Djibouti + 3 more

Horn of Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 10 December

SOMALIA: Puntland orders out three UN staff
The UN this week received letters of expulsion for three international staff members from the self-declared state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. The letters, from Puntland's "interior minister" Hassan Abshir Farah, accused the three - Eddie Johns of UNDP/UNCTAD, Remmelt Hummeyn of UNDP and Said Al-Naimari of UNICEF - of "unsatisfactory services". heir
proposed replacements should be submitted for approval by the Puntland authorities. John Spring of the UN Coordination Unit for Somalia told IRIN on Friday that the UN was still discussing the expulsions with humanitarian partners from the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) but considered it unacceptable that Puntland should unilaterally order the removal of UN staff. Meanwhile, new missions and activities in the region are on hold, he added.

Regional observers suggested that the expulsion orders stemmed from a belief in the Puntland administration that the region was not getting due attention from the humanitarian community, and that "as a legitimate heir to the defunct Somali government", it had the right to claim that all aid money be channelled through its departments. The international non-governmental organisation CARE is also reported to be considering similar expulsion letters for two of its staff, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

SOMALIA: "No longer synonym for crisis"

Somalia is no longer a synonym for crisis and should be seen in a different light from the past five years, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Randolph Kent, said. He told a press briefing in New York there were now areas of stability, particularly in the northwest, northeast and central parts. A steady increase in stability did not however mean there were no longer humanitarian problems, although the UN's approach could now be seen as preventative. Kent stressed that if the international community responded now, the vulnerability of 600,000 needy people would be eased.

SOMALIA: RRA sets up administration in Bay region

The Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) on Thursday set up its own administrative area for the central region of Bay, news organisations reported. Former RRA spokesman Mohamed Ali Aden Qalinleh was installed as governor and other RRA fighters were appointed to senior positions in the regional administration. The RRA, which is backed by Ethiopia, seized the regional capital Baidoa six months ago from Mohamed Hussein Aideed's faction. This is the fourth self-governing area in Somalia after Somaliland, Puntland and Beletwein, the BBC pointed out.

DJIBOUTI: EIU warns of continued repression

In its latest report, the Economist Intelligence Unit has warned that the "authoritarian instincts" of Dbijouti's new President Ismael Omar Guelleh are likely to dominate domestic politics. It had become evident that the government would not hesitate to use its police and legal system to silence opponents. Sensitivities over the 1991-94 civil war continue to linger, so that the government is unlikely to bring to trial accused rebels who have been held for two years. "With weak and divided domestic
opponents - and a powerful regional ally in Ethiopia - there is little to stop the continuation of such repression and detention without trial," the EIU warned. However it believed France and other donors could apply pressure on Guelleh by linking political and human rights concerns to foreign economic assistance. Urban and rural poverty was acute, the EIU said, and the country was currently facing severe food shortfalls, partly due to drought but also to long-term erosion of food security and general living standards.

DJIBOUTI: Opposition leader freed

Djibouti's main opposition leader Moussa Ahmed Idriss and two colleagues were freed from jail on Tuesday under a presidential amnesty for the holy month of Ramadan, AFP reported, citing state radio. It said more than 250 people held in Gabode civilian prison on the outskirts of the capital would benefit from the amnesty. Idriss was the only rival to President Guelleh in April's presidential elections. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in October for "spreading false news".

ETHIOPIA: Mengistu escapes extradition

As human rights groups and diplomats stepped up the pressure on South Africa to try or extradite the former Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, it was announced on Wednesday that he had quietly slipped out of the country back to his home of exile in Zimbabwe. Mengistu had been in South Africa for medical treatment. "All I can tell you is that he left the country last Friday before we received the Ethiopian request later that day for his extradition," presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana told IRIN. In an interview with the BBC from Zimbabwe, Mengistu denied he had been forced to flee South Africa. "The present government in South Africa are my comrades-in-arms. There was no question of sending me back to Ethiopia," said Mengistu who has lived in Zimbabwe since 1991. Human rights groups criticised South Africa for allowing Mengistu to leave the country.

ETHIOPIA: Peace process in danger - Meles

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said the peace process aimed at resolving the border war with Eritrea is now "in danger". In a magazine interview, reported by Ethiopian radio on Wednesday, he said the international community's failure to "condemn the aggression" showed it did not take African problems seriously. In another interview, broadcast by Ethiopian
television on Monday, Meles said Addis Ababa "will not sign any document that fails to ensure its sovereignty". He was referring to a document on technical arrangements for implementing an OAU peace plan which he said contained "shortcomings".

ERITREA: Ethiopia "poised for war"

Eritrea, which has signed the document, accused the Ethiopian government of "formally rejecting the peace plan in its entirety". A foreign ministry press release said this came as no surprise. "The timing, however, indicates that the regime in Addis Ababa has completed its preparations and is poised to launch a war of aggression," the statement said.

ERITREA: Students return to school after reaping harvest

Thousands of Eritrean students have returned to school after being called up by the government to help reap the national harvest, Reuters reported, citing officials. It said around 20,000 high school students were called up two weeks ago to help bring in the harvest. "In the current situation with Ethiopia, we are obliged to do our best for food security," a government official told Reuters. The need for extra help was partly the result of the doubling of the harvest this year, officials said.


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