Monday, May 20, 2024

Kenya proposes maritime treaty to defuse Ethiopia-Somalia tensions

Kenya has proposed a regional maritime treaty to defuse tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia over a deal allowing Ethiopia to set up a naval base and giving it port access in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland, a top Kenyan official said on Thursday.

Landlocked Ethiopia agreed on January 1 to lease 20 kilometers of coastline in Somaliland, a part of Somalia which claims independence and has had effective autonomy since 1991, offering possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange.

That prompted a defiant response from Somalia and fueled concern the deal could further destabilize the Horn of Africa region.

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The treaty Kenya is proposing in consultation with Djibouti and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) would govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms, KorirSing’oei, Kenya’s principal secretary for Foreign Affairs, said.

“IGAD can be able to formulate a treaty for sharing maritime resources,” he said, referring to the bloc which brings together countries in the region.

On Thursday Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud held a meeting with his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto in the Kenyan capital as part of efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

If accepted, Nairobi’s solution would offer Ethiopia “stable and predictable access to maritime resources” so it can carry out its business unhindered, while also respecting Somalia’s territorial integrity, he added.

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Somalia and Ethiopia are considering the proposal, he said, and their leaders have been asked to consider meeting to take the process forward.

Sing’oei said time was of the essence since Al Shabaab militants in Somalia were using the dispute to portray the government in Mogadishu as being unable to protect Somalia’s sovereignty.

(The East African)

UK suspends tariff for flower exports

The UK has temporarily suspended the Global Tariff for cut flowers to increase trade, provide better value for consumers, with the aim of making trade with the UK easier and cheaper for growers in East Africa and beyond.

Unlimited quantities of flowers can now be exported to the UK at 0% tariff, even if they transit via a third country. This is particularly important for East African flower growers who transport their blooms via third-countries or auction houses before they arrive in the UK. 

The move aims to increase trade and further strengthen the economic relationship between the UK and the region. UK consumers could win big too – on price, seasonality and variety. 

The suspension of eight percent duty for cut flowers applies across the world but will be a big win for major flower growing regions in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The duty suspension will remain in place for two years from 11 April 2024 to 30 June 2026.

The Trade Commissioner for Africa, John Humphrey said: The UK’s relationship with East Africa is rooted in mutually beneficial trade. This additional flower power will allow trade to bloom. We go far when we go together… or in this case, we grow far when we grow together, further reinforcing the UK’s commitment to the expansion of trade in East Africa.

In 2022, Kenya was ranked as the fourth biggest exporter of cut-flowers in the world, with six percent of global cut-flower exports. Ethiopia is the second largest cut flower producer in Africa, making up 23 percent of Sub-Saharan African exports.

In 2023, the value of trade in cut flowers between the UK from Ethiopia was valued at GBP 12.6 million, Rwanda at GBP 727,000, GBP 839,000 from Tanzania, and GBP 1.1 million from Uganda. 

(GOV.UK)

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US Senator calls for impartial Investigation into killing of Ethiopian opposition OLF political officer Bate Urgessa

US Senator Ben Cardin, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called for an impartial investigation into the recent killing of Bate Urgessa, a political officer with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

Bate was fatally shot on Tuesday night in his hometown, Meki, situated in the East Shewa zone of the Oromia region. His body was found dumped by the road early on Wednesday.

Cardin expressed condolences to Bate’s family and urged Ethiopian authorities to allow an independent international body to thoroughly probe the circumstances surrounding his death.

The senator criticized the Ethiopian government’s actions against political opposition figures, media personnel, and dissenting voices, stating these measures have contributed to insecurity and instability in the country.

“Extrajudicial killings, harassment, and political repression have, for far too long, been commonplace in Oromia. The Abiy regime has clamped down on political opposition, the media, and dissidents not only in Oromia but throughout Ethiopia, contributing to the country’s widespread insecurity and overall instability. It is past time for those responsible for the policy of repression and abuse to be exposed and held accountable for their actions,” Cardin added in his statement.

In a short statement through the State Department’s Africa Bureau, the US government said it joined the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and others “in calling for a full investigation into the killing of Bate Urgessa.”

Late Wednesday, the Oromia region government released a statement condemning Bate’s killing and rejecting any government responsibility for it.

The statement said Bate was killed by “unidentified assailants” in Meki town, and “whoever committed it, the act is totally unacceptable.”

It also accused “some political entities” of exploiting the situation to make up for their “political losses” by blaming the government for the killing.

In contrast, the armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) alleged in a statement that Bate was “taken from his room by security forces during midnight hours and executed point-blank.” The OLA further accused government security forces of “preventing the recovery of his body and later inhibiting the conduct of further autopsies.”

A family member told Addis Standard that a group of people who “looked like government security forces” took Bate out of his hotel room around midnight on Tuesday, and they discovered his body by the road the next morning.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called for a prompt, impartial, and full investigation into the killing by both the Oromia region and federal authorities to hold perpetrators accountable.

The Opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) condemned the “brutal murder” of its political officer, saying it learned of the killing “with agony and grave sadness,” describing the late politician as an “eloquent, selfless, and brave Oromo soul.”

(Addis Standard)

Djibouti entry for AUC chairmanship race divides Eastern Africa vote

Djibouti’s entry into the race for the next African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson could see member states in two key blocs in the Eastern Africa region take sides ahead of the voting next year.

Djibouti officially confirmed it was fronting its Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf as a candidate for the next AUC chairperson, becoming the third person to show interest in the continental top post. Kenya’s opposition leader RailaOdinga and Somalia’s former Foreign Affairs minister Fawzia Adam had announced their candidature earlier.

But while the post will only be contested by countries in Eastern Africa, Djibouti’s entry means there won’t be unity on one candidate for now, continuing a past trend.

Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia belong to the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which includes Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea.Sudan is suspended from taking part in African Union activities for now and is ineligible to vote following an October 2021 coup.

Kenya and Somalia also belong to the East African Community (EAC), which also includes Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Uganda and South Sudan. In ordinary circumstances, they usually coalesce around one candidate to raise their chances. Sometimes it is not always the case.

Until rules were changed to allow rotation of posts, these countries often went for each other’s turfs. In 2017, Kenya fronted a candidate for the AUC chairperson’s position and Djibouti went for the deputy, a sure way of dividing the vote as each looked for support from the same allies who were also seeking other positions and hence needed trade-offs.

Eventually, after Kenya’s Amina Mohamed lost to Chadian diplomat MahamatFaki, claims of “betrayal” emerged from Nairobi. Djibouti would later issue a statement refuting giving its vote to another candidate, however.

The three candidates, nonetheless, offer each of these countries a chance to galvanize locally as well as hunt for votes from other blocs not eligible to front the chair. The deputy AUC chair will go to the north, while three other regions; south, west and central will compete for the remaining commissioner positions.

Youssouf, 59, is credited with conflict resolution through dialogue and negotiation in discharging his duties and is multilingual, fluent in French, English and Arabic. His campaign team includes some regional political experts, including, incidentally, a veteran Somali diplomat.

Kenya has already embarked on shuttle diplomacy, mounting a campaign team drawn from both President William Ruto’s side and Odinga’sAzimio la Umoja Kenya Coalition.

Ruto and Odinga have sought the support of EAC heads of State and government as well as others beyond the bloc, the latest being the Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo.

The campaign, however, is set to officially commence next month once all interested candidates submit their applications.

“The African Union Executive Council today unanimously adopted a critical decision that it is the turn of the Eastern Africa region to submit candidates for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission. The elections will be held in February 2025,” the statement dated March 15, 2024, read in part.

(The East African)

Ethiopia earns over $600 mln from agri exports in eight months

The Ethiopian government has announced that it has generated USD 617 million from the export of selected agricultural products in eight months.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration, in a press statement, disclosed that the revenue was earned from the export of commodities monitored by the ministry such as soybean, red kidney beans, mung beans and sesame seed.

The Ministry, which initially planned to generate some USD 705 million export revenue during the first eight months of the current Ethiopian 2023/24 fiscal year that started on July 8, said the USD 617 million export earning accounts for 87.5 percent of the initial target.

Data from the Ministry show that the reported export revenue has registered an increase of about USD 80 million as compared to the same period of the previous Ethiopian 2022/23 fiscal year.

The Ministry attributed the increase in export performance this year to mounting demand for the East African country’s major agricultural export commodities as well as an increase in the country’s sesame seed production output.

(The Star)

Government embarks on repatriating 70,000 Ethiopians stranded in Saudi

In a renewed effort to bring home Ethiopians stranded in Saudi, over 840 people have arrived at Bole international airport in two flights on April 12, 24.

The Ethiopian Government is currently closely working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on the safe and dignified repatriation of 70,000 Ethiopian nationals going though harsh living conditions in the Gulf State. The repatriation is part of the bigger citizen-centered diplomacy endeavors of Ethiopia through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassies and Consulates overseas. Reports from our diplomatic and consular missions in Saudi indicate that, the number of Ethiopian migrants stranded in the various detention centers is increasing from time to time, currently reaching 70,000. To ameliorate the ever worsening condition, the Governments of Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia have a constant basis facilitated high-level discussions. Several diplomatic notes have also been exchanged to reach an agreement to bring back home undocumented Ethiopians languishing in various prisons in different regions of Saudi in a reasonable period of time.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the initiative to arrange a meeting for a discussion with pertinent governmental ministerial offices that are more responsible for the repatriation, reunification, and rehabilitation of returnees and decided to repatriate 1200 returnees per day and 4 days in a week by using four chartered flights. With this schedule it is expected to end the repatriation program within three months.

(MoFA)

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