Horn of Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 18 covering the period 30 Dec 2000 - 5 Jan 2001

from IRIN
Published on 05 Jan 2001
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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for Central and Eastern Africa
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SOMALIA: Somaliland president urged to resign

A petition signed by 200 prominent personalities in Somaliland has urged Muhammad Ibrahim Egal, the president of the self-declared republic of Somaliland (northwestern Somalia), to resign. The petitioners accused Egal of giving the impression that he intended to unite Somaliland with Somalia, the BBC reported on Thursday. The petition was orchestrated by "hardline" members of the former liberation movement, the Somali National Movement (SNM), better known in Somaliland as "Calan Cas" or "red flag" for their opposition to reunification with Somalia, political sources in Somaliland told IRIN.

The signatories included the former vice-president and a founding member of the SNM, Abdirahman Aw-Ali, and former Interior Minister Muse Bihi. "These are former members of the administration, with very little credibility," said the source. "Many people blame them for the fighting in Hargeysa and Burao," he added. This is in reference to the clan fighting which took place in Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland, between 1994 and 1996 and in Burao, Somaliland's second city, between 1995 and 1996, resulting in the deaths of 4,000 people and the destruction of the towns. According to the BBC report, the petitioners also accused the Egal government of "misadministration, corruption, and interference with independence of the judiciary".

This petition may actually help Egal get his term of office extended. Egal's five-year term ends in 2001, and there is speculation in Somaliland that Egal may ask for a three-year extension, a humanitarian source told IRIN. According to the source, the government has already sent delegations to the regions to solicit support for this initiative. "The public identifies the SNM with war, and are unlikely to support its call," the source said, adding that it "can only help Egal, who is seen as a man of peace, get his extension".

SOMALIA: Baidoa cut off

The town of Baidoa, 240 km southwest of Mogadishu, has been cut off from the rest of Somalia since Monday. The BBC on Wednesday reported that the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), which controls the town, had shut down all telephone offices and impounded all radios. The RRA did not explain its move, and it was believed it did not want information to get out because of a reported split within its ranks, the BBC report said. Buses and other vehicles had been unable to get into Baidoa, and no vehicles were leaving, the report said.

Somali business sources told IRIN there had indeed been a split within the RRA, having occurred after the RRA chairman, Colonel Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, removed some militiamen from checkpoints and trade entry points - where they had been collecting taxes - and replaced them with others. The disgruntled militia and their commanders reportedly left for their home areas. These RRA forces are said to have regrouped in two locations - Qansahdheer in Bay Region, 90 km west of Baidoa, and Tayeglow, in Bakool Region, 270 km north of Baidoa. The sources added that they numbered between 500 to 900. So far there have been no reports of fighting, but Baidoa town is said to be extremely tense.

SUDAN: Bashir wins presidential election

At a news conference broadcast live by Sudan state television and Omdurman radio on 29 December, the chairman of the General Electoral Commission (GEC), Abd al-Mun'im al-Zayn al-Nahhas, declared the incumbent president and candidate of the National Congress party, Lt-Gen Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, the winner of the presidential election. Nahhas said Bashir had received 86.5 percent of the vote, with his nearest rival, former President Ja'far Muhammad Numayri, taking 9.6 percent of the vote. The GEC chairman said about 8,153,372 people had participated in the polls through 50,000 voting centres.

SUDAN: OAU observers praise conduct of elections

Meanwhile, the nine-member observer team from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), led by Ambassador Pascal Gayama, has praised the manner in which the elections were conducted. In a statement released in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 29 December, and carried by the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA), the team said that, "having observed the elections in various parts of the country", it wished "to commend the GEC for the arrangements that allowed the Sudanese people, including those outside the country, to freely exercise their democratic rights".

The team noted, however, that in a country of about 30 million people, "it was inevitable that there would be some logistical challenges", which it hoped "will be overcome in future elections". Noting that "some major political parties had boycotted the elections", it said that nonetheless "it was encouraging that the leaders from all sides expressed their readiness and commitment to embark, after the elections, on a dialogue", which would "hopefully bring about national reconciliation". To sum up, the OAU team expressed the view "that the overall exercise was an important step towards democratisation and that it was conducted in a conducive atmosphere and in a satisfactory manner".

Asked to comment on the election results, the spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Nairobi, Samson Kwaje, told IRIN: "We don't accept the results of the election." He said this was because no elections had taken place "in the 42 percent of the country under the control of the SPLM/A", and that throughout the rest of the country "only 20 percent of the voters participated in the elections, because supporters of the main opposition parties [such as the Ummah Party and the Democratic Unionist Party] were told by their party leaders to boycott them". Kwaje also said it was clear to the SPLM/A that the results had been "heavily rigged in favour of Bashir".

SUDAN: Algerian president on official visit

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrived in Khartoum for a three-day official visit on Sunday, Sudan television reported. His visit was scheduled to coincide with Sudan's independence day anniversary, on Monday. He was met at the airport by President Umar al-Bashir, ministers and other senior government officials. The television showed Bouteflika subsequently addressing journalists, whom he told: "Through you I thank the fraternal Sudanese people and the confidence they have in my brother Umar al-Bashir as his presidential tenure was renewed." He recalled Bashir's visit to Algeria and meeting him elsewhere "on many occasions", during which "we analysed our issues from a new perspective and reached the point of recognising the need to strengthen ties in all fields". "I think our bilateral positions are in agreement on Arab and African issues," he said.

During the celebrations marking Sudan's 45th independence anniversary on Monday, which he attended together with Bashir, Bouteflika said in a speech delivered to mark the occasion that he was willing to help Sudan bring about national reconciliation. He said he would "join hands with President Bashir for solving all issues that need contribution and coordination with efforts exerted by other parties for achieving national reconciliation in Sudan", AFP reported on Monday. He called on all the Sudanese opposition groupings and the government "to sit down for negotiations, putting aside their differences for the sake of the interests of the country and the people", according to the report.

SUDAN: State of emergency extended

President Bashir has extended the state of emergency. SUNA reported on Wednesday that he had issued "a republican decree" renewing the state of emergency for another year. The state of emergency was declared in December 1999 after Bashir fell out with his erstwhile ally, the former speaker of parliament, Hasan al-Turabi.

Meanwhile, the government of Oman has lifted the ban on Sudanese livestock. SUNA reported that the Sudanese minister of animal resources, Abdallah Sid Ahmad, had received a message from his Omani counterpart, Ahmad bin Khalfan al-Rawahi, informing him of the lifting of the ban. Oman imposed the ban after an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Saudi Arabia and Yemen late last year.

ETHIOPIA: 13 people killed in train derailment

Thirteen people died and 10 others were injured when the train they were travelling on was derailed on 28 December. Ethiopian radio, monitored by the BBC, reported that the goods train, which was proceeding from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa, was derailed and overturned near Mieso town in eastern Ethiopia. The victims were reported to be people travelling on the train illegally.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Eritrea accused of rejecting troop redeployment plan

Eritrea has refused to accept the redeployment plan proposed at the recent meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC)of the United Nations Mission Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The pro-Ethiopian government Walta Information Centre reported that Maj-Gen Alemshet Degife, who represented Ethiopia at the meeting, had accused Eritrea of refusing to sign the redeployment plan, "which was based on the provisions of the cessation of hostilities agreement" signed in Algiers on 18 June 2000. According to the report, Eritrea's refusal was "a manifestation of its government's usual tactic to frustrate initiatives for peace". Eritrea justified its objection by claiming that Badme (western front), Zela Ambesa (central front), and Badda (eastern front) had never been administered by Ethiopia prior to May 1998, said the report.

In the second meeting of the MCC of UNMEE, which was held in Nairobi on 28 December, the two parties failed to reach agreement on the repositioning of troops. The matter was referred to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of UNMEE, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, a UNMEE statement said.

ERITREA: Military officials and UN mission members meet

A meeting opened in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Thursday between members of the UNMEE and Eritrean military officials. According to a UN statement issued on Thursday, there was "an initial exchange of views regarding the nature of the national militia and police in the 25-km-wide temporary security zone, which will be created between repositioned Ethiopian forces and monitored by the UN". The participants discussed the "functions, structure and sphere of duties of the militia", as well as "the weapons militia members would be allowed to bear and what form of identification they would be required to carry", the statement said. It noted that under the 18 June agreement on the cessation of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea, "once Ethiopian redeployment has been verified the peacekeeping mission, Eritrean civilian administration, 'including police and local militia', was to be restored 'to prepare for he return of the population'".

Nairobi, 5 January 2001


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