May 25, 2011

Kenyan, Ethiopian leaders continue border talks

Filed under: Ethiopia,Kenya — ethiopiantimes @ 3:55 pm
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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi extended their border crisis talks Tuesday on the sidelines of an India-Africa Summit, underway in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The meeting was a follow up to talks the two leaders held in Kampala, Uganda, last week on harmonious co-existence of communities living along the Kenyan-Ethiopian common border. ‘Today’s talks set out the agenda that will be discussed at a joint ministerial meeting between representatives of the two countries. This includes the issue of beacons along the common border and the sustainable use of shared resources like the Lake Turkana,’ the Kenyan President said in a statement after the meeting.

The border talks came amid reports that about 2,500 members of an Ethiopian clan, the Merille, were living on the Kenyan side of the common border.

The clan was blamed for the recent killings in Todonyang, of about 20 Turkana tribemen, returning from a shopping spree in Ethiopia.

Hostilities between the communities are common, but the scale of the attack raised hue and cry in the Kenyan Parliament, which blamed the government for failing to ensure the sanctity of the country’s borders, which partly permitted the attacks.

The two leaders also discussed regional issues, including peace and security in the Sudan and Somalia.

Meanwhile, the two leaders called for patience and tolerance in Sudan that has entered a critical stage in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that set out the roadmap for stability in the country.

During the discussions, Kibaki and Zenawi also expressed the need for fast-tracking infrastructural projects connecting the two countries.

Kibaki briefed the Premier on progress Kenya is making on the Isiolo Moyale Road, whose construction to bitumen standards is currently underway and will connect the two countries at the Moyale border post.

Earlier, the Kenyan President joined 14 other African heads of government and state for the second Africa-India Forum Summit to review implementation of the partnership projects agreed upon during the first summit in India three years ago.

The summit, which brought together the African leaders invited by the African Union to represent the continent and Indian Premier Dr. Manmohan Singh, will also consider modalities of strengthening cooperation between the two partners on the three pillars of capacity building and skill transfer, trade and infrastructure development spelt out under the framework of partnership.

The Premier, in his address, pledged loans totaling US$ 5 billion for the next three years under new lines of credit, to help achieve development goals in Africa.

India will offer an additional US$ 700 million to establish new institutions and training programmes in consultation with the African Union, the Premier said.

Kibaki is accompanied on the visit by Internal Security Minister, who is also acting Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. George Saitoti and Trade Minister Chirau Ali Makwere and legislators George Nyamweya and Eric Omondi Anyanga.


Sudan, Egypt Review Ethiopian Proposal To Study Impact Of Its Blue Nile Dam Project

Filed under: Egypt,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 3:54 pm
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KHARTOUM, May 25 (BERNAMA-NNN-SUNA) — Sudan and Egypt are reviewing an Ethiopian proposal to set up a joint technical tripartite committee to study the technical issues and impact of Ethiopia’s Millennium Dam, which is under construction on the Blue Nile River some 40 km east of Sudan in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopa.

This came about when the ministers of Irrigation and Water Resources of Sudan and Egypt, Kamal Ali Mohamed and Dr. Hussein El-Atfy respectively, co-chaired a session of talks here Tuesday along with the participation of the State Minister at the Ministry of Irrigation and a number senior officials of the two countries.

The talks touched on some proposals discussed by joint technical committees and would be forwarded to the countries of the Nille Basin Initiative, on a compromise formula regarding the Nile Basin Framework Agreement.

Meanwhile, Mohamed said in a statement to SUNA that the meeting also reviewed a report about the visit of the Egyptian Prime Minister to Uganda, besides the means of boosting co-operation with other countries of the Nile Basin and the proposals that would be formulated concerning the framework agreement.

Mohamed added that the meeting took place as part of Sudanese-Egyptian relations, indicating that they discussed issues of the Nile water and heard a report on the outcome of the visit and talks between the Egyptian Prime Minister with his Ethiopian counterpart on Ethiopia’s proposal to set up a tripartite technical committee to discuss the issues and impacts of the Millennium Dam near borders as well as the Prime Minister’s visit to Uganda.

The minister explained that the meeting also touched on activation of the permanent Sudanese-Egyptian technical commission on the Nile Water as well as the joint co-ordination in the coming meeting of the Nile Basin Initiative.

The minister described the meeting as positive and aimed to bolstering the co-operation between the two countries as well as the co-operation with the other Nile Basin countries.

On the impact of the establishment of the State of South Sudan on the water of the River Nile, the minister said the South had been part of the Nile Basin Treaty of 1959 at which many projects were established in both North and South Sudan, revealing that there was a plan to use Sudan’s share in the Nile water from Nemoli (at the Sudanese-Ugandan border) till Dal in the North.


» See all analysis and opinion A ‘day of rage’ in Ethiopia?

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 3:45 pm
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Ethiopia’s handful of TV channels are not carrying much news lately. Instead, broadcasters are spending most of their time covering every phase of the construction of a new mega dam along the country’s Nile waters.

From mawkish ballads to patriotic poems and documentaries, programmes are waxing eloquently about how far the impoverished African nation has come since the dreaded Communist junta was toppled two decades ago, by defying Egyptian pressure and embarking on a massive project from its own coffers.

The long-standing rivalry with Cairo, fuelled by Ethiopian accusations it was meddling to stop any project along the river, has mustered up nationalistic fervour in the country. Most Ethiopians now say they are fully behind the project and some are even buying government bonds to help fund its construction.

A job well done then, Ethiopia? Not so say the government’s detractors. They say the public mobilisation is just a diversionary tactic, a ploy to distract citizens from the country’s ills.

They’ve even set up an online campaign calling for an Arab-style “day of rage” on May 28, the day Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s rebels captured the capital in 1991.

“There is no reason why we cannot have the Arab uprising in Ethiopia,” says their proclamation, headlined “Beka!” – meaning � �enough” in the Amharic language.

“We have resolved to bring the torch to Ethiopia, and liberate the country from the minority dictatorship that has been in power for more than 20 years,” says a post on their Facebook page, which has some 3,000 “confirmed” attendants.

Their resentment echoes some of the factors cited by demonstrators in Egypt: high unemployment, surging costs of living, as well as gripes about the government’s democracy and human rights record.

It also derives from the country’s ethnic federal model, which they say has damaged national cohesion.

Street protests erupted in Ethiopia after Meles’ disputed 2005 election win and more than 200 people lay dead after bloody battles between protesters and police. Some government officials believed then that the opposition was trying to provoke a revolution.

The government hasn’t failed to notice the latest campaign. Party insiders say they have been meeting constantly to discuss such scenarios, while opposition figures said in March that hundreds of their members were rounded up to nip any potential uprising in the bud. The authorities said the people were members of an outlawed “terrorist” group.

Addis Ababa also introduced price caps on certain goods to ease the costs of living shortly after protests gathered steam in North Africa. Ethiopia’s inflation rate surged to 29.5 percent in April from just 5.3 percent in August last year.

In sub-Saharan Africa, attempts to organise protests this year in countries such as Djibouti , Gabon and Mauritania have been swiftly snuffed out by the authorities, although protests over food and fuel price rises in Uganda have dragged on for more than a month.

The opposition in Eritrea is also trying to muster a protest via Facebook for May 28 as well.

But in diverse Ethiopia, it’s hard to speculate how far resentment (or support) is entrenched, and it is likely that political allegiances vary from region to region. On the other hand, Meles has received credit for his anti-poverty initiatives, with the number of universities surging 10-fold since 1991, health coverage improving and the construction of an impressive infrastructure network throughout the country.

The economy has also grown at a healthy rate for the past six years – at double-digits in fact, according to government figures.

But some experts say Ethiopia’s surging cost of living is Meles’ Achilles’ heel, not the stalled democratisation process.

Though Addis Ababa boasts an evolving skyline with numerous high-rise buildings sprouting throughout, wealth hasn’t trickled down to the poor.

“We say you never miss a country you’ve never been to,” an Addis Ababa University political science lecturer told me.

“What can cause resentment here is the continuously rising costs of basic commodities, not politics. We still don’t have much experience, the democratic culture, to come out in defence of it,” he said.

But there’s also an impression that ordinary Ethiopians are suffering from a hangover from the violence of 2005, and few expect they will turn out in droves and defy a strong state security apparatus next week.

Back in 2005, an opposition coalition rallied thousands with its intellectual appeal, only to be involved in a bitter power struggle and disband when the going went tough, with some of its influential figures fleeing the country.

Some also point to Ethiopia’s low Internet penetration. Though a few posters have been slapped on the streets of Addis Ababa, the campaign has only gained traction online, particularly among the country’s large Diaspora.

Will Ethiopia’s anti-government supporters challenge the odds and take to the streets come Saturday? Or is this just a pipe dream, an unrealistic call at a time when the country’s opposition is at its weakest?

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