IRIN News Briefs, 3 September [19990903]

IRIN News Briefs, 3 September [19990903]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 3 September

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Efforts continue to implement OAU peace deal

Two top American officials, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice and Great Lakes envoy Anthony Lake, met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in Addis Ababa this week for talks on how to bring about implementation of the OAU peace plan and end fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. "The discussion focused on assurances that the implementation process ... will be fair and transparent", a statement from the US embassy in Addis Ababa quoted by AFP stated. Lake worked with OAU and UN experts to finalise the technical details that complement two other documents: the Framework Agreement for peace, and modalities for its implementation, that altogether comprise the OAU peace plan.

President Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea has also met a delegation led by Ahmed Ouyahia, special envoy of President Bouteflika of Algeria, who is the current chairman of the OAU, and was briefed on the OAU's response to Ethiopia's request for clarification on the technical details.

Asmara denounces Ethiopian reports of renewed fighting

The Eritrean government on Thursday rejected an Ethiopian allegation that Eritrean forces had launched an attack at Chin Keren on the Alitena-Mereb front. A statement from the Office of the Ethiopian Government Spokesperson, received by IRIN on Thursday, claimed that on Wednesday evening, Eritrea's first battalion launched an attack on Chin Keren which lasted through to Thursday morning, but which "Ethiopian defence forces successfully repelled."

ETHIOPIA: Civilian plane shot down in 'no-fly zone'

The Ethiopian government on Wednesday confirmed that it shot down a civilian jet on Sunday near the border with Eritrea close to the northern town of Adwa "after it had entered a no-fly zone" designated by the Ethiopian aviation authority. The Swedish and British pilots aboard were killed. The South African owners of the plane, ExecuJet, said it was not clear why the plane had ended up near the disputed frontier between Eritrea and Ethiopia when their approved routing, for which they had filed a flight plan, was via Djibouti, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Floods displace 5,000 people in northeast

More than 5,000 residents have been displaced in zone three of Afar State in the northeast after the Awash River burst its banks following torrential rains in mid-August. The sudden floods caused two dams to burst, completely flooding the neighbourhoods of Sumale and Menagesha, Amibara district, making the residents homeless and destroying over 5,000 hectares of cotton and maize, Walta Information Centre quoted Mohammed Akile, a member of the state council, as saying. Mohammed said the displaced were currently being sheltered in the premises of the Sidha Fage Senior Secondary school.

SOMALIA: New consensus on "time to do more"

Consensus emerged among Horn of Africa countries and some UN Security Council members that "the time had come to do more about Somalia" during an informal meeting of the Council on Wednesday, a statement from the head of the UN Political Office for Somalia, David Stephen, said on Thursday. "Most countries were now agreed that a future process should be more closely tied to Somali society", Stephen added, describing a feeling at the Security Council meeting "of the need to prevent a repeat of the international community's empowerment of Somali warlords, and to build up the forces of civil society." The Somali people were concerned about "the absence of leadership and representation in international bodies", and, in recent months, about "the effects of the war between neighbouring Ethiopia and Eritrea, with allegations that both sides were arming different factions inside Somalia", he added.

Adapting 'building-block' approach to peace

Stephen said the 'building block' approach favoured by Ethiopia - mandated by the OAU and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with coordinating the search for peace in Somalia -, whereby the leaders of peaceful regions within Somalia would eventually come together, would have to be merged with the Egyptian approach, "which put greater emphasis on the need for a stronger central government." Meanwhile, Djibouti, which holds the IGAD presidency, has proposed "an interim council to be recognised as a government that would organise elections and restore a government structure", Stephen added. Under this approach, there would be a bicameral chamber consisting of traditional elders on the one hand and regional leaders on the other, he said.

Kenya ban suspended for humanitarian flights

Humanitarian flights from Kenya to Somalia have been cleared for a two-week period while discussion between the government and the flight providers - the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the UN Coordinated Air Service and the ICRC - continue on an agreed mechanism for their regularisation over a longer period. The Kenyan government, keen to stem arms flows from Somalia, announced the closure of its borders on 22 August and the extension of that to all flights, including humanitarian, on 25 August.

A government note on 30 August specifying that all flights would have to be cleared three days in advance, and that each UN flight would have to be recommended by UNHCR and UNDP, was considered "an impracticable compromise", but humanitarian sources who spoke to IRIN on Friday remained confident that a mechanism would soon be agreed for the flight approval of up to three months.

Poor harvest prospects after dismal rains

A recent joint assessment of the 1999 'Gu' crop has estimated Somalia's cereal harvest, which constitutes 75-80 percent of the country's annual production, will amount to a meagre 128,880 mt - just above that of 1998, which had the lowest yield in five years, and 29 percent lower than the last 'normal' Gu harvest of 1993-1998. Predictions in June when crops were knee-high were revised downwards by over 20 percent during the assessment mission - conducted by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU), WFP, FAO and USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) - with the sorghum belt of Bay, Bakool, Hiran and rainfed areas of Gedo, Middle and Lower Shabelle worst hit. The water situation in southern Somalia has also become precarious, especially for livestock, with water points congested and water catchments and boreholes either drying up or not functioning at all, an emergency report by WFP, received by IRIN, stated.

Meanwhile, the European Community has approved 8,000 mt of food to WFP, on top of 10,000 mt already allocated, and given another 4,000 mt of food aid for distribution to CARE. USAID, which has given CARE 10,000 mt for a food-for-work programme as well as 6,000 mt in emergency food aid, is expected to provide an additional US $5.3 million to fund emergency activities, including health, water and logistical needs, before the end of the month. The two donors said, in a joint statement this week, that their pledges came in direct response to appeals from the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) and hoped that humanitarian agencies were now in a position "to avert the worst effects of the food crisis."

Somali militia leaders meet in Addis Ababa

Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi was on Thursday reported by news agencies to have received Somali faction leaders in Addis Ababa to discuss ways to resolve the political deadlock in Somalia. Among the faction leaders reported to be at the meeting were Abdullahi Yusuf, president of the self-proclaimed state of Puntland, clan leader Colonel Omar Hashi Aden, Mohamed Nur Shati-Gadud, chairman of the Rahawein Resistance Army (RRA), Sheikh Ali Burale, Hussein Haji Bod and several other leaders of the Somali Peace Alliance (SPA) recently founded in Puntland.

$700,000 programme to rehabilitate schools in Merka

The European Commission (EC) has launched a US $700,000 two-year primary education programme in Merka, southern Somalia, to assist in the physical rehabilitation of five schools and the institutional development of a school administration system for the town. "The revitalisation of this sector, devastated by the civil war, will prove crucial to the peaceful development of the country," said Duarte de Carvalho, counsellor of the EC/Somalia Unit, in a press statement. "We must recover Somalia's lost generations by ensuing comprehensive and sustainable education systems throughout the country." The programme is being implemented by the Italian NGO, COSV, in close partnership with teacher and parent committees, which are contributing 15 percent of the costs.

23 reported killed in militia attack in Mogadishu

Militiamen of Hussein Aideed's Habr Gedir clan were on Tuesday alleged to have killed at least 23 people and wounded 30 more during attacks on a bus and a lorry in the Huriwa district of south Mogadishu, AFP news agency reported on Wednesday. Twenty-one people were reported to have died after an armed gang opened fire on a bus travelling from Mogadishu to Elade village in Lower Shabelle, and another two when the same gunmen later shot at a lorry in the same area, it said, adding that the incident was believed to have been an attack on the Abgal clan grouping in retaliation for an alleged theft of a bus from Habr Gedir gunmen by Abgal rivals.

DJIBOUTI: Two arrested after 'violation of press laws'

The authorities have detained a former army chief of staff, General Ali Meidal Wais, and a magazine editor, Daher Ahmed Farah, accusing them of violating press laws and threatening the morale of the armed forces, according to a statement from the state prosecutor, reported by the BBC. The two were said to have been behind published claims that the radical wing of the Front for Restoration of Unity and Democracy was behind the downing of an army helicopter in early August.

Nairobi, 3 September 1999, 13:00 gmt


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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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