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Horn of Africa

 

US Supports Ethiopia’s Ceasefire in Tigray

US Supports Ethiopia’s Ceasefire in Tigray

 Source: The US State Department posted on 29 June 2021 a statement titled “Ceasefire in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region.”

It called on all parties to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire, an inclusive dialogue that preserves the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian state, unhindered humanitarian access, independent mechanisms for accountability of human rights violations and abuses, and the immediate, verifiable withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopian territory.  

Labels: cease fireEritrean Defense ForcesEthiopiahuman rightshumanitarian crisisnational dialogueTigray RegionUS

The Case Against Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism

The Case Against Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism

 Source: Ethiopia Insight posted on 30 June 2021 a commentary titled “Ethnic Federalism: A Theory Threatening to Kill Ethiopia” by Kassahun Melesse, Oregon State University.  

The author argues that ethnic federalism has been a major barrier to national unity and common public institutions. Ethiopia must move away from its Soviet-inspired ethnic federalism to achieve peace, prosperity and democracy.  

Labels: Amhara RegionEPRDFEthiopiaethnic federalismgovernancelanguageOromiaProsperity PartySoviet UnionTigray RegionTPLF

Somalia, Kenya discuss deepening ties after end of rift

Somalia, Kenya discuss deepening ties after end of riftlinkedin sharing button

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Source: AA, Thursday July 1, 2021

Somalia and Kenya on Wednesday discussed the need to deepen bilateral relations between the two East African nations, which recently restored ties after a months-long dispute.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble’s meeting with Kenya’s Ambassador to Somalia Lucas Tumbo in the capital Mogadishu was the first since the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries.

“The PM and the Ambassador discussed the need to deepen bilateral relations and enhance cooperation,” said the office of the Somali prime minister in a brief statement after the meeting.

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Somalia cut off diplomatic ties with Kenya last December, accusing Nairobi of interfering in Mogadishu’s internal affairs.

Security, education, and trade relations between the two neighbors were severed for some five months, until Mogadishu announced in May that it was ready to restore ties with Nairobi, citing the interests of both countries.

Earlier this month Kenya accepted Somalia’s request to reopen its diplomatic mission in the capital Mogadishu after the restoration of ties.

Somalia Opposition Welcomes Election Plan, but Security Threats Remain

Somalia Opposition Welcomes Election Plan, but Security Threats Remainlinkedin sharing button

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Source: VOA, Thursday July 1, 2021

Somalia’s opposition politicians and the public have welcomed a deal to hold delayed indirect presidential elections in October, with lawmakers chosen in July and August.  But analysts note unrest and terrorist attacks are still a risk.

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Somalia’s opposition politicians welcomed the new election schedule reached Tuesday in Mogadishu after a meeting of federal and state leaders.

Lawmaker Mohamed Hassan Idris said the opposition was looking forward to a quick implementation to avoid further delays and unrest.

“So far, we have no concerns,” Hassan said. “It is on a very welcoming stage; the schedule has been agreed by the leaders and the electoral committees, both from the federal and member states levels.” He said leaders would need to continue discussions, “and we hope they continue to solve any likely obstacles.”

Process stalled

Somalia’s indirect elections were to take place in February, but the process was stalled over opposition concerns about free elections.

The opposition accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, of stacking poll committees with his allies.

Farmajo denied the allegation but raised international eyebrows in April when he signed into law a two-year extension of terms in office, including his.

The move sparked days of street clashes in April in Mogadishu between split loyalty security forces, renewing fears of a return to clan violence.

Under international pressure, Farmajo nullified the extension and returned to talks with the opposition for holding elections.

The deal reached Tuesday was largely applauded by Mogadishu residents like university student Hassan Ahmed, 27.

He said he was happy and excited about the new election schedule. Some worried about the previous timeline, he said, and the disagreements between the leadership of the federal government and the regional states.

Election schedule

The indirect elections will begin in July with delegates chosen by clans selecting members of the lower house of parliament.

State governments will select senators beginning in August.  The chosen lawmakers will then vote for the next president on October 10.

Despite the breakthrough, there is still a threat from al-Shabab militants, said independent security analyst Dahir Korow.

“Al-Shabab is trying to disrupt the Somali election process through suicide bombings and IED [improvised explosive device] attacks, mainly the venues of the process across the regions,” Korow said. “However, it is also very significant to note that the democratic process will attract high-security alert both from Somali security agencies and their international peacekeeping partners such as AMISOM.  Remember, the training and capacity building for Somali security agencies have been improving in recent years while al-Shabab’s have been decreasing.”

The U.S. Embassy in Somalia urged continued constructive dialogue among Somali leaders to achieve peaceful and transparent elections.

Somalia originally planned to hold direct, one-person-one-vote elections, which would have been the first in decades. But the plan was scrapped in September because of a lack of infrastructure and concerns about security.

Ethiopia Calls for Immediate Cease Fire in Tigray

Ethiopia Calls for Immediate Cease Fire in Tigray

 Source: the Associated Press published on 28 June 2021 an article titled “Ethiopia Declares Immediate, Unilateral Cease-fire in Tigray” by Cara Anna.  

Ethiopia’s government declared on 28 June an immediate, unilateral cease fire in its Tigray Region after nearly eight months of deadly conflict.  The statement came shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, fled the regional capital, Mekele, and called for a cease fire on humanitarian grounds so that desperately needed aid can be delivered.  There was no immediate comment from the Tigray Defense Forces or the government of Eritrea, which has troops in Tigray.  

Labels: Amhara militiaatrocitiescease fireENDFEritreaEritrean Defense ForcesEthiopiafaminehumanitarian crisisTigray Defense ForcesTigray Region

Tigray Defense Forces Reportedly Control Capital of Tigray

Tigray Defense Forces Reportedly Control Capital of Tigray

 Source: Deutsche Welle published on 28 June 2021 an article titled “Ethiopia Declares ‘Unilateral’ Cease-fire in Tigray, as Rebel Troops Reenter Capital.”

In what appears to be a highly fluid situation, Tigray Defense Forces claim to be back in control of Mekele, the capital of Tigray Region.  The status of Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Eritrean Defense Forces is not clear.  

Labels: Abiy Ahmedcease fireENDFEritreaEritrean Defense ForcesEthiopiaTigray Defense ForcesTigray RegionTPLFUNICEF

WHO and Sweden sign agreement to further strengthen the capacity of the National Institute of Health and improve digitalization of health information in Somalia

WHO and Sweden sign agreement to further strengthen the capacity of the National Institute of Health and improve digitalization of health information in Somaliafacebook sharing button messenger sharing button

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Source: WHO, Tuesday June 29, 2021

On 16 June, Dr Mamunur Malik, WHO Representative to Somalia, and H.E. Staffan Tillander, Swedish Ambassador to Somalia, signed an agreement, totalling 4 300 000 SEK (US$ 517 868), aimed at strengthening the National Institute of Health and health information systems in Somalia, through the financing of 2 senior WHO national staff positions.

The signature of this agreement marks years of close collaboration and partnership between WHO and Sweden in Somalia. It is built upon 2 non-financial memoranda of understanding signed between WHO and the Public Health Agency of Sweden, and between WHO and the SPIDER Center (Stockholm University).

The former aims to support the establishment of an independent national institute of health in Somalia, while the latter aims to strengthen the digitalization of health information and the development of an integrated disease  surveillance and response system across the country.

This agreement will therefore enable the WHO Somalia country office to recruit and retain 2 senior level national staff to support the activities of the National Institute of Health and other disease surveillance functions to support SPIDER-related activities.advertisements

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Both staff members will act as WHO’s primary focal points for close engagement and technical collaboration with these agencies, health authorities, as well as other relevant partners.

“This agreement marks a remarkable chapter in the history of collaboration between WHO and Sweden in Somalia. The collaboration and agreement aim at improving health information management system in Somalia by working closely with SPIDER and will provide critical human resources support to operationalize and transform the newly functioning National Institute of Health of Somalia as a premier centre in the country for public health research, front-line health workforce development, public health laboratory, emergency preparedness and outbreak response, as well as for leading disease-specific control programmes in the country. We are confident that this support of Sweden will go a long way in protecting the vulnerable and promoting health with a view to building a safer world for everyone in Somalia,” said Dr Malik, WHO Representative.

“Access to health care touches people in their everyday life. Somalia is step by step rebuilding its health systems, around the country, in towns, villages, for girls and boys, mothers and fathers, young and old. Working with WHO to support these life-saving efforts is part of our partnership with the Somali people,” said H.E. Staffan Tillander, Swedish Ambassador to Somalia.

This important contribution from Sweden to WHO in Somalia further consolidates the innovative partnership that already exists between the two, as well as the collective efforts of both to achieve better health outcomes for all Somalis towards universal health coverage and health for all.

Kenya faces ports competition with Somaliland, TZ projects

Kenya faces ports competition with Somaliland, TZ projectslinkedin sharing button

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Source: theSTAR,Tuesday June 29, 2021

Regional competition on ports is shaping up as Somaliland and Tanzania angle themselves to give Kenya a run for its money in shipping and logistics.

Dubai Ports World (DP World) and Somaliland have opened a new terminal at Berbera Port, and announce second phase expansion and ground breaking for an economic zone.

DP World is an Emirati multinational logistics company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It specialises in cargo logistics, port terminal operations, maritime services and free trade zones.
Berbera Port’s new container terminal has capacity for 500,000 TEUs a year with its second phase expansion expected to increase capacity up to two million TEUs a year.

Berbera Economic Zone under development aims to attract investment and new businesses with an expanded port, economic zone and Berbera corridor expected to transform Berbera into an integrated maritime, industrial and logistics hub in the Horn of Africa.

“The completion of the first phase has made our vision of establishing Berbera with its strategic location into a major trade hub in the region a reality,” Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said.

DP World Group Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem has termed Berbera as a “viable, efficient and competitive option for trade in the region, especially for Ethiopian transit cargo”, meaning it is likely to give Kenya’s new Lamu Port stiff competition.

The new container terminal with a deep draft of 17metres, a quay of 400metres and three ship-to- shore gantry cranes, can handle the largest container vessels in operation today, though remains way below in annual throughput capacity compared to Mombasa.

Part of the overall Berbera plan and modelled on DP World’s Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai, the economic zone is linked to the port and strategically located along the Berbera to Wajaale road (Berbera Corridor).

The Berbera Corridor road upgrade project, funded by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the Hargeisa Bypass Road funded by UK Aid, is set for completion in quarter four, 2021 and quarter three 2022, respectively.

The road will link to the existing modern highway on the Ethiopian side and position Berbera as a direct, fast, and efficient trade route for Ethiopian transit cargo.

Tanzania on the other hand is looking to revive the $10 billion(Sh1.1 trillion) Bagamoyo port project on the eastern coast of the country, President Samia Suluhu told the country’s private sector players in Dar es Salaam on Saturday.

This will create a second major sea port for Tanzania complementing the Dar es Salaam Port, which is currently giving Kenya competition for cargo destined for the hinterland through the Central Corridor, mainly Rwanda.

Tanzania inked a framework agreement with China Merchants Holdings International in 2013 to construct the port and a special economic zone aimed at at transforming the country into a trade and transport, rivaling Kenya.

It however stalled after the late President John Magufuli poked holes on the deal offered to Tanzania, saying it was not commercially viable.

Kenya is meanwhile eying business in Ethiopia and South Sudan with the newly launched Lamu Port which is part of the Sh 2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project.

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Kenya officials are in Ethiopia to market the facility.

Yesterday, they together with South Sudan and Ethiopian officials met in Addis Ababa to formalise a proposed ‘Regional Framework Body’ that will see the three countries operate and manage the regional infrastructure project “in a much more coordinated manner.”

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is however confident that investment in Kenya’s ports and logistics sector, including automation of systems, will continue giving the country a competitive edge over regional peers.

Mombasa Port has an annual capacity of over 1.4 million TEUs and close to 35 million tonnes, which makes it a leading facility in the region.

Lamu Port however has a bigger vessel handling capacity than Mombasa, according to acting managing director Rashid Salim.

Its berths are 400 metres long compared to Mombasa’s 300 meters average while the depth at Lamu is up to minus 17.5 meters against 15 meters at the Port of Mombasa, amking it able to handle post-panamax ships.

“Port competition depends on the geographical location and the cost of the port and cargo movement. Different ports have different advantages but at the end of the day, it depends with the efficiency of the port,” Rashid told journalist during a recent port visit.

DP World and Somaliland open new terminal at Berbera Port

DP World and Somaliland open new terminal at Berbera Port

Source: Michele Labrut | Jun 28, 2021

Photo: DP WorldDP WORLD Berbera-PNG (002).pngDP World and the Government of Somaliland, have inaugurated the new container terminal at Berbera Port, following completion of the first phase of the port’s expansion.

Michele Labrut | Jun 28, 2021

The new terminal was officially opened by the President of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World and included a symbolic ground-breaking for the new Berbera Economic Zone, the first phase of which is under construction.

The new container terminal, with a draught of 17m, a quay of 400m and three STS-gantry cranes, can handle the largest container vessels in operation today and increases the port’s annual capacity from 150,000 teu to 500,000 teu. 

Related: DP World changes UAE leadership

The terminal also includes a modern container yard with eight gantry cranes (RTGs). A new port One Stop Service Centre is also currently being built and will be ready in the third quarter of this year.

DP World has committed to investing up to $442m to develop and expand Berbera Port, and Sultan bin Sulayem announced that work is already underway to further expand the port in a second phase. This includes extending the new quay from 400 metres to 1,000 metres, and installing a further seven STS gantry cranes, increasing the total from three to 10, enabling the port to handle up to 2m teu and simultaneously multiple large container vessels.  

Related: DP World expands European inland network with three French ports

The economic zone, strategically located, is linked to the port and will serve as a centre of trade with the aim to attract investments. It will target a range of industries, including warehousing, logistics, traders, manufacturers, and other related sectors.

DPW BERBERA.JPEG

“This is a proud and historic moment for Somaliland and its people, as the completion of the first phase has made our vision of establishing Berbera into a major trade hub in the region a reality. With the new terminal, along with the second phase of expansion and economic zone along the Berbera corridor, we are now firmly positioned to further develop and grow our economy through increased trade, attracting foreign direct investment and creating jobs,” said President Muse Bihi Abdi.

“Our further expansion of the port in a second phase, and its integration with the special economic zone we are developing along the Berbera Corridor, reflects our confidence in Berbera and intent to develop it into a significant, world-class centre of trade. It will be a viable, efficient and competitive option for trade in the region, especially for Ethiopian transit cargo,” commented Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.

DP World Berbera, which began operations at the port in March 2017, has since increased volumes by 35% and vessel productivity by 300%, and reduced container vessel waiting time from four to five days, to only a few hours.

Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.  Seatrade, a trading name of Informa Markets (UK) Limited.TAGS: TERMINAL OPERATORSMIDDLE EAST & AFRICADP WORLD

Somalia: Cash and business skills training support to women-headed businesses

Somalia: Cash and business skills training support to women-headed businesseslinkedin sharing button

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Source: ICRC, Monday June 28, 2021


Faduma Ahmed is a self-taught henna artist in Mogadishu. She is a single mother with one child, and her money allows her to support her family. “I am pleased and delighted to see my customers leave my salon feeling beautiful and smiling,” she says. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta


Today marks the International Day of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Small businesses led by women and young entrepreneurs continue to face the pandemic’s wrath economically. Lockdown measures implemented to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus have wreaked havoc on supply chains and resulted in a significant drop in the demand for goods.

Through micro-economic initiatives, the ICRC supports vulnerable low-income families to start, restart or expand existing small businesses that can contribute to their family income, ultimately leading to an improved and sustainable livelihood.

In Somalia, the main micro-economic initiative being implemented is focused on cash support combined with training on business skills that targets vulnerable women-headed households. More than 200 women business owners in Mogadishu received USD 500 dollars and training to improve their businesses this year.

We feature six women-led businesses in Hamar Weyne, Mogadishu city.


Asli Salad has been selling clothes in Mogadishu for more than 20 years. Number of buyers have dwindled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving USD 500 from the ICRC, she has stocked up more clothes and used the remaining money to support her 10 children. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta



Duniyo Mohamed Ahmed, 36, has owned a café in Mogadishu for the past seven years, where she prepares Somali cuisine meals. “Before the pandemic, the restaurant was always packed for breakfast and lunch. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta.”



Maryan Abukar Haji is Hamar Weyne’s only female tailor and her specialty is designing and sewing women clothing. She has also benefitted from cash and business skills training. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta



Ebla Mukhtar Guhad has been running her retail shop for the past 30 years. She sells mangoes and bananas, as well as milk, cold drinks, balloons and candy. Her husband runs a laundry business, and the two are raising their seven children with both their income. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta.



Faduma Mohamed Abdirahman has been in the baking business for 30 years now. Every day at 6:00 a.m., she opens her café to cook the pastries. Early mornings and late afternoons are her busiest hours, as Somalis enjoy their pastries with Shaah – a cup of hot spicy tea. ICRC/Ismail Taaxta.

Somali leaders meet today in Mogadishu to finalise election process

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Source: Hiiraan, Monday June 28, 2021

MOGADISHU (HOL) – Prime Minister Mohamed Roble and Federal Member State leaders are meeting today in Mogadishu for another round of talks and are expected to settle remaining issues ahead of the elections.
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The meeting which was to start on Saturday will kick off today. Virtually all FMS leaders have in the last three days arrived in Mogadishu.

The talks which are a first since the signing of the electoral agreement on May 27 are expected to formulate and adopt an elections schedule, approve the recently released security plan and set a framework for the selection of clan elders and delegates.

The May 27 Agreement states that clan elders together with civil society organisations will work with regional governments in the selection of the delegates who will in turn elect the 275 MPs.

The list of the clan elders will however need to be updated first to cater for replacements in case of deaths of respective elders and other considerations.

The Security Plan released by the Office of the Prime Minister last week assigns the Somali Police Force, UN Police and AMISOM security of the elections.

Meanwhile, HirShabelle president has changed his mind and will be attending the talks after he indicated Sunday he will be keeping off.

The OPM said in a tweet today Gudlawe who is in Turkey apologized for his earlier decision and that he will be attending the talks through ZOOM.

Importance of Context in Ethiopia’s Crisis

Importance of Context in Ethiopia’s Crisis

Source: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published on 18 June 2021 an analysis titled “Ethiopia’s Crisis Runs Deeper than Tigray” by Jason Mosley.   

The conflict in Tigray Region is part of a broader political crisis in Ethiopia.  External pressure on Ethiopian officials to de-escalate the conflict in Tigray and expand humanitarian access, without reference to the broader context, risks exacerbating the factors driving the conflict in Tigray.  

Labels: Amhara militiaEFFORTelectionsEPRDFEritreaEthiopiaEUhumanitarian crisisOromo Liberation ArmyProsperity PartyTigray Defense ForcesTigray RegionTPLFUKUS

The Sudan-Ethiopia Border Dispute

The Sudan-Ethiopia Border Dispute

 Source: The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 24 June 2021 an analysis titled “Containing the Volatile Sudan-Ethiopia Border Dispute.”

Ethiopia and Sudan are locked in a dangerous military standoff over a piece of fertile borderland farmed by Ethiopian farmers but claimed by Sudan.  External partners should urge the two countries to find a land-use compromise similar to an earlier soft border arrangement without linking the issue to other contentious issues.  

Labels: Abdalla HamdokAbiy AhmedAmhara RegionAUbordersEritreaEthiopiaEUGERDland useMeles ZenawiOmar al-BashirRapid Support ForcesSudanTigray RegionTPLFUAEUS

Grave violations against children in conflict ‘alarmingly high’, latest UN report reveals

Grave violations against children in conflict ‘alarmingly high’, latest UN report revealslinkedin sharing button

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Source: UN News Centre, Tuesday June 22, 2021

More than 19,300 boys and girls affected by war last year were victims of grave violations such as recruitment or rape, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for experts to reach them, the UN said in its annual report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), published on Monday. 

Two children, who recently returned home after they and their family fled fighting in 2017, look out over the Al Gamalia neighborhood of Taiz City. UNOCHA/Giles Clarke
Two children, who recently returned home after they and their family fled fighting in 2017, look out over the Al Gamalia neighborhood of Taiz City. UNOCHA/Giles Clarke


Grave violations against children remained “alarmingly high” at nearly 26,500, while the pandemic increased their vulnerability to abduction, recruitment and sexual violence, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals. 

‘A stolen childhood’ 

Measures to curtail coronavirus spread, also complicated the work of UN child protection monitors and experts, according to the report which is entitled A Stolen Childhood and a Future to Repair: Vulnerability of Girls & Boys in Armed Conflict Exacerbated by COVID-19 Pandemic.  

“The wars of adults have taken away the childhood of millions of boys and girls again in 2020. This is completely devastating for them, but also for the entire communities they live in, and destroys chances for a sustainable peace”, said Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on CAAC. advertisements

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Recruitment and use, as well as killing and maiming of children, were the most prevalent violations in 2020, followed by denial of humanitarian access and abduction, the report said. 

Abductions, attacks on girls’ education 

More than 8,400 youngsters were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, while nearly 7,000 more were recruited and used in fighting, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria and Myanmar. 

Researchers reported “exponential growth” in abductions, which rose by a staggering 90 per cent last year.  Rape and other forms of sexual violence also shot up by 70 per cent.  

Meanwhile, attacks on schools and hospitals “remained excessively high”, which included serious attacks perpetrated against girls’ education and against health facilities and personnel. There was also an increase in the military use of schools, as the temporary closure of schools during the pandemic made them easy targets for military occupation and use.  

The report further revealed that girls made up a quarter of all child victims of grave violations. They also were mostly affected by rape and other forms of sexual violence, comprising 98 per cent of victims, followed by killing and maiming. 

 “If boys and girls experience conflict differently and require interventions to better address their specific needs, what the data also showed is that conflict doesn’t differentiate based on gender,” Ms. Gamba stated. 

Progress and commitments 

Despite the sobering statistics, the report also details tangible progress in dialogues with warring parties in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan and Syria.   

Some 35 new commitments or other engagement were reached last year to better protect children, including two new action plans signed in Myanmar and South Sudan. 

Additionally, armed groups and forces freed more than 12,643 children from their ranks following UN engagement, and many more boys and girls were spared from recruitment due to age screening processes in situations where the UN has action plans with governments to stop child recruitment and use. 

The report stated, however, that progress has taken place as child protection capacities on the ground are both overstretched and underfunded.

Promote peace, child rights and democracy 

Ms. Gamba praised teams working in the field throughout the pandemic, and in challenging environments.  

She underlined the need to secure resources for child protection at a time of extreme suffering for children, given the many setbacks in democratic processes at the beginning of this year, and the rise in violence between warring sides. 

“This is an opportunity to stop and reflect on the suffering we are causing our children, who are our future,” the senior UN official said. 

“We need to give children an alternative to violence and abuse: we need peace, respect for child rights and democracy. We need hope in good governance. We need to act to build a future where peace prevails. Please, give children that alternative.”

Ethiopia votes in test for PM Abiy amid reports of abuses

Ethiopia votes in test for PM Abiy amid reports of abuses1linkedin sharing button

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Source: AP, Tuesday June 22, 2021

A mother carries her baby on her back as she casts her vote in the general election at a polling center near Entoto Park on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, June 21, 2021. Ethiopia began voting Monday in the greatest electoral test yet for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as war and logistical issues meant ballots wouldn't be cast in more than 100 of the 547 constituencies across the country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
A mother carries her baby on her back as she casts her vote in the general election at a polling center near Entoto Park on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, June 21, 2021. Ethiopia began voting Monday in the greatest electoral test yet for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as war and logistical issues meant ballots wouldn’t be cast in more than 100 of the 547 constituencies across the country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopians voted Monday in a major test for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose rise to power initially seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule but who has since waged war in the Tigray region and whose party has been accused of election abuses.

The parliamentary election, delayed from last year, is the centerpiece of the promised reform drive by Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and he has described the poll as “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections.”

But international concern has been growing about the vote, and opposition groups have accused Ethiopia’s ruling party of harassment, manipulation and threats of violence that echo abuses of the past. One opposition leader still said he hoped the election would come off with only minor problems, but some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election, notably in the country’s most populous region, Oromia. Others say they were prevented from campaigning in several parts of the country.advertisements

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In more than 100 of the country’s 547 constituencies, polls are not even open — either because of the ongoing war in the northern Tigray region or logistical issues elsewhere. No date has been set for voting in Tigray’s 38 constituencies. The rest will vote in September — and the next government likely won’t be formed until that happens.

Abiy, whose party is widely expected to cement its hold on power, is also facing growing international criticism over the war in Tigray, sparked in part because the region’s now-fugitive leaders objected to Ethiopia postponing the election last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, long lines of voters were seen in some parts of the capital, Addis Ababa, while security was stepped up across Africa’s second-most populous country. Military vehicles were parked in key locations in the capital. More than 37 million Ethiopians were expected to vote, and one noted the wide range of candidates running.

“Last time we didn’t have a choice, but this is totally different,” Girmachew Asfaw said.

But another resident of the capital, who gave only his first name, Samuel, said he wouldn’t be voting. “Two or three years ago I would have voted for Abiy, but now there are a lot of troubles in our country,” he said.

Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party, formed in 2019 by merging groups that made up the previous ruling coalition, registered 2,432 candidates in the election. The next largest party, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, was fielding 1,385 candidates. A total of 47 parties were seeking seats. Final election results from Monday’s voting are expected within 10 days.

The spirit of this election “is much better in many ways than the previous elections,” Abiy said Monday, adding that the country is “witnessing the atmosphere of democracy.”

But opposition groups sounded warnings of election day harassment.

Opposition candidate Berhanu Nega with the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party told reporters that his party had recorded more than 200 instances of its election observers being “kicked out” of polling stations or denied access. He said he hoped the troubles “do not reflect the whole process.”

Getnet Worku, secretary general of the opposition ENAT party, accused Prosperity Party members of campaigning inside polling booths and said five of his party’s agents were detained for several hours, calling it “a matter of intimidation.”

Ethiopia’s election chief, Birtukan Midekssa, told reporters that some election-related problems had been witnessed in the Amhara, Afar and Southern regions with some observers having difficulty in moving around and doing their job, which she called “concerning.” Some opposition candidates also are having trouble moving around, and “this may cause a problem in the election process and its result, so it has to stop immediately.”

Birtukan earlier had acknowledged “serious challenges” but noted that more parties and candidates are contesting than ever before. “I call on the international community to support Ethiopia on its democratic journey, stressful and imperfect though it is,” she wrote in the U.S.-based magazine The National Interest.

Tigray’s former leaders, who are fighting Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea, have reported fierce new combat in recent days. Abiy’s government and the regional one each view the other as illegitimate, and the war broke out late last year, after Abiy accused the region’s forces of attacking a military base.

Ethiopia’s defense forces have called recent fighting challenging because of the rough terrain. Thousands of civilians have been killed and famine has begun as observers warn that the conflict is becoming a drawn-out guerrilla war.

Meanwhile, outbreaks of ethnic violence have killed hundreds of people in the Amhara, Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions in recent months.

“We need a government that brings us peace, unity and that will stop the killing everywhere, and we also need to be pulled out from these ethnic divisions,” voter Desalgn Shume said.

International concern has been growing about the election. The U.S. has said it is “gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held,” and the European Union said it will not observe the vote after its requests to import communications equipment were denied.

In response, Ethiopia said external observers “are neither essential nor necessary to certify the credibility of an election,” although it has since welcomed observers deployed by the African Union.

The United Nations secretary-general has noted the “challenging” environment and warned against acts of violence.

Somaliland women need loans to support their small businesses

Somaliland women need loans to support their small businesseslinkedin sharing button

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Source: radio ergo, Sunday June 20, 2021

Basra Hussein Hersi, a mother of six, had to close her small shop last year in Gacan Libaax village, in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa, when she ran into losses.

“The little money I made from the shop daily was used to pay the family bills. I didn’t save any money for the continuity of the shop,” she said.

Nobody she knew could lend her any money. The banks in Somaliland offered minimum loans of $1,000 with repayment rates of at least $200 a month, which was an impossible target for her.

“I would have taken a loan from the bank if the repayment plan were $50 a month because I can afford that. My shop is not in the market, I sell here in the village, so $200 is a lot,” she said.

Basra and her family have been relying on her husband’s small income as a security guard and some support from Basra’s mother, who rented out two rooms to help her daughter and grandchildren after the shop closed last October.

They had to move to her brother’s house in December after she and her husband failed to pay their rent.

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A study published in June by charity Oxfam found that prohibitive bank loan requirements are a major factor in the collapse of small businesses in Somaliland. Most businesses are run by women,  who provide for their families from their income. But as well as the high rates, the local banks prefer to lend money to men rather than women.

The researchers interviewed 144 women in Hargeisa, Burao and Borama, whose small businesses closed last year due to financial problems. All but five of them said that they had wanted a loan but the bank charges were unaffordable.

Nimo Ali Ahmed, a mother of 11, provided for her family selling goat meat. She used to slaughter two goats a day to sell in her neighbourhood but was forced to shut down after the price of goats rose to two million Somaliland shillings ($230).

Nimo learnt about bank loans in May after a friend of hers took a loan. She is now contemplating applying for a loan herself to restart her business.

“I have never taken a bank loan, but I am thinking of trying it now. The process is long, and I am not too sure if I will be lucky enough to get it,” she said.

Oxfam’s head of communications and media, Abdiaziz Ali Adani, told Radio Ergo that the lack of investment opportunities for small businesses has exacerbated poverty as women are mostly the sole breadwinners of their families in Somalia.

“Most women prefer the rotating group savings scheme over bank loans. They are easier to access as you can join the group and contribute money. Some groups collect as little as $10,” he said.

Abdiaziz urged the banks to lower their interest rates on loans and to ease the application requirements so that more women can turn to bank loans when their businesses are failing and need investment.

Why Ethiopia’s 2021 Elections Matter

Why Ethiopia’s 2021 Elections Matter

 Source: The US Institute of Peace published on 17 June 2021 an analysis titled “Why Ethiopia’s 2021 Elections Matter” by Aly Verjee and Terence Lyons.

There are serious questions whether the 21 June elections in Ethiopia will advance democratization or lead to further political polarization.  At least 76 of the 547 constituencies will not be voting.

Labels: Abiy AhmedelectionsEthiopiaEzemaHararNAMAparliamentProsperity PartySomali RegionTigray Region

Ethiopia’s Upcoming Election

Ethiopia’s Upcoming Election

 Source: The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 17 June 2021 a Q and A titled “Ethiopia Votes, But Balloting Will Not Ease the Country’s Deep Crisis” with William Davison, ICG senior analyst for Ethiopia.  

This is a wide ranging discussion of Ethiopia’s parliamentary elections scheduled for most parts of the country on 21 June.  

Labels: Abiy AhmedelectionsEthiopiaEzemanational dialogueNational Movement of AmharaOLFOromiaOromo Federalist CongressProsperity PartyTigray RegionTPLF

Podcast on Ethiopia’s 21 June Election

Podcast on Ethiopia’s 21 June Election

 Source, The International Crisis Group (ICG) posted on 16 June 2021 a 34-minute podcast titled “Ethiopia’s Rocky Transitional Election” with William Davison, ICG’s senior analyst for Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is holding parliamentary elections on 21 June.  Violent flare-ups in parts of the country, a poll boycott by some opposition political parties, and postponed votes in several locations cast a shadow over the election.  

Labels: Abiy AhmedAmhara RegionBenishangul-GumuzelectionsEPRDFethnic nationalismGERDnational dialogueOromiaparliamentpolitical partiesProsperity PartySomali RegionTigray RegionUS

Ethiopia Rejects Arab League Call for UN Security Council Meeting on Dam

Ethiopia Rejects Arab League Call for UN Security Council Meeting on Dam

 Source: Reuters published on 15 June 2021 an article titled “Arab States Call on U.N. Security Council to Meet over Ethiopian Dam.”

An Arab League meeting in Qatar on 15 June passed a resolution calling on Ethiopia to negotiate “in good faith” with Egypt and Sudan and asked the UN Security Council to take up the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Aljazeera published on 16 June 2021 an article titled “Ethiopia Rejects Arab League Resolution on Renaissance Dam.”

Ethiopia responded that the GERD is an African issue that can only be resolved in the spirit of finding African solutions to African problems.  

Labels: Arab LeagueAUBlue NileEgyptGERDSudanUNS