”Political scientist and Ethiopian Girum Zeleke has long fought for the rights of undocumented asylum seekers who have received a final rejection of their applications. Without a passport or other documentation refuses Ethiopia to let them return to their homeland. A rule change the coalition government decided in 2011 meant that those who did not permit was not allowed to take legally work in Norway. With the confiscated tax card disappeared a number of other rights.”
”Statsviter og etiopier Girum Zeleke har i lengre tid kjempet for rettighetene til papirløse asylsøkere, som har fått endelig avslag på sine søknader. Uten pass eller annen dokumentasjon nekter Etiopia å la dem returnere til sitt hjemland. En regelendring den rødgrønne regjeringen vedtok i 2011 gjorde at de som ikke fikk oppholdstillatelse ikke fikk lov å ta lovlig arbeid i Norge. Med det inndratte skattekortet forsvant en rekke andre rettigheter.”
Fighting for paperless asylum seekers:
– A social disaster
Saken om Kedist Yerga og hennes fire år gamle sønn som ble satt på gaten like før påske har vekket reaksjoner i flere miljøer.
Statsviter og etiopier Girum Zeleke har i lengre tid kjempet for rettighetene til papirløse asylsøkere, som har fått endelig avslag på sine søknader. Uten pass eller annen dokumentasjon nekter Etiopia å la dem returnere til sitt hjemland. En regelendring den rødgrønne regjeringen vedtok i 2011 gjorde at de som ikke fikk oppholdstillatelse ikke fikk lov å ta lovlig arbeid i Norge. Med det inndratte skattekortet forsvant en rekke andre rettigheter.
– De som sitter fast på ulike asylmottak i landet opplever det jeg mener er en sosial katastrofe. De har mistet retten til å ta seg arbeid, de kan ikke gå på skole, og får heller ingen fastlege, sier Girum Zeleke til RA.
Han forteller at svært mange asylsøkere fra Etiopia har gjort gjentatte forsøk på å reise hjem, men tross en returavtale mellom Norge og Etiopia fra 2012, nekter det afrikanske landet sine borgere innpass.
– Den nest største inntekten til Etiopia stammer fra etiopiere som bor i utlandet. Det bor for eksempel én million i USA og rundt 20.000 i Sverige. Bankene forvalter pengene som sendes hjem, og tjener rett og slett godt på alle overføringene fra utlandet, sier Zeleke til RA.
Han mener bestemt at Norge bør vise et større samfunnsansvar overfor dem som sitter fast.
– Det finnes mørketall, men her i Norge finnes det opp mot 1000 papirløse etiopiere. Rundt 200 av dem sitter på ulike mottak i Rogaland fylke, sier han.
Nødhjelpen disse menneskene mottar av den norske stat mener Zeleke vitner om uverdighet.
– En papirløs asylsøker uten muligheter for å ta arbeid får 1800 kroner måneden i hjelp. Det utgjør 21.600 kroner i året. Mange av dem venter på asylmottak som ligger usentralt til. Det skal ikke mye fantasi til for å begripe skjebnen, sier han.
– Helt uverdig liv
Per A. Thorbjørnsen (V) ønsker en statusrapport over situasjonen.
Gruppelederen i Stavanger Venstre sier han umiddelbart etter regelendringen i 2011 ropte et varsku i formannskapet. Nå vil han igjen ta opp situasjonen til de papirløse.
– Denne gruppen mennesker har et uverdig liv. De sitter rundt forbi på ulike mottak uten noen som helst rettigheter. Både dette og hva som skjedde med kvinnen som måtte bo på gaten er saker jeg vil ta opp i arbeidsutvalget for levekår kommende uke, sier han.
Ordførerkandidaten sier det er flere faktorer han ønsker at levekårsgruppen skal skaffe seg informasjon om.
– Vi er nødt for å se på hvilke muligheter vi har for å gjøre noe lokalt. Menneskene det gjelder sitter praktisk talt i fengsel. Nå ønsker jeg først og fremst å oppklare en del momenter. Hvor mange mennesker dreier det seg om, og hva vi kan gjøre, er sentrale spørsmål, sier han.
In Ethiopia and for Ethiopians, the very concept of contemporary music is intertwined with the name Tilahun Gessesse. He was a singer like no other with tremendously charismatic appearance, holding his rightful place in Ethiopia as the country’s one and only king of pop. From love, family and friendship to liberty, unity and justice, there isn’t an aspect of life that Tilahun didn’t sing about.
Music has a special place in the everyday lives of Ethiopians and no singer has been able to win the sentiments of the people the way Tilahun did over the years. The veteran singer was not just a renowned artist – he was also a national treasure of highest standards.
He was born on 27 September 1940 to his mother Gete Gurmu and his father Gessesse Wolde Kidan. He was first hired by the Hager Fikir Theatre to subsequently join the Imperial Body Guard Band where he became a leading singer. He then quickly became a household name all over Ethiopia, which literally made him synonymous with the very concept of contemporary music in the country.
A shocking attempt to kill the legendary singer by stabbing was made on 18 April 1993, which fell on Ethiopian Easter Sunday. He sustained a life-threatening slash on his neck and had to be flown to Europe for treatment.
Tilahun was the only person to have known the identity of his attacker and the circumstances surrounding the attempted murder, but he consistently refused to reveal his knowledge of the matter.
After battling diabetes for more than three years, Tilahun had his right leg amputated on 3 February 2005, which came as another sad news to the Ethiopian people.
The Ethiopian king of pop who entertained generations of Ethiopians with his unparalleled talent had a heart attack on 19 April 2009 in Addis Ababa and died shortly after. It was reported that Tilahun and his wife, Roman Bezu, had arrived in Addis Ababa from the United States on the same day to spend the Ethiopian Easter holidays with family and friends.
The death of Tilahun marked end of an era in Ethiopia and a huge sense of loss was felt across the country. Tilahun was farewelled on 23 April 2009 in an unprecedented state funeral ceremony in Addis Ababa. The state funeral ceremony was a fitting finale to the extraordinary life of Tilahun Gesesse, who served his people and country as a supreme entertainer, a patriot and a preacher of peace and love. In so many ways, Tilahun Gesesse was larger than life. But it is his passion for music and his love for his country that will ensure he will not be forgotten. His funeral proved that Tilahun can be even larger in death than in life – his state funeral was the first such event witnessed in modern Ethiopia. Tilahun was 68.
Telahun Gesesse (September 29, 1940 – April 19, 2009) was an Ethiopian singer regarded as one of the most popular of his country’s “Golden Age” in the 1960s. During the 1960s, he became famous throughout the country, nicknamed “The Voice”. He raised money for aid during the famines of the 1970s and 1980s and earned the affection of the nation, being awarded a doctorate degree by the Addis Abeba University and also winning a lifetime achievement award from the Ethiopian Fine Art and Mass Media Prize Trust.In his later years he suffered from diabetes. He died on 19 April 2009 in Addis Adaba shortly after returning from America. Tilahun was honoured with a state funeral attended by tens of thousands of his fellow citizens.
Nearby, other farm workers are using pitchforks to do the same job, throwing the grass into the air in an ancient process known as winnowing.
This is a harvest scene in rural Ethiopia, which at this time of the year is replicated across the length and breadth of the country.
The seed, or grain, in question is called teff.
Ethiopians have been growing and obsessing about teff for millennia, and it may become the new “super grain” of choice in Europe and North America, overtaking the likes of quinoa and spelt.
High in protein and calcium, and gluten-free, teff is already growing in popularity on the international stage.
Yet as teff is a staple foodstuff in Ethiopia, particularly when turned into a grey flatbread called injera, the country currently has a long-standing ban on exporting the grain, either in its raw form, or after it has been ground into flour.
Instead, entrepreneurial Ethiopian companies can at present only export injera and other cooked teff products, such as cakes and biscuits.
However, the hope is that if Ethiopia can sufficiently increase its teff harvest, then exports of the grain itself may be able to start in the not too distant future.
“We started from scratch, and are now introducing our traditional food all over the world,” says Hailu Tessema, founder of Mama Fresh, Ethiopia’s first large-scale producer of injera.
Six days every week Mama Fresh uses Ethiopian Airlines to fly 3,000 injera flatbreads from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to Washington DC in the US.
Injera is also flown to Sweden three times a week, Norway twice a week, and Germany three times a month.
“Demand is increasing by about 10% every month,” says Mr Tessema, 60, who does not see the ban on exporting teff seeds as a problem.
“It’s better to export a value-added product as that creates more jobs.”
Mama Fresh employs more than 100 people, and plans to take on another 50 this year. It also works with 300 farmers supplying teff.
Mr Tessema started the business in 2003 with 100,000 Ethiopian birr ($5,000; £3,225), operating out of a rickety shack.
The firm’s annual revenue now stands at around 17m birr ($836,000; £566,000), and last year the business moved into a new factory.
Inside the facility, blue barrels contain teff flour mixed with water, which is left to ferment for four days.
Afterwards, women pour small jug-sized amounts onto heated-clay cookers to sizzle and become injera, ready for packaging and speedy onward flights to eager overseas customers, mainly diaspora Ethiopians.
A tiny grain the size of a poppy seed, teff is ground into a flour which can also be made into loaves of European-style risen bread or pasta.
At London-based business, Tobia Teff, they use US-grown teff to make various breads and a porridge.
The company was founded by British-Ethiopian co-owner Sophie Sirak-Kebede, who originally opened an Ethiopian restaurant in the UK capital in 2003.
In 2008, she closed the restaurant to concentrate solely on selling teff.
“People are dreaming of teff nowadays, after thousands of years it has become the trendy thing over here,” says the 58-year-old.
Tobia Teff’s sales have increased by up to 40% during the last 14 months.
Even the UK’s National Health Service has become a customer to cater for gluten-intolerant patients.
Yet despite praise for teff’s nutritional properties, its previously sheltered existence in Ethiopia comes with a drawback.
“Teff does not give much yield,” says Zerihun Tadele, an Ethiopian researcher at the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern, Switzerland. “Very little research and investment has been done on the crop.”
The average yield per hectare of teff in Ethiopia is 1.4 tonnes, which is less than half as much as the global average of 3.2 tonnes for modern varieties of wheat.
Mr Tadele hopes that through research and improved farming methods teff yields in Ethiopia can be raised to 5 tonnes a hectare.
This improvement will not come soon enough because recent teff harvests have failed to kept pace with Ethiopia’s increasing population, driving prices beyond many Ethiopians’ pockets, especially outside Addis Ababa.
Ms Sirak-Kebede says this situation creates a dilemma because “teff is Ethiopia’s backbone”. She adds: “A shortage of teff would be like asking an Ethiopian not to breathe”.
But at the same time, Ms Sirak-Kebede notes that the Ethiopian government should not squander a global opportunity that could benefit the more than six million farmers in the country that grow the seed, while also generating valuable foreign currencies.
The government’s Agricultural Transformation Agency is now focused on increasing teff production to at least match domestic demand, after which exporting seeds and flour may become possible.
Teff is the seed of a grass native to Ethiopia known as lovegrass
It was one of the earliest cultivated plants
In Ethiopia teff is most often made into a pancake called injera, which is often used as a plate, with other foods placed on top
“The opportunity this presents to the country is significant and the benefit over the long term will far outweigh the risks,” says Matthew Davis, a partner at US-based Renew Strategies, an early stage venture capital company investing in Mama Fresh.
“The government would likely proceed cautiously, only giving licences to select exporting companies.”
No doubt the Ethiopian government has already looked nervously at the example of quinoa, which has become so popular on the global stage that many people in its native countries, such as Peru and Bolivia, can no longer afford to buy it.
If Ethiopia’s teff export ban is ever lifted, Ms Sirak-Kebede says she wants to buy land in Ethiopia to farm the crop for her UK business.
“Being of Ethiopian origin I would prefer to get teff from Ethiopia,” Ms Sirak-Kebede says.
“Who better than an Ethiopian farmer when it comes to teff? The quality is incomparable.”