Category Archives: East Africa

Taiwan-Somaliland diplomatic ties

Taiwan and the African region of Somaliland, which claims independence, will establish representative offices in each other’s capitals, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on July 8. Till present Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with 15 countries because of pressure from the Communist China, which considers the island to be an integral part of its territory with no right to state-to-state relations.

However in February this year Taiwan signed the agreement with Somaliland, strategically located on the Horn of Africa, and Minister Wu added Taiwan’s contacts with Somaliland, a self-declared state internationally recognised only as an autonomous region of Somalia, dated back to 2009.

The top diplomat told reporters in Taipei that eight other nations or international bodies had representative offices in Somaliland, including Ethiopia, although not China.

“I think what we are doing is not much different from other countries,” Wu said, adding that Somaliland had declared independence in 1991 and since then held three democratic presidential elections.

“They have been recognised by many countries as a very free, democratic country in Africa,” the diplomat added. “So, in essence, Somaliland is an independent country.”

China’s influence is not far away, though, as it runs its first ever overseas military base in neighbouring Djibouti.

“International military forces, including those from China, patrol the waters around Somalia on anti-piracy missions.

China and Taiwan have traded barbs for years over the international recognition of the island.

In Africa only the Kingdom of Eswatini has established full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, however in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Embassy doors remain closed.

Ethiopia: death toll rises to 166

At least 166 people have been killed during violent demonstrations that spontaneouls occured in Ethiopia in the days following the murder of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa, police said July 4.

Pop star and activist Hachalu, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in Addis Ababa on June 29 night, fuelling ethnic tensions threatening the fragile peace and democratic transition.

“In the aftermath of Hachalu’s death, 145 civilians and 11 security forces have lost their lives in the unrest in the region,” said Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner of Oromia region, in a statement on the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Another 10 are known to have died in the capital Addis Ababa.
Girma said that a further 167 had “sustained serious injuries” and that 1,084 people had been arrested.

Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and inter-ethnic violence.

Girma added that the violent unrest had now “completely stopped”.
Hachalu’s music gave voice to Oromos’ widespread sense of economic and political marginalisation during years of anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018.

Malawi opposition wins presidency

On Juin 27 Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi opposition leader, was declared the winner of a re-run presidential election, replacing incumbent Peter Mutharika’s discredited win 13 months earlier. For the majority of independent analysts the victory has been assessed as a triumph for democracy in Africa.

Chakwera, 65, secured the required majority, with 58.57% of the vote on Juin 23, the electoral commission said, winning over Mutharika. Chakwera won election to a five-year term as President of the nation of 18 million people.

“My victory is a win for democracy and justice. My heart is bubbling with joy,” Chakwera said after his win, which sparked wild late night celebrations on the streets of the capital Lilongwe, his stronghold.

A rerun of the 2019 election was ordered after the Constitutional Court found the ballot had been marred by widespread irregularities.
That election saw President Mutharika narrowly re-elected by fewer than 159,000 votes.
Mr Chakwera, who came second in that election, argued that tallying forms had been added up incorrectly and tampered with.

The opposition leader, a former cleric, heads up the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Born in Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer, the philosophy and theology graduate has pledged to raise the national minimum wage, among other reforms.

Burundi President calls opponents to return

After new President of Burundi Evariste Ndayishimiye was sworn in early following the sudden death of his predecessor, he promised to unite the country that has been cut off by the intrnaiotnal aid donors due to endemic human rights abuses.

Ndayishimiye, 52, a retired army general, was declared the last month’s presidential election winner as the ruling party’s candidate, defeating the opposition’s Agathon Rwasa and five others. In accordance with the procedures, he had been due to take office in August, but the sudden death of Pierre Nkurunziza this month opened his way forward.

“I will defend Burundi’s sovereignty and ensure freedom of every Burundian citizen and protection,” Ndayishimiye said at the ceremony in Gitega – the political capital of the country.

New President urged people who had fled the country, including critics of politics and human rights activists, to return.

“What did those who went to complain to the world, get? I rather call on them to come back,” Ndayishimiye said.

Ndayishimiye headed the department of military affairs under late President Nkurunziza, and served as minister of the interior and security.

The United Nations said in recent years that under Nkurunziza’s rule members of the state security forces and the ruling party’s youth wing routinely gang-raped, tortured and killed political opponents.

Burundi, the nation of 11 million people is one of the world’s poorest countries. It became an international pariah after Nkurunziza crushed protests triggered by his decision to run for a third term in 2015.

EU welcomes Somalia-Somaliland dialogue

“The resumption of dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland that occurred in Djibouti on 14 June is an important and positive step in the process of normalising their relations, bringing renewed hope not only for the people of Somalia and Somaliland but for the whole Horn of Africa. It is an essential part of confidence-building measures to reconcile differences and promote peace-building, prosperity and development in the region. Djibouti and Ethiopia played a determining role in making this dialogue happen”, reads the text of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell.

“Somali President Mohamed Abdillahi Mohamed Farmaajo and Moussa Bihi Abdi committed to continue working on advancing this peace-making process.

“Continuation of these talks without interruption and in good faith is the only sustainable way forward for a durable peace, prosperity and security. The European Union, present as an observer to the talks, will spare no efforts to support the process”.

Both Somalia and Somaliland are intended to celebrate in a few days the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the whole of Somalia from colonizers.

A former British protectorate, Somaliland got its independence in 1960 but days later joined Somalia. In 1991, it declared independence from the rest of the country following war with the government in the capial city Mogadishu.

Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed mandate extended

Ethiopia’s parliament approved an extra year in office for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after August elections were postponed due to coronavirus pandemic. The decision was taken two days after a leading opposition politician resigned as speaker of its upper house in apparent protest at the delay.

The upper house voted for a resolution that extends the terms of federal and regional lawmakers and the executive branch of the government for between nine and 12 months, House spokesman Gebru Gebreslassie annnounced.

The elections will tale place within that period, once health authorities determine that the coronavirus is nolonger a threat to public health, Gebru Gebreslassie added.

Ethiopia had recorded a total of 2,336 cases of COVID-19 and 32 deaths by 10 June.

COVID19: Urpilainen announces €55M Kenya aid

“Team Europe stands by Kenya during Covid-19 with €55m package of support. €25m to ensure #SafeTrade at borders and to support #SMEs with affordable loans to stay afloat, €30M in budget support to #GoK to create space for priority public expenditure in response to pandemic” EU Commisisoner Jutta Urpilainen announced.

Kenyan relevant authorities announced 134 new positive cases on June 5, and 2,474 total confirmed cases, 51 new recoveries, 643 Total discharged and recovered, total 79 fatalities.

Al-Shabaab claims governor assassination

Somalia Mudug region governor was killed with three of his bodyguards in a suicide car bombing on May 17. The explostion was claimed by Islamist group al Shabaab, police said.

“A suicide car bomb hit the governor’s car. Governor Ahmed Muse Nur and three of his bodyguards died,” police captain Mohamed Osman told Reuters.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia’s western-backed central government and frequently carries out bombings in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. The group wants to establish its own rule in the Horn of Africa country, based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

“We are behind the explosion. It was a suicide car bomb. We killed Mudug region governor and his three bodyguards,” al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab told media.

The same day the armed group posted a statement on a pro-Shabab website that said: “The governor of the apostate administration in the Mudug region was killed in a martyrdom operation in Galkayo today.”

Galkayo lies about 600km (375 miles) north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 and lost most of its strongholds, but still controls vast swathes of the countryside.

Ethiopia Millenium Dam causes tensions

Government of Sudan rejected Ethiopia’s proposal to sign an initial agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and now expressed readiness to resume U.S.-led talks on the project.

According to a statement on May 12, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed disapproving of an Addis Ababa proposal on an agreement over the dam’s first filling water, which is a crucial issue for agriculture in Sudan and Egypt, risking to lose up to 50% of arable land due to lack of irrigation.

Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to “technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.

The agreement must incorporate a mechanism of coordination, an exchange of information and the safety of the dam and its environmental and social impacts, he insisted.

Prime minister of Sudan stressed that the path to reach a comprehensive agreement is an immediate resumption of negotiations which he underlined experienced a significant progress in the last four months.

Sudan believes that the current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, he said, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that teleconferences are suitable means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues.

Lead Sudanese negotiator Saleh Hamad said that most of the issues being negotiated are inextricably linked, not only to the first filling but to all phases of filling.

The statement on May 12 comes a day after Ethiopia announced it is to start filling its mega-dam in July, despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan as they stand by a 2015 declaration that stipulates an agreement on the guidelines governing the filling and annual operation of the dam should be reached.

Director of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies Khaled Okasha said the Sudanese move brings the matter to its proper path, which relies on cooperation and negotiation.

Mr.Okasha explained that Ethiopia took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to cancel all agreements, and according to point zero it was announced through its “populist” mechanisms that it pursued from the beginning.

Okasha has affirmed that the move by the Sudanese Prime Minister came after Ethiopia’s intentions to go on with the project solely without consulting with Khartoum and Cairo became clear, threatening the interests of both countries.

This is in addition to the dangers related to the safety requirements of the dam, which the Ethiopian side has been ignoring, constantly pushing for the filling stage with an aim to aid internal and political conflicts through the construction of the dam, completely disregarding the sovereignty and authentic rights of Egypt and Sudan.

He added that Ethiopia is also seeking from this to blame the issue on both Cairo and Khartoum, according to flawed and outdated Ethiopian theories that claim disagreements between Egypt and Sudan.

Okasha further stressed that the new Sudanese government is now correcting many of the faults of the previous regime, which had been performing in contradiction with the Sudanese national interests.

Neighbouring Sudan and Egypt dependent on Nile flow fear the dam will trap their essential water supplies once the giant reservoir starts being filled in July as planned.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

The dispute is over the Millenium Dam being built on the Blue Nile. Ethiopia announced it will begin part filling it in July this year in order to test two turbines next year during the rainy season. The dam is 71% complete and when finished in 2023 will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa providing much needed power to the second populous country on continent with 100 million inhabitants.

The reservoir will be able to hold more than 70 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water, but Egypt says if it operates according to Ethiopian intentions, 100 million Egyptians will then be deprived of much of their lifeline – the waters of the river.

Kenya: Italian hostage liberated

President of the European Parliament David Sassoli thanked all those, involved in an operation of liberation of an Italian hostage – an NGO volunteer Silvia Romano (25) kidnapped in Kenya one and a half year ago. On his Twitter accounted Sassoli wrote that he received the news with joy, and expressed gratitude to everyone who did not “give up” working on her liberation.

On May 9 Italian Prime Minister Conte announced the liberation of an NGO worker Silvia Romano in an international operation conducted by the Italian secret services.

Silvia Romano has been freed! I thank the women and men of our intelligence services. Silvia, we are waiting for you in Italy” he wrote on Twitter micro blog.

“I was strong and I resisted. I’m fine and I can’t wait to go back to Italy” these are the first words in pubblic of the young Milanese Silvia Romano after the liberation.

The operation was directed by General Luciano Carta from the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (External Intelligence and Security Agency), known as AISE with the collaboration of the Turkish and Somali services and took place last night.

The volunteer is now in safety in the compound of international forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. The return to Italy will take place tomorrow, at 2 pm at Ciampino airport, Rome, according to the media reports.

She is well and fit. Obviously tired by the existence of captivity but she is all right” said Raffaele Volpi president of Copasir (Parliamentary Committee that controls the operator of the secret services). “The compliments – he added – go to General Carta, to the men and women of the Aise who with their tireless work, never in the light of the limelight, have allowed this very important result. Thanks guys and welcome back home to Silvia”.

Immediately after her release, according to the Adnkronos news agency which cites intelligence sources, the young woman “had a long telephone conversation with her mother and with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte”.

On November 20, 2018, Silvia Romano, a volunteer for the NGO Africa Milele Onlus, devoted to children in fragile situation, mainly abandoned, had been kidnapped by a group of armed men in the village of Chakama, 80 kilometers from Malindi. A large scale manhunt was conducted, but without any success.

In December 2018, an information was obtained about her being alive and transported to Somalia, but since then her case was shrouded in silence.

The violence during the kidnapping – commented a police inspector in the capital Nairobi –looked more like a theatrical act. The kidnappers carried Silvia up to the almost entirely dry Athi Galana Sabaki river, which is quite close. They got across the river and got to the motorcycles they had left there. They could have acted by surprise, riding to Chakama, taking Silvia and leaving quickly. Instead they took a more complicated and difficult route where someone could have followed or recognized them. But they where able to get away.”

Three of her eight kidnappers were subsequently arrested in Kenya.

On the events of the kidnapping, however, everything remains to be established. According to the sources by the Rome prosecution she was held captive in Somalia by militia close to the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, the Somali organization affiliated to al-Qaeda, and was considered a “political hostage”.

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