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Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Also in the news: [U.N. envoy urges cease-fire in Somalia] - [Ethiopian troops move within 50 kilometres of Mogadishu] - [U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia] - [AFRICAN UNION AND ARAB LEAGUE CALL FOR ETHOPIA'S WITHDRAWAL] - [Ethiopia urged to withdraw army] - [Former US Ambassador Questions Ethiopian Military Strategy in Somalia]

International: [Gerald R. Ford, 38th U.S. President, Dies at Age 93] - [Saddam to die within 30 days as appeal fails] - [Iranian President sends message to the Pope} and more of today's top stories

Ethiopian women leading the struggle against tyranny

In a country where politics is regarded as a man's domain, Ethiopian women are leading the struggle against tyranny, writes KE's Women's Affairs correspondent Rachel Lewis

A woman in her twenties walks on a muddy path sporadically speckled with red sand and reaches her destination. The way she respires betrays excitement. She wears black gown and carries a cake, giftwrapped with greaseproof paper and ribbons. A group of people follows her, their faces knotted with utter exhilaration.

It is Lidya's graduation day and family members have gathered to celebrate the achievements of their beloved daughter, niece and sister. There is food, and smiles and laughter all around.

As her mother looks on, beaming tearfully with pride, the new graduate excitedly discusses her plans for the future amidst the well-meaning interjections of her gathered relatives and friends. This scene should ring familiar to anyone who has ever attended a graduation celebration. What makes this a rather unique and remarkable celebration is that it is being held in Kaliti Federal Prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the strict one-hour visitation period allotted the nation's political prisoners.

Kaliti prison is a collection of wide hovels made of corrugated iron and concrete. The celebration is taking place at the stand where prisoners meet their relatives during the visitation hours. It is unbearably hot by the sweltering midday sun, which followed the morning drizzle. There are no decorations and music is prohibited, though a few defiant relatives absently hum quiet refrains, while wild mice scurry underfoot in fierce competition for the leftover crumbs of the modest graduation feast.

In a few moments time, the `10-minute warning' will be announced by the head guard over a crackling loud-speaker and the celebrations will immediately come to a close—dishes and leftovers are hurriedly stuffed back into bags, goodbyes exchanged, and palms pressed. Mother and daughter stand face to face, in a final private moment—the mother bravely smiles, her repeated congratulations punctuated by the sobs that rack her small frame, while the daughter nods and whispers words of comfort as she turns to leave, masking the pain of goodbye with a maturity far beyond her years.(MORE..)

Ethiopian troops move within 50 kilometres of Mogadishu

Mogadishu - Ethiopian-backed government troops came within 50 kilometres of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday and took the last remaining large town before the capital Mogadishu, residents said.

Government troops fought their way into Jowhar, some 90 kilometres north of Mogadishu early on Wednesday as Islamist fighters in the town retreated to the capital, after orders by the Islamist chairman, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

'We attack Mogadishu Thursday. We will catch and behead all the terrorists and militants as they behead the innocent people,' said Mohamed Dhere, a former warlord who once controlled Jowhar and marched into the town with the government forces on Wednesday.

Residents of Balad, 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu said the Ethiopian-backed forces were 20 kilometres away from their town, while all Islamist troops had retreated from there to the capital. (More...)

U.N. envoy urges cease-fire in Somalia

UNITED NATIONS - The top U.N. envoy to Somalia urged the Security Council to demand an immediate cease-fire between Ethiopian forces backing Somalia's weak government and the powerful Islamic militia that has controlled much of the country.

But the appeal Tuesday from Francois Lonseny Fall, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative to Somalia, failed to produce results.

The Security Council couldn't agree on a draft presidential statement circulated by Qatar calling for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces, specifically Ethiopian troops.

Other council members - including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and African members Ghana and Tanzania - objected to singling out Ethiopia and insisted on talks between the parties and a political agreement to achieve stability before foreign forces withdraw. Discussions were to continued Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the African Union Commission, has called a meeting Wednesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of the 53-nation AU, the Arab League, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a seven-nation East African group, to try to end the fighting and resume dialogue between Somalia's warring parties. (More...)

U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 — The United States on Tuesday signaled its support for the Ethiopian offensive in Somalia, calling it a response to “aggression” by Islamists who have since the summer been consolidating power in the country.

A spokeswoman for the State Department, Janelle Hironimus, said Ethiopia was trying to stem the flow of outside arms shipments to the Islamists. Ms. Hironimus added that Washington was concerned about reports that the Islamists were using child soldiers and abusing Ethiopian prisoners of war.

The statement was the most detailed by the United States since last week, when the long-simmering tension between Ethiopia and Somalia boiled over.

Ethiopia has long been a strong ally of Washington in the Horn of Africa. The American military has for years trained Ethiopian troops at bases in the eastern region. The training is part of a Pentagon effort to build the Ethiopian military into a bulwark against regional terrorist networks. (More...)


Addis Abeba, 27 Dec. (AKI) - The African Union (AU) and the Arab League on Wednesday issued calls for Ethiopia - whose troops are currently advancing on the Somali capital, Mogadishu - to withdraw from the conflict-scarred country. Both bodies urged Ethopia not to attack Mogadishu and to begin peace talks with the Islamist Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

Arab League delegates gathered in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, said Ethopia should immediately withdraw its troops to prevent the escalating conflict spreading to the entire Horn of Africa region. The African Union (AU) and the Arab League also issued a joint appeal from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Abeba backing Somalia's transitional government based in the southern town of Baidoa. (More...)

Ethiopia urged to withdraw army

DJIBOUTI, December 27 -- Djibouti has called on its neighbour Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Somalia, where they are backing the weak government against Islamist fighters, warning the conflict could destabilise the whole of the Horn of Africa.

The Djibouti government issued the appeal following a cabinet meeting late on Tuesday called to discuss the week-old conflict, said government spokesperson Ali Abdi Farah.

"The Djibouti government joins with the Arab League and the European Union (EU) and reiterates its position in solemnly calling for the parties in the conflict to call an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia and the resumption of inter-Somalian negotiations," he said.(More...)

Former US Ambassador Questions Ethiopian Military Strategy in Somalia

As Ethiopia continues its military advances in Somalia, observers are debating the wisdom of the strategy. For an analysis, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Dr. David Shinn of George Washington University, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia. Dr. Shinn gives his short-term and long-term views of the situation. He says he thinks Ethiopian forces may try to encircle the capital, Mogadishu.

“I strongly doubt they have any desire to go into Mogadishu and repeat the problems that earlier peacekeeping forces have had in a major, highly confined urban area. But perhaps just sit outside Mogadishu and try to in effect strangle the (Islamic) courts. What I’m perplexed at though is how this accomplishes that unless you’re there a very, very long time,” Shinn says.

As for the long term, the former ambassador says, “If you stay there, you open yourself to guerilla attack. And if you leave I guess you’re assuming that you reinstall those Somali elements, including the warlords, who were there before.”(More...)

Today's Top Stories

-Gerald R. Ford, 38th U.S. President, Dies at Age 93
-Saddam to die within 30 days as appeal fails
-Iranian President sends message to the Pope
-Pregnant Germans try to delay births to get New Year cash bonus
-Woman fakes kidnapping to avoid work