Seven Days Update, Vol. 20 No. 16

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Ethiopia’s leader has vowed that no one will stop a $4.2 bio energy project that is diverting the flow of the Nile River after Egypt’s president warned that all options were being considered to halt the dam. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that he did not think Egypt would start a war over the vital river. “’All options’ include a war. I don’t think they will take that option unless they go mad,” Hailemariam. - Hailemariam said he admired the support Sudan has shown all through the way since the construction began two years ago, adding Sudanese Foreign Minister reaffirmed his countries position on the dam. He lauded Sudan for being cooperative and for recognizing the benefits of the dam to the downstream countries (AP, June 12).

Ethiopia has refused to halt work on a controversial giant dam across the river Nile that Egypt fears will severely curb its water supply. The refusal came after the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, promised to "defend each drop of Nile water with our blood" and other senior Egyptian politicians called for the dam's destruction. A spokesman for the Ethiopian prime minister that the project would proceed as planned. Morsi's own aggressive speech is aimed at a domestic audience as much as a foreign one, as he seeks to regain support ahead of anticipated large protests against his presidency on 30 June. However insincere his military threats may be, they are nevertheless rooted in very real and widely held Egyptian fears about the dam's effect (The Guardian, June 11).

Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday ratified an accord that replaces colonial-era deals that awarded Egypt and Sudan the majority of the world’s longest river.The vote comes amid a bout of verbal jousting between Ethiopia and Egypt after Ethiopia last month started to divert Nile waters for a massive $4.2 bio hydro-electric dam. Ethiopia’s 547-member parliament unanimously endorsed the new Nile River Cooperative Framework Agreement, an accord already signed by five other Nile River countries. The accord, sometimes referred to as the Entebbe Agreement, is the product of decade-long negotiations. It was conceived to replace the 1929 treaty written by Britain that awarded Egypt veto power over upstream countries’ Nile projects. Sudan and Egypt signed a deal in 1959 splitting the Nile waters between them without giving other countries consideration ( AP, June 13).

As Oromo refugees protested mistreatment in the hands of Egyptian nationals for the second day, some of them camping overnight in front of UNHCR office near Cairo, the UN body called on Egyptian authorities to provide better protection and other guarantees in accordance with its international obligations. “The UNHCR regional office in Cairo has been receiving several complaints from Ethiopian refugees reporting physical and verbal assaults by Egyptian nationals,” Mohammed Dayri, UNHCR Regional Representative in Cairo, said (OPride, June 11).

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met with President Xi jinping of China in Beijing and agreed to raise Ethiopia-China cooperation to a new level. This is the second meeting between the two this year (CCTV).

The bank accounts of officials and businessmen recently detained on suspicion of corruption as well as those of their relatives have been frozen. Those whose bank accounts were frozen  include the brother of former Defense Minister Siye Abraha, and their relatives, Ato Nega Gebre Egziabher, owner of Netsa Trading, and his family members, Ato Simachew Kebede, owner of Intercontinental Hotel and his relatives, Ato Ketema Kebede, owner of KK PLC and other officials of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) (Ethio-Mihidar, June 11).

Ethiopia has detained two Christian men on charges of "crimes against Islam" in a move that rights activists said was influenced by "radical Muslims".. In late March, local police reportedly detained Alemayehu Legese, a student at Dodola Mekane Yesus Bible School, for admitting to owning literature that “discussed the history of Islam from a Christian perspective.” Advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), which has contacts in the area, said the arrest came after a Muslim employee at a local shop saw the book and reported him. Legese remained behind bars Saturday, June 15, with police reportedly saying it was meant to "cool down the anger of local Muslims." Fellow believer Tamirat Woldegiorgis, a Christian living in Moyale Town, was detained May 25, after being accused by Muslims of writing “Jesus is Lord in a student’s notebook, according to ICC investigators (BosNewsLife, June 15).

The National Electoral Bound of Ethiopia (NEBE) is finalizing preparations to allow diaspora Ethiopians to participate in all national elections. The Board said Ethiopians living in Arab countries, North America, Europe and South Africa, among others, will henceforth get the chance to vote in national elections in Ethiopia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has scheduled a meeting for June 15, 2013 at the Millennium Hall with diaspora Ethiopians to discuss the matter (Sendek. June 12).

The UN refugee agency has opened a new camp in northern Ethiopia to house the increasing number of Eritrean refugees entering the country. A total 776 Eritrean refugees have already been transferred to Hitsats Camp, which can house up to 20,000 refugees. UNHCR's sub-office in Shire, has erected 200 family tents and dug a communal well to handle the arrival of the new refugees at the camp on land provided by the Ethiopian government. The government has also set up a temporary medical clinic and reception facilities for arriving refugees. So far this year, UNHCR and the government's refugee agency, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), have registered more than 4,000 Eritrean refugees, overwhelming the capacity of the existing three camps in the region, which house nearly 49,000 refugees. A large number of the new arrivals are unaccompanied minors who require special protection. What is unusual is that most of the Eritrean refugees fleeing to Ethiopia are young educated men from cities, unlike most refugee situations where the majority of refugees are women and children (UNHCR, June 13 press release).

The Turkish State Railways (TCDD) has agreed to assist Ethiopia to restructure its railways, train its staff and engage in technology transfer, according to Anatolia news agency. Ethiopia, which halted railway transportation in 1997, has asked for assistance from TCDD via the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) in order to reactivate its railways between the capital Addis Ababa and Djibouti. TCDD will actively participate in restructuring the railways of the country and take part in the transfer of training and technology of workers (state media, June 10).

Ethiopia and Japan signed grant agreements amounting to 1.5 billion Birr.. Some 1.43 bio Birr of the money will be used for the rehabilitation of Lumame-Debre Markos road while the balance will be for the implementation of safe water projects in Amhara State (ENA, June 10).