May 2007


Reuters
Friday, May 4, 2007; 1:12 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission embraced Eritrea’s government on Friday in the search for a comprehensive solution to a range of conflicts across the Horn of Africa, from Darfur to Somalia.

European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel gave a warm welcome to President Isaias Afwerki despite accusations of human rights violations, praising his diplomacy over Sudan and his decision to ban the forced circumcision of young girls.

Foreign editor Keith Richburg joins host Sam Litzinger every Thursday at noon for a roundup of the latest world news.

“I was very, very honored to receive him in the Commission,” he told a joint news conference.

“This is … an important event, an international signal for the EU and for Eritrea. I have very high expectations in this new kind of relations between the Commission and Eritrea.”

Eritrea last month quit the east African regional bloc IGAD, in a feud over the group’s support of Somalia’s interim government — strongly backed by Ethiopia — Eritrea’s bitter foe since a 1998-2000 war.

Afwerki dismissed charges by Addis Ababa that Eritrea was behind a rebel attack in southeast Ethiopia last month in which 74 people were killed and seven Chinese workers were seized.

“It’s become a habit, it’s become an addiction to blame anything on Asmara so don’t be surprised,” he said, adding that the sheer distance between Eritrea and the remote Ogaden area of Ethiopia where the attack occurred made any link impossible.

Security experts say Asmara has long supported Ethiopian rebels groups to pressure Addis Ababa, which Eritrea denies.

“KEY PARTNER”

Michel made no public mention of human rights, media freedom or growing tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia, saying he hoped a regular political dialogue with Asmara would help improve the mood for solving all problems in the region.

“Everybody knows Eritrea is a key partner and a key actor in the Horn,” he said, citing efforts to bring peace to Somalia, where Asmara has backed an Islamist movement ousted from power in Mogadishu by Ethiopian military intervention in February.

A November report to the United Nations on arms embargo violations in Somalia said Eritrea repeatedly armed and trained Islamist militants who opposed the Somali interim government.

Asmara denies this, but has hosted Islamist leaders in Eritrea. It has repeatedly criticized both Ethiopia and the Somali interim government and accused them of undermining what it called the Islamists popularly supported movement.

Ethiopia’s ambassador in Brussels, Berhane Gebre-Christos, at a news briefing coinciding with the president’s visit, accused Eritrea of playing a destructive role in the region.

“It has become a pariah state as far as its role is concerned in Somalia,” he said.

Gebre-Christos said the European Union should call on Afwerki to abandon “terrorism.” “What he is doing is terrorism,” he said. “The European Union should tell him unambiguously that he has to cease from terrorist acts.”

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Harry Goldstein
Senior Associate Editor, IEEE* Spectrum

IEEE Spectrum Radio

What does it take to build a computer lab in sub-Saharan Africa? IEEE Spectrum’s Harry Goldstein travelled to Nigeria to investigate the use of recently installed fiber-optic cables, but ended up spearheading the construction of a computing center for students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri.

The computer lab was to replace the cumbersome system of taking hand written notes to internet cafes to send as e-mail, and provide internet access to the students of FUTO. Goldstein encountered several challenges in securing funding and support to build the lab. Together with a grant from the IEEE foundation, Hewlett Packard donated the computers and equipment to fill the lab.

Despite the multi-million dollar fiber optic cable connection, internet access was hugely expensive and only available through satellite connections. Besides having to find reliable sources of electricity, there also remained the problem of providing adequate network support. Listen to how a dedicated group found solutions to most of the lingering problems, providing an invaluable educational resource for Nigeria’s future scientists and engineers.

*The IEEE, a non-profit organization, is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

The full name of the IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., although the organization is referred to by the letters I-E-E-E and pronounced Eye-triple-E.

Africa Calling
By Victor W.A. Mbarika and Irene Mbarika

This is a great article for anyone interested in the African wireless revolution or digital divide issues. One of my most time consuming hobbies is reading about technology; especially technological development in Africa. So here’s one of my favourite articles, (also posted on my blog: http://www.afrorise.wordpress.com).

Mobile in Africa

Mobile Subscriptions Skyrocket: Africa far outpaces the rest of the world in average annual growth of mobile phone subscriptions. According to the International Telecommunication Union, from 1999 through 2004 Africans signed up for cellphones at a far greater rate than Asians and nearly three times as fast as Americans. Most of that growth was in the sub-Saharan region [left]. Illustration: Bryan Christie Design (2)

Mobile vs. Fixed

Mobile vs. Fixed Lines in Africa: The most recent figures from the International Telecommunication Union show that between 1994 and 2004 the number of telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants in Africa increased dramatically, thanks to a huge upsurge in cellphone usage starting in the late 1990s.
Source: International Telecommunication Union