23 January 2014 News Roll


Israel Chemicals Said Near Accord With Allana on Potash


By David Wainer and Christopher Donville         
January 23, 2014 2:42 PM EST

Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL), which harvests minerals from the Dead Sea to produce fertilizers, is nearing an agreement to help Canada’s Allana Potash Corp. (AAA) develop a potash mine in Ethiopia, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The person asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The talks could still fall apart.

A tie-up may provide ICL with a new source of potash nearer to buyers in India and China just as a government-appointed panel is leading a review of Israel’s natural-resources royalties and taxes. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., Canada’s largest potash producer, scrapped a proposed bid for ICL in April because of uncertainty surrounding Israeli policies.

“ICL has recently announced its new strategy and cited an intention to develop potash capacity beyond its current mines,” the Tel Aviv-based company said today in an e-mailed response to questions. “ICL is discussing many opportunities and projects around the world.”

ICL also said its collaboration with other companies often begins with it providing technical assistance. The current potash market, in which prices have slumped in the past 12 months, is “challenging” for all potash mines that are being developed from scratch, it said.

The agreement would give Allana, with a market capitalization of C$115 million ($103 million) and no revenue, an experienced partner to help it develop its mine in Ethiopia’s northeastern Danakil Depression.

Richard Kelertas, a spokesman for Toronto-based Allana, declined to comment on ICL’s interest.

Allana’s proposed mine would flush water-soluble underground potash deposits with brine. The resulting liquid solution would be pumped to evaporation ponds on the surface. In May, the company said Ethiopia approved Allana’s environmental, social and health impact assessment for the project. A feasibility study was completed in February.

Allana was 1.1 percent higher at C$0.44 at 2:39 p.m. in Toronto after earlier rising as much as 3.5 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Wainer in Tel Aviv at dwainer3@bloomberg.net; Christopher Donville in Vancouver at donville@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net



Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Holds Talks With Business Institutions in Abu Dhabi


Prime Minister Hailemariam on Monday (January 21) met and held discussions with the Managing Director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and with members of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, including some investors in Ethiopia and others with an interest to engage with Ethiopia.

The Prime Minister underlined the strong historical and cultural ties which had laid a strong basis for other links. He detailed the changes happening in Africa in general and in Ethiopia in particular which, he pointed out, has been creating a conducive situation for investors to engage in different sectors. He explained Ethiopia’s welcoming investment atmosphere and outlined the priority areas which should attract foreign investors. He called upon investors from Abu Dhabi to engage in those priority areas.

The members of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce thanked the Prime Minister for his explanations of the investment climate in Ethiopia and expressed interest in expediting the available opportunities. In addition, following the Prime Minister’s discussions with the Abu Dhabi Fund, the Fund has expressed interest in financing a number of different infrastructural projects in Ethiopia, including logistic, water and sanitation, and railway developments.



Turkish company invests 1.2 bln birr in textile sector


The Turkish textile factory MNS Manufacturing P.L.C. has launched the first phase production of carpet, towel and bathrooms, polyester, fiber-line home furniture (spring mattress and sofa) investing of over 1.2 billion birr.
The company has been undertaking expansion activities in three phases around Lege Tafo area. The factory has already accomplished the task of construction and equipment installation. The factory entered first production phase and is expected to finalize phase two and three construction very soon.
MNS Project Coordinator Nursel Aslan said: “We are working very hard to finalize the whole project and make the investment generate income as quickest as possible. Investors should be very committed to succeed in Ethiopia as we do. If you are suspicious you cannot be successful.”
Asked about employment opportunities created by the factory, she said that when the factory goes fully operational it was expecting to create around 1,000 jobs only in its first phase. “So far, we have employed 400 Ethiopians, which is increasing day by day. We didn’t reach the peak. We have just started. This year, when the first and the second phases go fully operational, we will have approximately 1,200-1,500 Ethiopian workers,” she added.
Concerning the investment climate, she said that one can easily understand that there is a very good investment climate in Ethiopia. “In our first visit, September 2011, we have assessed the investment climate in Ethiopia and we have been sure that there is very attractive environment for investment. We have received a warm welcome and unreserved support from government officials at different levels from the very start up to now.”
In the past six months, 46 investors registering 7 billion birr capital received license and land in Oromia State. The license of 31 investors who failed to launch their respective projects have been revoked by the State Investment Commission.
Commission Communication Affairs Process Owner Mekonnen Fufa recently told The Ethiopian Herald that the measures were taken following repeated consultation and warning.
On the other hand, he said it is quite incredible to see factories like MNS having received investment license and land and start production in a period of one year.



Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world


 The InterContinental Davos luxury hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. Oxfam report found people in countries around the world believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS


As World Economic Forum starts in Davos, development charity claims growing inequality has been driven by ‘power grab’.

According the Guardian, the world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for traveling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called ‘global elite’ is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

The wealth of the 1 per cent richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions.

It’s a chilling reminder of the depths of wealth inequality as political leaders and top business people head to the snowy peaks of Davos for this week’s World Economic Forum. Few, if any, will be arriving on anything as common as a bus, with private jets and helicopters pressed into service as many of the world’s most powerful people convene to discuss the state of the global economy over four hectic days of meetings, seminars and parties in the exclusive ski resort.

Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam Executive Director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

In the report, entitled Working For The Few, Oxfam warned that the fight against poverty cannot be won until wealth inequality has been tackled.

“Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima said.

Oxfam called on attendees at this week’s World Economic Forum to take a personal pledge to tackle the problem by refraining from dodging taxes or using their wealth to seek political favours.

As well as being morally dubious, economic inequality can also exacerbate other social problems such as gender inequality, Oxfam warned. Davos itself is also struggling in this area, with the number of female delegates actually dropping from 17 per cent in 2013 to 15 per cent this year.



Finland keen to assist NHRAP implementation


Ethiopia has launched its first ever National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) in a bid to ensure and protect human rights side by side with the economic growth it has been registering so far. Ethiopian Human Rights Commission recently organized a discussion forum on Human Rights in collaboration with Finnish Embassy in Ethiopia. A Finnish Parliamentary Delegation and representatives of Civil Societies were in attendance at the discussion. During the discussion it was learnt that almost all federal and state administrations of the nation have already adopted their own respective Action Plan with a view to safeguarding human rights.

Chief Commissioner of Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Tiruneh Zena said that the Action Plan has been commissioned by the Council of Ministers and endorsed by the FDRE House of Peoples’ Representatives. In addition, it was prepared by full participation of the public.

Speaking about Civil and Political rights, he noted that a third of Ethiopian Constitution consists of articles dedicated to right issues and stipulates all International Conventions which are signed and ratified by Ethiopia as a national law. Despite these efforts, there are challenges in implementing national and international laws and the Commission has observed disproportionate use of force, delays in bringing the suspect to the court and human rights abuses in some detention centres of the country during its monitoring practices, he added.

To overcome challenges mentioned earlier as well as others, the Ethiopian government has already engaged in forging and implementing the national human rights Action Plan. In addition, it has established a Steering Committee which meets every fortnight to oversee the implementation of the plan, according to Ambassador Tiruneh.

Pertaining to the composition of the Steering Committee, he indicated that it is composed of representatives from various governmental and non-governmental bodies namely, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Federal Affairs, Ministry of Youth, Women and Children, Bureau of Government Communication as well as from other Associations. The Chair of the Steering Committee is the Minister of Justice while the Chief Commissioner serves as a secretary.

In addition to the Commission’s enormous roles in the preparation and implementation of the Action Plan, he said, the Commission is getting involved in setting up the National Human Rights Forum across the nation. The Forum is expected to create and raise awareness aiming to eliminate harmful traditional practices such as early or forced marriage, Female Genital Manipulation (FGM), polygamy and others that are still persisting in the country, he reiterated.

In terms of advising the government and presenting truth to the Ethiopian people as well as to the international community, Ambassador Tiruneh asserted that the Commission has conducted series of studies in various areas. In this context, studies have been conducted in areas such as human rights situations in detention centres, government communal programmes, social discrimination of ethnic groups. And the reports have been made public.

On top of handling thousands of complaints, he noted that the Commission in cooperation with non-governmental organizations and higher learning institutions has set up over 126 legal aid centres which provide free legal assistance to the disadvantaged groups.

He cited the geographical location of the country which is in the turbulent Horn Region as a challenge for the Commission. Elaborating his argument he said the region is safe haven for terrorists. He also brought to attention the double digit economic growth of the nation, unveiling the existence of significant number of the Ethiopian population who are not food self-sufficient. According to him, there is also visible disparity among state administrations in terms of the economic and social development.

Finnish Ambassador to Ethiopia, Sirpa Maenpaa on the occasion stressed that discussions like this would help the Finnish delegation to have clear understanding about the human rights situations in Ethiopia. She also underlined that democracy is built on some key bases of political and civil rights. Thus, it is important to have national human rights Action Plan to spread and promote democracy in this country, she added.

According to Sirpa, the implementation of Human Rights Action Plan would realize the potential of nation’s moral and political commitments. She also promised that Finland would provide every necessary assistance crucial to the endeavours that foster the full implementation of the Plan.

The Deputy Commissioner of Federal Ethics sand Anti-Corruption, Wedo Atto told the delegation that the assets of more than six hundred government officials and appointees have been registered by the Commission, millions of birr that had been stolen by some corrupt officials have been returned to the government by court order. Lands that were grabbed illegally by some irresponsible state officials have been made to become the properties of the government and people of Ethiopia. Besides, more than 2,000 corruption cases have been brought to justice.

Regarding the magnitude of corruption in Ethiopia, he noted that corruption is not listed as the topmost problems of the country compared to other developing countries. According to surveys that have been conducted by international organizations including The World Bank, problems like unemployment, inflation, transport scarcity are the top ones in the country.

Underscoring the importance of public participation in the fight against corruption, he said that the Commission has a National Anti-Corruption Coalition, which works with various professional associations and media organizations. In addition, it gives Anti-Corruption education in primary and secondary schools of the country.

Gezahegn Tesfaye, Deputy Director General of Public Relations, in the Ethiopian Office of Ombudsman also briefed the delegation about the responsibilities and the duties of the office with a view to bringing about good governance and to ensuring the right to access information in the country.

To familiarize the public with this newly established office, he said that a number of workshops and consultative meetings have been organized aiming to enhance the awareness of the stakeholders and the public at large with regards to the core principles of the office.

In the end, the Finnish Delegation Head said that the discussion on human rights and democracy was praiseworthy and has corrected their misconception about the country. She also recommended such discussions should further be strengthened between the two sisterly countries in order to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan in successful manner.



Maintaining the tempo of the light rail project


The government of Ethiopia is busy in the expansion of infrastructural facilities as part of its bid towards the furtherance of the economic growth the country registered in the row. Among others, it is doing laudable infrastructure expansion works in the road, electric power and telecom sectors.

Building sugar and fertilizer factories, it is striving to ensure the sustainability of the economic pick up the country displayed. It is working hard to render citizens beneficiaries of the amenities of an affluent life.

The government eyes at materializing a fast transport service that corresponds to the ever vibrant economic activities in the country. Railway projects are under way to catalyse dry port transport services. Upon completion the railway facilities will link the industry and Development Corridors with Djibouti’s port.

As per the schedule the Addis Light Railway Project is proceeding ahead. It goes without saying, upon seeing the day’s light, the railway service will curb the transportation problem manifest in the city.

The project came into being out of the necessity of putting light rail service at four selected routes of the city to supplement the taxi and bus transportation services that proved less compatible with the ever growing number of commuters.

The project is reportedly 50 per cent through. Getting in full gear when it begins rendering service, it will have the capacity to commute 60 thousand to 80 thousand passengers per hour. Observing the pace at which the project is now going it is safe to predict the light rail project will see completion next year. Tightening belts to avert slackening is therefore necessary. All stakeholders engaged in the construction work are expected to deploy a concerted effort.

Parts of the city where the route passes have turned into huge construction sites. The roads in and around the railway route are being dug and excavated. Some bearing big furrows and burrows are cordoned off. In some areas, 17-22m depth excavation task are taking place to erect bridges. Though residents complain of traffic congestion and the clogging of roads they are patiently entertaining discomforts mindful of a better tomorrow. This is sign enough that citizens vest great hope in the ray of all illumining development at the end of the tunnel. Business men flanking the construction areas are entertaining the same feeling. This fact shows the development works in the country are backed by an all out support. Hence there is a call for strengthening the light rail project that holds a great promise residents of the city.

After the 34 meter light railway work entailed in the first chapter is through, studies will kick off to implement the expansion work earmarked for the second chapter. The second chapter will push the railway installation work from 34KM to 75KM. Apart from step by step curbing commuter’s problem it makes possible a transportation service up to the standard of the city on the rise.

The city, which is a seat of international and continental organizations and which houses numerous embassies and residencies of core-diplomatic communities, deserve a state-of-the-art-transportation system.

Strengthening and spurring the rail transportation service is a must. The corporation had noted that so far it had faced no financial constraint in translating the project into action. As the money needed to execute the project is pooled there will be no financial problem in the fast execution of the remaining tasks.

Corporation Public Relations and Communication Directorate Director Abebe Meherete confirms this.

“Unless the project faces unforeseen challenges beyond the capacity of the corporation, the ongoing construction work will not stop even for a minute and the contractor has been making utmost effort to finalize the project ahead of the schedule.”

All necessary raw materials essential for the construction work are also timely imported. Pre-emptive works to avert potential hurdles are done. These facts indicate that the day the transportation problem of the city will be circumvented is not distant.

To come up with skilled professionals in the field citizens are taking training at universities abroad and here. No doubt in the course of the project execution Ethiopian experts will benefit from technology transfer. The country will have muscles for future similar construction works. Residents of the town are eagerly looking forward to the realization of the light rail project that will also hasten the country’s trade and investment activities. Hence the tempo of the project should be maintained.



Government intervention in the grain market: Is it serving its purpose?


An increased crop harvest is expected in this crop season. The increment of food grain is said to be an outcome obtained as a result of the concerted efforts of all actors in the sector including the government following a decline in the past crop season.

Since last year, the government has been helping farmers to adopt modern way of farming by applying modern farming technologies. As a result of such efforts food grain harvest has increased this year by 10 percent or 22.9 million quintals.

Although last year’s total farmed land was less than that of this year by only one percent the yield harvested was considerably low compared to that of this year. This year the total area covered with crops was 12.4 million hectares.

One of the factors that led to an increase in the crop harvest this year, was the fact that the government was able to timely provide the farmers with agricultural inputs including select seeds and fertilizers. Accordingly 971 metric tonnes of chemical fertilizer, 37 million metric tonnes of compost and more than 2 million quintals of select seed were distributed to the farmers.

Moreover, the government was able to help the farmers adopt row sowing techniques. A command post which was headed by the Prime Minister and a delegation that is structured up to Keble level was also playing its own role in the evaluation and monitoring of performance in the sector.

This, in fact, implies the fact that the government in particular and other stakeholders in general had a concerted efforts in introducing improved farming technologies to the farmers.

In 2004/2005 E.C the agriculture sector in general had weak performance. In these two years, although it was planned to achieve the Growth and Transformation Plan of achieving crop production growth by 8.0 per cent or 245 million quintals the performance was only 231 quintals or 5.9 per cent.

Due to the increased work done in terms of mobilization of human and material resources the government set a plan to harvest 277 million quintals of crop which is 20 per cent higher compared to that of the previous years. Accordingly, the Central Statistics Agency’s pre-harvest assessment estimates production to be far more than that of the last year or any harvest seasons in the past.

According to the Agency’s report, yields of spring season, irrigation farms, coffee, vegetables, root vegetables and fruit products are not included in the pre-harvest assessment that is anticipated to grow by 10 per cent.

A total of around 254.2 million quintals is expected to be obtained in this harvest year exceeding by 22.9 million quintals that of last year.

The price of products is determined by the demand and supply. That implies when the supply side increase there is always fall in price. Due to this very fact, the increased production of food grain is estimated to encounter a fall in price.

This fall in price is anticipated to take place as a result of the increment in grain yield of this harvest year which may affect the farmer’s benefit as the increment may result in the fall of price of grain products.

Following the expected rise in the yield of agricultural products this year, the Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise has plans to buy a large volume of grain from farmers after signing agreement with farmer unions established at different regions of the country.

The government has settled a budget of around 6.8 billion birr to buy grain products both from the local and international markets.

The government’s intervention in the grain market is perhaps, not a new phenomenon. Since the year 1999 E.C when the price of wheat rose to 800 to 900 per quintals, the government was working to balance the market of grain. The 2006 harvest season is estimated to bring comparatively larger production of grains. Out of this increment in production of grain, consumers will have benefited from price reduction of the grain.

Is the current price of food grain at its healthier state? Has the huge budget allocated for market intervention benefited both the consumers and the farmers. Does it really benefit the consumer? What is the benefit of the government intervention in the grain market?

For such and related questions this reporter stayed for a while with Ephrem Welde-Silase, Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

Ephrem Wolde-Silase said that intention of buying grain crops is aimed at controlling the unexpected fall in price of grain as it would ultimately affect the farmer.

Asked how the government’s intervention can help in regulating the market Ephrem explained that the government intervenes in the grain market to balance the market through conserving grain in a bid to avoid unexpected fall in price witch may come as a result of surplus supply of grain. According to Ephrem the government intervenes in the market through buying the farmers’ food grains, storing and later selling to the consumers.

“When a free market system is unable to be functional there is a way by which the government temporarily intervenes in the market and later withdraws itself when the price becomes stable then leaves both the demand and supply to the consumer and supplier,” he added.

The government is intervening in the market not only when there is a fear of price fall due to the expected rise in supply but also when the price of grain specially that of the wheat increases. Since 2005 E.C the government has imported a total of 21 million quintals of wheat to stabilize the grain market. The government was also responsible for fairly distributing wheat to flour factories and direct consumers as well as fixing the price of bread, as Ephrem indicated.

“This 21 million quintals of imported wheat has contributed a lot in stabilizing the market at that time. Had this amount of wheat not been imported, the price of grains would have increased by more than the current price which becomes very dangerous to the society. So intervention is important, ”said Ephrem.

In a given country, one of the measurement tools to the stability of the macro economy is the rate of inflation. Since our countries inflation rate is a single digit inflation Eprem said, the rate of inflation in Ethiopia can be termed as the healthier one. Last year November inflation rate was 8.6 per cent and inflation rate of the same month this year was around 6.5 per cent. He also said that the intervention of the government is highly important to curb the market shortage as the abuse of market power and in-existence of modern market in the country may result in imbalance of market. He stressed that the government’s main intention in buying grain from the farmers is to save foreign currency and balance the market price in the country.



Soil stabilization solutions for Ethiopia’s road sector



Photo: AnyWay’s construction site and diligent workers at Gabriel Church Road, Addis Ababa

With millions of people reliant on the country’s natural resources for their livelihood and infrastructure for their communication, well-being of the community and environmental protection are inextricably linked in a country like Ethiopia. It was with this understanding the government launched the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy as a central element in the process of making the country a low carbon middle income economy by 2025.While the CRGE strategy is meant to enable the country to strengthen its adaptive capacity to the impacts of climate change; the country’s intent to become a “green economy front-runner” is an expression of both its potential for and its belief in a sustainable mode of growth. Ethiopia, in fact, is fully aware of the impediments that conventional development paths caused due to their unsustainable use of natural resources.

In its drive to accelerate socio-economic development, the country has embarked on a massive infrastructure development one of which is the road sector. Road, as an engine to the economic development, has received due attention from the government more than ever before. The sector has been widely considered as having a crucial role in promoting access to economic and basic social services, increasing job opportunities for citizens and creating income.

No doubt, the construction of such an economically vital infrastructure requires expensive public expenditure where innovative construction practices and high quality environment friendly materials have become the prime choices.

There are, in fact, increasing efforts around the world towards introducing innovative and alternative road construction approaches that aim at reducing costs of construction by enabling the use of subsidiary materials that are easily available. One of the proven technologies in connection with this is soil stabilization technique.

Despite the fact that several new soil stabilization techniques have been developed in different countries, the use of the technologies has been limited in Ethiopia. There is however, a need to popularize these technologies and develop testing procedures for selecting appropriate stabilizers that can be used to build better rural roads with less cost.

Evidences show that the varied geographical landscapes of Ethiopia that include mountains, hills, rivers, forest, wetlands, deserts, and scattered habitations in near and remote areas require adaptation of different innovative alternatives for better soil stabilization. In this regard introducing technologies that enable the use of locally available materials including marginal and industrial waste materials contributes a lot to reduce the cost of road construction. Such a method is also considered to be the right approach to enhance sustainable development through promoting soil and other natural resources conservation.

AnyWay Solid Environmental Solution is trying to contribute to the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy by way of promoting eco-friendly road construction in the country.

AnyWay is a subsidiary company to the Metrontario Group of companies, an established real estate developer and entrepreneurial investor since 1946. AnyWay is a global leader in providing soil stabilization products to the infrastructure and development sectors. AnyWay has undertaken similar projects in many countries in Africa such as Angola, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Sudan and in Latin America such as Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Israel.

AnyWay’s Natural Soil Stabilizer (ANSS) is recognized as an extremely cost effective method of converting poor quality soil into a strong impermeable layer. It permits construction of pavements embankments and reinforced earth structure in areas where they were not previously economically viable. Its products are based on unique technology patented worldwide. There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years regarding the advantages of soil stabilization for road infrastructure projects. It uses a technology that can reduce costs, shorten the time required for construction and cause little environmental impact.

Both the GTP, and the CRGE target to achieve a carbon neutral and developed economy in a relatively shorter period of time. In this respect this road construction projects by AnyWays in Jemo residential and Gergi areas are meant to support the government’s plans. In the stated sites road construction works by AnyWay were undertaken while at the same time considering the protection of the ecosystem. Implementers of the project believe that their business ventures are both in line with the CRGE strategy and supportive of the government’s rural development initiatives.

AnyWay’s soil stabilization methods are believed to have different advantages. Through stablization method black cotton soil has been successfully incorporated into road pavement structures thereby enabling to do away with the need to remove and dump the black cotton soil and replace it with quarried materials. Reduction of up to 70 per cent of the time required to complete road projects is the other advantage it provides. Moreover, as much as 30 per cent of cost is expected to be saved in such method.

Moreover the soil stablization method also enables to reduce environmental impacts of road projects by minimizing the need to excavate and spoil the black cotton soil during quarrying and importing new materials to the site.

AnyWay, through its projects aims to contribute to facilitating knowledge transfer through the provision of training.

ANSS is considered as a viable option for stabilization of sub-grade soils after conducting durability tests. It will particularly help to use marginal materials where materials that met standard specifications are far away.



South Sudan ceasefire deal signed


Agreement hailed as first step to ending conflict, though some express scepticism about all combatants laying down their arms

, Africa correspondent

The Guardian,  Thursday 23 January 2014

South Sudanese refugees

South Sudanese refugees in Joda, Sudan. Half a million people have been uprooted by violence. Photograph: EPA

South Sudanese officials and rebels have signed a ceasefire agreement , hailed as the first step towards ending an ethnically charged conflict that has killed thousands of people.

The deal was struck in neighbouring Ethiopia by representatives of President Salva Kiir and delegates loyal to sacked vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar. It was greeted by cheers from regional mediators and diplomats, and was welcomed in Washington.

The pact, which marks the first significant breakthrough since a power struggle between Kiir and Machar turned to violence on 15 December, is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of the signing, mediators said. The government also reportedly agreed to release 11 officials close to Machar from detention, a major point of dispute, although no time frame was given.

Taban Deng, head of the rebel delegation, said he hoped the deal would “pave the way for a serious national political dialogue aiming at reaching a lasting peace in South Sudan“.

Government negotiator Nhial Deng Nhial said the talks, which began in Addis Ababa three weeks ago, were “not easy”. “We hope to be able to make haste towards an agreement that will end bloodshed,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

But it remains to be seen whether all fighters in South Sudan, a patchwork of rival militias with competing loyalties, will abide by the outcome.

“What worries us is whether the agreement on the cessation of hostilities will stick [and] the capacity of the rebel group … to stop fighting,” Deng said. “We would like to take this opportunity to urge the rebel group to heed the voice of reason and abandon the quest for political power through violence.”

His concern was echoed by a spokesman for the South Sudan’s military, who cautioned that a group known as the “white army” may not want peace.

“Riek Machar has been using that force to fight the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army], so we have to see what will happen,” Colonel Philip Aguer told the Associated Press. “Civilians, innocents are dying, so it is good for the people of South Sudan to have peace.”

After initial clashes broke out in the presidential guard five weeks ago, the conflict rapidly escalated into war between the regular army, backed by Ugandan troops, and breakaway units and other militia. It also took on an ethnic character as members of Kiir’s Dinka tribe clashed with Machar’s Nuer group. Some analysts say as many as 10,000 people have died, while close to half a million have been displaced.

The UN has said it is investigating widespread reports of atrocities and war crimes, including massacres, rapes, summary executions and the use of child soldiers. It says 76,000 civilians are under protection at eight of its bases.

The fighting has also affected South Sudan’s oil industry, after technical workers fled and rebel fighters took control for while of the fields.

Earlier this week government forces recaptured the town of Malakal in the oil-producing Upper Nile state and the last major settlement under rebel control. Large numbers of rebel forces, however, are still massed in rural areas and smaller towns.

“To the parties, we say, ‘Enough,'” Alexander Rondos, the EU special representative for the Horn of Africa, said at the signing of the deal on Thursday. “The killing must end now. The displaced must be able to return to their homes.”

The US, which spent billions of dollars helping South Sudan achieve independence in July 2011, also welcomed the deal. The White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “This is a first critical step in ending the violence … we expect both parties to fully and swiftly implement the agreement.

“The United States urges both sides to build on this momentum by moving swiftly to an inclusive political dialogue.”

Others sounded a note of caution. Seyoum Mesfin, the chief mediator in Addis Ababa, told the ceremony: “The crisis that gripped South Sudan is a mere manifestation of the challenges that face the young and fledgling state.

“I believe that the postwar challenges will be greater than the war itself. The process will be … unpredictable and delicate.”

There was also scepticism on the streets of Juba, the South Sudanese capital. “It can solve some of the immediate problems but not all the problems,” Samuel Kuir Chok, 31, told Reuters. “I’m not optimistic … because this guy [Machar)] wants to be president at all costs.”

The Enough Project, a US-based advocacy group, said Thursday’s deal is only the first step on a long road to a sustainable peace.

“If an inclusive peace process is not constructed that seeks to address root causes, the conflict will continue, with deadly consequences,” said John Prendergast, the group’s co-founder, adding it was “far from guaranteed” that all combatants would lay down arms just because a deal was signed in Ethiopia.

José Barahona, Oxfam’s country director for South Sudan, added: “The world’s newest nation, plagued by conflict for the past month, has today been given a second chance. With the cessation of hostilities, the focus must now be on rapid reconciliation to aide a fast recovery and set South Sudan on a clear path to development.”

The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, welcomed the agreement, and said both sides must now ensure their forces stop fighting within 24 hours, as stipulated.

He said: “The brutal violence of the last month has led to countless deaths and caused thousands of innocent people to endure unimaginable suffering.

“The government and opposition must ensure that their forces implement the agreement immediately and in full.

“It is now vital that both sides work to heal the divisions that led to this conflict, and to strengthen governance in South Sudan. A genuinely inclusive process of national reconciliation is now needed, to give the people of South Sudan confidence that such violence can never reoccur. The UK is ready to lend its full support to these efforts in South Sudan.

“I fully support the African Union’s decision to establish a commission of inquiry into alleged crimes committed during the conflict, and call on all sides to co-operate with it to ensure that those responsible for abuses are held accountable.””.



Testing facilities receive accreditation



The Ethiopian National Accreditation Office (ENAO) has started awarding all testing and medical laboratory accreditations according to the requirements of the ISO. The accreditation has been awarded to the Textile Industry Development Institute, Addis Ababa Health and Research, Medical Bio-tech and Hema Diagnostic laboratories.

The decision to award the laboratories was made by the accreditation approval committee (AAC). The committee reached this decision after an intensive on-site assessment of the companies that lasted several days.

The assessment took into account the routing work processes and procedures which includes safety practices, equipment maintenance and function checks, records and reports of examination results, review of work records, inter laboratory comparison and the competency of staff among many other detailed requirements.

This accreditation will insure that those in the textile industry will have an easy way to check the quality of their products at laboratories that are found within a short distance of their factories and with a low cost.

The veracity of medical results will make the lives of patients much better as well as giving confidence to doctors when they make decisions on what type of disease their patient has, said Araya Fesseha, Director General of ENAO in his congratulatory  speech to the awardees.





–     22 January 2014 News Round Up


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