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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
11 January 2006

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Year in Brief, Jan-June 2005 - A chronology of key events

NAIROBI, 11 Jan 2006 (IRIN) -

January February March April
May June July August
September October November December




JANUARY


ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 14 Jan - Maj-Gen Rajender Singh, force commander of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), says that peacekeepers have found proof that an Eritrean village had come under attack by armed men, as reported by the Eritrean government in December.

ETHIOPIA, 18 Jan - Ethiopia's parliament reforms the country's electoral law ahead of general elections on 15 May. For the first time, opposition parties would be allowed access to state media, as well as the right to call meetings and rallies without seeking governmental permission. The reforms also scrap a requirement that candidates collect signatures from 500 supporters before they can run for office. It is the first time that electoral law has changed since the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991. The government, however, rejected proposed reforms to the election board.

ERITREA, 19 Jan - An estimated 2.3 million Eritreans are in need of food aid due to prolonged drought and delayed rainfall, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns. Those affected would need more than 250,000 tonnes of food in 2005 to supplement their meagre harvest.

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FEBRUARY


ERITREA, 4 Feb - The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appeal for US $4.38 million to provide food and clean water to some 55,000 Eritrean villagers affected by four consecutive years of drought.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 14 Feb - The European Union expresses concern over "the recent military build-up" by Ethiopia and Eritrea and urges both sides not to ignite another war. Dutch Ambassador Rob Vermaas, whose country holds the EU presidency, says the 25-nation body is "particularly concerned" about the build-up near the border, which is patrolled by a 3,800-strong UN peacekeeping force.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 16 Feb - The military build-up on the border could "aggravate" simmering tensions, the UN Security Council cautions. The warning comes as UNMEE confirms that it has been asked by Ethiopia to investigate a clash between armed men on the border.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 18 Feb - Large numbers of troops on the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea could threaten the fragile peace in the area, UNMEE warns. Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte, UNMEE spokeswoman, urges both countries to remain calm and show restraint, following reports that Ethiopia has moved its troops closer to the frontier with Eritrea. Ethiopia insists the deployment is purely defensive.

ETHIOPIA, 22 Feb - Elections could be affected if widespread violence occurs in the run-up to polling, warns Kemal Bedri, chairman of the country's national election board. Bedri speaks out after confirming that two people were killed in January attacks. The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party says the attacks were meant to intimidate opposition leaders in the run-up to 15 May national elections.

ETHIOPIA, 23 Feb - Some of the last remaining refugees who fled the civil war in Somalia during the 1990s begin returning home from Ethiopia.

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MARCH


ETHIOPIA, 1 Mar - Two children are reported to have contracted polio. It is the first time the virus has been reported in the country in four years. Almaz Gebre Senbet, a polio expert, says the children lived close to the Sudanese border.

ERITREA, 2 Mar - Eritrea is in desperate need of assistance to pre-empt widespread malnutrition resulting from worsening food shortages as the country experiences a fourth consecutive drought cycle. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), all six regions of the country have malnutrition rates higher than 10 percent, and in three of them, the rates exceed 15 percent.

ETHIOPIA, 4 Mar - The government reacts strongly to criticism of its human rights record by the United States, calling the condemnation of human rights in Ethiopia in the US State Department’s 2004 global report "baseless and frivolous".

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 14 Mar - The UN Security Council extends the mandate of UNMEE until 15 September 2005. In a unanimous resolution, the Council urges Ethiopia and Eritrea not to increase troop numbers in areas adjacent to the temporary security zone between the two countries and to give serious consideration to returning to the 16 December 2004 levels of deployment.

ETHIOPIA, 15 Mar - A new HIV/AIDS hotline is launched to provide accurate information, counselling and free referrals to callers across the country. Dubbed the "Wegen AIDS Talkline", the service will include information on the location of testing centres, ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission and treatment options such as antiretroviral therapy.

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APRIL


ERITREA, 4 Apr - A UN report warns that the humanitarian situation in Eritrea is deteriorating, mainly due to recurrent drought and the protracted stalemate in the peace process with Ethiopia. Drought had caused "failed harvests, loss of livestock and food insecurity throughout all parts of the country - both rural and urban," while rains had failed for the fifth consecutive year. Surveys show that pastures in Eritrea's three most fertile regions - Anseba, Gash Barka, and Debub - are at their driest since 1998.

ETHIOPIA, 8 Apr - Mortality and malnutrition rates among children at Hartishek, a former refugee camp in the southeast, are reported to be critically high. Save the Children UK calls for immediate food distribution, medical support and proper sanitation at Hartishek, which was once the world's largest refugee camp and is home to thousands of Somalis.

ETHIOPIA, 13 Apr - A meningitis outbreak in the regions of Tigray, Afar, Benshangul-Gumuz and Oromiya claims the lives of 40 people and infects more than 433. Vivian Vansteirteghem, head of health and nutrition at UNICEF-Ethiopia, says the country needs $2.4 million to bridge a funding gap for vaccines and treatment.

ETHIOPIA, 18 Apr - Fifty-two EU observers arrive, one month ahead of the national elections. Rafael Lopez Pintor, deputy chief observer, tells reporters the observers are the core element of the EU mission to assess Ethiopia's third-ever democratic ballot. The EU will also deploy 100 short-term observers who are expected on 10 May - five days before the elections. The first EU team arrived in March to prepare the groundwork for the observers.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, 21 Apr - UN peacekeepers investigate two armed clashes on the border that left up to four dead. Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte, UNMEE spokeswoman, says the incidents on 9 and 11 April were probably caused by cattle rustling.

ETHIOPIA, 23 Apr - Floods kill 154 people after the Wabe Shebelle River bursts its banks because of heavy rains. Tens of thousands were affected by the flooding, which destroyed homes and washed away crops and livestock. Many of the victims were sleeping when crashing floodwaters hit 40 villages in the remote Somali region.

ETHIOPIA, 28 Apr - Four Ethiopians are injured along the border with Eritrea after a spate of blasts from freshly planted landmines. Phil Lewis, head of the UN's Mine Action Coordination Centre, says three antitank mines had exploded and damaged vehicles over the last month. The first of newly planted landmines along the frontier, they all exploded close to Humera, in the far western border region, some 850 km north of Addis Ababa.

ETHIOPIA, 28 Apr - Ethiopia's third-ever democratic elections have been marred by random killings, mass arrests, torture and intimidation, five main opposition groups allege. They report that two opposition members had been shot dead and hundreds rounded up and imprisoned, while dozens had disappeared less than three weeks ahead of the 15 May legislative elections. Bereket Simon, Ethiopian information minister, dismisses the allegations as "baseless".

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MAY


ETHIOPIA, 4 May - The high court overturns a controversial law that had effectively banned thousands of local observers from monitoring the country's parliamentary elections. Judge Brehanu Teshome says the new ruling, introduced in April by the country's election board, "contravened" the laws of the land. Local groups can now field election observers to monitor the elections.

ETHIOPIA, 9 May - The European Commission (EC) welcomes ongoing campaigns for national elections, saying Ethiopia's democratisation process was undergoing "a sea change”. Tim Clarke, the EC head in Ethiopia, tells observers that the openness of the campaign is unprecedented. Thirty-five parties are contesting the election, and there are 30,000 polling stations.

ETHIOPIA, 10 May - Human Rights Watch warns that political dissent in the Oromiya region, where one-third of the entire population lives, is being quashed by the government, thereby compromising the integrity of the 15 May elections. The watchdog says repression Ethiopia’s most populous region had made the elections a "hollow exercise".

ETHIOPIA, 13 May - Former US President Jimmy Carter warns that he would be ready to declare Ethiopia's elections illegitimate if he had reason to believe that they were marred by widespread irregularities. However, he adds, his 50-member team had so far found no evidence of abuses. Ethiopia has made "extraordinary progress" in democratisation, he says.

ETHIOPIA, 15 May - Millions of Ethiopians go to the polls in elections that are widely expected to hand Prime Minister Meles Zenawi a third five-year term. At dawn, huge queues of voters snake around polling stations in what is seen as a key test of Meles's plan to introduce greater democracy in this country of 71 million.

ETHIOPIA, 19 May - Ethiopia's main opposition parties claim they are headed for victory in the country's national elections - two days after the government announced it had won. The CUD and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces say they have won 203 seats in the 547-member parliament after results from 260 constituencies had been counted. The ruling EPRDF, however, insists it has won more than 300 seats, with a clear majority to form a government.

ETHIOPIA, 23 May - Western envoys appeal for calm as provisional results from the elections continue to trickle in. In a statement, 21 embassies in Addis Ababa urge restraint as both the ruling and opposition parties claim victory and accuse each other of vote rigging.

ETHIOPIA, 25 May - EU election observers say the elections are being seriously undermined by delays in vote counting. The observer mission, led by Ana Gomes, expresses "regret" at the way the election board was counting and releasing votes and criticises the state-run media, saying it has a "duty to report on post-election events in an even-handed manner."

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JUNE


ETHIOPIA, 1 June - The CUD launches legal action to prevent the release of disputed provisional election results. The opposition party says massive vote rigging had cast doubt on the results and threatens nationwide protests if the announced returns were made final. The election board promises to release final results on 8 June.

ETHIOPIA, 6 June - Election results are delayed by one month after the electoral board receives complaints from 299 constituencies. Board chief Kemal Bedri says that the scale of the complaints had necessitated the delay. He made the remarks as police arrested several hundred university students in Addis Ababa who were protesting the outcome of the elections, which, according to provisional results, the ruling EPRDF won.

ETHIOPIA, 8 June - At least 20 people are killed and others wounded following an outbreak of violence in Addis Ababa, as students demonstrated against alleged fraud in the 15 May elections. Police commander Mulgeta Shiferaw says the police had detained 520 students and protesters. A further 50 "hooligans" were also arrested, he adds. The violence is followed by similar clashes at two other college campuses, which riot police quickly break up. Information minister Bereket Simon says the CUD is behind the protests. CUD vice-chairman Berhanu Nega denies Bereket's claim.

ETHIOPIA, 10 June - The government comes under international criticism following three days of violent demonstrations against alleged electoral fraud, during which security forces reportedly open fire and kill at least 26 people. Information minister Bereket Simon says the opposition political parties are responsible for the violence and calls for the spotlight to be focused on them. Opposition parties deny they are to blame and accuse the government of fomenting violence to undermine government opponents. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemns the violence.

ETHIOPIA, 15 June - Thousands of people are arrested across Ethiopia following the recent violence triggered by demonstrations against alleged fraud in parliamentary elections, Human Rights Watch reports. "The security forces have killed dozens of protesters and arbitrarily detained thousands of people across the country," says Georgette Gagnon, the watchdog’s deputy director for Africa, in statement. Security forces had responded to incidents of rock throwing and looting "by opening fire indiscriminately on large crowds of people, killing at least 36 and wounding more than 100."

ETHIOPIA, 16 June - Great Britain freezes 20 million pounds sterling ($36 million) in direct budget support due to civil unrest that left some 36 people dead.

ERITREA, 20 June - Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki urges the international community to put pressure on Ethiopia to end the border standoff and claims that the world seemed to favour Addis Ababa in the dispute.

ETHIOPIA, 28 June - Police detain four editors of private newspapers for hours on charges of defaming the air force. The arrests occur following reports that eight pilots had sought political asylum in Belarus after recent election violence. "We are deeply concerned by signs of a crackdown on independent media in Ethiopia," Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

ETHIOPIA, 29 June - Western donors put pressure on the Ethiopian government to fully investigate the deaths of at least 36 people reportedly shot dead by police during post-election violence in mid-June. In a statement, they also call for the release of prisoners who were rounded up during and after the election protests.

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January February March April
May June July August
September October November December

[ENDS]

 

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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