HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990721]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990721]

HORN OF AFRICA: News Briefs, 20 July

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: International community welcomes "progress" on ending war

African leaders and members of the international community have welcomed what they consider progress in diplomatic moves to end the Ethiopian-Eritrean war arising out of the OAU Summit meeting in Algiers last week. The antagonists however remain at loggerheads over the interpretation and significance of a seven-point modalities agreement, unanimously accepted by the 35th assembly of OAU heads of state and government.

"We do consider that this (agreement) is one of the achievements of the Algiers summit," said Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the OAU, quoted by AP news agency. "We are on the way forward, but that does not mean in any way that our problems are over," he added. The US government also hailed "the initial positive responses" by Eritrea and Ethiopia to the modalities put forward, and said it "hopes this proves to be an important step towards a resolution of this devastating conflict". Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, said "it was notable that the two sides' initial response to this document was a constructive and a positive one" and that while a formal agreement was a long way off, there was "reason to be encouraged at this development".

Combatants in new war of words on modalities agreement

While Eritrea announced its acceptance of the 'Modalities for the Implementation of the OAU Framework Agreement', it said in a statement that it was "imperative to fully compensate deportees, if not for the irreparable harm done to them, at least for expropriated property". An estimated 60,000 Eritreans have been expelled from Ethiopia - and over 40,000 Ethiopians from Eritrea - since the war started.

Ethiopia has alleged that while the modalities were consistent with "principles that Ethiopia has insisted should be respected", Eritrea had only nominally accepted the modalities but "removed the substance of the proposal by trying to amend it". A foreign ministry statement said Eritrean acceptance included a demand of compensation for 56 villages allegedly uprooted and for Eritrean urban deportees.

ERITREA: New wave of deportees arrives from Ethiopia

Thousands of Eritrean deportees from Ethiopia have arrived in Assab and Massawa since the start of July, with many disorientated, shocked or in poor condition after difficult sea passages and complaining to aid workers of their harsh treatment, humanitarian sources have reported. Close to 3,000 people were said to have arrived in Eritrea on 5 and 6 July, mostly from Addis Ababa, with many having lost virtually all their possessions. The deportees are understood to have been received a small cash allocation, kitchen utensils and blankets from the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Committee (ERREC) and offered the choice of settling in either Asmara or Dekemhare, accommodated in unoccupied schools.

A diplomatic source in Addis Ababa told IRIN of "substantial deportations" from Addis Ababa on the weekend of 10-11 July, mostly involving family members of Eritreans previously deported as "security risks". He said there was a view that Ethiopia had decided to put pressure on the Eritrean economy by stepping up on deportations. Meanwhile, humanitarian sources have spoken of fears that thousands of Eritreans still face deportation in the coming weeks. They said there were real concerns about Eritrea's ability to cope with deportees' immediate needs and ERREC had appealed for cash support from donors to help it cope. There were also worries about the absorption capacity of Eritrean society in the long run, they added.

ETHIOPIA: Emergency report shows Amhara Region hard hit

The latest revised figure for drought-affected people requiring food assistance in Ethiopia is 5,378,671, including 384,858 displaced people, the latest report from the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, received by IRIN on Monday, has revealed. That figure, released by the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission, has risen from 4.6 million in June to accommodate an increase in beneficiaries due to the failure of the 'belg' harvest. The total food needs from June until the end of the year were reported to be 425,000 mt, comprising 386,586 mt for drought-affected beneficiaries and 38,558 mt required for displaced people affected by the border war with Eritrea.

Over two and a quarter million require food assistance in Amhara Region, the most seriously affected in terms of the number of people at risk in the current Ethiopian hunger crisis, the report stated. The South Wello district of Amhara has been particularly affected by poor 'belg' crop performance and the decimation of livestock populations. Also hard hit has been the Afar Region, "where pastoralists not only face drought, depressed markets and food insecurity but economic hardships because of the war", especially given the loss of the Assab market, the report stated.

IFRC launches appeal for 40,000 "at extreme risk" in South Wello

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Tuesday launched an appeal for Ethiopian drought victims, targeting 40,000 people - half of them children - at extreme risk in two heavily belg-dependent woredas (districts) of South Wello in the northern highlands. The Federation aims to raise 870,000 Swiss francs to provide supplementary food assistance to children under five, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and the handicapped over a six-month period.

The Federation appeal is in support of the Ethiopian Red Cross which intends to provide the 40,000 people with 2kg each of fortified cereal per month.

US donates $13.5 million in emergency food aid towards WFP appeal

Meanwhile, the US government has signed a food aid agreement worth US $13.5 million with WFP towards the agency's operations in Ethiopia. The US pledged 31,000 mt of food aid: 28,000 mt for emergency operations for the most seriously drought-affected and 3,000 mt for those displaced by war. WFP had appealed for 94,353 mt in outstanding requirements for emergency food operations from June to December, and an additional $24.3 million to feed up to 272,000 Ethiopians displaced by the war with Eritrea. "This major contribution goes a long way to ease the pressure we've been under", said WFP country director, Judith Lewis.

SOMALIA: Aideed claims Libya will mediate with Ethiopia

Somali faction leader Hussein Aideed has told reporters in Mogadishu that Libya will host direct talks between him and Ethiopian officials in a bid to avert all-out war in Somalia, AP news agency reported. Aideed, who claimed Ethiopian troops were only 180 km from the capital, said the face-to-face meeting would take place in Tripoli after Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's return from the OAU summit in Algiers that ended last week.

News agencies have cited reports of approximately 5,000 heavily armed Ethiopian soldiers crossing into Somalia - 2,000 at Dolow and as many as 3,000 more at El-Bardeh - and heading east, apparently to take Balidogle airport, 90 km west of Mogadishu, and the town of Qoroley, just outside the key port of Merca and reputed to be the headquarters of the Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation front (OLF) in Somalia. Aideed is also reported by Somali media to have made renewed appeals to Eritrea in recent days to supply him with arms and troops, and has threatened to force the Ethiopians out.


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Item: irin-english-1265

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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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