Ethiopia: The Rough Neighborhood Gets Worse

By IndepthAfrica
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Jan 15th, 2013
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The government and the International Monetary Fund are at odds over projected GDP growth figures. The IMF says Ethiopia’s economy will grow by 6.5 percent in 2013. The government estimate is around ten percent.  The argument is important because the government is seeking more international investment. Government critics point out that the biggest deterrent to investment is endemic government corruption.  And that is quite true.  Surveys indicate Ethiopia may be less corrupt than some of its neighbors (ie, Sudan and Eritrea) but the perceived level of corruption in Ethiopia is quite high, particularly in the construction industry. An international corruption survey ranked Ethiopia 113th on its list (tied with Albania). Still, Ethiopia has shown consistent economic growth since 2004 and 2005. The country’s coffee is a prized international commodity and coffee exports have increased. The government is seeking investments in its agriculture sector and food-processing.

January 13, 2013: Kenya is considering deploying soldiers to the Tana River area in an attempt to stop further inter-ethnic (tribal) warfare.

January 12, 2013: An Ethiopian Ogaden exile group has asked the government of Great Britain to not give Ethiopia foreign aid money to train paramilitary militias in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. The group claimed that Ethiopian paramilitary Liyu police habitually terrorize Ogaden natives.

January 10, 2013: Ten people were killed in what Kenyan officials described as a retaliatory tribal attack near the Ethiopian border. The attack occurred in the town of Kibusu (southeastern Kenya, Tana River delta area).  Since mid-2012 the area has witnessed several raids and counter-attacks between the Pokomo and Orma tribes. The Pokomo are farmers and the Orma are pastoralists (cattle herders).  Both sides have complained about the lack of police protection.  Kibusu is a Pokomo town. The Orma reported that one of their villages (Ndura) had been attacked on January 9 and nine people were killed.

January 8, 2013: Several members of Ethiopia’s ruling party officials were killed when the bus they were traveling in hit a landmine in the town of Lalibela. A rebel group called the Ethiopian Unity and Freedom Force (EUFF) claimed to have laid the mine.

January 5, 2013: Two young men were killed in a grenade attack on the Dagahaley refugee camp in northeastern Kenya (Dadaab area). Seven people were wounded in the attack. The camp is about 100 kilometers from the Somalia border and many people in the camp are Somalis. Al Shabaab militants have attacked Somali refugees in northern Kenya.

January 2, 2013: A senior Kenyan official in the town of Garissa (northeastern Kenya, Somalia border area)  claimed that several recent terror attacks in the city and its immediate area were committed by local men who at one time had crossed into Somalia to serve with pro-Somali government militia forces. The official said the men had subsequently deserted the TNG militia forces. Al Shabaab allegedly pays anyone who kills a Kenyan policeman or soldier $8,000, and the former deserters may now be working for Al Shabaab.

January 1, 2013: The Ethiopian Army’s continued presence in Somalia is largely under the radar. However, a recent Somali government statement indicated that the Ethiopian Army is continuing to train pro-Somali government militias. The Ethiopian Army recently completed training an 800-man unit in Somalia’s Bakol region.

December 30, 2012: Security personnel in Djibouti shot and killed one teenager and wounded several other people in an incident in the town of Obock. The civilians were allegedly conducting a peaceful protest about their school’s lack of a good sports facility.

December 29, 2012: As 2012 ends, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) continues to occupy the Somali port of Kismayo where locals report seeing KDF soldiers on patrol, wearing helmets and body armor. They are often accompanied by Somalis who belong to the Ras Kamboni militia. There are also pro-Somali government militiamen in the city, some of whom are now in what is called the Somali National Army. Kismayo has two airfields, an airfield near the city and the international airport, which is about 15 kilometers inland. The KDF has contingents at both airfields. The KDF has built bunkers around the international airport. Theunit at the international airport is basically a mechanized infantry battalion (supported by tanks).  All KDF troops are now part of the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

December 26, 2012: Raiders now identified as members of the Turkana tribe attacked a Samburu tribe village near the Kenyan town of Baragoi (north central Kenya). The raiders stole over 250 head of cattle. At least 12 people were wounded in the attack. Authorities believe this group probably launched the attack on December 22.

December 23, 2012: A senior member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has reportedly defected from the rebel group. The ONLF leader is said to have joined the Ethiopian government.

December 22, 2012: Kenyan police reported that suspected Al Shabaab terrorists shot and killed three in the town of in Garissa (northeastern Kenya). One man was also wounded.

Two hundred heavily armed raiders attacked the Kenyan village of Masikita (Baragoi area). The raiders stole 400 cattle and over one thousands goats. Authorities reported the bandit group had light machine guns and grenades as well as assault rifles and pistols.

December 15, 2012: Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) occasionally distributes a list of combat actions in the Ogaden. It is difficult to know just how accurate these lists are. For one thing, the Ethiopian government restricts international press access to parts of the Ogaden (especially those where the ONLF operates). A recent list of attacks cropped up on an ONLF website. The ONLF claimed its fighters killed 40 Ethiopian soldiers and allied militia fighters in a battle near the village of Labiga (Dhagahbur province). This clash took place on December 8.  Another ONLF rebel group attacked a garrison in the village of Gosolalev and killed 18 soldiers.

December 14, 2012: Kenya’s police and military have both acknowledged that they are deeply concerned about security for the nation’s March 2013 national elections. Kenya has a spotty record when it comes to election violence. The last election set off several weeks of inter-tribal violence. That threat still remains but it is exacerbated by Al Shabaab’s threats to conduct terror attacks throughout the country. Al Shabaab characterizes its attacks as retaliation for the Kenyan military’s (Kenya Defense Forces) intervention in Somalia. The election is scheduled to take place on March 4, 2013.

It looks like Eritrea has decided to respond indirectly to Ethiopia’s offer to negotiate. Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki, has reportedly asked Qatar’s government to act as a go-between and possibly serve as a mediator if negotiations develop. This is a change from past peace-feelers, which Eritrea has tended to reject out of hand.

December 13, 2012: Two Ethiopian political figures who were accused of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front have been convicted in court of belonging to a banned organization and inciting rebellion. Bekele Gerba, a member of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (an opposition party) was sentenced to eight years in prison. Olbana Lelisa was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Kenya has placed its police and military on high alert for the entire Christmas holiday season. The government said that it has credible intelligence that Al Shabaab militiamen intend to launch terrorist attacks in Kenya during the Christmas holidays.

December 11, 2012: The Kenyan government said its security forces had arrested six suspected Al Shabaab terrorists. The arrests took place I the Ruka area (Somalia-Kenya border). The security personnel seized hand grenades and two pistols.

December 8, 2012: Ethiopia’s prime minister has reportedly offered to negotiate without pre-conditions with Eritrea. The prime minster, Hailemariam Desalegne, indicated that he is willing to travel to Eritrea to conduct the negotiations.

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