Horn of Africa Review Compiled by the UNDP-EUE, 6/1-7/31 '97

Horn of Africa Review Compiled by the UNDP-EUE, 6/1-7/31 '97

Compiled by the UNDP-EUE

Issue Twelve, covering the period 1 June - 31 July 1997

Regional Issues

Ethiopia and Kenya jointly to regulate common border

Ethiopia and Kenya want to enhance their co-operation to maintain peace, security, law and order along their common border. During the 31st joint ministerial consultative meeting, the two sides agreed to foster joint efforts in controlling illicit trade in firearms and narcotics, and drug trafficking. A joint communiqué also urged the immigration departments of the two countries to facilitate the opening of more border entry points. (The Monitor, 24 July 1997)

Regional Crop Production Outlook

In Ethiopia, projections suggest a poor secondary "belg" harvest is in prospect. While the main "kiremt" rains began on time, there is concern that an early withdrawal could affect the main harvest later in the year. According to figures released by the authorities over the last months, a combined total of 4,633,990 Ethiopians nation-wide require 427,800 tons of food aid during the whole current year.

Meanwhile, most areas of southern Sudan received normal to above-normal rainfall during April, leading to a steady improvement in vegetative conditions of crops and pasture. However, thousands of nomads living in Western and Eastern Sudan are suffering from food shortages caused by a prolonged drought, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Food security in southern Somalia also remains critical, with an estimated 680,000 Somalis requiring some 10,100 tons of food aid between May and July.

Across the border in Kenya, high maize prices are causing hardship for many people. Estimates indicate that for the 1996/97 long-rains, the area planted to maize may be 10 percent below average, while the area planted to beans may be as much as 40 percent below average.

Finally, in Uganda the fragile food security situation was initially expected to ease within the next couple of months since recent rains had improved agricultural and pastoral conditions in a number of drought-stricken areas. But by mid-June food shortages had hit more than half of the Ugandan population leading the government to seek two million dollars as a short term measure to help hungry areas. (FEWS bulletin 27 May 1997, The East African 16-22 June 1997 and other sources)

Good relations with Congo brings opportunities for Uganda

With Laurent Kabila in power in Kinshasa new economic opportunities are opened for Uganda. The eventual possibility of establishing a road network between Kasese (Uganda) and Kisangani (Democratic Republic of Congo) or a rail network between Isiro and Pakwach would allow Uganda to put economic pressure on Kenya and Tanzania. More important even for Uganda, which currently uses Mombasa port as a Indian Ocean sea link, would be an access to Congo's Atlantic port of Matadi. ( The East African, 7-13 July 1997 and La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 12 July 1997)

IGAD conference on Sudan: Success or Stalemate?

Sudan's partners in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are waiting to see whether its agreement during the recent IGAD conference in Nairobi to abide by the Declaration of Principles providing for self-determination for South Sudan and governing the peace mediation effort will endure. The concession encouraged summit participants to declare the meeting a success despite a pre-summit background of bitter accusations by Sudan that Eritrea and Ethiopia were backing rebels fighting Khartoum, the simmering Sudan-Uganda conflict and allegations by Eritrea that Sudan had hatched a plot to assassinate Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki. Colonel John Garang, leader of the opposition Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) refused to see the Sudanese president, although Hassan Omar al-Bechir had requested host President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya to arrange such a meeting. Also Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni boycotted the summit because Sudan failed to secure the release of 21 school girls, abducted by Sudan-based Ugandan rebels, as promised. (AFP, 9 July 1997; La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 12 July 1997; The East African 14-20 July 1997)

Canada gives IGAD 1.6 million dollars

Canada has presented the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with 2.5 million Canadian Dollars (1.6 million US). Half of the Canadian grant will go to the body's secretariat in Djibouti and to member governments for their work with IGAD. The other half will be used for research and analysis. (AFP, 4 July 1997)

Human Development Report 1997

The global "Human Development Report" compiled by UNDP was launched world-wide in June. It contains also a Human Development Index, listing a total of 175 countries. The present ranking of the "Horn" countries is as follows: Kenya 134, Sudan 158, Uganda 159, Djibouti 162, Eritrea 168, Ethiopia 170 (Somalia not listed). (Human Development Report 1997)

Violence on Kenya-Uganda Border

Violence broke out on the Kenya-Uganda border at the end of May after Pokot tribes people crossed into Uganda to escape a security operation in the West Pokot district. According to local police, over 50 were killed by Karamojong cattle-rustlers and 24 were seriously injured. The attackers used guns, bows and arrows and spears. According to the "Daily Nation" newspaper, the dead included 32 children who had their throats slit. The Kenyan government launched the security operation after suspected Pokot cattle-rustlers had raided and killed several members of the Marakwet community. (UN DHA IRIN 3 June 1997)

Governance Conference in Addis Ababa

The first annual African governance forum held in Addis Ababa in mid-July ended with a pledge by participants to pursue collaborative and co-ordinated programs for the transparent management of public affairs. Ongoing efforts for good governance and capacity building in African countries should be strengthened by the support of governments and international organisations, said UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth and UNECA Executive Secretary K.Y. Amoako. During the visit of its Administrator to Addis Ababa, it was also disclosed that UNDP had signed a three million dollar grant for the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. (Ethiopian Herald 13 and 15 July, Seven Days Update 21 July 1997)

Training of African peace keeping force

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is working to find a common position on the United States initiative for an African peacekeeping force as American soldiers, mostly members of the elite "Green Beret" unit, are ready to start a training programme in seven African nations. Two Horn of Africa countries are included in the group accepting the programme: Ethiopia and Uganda (while the other countries are Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Senegal and Tunisia). The US Army personnel will give two months of instruction to battalion-size forces in each of the seven countries in convoy security, mine detection, communications, check-point procedures and relations with civilian populations. The trained forces are envisaged as the core of an African response force for peace-keeping and humanitarian purposes in the event of an upheaval in a specific African country. (The East African, 7 -13 July 1997)


Opposition raises the tone

Djibouti's former foreign minister (today an opponent) Moumin Bahdon Farah considers the situation in Djibouti to be "veritably explosive". According to him, social unrest goes deep, the population is in despair, and civil servants face heavy arrears of salary payments (four months for the civilians, two months for the military and police, and nine months for retired persons. In an interview with the Indian Ocean Newsletter on 11 July, the ex-minister appeared almost astonished that "bullets are not talking for the moment". But he said he was convinced that a movement such as the Afar guerrilla in the faction of Front pour la Restauration de l'Unité et de la Démocratie (FRUD) headed by Ahmed Dini "is not finished" and that its officials were waiting for "D-Day" to show themselves. Opposition groups intend to lead a campaign for the installation of a democratic legal framework in view of general elections at the beginning of December. While opponents might run a risk of not being able to present their candidates in the election they assume a social or political explosion around this electoral deadline to be inevitable. According to the ION, it cannot be excluded that a Djibouti opposition party might choose the approach of the December 1997 elections to launch radical, even violent, anti-government action. Especially as beyond the general elections lies the definite deadline of the succession of head of state Hassan Gouled, a job for which his nephew and chef de cabinet Ismail Omar Gelleh is in pole position. (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 19 July 1997)


Tension with Sudan

Tension is rising between Eritrea and Sudan since Eritrea's foreign minister accused the Sudanese authorities and in particular head of state general Hassan Omar Al Bechir and his éminence grise, the leader of the National Islamic Front (NIF) Hassan Al Tourabi, at the end of June of having fomented a plot to assassinate Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki. According to a diplomatic source in Asmara, several dozen Eritrean military are believed to have been killed and others wounded during the first two weeks of July, in skirmishes with Sudanese government forces. Officials of foreign NGO's based in Eritrea have reported that controls of personnel and vehicles going into the western part of the country, near the Sudanese frontier, are getting much stricter. The Asmara authorities and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, Sudanese opposition based in Asmara) officially deny all direct military involvement of Eritrean troops in anti-government combat inside Sudan. According to an ION editorial, "this assertion appears less and less credible in view of mounting signs that the Asmara authorities have decided to make logistical and military means available to rebels of NDA in order to try to cut, in the coming months, the road linking Khartoum and Port Sudan in a bid to asphyxiate the Islamic regime in the Sudanese capital". (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 19 July 1997)

Kabila visited Eritrea

Laurent Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, visited Eritrea for three days from 23 July. While contents of his talks with his Eritrean counterpart, Isaias Afeworki, were not disclosed to the public, "fears" were raising in Khartoum, according to a private Sudanese paper, that "something is planned in secrecy".

(AFP, 2 August 1997).

"Nakfa" - the new Eritrean Currency

Eritrea, having used Ethiopian Birr so far, is about to introduce its own currency. The new legal tender's name is the "Nakfa", named after a battlefield which became famous in the Derg-time war of liberation. While the exchange rate between Nakfa and Birr is one to one, the Ethiopian Birr will also remain in use during the transition period up to the end of 1997. (Addis Tribune, 25 July and Seven Days Update, 28 July 1997).

Arbitration on Hanish Island dispute gaining momentum

The arbitration court adjudicating the disputes between Eritrea and Yemen over ownership rights of the Hanish Islands has completed preliminary investigations and moved on to the second stage of its work. The international court set up by the parties to the dispute in London is said to have asked Eritrea and Yemen to present their documentary evidence. (Seven Days Update, 28 July 1997)

Oil refinery to move

The announcement that the ageing Assab oil refinery, which exports 70 percent of its production to Ethiopia, will close as of 1 August will oblige the government in Addis Ababa to import refined petroleum products. According to media reports, the Assab refinery will be moved to Massawa in about 18 months. The project has been given to the Italian Agip oil company. In a related development, the Eritrean government is said to be preparing to undertake renovation work at the ports of Assab and Massawa. These projects, worth about 30 million dollars, will reportedly be financed by the International Development Association of the World Bank. (Seven Days Update, 21 July 1997)


Ethiopia-UK: relations strained

Since Tony Blair's labour government election victory, relations between the United Kingdom and Ethiopia have somewhat soured. The falling-out appears to follow a call by Whitehall for a public enquiry into the May shooting of a prominent member of the Ethiopian Teacher's association by Ethiopian police. In an apparently related development, Britain is reported to be phasing-out its training programme for the Ethiopian police force. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Government has accused Britain of "misreading" the Vienna Convention by subjecting Ethiopian officials holding diplomatic passports to searches by immigration officials at British airports. (Addis Tribune 4 July, Seven Days Update 7 July and Africa Confidential 18 July 1997)

Special assistance from Japan

An Ethiopia-Japan policy dialogue was held at the Ministry of Economic Development and Co-operation (MEDAC). The Ministry disclosed that Ethiopia has been chosen by Japan as one of the six target countries in the world to benefit from a special Japanese assistance programme known as the "Development Assistance Committee". The two sides discussed the implementation of new and ongoing Japan assisted projects in infrastructure, education, water supply and agricultural sectors.

(Seven Days Update, 7 July 1997)

Limited protection for French investments

A techno-political dispute has grown between Ethiopia and France over one article of the draft Protection of Investment Agreement. The French want it retroactive to 1975 so that it covers assets belonging to French nationals which were nationalised by the regime of ex-president Mengistu Haile Mariam, while the present leaders in Addis Ababa do not consider they have to shoulder the fallout from their predecessors' policy of nationalisation. (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 19 July 1997).

Ethio-Indian Joint Business Council

Ethiopia and India signed in late June an agreement for the establishment of a Joint Business Council which would serve as a co-operative body on a private initiative to facilitate continuous interaction between the two business communities, increase trade and promote economic co-operation between the two countries. (Ethiopian Herald, 25 June 1997)

New Management for Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines chairman Seye Abraha has announced a new management team for the trouble-plagued airline, which is making virtually no money. The new management crew is now headed by Bisrat Negatu, a former Ethiopian Airlines official. (AFP 14 July 1997)

Did Ethiopian troops hit guerrillas inside Somalia?

Ethiopian troops crossed over into southern Somalia in mid-June with tanks and heavy artillery to hit at rear bases of the fundamentalist Al-Itihad al-Islam group, according to field radio reports. In Mogadishu a spokesman for Al-Itihad said the fighting took place around the villages of Bohalgare, Dossai and Melko-Sarey in the border Gedo region. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dismissed the allegations as baseless. (AFP, 12 June and Seven Days Update 30 June 1997)


Opposition gains momentum

Anti-government demonstrations and violent riots took place repeatedly over the last months in Nairobi. Observers believe that Laurent Kabila's take-over in Kinshasa has greatly encouraged the Kenyan opposition. According to the Guardian Weekly, "Mobutu's downfall has galvanised the hitherto weak opposition and catapulted Kenya into political crisis. For the first time since he won multi-party elections in 1992, Mr Moi finds himself on the defensive, fighting off an array of reformers, growing dissent within his own party and an increasingly angry and disenfranchised electorate." By early July, President Moi's only concession to the reform lobby has been to modify the Public Order Act which restricts freedom of assembly. In a related development, fears that political instability will plunge Kenya into a serious economic slump in the run-up to the general election emerged strongly after the worst rioting in seven years. The Kenyan Shilling had dropped sharply by mid-July. Meanwhile, there is increasing international pressure on the Kenyan Government to move on constitutional reform, without which a number of donor countries, including the 15-member European Union, have threatened to suspend aid. (The Guardian Weekly, 6 July; The East African 14 - 20 July and 21 - 27 July 1997)

IMF blocks 37 million dollar loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has blocked a 37 million dollar loan to Kenya because it was "baffled" by the Kenyan High Court ruling to terminate the 105 million dollar "Goldenberg" court case. Sitting in Nairobi on June 20, a two-judge bench ruled against further action in the Goldenberg fraud case involving millionaire businessman Kamlesh Pattni and former senior officials of the Central Bank of Kenya and the government. IMF's Africa Department tried to "seek clarification on whether the termination of the case means the Government has reneged on its earlier promise to take tough measures to deal with people involved in mismanagement of public funds and to recover moneys lost in those irregularities". (The East African 7-13 July 1997)

Kenyan Energy Programme launched

The International Development Association, a branch of the World Bank, has after several years of difficult negotiations finally approved at the end of June 125 million dollars for the financing of the restructuring of the Kenyan energy sector.

(La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 5 July 1997).


Members of UN mission in Somalia accused of abuses

Members of the Canadian, Belgian and Italian military contingents of the UN mission "Restore Hope" have been accused of having committed atrocities against Somali civilians in 1993. While some defendants were acquitted, investigations on other cases were to be continued. A Somali group in Mogadishu announced the creation of "Operation Save Wet Skeletons" to recover the remains of 15 Somalis they say were killed by Italian troops and thrown into the Indian Ocean. Several enquiries are in progress in Italy, one instigated by the army and another by the government.

(AFP 3 July and 14 July, The Guardian Weekly 6 July 1997)

Dreams of peace continue

Somali warlord Ali Mahdi Mohamed said on 27 July that Somalia's warring factions will soon forge a truce, and he appealed to his main rival, Hussein 'Aydiid, to join the peace bandwagon immediately. Addressing a factional meeting in his north Mogadishu fiefdom, Ali Mahdi said he was sure 'Aydiid would join peace efforts spearheaded by the National Salvation Council (NSC) grouping of 26 clans. But 'Aydiid's spokesman stated that Ali Mahdi was dreaming if he thought 'Aydiid would join talks being planned for October/November by the NSC in Bossaso. (AFP, 27 July 1997)

US aid worker kidnapped

Militiamen of the Galje'al clan kidnapped a US aid worker in the central Somali town of Belet Weyn, the US Agency for International Development stated. (AFP 26 July 1997)

French doctor murdered

The Somali Aid Co-ordination Body (SACB) strongly protested against the murder of a French doctor working for Médecins sans Frontières in central Somalia and called on aid agencies to pull out of the area immediately. The murder occurred on 20 June in Baidoa. (AFP, 24 June 1997)

European envoy cancels visit

The European Union's special envoy to Somalia, Sigurd Illing, cancelled in early July a planned visit to Somalia because of worsening insecurity there. Illing was due in Mogadishu on 4 July but pulled out because renewed violence in the city "including politically-motivated assassinations, has obliged me to change my plans," he informed the Somalia Civil Society from Nairobi. He was referring to recent bandit attacks and assassinations in the lawless streets of Mogadishu. (AFP, 5 July 1997)


Warming of ties with Kuwait

Sudan's islamic military government welcomed Kuwait's readiness to normalise relations with states that sided with Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. "Such a step strengthens Arab solidarity and co-operation," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said. His statement followed comments by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah al Ahmed al-Sabah that the normalisation of ties with some countries that backed Iraq during the Gulf War would take place "soon". (AFP, 16 June 1997)

Khartoum rules out return to multi-party politics

Sudan's President Omar al Beshir again ruled out a return to multi-party politics at a early July rally in Khartoum. Beshir put an end to recent speculation that the eight-year-old regime was considering allowing other political parties to operate. (AFP, 5 July 1997)

Washington policy-makers contemplating fall of National Islamic Front

As Sudan's conflict continues, policy -makers in Washington are envisaging possible scenarios. "Africa Confidential" writes in an editorial: "Sudan is moving up Washington's Agenda. After years of US ambiguity, those urging a tough line against Khartoum have won the argument over those favouring 'constructive engagement'." This was said to be due to fears that Sudan's war might destabilise the whole region and Khartoum's alleged links to Islamic terrorist groups. (Africa Confidential, 18 July 1997)

NDA meeting in Asmara

The directorate of the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) held a meeting in the Eritrean capital Asmara from 19 to 22 June. For the first time the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, John Garang, and of the Umma party, Sadiq el-Mahdi, participated together. A military plan of action was approved and the decision taken to form a committee to co-ordinate action within Sudan in order to intensify popular uprising. The NDA meeting in Asmara rejected any suggestion of reconciliation with Khartoum. (La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 28 June 1997)

John Garang: "Khartoum planning to step-up war"

In the context of the IGAD summit in Nairobi (8-9 July), John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), gave an interview to "The East African" newspaper. Touching on many subjects around the Sudan conflict, Garang responded to the question why Khartoum would call for a cease-fire at this point, by saying: "They want to buy time. The government issued (in June) a decree that all secondary school leavers shall go for military training. They are preparing for war and just want to buy time by calling for a cease-fire. It is now the rainy season in Sudan and come the dry season in October they hope to go on an offensive (...) So we anticipate an escalation of war at that time."(The East African, 21-27 July 1997)


Rebel activities in western Uganda

Following President Laurent Kabila's victory in former Zaire, east and central African nations are planning a joint initiative to fight cross border rebel movements, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced. Museveni, addressing a rally on 31 July in the rebel-hit western Ugandan town of Kasese, warned that those who "thought they could use Democratic Republic of Congo as their base," were all doomed. "With fraternal relations existing between Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania, it is difficult for any criminal to commit crimes in one country and run to another," Museveni said. Uganda backed Kabila's forces in their take-over of Congo, formerly Zaire, doing so in part to stop the attacks against Uganda by rebels based there. A rebel group - the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) combining supporters of the Tabliq Moslem fundamentalist sect, the rebel National Liberation Army of Uganda (NALU) and disgruntled former Zairean and Rwandan Hutu soldiers - operated out of bases just over the Ugandan border until November last year when they were overrun by Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL). After having regrouped in the Ruwenzori border mountains, they invaded Bundibugyo district in June, displacing up to 70,000 people and causing a humanitarian emergency. Visiting Bundibugyo on 1 August, Museveni promised to deploy an additional 3,000 troops in an effort to counter ADF activities in the area. (AFP, 31 July and 1 August, UNDHA IRIN 13 August).

Thousands of children abducted in North Uganda

The Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, expressed in early July deep concern about thousands of children who have been abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. 5,000 to 8,000 children are estimated to have been taken captive from Gulu and Kitgum and trained as fighters or kept as slaves or wives for rebel commanders, many of whom operate from bases in southern Sudan. (UNDHA IRIN, 4 July 1997)

Tax evasions problems

Rampant tax evasions combined with contraband trade are, according to Finance Minster Mayanga Nkangi, among the reasons hampering the Ugandan economy, leading to a state budget deficit of 30 million dollars for the fiscal year 1997/98. The problem of tax evasion seems to be linked to the introduction of a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 17 percent. The business community considers this to be too high and would prefer a VAT of not more than 12 percent. (La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 28 June 1997)

Telecoms reshuffle delayed

The planned change in Ugandan telecommunications will suffer a setback with the recent parliamentary vote delaying the separation of Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UPTC) into two separate units, a reform which was originally scheduled for the beginning of July. UPTC was to have been split into Uganda Posts Ltd (UPL) to look after mail and Uganda Telecommunications Ltd (UTL) to run telecommunications. This delay is also likely to mean delay for the privatisation of UTL. (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 19 July 1997)


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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