Tens of thousands packed Addis Ababa's main square for millennium festivities Sept. 11 that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said should mark a new beginning for Ethiopia. Meles said the occasion heralded a "glorious new page" in the country's history. "A thousand years from now, when Ethiopians gather to welcome the fourth millennium, they shall say the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of the end of the dark ages in Ethiopia. They shall say that the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of the Ethiopian renaissance."
An Aug. 24 Amnesty International press release claimed new photo evidence showing that the Sudanese government continues to deploy offensive military equipment in Darfur, despite the UN arms embargo. "Once again Amnesty International calls on the UN Security Council to act decisively to ensure the embargo is effectively enforced, including by the placement of UN observers at all ports of entry in Sudan and Darfur," said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's Arms Control Research Manager.
The Mauritanian government must take additional measures to ensure a new law criminalizing slavery has an effect, human rights activists say.
"The new law is a very positive first step. It is only a first step though," said Romana Cacchioli, Africa Program Coordinator for the British nongovernmental pressure group, Anti-Slavery International. "We don't eradicate slavery just by introducing a law."
A new report to the UN Security Council finds that Eritrea has secretly supplied "huge quantities of arms" to a Somali insurgent group with supposed links to al-Qaeda, in violation of an international embargo. "Somalia is awash with arms," the Monitoring Group on Somalia said in its report handed in to the Security Council last week and leaked to the AP. It accuses Eritrea of flying shipments of surface-to-air missiles, explosives and other arms to the Islamic insurgent group known as the Shabab. Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu called the accusations a "big lie," adding: "These allegations are not new and we know where they are coming from. The UN is acting as a megaphone of the United States." But the report also has criticisms of Ethiopia. It accuses Ethiopian troops of using white phosphorous bombs against insurgents in a April 13 battle that left 15 fighters and 35 civilians dead—one of many such abuses. "Whatever little confidence there was in the ability of the transitional Somali government to rule is fast eroding," the report states. "Antagonism against Ethiopia is at a crescendo, clearly not being helped by the Ethiopian army's heavy-handed response to insurgent attacks involving the use of disproportionate force." (AP, AlJazeera, July 26)
Boy, does it ever look like a case of "meet the new boss" in Ethiopia. A front-page story by Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times July 22 informs us that the government is blocking food aid to the restive Ogaden region. "Food cannot get in," said Mohammed Diab, the director of the UN World Food Program in Ethiopia. Another anonymous "humanitarian official" said: "It's a starve-out-the-population strategy. If something isn't done on the diplomatic front soon, we're going to have a government-caused famine on our hands." The government says the blockade covers only strategic locations, and is meant to prevent arms from reaching the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The really sick thing is that this is a tactic pioneered by the exiled dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has been convicted on genocide charges by the current regime. Back during the famines of the 1980s, Mengistu barred food aid from reaching the restive Tigray region (as the Library of Congress Country Studies page on Ethiopia recalls). Now the new (Tigray-dominated) regime is emulating this genocidal stratagem against its own ethnic enemies.
At the recent African Union summit in Accra, Senegalese music star Youssou N'Dour—recently selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential personalities in the world—voiced support for the idea of a United States of Africa, and said he would run for the united continent's first president. "Apart from all demagogy, I solemnly announce my candidacy for leading the future African government," he said to thunderous applause. "I'm aware of the enormous stakes connected to this issue, and I have the required capacities." (Echorouk Online, Algeria, June 28)
Speaking on the eve of an African Union summit in Accra June 30, Libyan leader Moammar Qadaffi called on the continent to unite under a single government. Declaring himself a "soldier for Africa," Qaddafi said AU leaders had not yet achieved the dream of unity voiced half a century ago by Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, leading icon of African independence and unity. "For Africa, the matter is to be or not to be," Qadaffi told a cheering audience of students, activists and local Muslim leaders at the University of Ghana. "My vision is to wake up the African leaders to unify our continent."
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says he is strengthening his army in preparation for an attack by regional rival Eritrea. "Our defence forces have the capacity to deter aggression and to repulse it if it occurred," Zenawi told Ethiopian members of parliament June 28.