Latest News in Ethiopia (March 10)

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EBAC Press Release

Ever since its formation, the Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee (EBAC) has been in the forefront of exposing the treasonous scheme of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to cede large tracts of Ethiopian lands to the Sudanese government. We reiterated and alerted the Ethiopian people and the international community at large that, if and when implemented, this treacherous and treasonous act is being perpetrated outside public view. It is detrimental to Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, national security, the wellbeing of millions and the peaceful coexistence of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people.

EBAC is pleased to note that over more than 11 years of advocacy, the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopian people, civic and opposition parties and prominent personalities, the media and others have provided us unwavering and steady moral, diplomatic and material support. On our part, we have been diligent in exposing the secret deal through press releases, the media, symposiums, research and the preparation of position papers that future generations of Ethiopians and succeeding governments could utilize in restoring Ethiopia’s legitimate rights to its lands.

Despite the TPLF’s outright dismissal of its treacherous acts that take place in secret negotiations with the government of the Sudan, we have repeatedly conveyed to the Bashir Government that handing over a “good chunk of Ethiopia’s fertile farmlands, waters and other natural resources” will undermine peace, stability, and security of the region in the decades to come. We have gone on record that ceding Ethiopian lands is illegitimate, illegal and source of destabilization in the area.

In our official letter to the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, we informed him that his party or government “has no authority to cede any Ethiopian territory without the consent of the people of Ethiopia." Meles was fully cognizant then and his successors now that the government in power would face unprecedented opposition and public uproar. This is why Meles and now Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn refuse to discloses the contents of the deal to the people of Ethiopia.

Instead, this treacherous act is carried out with the highest level of secrecy; and purportedly involving the regional government of Tigray and Sudanese authorities. Matters of this magnitude require transparency, open discussion, participation by the Ethiopian people and at least a modicum of debate within the rubber stamp Ethiopian Parliament. Today, Ethiopia is characterized by a suffocating political environment of closed political and civic space and the criminalization of press freedom. There is no meaningful opposition. Civil society has been decimated.

In light of this suffocating environment and the current State of Emergency, the TPLF dominated government and media still purport that “Not a single Ethiopian is displaced from his ancestral farmland” and that no agreement has been reached. This claim suggests to us that the TPLF knows well that it has no authority to redraw Ethiopia’s national boundaries or to cede any Ethiopian territory to the Sudan.

EBAC wishes to underscore once again that any secret agreement with the Sudan will neither bind the rest of the country nor contribute to stability and peaceful coexistence between the two countries. On the contrary, any such agreement and deal will undermine the long-established tradition of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and friendly relations between Ethiopia and the Sudan. The Sudanese government ought to understand that the TPLF dominated government is doing the opposite of what is in the long-term interests of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people. The TPLF does this for short term economic and political gains. It has a well-established tradition of abandoning Ethiopia’s access to the sea. It leases millions of hectares of land to foreign investors and selected TPLF supporters while Ethiopians starve etc.

The government of the Sudan should respect international law

The government of the Sudan should be aware that the TPLF has no right to abrogate this enduring and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries for short-term political expediency. The current government of Ethiopia dominated by the TPLF won’t last forever. But Ethiopia will. Equally, the government of the Sudan should acknowledge and abide by international law that guides borders and is intended to anticipate and to avoid current and future conflicts. The TPLF scheme can and should be avoided at any cost. The government of the Sudan should therefore recognize the fundamental principle that governs an international boundary, namely that it is not arbitrary or capricious. Ethiopia’s boundary should not be a tradeable commodity that the TPLF can present as a gift.

The TPLF does not abide by such principles or norms or the rule of law or respect for the rights of indigenous people or the human and economic and natural rights of a country’s citizens or the long-term interests and security of the Ethiopian people. International law provides a compelling degree of continuity and finality to a country’s boundary. This venerable principle will be respected and observed in practice by citizens concerned only if the given boundary was established in accordance with law rather than political expediency practiced by the TPLF.

The TPLF led regime which seized power unlawfully does not have any respect for Ethiopia’s national interests. The TPLF has no legitimacy or legal credentials to cede Ethiopian territory and to create conditions that would trigger perpetual war in this highly volatile region. The TPLF thrives on ethnic and religious division; and prolongs its grip of its hegemony by undermining the wellbeing of Ethiopians and the long-term interests of the country.

EBAC has reiterated its belief that, in order to avert future conflict and war, both the Sudanese and Ethiopian regimes have an obligation to abide by the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902 and an appropriate Boundary Commission that will carry out the demarcation process. No other secret arrangement that will affect Ethiopia’s 102 million people adversely will be acceptable to the vast majority of Ethiopians.

The latest news on this sensitive issue published on February 15, 2017 by the Sudan Tribune under the title “Ethiopia-Sudan border development conference kicks off on Thursday” came as a shock to the Ethiopian people and to EBAC. To our dismay, this potentially explosive deal and machination by the TPLF was not disclosed to the Ethiopian people. When asked the government of Ethiopia denied the deal and accused opposition groups of inflaming the issue. The fact is this. The TPLF-led government has a history of storytelling and utter denial of policy issues that affect the country and its 102 million people.

The Sudanese media has been forthcoming on the border issue. Quoting the Governor of Gadaref, Sudan Tribune announced from Khartoum that “The 18th session of the conference on development of the joint Sudanese-Ethiopian borders will be held on Thursday in Mekele, capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region.” It is clear from the announcement that the demarcation of this contentious and explosive boundary and the ceding of territories to the Sudanese government will be carried out in Mekele under the auspices, guidance and directive of the TPLF, the ultimate beneficiary of this treasonous deal.

We quote, “Governor of Gadaref State Mirghani Salih Sid Ahmed told the official news agency SUNA, that the conference would be held with the participation of the border states of Gadaref, Blue Nile, Sennar and Kassala from the Sudanese side and Beni-Shangul-Gumuz and Amhara regions from the Ethiopian side.” He also said that Sudan shall “seek to retrieve the agricultural lands confiscated by Ethiopian farmers.” To the best of our knowledge, Ethiopian farmers never “confiscated” Sudanese lands. On the contrary, the TPLF acquiesced to Sudanese confiscation of Ethiopian lands.

Further, the motive behind the negotiations in Mekele is to legitimize the transfer from Ethiopia to the Sudan a tract of land that covers, at minimum “250 square kilometers and consists of 600,000 hectares,” some of the most fertile lands in Ethiopia. This fertile farmland that is suitable for large scale commercial farming and future textile and related industries is supported by a river basin flowing from Ethiopia. This includes the Atbara River, a major tributary to the mighty Nile.

This transfer and or any other future transfer of any lands from any part of the Ethiopia to the Sudan has no legitimacy and won’t bind succeeding generations of Ethiopians and Ethiopian governments. The social, economic, psychological and political and security costs to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people will be immense. For example, food insecure and food aid dependent Ethiopia with a growing population, cannot afford to transfer these lands to the Sudan or to any government. It is a matter of survival for Ethiopia.

As EBAC has noted numerous times before, if this latest secret deal in Mekele takes legal effect, the TPLF dominated regime of Prime Minister Hailemariam will cede huge swathes of our ancestral lands to the Sudan without the consent of the Ethiopian people. This will occur despite more than 11 years of relentless protest from EBAC; and the vast majority of Ethiopian opposition groups. This is the reason why we call it treason. It is treason because it is unprecedented in the annals of Ethiopia’s long history.

In our considered view, this latest deal must be exposed and rejected by all Ethiopians at home and abroad. The consequences are far reaching and dangerous to the Ethiopian people.

Members of the EPRDF and Ethiopia’s Defense Forces must reject the deal because it affects Ethiopia’s national security interests. It is their responsibility to defend Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national honor. No party or defense force with honor and dignity trades its own territory for money or political power. Members of Ethiopia’s Defense Forces must hold the TPLF leadership accountable for this latest treason against Ethiopia and against the Ethiopian people.

EBAC wishes to remind the global community that Ethiopians received this announcement with utter shock, resentment and anger. Neither the current generation of Ethiopians nor those of future generations will allow the deal to stand. The Mekele deal won’t be binding.

EBAC repeats its relentless pleas that hundreds of thousands of our people will be forced to lose their homes, farms and investments if the border deal is implemented without the participation and consent of the Ethiopian people.

EBAC believes that the lead responsibility to defend and preserve Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty reside in the Ethiopian people. We have full confidence in the resolve and determination of the Ethiopian people to defend their country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

EBAC states unequivocally that the border deal of today hatched by the unelected TPLF and its allies in Ethiopia will be the ticking bomb of tomorrow. Since the TPLF has neither support in law nor received the consent of the Ethiopian people, it will fester as a major source of friction and tension between the brotherly peoples of Ethiopia and the Sudan.

EBAC notes that the Horn of Africa region does not need an additional source of insecurity and instability beyond those that already plague the region.

Accordingly, EBAC wishes to urge Ethiopians everywhere to make their voices heard as they have done repeatedly in the past.

We call on all opposition groups and the media to make their objections known.

EBAC urges Ethiopian academics and commentators to raise awareness concerning the dire consequences of the demarcation and the ceding of large swaths of Ethiopian lands to the Sudan.

EBAC calls on all Ethiopians to express their outrage at this treason by the TPLF through social media.

EBAC goes on record again and asserts its right to defend Ethiopia’s territorial sovereignty as defined by the 1902 treaty – and not by any other agreement that is reached behind the back of the Ethiopian people.

We go on record that we will not honor any boundary that results from the agreement of the TPLF led and dominated government that is devoid of any support or legitimacy among its own people.

Finally, EBAC goes on record that the current extremely narrowly- based regime of Ethiopia and the similarly discredited government of the Sudan are grasping at straws by using the border deal as a way of ensuring their political survival by a mutual exchange of promises foreswearing the use of their territories by organized movements seeking to overthrow their respective governments.

EBAC and its cohort of Ethiopian supporters will never compromise on Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, internationally recognized borders that have been defended by successive governments before the TPLF took power and the country’s long-term economic and security interests as well as national sovereignty.

Long Live Ethiopia

Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee
P. O. Box 9536
Columbus, Ohio 43209


A group of armed men on Thursday attacked a prison in north Gondar freeing political prisoners. Patriotic Ginbot 7, an armed group opposing the Ethiopian regime claimed responsibility for the attack.

A representative who spoke to ESAT said they have killed two soldiers while four others have surrendered in the attack in Wegera district. The representative said they have also seized several weapons.

Meanwhile, a fuel truck travelling from Sudan to Ethiopia came under attack in a place called Negade Bahir on the Ethiopian side of the border. Several fuel trucks were stranded following the attack.

No party claimed responsibility for the ambush.

There have been sporadic attack by self-organized armed groups and PG7 against regime forces in northern Ethiopia.


By ESAT News

A U.S. congressman says it is high time for the U.S. stopped allying with a brutal regime under a pretext of war on terror.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California was speaking at a hearing on Thursday organized by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs under the theme “democracy under threat in Ethiopia.”

“Any honestly elected government would be against radical Islam,” the congressman said describing the Ethiopian regime as “a small clique that’s corrupt and brutal.”

“The Ethiopian regime represent a small minority in Ethiopia. We are helping that small clique which is corrupt and brutal. It’s time for the U.S. to say we made a mistake by going down that road with a small group of people. We should be friends with the overall people of Ethiopia, not just with a clique. That will serve the interest of the U.S. and the interest of the people of Ethiopia,” Rohrabacher said.

The congressman who recalled the attack by security forces against protesters in the post 2005 election that was won by the opposition said it was “disgraceful” that the regime used American military aid to oppress the people. “It is time to eliminate Ethiopian regime from its ability to purchase and obtain U.S. weapons. It is disgraceful that after the 2005 election, the military attacked the people. The worst part is that this military has American weapon that was used to repress the people.”

Rohrabacher said 20% of the people of Ethiopia is starving as a direct result of a corrupt and brutal regime. “The problem with a brutal regime is not only repression but also misery and hunger,” he said.

Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey chaired the hearing. He recalled that tens of thousands of political prisoners still remain in jail in Ethiopia. Smith mentioned the recent arrest of journalists Khaled Mohammed and Darsema Sorri as well as the leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, merera Gudina.

Speaking on the occasion, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch said the regime’s narrative of double digit economic growth and progress in development indicators is a “smokescreen.”

“The current government – the only one since 1991 – runs the country with an almost complete grip on power, controlling almost all aspects of political, public, and even much private life,” said Felix Horne.

Representatives of various groups of Ethiopians and a torture survivor also spoke at length on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime especially under a martial law that was declared in October following protests in the Amhara and Oromo regions.

People in Sululta queue for tap water. The local government has failed to provide water for most households in the area. Photograph: William Davison

By William Davison | TheGuardian

Towards the end of the day at the Abyssinia Springs bottled water factory near Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, workers hose down the car park liberally. Outside the gates, residents of the Sululta area trudge along the road with empty yellow jerrycans that they will fill from muddy wells and water points.

Over the past decade, the town in Oromia region has attracted plenty of investment. A Chinese tannery, steel mills, water factories and hotels have sprung up.

The boom has also lured workers for the building sites that litter the district with piles of rubble, electric cables, and eucalyptus tree trunks used for scaffolding.

Officials appointed last year amid a wave of unrest admit that they do not know the exact size of Sululta’s population. The local government has failed to keep up with the town’s chaotic growth over the past decade, which has contributed to anti-government sentiment.

Further protests by the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – whose discontent is rooted in claims of injustice and ethnic marginalisation, as well as maladministration – could undermine official efforts to rectify the situation, not least those by the head of the water bureau, Messay Tadesse.

Although investing in water infrastructure is challenging for a poor country, funding is not the problem in relatively wealthy Sululta, according to Messay. Instead, he believes corrupt management of the land rush, a lack of demand on investors to protect the environment, and the government’s inadequate planning and data collection have contributed to the crisis.

“When the public burned the investments down, it was not that they wanted to damage them. It was our problem in managing them,” says Messay.

Initially peaceful, the protests that began in Oromia in November 2015 evolved into the angry ransacking of government offices and businesses after security forces used lethal force to disperse crowds. Human rights groups estimate that up to 600 people were killed across the country.

Since then, Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which controls all the legislative seats in a de facto one-party state, has embarked on what it calls a process of “deep reform” to try to address governance failings.

For years, government officials and their development partners have claimed that funds were spent efficiently on public services for the estimated 103 million people in Africa’s second-most populous nation, citing improvements in socioeconomic indicators such as maternal mortality and access to potable water.

In 2014 – the latest year for which data is available – the Ethiopian government received $3.6 bn (£3bn) in aid, while the government budget was $9bn, which included donor funding. Most cash for regional governments comes from federal transfers.

There’s water everywhere. The only problem is the government’s willingness
However, the impressive statistics rattled off at development conferences are of little comfort to low-income workers in Sululta, who say they feel ignored by a government that has licensed more than five plants for bottled water while failing to dig enough wells or build pipes to houses. According to WaterAid, 42 million Ethiopians lack access to safe water.

Worku Deme, 40, who delivers cement blocks around Sululta, says the community wrote to government offices two years ago asking for action on water supply. But nothing has changed, he says, beyond the faces of the administrators who ask people to be patient.

“There is no one to care about us,” says Deme, as a woman walks past with a jerrycan strapped to her back.

The situation is especially galling for Sululta because the town is situated in the highlands, where rainfall is abundant for about four months of the year.

The national government, which likes to describe Ethiopia as the “water tower of Africa”, is investing heavily in hydropower, including the continent’s largest dam, in the Nile basin. However, past failures to tap water resources in the rain-deprived east of the country contributed to a fifth of the population needing aid during a drought that began in 2015, killing livestock and causing crops to wither.

In Suluta, there has been investment in boreholes and pumps, but mostly by the private sector. Abyssinia Springs, in which Nestlé Waters bought a majority stake last year, pumps 50,000 litres an hour, which means its capacity is more than half that of the local government.

“There’s water everywhere. The only problem is the government’s willingness,” says a manager at another company, Classy Water, who did not give his name.

Many non-water businesses have dug their own wells.

According to Getachew Teklemariam, a former government economic planner, there has been a lack of water infrastructure planning that takes into account demographic and economic changes across Ethiopia. Instead, development has been piecemeal and household water supply numbers are sometimes inflated by officials for political gain. “With a lack of insight into the reality on the ground, most efforts at improving infrastructure have been uncoordinated and wasteful,” he says.

In January 2016, the government shelved its “integrated development plan” to expand Addis Ababa into surrounding Oromia areas following protests and criticism that the plan would pave the way for more evictions of Oromo farmers.

Today, locals in Sululta travel on public transport to queue for water at a tap built by the Sudanese-owned Nile Petroleum, or pay others to do so. At the end of the town, which mostly lies along one main road, residents collect water from a faucet provided by China-Africa Overseas Leather Products. But the tannery has been accused of polluting water supplies, and in January 2016 protesters invaded the premises. Last month, it was a base for about 50 Ethiopian soldiers monitoring the security situation.

Messay, a mechanical engineer who has worked in the public water sector for a decade, says the government has erred by placing only minimal demands on investors in its eagerness to create jobs: “They [the leather company] drop their waste downstream. It is killing the farmers’ cattle, it’s making the fertility of the soil deplete.” Managers from the firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Messay appears committed to solving the water problem but realistic. He is critical of property investors from the capital who, he claims, seized plots illegally, and of the “corrupt” land administrators who facilitated the town’s chaotic growth. “You expect them to be more responsible, as they are from a big city,” says Messay of the investors.

Turkish contractors are digging a borehole to increase the water supply, which Messay believes might be meeting half the demand.

Nestlé Waters says it wants to help and is funding Addis Ababa University experts to study the environmental and socio-economic situation of the area. The study might feed into another “integrated” plan and possibly an effort to turn Sululta into an “eco city”. But Messay is sceptical as to whether the corporation’s public interest is genuine, noting that there were similar noises from Abyssinia Springs when the water plant was built about seven years ago.

By Opride

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (D-NJ) on Thursday convened a hearing on the deteriorating conditions for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. Dozens of activists, mostly from the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, were packed into a small room at the Rayburn House building. Two expert witnesses and four Ethiopians testified and responded to questions posed by lawmakers.

In his opening statement Smith criticized “a tradition of authoritarian rule” by a single party, which he said, “continues to strangle the advancement of democracy in Ethiopia.” His comments were critical and also noted the U.S. dilemma in engaging with the country. “Ethiopia has long been an important ally, providing effective peacekeepers and collaborating in the War on Terror,” said Smith. “However, increasingly repressive policies have diminished political space and threaten to radicalize not only the political opposition but also civil society by frustrating their ability to exercise their rights under law.”

Unfortunately, said Smith, who chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, “there is a significant variance in how that government sees its actions and how the rest of the world sees them.” This quintessential Ethiopian contradiction was also echoed by the two expert witnesses: Felix Horne of the Human Rights Watch and Terrence Lyons, Associate Professor at George Mason University.

Smith also noted that the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. had sent the committee a research conducted by a consulting firm, which aims to refute many of the allegations in the House Resolution 128, which he introduced in February.

“Rather than spend hundreds of thousands on consultants to try to mislead Members of Congress on the facts and inciting e-mail form letter campaigns by supporters, the Government of Ethiopia can acknowledge their challenges and work with the U.S. government and others in the international community to seek reasonable solutions,” he said. “We are prepared to help once they are ready to face the ugly truth of what has happened and what continues to happen in Ethiopia today.”

During the hearing, Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-Calif.) appeared to read from the “research” provided to the committee by the Ethiopian government in her questioning of the witnesses. Among other things, Bass asked about the “actual” number of seats in the 547 Ethiopian parliament that the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won in the May 2015 elections.

Two new members of the committee, who also attended the hearing, raised concerns about post-EPRDF Ethiopia and warned against too much U.S. pressure vis-à-vis regime change that could create a political vacuum, pointing to the absence of a viable opposition in the country. Tom Suozzi of New York even used the analogy of “control vs. chaos,” suggesting Ethiopia’s instability would create yet another conflict hotspot and a refugee producing nation.


Panel I

Terrence Lyons, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University
[full text of statement]

Mr. Felix Horne
Senior Researcher
Horn of Africa
Human Rights Watch
[full text of statement]

Panel II

Ms. Seenaa Jimjimo
Coalition of Oromo Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy
[full text of statement]

Mr. Tewodrose Tirfe
Amhara Association of America
[full text of statement]

Mr. Guya Abaguya Deki
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition
[full text of statement]

Mr. Yoseph Tafari
Ethiopian Drought Relief Aid of Colorado
[full text of statement]

Latest News in Ethiopia (March 8)

MP urges Canada take stand against atrocities in Ethiopia

By ESAT News (March 8, 2017)

A member of the Canadian parliament on Tuesday urged his government to take the “strongest possible stand” against the Ethiopian regime warning that the east African country is “potentially on the verge of civil war and genocide.”

Bob Zimmer, a conservative member of the parliament said the Canadian government need to do “more than expressing concerns and call on the Ethiopian government make genuine improvement.”

He said the state of emergency declared in October last year aimed to “quell dissenters.”

Canadian MPs have been urging their government to use its leverages to pressure the Ethiopian regime stop gross human rights violations. Ethiopia is one of the main recipients of Canadian foreign aid.

By AddisFortune

There is perhaps no one in the sub-region as perceptive on Ethiopia’s internal dynamics as neighboring Sudan can be, claims gossip. Khartoum appears to have the knack for seeing through the layers of Ethiopia’s political forces, including the fault lines within the ruling party, says gossip.

No doubt Khartoumites have a history with Ethiopia’s current rulers that goes back to the mid-1970s, when the latter launched their insurgency against the military government, using Sudan as an outlet to the rest of the world. It was the Sudanese who provided a small aircraft, piloted by one of their officers, that flew top TPLF leaders to Addis Abeba – rather victoriously – in May 1991, gossip recalled.

There have been exceptional hiccups in the mid-1990s when the late Hassen al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party tried to radicalize the region, putting Sudan on a collison course with Ethiopia. But otherwise, there has been rarely a time as the past two decades when relations between the two countries have been as cozy and cordial, claims gossip.

Omar al-Bashir, the military leader of Sudan, is known to be very friendly to Ethiopia, to a point he found himself at odds with his Egyptian neighbors up north, arch-foe of Ethiopia, in his unwavering support of the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia’s leaders, too, paid Bashir’s gesture in kind, staunchly opposing his indictment before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yet, for all their reciprocal insights into one another and unprecedented cooperation, there are issues remaining outstanding, mainly lingering from history. The border they share remains un-demarcated, thus a source of continued disputes between farmers in the two countries.

It is also an explosive political issue for both where there are powerful constituencies on the ground influencing policies ever since the time of Emperor Haile Sellasie and Ismail al-Azhari, the Sudanese leader after independence. Successive leaders of Ethiopia acknowledged that pushing Sudan to an international court over the dispute is a precarious position, thus always preferred dialogue to resolve the dispute, claims gossip.

As recently as November 2014, Bashir met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn where they had instructed their respective foreign ministers to set up a technical committee to complete the redrawing of the border in 2016. Apparently, this deadline was missed; but, a joint border commission meeting was held two weeks ago in Meqelle, the seat of the Regional State of Tigray, where Abay Weldu, president of the regional state, signed a series of agreements with Mirkeni Saleh, governor of the Sudanese Gedarif State.

To the surprise of many at the gossip corridors, the notable absence during this joint commission meeting was senior leaders from the Ahmara Regional State, including its president, Gedu Andargachew, gossip disclosed. The regional state shares much of the 725Km border with Sudan, neighboring the Gedarif and Blue Nile states from the other side. The subject of the most disputed area, Al-Fashaga, is located alongside the Amhara Regional State. It is a fertile area surrounded by Atbara, Setit and Baslam rivers.

Gedu and his top aides could not have missed the importance of the meeting in Meqelle, but chose to be represented in the two-day meeting by a junior official from the regional state, disclosed gossip. To the contrary, the incident illustrated how deep the rift between leaders of the TPLF and the ANDM has gotten over the years, a development that has not been lost on Khartoumites, claims gossip.
Women and children wait for care at an outpatient treatment center in Lerra village, Wolayta, Ethiopia, on June 10, 2008. (Jose Cendon/Bloomberg News)

The Menschen für Menschen charity has said 5.7 million Ethiopians could die of a lack of food. Part of the problem is that other countries are faring even worse and thus getting most of the publicity.

(DW) — Some 6 percent of Ethiopia’s population of 98 million suffers from food shortages resulting from a catastrophic drought in the eastern African country. But that doesn’t qualify as a risk of famine for the United Nations, which defines the term as 20 percent of a country’s population having fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of nutrition per day.

The German NGO Menschen für Menschen (People for People), however, is worried that the situation in Ethiopia could deteriorate if Ethiopians’ needs are drowned out by news reports of even more acute food shortages in Somalia, South Sudan and northern Kenya.

“Of course there’s a catastrophe in Somalia, but let’s not forget the situation in Ethiopia,” Menschen für Menschen executive director Peter Renner said on Wednesday at a press conference in Berlin. “It’s not like everything is fine there while there’s a major drought 500 kilometers away. A climate catastrophe doesn’t stop at national borders.”

Menschen für Menschen was founded by the late German actor Karlheinz Böhm in 1981 specifically for Ethiopia. The NGO’s view of the threat of starvation in the country tallies almost exactly with estimates by the UN’s World Food Programme, which says 5.6 million Ethiopians are currently in need of emergency food assistance.

Ethiopia can count itself lucky, Renner said, that the country got a normal amount of rainfall in 2016. But he added that Ethiopians are still struggling to overcome a catastrophic dry spell two years ago.

Depleted food stocks from 2015
In 2015, precipitation during Ethiopia’s two annual rainy seasons was extremely low. It was the worst drought since 1984, the catastrophe that prompted the Live Aid relief concerts.

The 2015 dry spell ruined the harvest in a country where 80 percent of the population are farmers, and the Ethiopian government was forced to deplete food reserves to keep people from starving. Moreover, Renner pointed out, there were other knock-on effects for one of the poorest countries on earth. More than 68 percent of electricity in Ethiopia, for example, comes from hydroelectric power.
The country has yet to fully recover from the drought, Renner said, and is depending on normal levels of rainfall in 2017 to avoid slipping back into crisis. But the el Nino climate phenomenon has brought potentially deadly instability to weather patterns in eastern Africa.

“Despite el Nino, there was decent seasonal rainfall in 2016, but there’s no guarantee of that in 2017,” Renner pointed out. “We’ve observed in the past two or two-and-a-half years that we can no longer predict when the short and long rainy seasons will start, how long they’ll last or the amount of rain they’ll bring.”

The world’s industrialized nations need to provide additional aid, Renner argued, to ensure that the tentative progress Ethiopia has made isn’t wiped out. Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development said Berlin earmarked 129 million euros ($136 million) in aid to Ethiopia from 2015 to 2017.

‘Chronically critical’ regions

But the areas of Ethiopia that border on Somalia, South Sudan and Kenya remain, in Renner’s words “chronically critical” regions – rocky deserts that are naturally susceptible to recurrent droughts and that are far more likely to experience crop failures than the relatively fertile center of the country. That’s what’s happening at the moment in Somalia, South Sudan and Kenya.

“These countries are now experiencing what Ethiopia went through 15 months ago,” Renner said. “If it rains in one place, it doesn’t mean it rains in another.”

Despite the country’s poverty and climate problems, Ethiopia currently hosts some 650,000 refugees from neighboring countries. Those people are particularly vulnerable to hunger.

Long-term solutions a long way off

The chances of reversing the climate trends that cause droughts in eastern Africa are exceedingly slim. In the medium term, Renner said, that means the world’s industrialized nations have a duty to help countries like Ethiopia deal with failed harvests and avoid food shortages. European countries also have an interest in reducing the number of migrants from the region as a whole and an improvement in living conditions there would keep some people from heading to Europe.

If that is to happen, there needs to be what Renner called a “paradigm shift” in aid away from donors giving money to recipients and toward sustainable development and self-reliance. Renner said that the so-called “Marshall Plan for Africa” currently being drawn up by the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development was a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, lasting developmental help takes time. Renner said Menschen für Menschen in Ethiopia had seen that 15 years are needed for individual assistance projects to establish themselves and become self-preserving. Food shortages can also disrupt and stymie that process.

If the 2017 rainy seasons yield a normal amount of precipitation, Renner said, Ethiopia could be able to overcome the effects of the 2015 drought by this autumn. If not, the country will need immediate assistance to prevent the situation from becoming catastrophic.