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UAE and Saudi Arabia will release thousands of Ethiopian prisoners


All Ethiopian nationals being held in jails in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are due to be released soon. This decision follows a meeting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi over the weekend. 

PM Abiy crossed to UAE after what government said was a successful visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – his first trip outside of the continent. In Dubai as in Riyadh, the two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest and looked at ways to better strengthen bilateral relations. Whiles in Saudi, PM Abiy also secured the release of 1000 Ethiopian prisoners – comprising 900 men and 100 women. Close to 700 of that contingent have since been flown back to Addis Ababa.

The decision was made after a request by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was in Riyadh on an official two-day visit that ended on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian nationals live in the Gulf region, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

More than 1,000 Ethiopian prisoners freed by Saudi Arabia have already returned home.

The Ministry of Foreign affairs, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), transported the returnees to their families.

Recently, the government of Sudan released about 1,400 Ethiopian prisoners following the visit of the Premier to that country.

PM Abiy Ahmed addresses crowds at Gambella Stadium

As part of his national tour, PM Abiy Ahmed travelled to Gambella regional state last weekend, where he addressed residents of the city of Gambella and its environs gathered at the Gambella Stadium.

Speaking to the crowds, he said the rest of Ethiopians always remember the sacrifice paid by residents of the regional state for the sovereignty of the country. After praising the residents for guarding border areas, the Premier pledged to provide the necessary support for their efforts.  He further called on the residents to maintain their commitment to the unity and sovereignty of the country. Peace should prevail first to carry out development activities and expand investment in the region, he said, adding the federal government, in partnership with the regional state, will do to this end.

PM Dr Abiy further said the federal government would provide support for the protection of the UNESCO-registered forest protected areas of the regional state.

During a discussion with representatives of the residents, the Premier said his government would do more to alleviate problems of good governance, infrastructure and unemployment in the regional state.

He also called on natives of the regional state to come to their country of origin from abroad and contribute their share to the development of the region.

Attorney General to Sue Dutch Company Over Teff Patent

The Ethiopian government has delegated the Office of the Attorney General (AG) to file charges at the International Court of Arbitration against the Dutch Company that patented teff grain.

Getahun Mekuria, minister of Science and Technology (MoST) told Members of Parliament that all the efforts to settle the longstanding disputes with the Dutch company – Health and Performance Food International (HPFI) – bore no result.

According to him, Ethiopia has sought justice that would nullify the patent rights over teff grain the company has registered in five countries.

“Over the past nine months, extensive efforts have been carried out to reclaim Ethiopia’s patent right for its teff grain. However, the Ministry has finally come to the decision that there is no any alternative way other than seeking justice through courts to acquire Ethiopia’s patent right.”

According to Getahun, the unfortunate negotiation result prompted the government to give the Office of the AG the green light to take the matter to an international tribunal. He added that all the required documents and pieces of evidence have also been submitted to the AG.

Since the past decade, the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) – along with other local and international partners – undertook various efforts to claim the patent right through negotiations, public campaign and using legal means. A committee was also created at the national level with the aim of pursuing the restoration of teff patent rights. However, the issue did not get a solution until now.

Nevertheless, the Dutch company unilaterally secured patent rights of the grain’s products in the Netherlands and currently; Italy, Britain, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands are five of the nations that have recognised HPFI with the patent rights to sell teff in the form of flour or cake.

Teff – being a gluten-amino acid-free grain – is in high demand in the world. Having anticipated a rise in its demand in future years; experts have been urging Ethiopia to utilise the opportunity and benefit from the world market by ensuring its patent right.

But the Dutch company’s transgressions were reportedly a violation of an agreement on access to teff genetic resources it entered back in 2005 with the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization to enjoy a fair and equitable share of benefits derived from the use of teff grain.

The agreement reserves any intellectual property right over teff varieties and any related traditional knowledge of the teff-farming local communities of Ethiopia. Yet any plant variety protections were to be owned by the company and Ethiopia.

Nevertheless, after the agreement, the company reportedly took some measures contrary to the terms of the agreement, and since 2007, the company cut all communications with Ethiopian authorities.

Similarly, The Netherlands government was accused in a report for failing on its international obligations by not regulating its company’s monopolistic activities over Ethiopia’s teff.

It is believed that Ethiopia is the first country to domesticate the teff grain across its highlands between 4,000 BC and 1,000 BC.

This article initially was published on The Reporter

Ethiopian tourism destinations are gaining momentum in Benelux countries

Over the past three years, the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels has been actively promoting Ethiopian tourism destinations and attractions by participating in holiday fairs and organising tourism events. This article was originally published in the 10th issue (April 2018) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels.

Over the past three years, the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels has been actively promoting Ethiopian tourism destinations in Benelux and Baltic countries, in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines in Brussels (EAL), the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO) and the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association (ETOA). Considering the European public’s habit of visiting holiday fairs to discover future travel destinations, the Embassy took the lead in coordinating various Ethiopian tourism stakeholders to take part in major holiday fairs in the Benelux Countries. A significant number of people were able to discover the country’s rich culture and natural beauty through such events.

On each occasion, the elaborate Ethiopian stands, in addition to the traditional music, dances and coffee ceremony never failed to catch the eyes of intrigued visitors. By stopping at the stand, visitors not only obtained practical information about the country but also experienced the hospitality of Ethiopia by enjoying a warm cup of coffee while sitting on a traditional stool, surrounded by the aroma of Ethiopian roasted coffee beans.

A new image for the country

A key moment for European visitors is to discover the reality of a country that is miles away from the barren land described in the 1980s. After broadening their knowledge, most visitors conclude that Ethiopia is a must-see destination and inevitably ask the same question: “When the best season to visit Ethiopia?”. Tour operators and Ethiopian Airlines play a crucial role in providing information on Ethiopia’s tourism destinations and flight details. Over time, holiday fairs have also become a platform where Europeans travellers who have visited Ethiopia to share their testimonies. It is not rare for them to express their intention to visit Ethiopian again. The Embassy has worked tirelessly to make use of this crucial platform to showcase Ethiopia as a must-see touristic destination in Africa offering a uniquely rich culture and endowed with the awe-inspiring natural scenery.

Many factors have played a role in the constantly increasing number of tourists visiting Ethiopia, such as its stability and its dynamic economic development. The growing interest of European media also played a positive role in placing Ethiopia as an important cultural touristic destination in Africa. More and more journalists are visiting Ethiopia to film documentaries or write articles about the country. In parallel, Ethiopia has caught the attention of several bloggers and travel magazines. For instance, the Daily Mail vaunted the beauty of Ethiopia in an article titled “Forget sunny Spain, enchanting Thailand and the romance of France: Ethiopia is named ‘World’s Best Tourism Destination.” Thanks to their reporting and testimonies, the image of Ethiopia of the 80s is beginning to fade away from popular memory.

Recent holiday fairs

The Embassy’s efforts would not have succeeded without the active support of Ethiopian Airlines Benelux Area Office. The national carrier is connecting Africa to the world thanks to its flights to 56 cities in Africa, to 18 Europe & America destinations and 26 terminals in Gulf countries, the Middle East & Asia. The Airline has always been a part of the Embassy’s efforts in promoting the new tourism brand dubbed ‘Ethiopia Land of Origins’ in several tourism events organised in the past. Mr Bisrat Tedla, manager of EAL Brussels, has made a valuable contribution towards promoting Ethiopia in the Benelux countries. The Embassy has been playing a major role in facilitating the participation of several Ethiopian tour operators through active engagements with the respective organizers of the fairs. So far this year, the participation of Ethiopian tourism stakeholders to the holiday fair of Brussels (Salon des vacances) and of Luxembourg (Vacanz) has been widely successful. The Brussels holiday fair was marked by a stand designed to replicate the Church of Lalibela, while the traditional coffee ceremony got the attention of Belgian RTL TV channel and several other journalists and bloggers. Similarly, Ethiopia’s participation to the Vakanz Tourism Fair of Luxembourg included cultural performances by the Ethiopian Diaspora in Luxembourg and the Luxemburger Wort daily featured Ethiopia’s stand in its front page dedicated to the fair.

Major tourism promotional event in Ghent

More significantly, the Ethiopian Embassy organized a workshop on tourism on 13 March 2018 in close collaboration with the University of Ghent and Koombana Bay Tourism Marketing & Communication Agency. Over 19 Ethiopian tour operators and Ethiopian officials lead by H.E. Meaza G/Medhin, State Minister for Tourism, took part to the event for the first time. The workshop also served a platform to establish a Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Government (B2G) links, as it has brought together over 150 Destination Management Companies, Tour Operators, journalists and bloggers from Belgium and the Netherlands. After welcoming remarks by Ambassador Ewnetu Blata, charge d’affaires at the Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels, and an opening speech of H.E. Meaza G/Medhin which gave an insight about the development of Ethiopia’s tourism sector to attendees. The Acting CEO of the ETO, Yechale Mihret, and Area Manager of the EAL (Benelux Area Office) presented several Ethiopian tourism attractions and the flight destinations of EAL. ETOA’s Representative, Mr Desale Mitiku mentioned the untapped tourism potential of the country and underscored that visiting Ethiopia is like visiting three countries at the same time due to the country’s long and rich history, unique nature and incredible cultural diversity.

Later, ample time was given for networking opportunities resulting in fruitful connections among the participants. The workshop also contributed in promoting the Ethiopian culture as were offered Ethiopian authentic food by Toukoul Restaurant (Brussels), were entertained with a coffee ceremony and Washint Music (an Ethiopian traditional instrument similar to flute) and an exhibition of Ethiopian traditional costumes and crafts organized by Mrs Tezerash Asfaw-an, a prominent member of the diaspora in Belgium. In a nutshell, this tourism event was successful as it brought together all the key stakeholders in tourism and the European public to scale up the flow of tourism to Ethiopia.


PM Abiy Ahmed arrives in Saudi Arabia

At the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed has arrived in Saudi Arabia today for an official working visit.

During his first visit to the Middle East, the Ethiopian Premier will meet with Saudi officials to discuss on bilateral and continental issues.

Saudi Arabia is among the first countries which sent congratulatory messages to Dr Abiy on his election as Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Previously, the premier had visited Djibouti, Kenya, and Sudan.

Ethiopia’s diplomatic network is expanding


As part of a move to enhance its diplomatic role at the international fora, Ethiopia is to open two embassies.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, preparations have been finalised to open the embassies in The Hague in Europe and Tanzania in Africa.

The Ministry revealed this while presenting yesterday its nine-month performance report to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR).

During the past nine months, the Country has opened an embassy in Indonesia to boost its market destinations and attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Asia, said Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A total of eight honorary consuls were also appointed in Paris, Azerbaijan, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Singapore, South Korea and Calgary.

In order to increase the flow of FDI, the Ministry has invited 64 big companies from Asia, Europe, Middle East and other parts of the world to visit Ethiopia, the Minister indicated.

About 22 companies specialised in leather and leather products, textile and apparel, construction and other sectors have also started production during the past nine months, according to the Minister.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan resolve their differences over key issues

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have managed to resolve differences on key issues regarding the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD).

 The countries have managed to reach consensus on issues that stalled the negotiation in the tripartite meeting which held on Tuesday 15 May in Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the issues that the three countries have reached consensus yesterday are in accordance with the national interest of Ethiopia.

 The consensus reached on the establishment of an independent team to study the filling of the GERD reservoir and operating the dam is a major success. The agreement is a step forward for Ethiopia that has been insisting on the need to resolve difference jointly without the involvement of a third party.

 Egypt had been insisting for an involvement of a third party in the negotiation, which Ethiopia and Sudan had strongly opposed. The issue has been discussed for more than a year due to this.

The three countries have now reached agreement on the issue, as Egypt changed its view in this regard. Accordingly, a team that consists of five individuals from each country will be established to study the filling and operating of the dam.

 Another issue that stalled the negotiation was Egypt’s refusal to accept queries and concern from Ethiopia and Sudan on the terms of reference presented by the consultant firm.

However, the three countries have resolved this difference in yesterday’s meeting.

They agreed to present any of their query and concern through the tripartite technical committee in an organized manner to the firm.

They also agreed to discuss the responses of the consultant in their upcoming meeting.

Holding a high-level meeting at the level of the leaders twice a year in each country is among the agreed points.

They are also agreed to meet in Cairo at the beginning of June to discuss the framework that would allow the establishment of a joint infrastructure fund.

The final document is expected to be presented to the leaders in order to be approved.

Ethiopia has been discussing with the downstream countries to reach agreement on the time that should take to fill the dam without harming those countries and ways of presenting queries and concern on the intended studies.

The countries have managed their differences in yesterday’s meeting that continued until midnight.

 In his concluding remarks, Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister expressed happiness over the agreement, as the issues that have been stalled for a long period of time are solved.

 He also expressed hope that the agreement would strengthen the people-to-people relations between the countries.

 Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on his part said the meeting was conducted in a spirit of brotherhood and transparent way. He appreciated Ethiopia for its efforts towards reaching consensus.

 Sudanese Water Minister Mutaz Musa said that the meeting is unique as they are managed to resolve their differences following extensive discussions held for more than a year.

 He added that the achievement displayed that the countries can manage to narrow their differences without the involvement of a third party.

Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed today wished all Muslims a happy Ramadan.

The month of Ramada is unique as it concurs with peace, love, kindness, unity and other several religious values, the Premier said in his message.

“I strongly believe that Ramadan will be a month in which you pray for peace, unity and prosperity of Ethiopia,” said Prime Minister Dr Abiy.

As a month of fasting, Ramadan will give us an opportunity to carry out practical activities that are beneficial for the country and the people.

Accordingly, “during this month of fasting, I urge you to pray as usual for peace and uphold Ethiopian’s age-long history of living in harmony,” he added.

The Premier finally wished all Muslims a peaceful and happy Ramadan.

The holy month of Ramadan will start tomorrow.

IGAD Council of Ministers meet Machar in a bid to expedite South Sudan’s Peace Process

The IGAD Council of ministers met and discussed today in Pretoria with Dr Rieck Machar, Chair of SPLM/IO on moving forward the South Sudanese Peace process.
The council members led by Ms Hirut Zemene, State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia was composed of State ministers of Somalia Abdulqadir, Kenya Ababu Namwamba, and the Sudan Mohammed Idris.
The group also discussed, in the spirit of the Council communique of 26 March, on the possibilities of moving Dr Machar out of South Africa to the country of his preference.
The meeting is part of the Shuttle diplomacy by the IGAD council to bridge the gap between the parties to the peace forum -HLRF. The HLRF will reopen on May 17, 2018, in Addis Ababa. It is to be recalled that the Council members also went to Juba recently to conduct similar exchanges with the government of S Sudan.

The delegation was warmly received by the S African foreign ministry and held a cordial and fruitful discussion with Deputy Minister Reginah Mahule of the Ministry of International Relation and Cooperation of South Africa on the IGAD led South Sudan peace process.
On the occasion, the State ministers of Ethiopia and South Africa exchanged brief views on possibilities of holding JOINT MINISTERIAL commission at a suitable time for both sides.

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