ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: IRIN News Briefs [19990701]

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: IRIN News Briefs [19990701]


OAU peace process enters critical phase

Diplomatic moves, led by Italy and also involving Libya, to broker an end to the Ethiopia-Eritrea war have entered a delicate and critical phase in the run-up to the OAU summit meeting in Algiers on 12 July, a diplomatic source told IRIN on Thursday. Much hope was resting on the incoming chair of the OAU, Algeria, carrying more weight and having "a more concrete engagement" with the process than the outgoing chair, Burkina Faso, the source said.

A number of recent suggestions by Italy, described as "starting mechanisms" to build trust and facilitate the implementation of the OAU framework agreement - nominally accepted by the two countries -, were being considered in the run-up to the Algiers summit, he said. The Italian proposals attempted to provide guarantees to Ethiopia that a ceasefire would not mean acceptance of the status quo, namely Eritrea's occupation of Badme and its environs, and to Eritrea that redeploying troops from the area would not mean acceptance of Ethiopia's sovereignty over it, he added.

If Eritrea rejected the OAU's apparent interpretation that it should withdraw from all territories occupied since fighting began in May 1998, then the OAU peace process was effectively at an end and "we have simply war without any visible means of resolving it", the diplomat added.

Fighting intensifies as rains set in

Meanwhile, fighting between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops has escalated over the past week on the Mereb-Setit front of the border war, despite heavy rains, news agencies reported. Sunday and Monday saw particularly heavy engagements in the area, where fighting has persisted since Friday, as both sides tried to secure an advantage before the rainy season sets in completely, making military offensives difficult, according to media reports.

An Ethiopian statement claimed nearly two thousand Eritreans had been killed, wounded or captured in the latest fighting, while Eritrea said it had killed more than 850 Ethiopian soldiers, wounded 3,100 and captured thirteen. Both sides have also said Ethiopia bombed the Eritrean port city of Assab at the weekend.

ETHIOPIA: Food aid to be rushed to seriously affected areas

The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) of the government has made a budget allocation for the local purchase of 20,000 mt of food aid while it awaits the response of main donors to an emergency appeal. That quantity of food would be issued to seriously affected areas from the Emergency Food Security Reserve stock while the purchase was being finalised, a DPPC statement received by IRIN said. The food situation is considered very critical in parts of south Tigray, North and South Wello, North Shewa, East Hararghe and Konso. Humanitarian sources told IRIN the local purchase could be considered a response to donors' concern at the massive expenditure on Ethiopia's war efforts while millions of people were faced with hunger.

Rains threaten access to the hungry

Ethiopian newspapers have reported that food relief has not yet reached many of those facing hunger as a result of the failure of 'belg' rains and expressed concern for people in outlying areas - including north Gonder, Wag Himra, North and South Wello and North Shoa - access to whom will be very difficult once rains start.

Eritrean POWs moved to western Ethiopia

Ethiopia on Wednesday said it has moved Eritrean prisoners of war who were being held at Bilaten camp "for administrative reasons" but denied Eritrean claims they were being detained in an undisclosed place. A statement from Addis Ababa said they had been moved to Didesa in western Ethiopia "in an open and transparent manner" and that the ICRC and other parties continued to have "unhindered access".

26 people killed by landmines

Landmines have claimed the lives of 26 people, wounded seven others and killed numerous animals in the Badme region, according to police reports from Tahtay Adiyabo District quoted on Ethiopian radio on Wednesday. Addis Ababa claimed the mines were laid by Eritrea during its occupation of Badme.

OLF denies operating in Kenya

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has denied operating on Kenyan soil and said it was not involved in ethnic violence on the Ethiopian-Kenyan border, alleging that such accusations against it were an effort by Addis Ababa to "damage its credibility by portraying it as a destabilising force". In a statement received by IRIN, the OLF appealed to Kenya to maintain its neutrality in relation to the Oromos' conflict with Ethiopia, "and to be vigilant of Ethiopia's motive to drag Kenya into conflict with the Oromo people." A Kenyan government report last week into the 1998 Bagalla massacre in northeast Kenya said OLF elements were present in that area.


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Item: irin-english-1140

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information or free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or fax: +254 2 622129 or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

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

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

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