Friday, March 16, 2007

The fallout of a kidnapping

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1210 17/03/2007
The release of Western tourists kidnapped in East Ethiopia has led to words between Meles Zenawi and Seyoum Mesfin.

Following the release in Asmara of the British diplomats who had been kidnapped in East Ethiopia by a group of Afar rebels, the Ethiopian Prime Minister criticised the way this crisis had been managed by his minister for foreign affairs. According to information obtained in Addis Ababa, Meles Zenawi is said to reproach Seyoum Mesfin and his ministry of staying rooted to the spot and being content to merely reiterate accusations against Eritrea, which had been initially held responsible for the kidnapping. Conversely, he considers that they should have tried to use their contacts with the former leaders of the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (Arduf) who have now rallied behind the government of Addis Ababa, such as Mahamooda Gass to try and obtain the release of the hostages in Ethiopia. Instead, it was Eritrea that gained the credit for obtaining the liberation of the British diplomats held hostage.

This incident has also brought into the open the opposition in certain Afar circles to the Ethiopian government plans to expand the growing of sugar cane over a 200,000 hectare area in the Afar region of Tendaho. The consequence of this agricultural project would be to prevent the movement of Afar herdsmen and to encourage the settlement in their stead of arable farmers, probably Tigrayans like the current main Ethiopian political leaders.