IGAD briefs AU peace and security council on South Sudan

March 28, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 494th meeting held on 24 March in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was briefed on the situation in South Sudan and the status of the peace process.

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IGAD’s chief mediator for South Sudan peace talks, Seyoum Mesfin, speaks to the press following the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement between the South Sudanese government and rebels in Addis Ababa on 23 January 2014 (Photo: AFP)

Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, chair of the mediation team of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), briefed the council on the outstanding issues that led to the collapse of the talks between president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar.

In a communique released following the briefing which was also attended by representatives of the warring parties, the AU expressed deep concern at the prevailing situation in the Africa’s youngest nation.

It said the ongoing violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement as fighting continued to escalate between the two warring parties was disheartening.

“Council expressed deep concern at the prevailing situation in South Sudan, characterized by fighting in recent weeks and a serious humanitarian situation,” it partly reads.

“Council, noting with utmost disappointment the failure of the South Sudanese parties to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues by the deadline of 5 March 2015, as set by IGAD, once again, appealed to the South Sudanese Parties to live-up to their commitments under the Agreement of Cessation of Hostilities and to display the required political will and sense of responsibility to bring to an end the untold suffering inflicted upon their people.”

It said the African body reminded the warring parties of the threat of sanctions against those seen to be obstructing the peace process, noting the United Nations Security Council’s resolution 2206 (2015) to this effect.

The statement however said the AU’s peace and security council looked forward to the next steps envisaged by IGAD for the resumption of the negotiations.

IGAD said it was working on a new mechanism that would expand the mediation body.

An ad hoc committee to be composed of the heads of state and government of Algeria, Chad, Rwanda and South Africa will be formed to support IGAD, adding the committee may meet soon and elaborate its terms and reference.


Eritrean rebels warn Australian firm exploring gold mines

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 28,2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Eritrean rebel group on Saturday warned an Australian mines firm against gold, gas and other natural resource exploration in the Red Sea’s nation.

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Eritrea, which borders Sudan and Ethiopia, has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa (HRW)

The Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) rebel group accused the Australian South Boulder Mines Ltd of partnering with the Eritrean government to illegally exploit resources of the Afar’s region of Danakil, stressing it caused environmental damage on their traditional homeland.

The project “is forcibly removing the indigenous Afar community in Eritrea from their homeland and caused a devastating impact because their economic, social and cultural survival is deeply linked to their traditional land,” said a statement issued by a special committee delegated by RSADO to investigate the alleged humanitarian situation caused by South Boulder Mines.

“For the Red Sea Afar People, land is central to their cultural and social well-being,” the statement added.

The rebel group warned the company to stop its economic partnerships with the Eritrean government and leave the Afar Region (Dankalia) immediately.

Otherwise, the group threatened to launch retaliation attacks against the foreign company.

“Failure to refuse or ignore our call will result in detrimental action against your Project,” the rebels said in a statement also copied to Paul Donaldson, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the Australian company in Eritrea.
The rebels said some foreign multinational corporations violate sanctions by the United Nations and the African Union on the Eritrean regime and sign mining exploration agreements with Asmara government which they accused of “systematically killing its people unlawfully and arbitrarily”.

They further accused the South Boulder Mines Company of disrespect for human rights laws and disgraces to the UNSC, AU, EU resolutions and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the past, RSADO has routinely alleged victories against government army in an on and off cross-border attacks it launches from Ethiopian borders where it operates.

But, Asmara repeatedly dismissed those allegations further accusing its long-time arch-foe Ethiopia of harbouring and supporting the exiled rebels.


AFRICA Militants Take Hostages in Deadly Attack on Mogadishu Hotel By MOHAMMED IBRAHIMMARCH 27, 2015

Security forces exchanged gunfire Friday with militants from the Shabaab Islamist group who attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, the capital. CreditFeisal Omar/Reuters

The attack began when a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at a rear gate of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel, which is popular with government officials and foreigners, around 4 p.m., witnesses said. Gunmen quickly overpowered security guards and took control of the hotel before an elite police antiterrorism unit stormed the hotel compound and rescued most of the hostages, said Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Security. As of Friday night, it was unclear how many hostages were still trapped inside the hotel.

“The operation still continues,” Mr. Yusuf said. “Most of the hotel complex is under control and people have been rescued, and we will release detailed information once the operation is completed.”

Initial reports said at least seven people had been killed, although the exact number could not be independently verified. It was unclear how many of the dead were civilians and how many were militants. Among the victims was the Somali ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, who died of wounds sustained in the attack, according to health officials.

“A big explosion erupted at the back door of the hotel,” said one witness, Yasin Mohamed, who was staying near the hotel. He said he heard gunfire inside. “I was shocked and frightened.”

Some of the hotel guests managed to escape before the militants took over, while others jumped out the windows.

“I saw a man jumping out of the window of the second floor and he fell to the ground,” said Abdi Omar, another witness. “He was immediately taken by health workers to the hospital.”

The Shabab have carried out similar attacks, in the upscale Westgate mallin Nairobi, Kenya, and at the United Nations compound in Mogadishu, both in 2013.

In February, 25 people were killed at the Central Hotel, including government officials, and dozens were wounded, in an attack claimed by the Shabab.

AFRICA Sudan Joins Coalition Against Yemen Rebels By SOMINI SENGUPTA MARCH 26, 2015

Omar Hassan al-BashirCreditAli Ngethi/Associated Press
  UNITED NATIONS — It is an awkward moment.

The Arab-led, American-supported coalition seeking to rout Houthi rebels in Yemen includes a man indicted on charges of war crimes and vilified by Washington for more than a decade: President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.

Mr. Bashir’s government has said it will join the military offensive to aid its ally, Saudi Arabia, according to reports by the state-owned news agency, perhaps even sending ground troops.

In a sign of Sudan’s growing ties with Persian Gulf countries, Mr. Bashir met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on a visit to the kingdom this week, and he is expected to take part in the Arab League summit meeting in Cairo this weekend.

Mr. Bashir was in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh in mid-March to speak at an investment conference. Secretary of State John Kerry attended that conference, too, but left the audience for a few minutes when Mr. Bashir took the podium.

Mr. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges in connection with the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The United Nations Security Council, which referred the situation in Darfur to the tribunal, urged all countries to cooperate with the court and help it secure Mr. Bashir’s arrest.

Eritrea: Action Needed Against EU Policy for Funds to PFDJ to Control Refugee Exodus  by AI Staff  on 25 March 2015

This is a plea to all Eritreans to write letters, make calls, demonstrations and contact civic and government leaders. Our opposition and civic leaders would have even more clout to help out on this.
The policy is a slap to our aspirations to do away with the very regime that is responsible for the mass exudes of our people from their beloved country.


EU hopes to curb exodus from Eritrea through development aid

ADDIS ABABA: The European Union said on Tuesday it hopes development aid to Eritrea will stem a growing exodus of Eritreans attempting the dangerous journey to Europe to claim asylum there.

Eritrea is now the second largest source of migrants to arrive in Italy by boat, after Syria. The highly perilous crossing of the Mediterranean on overcrowded, rickety boats claimed around 3,000 lives last year.

The United Nations and rights groups say poor human rights conditions in Eritrea are to blame for the outflow of people. Some have called for measures against the government. Asmara denies the charges.

Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, told Reuters in Addis Ababa that the EU would try to address social and economic exclusion in migrants’ countries of origin in a bid to halt the crisis.

The number migrants are rising sharply: During the first two months of 2015, arrivals to the EU via Italy were up 43 percent versus the same period of 2014.

“In that context in Eritrea, we see that we need to assist such processes that would be beneficial for the overall advancing of the human rights and democracy framework, but also that would address the long-term development needs,” Mimica said.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says the number of Eritrean asylum seekers in Europe tripled to nearly 37,000 in the first 10 months of 2014, of whom 34,000 came by sea.

Earlier this month, an interim report of a U.N. investigation said Eritrea was ignoring human rights laws and exerting pervasive state control and ruthless repression on the population.

According to EU diplomats, Brussels is planning a multi-million euro development package that Eritrea will be allowed to spend on energy and other sectors.

The EU approved a major aid package for Eritrea in 2007, worth 122 million euros (87 million pounds) in aid over a six-year period.

Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and remains at loggerheads with Addis Ababa, the United States’ main regional ally.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky)

– Reuters

Eritrea: Got the Dutch Disease Yet?  by Zekre Lebona  on 26 March 2015


Potential patient (photo: Bill Ross/Corbis)

The state of Eritrea, which became an independent nation more than 20 years ago; depended for its survival on the remittance money from the huge diaspora and foreign aid; until the rupture of relations and military conflict with Ethiopia in 1998. In order to survive the sudden de-coupling of its economy with the huge economy of its neighbor; and maintain the punishing cost of war; the state mobilized a large percentage of the adult bodied population, and resources of the country for war; war economy has therefore become a permanent feature.

However, a large amount of money from gold and other metals has since overtaken; the dwindling flow of remittance money from some of the disgruntled diaspora. Has Eritrea succumbed to the “Dutch Disease, or Resource Curse” phenomenon; as many countries of the Third World and particularly Africa had been? It probably didn’t; confounding many economists. Eritrea may likely remain immune from it for a longer period of time. What factors made it “escape” from it?

War economy   

Countries that succumb to the Dutch Disease suffer from the sudden availability of hard currency; which has a deleterious effect on the manufacturing and export sector. Awash with hard currency, the local currency will increase its value; putting many of the goods produced domestically in unfair competition with the rest of the world. Awash with hard currency, regimes often spend large amount of money on social services; which had been neglected for years. This policy often results in the indirect-diversion of labor to the sector; leading to massive inflation. Venezuela is an excellent example.

Eritrea, however, doesn’t seem to keep any significant amount of its mine-generating hard currency in the central bank. It depends on the informal economy with little transparency to its budget and debt accrued over the years. The recent scandal on the close to 700 million dollars stashed away in a Swiss bank is a good illustration. That may not be the entire amount money kept hidden in foreign institutions. Is this money a “sovereign wealth”; money kept for hard times and the future generations as Norway, Australia, Canada do? It’s most unlikely for the countries mentioned are democracies. In addition, Eritrea, is not a welfare state notwithstanding the jargon on justice.

Outsourcing welfare

Eritrea’s expenditure on social services is extremely small compared to its huge expenditure on its military; estimated by some in several hundred thousand. It has outsourced the upkeep of its significant percentage of its population to the huge diaspora; who hate as they may seem the regime, would not refrain from sending money to their relatives. The inflation that ensues is not from any major expenditure on social services by the regime, however. Unemployed people, including hundreds of thousands of people in the army, who earn only about 2 dollars a day; depend for their livelihood on this sector. The state of Eritrea has other important uncanny methods of keeping itself from the Dutch Disease.

The United Nations, human rights organization, and others have lately been reporting on the systemic use of thousands of people; graduates from the Eritrean National Service work for free or pittance for the government in the civil sector, the party owned farms and factories, and business entities run by army generals. Like a vacuum machine, the state sucks most of the able bodied people in the land into its war economy; leaving them little agency to manage their lives. Prior to their being corralled by the state; the large majority were teen age students; and the rest unemployed, underemployed people; subsisting on donations from people living abroad.

There was no manufacturing sector to begin with in Eritrea; having endured a thirty years the factories from the past were in ruins; with little chance for recovery. More alarmingly, the command economy had a stranglehold on the private sector leaving neither capital nor labor for its existence. In other words; a large majority of the people had no job or were partially employed for years. The regime’s panacea for this was a massive militarization; not even sparing the millions of poor farmers eking a poor existence.  The highly glorified “self-sufficient” economy of Eritrea is nothing but a thorough war economy.

In sum, the purpose of this article is to encourage economists and development experts to explore the lethal effect of revenues from precious commodities by a totalitarian state. In comparison with the ravages of the state such as Eritrea’s, the lot of millions of people living under a Dutch Disease, or Resource curse is much humane and tolerable. Arguably, humanitarian emergencies of the magnitude, which exists in Eritrea; rarely happens in countries afflicted with the Dutch Disease.