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May 15 – June 14, 2003

Part I – Sudan

1. Briefs

2. Ecological aspects of the Sudanese conflict

Part II- Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

2. Somalia’s election deadline passes

3. Q&A with TNG President Abdikassim Salat Hassan

Part 1 – Sudan

1. Briefs

  • May 15: Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said that his government and the SPLM/A would probably miss their June 30 deadline for reaching a peace agreement. Meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, he said Chretien pledged Canada's support for the peace talks in Machakos.
  • 15: Sudan Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein called for police reinforcements to help defeat the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement, which was launching attacks in Darfur, western Sudan.
  • 16: Sudan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Najib al-Khair Abdel Wahab, said Sudan President Omar el-Bashir and SPLM/A leader John Garang are likely to sign a final peace agreement toward the end of next month.
  • 16: The Indian oil company ONGC received the first consignment of 80,000 tonnes of crude from Sudan. ONGC entered the oil venture after Canadian energy company Talisman exited the project under pressure from its US investors citing Sudan's poor human rights record.
  • 17: Sudanese authorities investigated a physician who allegedly has performed female circumcision, a practice that could result in him losing his license, said medical officials in Khartoum. In March, the Sudanese Medical Council warned that doctors who conducted female genital mutilation, or circumcision, would lose their license to practice. A 2000 survey, backed by the United Nations Children Fund and the World Bank, found that some 90 percent of women in Sudan undergo circumcision.
  • 17: Syria Prime Minister Mustafa Miro arrived in Khartoum for two days of talks with Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha and other Sudanese officials in meetings aimed at "discussing bilateral relations and the recent challenges in the region following the recent aggression against the Iraqi people."
  • 17: Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir said a peace agreement with the SPLM/A would be reached in two months, saying some issues still needed to be resolved in negotiations. These issues include amending the constitution and sharing resources, he said.
  • 18: Syria and Sudan discussed cooperation in commerce and agriculture and possible future cooperation in the oil industry, said Syrian Prime Minister Mohamed Mustafa Miro.
  • 19: China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) announced plans to invest US$1 billion jointly with Sudan to create Sudan's largest oil refinery. The deal, expected to be signed within the coming months, will use $US 300 million to expand the Khartoum Refinery from 50,000 barrels per day to 90,000. CNPC and Sudan first established the 50-50 joint venture in 1997.
  • 19: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir replaced his minister for presidential affairs, Salah Ahmed Mohamed Salih. Bashir asked Security Affairs Advisor General Al-Tayeb al-Taher Ibrahim to take on the portfolio.
  • 20: Peace talks between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A are bogged down on security arrangements for a transitional period, said Ghazi Salah Eddin Attabani, the Sudanese government's peace adviser.
  • 21: The latest round of peace talks between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A ended with a number of key issues unresolved. These include wealth and power sharing and security arrangements. Lazaro Sumbeiywo, the talks' chief mediator, said it was not feasible that the two sides would reach a final agreement by the end of June, as had been hoped.
  • 21: A U.S. military aircraft – a C130 Hercules plane – has landed in Sudan for the first time in 10 years, according to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the U.S. anti-terror task force operating in the Horn of Africa. The move was said to “highlight progress” in the relationship between the two countries.
  • 21: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail in Washington. At the meeting, Powell said the U.S. is “pleased” with Sudan's cooperation in the war on terrorism but wants Sudan to take more specific actions before removing it from the U.S.’s list of "state sponsors of terrorism." A senior State Department official said later that the United States wanted Sudan to expel suspected terrorists and extremist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the country.
  • 21: The exiled head of Sudan's Democratic Unionist Party, Mohammed Othman al-Mirghani, said in Cairo that peace talks between Khartoum and the SPLM/A would fail because the Sudan government has ignored the northern opposition.
  • 22: Kenyan mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo said he is drawing up a peace agreement to present to the Sudan government and the SPLM/A to hasten progress towards ending two decades of civil war in Sudan. "It's a new method, a new modality, that I am introducing after discussing with the parties and we have agreed that that is the way to go. I am going to consult with their principals," he said.
  • 23: Ugandan troops arrested four SPLA soldiers for the murders of two civilians at Aweno-Olwi in Lokung sub-county in northern Kitgum district.
  • 23: SPLM/A leader John Garang arrived in Cairo for talks with Sudan opposition leader Mohammed Othman al-Mirghani, who heads the Democratic Unionist Party, and Egyptian officials before a planned visit to Washington. He also plans to meet with Sadeq al-Mahdi, the head of the Umma Party.
  • 23: The World Food Programme (WFP) announced that relief flights to southern Sudan would come from Eldoret instead of usual base of Lokichoggio because floods washed out a bridge on the road leading to Lokichoggio.
  • 24: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir told his ruling National Congress (NC) party to prepare for a peace deal he believes is imminent with the country's southern rebels, according to the state newspaper. "While peace will have numerous gains, it will bring about burdens that require tremendous efforts that must ultimately result in unity after the six-year transitional period," Bashir was quoted as saying at a party meeting Friday.
  • 24: Sudan opposition leaders Sadeq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party, Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani of the Democratic Unionist Party, and John Garang closed talks in Cairo on a note of unity, rallying their support for the peace talks underway between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government.
  • 24: A group of Sudanese and Arab companies has been awarded the contract for Sudan's second mobile telephone network. The unnamed group bid 113 million euros (about US$130 million) for the contract, said the director of the National Telecommunications Corporation, Al-Tayeb Mustafa.
  • 25: B&C Aluminium Plc of Addis Ababa and GIAD Aluminium Plc. of al-Gezira, near Khartoum struck a deal to begin producing aluminum structures for construction and other purposes shortly, importing aluminum metal from Sudan for the first time under the zero tariff agreement signed a year ago between Ethiopia and Sudan.
  • 25: Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told The Washington Times that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that: “economic sanctions against us could be lifted immediately after a draft peace agreement is signed between Sudan and its southern adversaries." The Clinton administration imposed the sanctions on Sudan in 1997.
  • 26: Sudan government forces staged air raids against a Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) camp near Kutum, Darfur, western Sudan, killing not only six rebels but also several government troops who had been taken prisoner.
  • 27: The 16,000 Sudanese refugees at the Kiryandongo refugee camp in Uganda have rejected relocation to West Nile because they said it the area was insecure and have threatened to walk back to Sudan in protest. The Ugandan government wanted the refugees relocated to the Ikafe camp in Yumbe district and the Madi Okolo camp in Arua district, both in northwestern Uganda.
  • 27: Armed men shot and wounded a guard at the villa of Egyptian diplomat Mahmud Ezzat in Khartoum after trying to burgle his home and steal his car.
  • 28: The Sudan army and security forces raided an area in West Kordofan in western Sudan, arresting a number of Sudanese and foreigners on charges of "suspicious activities," said the interior ministry.
  • 28: The Chief of Operations with the Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT), Paul Davenport, said that his team, which is mandated to monitor the cessation of hostilities accord between the Sudan government and rebels, aims to have a permanent presence in Sudan by early next month.
  • 28: The French aid group Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger) warned that food is growing scarcer in some parts of southern Sudan – especially in West Bahar el-Ghazal State – because of drought and after almost two decades of war.
  • 28: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with SPLM/A leader John Garang and underscored the U.S.’s commitment to a just and lasting resolution of the African country's 20-year civil war. Spokesman Richard Boucher said progress in the peace process has been good lately but that more effort is required to reach a solution.
  • 28: UNICEF highlighted a study conducted by the Rift Valley Institute in Africa that showed that more than 10,000 children and adults abducted by militia groups in two decades of warfare in Sudan are still missing.
  • 29: The Japanese government gave Sudan a US$2.48 million donation to fight polio and other infectious disease among children, promising more funds if it brokers peace with rebels in the southern part of the country.
  • 29: The Sudan government, private firms and Arab states pledged millions of dollars to rebuild Sudan in order to promote a settlement of the 20-year civil war, reported a government newspaper.
  • 29: Some 3,000 Sudanese soldiers, police and security forces have carried out raids near Khartoum to dent black market weapons trade from neighboring Libya, Police Rescue and Operations Commander Major General Abdel Basit Saad Jubarah said in published remarks. "The project resulted in seizing quantities of light weapons and ammunition, " Jubarah said.
  • 29: Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) rebels killed 500 Sudanese government troops and took 300 of them prisoner during fighting in western Sudan's North Darfur State, reported SLM Secretary General Mani Arkoi Minawi.
  • 29: The Sudan government has rejected a demand by the southern and northern opposition for the capital Khartoum to be ruled under secular rather than Islamic laws, said Presidential Peace Adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani. "Islamic Sharia laws in the national capital cannot be abrogated because the majority of its population that constitutes one-fifth of the country's population are Muslims," he told the official news agency. He reacted to a proposal made by opposition leaders Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, John Garang, and Sadeq al-Mahdi.
  • 29: Sudanese have arrested Adam Mussa Madibbu, a senior official who represents the troubled Darfur region for the leading opposition Umma Party. The reasons for the arrest were not made clear.
  • 30: A high-level team of Saudi security experts arrived in Khartoum to aid in the investigation of 19 people, including 17 Saudis, recently arrested on suspicion of belong to a terrorist network. The 19, who also included a Palestinian and a Sudanese, were captured as they were engaged in military training at a camp near Laqawa town in West Kordofan State, the independent Al-Hayat daily said.
  • 30: The Central African Republic (CAR) government will revive a joint commission set up in 2002 by CAR and Sudan following incidents of violence between rival ethnic groups, said CAR’s Minister of Interior and Public Security Col Michel Paulin Bondeboli. The commission was established on May 28, 2002 to investigate massacres that occurred at Birao, 1,101 km north east of Bangui, the CAR capital, and less than 200 km from the Sudanese border. Other massacres also broke out in the same area in September 2002.
  • 31: Sudan government army spokesman General Mohammed Beshir Suleiman denied a claim by Sudan Liberation Army/ Movement rebels that they had killed 500 army troops and captured 300 others in fighting in North Darfur state.
  • 31: Dr. Adam Mussa Madibbu, a member of the opposition Umma Party's politburo from the troubled Darfur region was released after being held 24 hours by security services for questioning. "The security services questioned me on a number of issues but did not tell me why I was arrested and later why I was released," he said.
  • June 1: Eighteen Saudis and a Palestinian found in Sudan earlier in the week armed with rifles and conducting "unauthorized military training" face extradition to their countries, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. There had been no information linking the detained men to al-Qaida or any other terrorist group.
  • 1: India has received its second consignment of equity crude oil from Sudan, where state-run ONGC Videsh Ltd has taken 25 percent stake in an oil-producing oil field.
  • 2: Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il said that, during his recent meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the foreign ministers of the two countries agreed that they would meet after the signing of the Sudan peace agreement.
  • 3: Well-informed sources told Al- Akhbar newspaper that arrangements were being made for a meeting between the [rebel] SPLM [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] leader, John Garang and one of the prominent leaders of the [opposition] Popular National Congress [PNC] party, Dr Ali al-Haj in London.
  • 3: Lankhorst Bhd's subsidiary Lankhorst Pancabumi Contractors Sdn Bhd has been awarded in-principle two turnkey railway contracts in Sudan involving a total of 1,160km of tracks. Lankhorst said Lankhorst Pancabumi had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sudan Railway Corporation on May 24 for the award in principle as the turnkey contractor for the projects.
  • 4: Kenyan mediator Lazaro Sumbyeiwo arrived in Khartoum to meet with Sudan government officials to remove stumbling blocks to negotiations aimed at ending Sudan's 20-year civil war. Sumbyeiwo "is not conveying specific proposals for peace and is exploring during this tour ideas of the government and the rebel movement on different issues," Sudan's presidential peace advisor, Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, told reporters.
  • 6: The Sudan Liberation Movement claimed to have killed a large number of soldiers and captured military equipment in an attack on an army position in the western Darfur region. The attack was in the Adar area of North Darfur state. Minawi said the SLM wanted to join the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels in peace talks with the government.
  • 7: Arab countries have began pouring money into a special fund to rebuild southern Sudan, said the Arab League. Libya has committed US$1 million, Qatar more than US$700,000 and Syria some US$525,000, the pan-Arab grouping said in a statement published during a meeting of Arab and Islamic states and donor organisations.
  • 8: Malaria claims 4,000 lives in Sudan each month, Health Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said as he launched a plan to halve the death rate.
  • 8: Kenyan envoy Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo was received angrily in Khartoum by Muslim Sudanese who rejected an opposition agreement forged last month to turn Khartoum into a secular, national capital. “While we declare here our stand alongside your efforts for peace in southern Sudan through dialogue and negotiations, we also assert ... the application of Sharia (Islamic law) in the national capital, which is part of the north,” officials from northern Sudanese Islamic political parties and religious leaders said in a joint-statement handed to Sumbeiywo.
  • 9: The Sudan government proposed the holding of a nationwide referendum and general elections once a peace settlement is reached with the SPLM/A, presidential peace adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani told Al-Anbaa newspaper. A referendum "would ensure a national consensus" on such an agreement, he said. Sudan last held multi-party elections 17 years ago.
  • 9: The Swiss-based human rights group, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expressed concern over a June 2 incident in which five Sudanese security forces reportedly arrested 38 women activists from the Nuba Mountains, and it urged the authorities in Khartoum to conduct a "thorough and impartial" investigation. The arrests came as the group was leaving Khartoum for a women's peace and development conference in Kauda, in the Nuba Mountains region of central Sudan.
  • 9: The Special Envoy of the UN secretary-general on Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, Tom Eric Vraalsen, arrived in Khartoum on a week-long visit to Sudan. He is to review the implementation of agreements regarding the delivery of humanitarian assistance and opening of the land and river routes in the south.
  • 10: Kenyan envoy Lazarus Sumbeiywo told Xinhua that his recent visit to Sudan was very successful. "We discussed all the outstanding issues on power sharing and wealth sharing, security arrangements and issues on the three conflict areas which fall under Kenyan mediation where I received very good response," Sumbeiywo told Xinhua by telephone.
  • 10: The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) opposition parties urged the government to wait for at least two years before moving on its proposal for general elections following a settlement of Sudan's civil war. They rejected outright the government's proposal for a referendum on the settlement itself, saying that the government would rig the results of the referendum to show people oppose the agreement and keep the war going.
  • 11: The Sudan government has renewed, for another three months up to Aug. 31, 2003, its protocol with Uganda on a military operation inside Sudan known as Operation Iron Fist to flush out Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels hiding in south Sudan.
  • 11: ONGC-Videsh is selling its share of one million barrels of crude from its Sudan oilfield this month to China for which it will be raking in a neat US$27 million. The last two months' cargoes were supplied to the ailing Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) in which ONGC has a 51 per cent stake. A senior ONGC official said that China had offered the best price for the oil.
  • 11: Sudan's opposition Umma Party said it was holding the government responsible for the latest death threats against Umma members, who called for secular rather than Islamic law in Sudan's capital Khartoum. The death threats were in response to a call for secular law rather than Sharia law (Islamic) in Khartoum made by Sudanese opposition parties including leaders of SPLA, John Garang, Umma's Sadiq al-Mohadi and Democratic Unionist Mohammed al-Mirghani.
  • 12: Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa will travel to Sudan on June 30, where he will have talks with the Sudanese authorities and will visit the southern regions for the first time. The league has set up an Arab fund for rebuilding southern Sudan.
  • 13: Sudan is supporting rebels in northern Uganda because it wants to expand into territory of its east African neighbor, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told Associated Press. Museveni said fighters from the al-Qaida terror network were in Sudan until recently helping rebel groups in northern Uganda with arms and training. "Our country is the nearest target in the expansionist plans of those Islamists who are our neighbors," he said. "They want to expand into Sudan."

2. Ecological aspects of the Sudanese conflict

(This report is re-produced from the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). Please visit their website, for more information. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations).

The long running conflict in Sudan, Africa's largest country, and the historical marginalisation of the mostly Christian south by the Arabised Islamic north, has largely been explained from political, religious and ethnic perspectives.

Recently, however, scholars have included a new component in their analysis of the Sudanese conflict - the environment.

In a study, "Oil and water in Sudan", a group of researchers have highlighted ecological aspects of the conflict in southern Sudan, where most of the fighting between government troops and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has been raging.

According to Paul Goldsmith, one of the researchers who conducted the study, ecological issues are intricately linked to the historical political context of the Sudanese civil war.

The Kenyan-based consultant, told a meeting last week in Nairobi that conflicts in Sudanese society began during the pre-colonial period, when the country was subjected to a long history of natural and human resource exploitation by the West and the East. These invasions and exploitation also have involved religious and cultural dynamics characterising the north-south divide, he added.

The findings of the research are documented in the book "Scarcity and Surfeit: The ecology of Africa's conflicts", jointly published by the Nairobi-based African Centre for Technological Studies (ACTS) and the South African-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS).


The study explored the interaction between people and their environment in Sudan and illustrated how natural systems have shaped the north-south divide, and how unaccountable methods of management and exploitation of the natural resources have deepened the rifts in the Sudanese society.

Ecologically, the northern part of Sudan is classified in the semi-arid Sahel region, tending northwards into the Sahara desert, the study noted. The southern ecology on the other hand is more identical to the tropical eastern African zone, with a rich diversity of natural resources and arable characteristics.

However, this ecological diversity of the south has acted as a "decentralising" factor, partly contributing to the region's historical marginalisation by the north. The study also noted that while the north had been unified over time by its common Islamic culture, cultural diversity in the south had played a more destructive role, driving it towards more conflicts and ethnic divisions.

"The ecological diversity in the south has acted as a total disaster for the southern movement," Goldsmith said. "The north has a united front, which is kept together by Islam. The south has this asymmetrical system that brings people apart."

These ecological dynamics to the Sudanese conflict have further been reinforced by ethnic competition along the banks of the Nile, the world's largest river, which passes through the country.

As a result of the marginalisation and predation by the north, southern Sudan runs a subsistence economy and lacks basic infrastructure, while its resources continues to be used to develop the north, the study noted.

"We have a highly centralised north and a resource-rich, but deeply divided, south. The result is a highly predative relationship between the north and the south," Goldsmith said.

In recent times, however, the conflict has grown much more complex and "fuzzier" with each cycle, its main beneficiaries being the elite on both sides, who camouflage their struggle to control the critical natural resources through ideology and resistance, Goldsmith explained.

"Past experience indicates that the ethnic protagonists of the border zones, [mainly Dinka and Baggara communities] can manage local conflicts and even achieve high levels of cooperation when left to their own devices," he said.


Sudan has been at war for most of its independence period which began in 1952. The current conflict, which began in 1983, following the decision by Khartoum to impose Islamic Sharia law in the country, has directly resulted in the deaths of an estimated two million people and the displacement of four million people.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been bogged down mainly by issues of religion, ethnicity, and resource control.

The role of regional interests Sudan's current peace process, especially those of neighbouring Egypt, also appear to have been underestimated. This became clear in the light of recent progress which, among other issues, led to an agreement on self-determination for south Sudan.

Egypt - which since 1999 has brokered a Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative prioritising national unity - is especially opposed to the landmark Machakos Protocol, signed on 20 July 2002, which allowed for a possible secession of southern Sudan from the north.

Analysts argue that Egypt's opposition to a possible split of Sudan may lead to increased competition for the Nile waters - the economic lifeline.

However, the most valuable of Sudan's contested resources, according to Goldsmith, is the oil in western Upper Nile region. "The discovery of oil in Sudan, has given a new impetus to the government of Sudan's determination to forestall a lasting rapprochement with the southern demands for autonomy," he noted.

"It sustains conflict primarily by generating revenue that is used to sustain the armed conflict. The effect has been to strengthen the position of the government of Sudan against the southern rebel movements," he added.


The discovery of oil has assumed critical importance in the Sudanese conflict, adding a new dynamic that had even more severe humanitarian consequences, with civilians forcefully removed from their homes to pave way for oil exploration, the report noted.

The oil factor also has become the new foremost ecological dimension in the Sudanese conflict, as oil proceeds go into government's war machinery. "The predatory relationship has expanded into a new phase characterised by oil exploitation, bringing in a new spin to the conflict, characterised by international capital," Goldsmith said.

A policy paper, presented at the Nairobi meeting by ACTS, noted that nearly 200,000 barrels of crude oil were produced daily in Sudan, contributing an annual US $500 million to government revenue, little of which benefited the people of Southern Sudan.

Instead, the oil has been a source of much suffering for the southern Sudanese people and has compromised ongoing efforts aimed at peace building, the research paper noted.


The environmental impact of oil exploration has also emerged as a major source of conflict between the Khartoum government and local communities in the South.

According to Goldsmith's research findings, large-scale oil production and transport have had a significant impact on the landscape and local environment, thereby resulting in the loss of traditional livelihoods of the local traditional Dinka and Nuer communities.

Some of the major environmental concerns for Sudan include the possibility of soil and water contamination, burning of excess gases and oil spills. Neither has the impact of a potential accidental or intentional breakage and leakage of the Sudanese pipeline been assessed, the report pointed out.

It noted that the unregulated environmental and social aspects of oil production also had a significant impact on the "conflict dynamic" in the country.

"If the international community is sincere in seeking peace for Sudan, it must take multilateral measures to regulate petro-revenues in the region," the report stressed.

Visit ISS website at:

Part II- Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

  • May 15: The Somali peace talks, currently underway in Nairobi, have entered their final and critical stage, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka told delegates when he opened a plenary session of the conference. He appealed to Somali leaders "to put your differences aside" for the sake of the Somali people.
  • 15: Peace talks to end conflict in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have become bogged down over the issue of power sharing. Talks have been under way in Bosaso, the commercial capital, since May 10 between the Puntland administration of Col Abdullahi Yusuf and "the armed opposition" led by Gen Ade Muse Hirsi. But they have stalled over the issue of power sharing and the formation of a new cabinet.
  • 15: Major General John Sattler, who currently heads the U.S. anti-terror task force in the Horn of Africa, is to hand over command to Brigadier General Mastin Robeson of the Marine Corps on May 24 at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
  • 16: The UN Force Commander in Eritrea and Ethiopia, Major General Robert Gordon, said there is no reason why demarcation of the border between the two countries should not begin in July as scheduled. He said the military situation was calm.
  • 16: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Ethiopian troops have undergone human rights training for the battlefield. The 38 officers, from the Awassa Military Corps and Legal and Training Departments, were praised for reaching a “milestone” in human rights law for Ethiopian troops.
  • 19: The president of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Dahir Riyale Kahin, was sworn in at a low-key ceremony in the capital, Hargeysa, on Friday. Kahin of the Unity of Democrats Party (UDUB), who had been the incumbent president, was last week confirmed as the winner of last month's disputed presidential election.
  • 19: The human rights group Amnesty International has criticised the continued detention of hundreds of people in Eritrea, including 11 prominent politicians and a number of independent journalists who have been held since September 2001. In a statement to mark Eritrea's 12th independence anniversary - and the 10th year of formal independence - on May 24, the organisation urged President Isayas Afewerki to release all political prisoners or bring them to trial.
  • 19: The administration of Col Abdullahi Yusuf and the opposition led by Gen Ade Muse Hirsi in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland signed a peace deal aimed at ending conflict in the region. Talks between the two have been going on since May 10.
  • 20: Ethiopia has stepped up security in the wake of the Moroccan and Saudi Arabian terror attacks, but stated it is at no greater risk than any other country. Extra security has been set up around key buildings, and police in the capital Addis Ababa carried out a “spot check” on cars.
  • 20: The aid agency Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) blamed a major resettlement programme in southern Ethiopia for sparking a humanitarian crisis. The organisation condemned the move of 15,000 people to Bale zone for “inadequate planning and implementation” and increasing health risks to settlers.“MSF has serious concerns about the impact of inadequately planned resettlement on the health of the settlers.”
  • 20: The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) said the current federal system in Ethiopia had boosted human and democratic rights after the “brutal regime" of Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown in 1991. The statement was issued after a landmark conference on federalism, conflict and peace building.
  • 21: Ethiopia has vowed to combat the problem of child labour in the country, said the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Ethiopian parliament has backed an international convention that aims to wipe out the “worst forms” of child labour and could result jail sentences for businesses employing children. Half of Ethiopian children under the age of 14 work on average 34 hours a week, and two thirds do not go to school.
  • 22: The World Bank announced a US $30 million grant for development projects to help Ethiopia’s seven million pastoralists. Pastoralists live mainly in Afar, northeastern Ethiopia, Somali Region in the southeast and the border regions with Kenya. They inhabit an area of land totalling around 500,000 sq km, almost half the entire area of Ethiopia.
  • 22: Somali faction leader Husayn Aydid vowed to destroy 3,000 landmines in the next four to six months. He said his SRRC faction would destroy the mines in line with the agreement signed last year and brokered by the Geneva-based humanitarian organisation Geneva Call.
  • 22: The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said that talks between the two countries could be “beneficial” for the peace process. However, Eritrea has dismissed any notion of talks on the border issue as “unthinkable.” Acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed is quoted as saying the issue was “closed and hermetically sealed.”
  • 22: Hundreds of Somali medical workers in the capital Mogadishu held a one-day work stoppage to protest against rampant insecurity in the city. The strike was arranged by the Somali Medical Association (SMA). Dr Muhammad Mahamud Bideey, a member of SMA executive committee, said that insecurity in the city was undermining their work. "We have had medical staff abducted and some maimed or killed," he said.
  • 23: A 10-day fact-finding mission from the African Union and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) arrived in Mogadishu to look into the security situation in Somalia. Mission leader Major-General Joseph Musomba of Kenya said the team planned to visit Baidoa, Bosaso, Belet Weyne, Galkayo and Kismayo, as well as Mogadishu, but that the itinerary would be flexible.
  • 23: The Mogadishu-based Somali Television Network (STN) radio and television broadcasting station has officially launched a radio satellite broadcast. The radio broadcast will cover “every single part of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America (Minneapolis),” 24 hours a day, said a statement. A satellite TV channel would soon follow the launch.
  • 23: The UN said it has drawn up an “action plan” for the impending demarcation of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Some 55 experts from the UN in both countries met in the Eritrean capital Asmara to discuss the potential consequences and implications of the independent border ruling. Demarcation of the 1,000 km border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is expected to begin in July.
  • 26: The prime minister of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia, Hasan Abshir Farah, is left for the capital, Mogadishu, on Monday, from Nairobi, where he is attending the Somali peace talks. Abshir's decision to go home follows “intensive discussions and consultations between him and the president to end their differences,” a TNG source is quoted as saying.
  • 26: Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki marked the country's 12th independence anniversary with a warning that the nation had now reached a crossroads which could go either way. “We find ourselves today [24 May], 12 years after our liberation, at a crossroads between a war that has come to an end but that appears unfinished, and a peace that has been ushered in but that remains uncertain,” he said in a speech.
  • 26: The Kulmiye (Solidarity) party, the main opposition party in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, says it does not recognise the legitimacy of President Dahir Riyale Kahin, according to a statement issued by the party on Sunday. The Kulmiye senior official said the party “does not recognise UDUB as the winner of the elections. The court's ruling was not based on the facts, and is an injustice.”
  • 27: Members of the Somali business community have said they will support an "all-inclusive" outcome of the peace talks currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya. “We will support morally, materially and physically any new government that comes out of Nairobi,” Muhammad Jirde Husayn, an executive member of the Dubai-based Somali Business Council, was quoted as saying.
  • 27: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi branded the crucial boundary ruling that places the symbolic village of Badme in Eritrea as “wrong and unjust.” His comments come amid increasing tensions between both countries over the controversial decision by the independent Eritrea-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC).
  • 28: The World Bank has resumed operations in Somalia for the first time since suspending its activities there at the onset of the 1991 civil war. In a statement, the Bank said it would now assume a leading role through the “Low-Income Countries Under Stress” initiative, which supports countries “with very weak policies, institutions and governance” where lending might not be an option.
  • June 2: More than 20 people were killed in the course of an outbreak of heavy fighting in the Middle Shabelle Region, south-central Somalia, according to sources in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The fighting in the village of Raghe-Eil, 95 km northeast of Mogadishu, pits militias loyal to faction leader Muhammad Dhere against those of the Abgal sub-clan Muhammad Muse.
  • 3: A fact-finding mission from the African Union (AU) and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), sent to look into the security situation in the country, arrived back in neighbouring Kenya. Mission leader Maj-Gen Joseph Musomba of Kenya, said the team had encouraged those it met “to abide by the ceasefire agreement.” He said most of the Somalis his delegation had met wanted peace.
  • 4: Hundreds of families are fleeing their homes in the Middle Shabelle Region, south-central Somalia. The exodus follows an outbreak of heavy fighting in the village of Raghe-Eil between opposing militias, the second incident of its kind since March.
  • 4: The UN’s Emergencies Unit in Ethiopia (EUE) warned that people are dying at an “alarming rate” in southern parts of the country. It said the affected areas had been hit by a “green famine” (famine despite the absence of drought), which had been exacerbated by poor targeting of food aid to starving families.
  • 5: The Ethiopian government has said that a scheme which provides for the resettlement of some two million people over the next three years, but has faced criticism from the international community, is necessary if Ethiopia is to stave off future food emergencies. It has also said it will not shy away from the scheme and has urged the international community to support it fully.
  • 6: The EC delegation in Kenya has condemned violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the parties at the ongoing Somali peace talks in Kenya. A statement issued by the EC said it “notes with dismay the recent violence in the Middle Shabelle Region, where some 23 people, mostly innocent civilians and including school children, were killed.”
  • 9: Fighting again broke out around the village of Raghe-Eil, some 95 km northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, in the Middle Shabelle region of south-central Somalia, local sources said. The fighting was between the two Abgal subclans of Muhammad Muse and Warsangeli.
  • 10: Sixty women peace activists in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, have appealed for the restoration of peace and stability in the city. Their call was made during a women's forum held in Mogadishu, organised by the Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD), an affiliate of the War-Torn Societies Project International, according to Maryam Mahmud Haji, a CRD gender officer.
  • 11: Fighting broke out again in the Medina district of Mogadishu, according to local sources in the Somali capital. The fighting was between militias loyal to faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow, and those led by his former right-hand man, Umar Mahmud Muhammad Finish. At least seven people were killed and scores wounded in the latest violation of the October 2002 ceasefire agreement.
  • 11: The main opposition party in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, northwestern Somalia, says it now recognises the legitimacy of disputed April elections. The Kulmiye party's presidential candidate, Ahmad Muhammad Silanyo, was quoted as saying that “after the intervention of elders and others, we have decided as a party to accept the results.”
  • 13: The Eritrean government has the capacity and experience to clear the country's minefields on its own, said the Acting Information Minister, Ali Abdu Ahmed.
  • 13: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reached an agreement with the governments of Eritrea and Sudan on where to open a humanitarian corridor between the two countries to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of Eritrean refugees, the UNHCR has said.

2. Somalia’s election deadline passes

By Cathy Majtenyi

The mid-June deadline for Somalis to choose their Members of Parliament and president has come and gone. But delegates to the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference peace talks being held in Nairobi are still keenly preparing for the elections, expected to herald in a new future for the war-torn country.

In a hastily called press conference on June 18, which also happened to be Somalia’s Independence Day, Kenyan Special Envoy to Somalia Bethuel Kipligat said that the date was merely a “goalpost” that would “make sure that we don’t have an open-ended process.

“This does not mean that the conference has come to an end,” Kipligat told reporters. “We simply stopped the clock tonight so that we can carry on with very, very intensive consultation and resolve these problems and then proceed with the election of the president and the formation of the government.”

The new deadline for Somalis to elect their MPs is June 30, and their president sometime in July, he said. So far, 31 candidates have declared their intention to run for president.

Kipligat assured delegates that the process was still on track and that the conference was making a lot of headway with the completion of the “Phase Two” report that combines six reports of committees looking at various aspects of post-war Somalia.

The reports, submitted to conference officials on May 14, provides plans for conflict resolution and reconciliation, federalism and a provisional charter, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, land and property rights, economic recovery, institutional building and resource mobilization, and regional and international relations.

The only thing that still needs to be worked out under Somalia’s new charter are details on the selection and formation of Somalia’s Parliament, said Kipligat. Conference officials have agreed that Parliamentarians would be selected according to the “4.5 formula,” which enables the four major clans and civil society to be represented.

Exactly how many Parliamentarians and who should be selected remains up in the air. Conference leaders initially agreed that 450 Parliamentarians should be chosen. However, donors are only willing to fund between 200 and 250 seats.

Also, a group within the conference says that MPs should be drawn only from the present delegates, while another group says the pool of eligible Parliamentarians should include people who are not attending the conference.

Approximately 85 traditional Somali traditional leaders and 23 faction leaders will choose Somalia’s Parliamentarians. The MPs, in turn, will elect Somalia’s next president.

Some observers say the fact that the elections are being held in Kenya rather than Somalia may give the elections’ results less legitimacy. “We feel that five or six million people cannot be represented by 450 people,” a Western diplomat close to the talks told Africanews-Sudan.

“It cannot be possible to have an election in Somalia because there is no security,” countered Saredo Abdalla, the leader of the Somali Women’s Group at the conference. “All groups of Somali society are represented here. It is possible that the Somali people will recognize the results of the election.”

The Western diplomat said that having the Somali traditional elders present would “enhance” the “element of support” for the election.

The term of the current president of Somalia, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, expires this year. His Transitional National Government (TNG) was formed at a similar peace conference held in Arta, Djibouti, in 2000. Despite the fact that his government was meant to be national, the TNG has only managed to control parts of Mogadishu and a few other areas in Somalia.

Observers say that the main difference between the Arta conference and the current one is that more factions and groups are sitting at the table this time around, which makes it more likely that a government coming out of this conference might be more widely accepted.

3. Q&A with TNG President Abdikassim Salat Hassan

Abdikassim Salat Hassan, the President of Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG) arrived in Nairobi June 17 to meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and delegates to the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, the peace process that has been taking place in Kenya since last year. He spoke to Special Correspondent Cathy Majtenyi.

Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Nairobi?

A: The purpose of my visit was to meet with His Excellency President Kibaki of Kenya to discuss with him problems relating to relations between our two countries and how to promote peaceful relations between the neighbouring countries of East Africa, how to combat terrorism, and how to see a successful outcome from the Somali peace conference in Kenya.

Q: Will you also be visiting the delegates at the conference itself?

A: Oh yes. I started seeing them here and I will see them in these coming days. I will tell them to come to a conclusion or [make] resolutions that will be of interest and importance to the country. I wish they will succeed in electing or choosing Members of Parliament and then these members will choose or democratically elect the future president of the transitional government of Somalia.

Q: The conference has been going on since last year. Why is it that you are coming at this point rather than at the beginning or middle of the conference?

A: The conference has been going for eight months now. For the first five months, it was not producing any results. Actually, it was a waste of time [because of] the leadership of the conference plus some members of the IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] community who were trying to sabotage the conference. But with the change of government in Kenya and the leadership of the conference, things changed over the last two to three months and now the conference is giving results. So I came because of that.

Q: You mentioned that you were eager to see this conference succeed. What kind of measurements would you use to determine whether this is a successful conference?

A: First of all, the Charter, which is the temporary constitution, should be adopted. With that Charter, we [will fix] the number of Members of Parliament. After that, Somali’s different regions should select the best people for the future Parliament. When the Parliament will be in place, they will elect the president of the country. So if these steps are taken… then this conference will succeed.

Q: What is your view about having a presidential election in Kenya as opposed to Somalia? If the people of Somalia themselves cannot vote directly for the Parliamentarians, will the choice of Parliamentarians here reflect the choice of the Somali people?

A: There’s no problem for Parliament to elect a president whether here or in Somalia. The most important thing is to have a Parliament in place well selected [with] people who are patriots, who care about Somalia and the well being of the country and who will elect a president… [Representatives of Somalia’s regions, clans and chiefs] should be invited. In fact, this is going on right now. They will consult with their constituencies. According to the tradition of Somalis… they will choose the best leader for that region or for that state.

Q: How is this conference different than a similar conference that took place in 2000 in Arta, Djibouti, where your government was formed?

A: In Arta, the conference was successful… We elected a Parliament. That Parliament elected a president in a democratic way. The international community promised to help Somalia after the elections, in disarmament, in reconstruction, and in everything. But then, when we came to Mogadishu after the election of the president, the international community did nothing for Somalia. I could say they washed their hands of Somalia.

Now, we see that the international community… is saying that if the outcome is successful, they will try to help Somalia in disarmament and other areas… If they do, a future government will succeed. If they repeat the scenario of the post-Arta government, they will see the situation deteriorating daily.

Q: One of the issues in this conference has been the role of Ethiopia and the Arab League in the way things have been running. During your presidency, how have the interests of Ethiopia and the Arab League affected your presidency and the running of Somalia?

A: It was unfortunate for the Somali people to see that the Ethiopian leadership was working to destroy the TNG. They were against a united Somali government from the very beginning. We tried to go to Addis Ababa and convince them that it is in the best interest of the peoples of Somalia and Ethiopia to have a peaceful Somalia in cooperation with their brothers in Ethiopia, in Kenya, in Djibouti. But we could not convince them of that. To the contrary, they were giving weapons, and they are still giving weapons, arms and ammunitions to the warlords in Mogadishu and in other areas of the north and south. This is known to the Security Council of the United Nations.

As for the Arab counties, Somalia is an African-Arab country. The Arab countries helped TNG to survive. They are not entering the peace process but they are helping the peace process. The only part that is working for the destabilization of the Somalis is the Ethiopian side. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is in IGAD and is in the frontline states within IGAD. They are doing everything they could to sabotage the whole process.

Q: In your view, why is Ethiopia specifically opposed to a united Somalia?

A: During 12 years of civil war in Somalia, Ethiopia was involved in this region or that region of Somalia, from the north to the south. Maybe they think that it’s in their best interest to see a divided Somalia… But it’s not in their interests. It is in the interests of the Ethiopian people to see a peaceful Somalia. If there is terrorism in Somalia, it will affect Ethiopia. If there is terrorism in Somalia, it will affect Kenya, it will affect Western interests. We have to all work for a peaceful solution to the civil war in Somalia, for peaceful cooperation between Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and all the Horn of Africa countries.

Q: You’re coming to the end of your term. As you look back on your term, what are some of you and your government’s accomplishments and the challenges you faced over the last three years?

A: We re-established the sovereignty of the country in the sense that Somalia was absent from all international organizations, starting from the United Nations to IGAD. We re-established our presence in all these institutions. Somalia was in civil war before the Arta conference. There is no civil war in Somalia right now. Somalia is in peace, except for a few warlords and people belonging to these warlords who, from time to time, may clash in Mogadishu or elsewhere. Otherwise, the whole country is in peace because this transitional government was working for peace and reconciliation. Some factions that opted to be in the government are now there, are ministers.

So I think we have made progress in the fields of reconciliation and peace, but in the fields of disarmament and development, we did not do what we wanted to do because the international community did not help us in that. It was very difficult for a national government, after 12 years of the absence of all institutions, to disarm Somalis and to unite the country. It takes time and effort, not only from the Somali side but also from the international community to achieve that.

Q: What is in your future?

A: My future is in the future of my country. I want to see my country peaceful. I want to see my country united. I want to see a peaceful, united Africa in peace and in friendship with the United States, with Europe, with Asian countries, with the rest of the world. I want to see Africa so progressive that it may send someone to the moon! I want to see our children go to schools. I want to see poverty and AIDS eradicated from Africa. This is my hope and dream.

Q: Are you one of the candidates to run for president?

A: I have to see the Parliament first and then I will decide whether I will run or not.

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