Monday, August 25, 2008

Missing Somalia journalists named: Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, Nigel Brenan, Amanda Lindhout (and driver Mahad)

Missing since Saturday August 23, 2008:

Somalia journalists Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, Nigel Brenan (pictured here below), Amanda Lindhout and their driver Mahad.

Are they being held by a militia near Mogadishu?

See August 24, 2008 BBC report 'Missing Somalia journalists named' - edited excerpt:

Missing Somalia journalists named: Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, Nigel Brenan, Amanda Lindhout (and their driver Mahad)

Photo: Australian photographer Nigel Brenan went missing near Mogadishu (AFP/BBC)

An Australian journalist and his Canadian colleague are missing, feared kidnapped, in Somalia.

Somalia's National Union of Journalists said they had been abducted along with a Somali reporter [Abdifatah Elmi] and their driver [named as Mahad].

In a statement released on its website, The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) says it "has been investigating the case of the abduction since it emerged", and is trying to discover the whereabouts of the journalists and their driver.

The NUSOJ said it received information on Sunday morning that the two Westerners and their Somali colleagues were being held by a militia in a north-eastern district of Mogadishu.

"We demand that those holding Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, Nigel Brenan and Amanda Lindhout free them unconditionally and immediately," he [Omar Faruk Osman NUSOJ Secretary General] said, adding "we are worried about their safety as we have had no contact with anybody saying they are holding three journalists and their driver."

Full story 'Missing Somalia journalists named'
Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Sunday, 24 August 2008 16:39 UK

Friday, August 22, 2008

Donors give $847 mln to cut poverty in Ethiopia

July 4, 2008 Reuters report (via Sudan Tribune online July 6, 2008 'Donors give $847 mln to cut poverty in Ethiopia'):

(ADDIS ABABA) - Donors funding Ethiopia’s programmes to cut poverty said on Friday they would provide $847 million in 2008/09 for projects such as free education and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.

The World Bank and the UK Department of International Development (DFID) jointly gave the money to Ethiopia’s Protection of Basic Services (PBS) programme. Last year, they gave $573 million.

"After reviewing the results of PBS implementation since 2006, both the government and development partners are of the view that the programme has been successful and will be crucial in supporting Ethiopia’s plan towards poverty alleviation," said Paul Ackroyd, head of DFID in Ethiopia.

Keniche Ohashi, the World Bank head said the PBS was the largest single development assistance in Ethiopia and that it would help the poor country achieve universal goals to halve poverty by 2015.

Under the PBS programme, an extra three million children and 65,000 teachers were now in school since 2006, Ackroyd said.

A total of 24,000 insecticide-treated bed nets have been distributed so far in 2008 compared with 2,700 in 2006 and as a result, new malaria cases have dramatically dropped to 370,315 in 2007 from 780,019 in 2006, he said.

Donors had also raised an extra $200 million out of the $420 million that the government says it requires for humanitarian needs. Efforts were also underway to raise a further $150 million, Ackroyd added.

The fund will distributed to the U.N. World Food Programme and other agencies and will be used to purchase food, fertilizers and for other humanitarian purposes, he said.

World Bank’s Ohashi said his organisation was considering helping Ethiopia with additional resources to mitigate against the external shocks of rising oil prices.


Sudan Tribune's related reports :
Ethiopia :
- Ethiopia, Somali forces kill 71 militants
- Opposition holds "Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia"
- Ethiopia’s Zenawi endorses Mugabe at African summit


Eritrea: Security Council calls for UN fact-finding team to visit Djibouti border

June 29, 2008 - The UN Security Council has called for a fact finding mission to investigate the border disputes between Eritrea and Djibouti. There has been recent fighting on the border. The Council has requested Eritrea to withdraw its forces from the border. DH

Source: AfricaFiles InfoServ - Eastern Region 29/6/08 18:04

The number of Eritrean soldiers who fled to Ethiopia tops 10,000

June 28, 2008 news report by Tesfa-alem Tekle, published at Sudan Tribune Saturday June 28, 2008:

June 27, 2008 (MEKELLE, Ethiopia) - The number of Eritrean soldiers who crossed the borders to Ethiopia and currently being sheltered in Ethiopian camps reach 10,500.Admnstration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) said

“Currently a total of 31,500 Eritreans are being sheltered in Ethiopian camps among whom 10,500 of them are Eritrean soldiers” statement said.

Every day a number of Eritrean soldiers flee to Ethiopian borders in protest to killings, detention and harsh treatment they face back at home.

“The flee soldiers who include higher military officials are under necessary treatment” it said.

Meanwhile three new camps which are built to accommodate increasing influx of Eritreans have gone operational.

Accordingly the new camps built at Tigray and Afar regions have sheltered 5514 Eritreans in a start move.

According to ARRA, the influx of Eritreans to Ethiopia has seen a 25% Increase to that of last year’s and the Eritreans now in camps belong to eight of the the total 9 ethnic groups the nation embraces.

Over the past few years, thousands of Eritreans have been resettled to different western nations with the help of Ethiopian government and international organizations.

Eritrea, a young nation in Africa, with only 4.5 million population is believed to have 250 thousand soldiers, a relative top military build-up in Africa.

Related reports :
Eritrea :
- Opposition alliance urges Egypt to stop deporting Eritreans
- Egypt crackdown on African migrants hits Eritreans
- UN looks at disbanding Eritrea/Ethiopia force


Britain pledges 20 million dlrs in Ethiopia food aid

June 9, 2008 (AFP) LONDON - Britain pledged at least 10 million pounds (12.6 million euros, 19.7 million dollars) for Ethiopia on Monday after the east African nation said 4.5 million people were in need of emergency food aid.

A team of officials were due in Ethiopia Tuesday to assess the situation in the drought-stricken country, a spokeswoman for the Department for International Development (DFID) told AFP.

The money will "be going to partners, for example UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) or the World Food Programme, or various other NGOs who can support supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes," she said.

"It's still to be decided how it's (the money) to be allocated, but at the moment, those are the most urgent needs ... We're taking advice on where our assistance is best placed," she added.

An Ethiopian government body said last week that the number of Ethiopians in need of emergency food aid had risen to 4.5 million after one of the country's worst droughts in years.

Monday's pledge of aid was in addition to the five million pounds Britain promised for Ethiopia last month.

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP) 09 Jun 2008 via

Somali BBC contributor shot dead

June 7, 2008 BBC News (Saturday 22:26 UK) report:
Gunmen in the southern Somali city of Kismayo have killed a local journalist.

Nasteh Dahir, who worked for both the BBC and Associated Press news agency, was shot in the chest and stomach outside his home.

The National Union of Somali Journalists said it was a "targeted assassination" and that the 26-year-old had received death threats.

Somalia, mired in chaos and violence since 1991, is among the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.

At least nine other journalists have been killed in Somalia since February 2007, according to the human-rights group Amnesty International.

Islamist insurgents are suspected in the attack on Mr Dahir, correspondents say.

At least 13 people, mainly civilians, die in an attack by insurgents on the African Union base in the Somali capital

May 27, 2008 BBC News World Africa report 'Deadly Somali raid on peace force':
Only Uganda and Burundi have sent peacekeepers to Somalia

At least 13 people, mainly civilians, have died in an attack by Islamist insurgents on an African Union (AU) base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

AU mission spokesman Baridgye Bahuko said two insurgents were among those killed during the fierce battle.

The UN and aid agencies say some 6,000 civilians have died during clashes in Mogadishu in the past year.

So far only 2,400 AU peacekeepers have been sent to Somalia, of a planned 8,000-strong force.

Ethiopian troops are also in Somalia supporting the transitional government.

Since the Ethiopians helped oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in December 2006, Islamist fighters have used guerrilla warfare to target government installations, Ethiopian and AU troops in the capital.

Al-Shabab, the militant wing of the UIC, has claimed responsibility for Monday's daring attack on the AU base.

Correspondents say at least 11 civilians died during the battle most of them were hit by stray bullets and mortars that landed on their homes.

A alliance of opposition groups based in Eritrea - which includes the Islamists - has refused to have face-to-face talks with the government until there is an agreed timetable for Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia.

The country has been devastated by conflict since 1991 when the former President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted.

Ethiopia in Somalia: One year on (Martin Plaut, BBC)

Copy of BBC News report Friday, 28 December 2007, 00:25 GMT

By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst

The Ethiopian decision to invade Somalia in December 2006 altered the balance of power in the Horn of Africa.

The Ethiopian army is now fighting on several fronts

On 28 December 2006, they helped government forces capture Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu, which they had controlled for six months.

Ethiopian forces, which had been facing Eritrea along their 1,000km border, but were otherwise confronting few security threats, are now engaged on three fronts.

The forces in Somalia are now bogged down and cannot withdraw, as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently acknowledged.

In addition to the conflict in Somalia they now also confront a growing rebellion in the Somali region of Ethiopia from the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Knox Chitiyo, head of the Africa programme at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes the Ethiopian military position is increasingly difficult.

"The government now has daggers pointing at it from all directions," he says.

"It is facing a multi-front war with no prospect of a military victory."

The invasion has:

- Left Ethiopia bogged down in Somalia
- Forced around 600,000 Somalis to flee their homes, in what the UN has described as one of the worst humanitarian situations in Africa
- Brought the United States into the conflict, allied to Ethiopia
- Left Eritrea even more isolated from the international community and threatened with being declared a terrorist state by Washington.

The US says it opposed the Ethiopian invasion, although it certainly supplied assistance to the Ethiopian military once the invasion had happened, and used its AC-130 gunships to try to kill senior Islamists on at least one occasion in January 2007.

Many Somalis are opposed to the Ethiopian presence

The US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said: "We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia."

This is acknowledged by Ethiopian officials, who say the then head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid told them the invasion would be a mistake, and warned that Somalia would become "Ethiopia's Iraq."

Others analysts are not so apocalyptic. Ethiopia argued it had no alternative but to confront the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) after it took power in Mogadishu in mid-2006, because of the Islamists' alleged links with al-Qaeda.

The declaration of a jihad against Addis Ababa by UIC leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was seen as the last straw.

Human cost

But even if the UIC was routed, it has now re-formed and has banded together with other forces in the Eritrean-based Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia.

Sally Healy of the Royal Institute of International Affairs argues that even if Ethiopia has made some security gains, the suffering of ordinary Somalis has been disproportionately high.

"The cost for the people of Mogadishu has been unacceptable," she says.

This reflects the view of the United Nations, which now considers Somalia the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.

The conflict is taking a heavy toll on Somali civilians

Peter Smerdon of the World Food Programme says it will have to try to feed at least 1.2 million Somalis during 2008.

"More than 600,000 people were forced from their homes in Mogadishu in 2007 by fighting and the worst cereals harvest in 13 years in Middle and Lower Shabelle, traditionally the most agriculturally productive regions of the whole country," Mr Smerdon says.

He warns the numbers needing food aid could well rise if there is continued insecurity and any kind of repeat of the floods and bad harvests seen in recent years.

New initiative

So how might the Somali crisis be resolved?

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced this year

Ethiopia has said it would consider withdrawing its troops if an international peacekeeping force were put in place, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the situation in the country makes such a deployment "neither realistic nor viable".

The UN believes a new initiative is required, bringing together Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the opposition.

This proposal was put forward by the UN's senior Somali official, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, when he addressed the UN Security Council earlier this month.

"These discussions should preferably be held in a location close to Somalia or in one where most observers following the situation in the country are based," he said.

"I am preparing the agenda, identifying a possible list of participants, and the timing for this process."

Ms Healy says this is really the only way forward.

Until an exit strategy can be achieved for Ethiopia, its troops will remain in occupation of the country - providing a cause around which the Islamists can rally.

"The Somali people must create a situation that would allow the Ethiopians to leave," she says.

But 16 years after the country last had a functioning national government, there seems little prospect of President Abdullahi Yusuf asserting control of the whole country in 2008.


Rebel attack won’t discourage Chinese investment in Ethiopia-PM

May 16, 2007 Reuters report in full (via Sudan Tribune Thursday 17 May, 2007, entitled 'Rebel attack won’t discourage Chinese investment in Ethiopia-PM'):

May 16, 2007 (ADDIS ABABA) - A rebel attack on an oil facility in Ethiopia that killed nine Chinese workers and 64 locals has not dented Beijing’s investment in the Horn of Africa nation, the Ethiopian leader said on Wednesday.

"The Chinese have made it abundantly clear that they are not going to be scared away," Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Reuters. "On the contrary, they are increasing their investment in our country."

Chinese personnel returned quickly to the exploration project they run in the remote south-eastern Ogaden area after the attack, he said. "We have immediately after the incident taken effective measures to ensure it does not happen again."

The pre-dawn raid in late April was one of the Ogaden National Liberation Front’s (ONLF) highest profile operations.

The attack highlighted the perils of Beijing’s growing investment push in Africa, which it regards as a crucial source of raw materials for its booming economy. In Ethiopia, the Chinese are mainly involved in the construction business.

Meles’s government wants more foreign investment and he said the attack should not have a lasting impact.

"I would understand that some foreign investors might be a bit worried about going to the place where the massacre took place," he said.

"But I do not think it will have any long-term impact. There have been no such incidents in the main economic centres of the country. And here in Addis, I would argue that it is probably one of the safest cities on earth."


Meles confirmed Ethiopia was seeking membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and was "reasonably optimistic" of acceptance.

"I hope it will be a speedy process. It can take many years, but I very much hope that this will not be one of those very protracted processes. They tell me that two to three years would be a reasonably expeditious process," he said.

Economists say Ethiopia may come under pressure first to open its financial sector to foreign investors and relinquish state control of telecommunications.

Meles said: "I do not think they should be obstacles. As you know, we are a least developed country, and least developed countries benefit from what is called a special and differential treatment (in the WTO)."

Africa’s top coffee producer and sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous nation, Ethiopia was on track for its projected economic growth rate of near 10 percent this 2006-07 year, compared with 9 percent last year, Meles said.

"We expect to maintain the momentum next year too. Our hope and expectation is that it will be a double-digit growth rate. It is still agriculture leading the growth. But industry and services are also picking up."

Inflation — a big problem for Ethiopia’s 79 million people — was "unfortunately still too high for our taste", said Meles, with an expected 10-12 percent rate this year, after 12 percent in 2005-06.

"But I hope it will be lower next year," he said.

The most vulnerable group, the urban poor, were being helped by measures including food subsidies, said Meles, who receives generally high marks from analysts and diplomats for his pro-poor policies.


AU peacekeepers killed in Somalia while on patrol in the north of Mogadishu

May 16, 2007 BBC News report 'AU peacekeepers killed in Somalia' published online Wednesday, 16 May 2007:

Four African Union soldiers have been killed after a roadside bomb struck their convoy while on patrol at the north of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

AU spokesman Paddy Ankunda said five other soldiers were injured in the explosion targeted at the peacekeepers.

The attack is the deadliest on the peacekeepers since 1,600 Uganda soldiers deployed to the city in March.

A proposed force of 8,000 AU soldiers is due to take over security duties from the Ethiopian army.

Ethiopia's troops have been in Mogadishu since December at the invitation of Somalia's transitional government fighting Islamist insurgents and clan militiamen.

The attack comes only a day after Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf held talks with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni in Kampala over the mission.

"We lost four and five were wounded. It was a roadside bomb and its intention was to hit the peacekeepers," Mr Ankunda told Reuters news agency.

He told the BBC that the wounded would be evacuated to Uganda for treatment.

The interim President's spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mohamud blamed the attack on Al-Qaeda elements still residing in Mogadishu and said they were hunting for them.

Cinema attack

Earlier, four people were killed in the Gedo region, south of the capital, Mogadishu, when an unknown man threw an explosive at a cinema hall.

Baardheere Police chief Mohammed Yare said 20 others were seriously injured during the attack which took place while they were watching an Indian film.

"We do not know who is responsible for the attack but are investigating," Mr Yare told the Associated Press news agency.

On Monday, a similar blast occurred at a different cinema hall but there were no casualties during the incident.

Health officials in Gedo are battling to treat the victims of the attack and lack resources.

"Most have serious wounds and we are trying to help though we do not have enough medicine," Dr Bashir Ali of Shifo Hospital where most of the casualties were taken said. During the six-month rule in Mogadishu and southern parts of Somalia, the Union of Islamic Courts banned cinemas, television viewing and music.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.


On Tuesday, the US and the AU warned Ethiopia not to withdraw its troops from Somalia before peacekeepers are deployed to replace them.

AU commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare said it would be a "catastrophe" if Ethiopia pulled out too soon.

US Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer said it would probably be several months before the full peacekeeping force arrived.

Ethiopia's prime minister says he wants to withdraw all his troops, after they helped oust the Union of Islamic Courts.

Somalia has been without an effective national government for 16 years, controlled by rival militias and awash with guns.


Two foreign aid workers kidnapped last week in northern Somalia have been released.

Reports from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland say the pair - one Kenyan and one British - were being flown to Nairobi after their kidnappers handed them over to local elders.

Both men are employees of the London-based charity, Care International.

Its director in Somalia, David Gilmour, said they were relieved that the issue was resolved with nobody being harmed.

One of the kidnappers told Reuters news agency by satellite telephone that they had released the aid workers following successful negotiations with the Puntland authorities; but he did not elaborate.