HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990722]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990722]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 22 July

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Security Council welcomes "initial" responses

The UN Security Council on Wednesday welcomed the "initial positive response" of Ethiopia and Eritrea to OAU proposals for ending the conflict. In a press statement issued after a briefing by UN Special Envoy for Africa Mohamed Sahnoun, Council members urged the two governments to formally sign the modalities to fully implement a framework agreement proposed by the OAU. They expressed the hope that this action "might be an important step towards resolving the devastating conflict". A seven-point modalities agreement was unanimously accepted by the 35th assembly of OAU heads of state and government in Algiers earlier this month.

Ethiopia prepared to keep fighting

Meanwhile, Ethiopia said on Wednesday that although it "accepts" the OAU proposals, it would keep on fighting because it believed Eritrea wanted to "pursue the path of war". In a statement received by IRIN, the Ethiopian Council of Ministers said that if the Eritrean regime persisted "in customary fashion to prosecute the war", then the Ethiopian government would "take whatever measures that are required to ensure that the country's sovereignty is safeguarded". In response, an Eritrean Foreign Ministry statement received by IRIN on Thursday called the Ethiopian statement "conspicuous for its inflammatory rhetoric and warmongering".

US envoy to meet leaders

The United States has sent its special envoy, Anthony Lake, to the region to discuss the OAU modalities agreement with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki, State Department spokesman James Rubin said on Wednesday. Lake would also meet OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, Rubin said.

DJIBOUTI: Precarious conditions persist amid slow reconstruction

Djibouti's reconstruction has been slow and more needs to be done to improve the country's precarious social situation, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the UN Economic and Social Council. The report, received by IRIN on Wednesday, said the population's purchasing power has been declining, external assistance to the country has become scarce, a large refugee population has placed enormous strain on meagre resources, and declining economic indicators have been exacerbated by the unstable socio-political situation in neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia. "Poor health conditions, the low level of educational facilities and a workforce with limited qualifications also continue to hamper social progress," the report said. "Social infrastructures, such as hospitals, dispensaries, schools and water points, have to be reconstructed so that the displaced population can be resettled," it added.

UN agencies continued to implement rehabilitation programmes in conflict-affected regions, but many of the pledges made by some donors at a round table in May 1997 had "yet to materialise", the report said. There were an estimated 100,000-150,000 refugees and displaced persons in the country, and most of the 18,000 Djiboutians who fled civil war, which first broke out in 1991, have returned. Recurring drought, epidemics and other emergency situations combined with the effects of the conflict have "considerably increased Djibouti's need for emergency and humanitarian assistance", the report said. At least US $100 million are estimated to be needed to mitigate the impact of the war.

18,000 soldiers to be demobilised

Meanwhile, about two thirds of the 18,000 soldiers to be demobilised have received financial incentives to leave the army, as part of a programme initiated with French and European Union assistance, and another 750 soldiers have been successfully demobilised since June 1998, the report added. However, those being demobilised were finding it difficult to get employment because of their low qualifications, unadapted skills and the state of the economy, it said. The social reintegration of demobilised soldiers remained a priority for the country, the report said.


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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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