Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

The Monthly Review
This update covers the period 1 -31 May 1997

The following is the eleventh in a series of updates prepared by the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UNDP/EUE) on the general situation in the countries of the Horn of Africa. Updates cover events in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda.

Information in this update has been obtained from UN, NGOs and media reports; reference is made to the sources as appropriate. No claims are made by the UNDP/EUE as to the accuracy of these reports.


Double taxation abolished by East African Tripartite Commission The governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have agreed to abolish the system of double taxation, whereby a citizen of one country who works in another is taxed by both. The agreement by the East African Tripartite Commission removes double taxation on earnings, gratuities, and income from the sale of property acquired in the country of employment. (East African, 28/4-4/5/97)

Towards East African Integration
In a related development Kenya's, Uganda's and Tanzania's heads of state decided end of April in Arusha to produce a comprehensive plan of action aimed at guiding an East African regional integration process through to the year 2000. President Moi of Kenya declared: "Once we have achieved the desired economic integration, it is my hope and dream that political federation for East Africa will be finally achieved." - Visible signs in Arusha of this integrative initiative were the hoisting of a regional flag and the unveiling of an East African passport. (East African, 28/4-4/5/97 and 5/5-11/5/97)


ADB suspends loans to Djibouti
Minister of Finance Mohammed Ali Mohammed sent a strong letter of protest to the African Development Bank in response to the Bank's decision to suspend all credit to the country for failing to settle its pre-existing debts. The four loans being held up by the Bank amount to nearly 23 million dollars. (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 10/5/97)

Soldiers protest low pay
More than 200 Djiboutian army soldiers demonstrated in Djibouti-ville, claiming not to have received their salaries for more than three months. The protest, which was relatively well organised, brought soldiers from several garrisons, including Obok and Dikhil. The malaise is also attributed to the demobilisation of soldiers. Previously, soldiers had been promised 385,000 DF (177 DF = $1) and the authorities had planned to demobilise 6000 soldiers. In fact, less than 1000 soldiers were selected for demobilisation, and received only 140,000 DF each. (Indian Ocean Newsletter, 17/5/97)


Constitution ratified
The Eritrean Constituent Assembly met on 23-24 May to ratify the constitution of the State of Eritrea. The 26-page document prepared by the Constitutional Commission of Eritrea has eight chapters and 59 Articles. It provides for an independent legislature, executive and judiciary. The president, who is head of state and government, can only serve for two five-year terms of office. (The Monitor, 21/5/97)

UNHCR expelled from Eritrea
In early May, the Government of Eritrea expelled all eight expatriate staff of UNHCR, giving them four days to leave the country. Reasons for the move were not clear. Some claimed that the expulsion was a reaction to a UNHCR Geneva suggestion that Eritrean refugees living abroad were no longer entitled to refugee status, while others said that the move came after the agency had circulated documents without authority, and that UNHCR was not acting quickly enough to help bring home the 145,000 refugees who remain in camps in the Sudan. (The Reporter, 7/5/97)


Repatriation of refugees from Sudan resumed
The repatriation of refugees from the Sudan was resumed on 25 May. Refugees will be transported to their areas of origin, mostly in Tigray and Amhara regions.

Ethiopia supports US African Growth and Opportunity Act Newai Gebre-Ab, Chief Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister, pledged Ethiopia's support for the proposed African Growth and Opportunity Act in testimony before a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. Minister Newai said that the legislation was "fully welcomed by my government. Its vision for a free-trade area of the United States and Africa, as well as its institutional and financial implementation measures...are appropriately ambitious and well-conceived." The legislation is intended to establish as US policy the creation of a transition path from development assistance to economic self-reliance for those countries in Africa committed to economic and political reform, market incentives, and private sector growth. Partners in the programme would be selected based on their fulfilment of eligibility requirements. No cuts would necessarily be made in the budget of USAID for participating countries. (USIS Special Report, 8/5/97)

Business owners stage strike in Addis Ababa to protest rent increases More than 1110 business owners closed their Addis Ababa shops on 19 May to protest severe rent increases levied by the Region 14 Administration. The strike came on the heels of a public demonstration in the city's Meskel Square on 18 May in which protesters called for a review of the rental hike imposed eight months ago. The owners were ordered to open their shops by the afternoon of 19 May; those who refused had their shop premises sealed, and were subject to arrest. By 23 May, those shop owners who had signed a letter to the Region apologising for their actions and admitting that they were forced to participate in the strike had been pardoned. Eighty four business people, accused of being organisers of the strike, have been incarcerated. The imprisoned shopkeepers appeared before the Federal High Court on 27 May, but the court was adjourned for two weeks without arriving at a ruling. The government justified its actions by saying that the strike had been illegal as no permit for it had been issued.
(Entrepreneur, 28/5/97 and Addis Tribune, 23/5/97)

Prime Minister announces encouraging economic news
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced on 13 May that encouraging results have been registered in the steps taken to stabilise the country's economy. Speaking to the House of Peoples Representatives, he said that Ethiopia's inflation rate has fallen to minus 6.9% in the last nine months and that the GDP growth for 1997/98 was projected to be between 9 and 10 percent. In addition, government revenue exceeded expenditure to a greater extent than was expected, and the surplus was being used to service the country's external debt. He attributed these developments to the move to open some commodity prices to market conditions and more efficient bureaucracy. (Press Digest, 22/5/97, Seven Days Update, 19/5/97)
Sectarian violence results in deaths, damage
Sectarian violence was reported in the southern town of Arba Minch on 20 May. Supporters of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical Church were said to have clashed during a four-day spiritual conference held for 90,000 followers of the evangelical church. Orthodox Church followers reportedly attacked the conference, which was held at the city's stadium, hurling stones. Three churches were burned down and cars owned by the church were destroyed. Several deaths and injuries were reported. (Addis Tribune, 23/5/97)
Bomb blast reported in Yabelo
A bomb was thrown into a house in Yabelo town of Borena zone, killing three and injuring six others. No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts. The attack came a month after three bombs exploded in Addis Ababa, for which responsibility has also not been claimed.

Assassination of leading educator condemned The killing by police of Aseffa Maru, executive committee member of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, has brought harsh criticism from the Ethiopian Council of Human Rights and Education International, a world-wide organisation representing teachers unions. In a letter to President Negaso Gidada, EI urged that he condemn the murder of Maru and requested an inquiry into the circumstances of his killing. (Beza, 17/5/97, reported in Press Digest, 29/5/97)
EPRDF celebrates sixth year in power
Celebrating its sixth year in power, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has pledged new administrative, judicial and economic reforms. EPRDF said it would continue to strive for peace and democracy, but that it condemned terrorist attacks which formed "non-negligible obstacles from nationalists and secessionists." (AFP 29/5/97)


Student protests in Nairobi Clashes broke out in Nairobi on Saturday (26 May - 2 June) after an unlicensed opposition rally tried to get going, but failed. Hundreds of riot police on standby to prevent the rally going ahead charged demonstrators, using truncheons and teargas. The disturbances spread from Uhuru Park where the rally was to have been held, to the city centre where demonstrators threw stones, overturned cars, damaged business premises, looted shops and attacked members of the public. The Kenyan government on Friday warned that anyone attending the rally - organised by opposition politicians to press for constitutional reform - would be doing so at their own risk. The demonstration was joined by students, some of whom blocked roads leading out of town with burning barricades. Several people were injured in the running battles. The disturbances continued on Sunday and the city remained tense today as people cautiously resumed work. 133 people were arrested in connection with the riots. (IRIN Great Lakes Report, 2/6/97)
Gastro-enteritis reported in Lokichokio Gastro-enteritis has been reported in Lokichokio, in northern Kenya close to the Sudan border. 52 cases and ten deaths have been reported. UNICEF and other medical personnel are assisting with case treatment. Lokichokio is the base for Operation Lifeline Sudan operations into southern Sudan. (OLS Southern Sector Update 97/20, 20/5/97)


Somali reconciliation meeting postponed The Arab League announced that it was seeking a postponement of the Somali reconciliation conference scheduled to be held in Bossaso on 10 June in order to avert renewed civil war. The conference of the Somalia National Salvation Council, which groups 26 Somali factions who are allied to Ali Mahdi, is intended to form a government for Somalia. However both Hussein Aydiid, one of the major warlords in Somalia, and Mohammed Ibrahim Igal, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, have refused to take part in the conference. The Arab League has instead proposed that an initial tripartite meeting be held in Cairo or Somalia between Mahdi, Aydiid, and Igal. If the Bossaso conference goes ahead, the Arab League would like to see it limited to being a preparatory meeting to ensure the success of a national reconciliation congress. (AFP 26/5/97)

Bossaso reconciliation meeting postponed
The SSDF (hosts of the proposed Bossaso meeting as a follow-up to Sodere) have announced that the proposed meeting would take place in October as opposed to 10 June. No exact date or venue has been set, and the list of participants has similarly not been finalised. (UNDP Somali Situation Report 30/4/97)

Aydiid and Ali Mahdi agree to cease-fire On 29 May, Hussein Aydiid and Ali Mahdi Mohammed agreed to a cease-fire and called on other factions to join their peace efforts. The two leaders issued a joint communiqu‚, called the Cairo Joint Agreement, following two days of discussions in the Egyptian capital. The statement said the faction leaders agreed to work together to achieve peace in Mogadishu and to abolish the green line which has separated the city into halves, the north supporting Ali Mahdi and the south Aydiid. This is the third time that the two sides have agreed to a cease-fire since October 1996. (AFP, 12/6/97)

UN reports disappointing response to Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Somalia 96/97
In its First Quarterly Report of the UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Somalia 96/97, the United Nations Country Team indicated that response had fallen far short of expectations. This is attributed to donor fatigue and the felt need to allocate resources to emergencies in other parts of the world. The Appeal was made in consideration of these factors, requesting a total of $46.5 million for the four joint UN programmes, which amounts to only about 10% of the amount that single bilateral governments were investing in Somalia in the mid 1980s. Only 17.6% of the amount requested has been received to date, of which only 1% reflects new contributions during the first quarter of 1997.

The most pressing needs to be met by the Appeal are $1.4 million for the Joint Emergency Programme to respond to ongoing emergencies and $2.5 million for the Joint Reintegration Programme to complete the return of some 7,500 Somali refugees from Ethiopia to Northwest Somalia. (UN Country Team, 6/5/97)

Sporadic fighting in Mogadishu and South Central Regions Fighting reported in April between Hussein Aydiid and Osman Ali Ato continued. On 26 and 28 April, at least ten people were reported killed and twenty wounded as a result of indiscriminate mortar shell firing. Local press described the fighting on 28 April as the heaviest in two months. Other incidents included a battle over tax collection in Bakara market, which resulted in the firing of an RPG into a fuel tank, injuring several civilians. On 31 May, Agence France Presse reported that attackers had machine-gunned its correspondent's car in north Mogadishu, which was being driven by Hassan Hurshe, editor of the Mogadishu Times. Two women were injured in the incident. (AFP 31/5/97)

Discussions held between UN and factions The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) travelled to Mogadishu on 3 April and reported positive meetings with both sides. On 22 April, UNPOS convened a meeting of "external actors" in Nairobi to assess the present state of the peace process in Somalia in which briefings were provided by Mr. Felix Mosha, the UN Secretary-General's Representative for Somalia, EU Special Envoy Mr. Sigurd Illing, and Ambassador Giuseppe Cassine, the Italian Special Envoy. There was agreement by the three on the progress that is being made at the joint committee of the Haber-Gedir and Modulod clans. It was also felt that others, such as supporters of Osman Ato, Musa Sudi, the Murusade and the Bantu representatives should be included at some later stages in order to find lasting peace in Mogadishu. (UNDP Somalia Situation Report, 30/4/97)


Peace agreement approved by National Assembly The peace agreement signed in April between the government and six south Sudanese rebel groups was approved by the Sudanese National Assembly on 20 May 1997. According to the government press agency, the Assembly officially requested the head of state to arrange for implementation of the accord, including the appointment of a 25-member co-ordinating council. The council is intended to run affairs in south Sudan over the next four years, at the end of which a referendum will be held on whether or not southern Sudan should secede from the north. (AFP, 20/5/97) 

Political prisoners released
Sudan says it has released 80 political detainees, following recent peace agreements between the government and former rebels. The detainees were released in compliance with the directive of the National Security and Defence Council, which is chaired by President Omar Al Bashir. (The Monitor, 20/5/97)

Government and rebels both claim successes Sudanese authorities acknowledged for the first time on 27 May that Rumbek, capital of the southern state of Buhayrat, had been captured by rebels in April. The government newspaper Al-Anbaa stated that John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army had entered the city with the complicity of top government officials. (AFP 27/5/97)

Sudanese government officials claimed that their forces had resisted attacks by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Bahar al Ghazal state. Gwang Toj, chairman of the peace committee in the Sudanese parliament, denied a report that the SPLA had taken control of the state capital, Wau. The government furthermore claimed that the SPLA had been driven from Gogrial, suffering heavy losses. For its part, the SPLA claimed to have taken control of Warab; no comment on this was available from the Sudanese government. (AFP, 22/5/97 and 26/5/97)

The Sudanese government announced at the beginning of June that it had taken back the town of Gogrial in Bahr-el-Ghazal province, which had been overrun on 20 May from the rebel SPLA. It also denied reports that the town of Wau had fallen to the rebels. On Saturday, the governor of West Kordofan region said government troops and militiamen had recaptured the Teluchi mountains, part of the Nuba chain. Speaking on state-run Omdurman radio, the governor claimed that the SPLA had left behind huge numbers of dead along with weapons and ammunition, adding that many rebels had been captured. (IRIN Great Lakes Report, 2/6/97)

Embezzlement high for second half of 1995 It was announced at the end of May that embezzlement from the public treasury reached half a million dollars (767 million Sudanese pounds) in the second half of 1995, according to Auditor General Abubakir Abdallah Marin. The losses were attributed to "weak financial controls, non-abidance by the financial rules and regulations and lack of accountability." 61 million pounds (approximately 40,000 dollars) of the missing funds had been recovered. (AFP 27/5/97)

Government newspapers closed merged to one daily and one monthly Sudan's two government daily newspapers, Al Sudan al Hadith and Al Engaz al Watani, were closed down and their ownership was transferred to the national congress. The congress then set up a publishing house that would be in charge of a single daily newspaper and monthly magazine. Journalists who worked for the two dailies that were shut down were transferred to the new company. The new daily, named al Anbaa (The News), began publishing on 27 May. (AFP, 26/5/97)

President reiterates opposition to multi-party system Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir reiterated his long-standing opposition to a democratic multi-party system in Sudan, saying that his government "guarantees more freedoms, including the freedom of expression," than the elected government he overthrew in 1989. He said he hoped to see "broadening participation in power," but added that this did not mean a return to multi-party politics. "Freedom of expression and broadening participation in power do not imply a return to the multi-party system," he said. Despite his apparent opposition to multi-party democracy, the agreement signed in April between the government and six southern Sudanese opposition groups provides for the freedom of organisation of political parties in the south. Such freedom is not extended to the north. (AFP 20/5/97 and 24/5/97)

US, Israel accused of supporting rebels Sudanese army general Mohamed al-Sanousi Ahmed accused the United States and Israel of supporting regional powers and local rebel forces fighting in the Sudan. "Sudan is subjected to conspiracy by some neighbouring states, backed by big foreign powers such as the United States of America and Israel, which have offered military support to the forces that have attacked the Sudanese border areas." He claimed that the goal of the conspiracy was to gain control over the Red Sea ports. While there was no direct reaction to the charges, US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa had called the previous week for isolation of Sudan, and accused Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime of supporting 'international terrorism'. In addition, Sadek al-Mahdi, leader of the northern Sudanese opposition, was reported to have travelled to Washington to meet members of the US National Security Council. (AFP 23/5/97)

Government denies it targeted churches for destruction In a debate over the destruction of churches and mosques in Khartoum, the government denied accusations that it had targeted churches. Responding to charges from the Catholic Archbishop Monsignor Gabriel Zoubeir Wako, Social Planning Minister Mohamed Osmal al-Khalifa said that "The demolition operations referred to by the bishop fell within a comprehensive replanning project covering entire residential areas that included unauthorised houses, schools, mosques and churches, with a view to moving those buildings to planned areas with health, educational and other services." (AFP, 23/5/97)

Uganda and Sudan agree to end hostilities Meeting in Kenya on 10 May, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese President Omar el Bashir agreed to end running hostilities. Each country accuses the other of supporting rebels: Sudan has charged Uganda with providing assistance and bases to the SPLA rebels and Uganda claims that the same sort of support is being given by the Sudanese government to the Lord's Resistance Army, which is fighting against the Ugandan army. In their first gesture of improved relations, the two leaders agreed to exchange prisoners, including 114 Sudanese soldiers and abducted Ugandan children (AFP, 22/5/97 and Seven Days Update 19/5/97 quoting Sunday Vision)

Gastro-enteritis reported in Eastern Equatoria Outbreaks of gastro-enteritis have been reported in the Keyala area of Eastern Equatoria. Over 330 cases and 12 deaths had been reported as of 18 May. Several NGOs, including Norwegian Church Aid, Healthnet International and International Rescue Committee are working in collaboration with the SRRA to treat cases and combat the spread of the outbreak. (OLS Southern Sector Update 97/20, 20/5/97)

Government closes Ethiopian opposition party offices The government of Sudan has ordered the closure of offices of two Ethiopian opposition parties operating in the country. The move was seen as an attempt to improve relations between the governments of Ethiopia and the Sudan, which has deteriorated since the assassination attempt on the life of Egyptian President Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. The offices of the Oromo Liberation Front an the Ethiopian Democratic Forces Coalition were ordered to leave the country. In another development, Dr. Kasi Salhadin, Secretary of the Sudan's Islamic Party, said the government of Sudan will give support to opposition forces of the Eritrean government. (The Reporter, 14/5/97 quoting the Sudanese daily newspaper Ahber Alyem)


President Museveni visits South Africa
In the first visit by a Ugandan Head of State to South Africa, President Yoweri Museveni spent four days meeting with President Nelson Mandela and senior South African government officials. The leaders discussed recent developments in the former Zaire as well as economic linkages between South Africa and Uganda. Meeting with South African President Nelson Mandela, Mr. Museveni urged Pretoria to use its "unique position" to engage in partnership with the rest of Africa in the areas of investment, trade and tourism. While Mandela believes southern Africa is the economic powerhouse of the continent and is committed to development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Museveni favours the joining of eastern and southern African trading blocs. The two leaders also signed a double taxation agreement. (AFP 27/5/97)

Amnesty condemns Ugandan army for naming alleged LRA collaborators Amnesty International has condemned the Ugandan army for naming seven people whom it claims are collaborators with the Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The criticisms came after the organisation led a fact-finding mission to northern Uganda, where the rebels operate. The team said that the naming was a contravention of the Ugandan constitution, since those named had not been officially charged, and opened up the possibility of retaliation by local people. (AFP 1/6/97)

Increased LRA activity Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army stepped up attacks in the northern Kitgum and Gulu areas, agency reports said. In an ambush at Lanyatido, 40 km south of Kitgum, seven people, including three soldiers, were killed. Casualties were reported as government soldiers battled rebels, and several civilians were injured in landmine blasts. Hospitals in Kitgum were reportedly full and access to outlying areas where some 522,000 displaced people are housed in camps was now very difficult. Aid workers reported an increase in child malnutrition. (IRIN Great Lakes Report, 21/5/97 and 2/6/97)


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the UN concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.


Information in this update has been obtained from UN, NGO and media reports; reference is made to sources as appropriate. No claims are made by the UNDP-EUE as to the accuracy of these reports.

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