Friday, March 24, 2006

ION update: 03/24/06

Confrontation in Afar region
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1174 25/03/2006

Tension is growing among the population in the Afar region where a new murderous attack has taken place.

A commando composed of Oromos attacked an Afar encampment at Hadalé’ela (near the village of Shoarobit) on the evening of 6 March, in zone five of the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, situated on the edge of the Amhara Regional State, which in this zone is inhabited by Oromos. Among the attack’s 13 victims was an 85 year old local dignitary, highly respected throughout the Afar region: Hamadou Hamad known as Assafa. His death caused a considerable amount of emotion among the Afar and this killing was reported by Radio Asmara (Eritrea) in several languages in order to prop up the accusation that the Ethiopian government was responsible for murdering its own citizens. However, one source close to the Ethiopian regime rejected responsibility for this attack, attributing it to Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, opposition) rebels, which Addis Ababa constantly tries to incriminate.

The Ethiopian Afar are accusing the Addis Ababa regime in increasing numbers of encouraging the insecurity that is afflicting their community. The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was trying, according to them, to exacerbate inter-ethnic conflicts in order to stay in power by dividing the Ethiopian populations among themselves. In zone 3 of the Afar Regional State, regular bloody skirmishes take place between Afar shepherds and strongly armed Issas, without any intervention by the Ethiopian army to bring them to an end.

Meanwhile, zone 2 of the Afar region is directly ruled by the Tigray Regional State. To be sure, this region is not only considered as strategic due to its position on the border with Eritrea and Djibouti, it is also sought after for the mining and agricultural potential of the Awash valley. About 5,000 hectares of land have been attributed to Tigrayan businessmen who benefit from banking facilities. The working of salt at Afdera (near the Erta Alé volcano) resulted in frequent skirmishes last year between the Afars and the Ethiopian army which was defending the Tigrayan investors settled in this zone.

Embassy reviews its security plan for the French
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1174 25/03/2006

The French Consul to Addis Ababa, Franck Simaer, last week wrote to the French residents in this city to verify their presence in the country and to ask them to return the security forms as soon as possible. To be sure, the Consul has the task of constituting a reliable database (with the full details of each person’s address and its exact location) of all French people living in the Ethiopian capital, both for administrative reasons and in case of security problems. Anyone not replying to this questionnaire will be removed this week from the register of French people in Ethiopia and from the French Embassy’s security plan. In fact, these questionnaires should have been returned by the end of January 2006. The security plan of the French community in Addis Ababa relies, among other things, on a network of communication based on cutting Addis Ababa into five sectors, which no longer corresponds the present-day distribution of the French community. A mission of specialists hence came from France last year, to propose a more adequate organisation to be rolled out progressively, based on cutting up Addis Ababa into six security zones. Hence, Simaer asked those interested in taking part in the scheme to add a photo of their home as seen from the access road and also the GPS coordinates.

Relocating to Ethiopia
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1174 25/03/2006

The leather goods manufacturer Pittards Plc is to close its British factor in Leeds and relocate part of its activity to Ethiopia. To be sure, Pittards won the contract to manage the Ethiopian Tannery Share Company (ETSC) in August 2005, for a period of five years. Part of the activity to manufacture shoes and other bovine leather products (for Timberland and Adidas) previously carried out in Leeds, will be relocated to Ethiopia.