April 30, 2011

Ethiopia to charge 121 prisoners with terrorism

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 10:57 pm
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* More than 200 ethnic Oromos held, says HRW

* Government says 121 “rebels” will be charged

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA, April 7 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s government on Thursday said it was preparing to charge more than 100 prisoners with terrorism and dismissed calls by a rights groups to release them immediately.

The government said it had arrested 121 people in March and accused them of being members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebel group.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch said the arrests were part of a government crackdown on opposition campaigners from Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is Washington’s closest ally in the Horn of Africa but has come under increasing criticism from rights groups accusing him of crushing dissent.

Opposition officials in the capital Addis Ababa who did not want to be named told Reuters they suspected the arrests were motivated by government fear of a public uprising.
Ethiopia’s government defended the arrests and said there was no limit to how long the suspects could be held as long as they were regularly remanded by the courts.

“They are being held on suspicion of OLF membership while prosecutors prepare charges against them for terrorist activities,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters.

“Ethiopia has the right to defend itself against terrorism and these groups have no right to question that … Nobody was arrested only for involvement in opposition politics,” he added.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament on Tuesday that some “terrorists” were using membership of political parties to cover up their activities.

He said Eritrea was stepping up attempts to destabilise Ethiopia by arming rebel groups including the OLF.

The OLF has been fighting since 1993 for more autonomy for the Oromia region. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group with 27 million out of a population of 80 million.

Oromia produces most of the coffee in Africa’s biggest grower, along with oil seeds, sesame and livestock, which are all key exports.

Human Rights Watch said Ethiopia had arrested more than 200 Oromos since March.

“The authorities should immediately free the Oromo opposition members unless they can bring credible charges against them,” the New York-based group said in a statement.

Opposition parties said their supporters had been arrested in recent weeks.

“We have more than 80 people detained since mid-March,” Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo People’s Congress, told Reuters. “The government, however, says they are members of the OLF. The arrests are ongoing.”

The main opposition coalition, Medrek, last week named 68 Oromos it said were being held without charge because of their political affiliations. (Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho, editing by Andrew Heavens)


Beka conference in Toronto with Obang Metho

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 10:51 pm
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A conference will be held in Toronto, Canada, on May 7, to discuss the current situation in Ethiopia, including the struggle to bring an end to the brutal dictatorship.

Guest speakers

Obang Metho (SMNE Director)
Jawar Mohamed (Activist and Political Analyst)
Abebe Belew (Addis Dimts Radio Host)
Mohamed Hassan (Researcher and Founder of Canadian Center for Ogaden Researcher and
Allo Aydahis (From the Afar community)

Date/Time: Saturday, May 7, at 2:00 PM
Address: 40 Donlands, Toronto

More info: Email

Uganda leader’s speech interrupted in Kenya

Filed under: Uganda — ethiopiantimes @ 8:51 pm
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NAIROBI, April 30 (Reuters) – A speech by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was briefly interrupted in Kenya on Saturday by a member of his audience objecting to this week’s violent crackdown on protestors.

Two people were killed on Friday and at least 90 injured across the Ugandan capital Kampala after police fired bullets and teargas at crowds protesting against the arrest of an opposition leader. [ID:nLDE73S1SE]

“Mr. President, how can we as Kenyans sit here and listen to you while you have been brutalising Ugandans?” shouted the man, before he was taken away by Museveni’s security detail.

Museveni, who is on a one-day private visit to the Kenyan capital, continued his address to a local business club.

His chief political rival, Kizza Besigye, is being treated at a Nairobi hospital a five-minute drive from the venue of Museveni’s speech for injuries sustained while he was being arrested on Thursday.

The protests, which have the potential to unnerve investors in east Africa’s third largest economy are aimed at forcing the government to rein in soaring prices of food and fuel. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing

Ethiopia Denies ICRC Permission to Resume Ogaden Operation

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 10:50 am
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Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), (File)

Ethiopia has denied the International Committee of the Red Cross permission to resume humanitarian operations in the restive Ogaden region. ICRC workers were expelled from the Ogaden nearly four years ago for allegedly aiding members of a separatist group, a charge they strongly deny.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger says talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi yielded no progress on the organization’s return to the eastern Ogaden region.

“I had bilateral talks yesterday. And it will not be possible in the very near future for us to go back to the Ogaden region,” Kellenberger said. “That’s the message I got.”

Ethiopia ordered ICRC staff out of the mostly ethnic Somali region in July, 2007, accusing humanitarian workers of siding with rebels of the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front. The ICRC rejected the charges.

Ethiopia limits access to the Ogaden by journalists and humanitarian groups. But a recent US State Department human rights report suggests food and medicine deliveries are restricted in the conflict zone, as pro-government forces wage a counterinsurgency operation against increasingly violent ONLF rebels.

The challenge to humanitarian groups is compounded by a severe drought. The UN World Food Program estimates nearly eight-and-a-half million people are in need of food aid over a wide swath of the Horn of Africa, including southern and southeastern Ethiopia, as well as parts of neighboring Somalia and Kenya.

Kellenberger says the ICRC focuses its Somalia operation mainly on the parched south and central region that is the stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab. He admits it is hard to monitor food and water deliveries to ensure the aid is not being used to benefit al-Shabab.

“Somalia is a very difficult context because to a large extent, it is what you call in humanitarian language a remote control operation,” he said. “For security reasons it’s very difficult to have expatriates on the ground on a permanent basis, so what they can do at the maximum is go in and out, so we do rely to a large extent on Somali ICRC staff, and we rely on the Somali Red Crescent.”

Kellenberger’s agenda in Addis Ababa included briefing the African Union Peace and Security Council on ICRC operations. He says six of the 12 largest ICRC missions are in AU countries, including Libya, particularly its embattled city Misrata.

“The ICRC is trying to work on both sides, on the side controlled by the TNC but also on the side controlled by the government in Tripoli. In recent times we’ve had a special focus on Misrata. It’s still difficult for us to have an overall assessment,” Kellenger explained. “Because we could visit part of the city but could not make an overall assessment.”

Kellenberger says ICRC activities in Libya include evacuating migrant workers and people critically wounded in fighting, as well as visiting detainees being held by the rebel Transitional National Council. He said negotiations have not been completed with the Tripoli government to visit detainees they hold.

Detained British nationals possessed arms – Eritrea

Filed under: Eritrea — ethiopiantimes @ 10:01 am
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By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, April 30 (Reuters) – Four British nationals detained in Eritrea late last year possessed large amounts of arms, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki said late on Friday.

British media reports said four ex-Royal Marines were arrested by an Eritrean naval vessel after a gunbattle on Dec. 24 as they guarded a merchant ship from pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The London-based newspaper The Sun reported last month the four were seized by Eritrea’s navy. Another two had escaped by boat, the paper added.

“They possessed countless amounts of arms, including sniper rifles. If you come to my house with a gun, don’t I have the right to defend myself?” Isaias said in an interview with the state-run Eri TV.

The Eritrean leader did not say whether the group would be charged or whether their embassy would be granted consular access to them.
British authorities say Asmara has not given any information on the group’s whereabouts. Foreign Minister Henry Bellingham warned earlier this month Britain was ready to take ‘robust action’ if Eritrea remained silent. [ID:nLDE7341HR]

Bellingham said consular access to check on the men’s welfare should have been granted within 48 hours under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, signed by both Britain and Eritrea.

“They should ask what they were doing in our territory. They are citing the … convention when our laws were violated,” Isaias said.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most secretive nations and has frosty relations with a number of western countries as well as most of its neighbours, having been involved in border disputes with Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Britain has in the past called for “punishment” of Asmara for its alleged support of Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Eritrea in late 2009. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Five dead, 700 people arrested

Filed under: Uganda — ethiopiantimes @ 9:58 am
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At least five people are confirmed dead as a result of fatal gunshot wounds after a bloody day of rioting, bringing the death toll to 10 people killed since demonstrations began three weeks ago.

Kampala Metropolitan Spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi last evening identified three of the victims as Samuel Mufumbira, a vendor at the city’s St. Balikuddembe (Owino) Market who was shot in the head, Frank Kizito, shot in Busabala and Ssemuga Kanaabi.
Another two were shot in Bwaise and Bweyogerere, Ssenkumbi said.

Uganda Red Cross Society secretary general Michael Nataka seperately confirmed the deaths of two men, in Kasubi and Najjanankumbi. Mr Nataka said the society has attended to at least 200 people, of which 139 were referred to hospital – 20 of these for bullet wounds.

A two-and-half-year-old baby girl, Patricia Namugenyi, was in critical condition at Mulago after reportedly having been shot in the stomach. Her mother Annet Nabukenya, a Namasuba resident, wailed uncontrollably as she looked on.
Mr Nataka said the bulk of yesterday’s injuries came from Kasangati, Kiwatule/Ntinda, and Najjanankumbi areas.

While the riots centered around Kampala and its suburbs, they also took place in five other towns, from Entebbe to Mbale.
About 700 people have been arrested in total – 400 in the Kampala Metropolitan area alone.

First Son Lt. Col. Kainerugaba Muhoozi, commander of the elite Special Forces Group, personally took charge in what is believed to have been the epicentre of violence, in Kisekka Market downtown.

But soldiers expelled journalists from the area, and blocked those who stayed from photographing their actions. In Jinja town, military police roughed up Saturday Monitor journalist Denis Edema, confiscated his digital camera and deleted pictures of their confrontation with protestors on Kirinya Road until UPDF Spokesman Felix Kulayigye intervened.

On receiving end
Elsewhere, photographers whom some security operatives accused of taking only “bad pictures” found themselves on the receiving end of police beatings.
Ambulances with their sirens blaring were heard across the city throughout the day – continuously delivering the injured to hospital. Among them were two policemen with gunshot wounds and a soldier.

In Mbale, a government car was torched in a dramatic confrontation – anti-riot police momentarily fled after running out of teargas in the face of advancing protestors.
Police say they arrested 18 suspected rioters in the eastern district.
Traffic on Jinja and Gulu highways was temporarily interrupted – people arriving in affected towns fled back home as automatic weapons rang out.

Military police commandeered armoured vehicles to beat back the protestors who pelted them with stones. The heavily-guarded convoy of Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, was stoned at Najjanankumbi on Entebbe Road, but Lt. Col. Kulayigye said the army commander was not in his official vehicle at the time.

“The situation required us to come in to support internal security organs to restore stability and order,” the UPDF spokesman said.Plumes of black smoke filled the city skies and suffocating teargas sent residents scampering for fresh water to wash their burning eyes. Internal Affairs Minister Kirunda Kivejinja is yet to address the press on the day’s mayhem, widely believed to have been sparked by the violent and humiliating arrest of opposition leader, Kizza Besigye on Thursday.

He did however issue a statement on the arrest, justifying police actions that saw Besigye tear-gassed directly in the face, potentially causing permanent eye damage, and brutally dragged from his car.

Reported by Philippa Croome, Justus Lyatuu, Mercy Nalugo, David Mafabi, Pauline Kairu, Martin Ssebuyira, and Emmanuel Mulondo

April 29, 2011

Ethiopia’s PM calls Egyptian elites “Racists”

Filed under: Djibouti,Egypt,Eritrea,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 10:55 pm
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An interview of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi by Eritrean media about the country’s economy and relations with Egypt, Eritrea

Quotes from Interview
“Nasser (Ex Egyptian President) went out of his way to recruit non-Arabs into the Arab League simply because they were in close proximity to Ethiopia”
“they (Egyptians) do not need to stop us because we are doing their job….these are dams that they ought to finance, at least partly, because they will benefit from them.”
The last ten years have been “the golden years of Ethiopia”
“there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel and it is visible to every Ethiopian. And you don’t have to come to Addis to see it; you could see it in Washington.”
Ethiopian Egyptian relationship has been deceiving on the surface because, deep inside, both countries were mutually suspicious of each other—two major issues have been the Eritrean revolution and, hydropolitcs: the Nile water. You have now embarked on an ambitious power generating (not irrigation) project and it is making the Egyptians uneasy. You said that the projects would protect both Egypt and Sudan (in fact you said they should partially fund the projects). If that is the case, how do you explain the Egyptian reaction? Or is it the Egyptian wish to keep the 1929 agreement intact? Why would they object to Ethiopia generating power from the Nile?
Meles: You know the advantage of being in my position is you get to access information that is not necessarily publicly available. And the first thing that I learned that these Nile issues, debate on distribution of The Nile issue, was really a bogus issue. It was really a bogus issue because if you were to treat the Nile basin–and the most sensitive part of the Nile basin is the so-called eastern Nile, the Nile that goes from Ethiopia to Sudan and Egypt– because 85% of the water that goes to Aswan comes from Ethiopia. This part of the water, Nile, which is supposed to have shortage of water, doesn’t have shortage of water; it only has shortage of money. Ethiopia is structured to be the power generating center of the Nile, geographically. Sudan is, geographically, created to be the main agricultural producer of this region. Only the delta part of Egypt is supposed to produce goods, agricultural goods. And so if you use the Nile water in a rational manner, there will not be any shortage of water. The fact is, for example, that if you built dams in Ethiopia and removed Jebel Awliya from Sudan, it is useless; it generates 17 mega watts of electricity but exposes Nile water to evaporation in unheard of proportion. So you don’t need the regulation of Jebel Awliaya because the water would have been regulated here. And reduce the operating level of Aswan Dam, you would have enough water to irrigate more than a million hectares in Ethiopia; and 4 to 5 billion cubic meters of additional water for the Sudan, and Sudan can use the water better than anybody else. The Egyptians themselves have a water conservation project which will end in 2017. And their plan is to save 8 billion cubic meters of additional water. Now, unless they want to take this water and let it evaporate in the desert, they don’t have land that requires 8 billion cubic meter of water. So it is not really about water, it is about politics and power.
The problem, as I see it, is the politics of the Egyptian elite: there is a bit of racism behind it, and there is a bit of colonial inheritance behind it. Colonial clerks tend to be more colonially inclined in their attitudes than their masters and the Egyptians have been, to some extent, clerks of British colonialism in Sudan. And so they inherited this British theory of the Nile serving Liverpool via Egypt. Egypt growing cotton for Liverpool. And finally, the Nile has been this drug that has been used to hook the Egyptian people for external enemies and justify this gargantuan state, Egyptian state which is there to protect the Egyptians vis-a-vis the Abd from the South. So it has been a political instrument more than anything else. And the fact that the Egyptian edifice is beginning to crack now, is allowing alternative opinions amongst Egyptians to creep through the cracks… and these opinions are: why should we quarrel over some natural resource that belongs to us, let’s see if there is a rational win-win alternative…this is unheard of, but it is beginning to creep even into the Egyptian media, so I am very encouraged by it.
Do you intend to develop irrigation projects using the Nile in the future? And how would you balance the natural rights of lower Nile countries and your country’s right to exploit the Nile water resources?
Meles: The fact is that the Egyptians could sustain this irrational policy for a number of reasons. First, the geopolitical position was such that they could prevent Ethiopia from accessing grants, loans and credits for projects on the Nile. They have completely shut off our access to credit whether it is from World Bank, or Brazil or China or Europe or the USA. And so they were assured, given the poverty level in Ethiopia, that Ethiopia will not be investing anything on the Nile, of substance. That was the key instrument. The other instrument they had was that Ethiopia itself was unstable and was not going to focus on development and it was surrounded by hostile government. That is why [Gemal Abdel] Nasser went out of his way to recruit non-Arabs into the Arab League simply because they were in close proximity to Ethiopia—Somalia is a case in point. Now we have reached a stage where some of these assumptions are no longer valid. We are now able to do something significant. We first started with minor projects on the Tekeze [River], Lake Tana. Now we are in a position to be able to finance, on our own, the biggest dam that can be built on the Nile, in Ethiopia. We believe that this is going to dismantle much illusion amongst the Egyptians. We believe that this is going to convince them that they cannot stop us. We believe that this is going to convince them that they do not need to stop us because we are doing their job. The dams we build, we are unable to use 100% of their service, because much of the service is downstream-inevitably, unavoidably. So we will show them in practice, that where we build dams, these are not intended against them. In fact, these are dams that they ought to finance, at least partly, because they will benefit from them. So once we break this taboo, I believe the path will be opened for a rational engagement between ourselves and the Egyptians. By the way, on balance, the Sudanese have taken a rational position on the Nile. On the surface they seem to be twins on their positions on the Nile; that is far from the truth.
Eritrea is considered a Nile basin country, what is the strategic leverage that Eritrea has to influence Nile politics?
Meles: Eritrea is a marginal player on the Nile; it is part of the Nile riparian countries primarily because of the Tekeze River. As you know the Tekeze River or the Atbara River in the Sudan carries about 9 million cubic meter of water. There are one or two minor rivers from Eritrea that flow to the Tekeze and maybe contribute about 0.1% or so of the Tekeze which is itself part of the Nile basin. Every stream counts. That is why, technically, Eritrea is a riparian country but it is not in the meetings of the ten riparian countries of the Nile. This is not by design but because your president is not infatuated with international organizations of any sort.
The head of the Eritrean regime had close relations and coordination with Egypt on Somalis’ and Sudanese politics. He also had good relations with Gaddafi and benefited from him financially. Now, Mubarek is gone and Gaddafi is on the edge of the cliff. How do you think this would affect the Eritrean regime and how would that effect the stalemate between Eritrea and Ethiopia?
Meles: The thing is that Isaias needed the support from these parties, to do not just their bidding, but his own internal drive. So this was a marriage of convenience. This was not Egypt and Kaddafi hiring out Isaias. These [are] two groups coming together on the basis of a common agenda. Egypt providing some of the diplomatic clout, some of the training and assistance; Kaddafi providing the finance and Qatar also providing the finance. Now, what the current environment suggests is that this external support is no longer available. But that doesn’t mean Isaias is going to change his color; he will seek alternative sources of financing—and by the looks of it, he is likely to look at possible mining resources within Eritrea to fill in the gaps that will be left by the discontinuation of support from abroad.
According to the Eritrean regime, your government is on the verge of collapse and they mention defections and military operations by your opponents in North Ethiopia. How true is this?
Meles: According to the Eritrean regime, we have been on the verge of collapse, for what…ten years now! And these ten years happen to be, in the eyes of a neutral observer, the golden years of Ethiopia. We have been growing at a double digit rate for seven, eight years now. The country is stable from end to end. Obviously we have our own challenges; we are still a very poor country. Seven years of growth does not mean much when you start from the bottom of the heap. But there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel and it is visible to every Ethiopian. And you don’t have to come to Addis to see it; you could see it in Washington. Ten years ago, none of the meetings that we would call for would be attended by any significant number of people. The other day, in spite of massive campaign by the Diaspora opposition and the Eritrean regime, we had thousands upon thousands of Ethiopians attending our meeting and deciding to buy bonds for the construction of the dam on the Nile. So, it is a very stable government and that is what every major country that has interest in the region would tell you. I think this [claim of imminent demise] is how they keep the illusion of succeeding in their agenda of regime change in Ethiopia.
You have Libyan investment in Ethiopia. One of them is Libyaoil: Is it true that Libyaoil is owned by one of Kadaddfi’s sons? If that is true, wouldn’t [it] be a gesture for Ethiopia to hand over the assets to the transitional Libyan administration? How about the Libyan embassy in Ethiopia—what is its position, still with Gaddafi? And how much of your oil comes from Libya and how has the supply been affected?
Meles: I understand the embassy, at least formally, is siding with Kaddafi. The Libyan government has bought off Shell Ethiopia and it is now OilLibya. That is the only investment I know of the Libyan government or Kaddafi—it is very difficult to distinguish between the Libyan government and Kaddafi. I don’t know where Gaddafi private starts or where the Libyan government property ends. Now, the way we operate here in Ethiopia is to follow first international law—Security Council has said this property is sanction on Libya that applies to Ethiopia. Secondly, there is AU—sometimes we agree within them sometimes we do not agree with them. But even when we do not agree with them, we do not believe in publicly second guessing them. This, we think, is part of the due that we have to pay for the fact that we host the AU. So at this stage we have not recognized the national council in Benghazi, we wait for the AU to do so. Even in the case of, for example, Somaliland where we engage with the authorities like a sovereign authority, in everything except name. We refrained from recognizing them, and we have told the Somaliland authorities, they have got to get the African Union supporting them before we can recognize them. Again, in the case of [Alassana] Ouattara, in Ivory Coast. He is the internationally recognized president and he wanted to change his embassy here and we recognize him like the AU he is the internationally recognized leader, but we asked the AU if they would give us clearance, because he will also be the ambassador not only to Ethiopia but also to the AU. The AU told us to hold up for a moment, hopefully now they will give us a clearance. The way we operate here is such that we don’t take initiatives in recognizing states especially in Africa.
Over the last few weeks, you made statements regarding Eritrea and there were also statements from the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs. Is anything extraordinary happening at the border area, troop movements, preparation for an attack…or anything of that nature?
Meles: It is not so much about a tense border situation; it is about the fact that we have reached a stage where our previous policy of passive defense does not work, it cannot work anymore. In the past, our policy was to try and follow the terrorists that Isaias was sending across the border and try neutralizing them rather than responding at the source. That was fine for two reasons: first their target ground opposition and terrorism was government and government institutions, specifically, military and security establishment and other government entities. These are what they call “hard targets”, you can harden them and protect them. You can never be 100% fullproof. If some terrorist slips through a crack you can take it from there and move on because these are government targets. In recent months, the target has been shifted. The recent crop of terrorists that Isaias sent across the border were targeting things such as Fil-Waha [hot springs in Addis, which is a tourist destination] , Mercato [shopping district], taxis, buses—these are what they call “soft targets”. The instructions that they were given when they were being trained around Asseb in Dankalia region, was to change Addis into Baghdad. Now, when you have such soft target, the only way you can protect the soft targets is at the source. So, we now have to tell the Eritrean regime, if you carry outrageous acts in Ethiopia, not only the terrorists that you send, but you yourself, you are going to pay. And our response is going to be proportional. As I was saying in parliament the other day, if they shoot a bullet at us, we shoot a bullet back at them. If this forces them to stop the destabilization activity, all the better for everybody. If they maintain the current state of undeclared war and do not escalate it, we will maintain a response that is appropriate to it, we will not escalate it. If they escalate it to a war and a full scale invasion of Ethiopia, we will do what we always said we will do in the past because this will be a second certified invasion of Ethiopia where the proportionate response to it would be to make sure that there would not be a third one. So there is a shift in direction, it doesn’t automatically mean that there is going to be war –it all depends on how Isaias responds. [If it is] by escalation and invasion of Ethiopia, then we will have war. If he responds by de-escalating, then there won’t be one.
Last week I was in Djibouti and I visited the port facilities, the container storage, car storage, oil tank farms and dry cargo facilities. I also visited Bilbela, a town that seems to thrive on business from the Ethiopian drivers and the general Ethiopia-Djibouti business and the transport trucks that pass through it. I also saw thousands of Ethiopian trucks in that area. My question is: how much business is Djibouti getting from Eritrea? And if what happened ten years ago didn’t happen, how much of that business do you estimate would have been the share of Eritrean ports? And, if the political situation in Eritrea changed and there was a liberal, business friendly government there, how much of this do you think Eritrea would regain…I mean, including Massawa, which is more convenient to the northern part of Ethiopia.
Meles: Quite a lot. The current prospects in Ethiopia now are such that even if we had Eritrean ports as key ports, we will still be needing Djibouti. So, while we have not given up on the hope of normalization between these two countries, Eritrea and Ethiopia, nevertheless, we are convinced that even with normalization, Asseb and Massawa, and a few other ports like Tio, will just not be enough. So we are investing heavily in Djibouti. We are going to build a new railway from Addis to Djibouti. We are going to build a new railway system from the north to Tajura—a new port will be built in Tajura [old Djibouti port]. In the short run, all of that business, 80% of that business would have gone to Asseb and a small percentage would have gone to Massawa, but now it is completely diverted to Djibouti.
Can you give me some figures, the value of this business?
Meles: I do not have exact figures at hand, but I will be surprised if the net income of Djibouti were to be less than half a billion dollar or so.
Do you think that this business is lost forever by the Eritrean ports or Eritrea would be able to regain these lost opportunities under normal situation?
Meles: It is going to regain it precisely because the demand of the Ethiopian economy is going to go beyond the capacity of Tajura and Djibouti to take care of the requirements of Ethiopia. For example we are beginning to develop the potassium resources in the Afar region of Ethiopia—that is millions of tons per year that needs to be transported. Technically, the closest port to this is not even Asseb, it is Tio. You could develop it into a big port. So under normal situation, Eritrea could regain most of these businesses and develop new businesses as well.

Eritrea Calls Ethiopia’s New Stance a ‘Declaration of War’

Filed under: Eritrea,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 8:30 pm

Eritrea criticized Ethiopia’s new stance on relations between the two countries as “pure aggression and a declaration of war” and denied it supports terrorism.

Ethiopia’s government on April 15 announced it will increase support to Eritrean rebels seeking to overthrow the government of President Isaias Afewerki. The country will use “any means at its disposal” to bring about regime change unless the Eritrean government changes its policies, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said.

The two countries fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70,000 people, according to Brussels-based International Crisis Group. Relations between the two have remained tense as each backed opposing factions in nearby Somalia’s civil war. Skirmishes between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops occasionally break out along their 912-kilometer (567-mile) border. Ethiopia previously accused Eritrea of supporting Ethiopian rebels and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in neighboring Somalia.

“Eritrea does not have an agenda of destabilizing Ethiopia or the region,” Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, said to the 53-member continental bloc’s security panel on April 26.

Accusations of Eritrean support for terrorism are “fabricated and baseless,” he said. “It is not in our psyche, our culture, our philosophy, our upbringing, our value and our history to attack civilian targets, victimize and terrorize innocent people.”

Bombing Attempt

In February, Ethiopia said it foiled an attempt by the rebel Oromo Liberation Front to bomb an AU summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of backing the front.

Eritrea’s “destabilization activities against other countries in the region, including Ethiopia, continue unabated,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Eritrea has been under United Nations sanctions since December 2009 for its alleged support of terrorists fighting to topple the Western-backed government of Somalia. Eritrea’s Foreign Ministry says the sanctions are “unjustifiable.”

The international community should condemn the aggression by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government and call for its withdrawal from Eritrean territory, Girma said.

Isaias and Meles led allied rebel groups that overthrew Ethiopia’s Communist Derg regime in 1991. Eritrea, formerly an Ethiopian province, won independence after a 1993 referendum. A 2002 decision by a United Nations commission that the disputed town of Badme is Eritrean has been rejected by Ethiopia.

“Eritrea is ready to normalize relations with Ethiopia” if Ethiopia vacates its territory, Girma said.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at

Chinese national arrested with ivory in Kenya

Filed under: Kenya — ethiopiantimes @ 11:31 am

NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenyan police said Friday they had arrested a Chinese national who was trying to smuggle 96 kilogrammes (212 pounds) of ivory onto a flight for China at Nairobi’s international airport.

“Travel documents in the man’s possession showed he was travelling to China from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is now in our custody and will be arraigned in court later today,” a senior police officer at the aiport said.

The man, who has not been identified “was arrested at 8:00 pm last (Thursday) night as he prepared to board a flight to China”, the officer said.

He will be arraigned in court later Friday.

A Chinese national arrested in January at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 65 kilos of ivory was sentenced to eight months in prison or a fine of around 600 dollars (S$800.85) for illegal possesion.

Kenya has in recent months arrested several people trying to smuggle ivory through Nairobi into Asia.

The illegal trade in ivory from African elephants is driven by Asian and Middle Eastern demand for the tusks used in ornaments.

Uganda riots over Kizza Besigye’s arrest

Filed under: Uganda — ethiopiantimes @ 11:28 am
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People have been blocking roads and burning tyres, and police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

Mr Besigye sought medical treatment after being tear-gassed in his car and bundled roughly into a truck when he was arrested on Thursday.

It was his fourth detention this month for his participation in a “walk-to-work” protest over high prices.

President Yoweri Museveni has said the walking campaign over the rise in the cost of living is illegal.

After his arrest Dr Besigye was charged with inciting violence but released on medical grounds until 2 May.

The BBC’s Joshua Mmali in the city says he was taken to hospital from the court because he had been blinded by the tear gas and pepper spray.

Dr Besigye’s lawyer has told the BBC that the Forum for Democratic Change leader was discharged on Thursday night from hospital, but he has not been able to reach him by phone on Friday morning.

Our correspondent says transport is paralysed, shops are closed and gunshots can be heard from different parts of the city.

Live ammunition has been fired in the city centre, he says.

The trouble started in Kisseka market after rumours spread that the FDC leader may have died.

The speculation about his death has spread via Twitter and on Uganda chatrooms.

The security forces are out in strength as the trouble has spread across the city, our reporter says.

“Our personnel are moving to put out fires [from tyres]. We are containing it,” police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

The BBC’s Ignatius Bahizi in the suburb of Kasubi says people are fleeing the area and vehicles are heading out of town to save them from damage.

He said when he tried to take a photo of the protesters burning tyres they turned on him and tried to attack him.

April’s “walk-to-work” campaign, organised by several opposition parties over rising fuel and food prices, has been marked by clashes between protesters and the police and the arrest of opposition politicians.

Dr Besigye, who was shot in the hand during a similar recent protest, lost to President Museveni in a February election he says was rigged.

Before the polls, Dr Besigye had called for Egypt-style uprisings in the event of fraud.

Police responded by banning public demonstrations.

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