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  • Sudanese Source: Isaias Afewerki Seeking Reconciliation With Ethiopia

    Isaias Afwerki and Omar Al-Bashir

    Sudan’s president, Omar Al-Bashir, is the closest and, probably, the only friend that the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, has. The leaders of the neighboring states, both shunned by regional and international governments, find solace in each other’s company. Now, according to our diplomatic sources in Sudan, Al-Bashir’s long-standing proposal to normalize relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia is being received favorably by the Eritrean strongman.

    The relationship between Isaias Afwerki and Omar Al-Bashir intensified since Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani handed the reins of power to his son, Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, in June of last year, and the Gulf state ceased being the lifeline of the two isolated regimes.

    After Isaias’ visit to Sudan from November 23-27, 2013, Al Bashir publicly stated his goals of reconciling Eritrea with Ethiopia. Now, according to our sources, Isaias Afwerki is pursuing this goal with a sense of urgency: in Al-Bashir’s visit to Eritrea from January 16 to 18, 2014, Isaias Afwerki asked him to push for normalization of relations between the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments.

    A Sudanese diplomatic source informed Gedab News that “Isaias Afwerki looked desperate and needed normalization immediately.”

    During his visit, Al-Bashir accompanied Isaias on a road trip from Asmara to Massawa through the picturesque Filfil-Solomuna road.

    From Massawa, Isaias accompanied Al-Bashir on a boat trip to some Islands in the Dahlak Archipelago. A trustworthy source indicated that, several times during the journey, Isaias Afwerki asked Al Bashir, “do you see any Israeli bases here?”

    The question is in reference to Arab countries’ long-standing allegations that there are Israeli bases in the Red Sea, particularly in the Dahlak Islands. Isaias wanted Al-Bashir to bear witness that there are no Israeli bases in Eritrea, a sign that he needed Al-Bashir to convince others of the fact. But since the diplomatic standing of Al-Bashir is not tenable in the Arab world, and he has little leverage to mediate or convince any government, it is doubtful that his personal testimony would change any minds.

    According to one source, Isaias Afwerki’s apparent about-face is based on an assessment that “our calculations were wrong and we need to end this abnormal situation with Ethiopia immediately,” as he allegedly admitted to Al-Bashir. For over a decade, the Eritrean regime had predicted that the Ethiopian government was on the verge of collapse and it used to publicize defection even by low ranking Ethiopian soldiers as front page news.

    Al-Bashir carried Isaias’s message to Addis Ababa on January 29 when he met with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Al-Bashir was in the Ethiopian capital to attend The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

    According to our sources, the Ethiopians didn’t have a positive response to Al-Bashir, telling him that Eritrea’s problems are with regional and international entities, not with Ethiopia, and that Isaias should address it with them first.

    The Ethiopians passed a threat to Isaias, “We don’t want the enmity of the Eritrean people by invading their country; otherwise, we can push Isaias to Dahlak.”

    A usually-reliable Gedab source in Asmara dismissed talks of reconciliation as a head-fake by Isaias Afwerki whose “ascent to and grip of power is based on being unpredictable!”  Asked for clues, he said that who Isaias Afwerki names as Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union and IGAD, to replace the outgoing Ambassador Girma Asmerom (now appointed as Eritrea’s Ambassador to the UN) may reveal his intentions.

    awate.com

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  • Eritrea under fire at UN review

    Geneva (AFP) - Enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture were just a few of the violations Eritrea was accused of during a UN review of its human rights record Monday.

    Diplomats gathered at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva condemned the isolated and autocratic country's brutal repression of basic rights, charging the lack of freedom was prompting a mass exodus.

    The government of Eritrea's "widespread violation of human rights and the lack of prospects for participatory democracy contribute to large numbers of Eritreans fleeing the country," US representative Peter Mulrean told the assembly.

    He was echoing the concerns of many of the 70 state representatives who spoke at Eritrea's so-called Universal Periodic Review, which all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years.

    Chile and others urged the country to probe all reports of enforced disappearances, Denmark said it had done far too little to eliminate torture, while Estonia lamented the "disregard of freedom of expression."

    Tesfamichael Gerahtu, Eritrea's ambassador to Britain, batted away the slew of charges, insisting that if anything was limiting human rights in Eritrea, it was the "unjustified sanctions" imposed on the country by the international community.

    "To add insult to injury, Eritrea has been subjected to a litany of accusations of gross violations of human rights,... (that) are mainly motivated by sinister political agendas," he told the council.

    Reporters Without Borders has ranked it the worst country in the world for press freedom, but Gerahtu insisted "There is no media censorship in Eritrea."

    He said the 10 journalists and 11 opposition politicians arrested in a 2001 crackdown -- many of whom have since died in custody while others are still being held in secrete locations "were not detained because they expressed their ideas, (but because of) treason."

    "I wish there had been a lie-detector device there. It was a mockery," exiled Eritrean journalist and writer Dessale Berekhet Abraham told AFP after listening to the session.

    The 38-year-old who now lives in Norway said he knew Gerahtu well -- he was once his teacher at Eritrea's Revolution School -- and that he didn't take the "lies" personally.

    "What else could he say if he wants to go back to Eritrea?" he asked.

    Gerahtu meanwhile called on the UN diplomats to focus on Eritrea's progress in areas like reducing maternal and child mortality rates and in fighting HIV, as well as its 2007 law banning female genital mutilation.

    And, he said, the country would hold its first free elections since it won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and implement a 1997 constitution once the threats against its "national security" had dissipated.

    "Eritrea's security situation does not and never has justified the denial of basic human rights to its people," the British representative said.

    Only when the country has a democratically elected government and a constitution that ensures basic rights "will Eritreans stop fleeing," he added.

    The UN refugee agency has registered more than 300,000 Eritreans refugees in neighbouring countries, with thousands fleeing every month, often under very dangerous conditions.

    Eritreans, along with Somalis, accounted for most of the more than 300 migrants who perished in a boat tragedy off Italy's Lampedusa last October.

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  • Egyptian minister of Irrigation: Ethiopia should build ‘smaller dam’

    If Ethiopia wants to generate electricity, it should build a smaller dam, Minister of Irrigation Mohammad Abdul Muttalib said Monday, according to state-owned Al-Ahram.

    The remarks came during a visit to Sharqeya governorate to inaugurate a number of water pumping stations. There, the minister stressed that Ethiopia’s planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) should “work with higher efficiency without harming other countries,” asserting that the current dam’s current efficiency levels do not exceed 30%.

    Irrigation ministry spokesman Khaled Wassif said, “The minister meant they should build two small dams. This way they could generate electricity and not affect the water.”

    The minister added that the Egyptian government is “employing several means to inform the world about the reality of the situation… in the Renaissance Dam crisis”, adding that “Egypt has always aimed at the development of the Nile Basin.”

    The matter of the GERD has been disputed upon since its construction began in April 2011. Egypt and Sudan particularly expressed concern about the effect of the dam on their water allocation, with the former sending a delegation to Ethiopia in 2011 to inspect the site and the plans for the dam. In September 2012, Egypt denied allegations of plotting an airstrike on the dam.

    According to the state-run news agency MENA, the Ethiopian prime minister has promised the state will not allow the dam to affect Egypt’s share of the water, stressing that the dam serves only to generate electricity.

    The Ethiopian foreign ministry was not available to comment on the minister’s remark.

    source: dailynewsegypt

    If Ethiopia wants to generate electricity, it should build a smaller dam, Minister of Irrigation Mohammad Abdul Muttalib said Monday, according to state-owned Al-Ahram.

    The remarks came during a visit to Sharqeya governorate to inaugurate a number of water pumping stations. There, the minister stressed that Ethiopia’s planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) should “work with higher efficiency without harming other countries,” asserting that the current dam’s current efficiency levels do not exceed 30%.

    Irrigation ministry spokesman Khaled Wassif said, “The minister meant they should build two small dams. This way they could generate electricity and not affect the water.”

    The minister added that the Egyptian government is “employing several means to inform the world about the reality of the situation… in the Renaissance Dam crisis”, adding that “Egypt has always aimed at the development of the Nile Basin.”

    The matter of the GERD has been disputed upon since its construction began in April 2011. Egypt and Sudan particularly expressed concern about the effect of the dam on their water allocation, with the former sending a delegation to Ethiopia in 2011 to inspect the site and the plans for the dam. In September 2012, Egypt denied allegations of plotting an airstrike on the dam.

    According to the state-run news agency MENA, the Ethiopian prime minister has promised the state will not allow the dam to affect Egypt’s share of the water, stressing that the dam serves only to generate electricity.

    The Ethiopian foreign ministry was not available to comment on the minister’s remark.

    - See more at: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/02/03/ethiopia-build-smaller-dam-minister-irrigation/#sthash.hqDabVnj.dpuf
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  • Eight Business benefits of resuming economic relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea

    Ethiopia and Eritrea ceased business relations upon the commencement of the border war in 1998. While a small amount of barter trade still exists, it is fair to say that trade relations between the two countries are non-existent – this is very much to the detriment of the private sectors in both countries (and across the region).

    Since the closure of the border, the economic fortunes of Ethiopia and Eritrea could hardly have been more divergent. While both remain poor countries in terms of per capita wealth, Ethiopia has been among the fastest and growing countries in the world averaging a steady 10% per annum growth for the past nine years. Conversely, as per the chart below, Eritrea has suffered vast fluctuations in its economic growth from a low of – 9% in 2008 to the 2012 level of + 7.5%.

    Ethiopia has also been a leader in Africa in terms of infrastructure development, especially in the construction of roads, power infrastructure and water supply. Eritrea has endeavoured to rebuild its transportation infrastructure after the border war but progress has been slowed by inaccessibility of finance.  In terms of education, Ethiopia has built dozens of institutions of higher education in the past 10 years and has begun to develop a work force that is increasingly in demand by manufacturers from Turkey, China and India. Despite promising signs of self reliance immediately after Independence, Eritrea continues to find its work force diminished due to emigration and military service.

    Last, Ethiopia is rapidly modernizing its domestic and export agriculture whereas as Eritrea still relies on subsistence methods of production – albeit while eschewing food aid.

    As a business consultant who has worked on investment in both countries, I am confident that a comprehensive settlement of disputes that underlie the 1998-2000 border war and normalization of economic relations will create myriad benefits, including:

    Read the rest from africanarguments

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  • Khat: What impact will UK herb stimulant ban have?

    Home Secretary Theresa May is banning a herb called khat, a stimulant chewed by large sections of the Somali community and grown mainly in East Africa.

    The UK is the biggest western importer of the plant, which in the next few months will become classified as a class C drug.

    Alex Miller, editor-in-chief of Vice UK, looked into the use of the substance and the potential impact of the ban in a report on BBC Newsnight.

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