A Week in the Horn

·   Electrification in Ethiopia is boosting development

·   TFG forces make additional gains and strength

·   The African Union welcomes resumption of CPA talks

·   The Jubilee Campaign on human rights violations in Eritrea

·   Ethio-Russian Inter -governmental Commission review meeting

Electrification in Ethiopia is boosting development

Ethiopia has immense potential for hydroelectric power and geothermal energy generation. Nine of its major rivers are suitable for hydroelectric power generation with a potential total capacity of between 15,000 and 30,000 MW. Similarly, the possible geothermal energy generation is also immense.  Despite these huge resources, however, the country only managed to utilize a mere 790MW of its power generation potential prior to 2005. This meant no more than 17 percent of the population had access to electricity.  Now five years later, the country's power generation has reached to 2218 MW, and over forty percent of the population has access to electricity.  To fulfill the growing demands for power, following steadily increasing economic growth, power plants have been built in different parts of the country.

In order to build on its economic success, the government recently launched a new five year plan to further transform the economy.  To achieve the goals of the Growth and Transformation Plan energy has a central role to play.  The supply of power is essential to register developments in the manufacturing industrial sector for example. Without abundant power and systems of large scale centralized generation, it isn't possible to start industrial decentralization.  Taking this into consideration the government envisages a significant increase in electricity generation capacity, completing the power projects currently under construction and building new ones in order to increase the distribution of power to rural towns and kebeles on a large scale.

Large investments are already being made, and during the next five years the government plans to quadruple power production capacity to 8,000 and even 10,000 MWs.  This would also allow for increasing electricity supply from the current 41 percent coverage to 75 percent of the population. In addition to new electric power plants now under construction, the government is working to connect various power supply stations to the national grid. One example of this is the inauguration of the 490 Km. Beles-Bahr Dar-Debre Markos-Sululta extra high-voltage power transmission line and substation project with a 400 kilo volt capacity last Saturday.

Inaugurating the transmission line at Sululta last weekend, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, said the project was one of the major government objectives being executed during the five year Growth and Transformation Plan. Its completion would allow for efficient service for investors engaged in the industrial sector.  The Deputy Prime Minister noted that a number of large power plant and transmission line projects were being undertaken to meet the fast growing power needs of the country. According to EEPCO's Chief Executive Officer, Miheret Debebe, the transmission line is the most modern in the country, and the high voltage electric power transmission line is the second largest transmission line in the country next to that of Gilgel Gibe II. 

According to the project chief, the distribution substations built in Bahr Dar, Debre Markos and Sululta will distribute power from the main stream line to rural towns. The substation in Sululta cost three billion Birr, and will be able to cope with the 460 MW of electric power generated from the Tana Beles plant.  The installation is said to be fully up to required standards to prevent power wastage and problems with network transmission lines. In addition, the high voltage power transmission line will be able to avoid power breakdowns as it connects electric power generated from different parts of the country in one hub.

According to the Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Gu Xiaojie, this project is one of  sixteen projects financed under the overall loan framework agreement, valued at US$500 million, signed by China's EXIM Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia at the Forum on China-Africa cooperation, held in Beijing in 2006.  The Ambassador said the completion of the project was a significant element in the progress of the creative "Equal and Mutual Beneficial Cooperation Mechanism" between the two countries.

Overall, Ethiopia is continuing to work hard to address the demands of electric power in the country and aims to achieve universal coverage by 2015.  The Gilgel Gibe III dam is part of this comprehensive clean-energy expansion to meet the country's growing demand for energy. Another element is the construction of the 120 MW Ashegoda wind power project which will become Africa's largest wind farm.  There are other clean energy projects under way and their combined effect will greatly improve the quality and access to clean energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuel both in Ethiopia and across East Africa. In fact, accelerating the electrification of Ethiopia has great advantages for the protection of the environment. It is also attracting investors engaged in manufacturing, diversifying the country's exports. Indeed, accelerating electrification has a great role in implementing  fast and sustainable development.                                                       



 TFG forces make additional gains and strength

Two thousand Somali troops trained in Kenya have now been deployed in two strategic areas, the El-wak district of Gedo region and Dhobley town in Lower Juba region. This has given a real uplift to the Transitional Federal Government in general and to its ongoing military operations. The forces are divided into four equal-sized brigades, making up two divisions. One division equipped with a substantial number of vehicles and mortars was deployed two weeks ago into El-wak town, in the area called Burache. It forced Al-Shabaab out of Burache and its surroundings after a fierce fight and set up an advanced camp at Bursar, forty kilometers to the east. Last week, to the irritation of the troops, they were pulled back to Burache, apparently in anticipation of another Al-Shabaab attack. In fact, a number of Al-Shabaab fighters in the region have defected to the TFG units in Burache. 

The second division, similarly equipped with the same number of vehicles and mortars, were deployed to the strategic border town of Dhobley, two hundred eighty kilometers away from Kismayo on Sunday, March 20th. The government forces in the area have now agreed a  common strategy and joint plans with pro-government militias led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, a former Hizbul Islam commander who rejected Al-Shabaab's takeover of Hizbul Islam last year.


Meanwhile, in Mogadishu TFG Forces have continued their advances against Al-Shabaab, taking further key positions in Bondhere, Hawlwadag and Hodan districts of the city after weakening extremist position by mortar and artillery fire. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Faqi said this week that “the Somali forces have sworn that they will not stop operations until Al-Shabaab extremist elements are completely crushed in Somalia.” Prime Minister Muhammad Abdullahi Farmajo, returning from New York after attending a United Nations Security Council meeting on Somalia, declared that government troops, with the help of AU peace-keepers, would drive Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and from elsewhere. He said they would oust the Islamist group within 90 days, adding that the TFG armed forces were now mobilized and the operations would start soon. He accused Al-Shabaab of being responsible for the continuing chaos and unrest in the country and said that the government was determined to end this state of affairs. He also disclosed that additional troops from member states of the African Union for AMISOM were expected to be deployed to the country soon and called on the people to assist the government in its fight against Al-Shabaab. It is all clear testimony to the TFG's resolve and determination to clear Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu, and following these victories, President Sharif paid a visit to the newly recovered areas of the city, and visited the front line in Bondhere where there had been heavy fighting. The President congratulated the Somali national army and the African Union peace-keeping force (AMISOM) for the steady progress being made in the ongoing fighting in the capital.


One of those who died in this fighting was Abdikadir Yusuf Aar alias Sheikh Qalbi, a senior Al-Shabaab officer from the Juba region. His death in clashes close to the former Defense Ministry in Mogadishu was confirmed by another senior Al-Shabaab commander in Lower Juba region.  Sheikh Qalbi had served as an Al-Shabaab leader in both Juba and Gedo regions, and he had been a member of Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya (AIAI) in Luq in the mid 1990s.  

This week, a senior Al-Shabaab commander called upon all local and foreign Jihadists to join the new training camps which Al-Shabaab had opened in Lower Shebelle region: “We call upon all the youth to join voluntarily into the training camps we set up in the region”,  said Sheikh Mohammed Abu Abdullah, the governor of Al-Shabaab's administration in Lower Shebelle, speaking in Merka district, 90kms south of Mogadishu. He said the camps would train new recruits to participate in the fighting in Mogadishu where TFG and AMISOM were defeating Al- Shabaab. One of main training camps is located in Laanta Buro village close to Afgoye town, nearly 40 kms. south of Mogadishu. Hundreds of young teenagers have been brought in from different regions, forcibly taken from their families, and Abu Abdullah told them: “You will be taught how to fight against the enemy, how to shoot”. These training camps do not only provide weapons' training. Al Qaeda members in Somalia also offer courses on assembling explosives and road side bombs.



The African Union welcomes resumption of CPA talks 

The agreement, by the signatories of Sudans Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), to resume negotiations on post-referendum issues and other outstanding matters has been welcomed by the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Jean Ping. The decision followed the meeting that took place in Khartoum, on March 17th under the facilitation of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan. In a press release issued on Saturday last week, the Chairperson of the Commission congratulated the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for the effective manner in which they had addressed the tensions that had arisen between the parties in recent weeks.Dr. Ping specifically congratulated President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit, for the leadership they had demonstrated. It was their commitment which had made it possible to quickly reach an agreement for the resumption of the negotiations and the establishment of mechanisms to resolve the SPLM's security concerns, the reason for suspending the dialogue.  

President Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir had a tête á tête meeting for an hour and then held extensive discussions with the AU Panel at which they discussed four issues: final resolution of the situation in Abyei and the security dangers there;  implementation of the Kadugli Agreement; SPLM allegations of destabilization, and the previous day's reports of the Sudan Armed Forces massing troops in three areas - north of Abyei, near Kadugli, and at another location - for attacks on Abyei, Malakal, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, respectively. 

In order to make progress on the issue of Abyei, the two parties jointly requested the Panel to present a proposal before the end of the month. The Panel is now in the process of discussing and developing options for this. Regarding the security situation in Abyei, the Parties agreed on a number of concrete steps to follow up earlier discussions which had been put on hold when the SPLM suspended the talks. The parties also agreed to take steps related to the deployment of joint integrated units in the area and the withdrawal of all other forces. With regard to the claimed troop buildup, the Parties agreed to ask for an immediate investigation to verify the allegations. On the allegations of destabilization, they agreed a joint committee of the SPLA and the Sudanese Armed Forces Military Intelligence should meet immediately to investigate these claims. The committee would submit a report to the Presidency. Overall, the Parties agreed to immediately resume negotiations on all issues. The next joint meeting, subject to confirmation, has been tentatively scheduled for April 9th to 11th.  

In his statement, Dr. Jean Ping urged the two parties to continue to work together in a concerted effort. Even with the able facilitation of the AUHIP, comprising former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Abdusalami Abubakar and Pierre Buyoya, there was only a limited time left to complete the implementation of all outstanding CPA provisions and, in particular, to resolve, with finality, the issue of Abyei, before the end of the CPA interim period (in July). The Commission Chairperson reiterated the African Union's unwavering commitment to support the parties in their efforts to resolve outstanding issues. He said that despite the many difficult decisions confronting the two parties, he was confident of their capacity to meet the challenges ahead and to establish two viable and stable Sudanese states at the end of the Interim period, on July 9th.



 The Jubilee Campaign on human rights violations in Eritrea

One of the documents submitted to the recently concluded 16th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, held from February 28th to March 25th in Geneva, was a written statement on the human rights situation in Eritrea from the Jubilee Campaign, a non-governmental organization. The statement, which can be found in full in document A/HRC/16/NGO/128 issued by the United Nations Secretary-General on March 1st , describes the Eritrean government as one of the foremost global violators of religious freedom, and as the world’s worst abuser of the media. Its treatment of independent journalists, indefinitely detained in remote purpose-built camps in areas where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122F) constitutes a flagrant violation of Human Rights. A number of prisoners have died following torture and mistreatment. Fundamental freedoms are non-existent, the judiciary is compromised, the national assembly has not met for years, and democratic elections are overdue, indeed they have never taken place. Due to continuing large-scale detentions without charge or trial, Eritrea's conventional prisons are filled to capacity. There are growing reports of prisoners dying in detention following torture or lack of medical care, or simply from malnutrition.

According to the statement the repression of religious activity is common. Many followers of Jehovah Witnesses have been detained and tortured, and have lost citizenship rights after refusing to participate in the national referendum on independence in 1993 or to take part in active military service. A government-approved Imam has been installed and hundreds of religious teachers and others believed hostile to this were detained. An unknown number were reportedly executed extra-judicially.

No more than six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently operating. This compares to a total of nearly 40 in 2001. Many have been told to stop operations; the operational capacity and activity of others was severely hampered  when the government confiscated over a hundred United Nations (UN) vehicles in 2005.

The Jubilee Campaign statement adds that comprehensive repression has occasioned a mass exodus; and unable to acquire exit visas officially, literally tens of thousands have crossed the borders into Ethiopia and Sudan illegally, some traveling as far as Latin America, Europe and the United States in search of refuge.

The statement notes that the military takes about 25% of the entire budget and that out of a population of about 4 million, 300,000 are in military service. The only university has been closed, and colleges serve as military “boot camps”. By law, military service should last for 18 months, but it is in fact essentially open-ended and indefinite, with many conscripts serving until they are well over 50, and receiving no more than minimal payment. Despite having no war since 2000, the government refuses to demobilize its army or the national service conscripts in an attempt to maintain control of Eritrea’s youth.

The Jubilee Campaign statement makes it clear that there is disappointment in all but pro-government circles that the current UN sanctions against Eritrea focus specifically on ending Eritrea’s obstructive actions towards Djibouti and Somalia. They make no mention of bringing an end to the appalling treatment suffered by the Eritrean people. It calls on the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Eritrean government to allow immediate, unlimited and unhindered access to long-term detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and /or any other competent international body to assess their wellbeing; for all detainees to be allowed access to immediate family members, to medical treatment  and to legal representation; for an end to arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without charge. It also calls on Eritrea to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT), noting that Eritrea had already acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter, both of which prohibit this practice.

The Jubilee Campaign also urged the Human Rights Council to encourage member states to urgently work towards facilitating actual demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. This would be welcome, but it should be clear that the issue of demarcation cannot in any sense be used to justify the appalling repression of human rights in Eritrea. The Jubilee Campaign seems not to understand that demarcation has nothing to do with the massive human rights violations committed by the regime in Eritrea. In this context, we might underline once again that Ethiopia has repeatedly and consistently made its position clear: the need is to resolve the issue of actual demarcation of the border through dialogue and peaceful means.

Ethiopia accepted the decision and notified that Eritrea has to be ready to resolve problem and to peaceful co-existence.



Ethio-Russian Inter -governmental Commission review meeting

A review meeting of the Ethio-Russian Inter-governmental Commission was held in Addis Ababa on March 17th. Co-chaired by Ethiopia's Minister of Water and Energy, Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, and Mr. Anatoly Ledovskikh, head of the Federal Agency for Mineral Resources of the Russian Federation, the meeting was preceded by meetings of experts in February and March. These were attended by representatives from various sectors including water and energy, mining, trade, agriculture, health, investment, transportation and civil aviation, finance and foreign affairs.

Two Memoranda of Understanding were signed, one covering plant protection between the National Plant Protection Organizations of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Agriculure of Ethiopia, the other the area of geological surveys between the relevant authorities. An understanding was reached that the next MOU would cover the areas of health cooperation and education.

The deliberations of both the experts' meetings and the review meeting made it clear that neither Ethiopia nor the Russian Federation have fully exploited existing economic opportunities despite their long relationship. Both sides therefore once again reaffirmed their commitment to the mutual efforts necessary for the realization of the various framework agreements. Other areas of discussion covered ratification of the avoidance of double taxation between the two countries and debt relief modalities. These need further consultation and mutual future agreement.

It should be remembered that in order to further strengthen their economic ties, Ethiopia and Russia established a Joint Commission on Economic, Scientific, Trade and Technical Cooperation in 1999. The Commission held its first meeting in 1999 in Moscow; the second in 2002 in Addis Ababa and the third in February 2008 in Moscow. The fourth will take place in Russia in early 2012.

Relations between the peoples of Ethiopia and Russian Federation date back many centuries and have been consistently close. Relations have been principled and consistent irrespective of difficult or favorable situations. Many in Ethiopia would agree that the Russian Federation’s support for Ethiopia has been steadfast and based on principle. After diplomatic relations between the two countries were upgraded to embassy level in 1956, cooperation was diversified. Current cooperation has a very promising future though both agree a lot more could be done. So far, three major agreements have been signed covering Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation; Avoidance of Double Taxation; and the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investment.

Trade relations show immense potential although in 2010 Ethiopia’s exports to Russia amounted to no more than US$11.8 million while it imported goods worth  US$132.5 million from Russia. Ethiopia’s exports to Russia are largely coffee and cut flowers; imports largely consist of aircraft, chemical products, machinery equipment and spare parts. On the investment front, there are currently a total of 23 investment projects registered in Ethiopia by Russian investors, of which 21 are in a pre-implementation stage, and only two are under implementation. The total Russian investment in Ethiopia amounts to a little over a billion Birr. As the Review meeting underlined, economic relations between Ethiopia and Russia can and should be deepened and expanded further, building on the long-standing and historic people to people contacts. Ato Alemayehu said subsequently that Ethiopia wanted Russian investors to invest in Ethiopia in such areas as exports. It also wanted to tap into Russian expertise”in areas of soil enrichment, plantation methods, plant observation, harvesting and processing methods, and short-term agricultural workers' training.” Ethiopia would also like to see Russian investment and expertise in power generation and irrigation, as well as cooperation and assistance in railway construction, public transport development and ICT capacity building.



          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs