Author Archives: advocacy4oromia

Freemuse calls on Ethiopian authorities to drop charges against Oromo artists

Photo: Seenaa Solomoon in ‘Ramacii Rincice’ video/YouTube

Ethiopian authorities charged seven artists – musicians and dancers – with terrorism in late June 2017 for producing and uploading “inciting” political songs and videos, according to media reports. Freemuse is concerned about the charges and the continued erosion of freedom of expression in Ethiopia, especially of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in the country.

Freemuse is also alarmed by the wide latitudes Ethiopian authorities have taken during the recently lifted ten-month-long state of emergency put in place in response to protests stemming from the government’s plan, announced in 2014, to expand capital city Addis Ababa into farm lands in the Oromia region, the country’s largest region and home to the Oromo people.

“What is happening in Ethiopia is not a spin off from the recent protests and uprising, but rather is about a government clampdown on the artistic community in general and of Oromo artists in particular. We call on national authorities to drop the charges on the seven artists and protect all peoples’ right to freedom of expression, including expressions critical of governments,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.

The seven artists – Seenaa Solomon, Elias Kiflu, Gemechis Abera, Oliyad Bekele, Ifa Gemechu, Tamiru Keneni and Moebul Misganu – were arrested in December 2016 and held in Maekelawi Prison, which Global Voices reports is notorious for its torture practices. Misganu had been arrested before in 2014 in connection to student protests in Oromia and was released in 2016.

More recently, the BBC reported that Ethiopian police stopped the formal launch of singer Tewodros Kassahun’s, who performs as Teddy Afro, latest album without any official reason, preventing event organisers from entering the venue and demanding a permit. His new album, released in May, has become Ethiopia’s fastest selling album and topped Billboard’s world album chart.

Additionally, his Ethiopian New Year’s Eve concert scheduled for 11 September this year was cancelled for the third consecutive year, according to non-profit Music in Africa Foundation.

Teddy Afro is no stranger to controversy as he first drew negative attention from authorities in 2005 when he released his third album which contained songs critical of the government that became anthems for protest movements.

In 2008, he was imprisoned for a hit-and-run accident in a case that he claims was politically motivated and was released in 2009, after serving 18 months of a two-year sentence.

Freemuse has registered over the years several attacks and forms of harassment on Oromo artists, including the imprisonment, beatings and forced exile of artists, as well as the banning of music and shutdown of studios.

Read more about the state of freedom of expression for Oromo people in Ethiopia here

Source: Freemuse

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The Tale of Two Militia: Janjaweed vs Liyu Police

Today, the Liyu Police invaded Miesso district and injured elementary school kids by throwing a hand grenade on them. When Oromia Police responded in defense, the Ethiopian Military appeared to disarm and arrest them. Just like the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese National Force, Liyu Police and the Ethiopian Defense Forces are attacking the innocent Oromo. As we speak, operation is still there and the worst is yet to come.

Since 1956, Sudan has been ravaged by war. In Darfur, the war has led to ethnic cleansing on a massive scale during the peak years of the war, 2003–2005, in which more than 300,000 Darfuri civilians have been killed and and approximately 3 000 000 people were forcibly exiled, an event in which both the government and the local militia conspired the killings.

The Sudanese government provided incentives in the form of payment and access to loot, as well as promises of access to land and administrative power. Sudanese officials also identified key tribal leaders from the northern Riziegat to coordinate the recruitment: Sheikh Musa Hilal, a leader of the Um Jalul clan of the Mahamid, became the lynchpin for recruitment of militias in northern Darfur. Since June 2003, he has become emblematic of the role of the militia forces in the attacks on civilians and the impunity conferred upon them by the Sudanese government.

The worst atrocities are committed by the Um Jalul of Musa Hilal because historically they have tensions with the Fur and Zaghawa. They’re all camel herders, not cattle herders, and they have no respect for farmers, they have a superiority complex and they need their camels. When the war started, the Sudanese government asked Musa Hilal to be the leader of the Janjaweed.

In 2007, an version of Jajaweed militia was established in Ethiopia’s Ogaden Region. It was created and led by Abdi Mohammed Omar (“Abdi Illey”), the current president of Somali Regional State, who was then the regional security chief, with direct order from Meles Zenawi. At first, many thought Liyu Police was created to counter the growing ONLF fighters insurgency mostly after the events of April 2007, in which the rebel groups attached the Chinese Oil company operating in Ogaden.

For the time both Meles and Abdi Illey succeeded in abating ONLF’s further advance, but the mission of Liyu Police didn’t stopped there. After Meles died in 2012, Abdi Illey had been organizing the most aggressive force by recruiting thousands of youth from his loyal clan. Now, there are forty five thousand strong paramilitary forces operating in Ogaden committing heinous crime against innocent civilians. The Liyu police have frequently been implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and violence against people in the Somali region, as well as in retaliatory attacks against local communities, according human right watch report.

Since December 2016, credible reports have emerged of Liyu police incursions into the neighboring Oromia region covering 24 districts and more than 200 localities bordering Somali – Oromia Region. This aggressive force have been conducting extrajudicial killings, looting properties and displacing thousands and tens of thousands of innocent Oromo from their ancestral land.

Reports have been emerging that the Ethiopian defense forces deployed around the border are helping Liyu Police by disarming local Oromo militias and Oromia Police. Evidences found from eyewitnesses and from killed military Identity Card indicated that men from defense forces have engaged in the random attacks and TPLF military Generals are supervising the operations of Liyu Police. With such operations more 1,500 innocent Oromo have lost their lives, thousands forcely displaced and property have been looted.

Today, the Liyu Police invaded Miesso district and injured elementary school kids by throwing a hand grenade on them. When Oromia Police responded in defense, the Ethiopian Military appeared to disarm and arrest them. Just like the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese National Force, Liyu Police and the Ethiopian Defense Forces are attacking the innocent Oromo. As we speak, operation is still there and the worst is yet to come.

 By Lammii Beenyaa

Chaltu Takele: Oromo prisoner of conscience

(Advocacy4Oromia, 3 Sept 2017) Chaltu Takele, a second year sociology student in Addis Ababa University was arrested in May 2008. She was arrested suspected of being member of OLF.

After several months of incarceration at the notorious Federal Police Commission Crime and Forensic Investigation Center or Maekelawi, she was sentenced and transferred to Kaliti. She was convicted to 12 years of imprisonment and spent Eight years and one month in Kaliti.

While she was in Kaliti she graduated in Management by following her education in distance program from private College. Studying in prison is a rare case for most Oromo prisoners. Chaltu struggled to get permission to study. She fought hard to convince Kaliti prison officials and finally won the chance to study.

After Eight years and one months of harassment in Maekelawi and Kaliti, she was released in 2016. But, she remained under constant security surveillance. Her ambitions were to start her peaceful life by getting job in Finfine or elsewhere in Oromiya. She wanted to help her family.

In March 2017, after months of her release from prison, we heard the news that Chaltu was abducted in Finfinne and taken to Maekelawi alongside with two of her friends. She is still in Maelawi.

Chaltu’s history is typical example of Oromo women scarification for freedom.

My flag

   By Dahabe Abdella

In the distance I see her, as she stands and waves,
As I sit and watch her, at the dawn of day.
As the sun arises, from our eastern forest,
I see Old Glory, she is battered and worn.
Her colors are faded, and her edges are frayed,
A symbol of our Nation, in its current stage.
I shed a tear, for my dear old friend,
As I remember what she’s seen, and the places she’s been.

She was there in the beginning, as she led in the fight,
As brave men and women fought, to defend what was right.
Gullallee, Anoolee, and for Calaqoo she flew,
Over blood soaked grounds, as our freedoms grew.
She made the journey, unto foreign lands,
Through Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan.
Against oppression, tyranny, and terror by night,
She stood for freedom, as a beacon of light.

But now she’s here, in our present age,
As I wrapped her on my head, all tattered and frayed.
I can’t understand it, where we are,
From where we’ve been, it seems so far.
She’s been spit upon, trampled, burned and torn,
Dishonored, discarded, at home or abroad.
A House of cards, is where our liberties lie,
While a nation stands silent, as our freedoms slip by.
Where integrity, honesty and values are lost,
Where marriage is forsaken, the unborn pay the cost.

The word of God is silent, under Odaa tree,
Even from our schools, it is silent still.
The Lord of heaven, of earth, and of man,
Says “return to Me, and I’ll heal and liberate your land.”
We must go to Him, on bended knee,
Give all unto Him, and He’ll give unto thee.

As I watched my dear friend, as she starts to fly,
I hear her plea, I hear her cry.
As she sends out a call, across the land,
“To do what’s right, make a stand!”
“Liberty, Justice and Freedom” she sounds,
“Do not compromise, or cross the bounds.”
“We must stand together, though some may fall,
For freedom we’ll lose, if we don’t stand at all.”
“To laugh, to play, to worship and live,
How much is freedom worth, how much will you give?”
“Like those before us, in wars fought and won,
Our fathers, brothers, mothers, and sisters.”
“Who fought for freedom, they gave it all,
That our country may stand, and never, fall.”

As the sun descends, beyond the eastern view,
And taps is played, in a lonesome tune.
Old Glory is lowered, in the last bit of light,
For on this day, was her last flight.
She gave all she could, she gave all her might,
She fought to the last, she fought the good fight.
For in the breaking, of tomorrow’s new dawn,
New hope shall arise, as Glory lives on.
She shall arise again, bright shining and new,
As she continues the call, to me, and to you.
From sea to sea, and mountains of green,
Oromia Our land, our home, we must defend and fight.

How much will you give, as God’s own Son or daughter,
To bring us back to Him, so we can live on.
Will you join with us, hand in hand,
In prayer and fasting, to heal and liberate our land?
Though our country’s not free, this much is sure,
But it’s still our country, and it’s worth fighting for.

Oromia Shall be free!!!
#MyFlag #MyIdentity #OromoFlag #Oromia

 

Commemorating the 2016 Irreechaa Massacre and Celebrating the 2017 Irreechaa Festival

(Melbourne, Australia, 17 August 2017)- Oromo didn’t expect the loss of more than six hundred people in one day when Celebrating Irreechaa Festival in Bishoftu Oromia on 02 October 2016 before shot at by military forces on the ground while helicopters fired teargas from the air.

Members of Oromo Community in Melbourne Australia are going to hold the commemorative ceremony at Federation Square to commemorate and remember Irreechaa Massacre.

Place: Federation Square, Corner Swanston St & Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000.

When: 30th of September 2017

Time: 6:00 PM

We are also delighted to invite you to be a part of the Oromo Thanksgiving Day celebration in Melbourne. This special event that adds more wealth to the multicultural traits of Melbourne will be held at Wilson Botanical Park.

Address: 668 Princes Highway, Berwick, VIC 3806.

Date: October 1, 2017

Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM

 About Irreechaa Massacre

On October 2, 2016, the sacred grounds of Harsadi were littered with dead bodies where thousands of fellow Oromo were massacred by Ethiopia’s security force on the Irreechaa celebration. The deaths in Bishoftu occurred because security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a crowd of over a million people celebrating a cultural festival.

Reports show over 670 deaths from shooting and from being trampled. Many deaths remain unexplained. The incident is shrouded in mystery because of the media blackout which followed. At least some killings followed the event rather than taking place at the time and are believed to have been deliberately orchestrated by the government. Even now, after the atrocity, there has been no independent investigation and no appraisal of the number and identity of those killed.

Our Appeals

We ask all Oromo institutions to compile evidences, videos, pictures in their possession showing the mayhem the regime’s security force orchestrated during the event and more importantly the details of the victims. We also would like to ask all Oromo and Oromo organisations to produce research papers, short videos, poems, songs, that shall be used to commemorate and celebrate the lives of the victims of Irreechaa Massacre during the upcoming Irreechaa festival around the world.

We owe the victims of the Irreechaa massacre acknowledgement of their deaths and an explanation to the world of how and why they died.

=================

Members of Irreechaa Organising Committee comprised of representatives from the Advocacy for Oromia, Australian Oromo community Association, Oromia Support Group Australia, Southeast Region Melbourne Oromo Community Association Victoria Australia and Waaqeffannaa Association.

For further information contact us at info@advocacy4oromia.org.

For PDF format: Irreechaa-Appeal-Letter

CAHDE statement on the public handcuffing of Dr. Merara Gudina!

(Advocacy4Oromia, 2 August 2017) The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Ethiopia condemns the handcuffing of Professor Merara Gudina on his way in and out of the court today.

A suspect in a criminal trial cannot be handcuffed without a reasonable ground to believe that he or she might be a risk to public safety and the safety of the police.

Absent a reasonable basis for suspicion, public handcuffing of a suspect is a flagrant violation of their dignity and an affront to common humanity.

Professor Merara Gudina is a well known academic, a veteran opposition leader, a high profile political prisoner, and a non-convict suspected of a non-violent crime. There is simply no justification whatsoever to handcuff such a suspect.

CAHDE believes that this is intended to (1) humiliate the defendant, (2) place undue pressure on his defense, and (3) break the spirit of defiance and resistance he has demonstrated so well since the trial began.

It is intended to humiliate him into submission and thereby conceal the dirty linen underneath this shabby spectacle of legality.

CO-DEFENDANTS SAY AYELE BEYENE DIED OF ‘TORTURE AND NEGLECT’ IN PRISON, EXPRESS FEAR OF SIMILAR FATE

By Mahlet Fasil

 (Finfinne, July 26/2017)– The body of Ayele Beyene, who died while in police custody at Qilinto prison, a maximum prison facility on the southern outskirt of Addis Abeba, was buried yesterday in his home town in Gidami, east Wallaga zone of western Ethiopia.

Before he was detained in September 2016, Ayele, 29, was the head of the management department at Nifas Silk Lafto Kifle Ketema Woreda 10 bureau here in the capital Addis Abeba. He was detained along with seven others but was only brought to court in May 2017 after spending nine months in Ma’ekelawi.

Their arrest is part of a widespread government crackdown in the wake of (and post) the yearlong anti-government protests in Oromia and Amhara regional states that saw thousands rounded up and sent to prison.

On May 10 the eight men were formally charged (charge sheet in pdf) with terror related and criminal offenses. Ayele Beyene was listed as the second defendant in the file name under the first defendant Melkamu Kinfu.  Ayele was facing similar charges of terrorism and criminal offenses along with six of the eight men: Bonsa Beyene (his bother), Yimam Mohammed, Lemesa Gizachew, Kumera Tilahun, Meyad Ayana, and Muluna Darge. All the seven were charged under Art. 7/1 of Ethiopia’s infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP 652/2009) as well as Art. 32/1 A and B and Art. 38 of the 2004 Criminal code, while the first defendant Malkamu Kinfu was charged under Art. 4 of the ATP and Art. 32/1 A and B and Art. 38 of the 2004 Criminal code.

All the eight defendants have told the federal court 4th  criminal bench during their first appearance in May that they have been subjected to severe torture that included beatings and solitary confinement in dark rooms during their nine months of detention in Ethiopia’s notorious prison Ma’ekelawi.

After charges were filed, they were transferred to the Qilinto prison, from where the body of Ayele was taken to St. Paul Hospital before he died.

During their court hearing yesterday, the fourth defendant Yimam Mohammed told the judges that Ayele hadn’t had food for ten days prior to his death during which the rest of his co-defendants have reported his situation to the prison authorities at least “three times a day” but they were “neglected”. “I find it hard to say that our friend [Ayele] has died; his life was cut short. Who is responsible for that? If it is the government let us know it before we too die,” said Yimam to a court full of weep.

The first defendant Melkamu on his part told the judges that all defendants were suffering from illnesses related to the abuses they were subjected to in prison. He also said that despite his repeated plea with the prison authorities he was denied access to his medications.  “Ayele was killed and we fear we too will meet his fate.”

The eight defendants were largely accused of having links with Dawud Ibssa, the leader of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and receiving money from and orchestrating a local cell to assist OLF’s attempts to violently overthrow the constitutional order. The particular accusations against Ayele said that he had become a member of a terror cell organized by the first defendant Melkamu in an “unidentified” date and month. He was also accused of passing on government information.

Ayele’s  body was sent to his family and was buried yesterday

Prosecutors have attached six pages of written material obtained from Ayele during interrogations when he was in Ma’ekelawi as well as what they said were e-mail communications from an e-mail address opened for this purpose as evidence against him.

The prison police have not presented information on the cause of death during yesterday’s hearing, but they have notified the court on July 24 of Ayele’s death. The judges have told prison officials to present Ayele’s cause of death and the autopsy result during the next hearing for the remaining seven defendants on August 02. AS

Source: Addis Standard 

Oromo Musicians Charged With Terrorism for Resistance Song Lyrics

Screenshot from one of Seena’s viral Afan Oromo ‘resistance songs’ from the group’s YouTube channel.

Seven producers and performers of a popular YouTube music video were charged in Ethiopia in late June with terrorism for producing ‘inciting’ audio-visual materials and ‘uploading them on YouTube’.

The group members were arrested in December 2016 and were held in detention without charges until last month.

Among those facing charges is Seenaa Solomon, a young female singer who critics say is a rising music talent to watch. The other detainees include the well-known songwriter, singer and music entrepreneur Elias Kiflu, two vocalists Gemechis Abera and Oliyad Bekele, and three dancers, Ifa Gemechu, Tamiru Keneni and Moebol Misganu.

This marked the second arrest for dancer Moebol Misganu, who in 2014 was arrested in connection with the students protest in Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia. He was released in 2016.

Since December 2016, Seenaa and her colleagues have been held in Maekelawi— a prison notorious for its torture practices, recounted by past prisoners. Shortly after their arrest, online activist and diaspora satellite television director Jawar Mohamed wrote:

The regime has intensified its war on Oromo artists. Almost all singers are either in jail, forced to flee or had gone underground. Studios have been closed and their properties confiscated. Seena Solomon and Elias Kiflu, the duo known for their powerfully dramatized resistance songs are the latest victims.

The contentious political environment in which these arrests have occurred has grown out of the Ethiopian government’s plan to expand Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. In 2014, the ruling EPRDF party announced plans to expand the capital into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region that is primarily home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

When the plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent government crackdown, Afan Oromo (the region’s language) musicians began to rise as a visible — and audible — source of inspiration for the opposition movement. Seenaa Solomon’s group produced music videos in Afan Oromo during student protests that rocked the country from 2014-2016, creating something akin to a soundtrack for the movement.

In their coverage of the group members’ arrests, state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported that Seenaa and her colleagues were producing music videos, poems and interviews with government critics in collaboration with a diaspora political organization based in Australia.

According to their charge sheet, their audiovisual materials were “inciting” and “complimentary” of the student protesters and others who demonstrated between 2014 and 2016.

They are not the first musicians to face such repression. In January 2016, Hawi Tezera, another Oromo singer who comforted and inspired protesters through her songs, was imprisoned. In February 2017, Teferi Mekonen, an Oromo singer who asserted Oromo cultural identity and challenge the legitimacy of Ethiopia’s ruling party in his songs, was arrested. Hawi was later released, but Teferi’s fate remains unknown.

As the visibility of political singers has risen, Ethiopian authorities have intensified their crack down on musicians whom they perceive sympathize with opposition. But this has not necessarily made the musicians less visible or less popular. Resistance music continues to flourish on YouTube. Despite the fact that its performers are in jail, the YouTube channel for Seenaa Solomon’s group maintains an impressive tally of more than 3,525,996 views.

Source: https://globalvoices.org/2017/07/14/ethiopian-musicians-charged-with-terrorism-for-inciting-song-lyrics/

From Cab Driver to CEO: An Ethiopian Immigrant’s Drive for School Bus Success

The transition from Ethiopian culture to that of the U.S. may have been drastic, but for Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN) Inc. President and CEO Tashitaa Tufaa, an Ethiopian of the Oromo ethnic group who immigrated here in 1992, adjusting to baseball-consumed television and the occasional unrelenting Minnesota snowstorm was a small price to pay for a life of security.

“Let me put it this way: Whatever I did not have back in Ethiopia, I have it now through my freedom,” Tufaa says. “If you are free, then your mind is free, and you can use your talent wherever you want to go.”

While Tufaa’s talent eventually brought him to own and operate MTN —  a school bus company based in Fridley, Minnesota, that provides student transportation for dozens of local public, private, and charter schools and owns more than 300 vehicles — the road to success was windy and unpaved. Although he majored in political science and diplomacy, he couldn’t legally work for the U.S. State Department because he wasn’t yet a U.S. citizen, so he started working a civil service job with the Minnesota government.

Tufaa’s drive to drive
Tufaa wasn’t earning enough to pay his mortgage, so he started working nights and weekends as a driver for Metro Mobility, a Minneapolis-area transportation provider for people with physical and mental disabilities. There, he discovered an unexpected passion.

“I fell in love with driving, really,” he says. “It’s very flexible and there’s fresh air, and instead of being in the office, you go to the parks and drive around with open windows. There are so many different things to love about it.”

Desiring more flexibility and hoping for higher pay, Tufaa left Metro Mobility and started driving a cab, where, he says, “I would drive drunk people from the bar, people coming from work, and everyone else.”

Despite his formal education and his urge to succeed, Tufaa struggled to hold these jobs. Unsatisfied with unsteady employment and energized with his newfound craving to get behind the wheel, Tufaa was determined to dive into the city of Osseo’s school transportation scene.

“In the summer of 2003, I started actually writing letters and delivering them to the school districts, offering them services that weren’t around,” Tufaa says. “Many of them made fun of me, but there was one transportation director who was willing to give me a chance because I had been bothering him so much.”

“We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and we listen to the feedback we receive. As a result, people want to do business with us, and we don’t turn our backs.”
Tashitaa Tufaa, president and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Network

Expanding the business
Because of his persistent effort, Tufaa was awarded a single opportunity to transport three homeless children to school with the van he owned, a task that he says he succeeded at, receiving no complaints. From there, the director started offering him more consistent work, and this one-time errand steadily matured into a full-blown company that he now conservatively estimates to be worth $35 million. Today, Tufaa employs over 400 people who transport more than 15,000 K-12 students to school every day across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Fleet Facts
Headquarters: Fridley, Minnesota
Vehicles in fleet: Over 300
Fleet mix: IC Bus, Thomas Built Buses
Fueling mix: Diesel, CNG
Service area:Metropolitan Twin Cities area
Routes serviced daily:Over 400
Drivers: 275 and 125 contracted
Staff members: 30
Students transported daily: Over 15,000

“I did see a need here in the school bus industry for a contractor that was dedicated, that was doing business wholeheartedly,” he says.

Tufaa capitalized on this recognized need and founded MTN in 2004. More recently, MTN’s expanding customer base inevitably resulted in the need for a space about 30% larger than the existing one. The new facility is expected to be ready in July. The redevelopment will cost about $2.7 million and is being handled by Thor Companies, a real estate development and construction company that is also based in Fridley.

“It will have corporate offices, a break room where drivers can enjoy themselves, a fleet maintenance shop, and parking storage inside for the buses,” Tufaa says. “It’s a much better and newer space — a good image for both our customers and those who work here.”

The majority of updates will focus on the exterior site improvements, such as landscaping, a complete resurfacing of the asphalt parking lot, and enhancements to the security systems.

Top-notch equipment
Because the agency is responsible for the well-being of thousands of students, Tufaa says he ensures that each bus is equipped with top-notch technology, from two-way radios to GPS to surveillance camera systems.

“We want the maximum safety possible in all of our buses in order to protect the families and children that we service,” he says. “Safety is number one.”

He recounts an instance where a driver’s bus had broken down and hisradio had stopped working. Fortunately, the team realized it had broken down because of its lack of movement on the GPS system. Sure enough, upon physically locating the bus through the ground tracking system, Tufaa and his team found it immobile and were able to service it.

Because Metropolitan Transportation Network transports more than 15,000 students daily, Tufaa says he ensures each bus has quality safety equipment, such as two-way radios, GPS, and surveillance cameras.
Because Metropolitan Transportation Network transports more than 15,000 students daily, Tufaa says he ensures each bus has quality safety equipment, such as two-way radios, GPS, and surveillance cameras.

Leadership style
Tufaa calls himself a “field guy,” meaning he does not like to remain in the office. In fact, despite MTN’s recent expansion, Tufaa decided not to build himself a personal office. Instead, he works in available desk spaces when necessary and still drives buses every day.

“I don’t want to be a guy who just stays inside. I want to be out there in the field,” he says. “I sit with the drivers and I listen to them. I listen to their stories in the morning and the afternoon, and then I drive the bus to see what the issue is. This way, instead of someone reporting to me, I see it firsthand.”

Tufaa attributes his leadership style to his perilous upbringing in Ethiopia. Because he spent many years of his life in danger, he’s able to more easily adapt to everyday business challenges.

“We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and we listen to the feedback we receive. As a result, people want to do business with us, and we don’t turn our backs,” he says. “In Ethiopia, I was raised in harm, and so it’s easier for me to understand where people come from, whether it’s with our customers or our employees.”

MTN is undergoing a $2.7 million expansion, which includes renovated corporate offices, a fleet maintenance shop, a break room, and parking inside for the buses.
MTN is undergoing a $2.7 million expansion, which includes renovated corporate offices, a fleet maintenance shop, a break room, and parking inside for the buses.

Employee appreciation
Appreciation for MTN employees stands tall on Tufaa’s priorities as a business owner. Every year, the company holds an employee appreciation banquet where everyone, from the human resources team to the workshop mechanics, is invited to mingle with their peers, along with their plus-one.

“We want to show our employees that we value them,” Tufaa says. “We are a family, and the MTN family gets together once a year, every year, to enjoy this classy corporate-style dinner.”

Other MTN-planned gatherings that aim to boost company morale include a monthly bulletin that informs the team about company happenings and employee birthdays, as well as weekly prepared breakfast for drivers, blood drives, summer barbecues, and day trips to support the local pro baseball team at the Minnesota Twins stadium.

Sometimes the recognition goes beyond simple social events, like when Tufaa expressed his gratitude by naming a newly built site the Iverson Terminal, after the last name of a driver who had suddenly passed away.

“We named it after her because our drivers have an ownership in our company,” he says. “We don’t want to be just another corporation.”

Challenges, rewards
Tufaa’s triumph does not come without its challenges. As with school bus contractors and districts across the U.S., he has been affected by the widespread driver shortage, and he worries about Minnesota’s slippery roads in the winter. He’s also had to forgo significant family events in order to keep his business afloat, especially while it was just getting started.

“There are some things I’ve had to compromise to get where we are as a business, but as long as my wife and family understood me, that was all that mattered,” Tufaa recalls. “I had to work extremely long hours in the beginning, and sometimes it came down to paying the people who were working for me before being able to pay myself.”

Eventually, the achievements overcame the hardships, and now Tufaa and the whole MTN team work fervently to transport the community’s youth to their daily education.

“As a contractor, it’s important to love what you do,” he says. “I still drive, and I love taking those children to school.”

Source: http://www.schoolbusfleet.com/article/724061/from-cab-driver-to-ceo-an-ethiopian-immigrant-s-drive-for-school-bus-success

New Prison Complex Nears Completion

The prison cost an estimated 900m Br and can accommodate 6,000 prisoners

Mana Hidhaa Haaraa Finfinnee

The Federal Prisons Administration Commission (FPAC) is in the final stage to complete the construction of a new prison complex with an estimated project cost of 900 million Br from the government coffers.

Located at Aba Samuel River, Aqaqi Qaliti District, the new jail is planned to replace the current Qilinto prison that is more than a decade old. It can house 6,000 inmates.

The new complex has better facilities than the previous one, according to a source close to the case.

Lying on 5,000sqm of land, the construction of the complex began in June 2014, after awarding the project to 13 local contractors.

The then Ministry of Urban Development & Housing (MoUDH) selected the contractors depending on their previous track record in different construction projects.

The Ministry awarded the companies based on a fixed rate system based on the market prices, according to the same source.

The Construction Design Enterprise designed the complex and conducted the preliminary and feasibility study of the project.

The prison site has five blocks of two-storey buildings, with the capacity of accommodating 1,200 prisoners each.

It also has a two-storey building as an isolation room. Each cell can enclose ten detainees in the 54sqm area. A single room can accommodate five double beds.

Work on the prison has reached 95pc of completion rate, expected to be accomplished in the next three months, according to sources.

Currently, security devices including CCTV cameras are installed by the Information Network Security Agency (INSA).

The project encompasses different facilities including a library, game rooms, workshops (metal, wood, and handicraft), administrative buildings, family mansions, video conference rooms, two storey TVET and high school buildings, babysitting rooms and kitchens.

This year, similar prison constructions have been completed at Shoa Robit, Ziway and Dire Dawa. The two prisons in Shoa Robit and Dire Dawa have four blocks each with the capacity of holding 4,800 prisoners whereas the five block buildings of Ziway and Addis Abeba prisons accommodate 6,000 prisoners.

Reta Abebe (Com.), the superintendent to FPAC, refrains from disclosing when the prison will be relocated to the new complex by citing the earliness of the issue.

Currently, FPAC administers three prisons outside Addis Abeba, in Shewa Robit, Amhara Regional State, 225km north of the capital, in Zeway, 163km south of the capital in Oromia Regional State and Dire Dawa city, 515km east of the capital.

Currently, Qilinto prison is found in the vicinity of Addis Ababa Science & Technology University (AASTU).

Qilinto is a remand prison, where people can be held for three years or more as they await trial. The prison is divided into several zones made up of brick walls and corrugated sheet roofed cells.

The prison hosts 3,000 inmates at a time who are held in cells. Each cell holds between 90 and 130 inmates.

Source: Addis Fortune