics. My entire body is shot and at one point repelling down a muddy mountainside I slipped into a coil of concertina wire that my amazing fixer and smuggler had to rescue me from. Then while attempting to sprint through an Assadist free fire zone, I got trapped in mud so thick it might as well have been quicksand. On the way back I had to trek through pitch black forest that we lit with cell phones to try and find our way. For some reason we hiked back to Turkey a different way than we came in which was totally disorienting. We linked arms and forded a very fast moving icy river that was nearly waist deep lit by the moon while screaming “takbir” and the corresponding “allahu akbar” to steel our resolve.

At that point my mind went into a trance-like state bent on pure survival. Then when I got back to the comfort of my hotel room in Antakya and collapsed on my bed, I stared at the ceiling and thought that I did this for one day and the rebels of Free Syrian Army live this way everyday. Hard to contemplate. I’ll be going back to the West in a couple of days (where I will be speaking at the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers Winter Seminar outside Köln) and there is no way anyone can relate to what I’ve just experienced.

In other news, TWD was quoted in a Global Post article titled “African Union Looks East” about the inauguration of China’s gaudy new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which I reported on last year. Even that relatively innocent story ended up in a violent encounter when a paranoid Chinese government foreman ordered a hulking Ethiopian security guard to grab my camera and delete the contents of my flash card. They were unsuccessful due to my cunning.

Do They Know It’s Christmas Time? Feed the World…

December 24th, 2011 No comments

New York-Last night some bar fly friends and I were screaming this tune on a freezing Brooklyn sidewalk at some ungodly hour. None of us could come close to remembering the full lyrics. “Snow in Africa….do they know it’s Christmas time at all…the other ones…” Earlier this year, taking a bit of a break from the revolutionary Arab world, I spent some time in Ethiopia, a place that had occupied my imagination…well…since this Band Aid video. Twenty-seven years after Bob Geldof and co tried to save rural Ethiopians from  Mengistu Haile Mariam’s vile Marxist Derg junta, plenty of people in the Ethiopian highlands still depend on food aid from the developed world.

I visited the lauded rock hewn churches of Lalibela and was almost more taken aback by the sprawling feeding center just outside of the little town that I wandered into. Ethiopia has obviously come a long way since the Derg’s civil war era but Meles Zenawi is certainly no saint and Isaias Afewerki is just plain crazy it seems (Note: the two big men are cousins). Ethiopia’s stalemated conflict with Eritrea, its lack of any port, military adventures in Somalia, and being located in an all around unstable neighborhood has kept most kinds of development at bay (save for communist China as of late). Come on Meles and Isaias, don’t you guys know it’s Christmas time at all??

A child looks through a barbed wire enclosure around a feeding station in Lalibela. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A young highlander queues up for a dispersement of food staples to make it through the hunger season. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A Kalashnikov-laden security man tries to keep order as wheat is off-loaded outside the feeding center. To me this image represents a classic juxtaposition Some sort of "guns and butter" situation. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Wheat handouts are then packed onto waiting mules and transported to the surrounding villages at dusk. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The immediate hillsides in the area appeared completely denuded and locals had to climb higher and higher to collect firewood. Rural environmental degradation writ large. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New Horn of Africa Article Out

April 29th, 2011 No comments

New York- The fruits of my intellectual East African labors came to bear and my Jubaland article is out in this week’s edition of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor. Though it may appear to be a concise, quiet analysis, a lot of shoe leather went into the production of this piece, not to mention a decent sunburn or two in the thin air of the Ethiopian capital. I must say, after having returned stateside two weeks ago now, I desperately miss my daily helpings of injera, the oddly (at first anyway) delectable Ethiopian national dish. A young Ethiopian-American kid I met in Lalibela told me how I would be in great shape after the combination of high altitude walking and zero fat, zero preservative food. Unfortunately, I am sure I am back to me old habits after multiple trips to some of my favorite DC and NYC eateries and drinkeries since I’ve been back.

Just cranked out yet another issue of Militant Leadership Monitor, should be another great issue. I will post a plug for that when we go live with it. I’ve also added two Wikileaks links along the right side of this page-that connecting to the Guantánamo files and that connecting to the Cablegate Cable Viewer. Take a look.

In other, more dire news, Syria still seems to be burning in it’s own self imposed Hades. Aside from sanctions and further isolation, the internationals are powerless to stop al-Assad from smashing the Syrian people as protests are now reported in all corners of the country-including Qamishle in the very vulnerable northeastern pocket of Syrian Kurdistan.

Latakia, Syria at dusk. Taken from the roof of my hotel en route to the Lebanon war which would change my life. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A minaret in Latakia, Syria bellows the azan at dusk. I wonder what it must be like to be in revolutionary Syria now that the fear barrier has been breached.©2006 Derek Henry Flood

China in Africa

April 9th, 2011 No comments

The monitor in the African Union's Situation Room here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Addis Ababa- Crashed the African Union HQ here in Addis yesterday to do research on my next Jamestown article. Absolutely fascinating, rather quiet place. I just showed up at the front gate, which took me a bit to locate, handed them my California driver’s license which got me a visitor badge, and walked in and wandered around. I was looking for information on a certain volatile political situation in the region and stumbled into the AU’s Situation Room, a fascinating office with a large flatscreen monitor with live news feeds from all over the continent (and these days that’s a lot of information). But what was most notable was the glittering, massive new AU complex being constructed by the Chinese government in the neighboring lot. It was as if the Jamestown Foundation’s China in Africa conference had suddenly sprung to life.

This is Africa! Chinese government foreman, Ethiopian laborer. Total south-to-south globalization. D.C., do you see this? ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

After working on my story at the AU-and an AU representative telling me the Chinese were unrelenting in their pursuit of primacy in not only Ethiopia but in all of Africa-it became blatantly obvious that anywhere where the political space allowed them, the Chinese were ready to move in overnight. I snooped around a sprawling construction site that cast wide shadows over corrugated aluminum shanties. It felt like I was breathing in some globalization cliché but it was all too visceral. It looked to be a hideously cheap structure that was being built at a breakneck pace. Progress at any cost looks to be the Chinese model here in the Horn of Africa. Click here for a bit of Chinese propaganda on the whole operation.

Gift of the Chinese people to Africa? OK. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Down the backstreets. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In other TWD news, my last three destinations have not cooled off in the slightest. The Bahraini government grabbed another human rights activist in a night raid. Back in Cairo, the Egyptian army showed it is not as benevolent as many had thought as they raged during renewed protests calling for Mubarak and family to be tried. And in Libya, a group of journos, including a gal from Harvard I had socialized with on a few occasions, were captured by Qaddafist forces outside of Brega. Hope to god they are ok. Damn dangerous there. The fuse continues to burn. I’m off to Lalibela to explore the 12th century rock churches and expect to hassled by an army of touts. Should be fun. Been wanting to go there for about a decade.

This is how touts work their minibuses in Addis. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Lion of Judah. Jah! ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Looking at Bahrain from Ethiopia

April 6th, 2011 No comments

Addis Ababa- I’ve got a new article out on ATol today about political and sectarian repression in little Bahrain. Going to try and do a major road trip here to look into a Horn of Africa trans-border story and I have no clue whether it’ll even work but going to go for it anyway. According to the wikitravel entry for Addis, Ethiopia supposedly has the 4th worst internet connectivity in the world. Glad I read that AFTER arriving here! Loving this city though. Vive Jeune Afrique! Oh, and the coin that my editor Tony used in the graphic to the left, I am bidding on on Ebay! Funny…

I & I

April 5th, 2011 No comments

Addis Ababa- Finally made it down to sub-Saharan Africa after a completely sketchy 24 hour excursion to Bahrain to get a first-hand glimpse into the repression there-story forthcoming. The internet connectivity situation here in Addis does not seem so great and I came to the Sheraton just to use the wifi. I spent the first night in the Taitu Hotel, a classic old clap trap in a bit of a dodgy area and quickly switched to the Ras whose claim to fame is that Nelson Mandela once stayed there while on the run from South African authorities way back when. My first impression of Ethiopia is a place with a magnificent history and immense poverty in the present, though it has obviously come a long way since the dreadful images of the Derg era from my childhood. I suppose Ethiopia is sort of sub-Saharan Africa for beginners the way Cairo is a soft introduction to the Arab world for the uninitiated (in terms of safety, accessibility, tourism etc).