Ethiopia: The Water Weapon


January 24, 2011: France may be considering reducing its military presence in Djibouti as part of a process of consolidating its forces in the region. At the moment France has around 3,000 military personnel in Djibouti. In 2008 France signed a basing agreement with the United Arab Emirates and the cable indicates this may be one reason for reducing French forces in the Horn of Africa. The French also regard some of the bilateral agreements they have with several African countries (including Djibouti) to be out of date. There's also the possibility of a French military withdrawal from Africa. That does not mean leaving the region. France has a huge base on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Reunion Island is an overseas department of France. France may hesitate to withdraw from Djibouti as long as Eritrea continues to threaten the nation. Though both Djibouti and Eritrea are saying that their border dispute is largely resolved, Djibouti believes the current Eritrean government cannot be trusted. In December 2010, however, a senior Djiboutian military officer said that Djibouti believes the U.S. military presence in Djibouti (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, or  CJTF-HOA, at Camp Lemonnier) provides stability in the Horn of Africa. It could be France is in the process of deciding the U.S. force does the job well enough to not require French assistance.

January 21, 2011: The Ethiopia denied an allegation made by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) that its forces had killed two civilians and wounded another two dozen in an attack in the Ogaden region. Ethiopia called the allegation a lie.

January 19, 2011: It isn't much of a gesture, but for Eritrea it is unusual. Eritrea has sent an ambassador to the African Union. Why is this a big deal? African Union headquarters are in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Eritrea withdrew its ambassador after Eritrea accused the AU of favoring Ethiopia in the two nations long-running border dispute.

January 17, 2011: Ethiopian police in Afar arrested seven infiltrators, described as being terrorists. Ethiopia said the terrorists were sent into Ethiopia by the Eritrean government and had been trained in Eritrea. The terrorists were supposed to attack public transportation vehicles, public transportation facilities, and fuel depots. The men had over 50 kilograms of explosives with them when they were arrested.

January 12, 2011: Ethiopia followed through on a promise made in 2010 to free 402 jailed members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

January 3, 2011: The still (for awhile, at least) semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) has reported that there is trouble in the Murle tribe region in southwestern Ethiopia (along the Ethiopia-Sudan border). The situation is described as a tribal rebellion, which involves trouble for both Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. For their part, Murle tribesmen have accused GOSS security forces of committing atrocities against them. This is a situation that bears watching. Ethiopia has tried to keep its western tribes placated, since to the east it has a frozen war with Eritrea and an active war going on with Somalia rebels in the south.

January 1, 2011: Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebels have launched several attack into Ethiopia from bases in northern Kenya. Kenya and Ethiopia have conducted a few low-level combined operations against OLF rebels operating in the border region. Ethiopia contends the rebels have been extorting money from local businesses, though the rebels call it extracting taxes.

December 18, 2010: According to a Wikileaks cable, the president of Eritrea is convinced the U.S. intends to kill him, attacking his home with missiles.

December 9, 2010: Ethiopian media claim that Egypt is bribing members of the government of Burundi. Water is the liquid in question, not oil. Egypt is trying to stop upstream Nile River nations from changing water right agreements governing how much water each nation along the Nile can extract from the river. Ethiopia and Uganda want to change the current agreement, which is based on colonial era rulings. Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda are also involved, as is the potentially new nation of Southern Sudan. The Nile River debate pits northern Sudan (the national government) and Egypt against the southerners. The northerners are predominantly Arabized and Muslim, the southerners are predominantly black Africans and either Christian or animist. That's trouble enough, but water is something everyone needs to survive. Egypt contends the upstream nations have plenty of water, and the downstream nations (like Egypt) are in the Sahara Desert and the Nile is their chief source of water. Therefore Egypt desperately wants to keep its current (large) share of the water. There is a lot of concern in Ethiopia that northern Sudan could use water as a pretext for ending Southern Sudan's bid for independence – with Egypt's backing.



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