Berhanu Nega

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – Berhanu Nega, a former Bucknell University professor who was jailed for a year and half as a political prisoner in Ethiopia, will discuss democracy and economics and their impact on terrorism in developing countries while serving this spring as a Visiting International Scholar in the Economics Department at Bucknell.

Nega will give the talk, "American Power and the Struggle against Poverty and Terror in Africa," at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Trout Auditorium on the Bucknell campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

Nega served as an Economics faculty member at Bucknell from 1990 to 1994, when he returned to Ethiopia for a tenured position in the Department of Economics at Addis Ababa  University. He established and directed the first independent economic policy research institute in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Organization, which under his directorship from 2000 to 2005 became the preeminent research institute on economic development and macroeconomic economic issues in the country.

Affordable foods
During the same time he established and managed the Ethiopian Maize Agro-Industrial Share Company, a business dedicated to the production of affordable foods for Ethiopia’s populations.

"Dr. Nega's scholarly efforts have had a substantial impact in Ethiopia," said Janet Knoedler, chair and associate professor of Economics at Bucknell. "The Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Organization became a key source for independent economic research and data in a country where the government tried to maintain tight control on the flow of information."

Nega’s scholarly work and teaching subsequently led to his becoming one of the leaders of the democratic opposition in Ethiopia. Drawing on his understanding of the theoretical principles of economic development, Nega worked to improve the economic standing of his fellow citizens through public service.

First elected mayor
He first served as a member of the Executive Council of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, and later became the first elected mayor in Ethiopia’s history when he won more than 75 percent of the vote for mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005.

Following his election, he was arrested, along with most of the other leaders of the opposition, and spent a year and a half as a prisoner of conscience before being released this past July. In a move that human rights groups said was politically motivated, he and the others were charged with treason, inciting violence, and trying to overthrow the government. The prosecution had pushed for the death penalty.

"Bucknell's full and continued support of Berhanu helped to keep pressure up for his release," said Bucknell professor of English John Rickard, who helped lead a group of faculty who pushed for Nega's release.

When Freedom Dawns
He wrote and published a book in Amharic, titled When Freedom Dawns. He expects to publish an English-language version of this book within the next year.

While at Bucknell this spring, Nega will also guest lecture for the Economics Department and participate in the Human Rights Week activities sponsored by Bucknell Students for Fair Trade. He participated in a panel this week on "Endangered Scholars Worldwide" and plans to give numerous lectures around the country about the situation in Ethiopia.

For more information on Nega's visit, contact Janet Knoedler at 570-577-3447.

Contact: Office of Communication

Posted Feb. 8, 2008

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