Ethiopia – Grand Renaissance Dam

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As the government pushes forward with huge dam project, concerns resurface about the downstream impact.

The government of Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which once completed will be the largest hydropower facility in Africa.

The huge project will contribute around 6000 MegaWatts (MW) of power, nearly triple the country’s current electricity generation capacity, and will also present an important source of economic revenue for the government.

The project is seen by Ethiopia as a strong symbol of unity, with the Ethiopian Herald claiming that it fills Ethiopians with hope, not just a development project but a symbol demonstrating the wish to overcome poverty.

Statistics from 2016 show that around 30% of Ethiopia’s population have access to electricity with more than 90% of households still relying on traditional fuels for cooking, leading to respiratory infections, which are the main cause of death in the country.

The Ethiopian government rationalises the project in these terms and the economic benefits are clear. Critical commentators, however, have pointed out that in areas in which 70% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture, standard of living needs to improve before Ethiopians will consume additional electricity. Unless the electricity is subsidised by the government.

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Grand Renaissance Dam – All Africa

The government also sees crucial revenue opportunities, particularly through electricity exports. Power purchase agreements have already been signed with Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania.

But there are concerns about how this dam will affect downstream states, in particular Sudan and Egypt. Initially, Sudan was opposed to the construction of the dam, but has since agreed to purchase electricity upon its completion, and the respective countries have agreed to collaborate on a ‘free economic zone’.

In May 2017, the Middle East Monitor concluded that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had just finished their 14th round of unsuccessful discussions about how to manage the Nile River.

The Ethiopian government expects it will take y five or six years to fill the GERD reservoir. In contrast, Diaa Al-Din Al-Qousi from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said 12 to 18 years is needed to guarantee water security for Egypt.

The Geological Society of America said that the Nile’s fresh water flow to Egypt may be cut by as much as 25%, with the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt cut by a third. Egypt is already one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

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Nile Basin – Global Water Forum

Ethiopia insists that the project has been conducted with adequate transparency but since it was announced in 2011 Cairo has periodically demanded that construction cease, claiming it is protected by a 1959 treaty, that divides the river between Sudan and Egypt, but does not include Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, however, claims that it never signed the treaty and highlights that Egypt has not signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile Basin States.

Analysts at the US-based consulting group Stratfor have said that Egypt’s reaction will be determined by its political leadership, but that a large-scale reduction in water from the Nile would be intolerable to any Egyptian government’, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

WATER: Ethiopia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21732B–21733C

WATER PROJECTS: Ethiopia – Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21624B–21625C

ETHIOPIA: Regional Powerhouse
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21411A–21412C

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Nile Basin – No Deal After Summit

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Discussions between Nile Basin countries fail to reach agreement as many leaders boycott talks.

The Nile Basin Summit from June 20-22nd was convened to provide an opportunity for the ten countries reliant on the River Nile to agree on the equitable use of the resource. Tensions around the vital water source have persisted for many decades.

Initial signs, however, were less promising as a number of leaders chose not to attend. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kirr notified the delegates that they would skip the event.

The summit brought together all countries along the River Nile and was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, South Sudan Vice President Joseph Wani, Burundi’s 2nd Vice President Joseph Butore and Sudan’s Vice President Hasabo Mohammed Abdul Rahman.

The leaders of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania also turned down invitations to attend at the last minute, although no clear reasons for the decision were given by the respective embassies.

It was clear during the meeting that an agreement on the equitable use of resources was proving difficult as stakeholders repeatedly walked out of meetings at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda.

Led by Sudan, water security experts walked out a meeting at 10pm on June 21st, while Ethiopia followed suit. In the large the summit was organised to nudge Egypt, the biggest beneficiary of the Nile basin, to join the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

However, Egyptian Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Mohammed Abdel-Atti said that his country would only rejoin if some provisions in the draft Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) were changed.

Al-Sisi reportedly said that his country was suffering from a water deficit of 21.5 billion cubic metres per year. However, although Egypt hasn’t yet rejoined NBI, it will engage in development projects in the region.

Speaking to journalists, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he and his colleagues discussed development issues. Despite only three heads of state being present, Museveni said they decided to meet as leaders to discuss the ‘strategic issues of the Nile.’ reported the Observer. 

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Nile Basin – Source: Africa Water.

According to Museveni, prosperity for the Nile Basin countries is the best way to protect the river and other vital water systems in Africa. He pointed out a number of key threats to water systems.

These threats included the growing population, lack of electricity supply, lack of industrialisation, over-reliance on primitive agriculture and the destruction of the environment on which the Nile depends.

He said that industrialising the Nile Basin would resolve the problems of the bulk of the population engaging in primitive agriculture, pushing many into the industry and service sectors. He added that this would reduce the strain on the environment through the invasion of wetlands and destruction of forests for agriculture, reported the Uganda Media Centre.

Of course this sort of solution is denounced by others who note how industrialisation will lead to further environmental degradation and pollution, and raise levels of inequality as groups are incorporated, often on adverse terms, as labourers in the service or manufacturing economy.

Further, a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in December 2015 whereby the three countries agreed to end tensions over River Nile water, is also facing an unclear future due to ongoing tensions between Egypt and Sudan.

The two downstream countries at the end of April agreed to de-escalate tensions and end counter-accusations as well as import bans and deportations had brought relations between the two countries to tipping point.

Meanwhile Ethiopia continued its quest to bring Nile Basin countries on its side as its Grand Renaissance Dam nearing completion.

With electricity as a bargaining chip observers say Ethiopia will have an edge over Egypt which claims the majority share of Nile waters, given to it by a colonial agreement put in place by the British, reported the East African.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Grand Renaissance Dam Project
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 3, Pp. 20795A–20795B

POWER: Egypt – Ethiopia – Sudan
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 8, Pp. 20543C–20545C

EGYPT – ETHIOPIA: Nile Dam Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 50, Issue. 10, Pp. 20154B–20155B

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Ethiopia – State of Emergency Lifted

The government halts security provisions but the ethnic tensions continue to bring violence.

The government has announced a relaxation of its state of emergency, lifting restrictions on the media and restoring some personal freedoms, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa said on March 15th. Fegessa said the monitoring of media content and arbitrary searches would now cease.

Similar curfew restrictions that had been in place on industrial sites, which were targeted in arson attacks, have also been lifted. The state of emergency was declared on October 8th 2016 after a breakdown of law and order in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The crisis was catalysed by a stampede during the Irrecha festival outside the capital, during which witnesses claimed that police fired at the crowd.

The state of emergency had been intended to restore military style rule, but many armed incursions have continued along the borders into eastern and southern Oromoia, which borders the Somali regional state.

In east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Ababa, militiamen conduct cross border raids in various localities. The border incursions have also hit West Hararghe, particularly Bordede woreda where more than 30 people were killed on February 22nd.

In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km from the capital, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas. As well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state.

Many of those conducting raids are thought to be members of the Liyu Police, a paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state in 2007 to counter the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden region, in the east of the country.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa said, over the past six months hundreds of Liyu police have entered Oromia villages and attacked, killed and looted, with the number of dead at around 200.

Oromo Woman – CC 2013

The boundary line between Oromia and Somali regional state is contested, and a border referendum was held in 2004 to determine resident’s choices. According to official results residents in close to 80% of disputed areas have voted to be under the Oromia regional state.

However Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2012 accused the special police of executing 10 men, being implicated in many other abuses against civilians under the context of counterinsurgency operations.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has accused some local leaders of inciting the ethnic clashes.

(Addis Standard 3/3; © AFP 3/1 2017; BBC Monitoring 9/3)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: South-East Tension
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21330A–21331A

ETHIOPIA: OFC Leader Detained [Free to Access]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21255A–21255B,

ETHIOPIA: State of Emergency
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21167A–21170C

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Somalia – Truce Collapses

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Communal violence erupts again in the Puntland border areas, as elsewhere in the country Al-Shabaab makes gains.

Reports suggested that at least 20 people died as violence gripped the border regions of the semi autonomous areas of Puntland and Galmudug on November 5th, with around 80 more left injured.

The town of Galkoyo, the provincial capital of the divided Mudug region, was the epicentre of the tensions. The north of the town is administered by Puntland, while the south by Galmudug.

Six civilians are among the dead and also journalist Mahad Ali Mohammed. According to the Union of Somali Journalists he was working for the Galmudug Radio Station and was hit by a stray bullet.

A military officer from Puntland, Mohamed Aden, said that “Galmudug does not want peace…We shall continue fighting till we cleanse Galmudug forces,” reported Deutschewelle. The United Nations (UN) says that about 80,000 people have already fled the town.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, said that Al-Shabaab was making gains in the town due to the ongoing conflict and called for a return to dialogue, and particularly for the deaths of civilians to stop, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Under terms of a ceasefire deal mediated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that came into force only a few days previously, forces of both regions were supposed to be withdrawn from the disputed area, reported Al Jazeera.

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Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas alongside Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe – CC 

According to a report by Shabelle Media Network, naval forces from the Puntland administration raided so-called Islamic State (Daesh) locations in the coastal town of Qandala in the Bari region – however there was no official statement on the operation.

Meanwhile, as Ethiopian troops have been withdrawn from the country, reports suggest that Al-Shabaab militants have taken it as an opportunity to make gains. The insurgent group have taken nine towns along the Ethiopian border and have threatened to disrupt presidential elections scheduled for November 30th.

Spokesperson for the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISON) Colonel Joseph Kibet, told The EastAfrican that the Ethiopian withdrawal is leaving a vacuum that is encouraging the re-emergence of Al Shabaab.

Ethiopian Information and Communication Minister, Getachew Reda, said the troop withdrawal is due to financial constraints and the failure of the international community to train and give support to the Somalia National Army (SNA), reported the East African.

Somalia has faced widespread conflict since the death of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the 1990s, and in recent years the presence if the Al-Shabaab has grown considerably.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Electoral Process Begins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21179A–21179C

ETHIOPIA – SOMALIA: Troop Pull-Out
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170C–21171A

SOMALIA: Deadly Standoff Between Rival States
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21191B–21192B

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Ethiopia – Oromia Violence Continues

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Without a fundamental change in development policy, rights groups claim that protests in the Oromia region will continue.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has deplored the lack of international coverage of protests in the Oromia region; the region has experienced widespread violence, with around 400 dead, many more injured and tens of thousands arrested, since November 2015.

The protests were originally triggered by the Addis-Ababa Master Plan, which proposed to extend the capital’s municipal boundaries outwards, forcing many Oromo farmers in the area to move. According to HRW there were at least 500 protests across all 17 regions of Oromia province, largely spurred by experiences of historic displacements and a lack of compensation.

HRW commented that Ethiopia has an ‘authoritarian development policy’, for example when large scale agricultural investments are made, local communities are rarely consulted about the decision and those who resist are often subject to heavy state repression.

Most of the protesters have been young students, particularly of primary, secondary and university age, many of the older generation have been more reserved due to past experiences of state crackdowns on dissent and protest.

The protesters have stated that it is a grassroots mobilisation organised mainly through social media and the independent Oromia Media Network. Despite the majority of protests being peaceful the Ethiopian security services have shot indiscriminately into crowds and made tens of thousands of arrests, with widespread allegations of violent methods and torture.

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Oromo Protest 2007 CC

In January 2016, the Ethiopian government did cancel the Master Plan in a rare concessionary move, but this did not stop the protesters, whose concerns had broadened to include the heavy-handed security response, arbitrary imprisonments and the discrimination of the ethnic Oromo.

One story, cited by HRW, said that a 17 year old student had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues, and after seeing his friend get shot he had ran to the Kenyan border, where he told a reporter that one minute he was worrying about school, the next he realised he may never see his family again. The story is familiar, with many thousands of student protestors forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

HRW commented that the United States (US) and other Ethiopian allies, particularly Britain, often highlight the regional counterterrorism initiatives the country is involved in, but turn a blind eye to the domestic violence; its position as the seat of the African Union (AU) and the fact that it hosts many thousands of refugees, makes public criticism of the security response more difficult.

Much of the limitations on the international coverage has been generated by the restrictions on reporting in the country, particularly for independent journalists. Similarly the ongoing food crisis – the worst famine since 1984-85 – has been the centre of global attention, which according to HRW has led “governments around the world to overlook or downplay the other very urgent crisis unfolding in Oromia.”

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Oromo Village CC – 2013

However, despite the cancellation of the master plan, the displacement of Oromo farmers is likely to continue, unless the government fundamentally alters its development trajectory by considering communities as meaningful partners.

The Addis Standard reported that despite the Ethiopian regime’s rhetoric of decentralisation to local governments, recent academic studies have shown that across different regions the service delivery from the local governments remained one of the most centralised, top down, hierarchical and government-controlled.

The experience of such a development apparatus has been a primary factor in catalysing protests. It contributed to a rising political consciousness for the Oromo people, through encounters with development and governmental administration, while also fostering a sense of invasion into their everyday lives and exclusion from consultation, reported the independent Addis Standard.

Earlier in April the Deputy Chairman of the largest Oromia political party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Bekele Gerba, along with 21 others, were charged under a counter terrorism law; Bekele was accused of having links to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Bekele described horrible conditions in detention at Maekalawi prison, including torture and widespread ill-treatment.

The security authorities also charged 20 young university students for protesting in front of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa in March this year, reported HRW.

The Oromo unrest marks the most serious domestic political crisis in Ethiopia in over a decade, with land becoming an increasingly prominent issue. Since 2009 the Ethiopian government has leased around 2.5m hectares to more than 50 investors from countries such as India, Turkey, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.

While the government has accused outside factions, particularly the diaspora, over stirring the protests, Executive Director of the Oromia Media Network, Jawar Mohammed said, “the diaspora magnifies news of what is happening, yes, but no matter how much it agitates it cannot direct at the village level in Ethiopia – this is about dissatisfaction,” reported the Inter Press Service.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: Oromia Region Crackdown
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20934C–20935C

ETHIOPIA: Addis Master Plan Scrapped
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20861B–20862B

ETHIOPIA: Violent Repression of Oromo Protests (Free to Read)
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20828C–20829B

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Ethiopia – Oromo Protests

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Government development plans spark protests as concerns mount over continued state repression.

Since November 2015 large scale protests have swept across Oromia, the largest region in Ethiopia, prompting a heavy handed response from the security services. Reports suggest that as many as 140 people have been killed and numerous opposition members arrested.

On January 12th the Ethiopian authorities announced the cancellation of its development master plan, which had been the catalyst for protests, although the unrest and state violence has continued. The master plan, proposed by the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) and the Addis-Ababa authority, intended to expand the borders of the capital outwards into the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital.

Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country, have felt marginalised and excluded from decisions on government policy. Those who do voice their opposition are arrested and accused of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which the Ethiopian authorities have declared to be a terrorist organisation, even though the group has long been largely inactive.

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Source

According to independent reports as many as 140 people have been killed, although the Ethiopian government has disputed these figures. Abiy Berhane from Ethiopia’s London embassy said that the protests were hijacked “by people whose intention it was to induce violent confrontation”, reported BBC News. 

However a message on a Facebook page of a leading campaigner stated that Oromo activists have “dismissed” the government’s change of heart by cancelling the plans “as too little too late”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) commented that the protests could be the biggest political event in Ethiopia since elections in 2005 that led to a crackdown on protestors, with almost 200 killed and tens of thousands arrested.

According to one Oromo student, cited by HRW, “All we hear about is development. The new foreign-owned farms and roads is what the world knows, but that just benefits the government. For us [Oromos] it means we lose our land and then we can’t sustain ourselves anymore.”

Additionally, accessing information about incidents in the country is tricky, with Ethiopia one of the most restrictive environments for independent journalism. The last independent publishers closed down before the elections in May 2015.

State-run media has followed the government line, labelling the Oromo protestors terrorists who are “aiming to create havoc and chaos”. Even many ordinary people are scared to speak out, as those who have voiced their opinions to international media groups have also been arrested.

It is media outlets situated within the Ethiopian diaspora that play a key role in disseminating information, but in 2014 many people were arrested in the Oromia region for watching the diaspora-run Oromia Media Network (OMN). Social media has also played a big role in providing access to information, where people share photographic evidence of the ongoing state repression.

While the government has conceded to some degree by cancelling the development plan, there are concerns that the protests and violent state crackdown will continue until the government involves the Oromo communities in a meaningful way in the development process, claimed HRW.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

ETHIOPIA: Violent Repression of Oromo Protests
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20828C–20829B

ETHIOPIA: Defection of Rebels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20720A–20720B

Ethiopia Oromo People Targeted?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20358B–20358C

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Ethiopia – Mobile Technology for Childbirth

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Mobile app aims to improve the safety of childbirth across the country, particularly in rural areas.

A new mobile app, ‘Safe Delivery App‘, developed by Danish organisation the Maternity Foundation, is hoped to improve the safety of childbirth in the country by providing simplified instructions and films for emergency situations such as haemorrhaging, birth complications and infections, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

In Ethiopia, where roughly nine out every ten births are at home without medical support, the app intends to provide life saving guidelines when things go wrong. The foundation aims to use the sharp rise in mobile phone users in Africa, which offers “abundant unexplored potential” to quickly reach otherwise hard to access areas, it said.

Maternity Foundation Program Manager for Ethiopia, Mesfin Wondafrash, said that “midwives may have skills and knowledge…but they may not apply the right procedures when complications arise”. Many midwives are ‘traditionally educated’ and may lack training in up-to date procedures, particularly in rural areas.

Described as an “emergency training tool”, the app is available in local languages and in English. Additionally it can be pre-installed on a mobile telephone so it works even without a network connection or Internet access.

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DFID CC – Malawi

For the roughly 85% of babies who are born at home, if a complication arises, hospital is often the only option, which generally means lengthy travel; Mesfin added that issues such as bleeding can have dire consequences and often prove fatal.

A trial run was undertaken in the small town of Gimbie in the Oromo region, around 450km west of the capital Addis-Ababa, and proved to have promising results. Seventy-eight phones containing the app were distributed to midwives and Mesfin explained that “After a year, the capacity of the app users to manage bleeding rose from 20 to 60 percent, and for new born resuscitation, from 30 to 70 percent”.

The Maternity Foundation says the preliminary results “show a remarkable improvement in the skill and knowledge level of the health workers”. Chief of the Foundation, Anna Frellsen, said that “the advantage of the app over a medical book is that it is easy to understand, easy to access and easy to update”.

The app is also being tested in Ghana and will soon be deployed in Tanzania, Guinea and other African countries. The foundation’s stated goal is to equip 10,000 health workers by 2017; “If we achieve that, we will have ensured a safer birth for approximately one million women,” said Frellsen.

Estimates suggest that worldwide around 5 million babies and 289,000 mothers dies from complications related to childbirth worldwide each year, with the majority in developing countries.

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin

MATERNAL HEALTH: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.46, Issue.12, Pp.18239A–18241C

HEALTH: Ethiopia, Zambia
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.47, Issue.3, Pp.18346A–18347B

HEALTH: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.50, Issue.7, Pp.19796B–19797B

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