IRIN News Briefs, 24 June [19990624]

IRIN News Briefs, 24 June [19990624]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 24 June

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: UN deplores fighting while famine looms

The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed its dismay at the ongoing conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, especially given that millions of people are facing serious drought and possible food shortages, and repeated its call for "an immediate and unconditional ceasefire". It also called on the two countries to cooperate with the high-level delegation currently working on trying to have implemented a framework agreement, nominally accepted by both sides, and reiterated its call for all countries to immediately halt the sale of arms and ammunition to both countries.

Council president, Ambassador Baboucarr-Blaise Jagne of The Gambia, said members were greatly concerned that both countries were continuing to buy weapons while much of their populations faced famine. "The members of the Council remind the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea that it is their primary responsibility to feed their peoples," he said. People in camps face serious health conditions and the food situation could become critical, Jagne said. He also requested that both countries grant humanitarian access to areas of fighting in order to help the local population.

ETHIOPIA: Refugee agency calls for greater care for war-displaced

The NGO Refugees International said on Tuesday that thousands of war-displaced people, especially in disputed border areas, are living in cramped conditions with host families - or, worse, in caves, rock overhangs and in the open - and desperately need food and shelter. More than 90 percent of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) were to be found in a belt of land due south of the border that runs from Bereket on the Sudanese border in the west to Adigrat in the east, leading precarious existence on food handouts; the remainder were to be found along Ethiopia's southeastern border Afar Region, a statement from the agency, received by IRIN, stated.

Claiming that "Ethiopia's civilian victims of war have been relegated to the shadows", Refugees International called for increased donor funding to feed IDPs; the provision of shelter, basic commodities, health and education services, water and sanitation; the inclusion of deportees from Eritrea and host communities among beneficiaries of humanitarian aid; and greater access to IDPs in areas of conflict from the Ethiopian government.

ERITREA: "High time" donors responded to emergency appeals

The war with Ethiopia has resulted in some quarter of a million Eritreans being displaced from rural areas along battle fronts with Ethiopia, and an estimated 58,000 more deported from Ethiopia, such that local communities can no longer cope and "thousands of farmers, traders and their families have been forced to seek refuge under trees, in dry river beds or simply by the roadside", a statement from the NGO Refugees International said on Thursday.

Some of the most vulnerable IDP populations are in the semi-desert of Gash Darka and Debub, where they are not easily accessible to aid workers and suffer extremes of heat by day and cold by night, the agency said. While sanitation and water supplies were priority considerations for the IDPs, food was also in short supply and there were virtually no drugs, educational outlets for children, household utensils or cooking oil, Refugees International said. "Donor response to emergency appeals by ERREC [Eritrea Relief and Rehabilitation Committee] has to date been very poor" and it was now "high time" donors responded by committing funds to ERREC, the UN country team and "those NGOs that are willing and able to operate in Eritrea", the agency added.

SOMALIA: Arab League offers to host reconciliation conference

In Cairo on Monday, Arab League secretary-general, Esmat Abdel Meguid, said the League was "ready to host a reconciliation conference with all the interested parties and all countries in the region concerned by the Somali crisis" and called on Somali leaders "to work for a restoration of security and stability". Meguid was speaking after a meeting with Somali faction leaders Hussein Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who control south and north Mogadishu, respectively, and who claimed all Somali leaders were seeking all-party peace talks to be convened with Arab League support, Reuters news agency reported.

A regional analyst told IRIN on Thursday that Aideed's political credibility was at a low ebb and the Arab League was unlikely to follow through with hosting such a reconciliation conference unless it was a serious and representative national conference - along the lines of that being proposed for Hargeisa by Mohamed Egal, president of the self-declared state of Somaliland. Details of 'Egal's proposal', as it has been called, have been slow to emerge but one political analyst told IRIN it would be up for discussion at a meeting of the key players in the Somalia peace process in Addis Ababa in late July.

NGO network calls for new UN initiative

However, the Somali Human Rights and Peace Network (SHRPN) - an umbrella grouping of 21 Somali NGOs - on Tuesday appealed to the UN Security Council to appoint a team to spearhead a peace process for Somalia, alleging that the regional organisations mandated with establishing peace in Somalia had become entangled and taken sides in the conflict. The statement referred to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Ethiopia and Eritrea are members and are blamed for rearming warring Somali factions, and the Arab League, two members of which, Egypt and Libya, have supported the so-called Mogadishu Joint Authority of Aideed and Ali Mahdi, and therefore compromised their neutrality, according to SHRPN.

Qatar implicated in arms shipment

In Mogadishu, meanwhile, media reports on Monday claimed that Qatar and other Arab states had financed and arranged logistics for a shipment of weapons to Somalia for Aideed's faction, said to have arrived in the central Somali village of Faah on Thursday from Eritrea. The other Arab countries said to be involved were not named, but Aideed's rivals have claimed that Libya and Egypt have been supplying him, in addition to Eritrea. Asmara and Cairo have repeatedly denied sending weapons to Somalia. Ethiopia, in turn, is reported to be strongly backing anti-Aideed militias, including the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), a claim it too has repeatedly denied. This was the first time an oil-rich Arab country had been implicated in shipping arms to Somalia, AFP news agency reported.

Libya denies arming any Somali factions

The Libyan deputy foreign minister, Ali Abdulsalaam Attaricki, on Tuesday denied reports that Libya was supplying Aideed with weapons. Speaking in Addis Ababa during a visit aimed at brokering an Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal, Attaricki told reporters: "Libya has not provided any arms to any of the Somali factions; European sources are providing arms to the Somali factions", AP news agency reported.


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Item: irin-english-1097

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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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