Ethiopia: Cattle Wars


July 21, 2013: The Kenyan government and the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD of which Ethiopia is a member) had used a new economic analytic method to evaluate the economic impact of pastoral tribes and livestock raising in East Africa. Statisticians argued that traditional metrics use inputs and outputs based on farming and business-type livestock operations. African pastoralists use different methods. The pastoralists are very entrepreneurial and do not rely on the government to support their markets. Pastoralists in neighboring countries operate trading networks – in other words, agricultural export businesses. They use cattle-raising methods which maximize the returns of marginal lands.  In plain language, they can raise cattle and make money in dry conditions. The old metrics often failed to account for pastoralist adaptability. The government employed the new metrics (“total economic valuation” is the buzz phrase), and the new metrics indicated that pastoralist cattle-raising contributes over twice as much to the Kenyan economy than official estimates which relied on the traditional methodology.  Many argue that several African countries have under-valued pastoralists; urban elites regard them as backward.  Governments, as a result, develop policies that encourage pastoralist tribes to adopt other socio-economic life-styles. This can backfire. One commentator noted, with irony, that pastoralists have turned the new African urban areas into markets for their meat and dairy products. Pastoralists are vulnerable to raiders and cattle rustlers. Security officials in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia devote a great deal of time and money to providing police protection and security surveillance in their respective pastoralist regions. Media coverage tends to focus on the vulnerabilities and security costs. The new economic analyses suggest that rural security operations in pastoralist regions are well worth the money. (Austin Bay)

July 20, 2013: The interim government of Egypt has asked Ethiopia to participate in a new series of talks about dam projects on the Nile River. The Egyptian government indicated that it hopes to reach an agreement with Ethiopia on Nile water rights.  Egypt wants Ethiopia to come to Cairo to discuss the consequences of Ethiopia’s dam projects. The Egyptian diplomatic position is quite different from the previous government’s threats of war.

July 13, 2013: A recent assessment of naval forces in Africa rated Kenya’s navy as the best equipped in East Africa. The study noted that the Kenyan Navy regularly trains with British, French, South African, and U.S. naval forces. The Kenyan Navy performed well in the attack on the Somali seaport of Kismayo in 2012.

July 12, 2013: During an extended presidential visit to Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama deplored sub-Saharan Africa’s lack of electrical generation capacity. Obama strictly focused on the problem and what African nations could do to improve their distribution grids and create new electrical generation capacity. This is not a new American policy. For several decades the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided sub-Saharan African nations with advice on how to improve their electrical power generation systems. USAID has also assisted in numerous electrical production and distribution construction projects. The U.S. has pushed for increases in electrical production for many reasons. Refrigeration improves diets. Reliable lighting extends the school day so children can do homework. The bottom line is that U.S. support for increasing sub-Saharan electrical production is not new. In fact, the U.S. sees its advocacy as humanitarian and rather apolitical. However, that is not how Ethiopians and Egyptians hear it. In both countries the American leader’s comments are read as supportive of Ethiopia’s position in the on-going Ethiopia-Egypt dispute over Ethiopia’s Nile River dam projects. Egyptians also note that President Obama’s father was a Kenyan and Kenya and Ethiopia are close allies. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile will create a reservoir with almost 75 billion cubic meters of water. The Ethiopian government has promised Egypt that it will fill the reservoir very slowly and it will not affect the amount of water which reaches Egypt. Ethiopia has also reiterated its offer to sell Egypt part-ownership in the dam and guarantee Egypt a share of the electricity generated by the dam.  (Austin Bay)

July 11, 2013: The UN reported that its observers believe a refugee crisis is emerging in southern Somalia. Fighting between rival militias in the Kismayo area has forced several thousand people to flee. Kenyan military forces are still the largest African Union peacekeeping (AMISOM) contingent in and around Kismayo. A contingent of troops form Sierra Leone is also deployed in Kismayo.

July 10, 2013: Ethiopian Army units located in Somalia’s Bay region (southern Somalia) have begun to pull out of several villages and small bases. The Ethiopians left two military posts in the town of Baidoa as well as garrisons in Bardale and Qansahdheere. Pro-Somali government forces (TNG, Transitional National Government) have replaced the departing Ethiopian units.

July 4, 2013: The accidental release of a diplomatic dispatch has confirmed the growing disagreement between the Kenyan military and Somalia’s TNG. Kenyan peacekeeping forces in the Kismayo area (seaport, southern Somalia) either helped instigate or failed to stop an outbreak of factional fighting between rival militia groups in the area. Some Somali officials accused Kenya of seeking to establish an autonomous buffer state in southern Somalia, Jubaland.

July 3, 2013: Kenyan security personnel in the port of Mombasa seized one and a half metric tons of illegal elephant ivory (blood ivory). The ivory was hidden in a shipment of dried fish.

July 1, 2013: Kenya's supreme court, the High Court, ordered Kenyan deputy president William Ruto to pay compensation to a farmer who accused him of stealing a 100 acre farm from him five years ago. The court ruled that Ruto acquired the land through fraud. Ruto must pay an indemnity and return the farm to the farmer. The International Criminal Court has charged both Ruto and Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta with crimes against humanity. The ICC has stuck by the charges, despite Ruto’s and Kenyatta’s political power, because it argues that Kenyan courts would not prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Several Kenyan officials are now arguing that this civil verdict, which ruled against Ruto, indicates that Kenyan courts would fairly try Ruto and Kenyatta.

June 30, 2013: Ethiopia said that it wants to peacefully end the Nile River water distribution dispute with Egypt. Ethiopian foreign ministry officials said that Ethiopia prefers direct talks but international mediation was an option if direct talks failed. Though the Egyptian government is confronting large-scale domestic demonstrations, senior Egyptian leaders continue to rattle sabers over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam projects, particularly the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The GERD is scheduled for completion in 2017. The Blue Nile River provides from 75 to 85 percent of the Nile’s annual flow.


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