April 30, 2014

Egyptian satellite to monitor construction of Ethiopia’s disputed dam

A new Egyptian satellite will track the construction of an Ethiopian hydroelectric dam over which officials in Cairo and Addis Ababa have been locked in a standoff over fears that the project will hinder Egypt’s access to the Nile’s water.

Launched almost two weeks ago, Egysat will monitor Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high quality photos of the construction site along with other sources of the Nile, said Alaa El-din El-Nahry, vice president of Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.

The LE300 million satellite – which will come into operation in mid-June after a two-month test period – will track the dam’s height, storage capacity and water discharge. It will also monitor the Kongo River basin to assess the effectiveness of a proposed project to link the Kongo and Nile rivers.

Egypt’s government believes the satellite’s findings will bolster its negotiations with Ethiopia and provide legal ground in case it must resort to international arbitration over any violations in the dam’s stated purpose of electricity generation, El-Nahry said during a seminar in Cairo, according to Al-Ahram’s daily Arabic newspaper.

Egypt has been particularly concerned that the dam, now more than 30 percent finished, will hugely impact its share of the Nile, the country’s main source of potable water.

Situated near the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile, a Nile tributary, the hydroelectric dam will be the biggest in Africa, capable of producing 6,000 megawatts of energy.

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn urged Egypt to return to the tripartite discussions with Ethiopia and Sudan in an effort to settle the dispute. The three countries have been engaged in a series of dialogues since the launch of the project three years ago.

Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi – endorsed an accord, the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

Sudan, Egypt’s immediate downstream country, has backed Ethiopia’s plans to build the dam.


Eritrean rebels claim to have killed dozens of intelligence agents

Filed under: Eritrea — ethiopiantimes @ 8:18 pm
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April 28, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Eritrean rebel group, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), alleged on Monday it had killed and wounded dozens of Eritrean government intelligence agents in an attack inside the reclusive East African nation.

Thumb 1The Ethiopia-based rebel group said that the strike was carried out at the military barracks of an intelligence unit based in the Northern Red Sea region in the vicinity of Alhan.

Ibrahim Haron, the leader of the rebel group, told Sudan Tribune that their “forces in the early hours of Saturday attacked the military camp and killed 27 intelligence agents and wounded many others belonging to the 15th sub-division intelligence unit”.

The rebel leader said his fighters took control of the military base for over eight hours following the attack, destroying the entire camp before leaving the area.

The group also claims to have captured various types of weapons.

There was no immediate comment from the government in Asmara and the claims cannot be independently verified.

He said there were some 70 government intelligence members inside the camp during the assault but he said none of them tried to engage the rebel fighters.

“They preferred to runaway than fight against [us]. This indicates how much the government army is weakening,” the rebels said.

Ibrahim said the latest assault was in retaliation to ethnic killings by Eritrean government agents targeting Afar minorities.

This is the rebel group’s first cross-border attack since 2012 when they killed 30 Eritrean soldiers in an attack at a military base in the Southern Red Sea region.

RSADO which is a member of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), a coalition of 11 Eritrean political organisations, renewed its calls for other opposition members to join the armed struggle to topple president Isaias Afwerki’s regime.

After the 1998-2000 bloody border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Asmara considers Eritrea’s Afars as being aligned to Ethiopia and having links to fellow Afar tribes in Ethiopia.

April 29, 2014

Wheat farmers on high alert as deadly disease hits Ethiopia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ethiopiantimes @ 8:40 pm
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By NICHOLAS WAITATHU NAIROBI, KENYA: Hundreds of thousands of farmers in Kenya have been put on alert following reports of an outbreak of a deadly fungal wheat disease in Ethiopia.  Wheat farmers in the country are worried because wheat stem rust is easily spread by wind and has already destroyed more than 10,000 hectares of farmland under wheat in Ethiopia. Wind models indicate the disease could spread southwards toward Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, and, though less likely, to countries in the Middle East.  “We are worried because the fungal disease is very destructive and attacks varieties developed some years back to tame another fungal disease dubbed Ug99 that was identified in Uganda in 1999,” said Mr Anthony Kioko, the CEO of Cereals Growers Association (CGA). After the emergence of Ug99, researchers developed resistant varieties, such as Digalu, but it has now emerged that these varieties are more vulnerable to the destructive stem rust. The disease was identified in southern Ethiopia late last year, and by the end of March this year, it had destroyed an area of land that would have produced more than 500,000 bags of wheat. Ethiopia is the largest wheat producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The fear is that many farmers from various parts of the East African region, who have already started planting wheat in readiness for the rainy season that stretches up to June/July, are using the Digalu variety and would be hard hit by the deadly disease. Though in Kenya the wheat planting season starts in May, there are fears that farmers who plant a variety called Robin would suffer major losses if the disease strikes. In Ethiopia, farmers are counting losses of an average 50 per cent of their wheat crop, with the worst hit losing up to 70 per cent. Ms Ruth Wanyera, a plant pathologist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) Njoro Centre, which is mandated to carry out wheat research in the country, says reports of the disease have been received, though it has not been identified in Kenya.
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April 28, 2014

The Addis Ababa City Administration ordered residents to relocate their residential quarters within 20 days

The Addis Ababa City Administration urged city residents in some of the oldest neighborhoods in city, such as Kazanchis, American Gibi and Teklehaimanot, to relocate their residential quarters within 20 days from a total of 1,200 hectares of land, hitherto earmarked for the Local Redevelopment Program (LRDP).

Residents who received the urgent notice include residents in Kazanchis, Teklehaimanot areas and Lideta areas. In addition, the city administration identified a list of places such as American Gibi, Addis Ketema Sub city, places around the African Union, neighborhoods in Kirkos Sub city and the famous Dejach Wube Sefer located in Arada Sub city, once well-known for being a red light district and disco street.

The administration also disclosed that it is preparing to evict thousands of resident from places like Teklehaimanot and stretched up to Wabi Shebelle hotel.

According to information obtained from the administration, its plan was to clear over 1,200 hectares of land for the redevelopment program in 2013/14.

It was also learnt that out of the stated area, some 40 hectares will be up for leasing and investors immediately.

Before the end of the budget year, 26 hectares of land around Kazanchis that covers the areas from Intercontinental to Yordanos Hotels extending to Bambis Supermarket to Saint Urael Church until taxi stops to Arat Kilo are selected for the redevelopment. Residents of this locality are among the people who have received their relocation orders this week.

Similarly, another 33 hectares is also under the same project that extends from Teklehaimanot to Hotel D’Afrique, while 15 hectares is on the other list that covers the neighborhood behind the AU where AU is undertaking its expansion projects.

However, Deputy head of the Addis Ababa City Administration Land Development and Urban Renewal Agency, Girma Birhanu, told The Reporter that furnishing relocated residents with condominium houses is the main existing challenges to implement the redevelopment process.

It was also noted that the city administration is building some 16,000 condominium houses around Bole Bulbula area to be handed over to residents.


April 27, 2014

Semayawi Party Addis Ababa Rally

Filed under: Blue Party — ethiopiantimes @ 9:40 pm
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April 26, 2014

Police arrest Blue Party leaders, members ahead of protest rally on Sunday

Filed under: Blue Party — ethiopiantimes @ 10:40 pm
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ADDIS ABABA – Police have arrested key figures as well as dozens of members of the rising opposition Blue Party. The detainees include the party’s deputy chairperson as well as several executive committee members. The political detainees are being held at several police stations in the capital.

The arrests were made at least 48 hours ahead of a protest rally Blue Party had organized for Sunday, April 27 in Addis Ababa.

Party chairperson Yilikal Getnet was plucked out of prison by force, after resisting police orders to leave the jail house. Yilkal sought to remain in jail but police said they received no orders to keep him there.

Blue Party is largely a political organization of the youth, who are characterized as non-violent, law-abiding and yet defiant to fight the tyrannical regime to the end.

In the meantime, police have arrested about half a dozen bloggers. No reason was given for the arrest of the activists who are collectively known as ‘Zone Nine’ bloggers.

The detainees are Atnafu Berhane, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kibret, Befekadu Hailu, Natnael Feleke, Abel Wabela and journalist Tesfalem Woldeyes.


April 25, 2014

Ethiopia: Six members of Zone Nine, group of bloggers are arrested

Zone 9 Facebook Post

Six members of Zone Nine, group of bloggers are arrested

Six members of Zone Nine, group of bloggers and activists are arrested today late in the afternoon at 5:20 pm by security. Team members , Atnaf BeBefeqadu Hailurahane, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kiberet, Natnael Feleke and Abel Wabela are all under custody on arrest warrant.

The arrest comes immediately after the bloggers and activists notified their return to their usual activism on April 23, 2014 after their inactivity for the past seven months. On their return note the group has indicated that they have sustained a considerable amount of surveillance and harassment.

They have indicated that one of their reasons for their disappearance from activism is the harassment they have been receiving from government security agents.

We believe members and friends of Zone Nine have nothing to do with illegal activities and we request the government to release them immediately.

Another Post on this Situation

Tsion Girma

Late this evening I got a massive knock at my door. I opened and the guy by the door screamed at me “Tesfalem is calling for you outside”. I thought maybe he got into accident and run out to his place. He was surrounded by about seven people dressed civil and two policemen. They are carrying some clothes in a plastic bag and papers in another. “You have a spare key to his house. If anything is taken from his place you will be accountable,” one of them screamed at me.

“I was screaming who are you people? Where are you taking him?” but none of them gave me an answer. They put him in a car and drove away. Tesfalem is my best friend. But on top of that he is a genuine, neutral and very hard working journalist. They took my brother, my best friend right on my face. I don’t know what to do. Let Tesfalem go. He is only a passionate journalist who would scarifies for his profession.


April 24, 2014

Russia launches a spy satellite for Egyptian military

Filed under: Egypt — ethiopiantimes @ 3:29 pm
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A Soyuz rocket with Egyptsat-2 satellite around one hour before launch on April 16, 2014.

A Russian rocket launched a new-generation surveillance spacecraft Wednesday designed to give the Egyptian military a powerful “eye in the sky.”

The launch of the Soyuz-U rocket took place as scheduled on April 16, 2014, at 20:20 Moscow Time (12:20 EST) from Site 31 in the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The launch vehicle was carrying a Russian-built Egyptsat-2 satellite designed to provide high-resolution imagery for the Egyptian military and other government agencies in the country.

The spacecraft was successfully delivered into its planned orbit 520 seconds after liftoff.

The development and launch campaign for Egyptsat-2 has been conducted largely in secret. Only one visual of the operational spacecraft was released to the public by its manufacturer RKK Energia after the successful launch. Notably, in its post-launch press-release, the company avoided the use of name Egyptsat-2, instead identifying the satellite as a “spacecraft for optical-electronic observation developed for the foreign customer.”

RKK Energia announced that the satellite had been inserted into a 720 by 440-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.6 degrees toward the Equator. Its ground facility established control over the satellite at 21:52 Moscow Time, the company said. Western radar detected two objects in orbit with similar parameters, probably representing the satellite and the third stage of the Soyuz-U launch vehicle. The satellite was expected to use its own propulsion system to enter a final operational orbit.


April 23, 2014

Paying for giant Nile dam itself, Ethiopia thwarts Egypt but takes risks

Filed under: Nile — ethiopiantimes @ 7:52 pm
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(Reuters) – Ethiopia’s bold decision to pay for a huge dam itself has overturned generations of Egyptian control over the Nile’s waters, and may help transform one of the world’s poorest countries into a regional hydropower hub.

By spurning an offer from Cairo for help financing the project, Addis Ababa has ensured it controls the construction of the Renaissance Dam on a Nile tributary. The electricity it will generate – enough to power a giant rich-world city like New York – can be exported across a power-hungry region.

But the decision to fund the huge project itself also carries the risk of stifling private sector investment and restricting economic growth, and may jeopardize Ethiopia’s dream of becoming a middle income country by 2025.

The dam is now a quarter built and Ethiopia says it will start producing its first 750 megawatts of electricity by the end of this year. In the sandy floor of the Guba valley, near the Sudanese border, engineers are laying compacted concrete to the foundations of the barrage that will tower 145 meters high and whose turbines will throw out 6,000 megawatts – more than any other hydropower project in Africa.

So far, Ethiopia has paid 27 billion birr ($1.5 billion) out of a total projected cost of 77 billion birr for the dam, which will create a lake 246 km (153 miles) long.

It is the biggest part of a massive program of public spending on power, roads and railways in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Ethiopia’s output has risen at near double digit rates for a decade, luring investors from Sweden to China.

But economists warn that squeezing the private sector to pay for the public infrastructure could hurt future prospects. Growth is already showing signs of slowing.

Even so, Addis Ababa says the price is worth paying to guarantee Egypt has no veto over the dam, the centerpiece of a 25-year project to profit from East Africa’s accelerating economic growth by exporting electricity across the region.

“We did not want this dam to suffer from external pressures, particularly with respect to financing,” said Fekahmed Negash, a director within Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water and Energy.


Ethiopia’s transformation from an economic disaster barely able to feed its people into an emerging regional leader capable of self-financing mega-projects has recast diplomacy over the Nile, northeast Africa’s most important resource.

Egypt, which has claimed exclusive right to control the river’s waters for generations, is fuming. Cairo worries the dam will reduce the flow on which it has depended for drinking water and irrigation for thousands of years.

It has demanded building be halted pending negotiations between the countries, and had offered to take on joint ownership of the project, an offer Addis Ababa dismissed.

Cairo no longer wields the same leverage it once did when upriver sub-Saharan countries were too poor to build such huge projects themselves.

Still, the dam’s cost of more than $4 billion is roughly 12 percent of the annual output of Ethiopia, a steep price to pay for a country spurning outside help.

Ethiopia has resorted to measures like forcing banks that lend to private borrowers to lend the equivalent of 27 percent of their loan books to the government at a low return, effectively a tax on private lending.

Along with other projects, the dam is draining so much financing from the economy that private investors’ access to credit and foreign exchange is being jeopardized, hurting growth, the International Monetary Fund says.

The IMF forecast in November that output growth would slow to 7.5 percent this fiscal year from 8.5 percent in 2011/12, and said the economy needed restructuring to encourage private sector investment now crowded out by huge public projects.

Ethiopia needs high growth to fulfill plans to lift its population out of deep poverty. Per capita income was still just $410 in 2012, the World Bank says.

The government disputes the view that lavish public spending is hurting overall economic performance, and forecasts a higher growth rate than the IMF.

Italy’s biggest construction firm, Salini Impregilo, which is building the dam, says all payments have been made on time so far and it has no worries about Addis Ababa continuing to come up with the needed billions.

“We have full confidence in the government of Ethiopia,” the firm said in an e-mail to Reuters.

And the dam is just the start for Ethiopia’s ambition of becoming a regional power hub. A government plan seen by Reuters would see Africa’s second most populous nation target installed capacity of 37,000 MW within 25 years – far more than the World Bank’s estimate of just 28,000 MW for the entire current output of sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa.

More dams are being built and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is fast securing deals to sell power abroad.

In the Ministry of Energy, a building whose stark design is a throwback to when communists ran Ethiopia’s economy into the ground, a poster maps Ethiopia’s energy goals.

From a dot on the Nile, lines run north through Sudan and across the Sahara desert as far as Morocco while extending southwards to South Africa, linking Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and other power-hungry economies.

Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan already take 180 MW, which, though a small amount so far, is already changing the economics of electricity in the region, Ethiopian officials say.

“Before it started getting power from Ethiopia, Djibouti’s tariff was 30 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. We are selling to them at 6 cents,” said Mekuria Lemma, corporate planning chief at Ethiopia’s state-run power corporation, EEPCO.

Kenya has signed an agreement to buy about 400 MW. Rwanda too inked a deal in March to take 400 MW by 2018 and a similar arrangement with Tanzania is expected. Beyond Africa, talks are expected over supplying 900 MW to Yemen via an undersea cable.


As long as Ethiopia spurns outside funding, there seems to be little an angry Cairo can now do to stop the dam.

The sparkling streams at the foot of Ethiopia’s Mount Gish spill into Lake Tana from where the Blue Nile meanders gently towards Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, where it joins the White Nile and flows north through Egypt and drains into the Mediterranean.

Among Cairo’s worries is concern that years of filling the new dam’s 74 billion cubic meter reservoir will temporarily cut the river’s flow, and that surface water evaporation from the huge new lake will then reduce it permanently.

“Water problems even without this dam are sky high,” said water expert Klaus Lanz in reference to Egypt’s shortage.

Egypt leans on a 1959 treaty with Sudan which hands Cairo the lion’s share of water. Some Egyptian politicians even urged military action last year against Ethiopia, raising concerns of a “water war”.

The public political bluster has died down, but Egyptian officials still refer to safeguarding their nation’s quota of the Nile’s flow as a matter of national security.

In a government white paper, Cairo calls the construction of the dam a “violation” of international legal principles, in particular the duty to prevent harm to other riparian nations.

“We have no other resources,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Reuters. “So it’s not a joke. We will not allow our national interests, our national security … to be endangered.”


“We are still for cooperation, negotiation, but only serious negotiations, not to waste time,” Abdellaty added.

But distracted by militant violence and political turmoil at home, Cairo appears to have few levers with which to force Addis Ababa to halt the project. Ethiopian officials say the dam could be completed as early as 2016.

Ethiopia denies Egypt will suffer and complains that its northern neighbor has flexed its political muscle to deter financiers from backing other Ethiopian power projects.

Fekahmed of the water ministry said Cairo had influenced a decision by China’s Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co. to pull out of a $1 billion deal to connect the dam to the grid.

“The authorities in Egypt made a noise,” Fekahmed said, adding that another Chinese group was now lined up to fund the high voltage lines. Egypt’s Abdelatty did not comment on the specific case but confirmed that Cairo was trying to use its influence to push foreigners away from backing the project.

“We have contacts with everybody,” said Abdelatty. “(The minister) raised it with Russia, with China, you name it.”

In a diplomatic coup for Ethiopia, and a political blow to Egypt, the other major down river country, Sudan, has slowly warmed to the dam project and lifted its own earlier objections. Sudan may benefit from cheap power and irrigation water.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told Sky News Arabic this month he rejected a military solution and dismissed referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice, which would require the agreement of both sides.

Instead, Egypt continues to push hard for further studies on the dam’s design and impact on downstream countries. All the while, Ethiopia shows no sign of ordering the downing of tools.

“We will finish it whether they like it or not,” said a senior Ethiopian official who requested anonymity. “But of course, we will continue negotiating in the meantime.”

(Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Nairobi, Stephen Kalin in Cairo and Danilo Masoni in Milan; Writing by Richard Lough)

By Aaron Maasho

Brehanu Damte aka Abamela and The TPLF story

Filed under: Brehanu Damte — ethiopiantimes @ 5:50 pm
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