Ethiopia: Under New Management


September 17, 2012:  Tribal cross-border raids remain a problem for Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces. Both governments are trying to improve surveillance and security along their mutual border. The Kenyan government is trying to address long-simmering tribal conflicts in other areas as well, especially in its north-eastern region which borders Somalia. In August and again earlier this month an outbreak of serious inter-tribal fighting occurred in Kenya’s Coast province. The fighting between the Orma tribe (herders) and the Pokomo tribe (farmers) led the Kenyan parliament (on September 12) to pass a resolution authorizing the Kenyan military to intervene in the fighting. The Kenyan government knows that the Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab wants to exploit ethnic, religious, and political divisions inside Kenya.

September 15, 2012: Ethiopia’s governing party, the EPDRF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front), announced that acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will become prime minister. Hailemariam succeeds the recently deceased prime minister Meles Zenawi. The EPDRF has been in power for over two decades and wants to keep it that way. The ruling party is actually a multi-ethnic coalition (mainly Amharas, Oromos, and Tigrayans) that negotiates disputes rather than risking civil wars.  

September 14, 2012: Kenyan and Somali troops, along with fighters from the pro-Somali government Raskamboni militia attacked Al Shabaab positions in the Bibi area (60 kilometers northwest, along the road to Afmadow, from the Al Shabaab-held port of Kismayo). Despite the news of the victory at Bibi, the big attack on the Al Shabaab-held Somali port of Kismayo appears to be delayed – again. AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) peacekeeping forces have deployed in a loose cordon about 60 kilometers from the port (like the new position at Bibi). Kenyan naval vessels occasionally conduct gun and missile attacks on the port. So what are the problems? The major problem is with which anti-al Shabaab clans (who have been aiding the Kenyans) will control what in a liberated Kismayo. AMISOM is also concerned about civilian refugees. They also want to limit civilian casualties. AMISOM would like to empty the port of some 180,000 civilians but does not want Al Shabaab to take advantage of an evacuation operation by having its fighters slip out of the city along with the evacuees. This tracks with previous statements from AMISOM but from Kenya in particular. Kenya does not want to leave a political vacuum in southern Somalia after Al Shabaab is evicted and it wants Somali clans to play a positive role in maintaining security. The fewer civilian casualties there are, the higher the likelihood that the clans will cooperate.

There are also the usual logistical problems that crop up when multi-national forces conduct, or at least try to conduct, coordinated operations. Some of the national contingents have radios that are incompatible with one another. There are also allegations of political in-fighting among some of the national contingents. Kenya and Uganda reportedly disagree over pending assignments within AMISOM. Peacekeepers get paid in hard currency and the billets are considered to be good jobs, especially compared to a soldier’s work back home. Uganda has also accused Kenya of using its diplomatic clout to get choice AMISOM assignments for its senior officers. (Austin Bay)

Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed to continue discussions about water rights in the Nile River basin. Egypt now has a population of around 83 million and its Ministry of Water Resources wants to increase Egypt’s allotment. Ethiopia points out that it has 85 million people and that the various treaties governing Nile water allotments ignore the rights of upstream states (like Ethiopia). Ethiopia has begun work on the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile which will eventually create a lake with an estimated 65 billion cubic meters of water ---water that is obviously not heading downstream to Egypt.

September 12, 2012: The Ethiopian government confirmed that it will continue to pursue peace negotiations with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group. Ethiopian and ONLF representatives met in Nairobi, Kenya on September 7 and 8, and conducted preliminary discussions. The ONLF operates in the Ogaden desert region, which borders on Somalia. The Ethiopian announcement comes two days after an ONLF website claimed that Ethiopian security forces had massacred 14 civilians in the Wardher region on September 6.

September 11, 2012: Kenyan forces, along with Somali government troops, took the town of Harbolle. The AMISOM forces claimed that 50 Al Shabaab fighters died in fighting in and around the town.

September 10, 2012: The Ethiopian government announced that it will pardon and free two Swedish journalists who were accused of providing aid to rebel groups.

September 7, 2012: The Kenyan government reported that 12 people died in a new series of clashes in the Tana River area. One of the most serious took place near the town of Tarasaa. The Pokomos said that a group of Orma tribesmen attacked their village.

Kenyan police found at least 150 bomb detonators in a house in a suburb of Nairobi. The police believe the detonators may link to the Al Shabaab terrorist organization.

September 6, 2012: Djibouti’s Group d’Intervention de la Genarmerie Nationale (GIGN) is participating in a four-week long training exercise with U.S. forces. The GIGN is Djibouti’s elite crisis response unit and is manned by both military and police personnel. The course includes training in combat emergency medical techniques and close quarters combat.

September 5, 2012: Kenya confirmed that AMISOM forces are preparing for an attack on the Somali port of Kismayo. Kenya now has 5,000 troops in Somalia, all of them deployed in southern Somalia.

September 4, 2012: Kenyan warships shelled the Kismayo port area twice and airfield three times. Locals also say Al Shabaab fighters were test firing weapons mounted on their technical vehicles (armed trucks and SUVs).

Kenya claimed that their air strikes in Somalia killed 31 Al Shabaab fighters, along with some civilians.

Spanish police recently seized 22,272 pistols which were being smuggled to Djibouti. Customs inspectors found the weapons in a container which was supposedly carrying textiles from Turkey to Djibouti.

September 3, 2012: Kenya charged a Kenyan Muslim cleric with inciting violent protests in Kenya’s main port city, Mombasa. The accused, Abubaker Ahmed, denied the charges. Riots broke out in Mombasa after gunmen killed Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a senior Muslim cleric. Kenya and the U.S. claimed that both clerics have ties to Al Shabaab.

September 2, 2012: Ethiopia conducted public funeral services for its deceased prime minister, Meles Zenawi who was in power for 21 years.

August 31, 2012: Sudan’s governing political party, the National Congress Party (NCP), reported that Eritrea has agreed to act as a mediator between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel group. The SPLM-N operates in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

August 30, 2012: It's generally agreed that Eritrea is the worst country in Africa when it comes to protecting journalists. Three Eritrean journalists who were arrested in 2001 have died in prison.

August 29, 2012: AMISOM killed 42 Al Shabaab rebels in the Aglibah area (southern Somalia).


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