News in Brief

On the humanitarian Response in the Tigray Region

Ethiopia reaffirmed commitment to the global response to the covid-19 pandemic

President Sahle-Work Zewde visits Djibouti

Africa and the African Union

The 21st Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union that was held virtually on Wednesday (December 02). The meeting aimed to discuss the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the status of the implementations of the theme of the Year of the African Union for 2020, ‘Silencing the Guns’. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, has participated in the meeting.

Ethiopia

The United Nations General Assembly is holding a Special Virtual Session on 3 and 4 December 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The session was convened upon the request of Azerbaijan on behalf of members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in recognition of the need for a global response to the pandemic. Ethiopia was represented at the Special Session by Mr. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs who delivered his remarks via pre-recorded video message underscoring the need for global solidarity more than ever before to effectively respond to this unprecedented crisis and reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment in this regard. (See article)

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen has held phone conversations with the Foreign Ministers of the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Austria and Denmark. He explained that federal government law enforcement operation in Tigray region is over with minimum causalities to civilians, government is working with national and international agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to affected people, Rehabilitation and reconstruction works in Tigray region are underway,and the manhunt is underway to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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President Sahle-Work Zewde received Israel’s Immigration Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata on Thursday (December 04). During the occasion, Tamano-Shata who is the first Ethiopia-born person to hold the position, expressed her delight in visiting Ethiopia. Tamano-Shata also said that she is working hard to strengthen the long-standing relations between Ethiopia and Israel, according to office of the President. The minister arrived in Addis Ababa last Sunday for a working visit to Ethiopia. The Israeli Minister besides discussing on bilateral issues will hold talks about immigration of Diaspora Jews to Israel during her stay in Ethiopia.

In its 6th year 5th regular session held on Thursday (December 03) the House of Peoples Representatives has approved resolution on the agreement signed between Ethiopia and Russia on cooperation in the use of Nuclear Energy for peaceful purposes. The House also approved a resolution referred to Legal, Justice and Democratic Affairs Standing Committee to regulate the relationship between regional states of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Federal government.

The World Bank has provided $512.5 million in loan and grant to enhance the implementation of Strengthen Ethiopia’s Adaptive Safety Net Project (SEASN). Of the total, $312.5 million is a grant, while the remaining amount is a loan. Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance, Ahmed Shide and World Bank Country Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ousmane Dione, signed the agreement in Addis Ababa on Thursday (December 03). This financing will allow for more geographic coverage, enable better service delivery, and is an important next step in modernizing Ethiopia’s productive safety net program (PSNP).

Minister of Water Irrigation and Energy Ministry, Dr. Seleshi Bekele stated that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Koysha Hydroelectric Dam have combined capacity to generate 10,000MW electric power up on their completion. While addressing the ministerial panel of UK- Africa Renewable Energy Ministerial Symposium, Dr. Seleshi Bekele on Thursday (December 03) talked about the total combined capacity of renewable energy projects that will be completed in the coming 5 years. The minister explained that Ethiopia will increase its power generation capacity to 20,000MW in the coming 10 years.

Ethio Telecom announced that it has resumed telecom services in some parts of Tigray Regional State. According to the company, there has been telecom services interruption in Tigray Region for the last three weeks due to the law enforcement operation carried out in the region. In a press release it issued on Wednesday (December 02), Ethio Telecom disclosed that it has resumed telecom service using alternative power solutions after conducting the necessary maintenance and rehabilitation works on damaged telecom infrastructures. Telecom service has accordingly been partially resumed in Dansha, Turkan, Humera, Shiraro, Maytsebri, and Maikadra, while fully service was resumed in Alamata.

The Interim Government of Tigray Regional State has formed new provisional administration in Shire after the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) ousted the defiant TPLF who ruled the region for almost three decades. Following the completion of a three-week long law enforcement operation against the TPLF tyranny, the Tigray Interim Government has been striving for instituting its administration in the areas liberated from the junta, it was indicated.

South Sudanese peace talks that was led by TPLF junta’s senior member Seyoum Mesfin, with a capacity of Chief Mediator, did not bring the desired outcomes due to TPLF’s biased stance between opposing parties, South Sudan’s Ambassador to Ethiopia said. Ambassador James Pita Morgan told The Ethiopian Herald on Tuesday (December 01) that the delighted by Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s (Ph.D.) remark about the TPLF’s negative role in South Sudanese peace talks in his parliamentary address on Monday. Ambassador Morgan noted that the 2015 peace agreement that was signed by South Sudanese conflicting parties in Addis Ababa was not materialized due to the clear favoritism Seyoum had held.

Climatic conditions suitable for desert locust development are forecasted to be highly suitable in eastern and coastal Kenya, eastern Ethiopia, central and southern Somalia, according to The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD said in a statement on Thursday (December 03) that ecological conditions, particularly the availability of green vegetation, are most suitable in the northern sub-region due to the higher than usual rainfall received during the season which continues to sustain vegetation growth. Adult locusts are in large numbers in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, areas that received high rainfall and that have good vegetation cover, it stated, adding that these are showing high reproduction and rapid development.

The UN on Friday (November 27) announced that agreement has been reached with the Ethiopian Government to allow “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian supplies to reach those in need across areas now under its control in Tigray. Confirming details of the deal at UN Headquarters in New York, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that the safe passage of aid supplies and staff also extends to the Ethiopian regions of Amhara and Afar, bordering Tigray.

President of the FDRE, Shale-Work Zewde has arrived in Djibouti on Sunday (November 29, 2020) for a two days official visit. Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohammed, Foreign Minsiter Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, scores of Djiboutian high level officials as well as Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti H.E Berhanu Tsegaye , IGAD’s Secretary General Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu along with Diplomats and Military Attachés at the Embassy have accorded the President a warm welcome at the Ambouli International Airport. President Sahle-Work held talks with the President of the republic as well as made an appearance at the Djiboutian Parliament (See article).

The federal force have captured Mekelle the capital of the Tigray region, said the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the army chief of staff in two separate statements on Saturday (November 27). On 26 November, Abiy Ahmed announced the end of a 72-hour ultimatum given to recalcitrant Tigran forces to surrender and gave the green light to launch the final stage of the “law enforcement campaign” on the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). “The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle,” said Abiy in a statement posted on Twitter. “I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” he further said in a separate tweet released after the statement. General Birhanu Jula the federal army Chief of Staff said they have taken control of the Northern Command Centre in Mekelle and freed more than 7,000 troops who were taken as hostages by the TPLF group.

Eritrea

Seventeen patients have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 in tests carried out on Thursday (December 03) at Quarantine Centers in Asmara. All the patients are nationals who returned recently with Charter Flights from Ethiopia (12), Italy (2), Germany (2), and Sweden (1). The total number of confirmed cases in the country to-date has accordingly risen to 594. The total number of recovered patients to-date stands at 498.

Somalia

The Pentagon’s acting defense secretary has made a rare visit to Somalia, where American forces have been assisting in the fight against al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab. In a brief statement, the Pentagon said Christopher Miller, who was installed as acting defense secretary Nov. 9 when President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper, met on Friday (November 27) with U.S. troops in Mogadishu, the capital, to express appreciation for their work and to reiterate the U.S. commitment to combating extremist groups.

SUNA reported on Sunday (November 29) that the Federal Government of Somalia expressed its deep regret with the Kenyan government’s continuous interferences in the internal and political affairs of Somalia. The Federal Government of Somalia, said the paper, has summoned its Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya and instructed the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to Somalia to depart to Kenya for consultations.   

South Sudan

A 350-member echelon of China’s seventh peacekeeping infantry battalion to Juba, South Sudan, on Thursday (December 03) departed north China’s Tianjin on a one-year mission. They are the first batch of the 700-strong peacekeeping infantry battalion dispatched by China to the east African country. The team will be tasked with carrying out armed patrols, responding to conflicts and protecting civilians, among other peacekeeping missions.

South Sudan is likely to face famine due to the effects of a protracted conflict, flooding and a poor economy, an international non-governmental charity organisation warned on Monday (November 30). Save the Children, in a statement, said cumulative effects of years of conflict, flooding, and a poor economy has destroyed livelihoods, disrupted food production, markets and forced four million people out of homes. It said children in South Sudan face serious threat of hunger as nearly one million of them under five years face severe food shortages.

South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) will conduct its sixth national conference in the capital, Juba starting this week on Tuesday (December 01). The event, the SPLM-IO said, will be held under the theme, “Building and Sustaining Peace through Implementation of R-ARCSS” from December 1-5. “The conference will discuss among other; implementation of the revitalized government (R-ARCSS), formation of National, State and Local government.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday (November 28) met with his South Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir to discuss developments regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Speaking at a joint press conference with Kiir, al-Sisi said the meeting also focused on strengthening existing cooperation between the two countries in water resources and irrigation, and to join efforts to maximize the utilization of the Nile River’s resources. The two leaders also exchanged views on many current regional and international issues of common interest, especially the ongoing developments in Ethiopia and East Africa which are of strategic importance, and how to work to contain their potential repercussions on the region.

Sudan

The al-Rawat oil field, which is part of block 25, in the White Nile state has officially begun production with a capacity of 440 barrels per day from the first wells, said the Sudanese government on Thursday (December 03). The Minister of Energy and Mining, Khairy Abdel Rahman, the Undersecretary, the Governor of the White Nile on Thursday, were in the Salam locality of the White Nile state to witness the beginning of oil production of the first well in Block 25 of the al-Rawat field.

The Central Council of the Forces for Freedom and Change and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on Wednesday (December 02) discussed the formation of the second transitional government after the signing of a peace agreement with the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that the ruling coalition renewed its confidence in the Prime Minister and called on him to continue leading the transitional government.

The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok met on Monday (November 30) with a delegation from Boeing as the country inched closer to being off the US terror list. The President of Boeing in the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey Bernard Dunn came to the meeting alongside the US top diplomat in Sudan Brian Shukan. The US embassy in Khartoum described the meeting as “productive” in which they discussed opportunities for U.S. investment in Sudan’s civilian aviation sector.

In a statement issued on Monday (November 30), the Sudanese presidency said that Sovereign Council Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Burhan received a telephone call from the U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Monday. The two parties “discussed arrangements related to removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism in the coming weeks, in addition to bilateral relations and means of promoting and developing them, as well as issues of common interest at the regional and international levels,” said the statement.

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On the humanitarian Response in the Tigray Region

The Federal government undertook law enforcement operations in the Tigray Regional State with a view to restoring constitutionality and rule of law. The Government took all the necessary precaution for the protection of civilians and the avoidance of collateral damage in undertaking this operation. These operations are now completed with the Ethiopian National Defense Forces taking control of almost all areas in the region.

Interim administrations are now being set up in those areas and efforts are being exerted to ensure peace and stability, thus also restoring basic services to the people. In this regard, the Provisional Administration has begun its activities in the Tigray Regional State and appointed a City Administration in Shire. Ethio-Telecom has resumed interrupted telecom services in the Region. It is also conducting maintenance work on damaged infrastructure. Accordingly, telecom services have resumed partly in Dansha, Turkan, Humera, Shiraro, Maystebri, and Maykadra towns. Telecom service has also been fully restored in and around the town of Alamata. Some banks have started providing service. Markets are gradually opening, and preparations are underway to repair electricity lines. Government has prioritized repairing bridges, roads, electricity and communication lines to facilitate the resumption of transportation and commerce.

The Federal Government is, of course, cognizant of the concerns that have been expressed by the humanitarian community. In this regard, it should be clear that Ethiopia takes its international obligations seriously and it fully abides by international human rights and humanitarian law. Therefore, the Federal Government has no difficulty granting the necessary humanitarian access to the agencies to allow them to deliver assistance to those in need. It is aware that some humanitarian actors have already been operating in the area. Now that most of the areas are cleared, the situation is conducive for humanitarian actors to carry out their activities and the government is ready to facilitate their work in this regard.

The Federal Government had dispatched a delegation composed of the relevant Federal government Ministries and Agencies to the areas to assess the humanitarian needs on the ground. The delegation went in two direction – on the western and eastern sides – and assessed the actual situation in the ground and the prevailing needs that require urgent response. Upon the report submitted by the delegation, action is already being undertaken to immediately respond to some of the urgent humanitarian needs that have been identified. The Ethiopian National Disaster Risk Management Commission is delivering and distributing food, medical and sanitary supplies to the region.

This will now be further reinforced with the opening of a humanitarian access route to be managed by the Ministry of Peace. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on “Establishing an Enhanced Coordination Mechanism for Humanitarian Access in the Tigray Region” between the Minister of Peace and the UN Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia demonstrates the government’s commitment to facilitate the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance. The Ministry of Peace will lead Ministerial level coordination of the humanitarian efforts, while the National Disaster Risk Management Commission will manage the overall operational response. On her part, the UN Resident Coordinator will serve as co-chair of the Government-UN coordination structures at federal, regional, and local levels.

The government is organizing a visit involving various government ministries and agencies as well as representatives of the humanitarian community to travel to those liberated areas. In this regard, an assessment and response mission is taking place in Afar, in areas bordering Tigray, to reach people who have been internally displaced. Other similar missions will follow over the coming days to other areas. Furthermore, every possible effort is being exerted to support all Ethiopians that have fled to voluntarily return to their communities. Four IDP sites are being set up to receive the displaced populations and our citizens who fled to Sudan.  Some of them have already started to come back to their homes and their homes and properties are being protected and secured. In the spirit of the above-mentioned MOU, the government is committed to work with UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations to protect civilians and help those in need.

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Ethiopia reaffirmed commitment to the global response to the covid-19 pandemic

The United Nations General Assembly is holding a Special Virtual Session on 3 and 4 December 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The session was convened upon the request of Azerbaijan on behalf of members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in recognition of the need for a global response to the pandemic. On 9 November 2020, the General Assembly adopted a modalities resolution for the holding of this Special Session, which was organized in the form of an opening segment, a general debate and an interactive dialogue to be led by the Head of the World Health Organization and other relevant UN entities.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is considered as the greatest global health crisis since the founding of the United Nations 75 years ago. The Special Session provides an opportunity for member States to reaffirm their commitment to international cooperation and multilateralism and highlight the fundamental role of the United Nations system in the comprehensive global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the crucial role played by the World Health Organization.

The first day of the session yesterday witnessed the participation of many world leaders, United Nations principals and other relevant stakeholders, who engaged in dialogue on the impacts of the pandemic on people, societies and economies and discuss the multifaceted, coordinated response required to address this crisis. 

Ethiopia was represented at the Special Session by Mr. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs who delivered his remarks via pre-recorded video message underscoring the need for global solidarity more than ever before to effectively respond to this unprecedented crisis and reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment in this regard.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister noted the encouraging progress in the development of the COVID vaccine and expressed Ethiopia’s full support to the COVAX initiative. He also indicated that Ethiopia subscribes to the growing international consensus that the vaccine should be indeed a global public good — accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere. In this connection, he expressed hope that those with resources will contribute to filling the funding gap to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. 

Mr. Demeke pointed out that Africa is the hardest hit by the projected medium to long-term social and economic impacts of the pandemic. He said, this is undermining the gains made over the past decades in making a dent on poverty and exasperating already existing socio-economic difficulties. That is why, he noted, that Africa has been urging G20 countries to provide an effective economic stimulus package that includes relief and deferred payments.

While the international response in support of Africa provided some relief, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said much more still needs to be done to mitigate the medium and long-term impact of the pandemic on the continent. In this regard, he appreciated the persistent push by the Secretary-General on this issue during the recently held G-20 Riyadh Summit.

Ato Demeke also explained the global COVID-19 recovery strategy should be green and resilient and it must be aligned with the Paris Agreement of climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.  In this context, he underlined the need to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs as part of efforts to recover and rebuild better in the post-COVID period. He also emphasized the need to pursue bold climate actions alongside the ongoing concerted global efforts to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, he indicated that the submission of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by parties to the Paris Agreement before the end of December 2020, would be a critical moment for raising ambition as well as ensuring a green recovery from COVID. He concluded his remarks by expressing hope that the outcome of this Special Session will contribute to catalyzing and coordinating global response based on unity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation and pave the way for an inclusive, sustainable, green, and resilient recovery.

The Special Session continues today with a series of moderated panels covering key aspects of the impact of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic, including the UN system’s health and humanitarian response to date; the road to a COVID-19 vaccine; and the socio-economic impact and recovering better.

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President Sahle-Work Zewde visits Djibouti

124 years of diplomatic history, 25 heads of mission yet the only woman that stood out among “the Gentlemen” league of Ambassadors and Consul Generals is now the first female president of Ethiopia, Her Excellency, Sahle-Work Zewde. 1993 to 2002 were the years served as an Ambassador to Djibouti and Permanent Representative to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). Her initial tenure was filled with challenges as Ethiopia completely turned its face from Assab to Djibouti port where 95% of Ethiopian trade now passes through. Those years served as litmus papers to demonstrate what she was made of; patience, intelligence, courage, refined character, excellent communication skills and a big doze of humanity. Sahle-Work’s stay in Djibouti marks an upward trajectory in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Joint infrastructure projects began to yield results, trade has flourished, people to people ties strengthened. This sets another milestone to the ever growing exemplary ties between the two brotherly countries in areas such as power, fiber optics, water, electrified railway line interconnectivities, and soon the natural gas pipeline; providing the duo the gigantic potential to contribute for regional economic integration at large.

“Sahle-Work” was a household name among Djiboutians due to her ingenuity in understanding the culture and creating a bold link with the Government and the people of Djibouti. That memory still lingers in the minds of Djiboutians and Ethiopians alike.18 years later, President & former Ambassador Sahle-Work Zewde visited her second home, Djibouti, as Ethiopia’s first female President.

On the President and her delegation’s arrival in Djibouti on November 29, 2020, Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohammed, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, scores of Djiboutian high level officials as well as Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti Berhanu Tsegaye, IGAD’s Secretary General Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu along with Diplomats and Military Attachés at the Embassy have displayed a warm welcome at the Ambouli International Airport. Following the welcome fanfare, President of the Republic of Djibouti Ismail Oumer Guelle, has received his counterpart at the “Palais de Presidente” as well as held a press briefing following a one to one session. President Sahle-Work, conveying Premier Abiy Ahmed’s greetings to the Government and People of Djibouti, praised the ever growing ties between the two countries as remarkable. The President also underscored the remarkable economic ties between the two countries as an inspirational model for economic integration in the continent. She has further noted her government’s unwavering commitments to further strengthen the strategic cooperation with Djibouti on multifaceted areas. President Ismail Oumer Guelleh, welcoming the President to her second home, underscored the need to use the successes recorded to serve as a dynamics to upscale the partnerships in all areas of common interest. President Ismail commended the Ethiopian government for its remarkable efforts to uphold rule of law in Tigray region.

The next day has seen President Sahle-Work’s honorary presence at the Djibouti National Assembly where president of the Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Ali Houmed, and Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti Berhanu Tsegaye parliamentarians, representatives of the diplomatic as well as consular corps in Djibouti, representatives of non-governmental organizations, prefects and local authorities of different regions of the country were in attendance. President Sahle-Work in her remarks expressed the unique friendship between the two countries that is intertwined by blood, culture, religion and language. The President urges the need to further make use of this huge advantage to fast track the economic integration the two countries sought to win.

The President has concluded her two days official presence in Djibouti with a visit to the SGTD, DMP and new free zone port facilities as well as shared “her wisdom” at the Head Quarters of the IGAD on regional issues.

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