Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Improvement to simmering conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region noted in UN update

The UN Human Rights chief on Friday urged all parties to the conflict in Ethiopia to halt hostilities and resolve differences peacefully as conflicts continue to endanger peace in the northeast African country.  

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell explained the call made by Human Rights chief Volker Turk, who issued an update on a human rights analysis for Ethiopia from January 2023 to January 2024.

Violent conflicts, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regions, led to serious human rights violations and abuses in 2023, the update said.

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“In the northern Tigray region, there was a significant improvement in the human rights situation following the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in November 2022,” said Throssell. 

However, concerns persist about the ongoing violations by members of the Eritrean Defense Forces, she said.

“Eritrean troops are operating on their own,” said Throssell.

For his part, Turk said: “I urge the parties to the conflict to halt ongoing hostilities and to resolve differences through peaceful means.

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“It is essential that the authorities take all feasible steps to protect civilians, prevent further violations, and ensure full investigations to bring those responsible to justice.”

In 2023, at least 1,351 civilians were killed in Ethiopia in attacks reportedly carried out by government forces, Eritrean troops, anti-government militias, and some unknown actors.

Of the civilians killed, 740 were in Amhara.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, by government forces resulted in 248 civilian deaths between Aug. 4 and Dec. 31, 2023.

They destroyed vital infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, raising concerns about the extent of compliance of these strikes with international law.

The update also details an attack on Jan. 29 this year, in which at least 89 civilians were killed, reportedly by government troops, in the Merawi town near Bahir Dar, the regional capital of Amhara.

Overall, the update recorded 594 human rights violations and abuse incidents, affecting 8,253 victims – a 56% increase compared with 2022.

State actors were reportedly responsible for some 70% of the violations, while non-state actors accounted for 22%.

Insurgents from the Fano separatist movement and their allies killed at least 52 civilians and destroyed civilian property, attacked medical personnel, and destroyed ambulances in violence targeted at government personnel.

The State of Emergency was declared in Ethiopia on Aug. 4, 2023, and expired on June 3 this year, and Turk welcomed it not being extended.

“I urge the authorities to release immediately those detained under the former State of Emergency if they are not charged under currently valid law and tried promptly and fairly,” said Turk.

He also called on the Ethiopian authorities to lift the movement restrictions and resume regular law enforcement operations to protect people.

(Anadolu Agency)

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Rights groups challenge CBE’s ‘name and shame’ policy, describe it as a ‘violation of privacy law’

 Access Now and the Centre for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) have urged the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) to promptly discontinue the publication of personal information of individuals accused of withdrawing unauthorized funds, allegedly due to a “technical glitch” in the bank’s systems.

In a statement, the privacy advocacy groups denounced this action as a “blatant violation of data protection laws and the constitutional right to privacy” in Ethiopia.

They demand that CBE immediately remove the published private data and cease the public shaming campaign.

CBE initially disclosed that a “system glitch” had exposed a maximum of 801.4 million birr to potential misappropriation. According to CBE President Abe Sano, the incident involved 25,761 customers who withdrew cash from ATMs or made digital transfers during the glitch.

In an attempt to recoup the missing funds, the bank identified 117 customers who had not returned the erroneously obtained money. Photographs of 67 of these individuals were subsequently published. Positive developments have been reported recently, with the bank announcing an over 98% recovery rate for the funds.

“People in Ethiopia have the right to privacy, and that right is not automatically forfeited based on mere allegations of unlawful behavior,” stated Naro Omo-Osagie, Africa Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has an obligation to protect people’s data, and its decision to name and shame by publishing personally identifiable information without consent violates the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed under Article 26 of the Constitution of Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia’s recently approved Personal Data Protection Law contains clear provisions regarding the legal basis for the processing of personal data, which the groups assert CBE has failed to comply with in this case.

They contend that this is not an isolated incident, citing previous reports of the state telecommunications company Ethio-Telecom granting security authorities unlawful access to individuals’ information as part of a broader pattern of government infringements on privacy rights.

“The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia must respect its obligations as a data controller and only collect, process, and share data within the law,” the rights groups stated. “Publishing people’s personal information violates the principles of necessity and proportionality.”

Despite a formal communication from Access Now and CARD urging corrective action and a review of CBE’s data handling practices, the right groups state the bank has yet to provide a response.

However, in an interview with state-affiliated media, Abe Sano, president of the state-owned CBE, addressed concerns regarding the legality of the bank’s actions.

When questioned about the constitutionality of publishing personal information, Abe stated, “They are welcome to pursue legal charges, and we will address them through compensation. If individuals confess to withdrawing the funds and subsequently challenge the public disclosure of their information, the bank is prepared to engage in litigation.”


AfDB Group, Ethiopia Launch $94 mln project to boost climate resilient wheat value chain dev’t in Ethiopia

The African Development Bank Group and the government of Ethiopia, in partnership with the Netherlands, fertilizer company OCP-Africa, and the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), have launched an ambitious project to transform Ethiopia from a wheat importer to a self-sufficient producer and exporter.

The total cost of the Climate Resilient Wheat Value Chain Development (CREW) Project is USD 94 million. The African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group, is providing a grant of USD 54 million. The Netherlands will contribute a grant of USD 20 million, while OCP-Africa and the Government of Ethiopia will each provide grants of USD 10 million. Additionally, the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) will extend a grant of 300,000 for the project as part of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program initiative (AAAP). AAAP is integrating climate risk assessment and digital adaptation solutions into the wheat value chain, supporting capacity building through deployment of digital climate advisory services (DCAS), and co-designing digital adaptation solutions in a wheat farmer registration system.

The financing will support 500,000 smallholder farmer households in the Ethiopian states of Afar, Amhara, Oromia, and Somali, to increase wheat productivity from three to four tons per hectare, generating an additional 1.62 million tons of wheat. The project will also support expansion of irrigation into the lowlands of Afar and Somali regions. It is expected to benefit 2.3 million people, 50 percent of them women, by increasing household incomes, creating jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, and strengthening food and nutrition security.

The CREW project has two main components. The first focuses on improving wheat farming using climate-friendly methods through the development of better seeds, improving soil health, rehabilitating and building irrigation systems and access roads, and enhancing private sector-led sustainable farm mechanisation.

The second component entails the expansion of post-harvest and market infrastructure and enabling access to agri-finance through innovative mechanisms.

The launch took place in Semera, Afar Regional State in May. The country’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr Girma Amente, officially launched the project. In his statement, he emphasised the importance of agriculture for the Ethiopian economy; the sector contributes over one-third of GDP and employs 65 percent of the population. He stressed that wheat is a priority crop in the Government’s Agricultural Development Plan, and noted that “the CREW project is aligned with over 80 percent of the objectives of Ethiopia’s Ten-Year Development Plan, the overarching development agenda for the country,” he said.

The President of Afar Regional State, Awol Arba was also present. He welcomed the project, which he said has great potential for irrigated wheat development in his state.

The Bank Group’s Deputy Director General for East Africa, Dr Abdul Kamara, who also attended, said: “The CREW project will complement the Bank’s current investments of about USD 1.2 billion in Ethiopia, across the key sectors of energy, transport, agriculture, water and sanitation, and economic governance. It is designed to scale up and sustain the impressive results of the Wheat Revolution in Ethiopia. Following the successful and nationwide deployment of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, irrigated wheat areas rapidly expanded, and wheat yields increased on average from two to four tons per hectare. The Bank is proud to be a leading financier in these critical areas seeking to accelerate Ethiopia’s economic transformation and development.”

 Tiest Soondal, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, said: “The Kingdom of the Netherlands is the largest EU investor in Ethiopia and is committed to addressing the nexus of humanitarian, development, and food security goals. The CREW project is designed to address these objectives.”

“OCP Africa support for this project will address, among others, the salinity and acidity issues affecting tens of millions of hectares,” said OCP-Africa CEO Dr Mohamed Anouar Jamali. “This includes developing site-specific soil health and fertility solutions based on comprehensive assessments of soil, climate, and cropping systems to provide science-based recommendations, and conducting a comprehensive programme of capacity building and farmer training in best agricultural practices, based on the principles underlying 4R+ and Integrated Soil Fertility Management.”


Ethiopia’s 10-month remittances surpass $4.2b

Ethiopia has earned over USD 4.2 billion in remittance over the past 10 months, a senior official has disclosed.

Briefing journalists on Wednesday, the country’s Minister of Planning and Development Fitsum Asefa said the country is attracting over USD four billion on yearly basis over the past of five years.

She said foreign nationals and Ethiopian origins have transferred the stated remittance through legal and amount has seen a steady growth every year.

She attributed the increase to the reformative actions taken by the incumbent government to enhance the participation of the Diaspora in the national economy.

The Deputy Director General noted that various activities have been conducted in cooperation with concerned stakeholders to establish an efficient and alternative legal means and systems in which the diaspora can transfer money.

She further added that over the last eight months of current fiscal year, 1,745 diaspora members have opened accounts in domestic banks and deposited more than 2.2 million USD.

According to the minister, more than USD 17 million has been collected over the last nine months from the diaspora in kind and cash to the construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on the River Nile.


Ethiopian Airlines Now Serves A Record 81 African Destinations From Addis Ababa

Ethiopian Airlines now serves 81 African airports from its growing Addis Ababa hub. It launched Freetown flights on May 31, while Maun’s service began on the day I’m researching and writing this article. Both international destinations are brand-new to its network.

On June 9, it returned to the Ethiopian city of Axum, which it last served in 2021. Nekemte, a new airport in the country, is included in the figures. Ethiopian expects to begin flying there on June 17.Ethiopian began flying to Maun, Botswana’s tourist capital and one of the country’s most populous cities, on June 10. The route runs three times weekly using the 160-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8. The first rotation deployed a 6.0-year-old ET-AVM delivered to the carrier in June 2018.

The route is scheduled as follows, with all times local. Like many of Ethiopian’s African services, a stop is involved. Maun is tagged with Ndola; the Zambian city has been part of the airline’s network since 2013. The airline does not have fifth-freedom traffic rights between Maun and Ndola.

As always, the timings – an early departure from Addis and a late arrival back home – are to maximize two-way connections. Analysis of booking data shows that nearly all of Maun’s long-haul demand comes from Europe. However, the numbers are low; hence, there are only three weekly flights on low-capacity equipment and the tag-on.

London is the largest market, but it only had around 7,000 Maun passengers last year. Frankfurt was next, followed by Zurich (which joined Ethiopia’s network in 2022), Paris, and Amsterdam.

While Ethiopian does not serve Amsterdam, the carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, told me last year that the Dutch airport would be served again. As usual, no timeframe was stated.

Of Ethiopian’s 81-strong African passenger destinations from Addis Ababa, 60 are international (i.e., not in Ethiopia).

They are in 39 countries. It serves four cities in Nigeria and Somalia, more than anywhere else. Three are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Nine countries have two destinations (now including Botswana), and 25 have one.

It has a median daily service from Addis Ababa to its 60 international African airports. In the week starting June 16, Johannesburg and Entebbe are served the most (four daily), followed by Kigali (18 weekly). A further 47 destinations have between a daily and double daily service.

(Simple flying)

Strengthening financial systems for sustainable development in Africa

In a significant step toward bolstering public finance systems, experts and stakeholders from across Africa gathered today for a workshop on Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs). The two-day event at the United Nations (UN) Conference Center in Addis Ababa aims to strategize on mobilizing and utilizing financial resources to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Africa.

First introduced in the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, INFFs are designed to strengthen public and private financing for sustainable development. They align financing policies with national development plans, fostering collaboration between public and private sectors. Africa is at the forefront of this initiative, with over 40 governments embracing the approach.

In her opening remarks, Zuzana Schwidsowski, Director of the Macroeconomics and Governance Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), called for immediate action.

“We are entering an era of poly-crises, characterized by multiple shocks, including pandemics, climate change, and economic and financial stresses,” she said. “These challenges jeopardize our progress in sustainable development. The need to raise financial resources to accelerate SDG implementation is more urgent now, given that we are less than seven years from attaining Agenda 2030.”

 Schwidsowski highlighted the severe financing gap, estimated to range from $200 billion to $1.3 trillion annually, as detailed in the ECA’s Economic Report on Africa 2020. She stressed the importance of domestic resource mobilization and the role of INFFs in integrating national plans with available resources.

In a video message, Shari Spiegel, Director of the Financing for Sustainable Development Office at UNDESA, underscored the critical role of domestic public finance, stating: “Robust and resilient fiscal systems can contribute to alleviating poverty, reducing inequalities, and supporting economic growth. However, significant challenges remain, including unmet tax potential and the impacts of globalization and digitalization.”

 Spiegel also highlighted the recent establishment of a UN Ad Hoc Committee to develop a draft framework for international tax cooperation, calling it a historic step toward a fair and effective international tax system.

Providing a compelling perspective on the role of INFFs in transforming African economies, Maxwell Gomera, Director of the UNDP Africa Sustainable Finance Hub, said “With limited resources for necessary growth in many African countries, INFFs ensure that all available resources are effectively mobilized, allocated, and used where they are most needed.”

He emphasized that “INFFs help align public finance with national development priorities, enhance revenue collection, and improve spending efficiency.”

Rumbidzai T. Manhando, Programme Coordinator for the African Union Financial Institutions, reiterated the AUC’s dedication to strengthening both public and private financing for sustainable development. She noted, “INFFs offer a comprehensive approach to mobilizing and utilizing financial resources. By integrating public and private financing, we can develop cohesive strategies that align with our development goals.”

Manhando also highlighted the impending launch of the Africa Virtual Investment Platform (AVIP) to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development.

The workshop aims to strengthen the capacities of officials and stakeholders to develop effective financing strategies, promote knowledge-sharing, and generate regional dialogue on public finance trends and issues affecting INFF implementation. Serving as a crucial platform for sharing experiences and planning future actions, the insights gained will be essential for the Fourth International Conference on Financing for Development in Spain in 2025.

“This workshop will be a rewarding experience for each of the participants, creating a space for knowledge sharing and learning,” Ms Schwidsowski concluded. “We are keen to deepen our partnerships to tap into the full potential of domestic resource mobilization to achieve Agenda 2030 and the AU’s Agenda 2063.”


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