IRIN News Briefs, 23 June [19990623]

IRIN News Briefs, 23 June [19990623]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 23 June

UN warns of millions threatened with hunger

WFP on Tuesday warned that "an unusual shortage of rains across a wide area of the Horn of Africa could drastically affect the upcoming harvests and threaten millions of people with hunger in 1999." A statement said an extended dry spell with only scattered rains during May and June was likely to slash crop and livestock production, worsening an "already precarious food situation".

"All the signs point to a potential crisis ... and we are trying to preempt that", WFP Information Officer Lindsey Davies told IRIN on Wednesday. In Ethiopia, for instance, the agency has received reports of people eating leaves and berries - 'famine foods' generally eaten much later in the 'hungry season' - and of villages deserted as people left in search of food, Davies added.

Real sense of "impending crisis" in Ethiopia

"The situation is very, very critical" in Ethiopia, a humanitarian source in Addis Ababa told IRIN, particularly in parts of south Tigray, North and South Wello, North Shewa, East Hararghe and Konso. "It is important that we move food to these areas immediately, to try to avoid large-scale migrations and camp situations developing. We have to get people to stay in their homes and try to assist them there."

WFP has already approved a US$ 40.5 million emergency operation to feed nearly 1.2 million people in eight drought-affected areas of Ethiopia and was "acting now to prevent a potentially major humanitarian crisis ... there is a very real sense of impending crisis", WFP Country Representative Judith Lewis said.

"Worrying period ahead" for Somalia

In Somalia, 80 percent of the country's harvest was dependent on the 'Gu' rains, which were short, light and scattered this year, said Owen Calvert, a consultant with the WFP-affiliated Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU). "We're in for a worrying period ahead", he added. Crops and grazing were below quality, livestock were in poor condition and water resources compromised, WFP stated, while the FSAU warned that people's capacity to cope had been eroded by recurrent crises and continuing civil conflict.

The insecurity in the country meant that WFP was unable to distribute about 2.5 mt of food it had at Merka port, and which "would put some food in the system and take the pressure off for maybe a month or so", a spokeswoman told IRIN on Wednesday. In all, however, WFP estimated there would be up to 15,000 mt of food aid needed in Somalia up to the end of the year.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Italy has "a glimmer of hope" for peace initiative

The Italian deputy foreign minister, Rino Serri, has said he will exert further efforts for the successful implementation of "an innovative approach within the context of the OAU framework agreement", after holding talks with the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Eritrean News Agency reported on Tuesday. "I entertain a glimmer of hope that the new Italian initiative ... would be accepted by both Ethiopia and Eritrea", Reuters news agency quoted Serri as saying, while diplomatic sources told IRIN that Italy hoped to establish a temporary ceasefire up to and through next month's OAU summit in Algiers. The Italian efforts to get the peace plan moving were a reflection of the EU's desire to see peace restored, and both sides in the conflict had agreed to consider the proposals, Serri told the news agency.

Libya joins diplomatic efforts

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's deputy foreign minister, Ali Abdulsalaam Attaricki, on Tuesday said Libya was working, in consultation with Italy, to build trust between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The gap between them was "not as wide as some people believe", AP news agency quoted Attaricki as saying.

Addis Ababa claims OAU validation

Ethiopia on Tuesday insisted that its position - that Eritrean troops must pull out from all areas on the ill-defined border occupied when the conflict broke out in May 1998 - had again been confirmed by the OAU. That claim referred to an appeal apparently made last month by the OAU chairman, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, that Eritrea pull out of Ethiopian territory and return to the status quo prior to 6 May 1998 when hostilities began, BBC reported on Wednesday.

Eritrea demands implementation without tampering

Eritrea said it has satisfied the conditions of the peace plan by being out of Badme and that the rest of the framework agreement, including an unconditional ceasefire, should now be implemented without adulteration or tampering, "which would bear no fruit other than throttling the Agreement itself and bring the OAU initiative to a dead end". It urged, in a statement received by IRIN, that the OAU "work for the implementation of the framework agreement and not to open the door for another round of fruitless wrangling."

ETHIOPIA: Italy signs $112 million aid deal

Italy has signed a US$ 112 million aid agreement with Ethiopia to help develop its social and development efforts. The agreement was signed by the Ethiopian deputy minister for economic development and cooperation, Dr Mulatu Teshome, and Italy's Rino Serri, Ethiopian News Agency reported. A statement released during the signing ceremony said the money would be used for strengthening rural development, food security, roads, health, education and other social sectors.

Kenya confirms presence of Oromo rebels

A Kenyan government report on Tuesday confirmed the presence of some members of the Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in north-east Kenya. Releasing a report into last year's Bagalla massacre in Kenya - in which 124 people and over 8,000 livestock were killed - Major (retired)

Marsden Madoka said Oromo elements were deeply involved in local clan rivalry and politics in Moyale district, where the killings took place, and that the government would act on all the recommendations made by the committee of inquiry, including the issue of the OLF. Meanwhile, Marsabit court in Moyale on Friday found four Oromo rebels guilty of unauthorised presence in Kenya, sentenced then to one year in jail and ordered that they be then repatriated to Ethiopia.

ERITREA: Asmara signs aid deal with Italy

Italy concluded a significant aid agreement with Eritrea, Italian minister Rino Serri and Eritrean finance minister, Gebreselassie Yosief, signing an Indicative Programme of Cooperation for 1999-2001 in Asmara on Sunday, media sources reported on Wednesday. The programme, worth 127 million euros (about US$ 135 million) in grants and soft loans, will focus on social services, enterprise and developing human resources, the official Eritrean News Agency ERINA reported.

Limited return of US personnel approved

The United States has decided to approve the return of non-emergency embassy personnel to Asmara, media sources have reported. However, the US still advises its citizens against travel to Eritrea. Non-emergency US embassy employees and family members were ordered out of the country in February because of renewed offensives in the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.


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Item: irin-english-1091

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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