Tag Archives: Ethiopia

May Day || Global

Global May Day 2016

One of the few truly global holidays, International Workers’ Day (May Day) is both a worldwide celebration of the working classes as well as a day to draw attention to ongoing insecurities workers around the world face. May Day has historically had a twofold purpose: a day for workers to voice their concerns over contentious labor policies and for governments to reaffirm their commitments to workers’ rights and just labor practices. At times little more than public relations campaigns and at others violent clashes between governments and workers, global May Day events have highlighted the diverse relationships between labor, employers, and government around the world. Here are the highlights of May Day 2016 in more than 30 countries:


Asia Pacific

Bike rallies were held in Pune as Indian PM Narendra Modi saluted workers on Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, a public holiday. Pakistan‘s major labor unions convened in Lahore to speak out against poor working conditions, violations of international labor conventions, and ongoing privatization in the country. As Bangladeshi officials addressed labor relations and welfare reforms amidst a day of union-organized programming, in Kathmandu, Nepali workers marched while awaiting the ratification of the Labour Act, which guarantees greater social security for workers. Across the Indian Ocean, Australian union leader singled out penalty rate protection and tax reform as major Labour Day issues, with the date of the holiday having been a point of contention as well.

Throughout East Asia, workers rallied to draw attention to labor conditions and call for reforms, from ending contractualization in the Philippines to protecting job security in South KoreaHong Kong saw thousands take to the streets to demand fair and standardized working hours along with a universal pension program. In Malaysia, PM Najib Razak took the day to announce an increase in the national minimum wage and an insurance scheme proposal.

Europe & Eurasia

In cities across France, tens of thousands marched in protest against proposed labor reforms that would loosen the country’s controversial employment and job security policies. Jeremy Corbyn became the first U.K. Labour party  leader to attend a May Day rally in a half-century when he spoke to a crowd of thousands in London, reaffirming solidarity against anti-immigrant sentiment and addressing anti-Semitism accusations that have plagued his party recently. Spain saw thousands across its cities gather, many protesting ongoing austerity measures. An estimated 800,000 gathered in Rome‘s San Giovanni Square, with this year’s event dedicated to slain Italian student Giulio Regeni.

Some 2,000 convened in rain-soaked Zagreb to hear labor leaders protest the increased retirement age and ongoing poverty in Croatia. Moscow hosted a mass demonstration in the city’s Red Square estimated in size from the tens of thousands to 100,000, while thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district under a heavy police presence in the wake of urban suicide attacks and ongoing violence across Turkey.

The Americas

From New York to Los Angeles, demonstrations in the U.S. highlighted widening economic inequality in the country and an election season marred by racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic sentiment. While most protests took place without incident, a peaceful march turned violent in Seattle, leading to five injured officers and nine arrests. A similar outbreak in Montreal led to one injury and 10 arrests.

In Latin America, Brazil‘s embattled president and Workers’ Party leader Dilma Roussef rallied alongside hundreds of thousands across the country as her impeachment proceedings continue and workers fear the inauguration of her center-right vice president. Cuba‘s May Day parade continued the national tradition of expressing support for the Castro regime rather than directly celebrating labor or expressing concerns over labor conditions. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macro backed employers and touted labor proposals that had spurred mass demonstrations only days before. Elsewhere in the region, minimum wage increases were announced in Venezuela and Bolivia and a march took place in Santiago as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a review of her labor reforms after the Supreme Court rejected a key provision granting exclusive negotiating rights to unions.

Middle East & Africa

Police in Egypt blocked hundreds of workers from assembling in a Cairo office as labor leaders and international organizations called for the government to decriminalize independent union organization. In Israel, more than 5,000 youth marched in Tel Aviv, while a Palestinian trade union renewed its call for the establishment of a minimum wage and the dismantlement of the Gaza blockade. A government-sponsored event in Dubai reportedly drew nearly 200 workers, though labor practices in the UAE continue to draw international scrutiny.

South of the Sahara, events popped up across South Africa as politicians sought to address the country’s high unemployment rate and appeal to workers ahead of August elections. In Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari spoke to thousands of workers in Abuja, touting his anti-corruption campaign. A Mozambique labor leader addressed a crowd in Maputo about the debts of state-owned companies and the need for wage and workplace reform. As the decline of oil prices has created economic hardship throughout Angola, the country’s two labor unions marched to draw attention to deteriorating worker conditions and the need for infrastructure maintenance. Workers in Ghana protested the privatization of the management of the state-owned Electric Company of Ghana, while the government insisted the company was still run by the state. Meanwhile, Ethiopia sidestepped Sunday commemorations altogether by moving May Day to May 3, when labor leaders plan to highlight ongoing struggles to organize Ethiopian workers.

Ethiopia News | Oromo

Oromo Ethiopians clash with government over land, language rights
  • Members of the ethnic community have been protesting in a cycle of dissent and retribution since November, with activists reporting as many as 200 dead despite largely peaceful demonstrations.
  • The Oromo have clashed with the government over land rights as they have found themselves pushed off their land by ongoing urban development driven by the country’s economic boom.
  • Language rights have been a particular flashpoint, with the government’s refusal to officially recognize Oromo, the country’s most widely spoken native language, leading to Amharic-only instruction in schools.

Read more:
Video: Anger among Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group boils over” (France 24)
What do Oromo protests mean for Ethiopian unity?” (BBC)
Ethiopian students demand end to police crackdowns in rare protest” (Reuters)

(Image Credit: via BBC)

Ethiopia News | Nuer & Anuak

Ethnic clashes escalate in the Gambella region of Ethiopia
  • At least 14 and possibly dozens have died in ethnic violence in the Itang administrative district of the western Ethiopian region.
  • Gambella, host to more than a quarter-million Nuer refugees, has seen a cascade of retaliatory violence between the Nuer and Anuak ethnic communities since the fall.
  • The Nuer refugees have fled from South Sudan as civil war persists, which has seen weapons transported to Ethiopia and further exacerbated the Gambella conflict.

Read more:
Ethnic clashes in Ethiopia’s Gambella kill dozens, official says” (Bloomberg via The Chicago Tribune)
Ethnic clashes in Gambella region of Ethiopia between Nuer and Anyuak communities” (The Sudan Tribune)

Ethiopia News | Dissenters

Charges against Ethiopian journalists dropped ahead of Obama’s visit to country
  • Five of the Zone 9 bloggers jailed for their social and political criticism of the government were released as Ethiopia prepares for U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to address the African Union later in the month.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has indicated that 12 other journalists remain incarcerated, making Ethiopia one of the nations least friendly to press freedom in Africa.
  • The single-party rule of the People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front in the country has led to instances of criticism of the party being associated with terrorism, leading to the incarcerations.

Read the full story at the Guardian.