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  • Ethiopia’s star singer Teddy Afro makes plea for openness

    Teddy Afro, Ethiopia’s superstar singer, is topping the Billboard world albums chart with “Ethiopia,” which less than two weeks after its release has sold nearly 600,000 copies, a feat no other artist here has achieved.

    Known for the political statements he makes in his music, an infectious mix of reggae and Ethiopian pop, the 40-year-old Tewodros Kassahun told The Associated Press that raising political issues should not be a sin.

    Open debate “should be encouraged,” he said. “No one can be outside the influence of politics and political decisions.”

    Ethiopia is an unlikely place for an outspoken singer to thrive. The government is accused of being heavy-handed on opposing voices.

    During a visit this month, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed concern about the state of emergency imposed in October after months of deadly anti-government protests demanding wider freedoms. Opposition and human rights groups blame security forces for hundreds of deaths, but the government says they largely used “proportionate” measures.

    The human rights chief also criticized Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws, saying an “excessively broad” definition of terrorism may be misused against journalists and opposition members.

     

    In “Ethiopia,” the songs highlight the diversity of the country’s 100 million people while encouraging national unity. Pointing to Ethiopia’s formative role in launching the African Union continental body in 1963, Teddy said his country should find more cohesiveness at home.

    “A country that tried to bring Africans together is now unable to have a unified force and voice,” he said. “The tendency nowadays here in Ethiopia is to mobilize in ethnic lines, not ideas.”

    In his new album, Teddy sings mainly in Amharic but incorporates other local languages, which has been well-received by Ethiopians as a call for national unity.

    At the same time, some of his songs have been interpreted as carrying political messages against Ethiopia’s ruling elites, leading some fans to say his outspokenness has made him a target.

    In 2008, the singer was sentenced to two years in prison for a hit-and-run manslaughter but was released after 18 months in jail. He said he was never inside the car, and his fans suggested it was a politically motivated harassment by the ruling party. Hundreds of Ethiopians protested outside the court during his trial in the capital, Addis Ababa.

    Authorities also have frequently cancelled his concerts without explanation. “We have sustained a lot of damages. This is not right,” he said.

    Asked if he has any political ambitions, the singer said: “Let me continue doing what I’m doing now and we will see what the future holds for other things.”

     

     

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  • US issues warning after Ethiopia grenade attacks

    The United States issued a warning Thursday to its citizens about travelling to a popular tourist region in Ethiopia after a string of grenade attacks targeting hotels and homes.

    The US embassy in Addis Ababa said there had been four grenade blasts this month in Gondar, a city in the north known for its ancient castles.

    A popular stop on Ethiopia's tourist circuit, Gondar was also the scene of anti-government protests last year that led to the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency.

    "The embassy recommends US citizens carefully consider whether travel to Gondar is necessary at this time," the embassy said in a statement.

    A spokesman for Ethiopia's government had no immediate comment.

    While Ethiopia has enjoyed rapid economic growth in recent years and falling poverty rates, protests erupted in 2015 by communities disenchanted with the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

    Human rights groups say hundreds of people were killed and thousands arrested when security forces cracked down on the demonstrations.

    The unrest erupted in the central Oromo region near the capital and then spread to Amhara in the north, including Gondar.

    State-run Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported this month that Ethiopia's human rights commission had submitted a report to parliament saying 669 people were killed in last year's protests, along with 63 security officers.

    The unrest led parliament to declare a six-month state of emergency in October 2016, which was extended for another four months in March.

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  • Ethiopia: Lonely Planet Names Ethiopia Among Top Ten Destinations

    The largest travel guide-book publisher, Lonely Planet, cataloged Ethiopia among the top ten 2017 world tourist destinations.

    The travel publisher indicated that visitors would be overwhelmed by the beauty of country's scenery. It also highlighted the rewarding attractions: "Whether they [tourists] are trekking in the Semien Mountains to watch wildlife that roams nowhere else on Earth, climbing to a church carved into a remote cliff face in Tigray or boating across the serene waters of Lake Tana to visit an age-old monastery.

    The launch of new airline links in 2017 would make the country more accessible than ever and urges tourists to be one of the first to hop on board, it said.

    See more here

     

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  • Britain Gives £5 Million To The Ethiopian Spice Girls...

    UK taxpayers have picked up a new £5.2million bill to fund a talk show for Ethiopia's own Spice Girls.

    Yegna, a five-strong pop group, has been awarded a contract to develop its 'branded media platform', which also includes a radio drama and music.

    The foreign aid cash - which will keep the band going until at least 2018 - comes despite officials warning it may be a waste of money.

    Yegna's aim is to empower young women in the African country through music.

    In 2013 a Mail investigation from Ethiopia, which is one of the biggest recipients of British aid, revealed a UK-funded project named Girl Hub had provided £4million to help fund the group.

    Ethiopian critics at the time said it was enough money to run the Yegna initiative for 154 years.

    Then last year the Independent Commission on Aid Impact watchdog warned ministers to halt the project unless managers could show it was working.

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