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Number of Ethiopians entering Kenya hits 8,500, more expected – Red Cross



REUTERS — The number of Ethiopians who have crossed into Kenya for refuge since March 10 has risen to at least 8,500, Red Cross has reported.
This is an increment of 6,500 from figures reported on Tuesday, as Ethiopia deals with the killing of several civilians in what the military said was a botched security operation targeting militants.

In a statement on Thursday, Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet said the number may keep increasing.

“Reports indicate that more families are on the way to Moyale,” he said, adding displaced persons are currently concentrated in Sessi (3,080 people).

Others are in Sololo (2,300), Somare (1,830), Cifa/Butiye (890), Maeyi (300), Kukub (91), Gatta Korma (51) and Dambala Fachana (50).
Some have integrated with host communities.

The aid organisation said it will distributing food and non-food items and provide integrated medical outreaches, health education and other support.

These interventions target families that have already settled in Moyale and Sololo areas, as well as the newcomers.

On Tuesday, the society said most of those crossing into Kenya are women and children, including “pregnant and lactating mothers, chronically ill persons, those abled differently and the elderly”.

Some of those fleeing had moved with their livestock, compounding pressure on struggling relief agencies, the Red Cross said.

A state official in the Oromiya region told Reuters on condition of anonymity that tens of thousands of people have also been internally displaced.


Ethiopian state media reported on Sunday that soldiers had been deployed to an area near the town of Moyale in Oromiya, a region that borders Kenya, in pursuit of Oromo Liberation Front fighters who had crossed into the country from Kenya.

The Front is a secessionist group which the Ethiopian government describes as terrorist.

But faulty intelligence led soldiers to launch an attack that killed nine civilians and injured 12 others, the Ethiopian News Agency said.

Ethiopia has said that five soldiers who took part in the attack near Moyale have been “disarmed” and are under investigation, while a high-level military delegation has been dispatched to the area to inquire further into the incident.

Outbreaks of violence have continued in Oromiya province even after Ethiopia declared a six-month, nationwide state of emergency last month following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Desalegn said his unprecedented February 15 resignation was intended to smooth the way for reforms, following years of violent unrest that threatened the ruling EPRDF coalition’s hold on Africa’s second most populous nation.

His successor as premier and EPRDF chairperson is expected to be named before the end of this month.

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Ethiopian soldiers kill nine civilians mistaken for militants



ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian soldiers killed nine civilians and injured 12 after mistaking them for rebels near a town along the country’s border with Kenya, state media said on Sunday.

The soldiers were deployed to the Moyale area of the country’s Oromiya region in pursuit of Oromo Liberation Front fighters who had crossed into Ethiopia from three locations, the Ethiopian News Agency said.

“Nine civilians were killed and 12 others were injured during an operation that was launched with faulty intelligence,” members of the armed forces told the agency.

Several soldiers have been suspended and are under investigation, it said, adding that a high-level military delegation had been dispatched to the area to launch an inquiry.

The Oromo Liberation Front is a secessionist group which the government has branded as terrorist.

The incident took place at a time when outbreaks of violence have continued to plague the country, mostly in Oromiya.

Last month, Addis Ababa imposed a six-month, nationwide state of emergency to tamp down unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The move was made a day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his resignation in what he said was a bid to smooth the way for reforms.

His replacement is expected to be named this month.

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Civil strife in Ethiopia has the potential to destabilise the whole region



Ethiopia is experiencing ethnic and political tensions that could have far-reaching implications for its neighbors in the Horn of Africa, and beyond.

Abukar Arman is a writer, a former diplomat and an activist whose work on foreign policy, geopolitics and faith is widely published.

The Horn of Africa is among the most congested, eventful, and most volatile geopolitical intersections on earth. It is where the West meets the East in a highly competitive game of strategic positioning for economic or hegemonic advantage.

China and Turkey who, more or less, employ similar soft-power strategies have tangible investments in various countries in the region, including Ethiopia. However, the widespread discontent with Ethiopia’s repressive impulses and its ethnic favoritism that led to a particular ethnic minority (Tigray) to exclusively operate the state apparatus has inspired Arab Spring-like mass protests. These protests have caused serious rancor within the ruling party. It is only a matter of time before this haemorrhaging government might collapse.

So, who is likely to gain or lose from this imminent shockwave in the region’s balance of power?

The Nile Tsunami

Ethiopia — a country previously considered as a stable regional hegemon, a robust emerging market, and a reliable counter-terrorism partner — is on the verge of meltdown, if not long-term civil strife.

Today, the Ethiopian government is caught between two serious challenges of domestic and foreign nature: the Oromo/Amhara mass protests tacitly supported by the West, and the water rights conflict with Egypt, Sudan and Somalia.

Ethiopia is claiming the lion’s share on the Nile that runs through it and other rivers that flow from its highlands for the Grand Renaissance Dam – thus presenting existential threats to the connected nations.

For the third time in three years, the Shabelle River has dried up, putting millions of Somalis at risk of starvation.

But the current government is not ready for a substantive change of guard. The longer the mass protests continue and the minority-led government continues to offer artificial or symbolic gestures of prisoner releases — while declaring a second ‘state of emergency’ in two years— the faster Ethiopia will become destabilised and the faster foreign investments will fizzle away.

Worse — though seemingly unthinkable — the ‘favorite nation’ status granted to Ethiopia after becoming the US’ main partner in the global ‘War on Terroris’ is slowly corroding.

Despite this week’s visit from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the US State Department is gradually turning its back on Ethiopia for a number of reasons; chief among them, is its double-dealings on the South Sudan issue.

Despite the facade of US/China collaboration to end the South Sudan civil war, the geopolitical rivalry between these two giants has been pressuring Ethiopia to pledge exclusive allegiance to one over the other.

With China’s huge investments on Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan’s oil fields – making a choice won’t be too difficult.

The Kenya Factor

Several years ago I wrote an article arguing that the two most stable nations in the Horn (Kenya and Ethiopia) will become more unstable as Somalia becomes more stable.

Today, the Ethiopian government is facing the most serious threat since it took power by the barrel of the gun, and Kenya has a highly polarised population and two presidents ‘elected’ along clan lines.

Kenya — the nerve center of the international humanitarian industry — could just be one major incident away from inter-clan combustion.

The Somalia Factor

The Ethiopian government has launched a clandestine campaign of strategic disinformation intended to fracture or breakup opposition coalitions and recruit or lure potential comrades.

Ethiopian intelligence officers and members of the diplomatic corps together with some ethnic-Somali Ethiopians have been recruiting naive Somali government officials, intellectuals and activists with a Machiavellian disinformation campaign.

Meanwhile, IGAD — Ethiopia’s regional camouflage — calls for an open-borders agreement between member states. Despite broad-based public perception that for a fragile state like Somalia, such an agreement would be tantamount to annexation, some Somali politicians are eagerly carrying its banner.

These kinds of desperate campaigns and the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn only underscore the fact that the government’s days are numbered.

The Sudan Factor

Sudan is caught in a loyalty triangle (Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey) with competing powers. Sudan needs Egypt to address threats faced by the two nations regarding the diminishing access to the Nile by reasserting rights granted through the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.

It needs Ethiopia to protect China’s economic partnership and to shield President Omar al Bashir from Western harassment through IGAD.

It also needs Turkey for development and for a long-term strategic partnership. Sudan has become the second country in Africa to grant Turkey a military base, with Somalia being the first.

The Eritrea Factor

When neocons dominated US foreign policy and the global ‘War on Terror’ was the order of all orders, Eritrea was slapped with sanctions. It was accused of being the primary funder and weapons supplier to al Shabab.

Today, though neither the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia or Eritrea nor any expert free from Ethiopian influence holds such a view, yet the sanctions have not been lifted.

The Ethiopian lobby and certain influential elements within US foreign policy-making circles continue to label Eritrea as a Marxist rogue state that undermines regional institutions such as IGAD and international ones like the UN Security Council; a closed society that espouses a deep rooted hatred towards the West.

Against that backdrop, the UAE has been investing heavily in Eritrea since 2015 or the beginning of the Yemen war that has created one of the the worst humanitarian disasters. The Emirati military (and its Academi/Blackwater shadow) now operates from a military base in Assab. Whether that’s a Trojan Horse or not, is a different discussion altogether.

Ins And Outs

The current wave of discontent against the Ethiopian government is likely to continue. But, considering how the Tigray has a total control on all levers of power, a transition of power will not be an easy process.

Ethiopia is also rumoured to have created an ethnically Somali counterinsurgency force in the Liyu Police. This ruthless force has already been used against the Oromos as they were used against Somalis of various regions that share a border with Ethiopia.

The extrajudicial killings and human rights violations are well documented. Despite all this, the Oromo and Amhara are set to reach their objectives albeit with bruised and bloody faces.

Will their coalition remain or, due to their historical distrust, will each eventually invoke its constitutional right to secede?

Whatever the outcome, any scenario of civil war or chaos in Ethiopia could put the entire Horn in danger and create a potential humanitarian catastrophe, especially in Somalia.

Meanwhile South Sudan is a lightyear away from sustainable political reconciliation especially since the foreign elements fueling the fire are not likely to stop any time soon. Djibouti remains the host of the most intriguing geopolitical circus. So, that leaves Eritrea as an island of stability in the region.

In the foreseeable future, Turkey could divest her investment out of Ethiopia into Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. China will diversify her portfolio to include Eritrea. And the US — with no new policy — will continue droning her way through geopolitical schizophrenia.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to [email protected]

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Ethiopia Ruling Coalition to Nominate New PM



VOA — ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is expected to meet this week to choose a new prime minister, most likely from the populous Oromo ethnic group to try and dampen the discontent behind recent anti-government demonstrations.

The change in leadership follows the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn last month. He is the first ruler in modern Ethiopian history to step down; previous leaders have died in office or been overthrown. He said he wanted to clear the way for reforms.

The international community is closely watching the developments in Africa’s second most-populous nation which has a booming economy and is a staunch Western ally in the fight against Islamist militancy.

The coalition is made up of four region-based parties but is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. The Tigrayans are a much smaller ethnic group than the Oromo who are from Ethiopia’s most populous Oromiya region and have long complained of being sidelined from political power.

Their criticism of a government development plan for the capital Addis Ababa in 2015 sparked wider anti-government protests that spilled over into attacks on foreign-owned businesses in 2016. This plunged the country into an crisis and there are still sporadic protests.

“Our people should take a leadership role because this is a moral question. Our people want this. We want this,” Lemma Megersa, the Oromiya region’s president, said in a speech last month.

Global strategy companies including Teneo Intelligence and Eurasia Group have been predicting an Oromo prime minister as the most likely candidate because it would help tamp down protests.

The government has declared two states of emergencies as it tries to calm the political unrest. Since the first one ended in August, it has introduced a series of conciliatory steps, including the release of more than 6,000 prisoners this year.

The government declared a second state of emergency the day after Hailemariam’s resignation in February and protests started up again. On Friday, parliament voted to ratify the state of emergency, although 88 legislators rejected it. The previous state of emergency passed unanimously.

One frontrunner for the leadership of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is Abiye Ahmed, according to the Eurasia Group. He was chosen last week to lead the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization – one of the coalition parties.

The multilingual official holds a doctorate in peace and security from Addis Ababa University and served in the military.

He set up a government intelligence agency that increased online surveillance before serving as cabinet minister for science and technology, government media outlets have reported.

Diplomats will be watching closely.

“The government needs to continue to release detainees and open the political system by allowing more room for civil society and a freer press,” said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

More Reforms Needed

Opposition leaders say they want more than prisoner releases. They want the government to reform the strict laws that sent them to jail in the first place.

Those include laws passed in 2008 and 2009, including an anti-terror law with a vague definition of offenses and another that limited foreign funding for pro-democracy groups. Human Rights Watch has said the legislation was being used to criminalize free expression and peaceful dissent.

“There are laws that the government uses to stifle peaceful activity,” said Bekele Gerba, a former Addis Ababa University lecturer and opposition party leader who was among the thousands of prisoners freed this year.

Bekele, who suffered a stroke during his incarceration, told Reuters that he spent two years confined in a small windowless cell with no bed.

“Usually in this country, the tradition is that opposition parties are regarded as against the government. Whatever the opposition parties do, they are regarded as unlawful,” he said.

There are no opposition lawmakers in Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament.

Ethnic Tensions

Since toppling military leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, the ruling EPRDF coalition has been dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Tigrayans account for about six percent of the population. Oromos make up 36 percent.

Overseas-based activists have complained for years that Tigrayans secured business contracts without competition and dominated the security sector, said Daniel Berhane, an Addis Ababa-based political analyst.

Tigrayan government officials reject the claims.

This resentment contributed to the anger behind the protests, Daniel said.

“There are legitimate public discontents that fueled the protests. But these protests were … at times accompanied by ethnic attacks, which ranges from physical attacks to arson to eviction,” said Daniel.

The government needs to quell the discontent to avoid further protests that could fan ethnic tensions, said Abdul Mohammed, a political analyst and former government advisor.

“Today, our political discussions are conducted almost entirely in the language of ethnic identity: which group benefits, and which doesn’t,” he wrote in a commentary sent to Reuters.

Former ambassador Shinn said making sure everyone benefits from Ethiopia’s boom would go a long way toward defusing protests.

“The current government deserves high marks for its economic progress,” he said. “But the time has come to ensure this progress improves all parts of society.”

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