Eritrea + 2 more

Horn of Africa: IRIN News Briefs, Thursday 16 March

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ETHIOPIA: Forest fires "under control"
The forest fires that broke out last month in southeastern Ethiopia's Bale and Borena regions of Oromiya State have reportedly been brought under control. The team leader for Forestry and Wildlife in the ministry of agriculture, Million Bekele, told IRIN on Thursday that although there were still fires in some areas, "there is a great difference compared to what it was, even last week". "The fires have been controlled through the help of experts who equipped the local people with the right skills to put them out," he said. "NGOs and government ministries are also greatly involved in the fight," he added. He said the fires had been "sporadic" and were mainly caused by human activity. "Farmers are burning their farms in preparation for cultivation when the rains fall," he said.

ETHIOPIA: Government recognises independent journalists' group

The Ethiopian government on Monday recognised the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA), seven years after it was founded, news organisations reported. "Many members sacrificed themselves, others had to go into exile, some are still in jail today and others are facing legal action," AFP quoted EFJA president Kifle Mulat as saying. Kifle said this was victory after seven years of "bitter struggle". By the end of October last year there were eight Ethiopian journalists behind bars, most of them accused of "defamation" and others of "threatening state security", reports say. EFJA was formed in 1992, the year after the ouster of ex-leader Mengistu Haile Mariam.

ETHIOPIA: Wild plants could become "alternative" food

A recent survey carried out by independent researchers and circulated through UNDP's Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE) has revealed that some wild plants - used locally for consumption in times of food shortages in Ethiopia - have the potential to become valuable staple foods and important alternatives to usual food crops. It identified a number of indigenous food-producing tree species which could easily be domesticated by farmers. The survey gives indications that wild food plants should be considered as a serious issue in developing strategies to fight rural food insecurity and in coming up with integrated development programmes for chronic food insecure areas, both in Ethiopia and other parts of the world.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: UN urges cooperation with OAU

The UN Security Council on Tuesday called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to cooperate "fully and urgently" with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and to participate "constructively" in its efforts to settle the dispute between the two countries. In a press statement released after closed-door consultations on the OAU's latest efforts to resolve the dispute, Council members expressed their "strong support" for the continuing peace process and for the work of the OAU and other interested parties. Members called on the two countries to work with the OAU in implementing the peace plan contained in the Framework Agreement and its Modalities for Implementation. They also urged "restraint" and underscored that they would continue to follow the situation "closely".

DJIBOUTI: Diplomatic ties with Eritrea restored

The Eritrean government on Monday welcomed "with satisfaction" a decision by Djibouti to restore diplomatic ties. "The Eritrean government, which has always attached great importance to the cultivation of warm and good neighbourly relations between the brotherly peoples of the two countries, is prepared on its part to normalise and restore diplomatic ties with the Republic of Djibouti," a statement from Eritrea's foreign ministry said. It expressed gratitude to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi "and other friendly governments which have exerted efforts towards the realisation of this objective".

SOMALIA: OAU ministers approve Djibouti peace plan

Ministers attending an OAU conference in Addis Ababa last week approved Djibouti's peace plan for Somalia, AFP reported. "We want to give a voice to civilians and take away the red carpet from beneath the feet of the war chiefs," AFP quoted Djibouti Foreign Minister Ali Abdi Farah as saying. "This is the first time countries who are politically antagonistic support the same initiative," he said. The plan involves holding a national reconciliation conference in Djibouti, aimed at setting up a transitional government with an acting president. The plan already has the approval of the UN Security Council and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

SOMALIA: UN envoy dismisses reports of outside involvement in plan

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative to Somalia, David Stephen, recently said the Djibouti peace initiative was proceeding as planned. In an interview with the BBC, he noted there were people opposed to the proposal because of "external involvement". "We have urged those who believe in external involvement to confirm what they are talking about, and to attend the meeting and express their concerns, because Djibouti is very flexible and willing to discuss anything with them," he said. He said the people of northern Somalia, who disagree with the plan, should voice their concerns. "No external source has discussed Djibouti's proposal for Somalia," he stressed.

SOMALIA: Libya warns leaders opposed to Djibouti plan

Three Somali faction leaders, who visited Libya this week, were warned by Gadaffi that "our friendship will come to an end" if they did not agree to the formation of a national government, according to the Somali 'Xog-Ogaal' daily. Mogadishu faction leader Hussein Aideed, the self-declared Somaliland leader Mohamed Egal, and Puntland's leader Abdullahi Yusuf returned to Somalia on Tuesday following a three-day visit to Libya. "We do not want a divided Somalia nor anyone bent on fragmenting it," Gadaffi was quoted as saying.

SOMALIA: UN appeals for assistance in arms embargo

A UN Security Council committee met last week to exchange views on strengthening the effectiveness of the arms embargo against Somalia. A statement from the committee said it decided to send letters to all member states reminding them of their obligation in ensuring the "strict implementation" of the arms embargo against Somalia. It approved a decision to send letters to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) seeking their "cooperation and assistance" in the enforcement of the mandatory arms embargo.

SOMALIA: Fierce fighting leaves 30 dead

Fierce fighting that broke out on Tuesday between the Rahaweyn Resistance Army (RRA) faction on one hand, and the Rahaweyn Salvation Army (RSA) and Digil Salvation Army (DSA) on the other, left 30 people dead and scores of others wounded. A Somali newspaper 'Ayaamaha' quoted RSA spokesman, Abd al-Qadir Borjeh, as saying the fighting started after a group of RRA militiamen heading for Baydhabo from Kurtun Waarey in south-central Somalia attacked RSA and DSA militia forces at the Buulo Fulaay village in the area.

[ENDS]

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