Protestors demand end of Ethiopian politican’s visit By Jason Warick

June 13th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

The University of Saskatchewan should not be hosting an Ethiopian politician implicated in corruption scandals and the forcible removal of tens of thousands of peasant farmers from their homes, human rights groups say.

A group of 30 protesters from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta stood outside the U of S Administration building Tuesday at noon with placards and flags demanding the removal of Shiferaw Shigute.

“Saskatchewan university, send him back!” chanted the group. “Saskatchewan university, shame on you!”

Tom Wishart, the U of S special adviser on international initiatives, said he was not familiar with the allegations against Shigute, as the delegation arrived just a few days ago. He said the university takes such concerns seriously and the matter is being researched.

Shigute, a minister in the Meles Zenawi national government and chief of Ethiopia’s Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR), arrived in Saskatoon Sunday and has been in private meetings with U of S officials. He is part of a delegation discussing a longtime education and agriculture partnership between the two regions.

Protesters and human rights groups say the partnership has produced many benefits for Ethiopian people, but Shigute’s involvement will raise many questions.

“The university is keeping him hidden,” said Taye Maulugeta of Regina. “We have a right to see him. This guy should not be here.”

Fellow protester Ali Saeed drove overnight from Winnipeg to participate.

“We heard Shigute was invited here. He is responsible for pushing thousands of people off their farms to places where there is no water, no food,” said Saeed, winner of the government of Manitoba’s recent Human Rights Commitment award.

“Why are we in Canada associating with this man?”

According to U.S., European and Ethiopian media reports, legal experts and human rights organizations, Shigute is leading the removal of peasant farmers from southern Ethiopia. Many of these families are allegedly being sent back to the region where the world saw shocking images of famine in the mid-1980s.

Shigute could not be contacted for comment, but he has denied the allegation in media reports from Ethiopia.

“We should not be doing business with this man,” said Obang Metho, a U of S graduate and executive director of Washington D.C.-based Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia.

Metho penned a letter to U of S president Peter MacKinnon, as did officials with other human rights groups in advance of Shigute’s arrival.

“I would like to highly commend the University of Saskatchewan for their laudable efforts in reaching out beyond the borders of our great province and nation to meaningfully address the long-standing issues in Ethiopia of chronic food insecurity, malnutrition, lack of agricultural development and inadequate health care,” Metho wrote.

However, Metho lists the concerns over Shigute’s involvement, including the forced removals, a citation for corruption surrounding his time with the national coffee growers’ association and other allegations. He said the U of S should take a stand for the people of Ethiopia and demand Shigute be removed.

“Truth, academic freedom, freedom of expression and the respect for the basic dignity and rights of all people do not exist in Ethiopia. The U of S, the people of Saskatchewan and the government of Canada can all help create an environment most conducive to success by unflinchingly addressing these issues,” Metho wrote.

Wishart said he’s heard from about one dozen people expressing opposition to Shigute’s presence. Wishart said the university receives 150 different delegations every year and he wasn’t aware of the allegations against Shigute.

“I’m not in a position to make any judgment,” he said.

Wishart said university officials are consulting with the Canadian government and others on the issue, but no conclusions have been reached yet.

Wishart said the 15-year partnership has been of great benefit to both Ethiopia and Saskatchewan, providing valuable education and knowledge exchanges.

Officials with the Canadian government’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade department said they would look into the matter, but had not responded by press time Tuesday

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  1. Tedla Asfaw
    | #1

    June 9, 2012 – 10:22 am
    Dear Tedla Asfaw:

    Thank you for your email message addressed to President MacKinnon expressing your concerns about a visiting delegation from Hawassa University.

    I assure you that your message has been received and directed to the appropriate authorities at the University of Saskatchewan for their consideration.

    Our relationship with Hawassa University extends back to 1997 and has involved 9 distinct projects, most funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) , Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), or through scholarship programs managed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). These projects have included faculty and student exchanges in both directions and, of course, research. Our collaboration has largely centered on agriculture but has also included nutrition and technology transfer. We have assisted Hawassa University to develop their capacity to deliver Master’s and Ph.D. programming in Nutrition.


    Tom Wishart
    Special Advisor on International Initiatives
    Arts 169.2
    University of Saskatchewan
    (306) 966-7390

  2. Tedla Asfaw
    | #2

    Dear Diaspora Websites,

    Where is your report surrounding Shiferaw Shigute’s presence in Canada ? Canadian paper, The StarPhoenix, “Protesters demand end of Ethiopian politician’s visit” by Jasone Warick, June 12, 2012 reported about Ethiopians protest, how comes you failed to post it as a leading story ? Diaspora activism should be reported without any bias.

    Obang Metho’s Open Letter last week to the President of the University of Saskatchewan was missed by some of you guys and it seems to me that you have to ignore the recent news which is based on his and other letters sent to the university plus fellow Ethiopians who came to face Shiferaw Shigute at the campus door. Proud of you guys.

    The protesters message to the University need to be reported because it is the voice of Millions of Ethiopians. While we are focusing on Abebe Gellaw heroic act of last month as we should we should not forget the big picture, the diaspora being the Voice of the Voiceless Ethiopians like the one at Gura Ferda the victim of Shiferaw Shigute. Woyane Embassy did a fundraising last week in DC to boost the moral of few of its supporters and no rally was organized to counter that. No one reported on that, what happened ?

    I thank all who did their part to expose Shiferaw Shigute, a Registered Ethnic Cleanser of Gura Ferda. The university should not be partnering with a known human right abuser and racist thug. That should be reported by all who claim to be the Voice of Voiceless people of Ethiopia.

    Jason Warick of the StarPhoenix should be thanked for his reporting. Shiferaw Shigute should cut and run not be allowed to do any kind of business because his crime is now out for all to see.


  3. Belehennet
    | #3

    It would be a great shame to Ethiopians and Ethiopian/Canadians in Canada and adjacent USA states if the criminal Shimeles Shigute, the Woyane thug, succeeds in conducting the mission to Canada.

  4. ananymous
    | #4

    Weyane, weyane, ooooh weyane: smell Syria and I hope you are planning for your final exit; if there is any place that you can hide from the people of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.

  5. bewkb amaro kele
    | #5

    guys, how could u give such a shameful comment against someone who struggles to end our enemy no.1 i.e – poverty. I frequently travelled to snnpr and I witnessed various changes and remarkable progress in every sectors. could belehnnet gave such a comment ?he doesn’t even know the name of govener shiferaw (shimeles?).

  6. Belehennet
    | #6

    Dear “Bewkb….”,

    I do apologize for my mistake in naming the Woyane thug Shiferaw as “Shimeles”. Mea culpa! I do hope that you have the decency to apologize for defending a corrupt and oppressive regime which is symbolized by your friend, Shiferaw. If you need any evidence for Ethiopia’s desperate poverty despite TPLF’s incompetent governance, I advise you to check UNDP’s human development report. And many others.

    Shame on you!

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