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Feb 10, 2010

Ethiopian Airlines says sabotage not ruled out

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Ethiopian Airlines said on Wednesday it still believed sabotage may have caused the crash of one of its aircraft off Lebanon last month which killed all 90 people on board.

A source familiar with the investigation into the accident told Reuters on Tuesday the team concluded pilot error was to blame after examining the airliner’s flight recorders. [ID:nLDE61825Y]

"Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known," the company said in a statement, adding that media reports of pilot error were "speculative".

The Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut en route to Addis Ababa in stormy weather on Jan. 25.

The Lebanese Army said the plane had broken up in the air before plummeting into the sea. Witnesses described it as crashing in a ball of flame.

The airline said only the data recorder had been found.

"The cockpit voice recorder and the aircraft wreckage are not yet retrieved for analysis. It is therefore too early to conclude the cause of the accident," the company said.

A team of Lebanese, French and Ethiopian officials went to France on Monday to analyse the data recorder, or "black box".

Lebanese officials say the pilot failed to respond to the control tower’s instruction to change direction, even though he acknowledged the request.

The plane made an unexpected sharp turn before disappearing off the radar, the Lebanese transport minister said at the time.

The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check on Dec. 25 and no technical problems had been found.

Since retrieving the data recorder from the sea on Sunday, Lebanese and international search teams have located parts of the fuselage, where most of the bodies were believed trapped.

At least 23 bodies have been recovered so far. (Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Feb 8, 2010

No snow but Ethiopia’s ski hope is on a roll

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s only Olympic skier wheels down a suburban Addis Ababa street on his roller skis, expertly weaving around six donkeys and drawing stares from locals more used to watching runners train.

Robel Teklemariam went to the Turin Winter Olympics four years ago and came 84th out of about 100 cross-country skiers. Now the man whose dreadlocks and bright outfits drew stares in Italy has qualified for the Winter Games again.

Feb 7, 2010

Olympics-No snow but Ethiopia’s ski hope is on a roll

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s only Olympic skier
wheels down a suburban Addis Ababa street on his roller skis,
expertly weaving around six donkeys and drawing stares from
locals more used to watching runners train.

Robel Teklemariam went to the Turin Winter Olympics four
years ago and came 84th out of about 100 cross-country skiers.
Now the man whose dreadlocks and bright outfits drew stares in
Italy has qualified for the Winter Games again.

Feb 2, 2010

African group leader says "never again" to coups

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 2 (Reuters) – African Union leaders said on Tuesday they intended to strengthen the group’s powers to fight a rising tide of coups and electoral fraud on the continent.

"We must say ‘never again’ to conflict and war in Africa," Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, the new AU chairman, said on the last day of its annual summit in Addis Ababa.

Coups in Madagascar last March and in Mauritania and Guinea in 2008 — made some African politicians and international investors fear for a return to the days when revolts were a more regular occurrence on the continent.

The AU is expected to reveal its new measures by next week.

"We have all agreed on a new set of measures to combat unconstitutional changes of government," AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told Reuters.

"It will improve our ability to protect democracy."

Lamamra did not say what the measures would be but diplomats at the summit told Reuters they would include the ability to sanction leaders who refuse to hold elections or who engage in electoral fraud.

The summit was dominated by discussion of the coups and the festering conflicts in Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite a main theme of developing the continent’s information technology infrastructure.

"We must declare war on unconstitutional changes of government on African soil and resolve to take strong and necessary measures against all offenders of coups and those that provide them the means to succeed elected governments," wa Mutharika said.


The AU in 2002 replaced the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) in 2002, which had been criticised for welcoming dictators and coup leaders into its ranks.

The AU tried to distance itself from its predecessor by taking firmer action, including suspending membership and imposing sanctions on coup leaders.

But analysts say the AU is hampered by bureaucracy, under-funding and the fact that some member states are led by presidents who took power in coups.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — who came to power in a military coup in 1969 — was voted out as AU chairman this year. He frequently clashed with the AU’s top diplomat, Jean Ping, and refused to speak out against coup leaders.

The AU’s founding charter says it can impose sanctions such as travel bans in the case of coups but the proposals to be introduced will be more forceful.

Analysts say the move was inspired by Niger, where President Mamadou Tandja last year refused to hold an election, extended his mandate for three years and increased his presidential powers at the expense of parliament.

Niger remains a member and Tandja has not been sanctioned.

"There are questionable leaders accepted into the AU," a Western ambassador to the AU, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

"But they’re from the past, like Zimbabwe’s (Robert) Mugabe. They’re now genuinely freezing out new coup leaders."

Of the countries that have had coups in recent years, Madagascar and Guinea are still suspended from the AU. Mauritania is still a member because the body says that "constitutional order has been restored".

Lead AU diplomat Ping said there would be unspecified consequences for parties that ignore AU power-sharing proposals as a means of solving Madagascar’s political impasse. They have been given 15 days to accept.

The body has demanded elections in Guinea within six months. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Michael Roddy)

Feb 2, 2010

Q+A-What is the African Union and what does it do?

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Leaders from around the continent are gathered in Ethiopia’s capital for an African Union (AU) summit. Below are some questions and answers about the organisation:


The AU emerged from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was established in 1963 with a charter signed by 32 countries in Addis Ababa. The OAU was considered a bit of an "old dictator’s club" by many in Africa and was criticised for not acting against coup plotters. The AU replaced the OAU in 2002 with 51 members and said it was going to work for closer political integration among African countries. It has set about distancing itself from the OAU by often suspending coup leaders.


It was developed along the lines of the European Union and has ten commissioners overseeing departments including political affairs, agriculture and peace and security. Its founding charter mandates it to work for "democracy, human rights and development", while it also promotes investment in the continent and sends peacekeepers to troublespots.

Its first military intervention in a member state was the May 2003 deployment in Burundi of a peacekeepers from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique. When that mission ended, Burundi became a contributor to AU peacekeeping forces.

The AU also sent peacekeepers into Sudan’s Darfur region in 2004 and, at its height, that force was 7,000 strong. It was replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping mission at the end of 2007.

The AU currently has 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops under almost constant attack in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, and is struggling to beef up that besieged force.


This question is debatable. The AU often has trouble mustering enough troops for its peacekeeping missions. It is also massively underfunded, with many of its desperately poor members never paying their annual dues.

But analysts say it has grown teeth in recent years, suspending countries that have suffered coups, sending envoys to mediate between governments and rebels and genuinely promoting investment. Although its AMISOM peacekeepers in Somalia are under serious pressure, they are the only thing preventing the Horn of Africa’s U.N.-backed government from falling.


This is personal mission of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and has been talked about at AU summits for years. Most analysts think it is a laudable vision — but a laughable prospect — for a continent with myriad small civil wars and rebellions to deal with. The AU was founded with the longer-term goal of total political union, and most African leaders say they support the idea in principle. But some countries, normally led by South Africa and Ethiopia, have fiercely contested discussion of the possibility and say that it would infringe on their sovereignty.


Africa’s long-running conflicts in Sudan and Somalia, coups in Madagascar last year and in 2008 in Guinea and Mauritania — will be high on the agenda. The leaders will also discuss the continent’s under-developed technological infrastructure and may launch plans to improve internet access. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Noah Barkin)

Feb 2, 2010

Journalist jailed for criticising Ethiopian PM: CPJ

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 2 (Reuters) – An Ethiopian journalist has
been jailed for one year for writing a newspaper article
disagreeing with the country’s prime minister, a U.S.-based
press freedom watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Horn of Africa country holds national elections in May
and international rights groups say the government is cracking
down on dissent ahead of the poll. The government denies that.

Feb 1, 2010
via Africa News blog

Gaddafi tries to steal show at African Summit. Again


Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been stealing the show at African Union summits for years now. With theatrical – sometimes bizarre – entrances, rambling, grandiose speeches and his well-known penchant for dressing up, Gaddafi has gobbled up media coverage and bemused his fellow leaders.

But he probably wasn’t expecting what happened yesterday when he introduced two traditional African “kings” to speak to the assembled African leaders. Peals of laughter started to ring around the room. It began when he made the announcement and it continued as they spoke. It seems that some African delegates have begun to consider the continent’s longest serving leader ridiculous. And aren’t afraid to show it.

Feb 1, 2010
via Africa News blog

Why is the world ignoring Somalia?


I’m blogging from the African Union’s annual summit in Addis Ababa and can see the Somali delegation from where I’m sitting. They’re mingling right now, cups of coffee and croissants in hand, pressing the flesh and smiling and joking with leaders and ministers from all over the continent and beyond. Delegates are responding warmly to the men who represent a government hemmed into only a few streets of the capital Mogadishu as they fight an increasingly vicious Islamist rebellion.

But you get the sense the other delegates are responding so warmly to compensate for something: The fact that the Somalis are here looking for help and nobody is really willing to stick their neck out and give it to them.

Jan 31, 2010

African summit hears world ignoring Somalia crisis

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The worsening crisis in Somalia is as big a threat to global security as Afghanistan but is being ignored by the world, delegates told an African Union summit on Sunday.

Somalia’s U.N.-backed transitional government is fighting an Islamist insurgency and has been hemmed into a few streets of the capital Mogadishu.

Jan 31, 2010

Gaddafi chides African Union after leadership change

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, failing in his bid to stay on as chairman of the African Union for another year, said on Sunday the pan-African grouping wasted time while failing to meet global challenges.

On the first day of a summit in Addis Ababa, Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika was selected to succeed Gaddafi, even though diplomats said Gaddafi was seeking another term.

    • About Barry

      "Irish journalist who has lived in the Horn and east Africa since 2006 - first in Ethiopia, then in Uganda - covering politics, elections, society, culture and economics across the region. I have also worked for Reuters in Tunisia, Iraq and Libya and was part of the team that dominated coverage of Muammar Gaddafi's killing. Always welcome a good chat over on Twitter: @malonebarry"
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