07 Jun

Ethiopia’s unexpected step towards peace with long-time enemy Eritrea

Ethiopia’s premier just made the surprise announcement that it’s going to make peace with its enemy Eritrea.

In a statement made last night (June 5), the ruling coalition declared that it will fully accept the terms of an agreement signed in 2000, which ended the war between the two nations over a disputed border.

Recognizing the deal is a huge step forward in bringing about a peaceful conclusion to the political fight that has rattled on for decades.

From 1962 to 1993, Eritrea was ruled as a province of Ethiopia, and the two nations amicably separated after a vote in 1993. But that decision left Ethiopia landlocked, which kick started a bitter rivalry and raised questions over national pride, and regional dominance.

The unrest helped catalyze a war in 1998, which erupted over the town of Badme, which both sides claimed as their own. The brutal battle killed around 70,000 people.

However, after the war ended, a boundary commission awarded the contested town to Eritrea, a decision Ethiopia refused to accept. Since then, diplomatic attempts to get both sides talking have faltered, leading to years of no-war, no-peace stalemate.

Seeking to reverse all this, Addis Ababa appealed to the cultural and historic ties between the two countries.

“The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked,” Fitsum Arega, chief of staff to prime minister Abiy’s office, said on Twitter. “This must change for the sake of our common good.”

The contention between the two nations hasn’t been helped by the authoritarian stance that both countries took over the last few years.

Eritrea, led by president Isaias Afwerki since independence, grew to be a reclusive state. The country’s human rights track record remained abysmal, as it regularly subjected citizens to arbitrary arrests and harsh treatment.

The one-party state also promoted a national conscription service that drafted citizens for an indefinite period of time, forcing them into “slave labor” conditions.

And because of the repression, many Eritreans fled to neighboring countries, Europe, and Israel, making them one of the top refugee contributing nations in the world.

To read the full article, click here.

15 May

S. Sudan conflict mediator asks IGAD to take action…

South Sudan should not waste the opportunity of forthcoming peace talks even though an agreement to end its conflict has been violated several times by warring parties, an international mediator said on Monday.

Despite several agreements and ceasefires, fighting has rumbled on in South Sudan with barely any break since civil war erupted at the end of 2013, just two years after independence.

Troops loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with forces loyal to Riek Machar, then the vice president. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and much of the nation face dire food shortages.

The government and rebel groups signed the latest ceasefire in December in the Ethiopian capital, aiming to revive a pact reached in 2015. But the truce was violated within hours.

The parties will hold a forum in Addis Ababa from May 17-21 to try to jumpstart the peace process. The forum is organised by the regional East Africa group IGAD.

“This country has missed so many opportunities to make durable peace and we should not allow the High level Revitalisation Forum to be squandered,” Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana said in a speech.

Mogae chairs the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, which was set up to monitor the failed 2015 truce and peace deal implementation. South Sudan has since launched its own national dialogue, while fighting has continued across the country.

He accused the parties of engaging in human rights violations and urged IGAD to take action.

“The parties continue to wage a campaign of defiance and commit human rights abuses with impunity. This is unacceptable and I call on IGAD to make good its promise to hold spoilers accountable,” he said.

Frustrated allies including the United States, European Union and Germany have warned of dire consequences should the peace talks fail.

Source: http://www.africanews.com/2018/05/14/s-sudan-conflict-mediator-asks-igad-to-take-action-agains-saboteurs-of-peace/

15 Dec

Under-Fire UN Peacekeepers Struggle in African Nation at War

Scanning the road from a police armored vehicle, Martine Epopa says she isn’t fazed when people make throat-slitting gestures at her United Nations convoy patrolling the capital of the Central African Republic.

Sometimes men jump in the road brandishing machetes, while others just stand and scowl, said Epopa, a 29-year-old Cameroonian police officer and the sole woman in a six-vehicle UN patrol that included Portuguese special forces and Mauritanian troops.

“We just wait until they give up and leave,” she said, clutching her rifle as her vehicle bounced over potholes. “We’re here to make people understand that the UN is here to protect them and their country. It can be challenging.”

Yet the threat is real. Fourteen peacekeepers have died this year in the Central African Republic, and public hostility is increasing toward what’s already one of the UN’s most difficult peacekeeping operations. A series of sexual-abuse scandals hasn’t helped, nor has the perception that the “blue helmets” favor the minority Muslim population over their Christian countrymen. Hidden from sight behind huge blast walls in central Bangui, the capital, the UN headquarters are often a target of violent protests.

In what the UN ranks as the world’s poorest nation where most state institutions crumbled after a 2013 coup, the peacekeepers face a near impossible task of shielding civilians from armed groups roaming the countryside.

Emergency Aid

The 13,750-member force, known by its acronym Minusca, also does everything from helping ship emergency food supplies across a territory as large as Afghanistan to providing logistical support to aid agencies whose workers themselves are under attack.

The UN force has little choice. Fighting rages on in parts of the country and state authority barely extends beyond Bangui. While a few hundred men have been trained for the new army, a UN arms embargo means the government can’t import weapons.

To read the full article, click here.