June 2, 2011: Ethiopia and Uganda have decided to go ahead and begin building, this year, four new dams on the Nile River, on the Blue Nile and White Nile, respectively. The dams continue to cause controversy downstream, particularly in Egypt. In mid-May Ethiopia offered a concession to Egypt. Water retained for its Renaissance Dam project (which is near the Sudan border) will not be used for irrigation, but to generate hydro-electric power. Egypt has accused Ethiopia of planning to use the water for irrigation. In hydro-electric production, the water will flow, while irrigation water stays where it is used. The Renaissance Dam will be completed in 2018.
May 28, 2011: The Ethiopian Army has deployed a division to help find kidnapped World Food Program (WFP) workers that the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) claimed it had taken on May 26. The Ethiopian forces are supported by helicopters and helicopter gunships. The ONLF claimed that it had contacted UN representatives and was protecting the WFP workers. The ONLF said it would hand the workers over to a UN agency.
May 26, 2011: The ONLF claimed it had found two WFP workers who were missing after someone ambushed their convoy inside Ethiopia but near the Somalia-Ethiopia border region. The two workers have apparently been found inside Ethiopia. The ONLF claims Ethiopia illegally occupies the predominantly ethnic Somali Ogaden region. The ONLF has accused the Ethiopian government of ambushing the convoy, and the Ethiopian government has returned the favor. The OLF accusation was particularly interesting. The ONLF said the WFP workers were being held in a prison in Ethiopia. The government called that claim an absolute lie. The government did say that a special national police unit had ambushed an ONLF group near the town of Galalshe and killed around 70 ONLF rebels. The police unit suffered three dead in action. It is no secret that the ONLF moves rather freely back and forth across the Somali border. The desert terrain is hard to police.
May 22, 2011: Eritrea is encouraging anti-Southern Sudan rebel forces on behalf of Sudan’s national government (Northern Sudan). The goal isn’t simply to destabilize Southern Sudan. The current Eritrean government makes the argument that it does not need to have elections since it is Africa’s newest state. That argument goes out the window this summer when Southern Sudan becomes independent. Yes, that’s a self-serving propaganda twist by Ethiopia, and these stories have begun circulating just as reports break of heavy fighting between Northern and Southern Sudan in the Abyei region. But there are reasons to give Ethiopia’s claim a degree of credence. Eritrea has served as a collecting point, training base, and weapons depot for a number of guerrilla groups around the world. Given the northern threat, Southern Sudan will likely seek an alliance with Ethiopia. It already had de facto alliances with Uganda and Kenya. From the Eritrean perspective, the friend of my enemy (Ethiopia), is my enemy.
May 19, 2011: The World Food Program announced it intends to restart aid deliveries in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. The deliveries were halted after two aid workers went missing after an attack on their aid convoy on May 13.
May 18, 2011: Ethiopia and Kenya continue to coordinate operations to stop tribal trouble on their mutual border. Kenyan military and police forces are engaging Merille tribal raiders who the Kenyan government claims have killed 40 people in recent attacks. The Merille claim territory on both sides of the Ethiopia-Kenya border. The Kenyan government wants to send some 2,500 Merille people back into Ethiopia.
May 16, 2011: Djibouti announced that it will definitely provide a battalion of troops for peacekeeping duty with the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM). Djibouti’s willingness to participate in AMISOM has angered Somali Islamist militants. Eritrea is not pleased with Djibouti’s decision since the Somali Islamist Al Shabaab group is regarded as an Eritrean ally.
May 15, 2011: The ONLF claimed that the Ethiopian government had killed over 100 civilians in a series of attacks in the Ogaden region. One of the civilians killed, according to the ONLF, was a UN aid worker. The ONLF also claimed the government kidnapped an aid worker.
May 12, 2011: The entire Horn of Africa is facing yet another food shortage due to drought. The rising price of imported food is making the situation more dangerous for the starving, and for governments in the region. The Ethiopian government is concerned that food shortages will provoke popular protests and opposition parties will use the protests to confront the government. It’s why they call them bread riots. Food prices jumped 32 percent in Ethiopia during the month of April 2011.
May 11, 2011: NATO naval forces in the Indian Ocean boarded a cargo ship carrying weapons from North Korea to Eritrea. The shipment violates UN sanctions on Eritrea. A UN source reported the cargo vessel carried rockets, surface to air missiles, and explosives, but did not provide further details on the weapons. Outlaw to outlaw gun-running and commerce continues to be a problem for UN sanctions advocates. This shipment was stopped, in part because international naval forces are in the region to combat Somali piracy.