The Ethiopian government is set to sue 15 Ethiopian transitors and importers who had failed to settle more than 2.3 million dollars service fees for Djiboutian freight forwarders.
A large number of Ethiopian transitors and importers owe Djiboutian transitors service payments. Payment arrears amounting to more than 7 million USD that have not been cleared for more than ten years have been reported by the Djiboutian authorities to the Ethiopian government. The Djiboutian transistors have filed their complaints through the government of Djibouti. As part of the bilateral cooperation agreement between the two governments the Ethiopian government has intervened to settle the dispute.
The Djiboutian claimants demand payment from some 70 Ethiopian transistors and importers who allegedly owed more than seven million dollars. The claims range from 1000 to tens of thousands of dollars.
Roba Megersa, deputy director-general of the Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority, told The Reporter that after screening the claims made by the Djiboutian claimants, the Authority accepted the claims worth 5.7 million USD as alleged to have been defaulted by some 22 Ethiopian transitors and importers. Roba said these claims are supported by documents which may, of course, be subject to dispute in the course of litigation before the court of law. Roba said in two rounds of payment five million USD have been settled. “We held several discussions with the Ethiopian transitors and importers on the matter. We have been assisting in availing them foreign currency,” Roba said.
However, there are still 15 Ethiopian transitors and importers who had defaulted on 2.3 million USD. “Our repeated attempts to make those transitors and importers clear the arrears could not be successful. So, unfortunately, we have organized the claims and the documents and transferred the files to the Ministry of Justice,” Roba said.
The Ministry of Justice is expected to file charge against the 15 Ethiopian freight forwarders and importers soon.
According to Megersa, the Djiboutian Authorities have repeatedly raised the payment arrears issue several times during bilateral meetings. Megersa said the Djiboutian transitors even went to the extent of demanding upfront payment from their Ethiopian counterparts due to the unsettled payments. Megersa believes that the settlement of the payment arrears would restore business confidence between the two parties.
Since the two-year border war with the former ally Eritrea broke out in May 1990, Ethiopia has been dependent on Djibouti port for its import-export business. Ethiopia’s growing annual import has reached 13 million tons.