Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ethiopia breaching UN Security Council Resolution 1874 (2009) Sanctions against North Korea ?

Is Ethiopia Violating UN Sanctions against North Korea
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By Andrea Berger
23 December 2014


Since the 1970s, Ethiopia has been in the company of North Korea’s most loyal military customers. Amongst other things, Pyongyang has been a source of munitions, armored personnel carriers, tanks and tank parts, artillery and rocket fuel. In addition to these forms of assistance, North Korea has helped Ethiopia construct, operate and upgrade two weapons factory complexes—today known as the Gafat Armament Industry and Homicho Ammunition Industry. From Ethiopia’s perspective, contracting to North Korea for the initial supply of weapons production technology was a means of reducing long-term dependence on foreign military suppliers. (More comically, according to the Ethiopian Chief of Defence Staff, North Korea’s help in this regard also allows Ethiopia to meet its peacekeeping obligations).[1] Yet in practice, the effects of Ethiopia’s investment have been mixed. On the one hand, it has indeed learned to build certain varieties of small arms and munitions domestically, and now even exports its wares to countries like Sudan.[2] On the other hand, it does not seem to have been able to easily or entirely eschew North Korean assistance, and may still depend upon their goods and services.

Gafat Armament Industry  brochure. Photo: Metals and Engineering CorporationSecuring North Korean help to establish and operate arms factories in the late 1980s was neither politically poisonous, nor outright illegal, in the way that it is today. It was first with UN Security Council Resolution 1874 (2009) that a clear prohibition against purchasing “all arms and related materiel, as well as…technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms or materiel” from North Korea was articulated. For this reason, the UN Panel of Experts (established pursuant to Resolution 1874) has taken interest in signs of recent, continuing involvement of DPRK entities in the operations of the Homicho Ammunition Industry. And it is for the same reason that further investigation is needed into potential North Korean links with the second small arms plant in Ethiopia—the Gafat Armament Industry—about which new information, dating to the period shortly before the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, has come to light.

Capacity Building

Ethiopia is neither the first, nor the only country to have lusted after an indigenous arms manufacturing capability and paid Pyongyang to help. Such facilities are peppered across the globe, in countries as diverse as Madagascar, Syria, Libya, Iran and possibly Uganda. North Korean-designed ballistic missile production lines throughout the Middle East are the most well-known examples of Pyongyang’s efforts to bolster the indigenous capacity of foreign friends. Factories producing small arms and ammunition, light weapons and some heavier conventional systems are less renowned, but are equally relevant to the implementation of the current sanctions regime against the DPRK.

For North Korea, the design and manufacture of arms factories (or individual arms production lines) in foreign countries remains an evident market opportunity. Most countries with export-oriented military industrial complexes are reluctant to assist another country in developing a level of indigenous capability that eventually reduces the customer’s dependency on foreign supply. However, in this respect as in many others, North Korea is not ‘most countries.’ It has proven more than willing to earn profit in the short-term by helping foreign friends learn to make their own weapons, even if that means losing revenue in the future. For example, in a 2004 meeting between the Nigerian Vice President and Yang Hyong Sop—the Vice President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly—the latter proposed that North Korea provide Nigeria with ammunition production assistance.[3]

The Homicho Ammunition Industry

The first of two Ethiopian defence industry sites believed to have ties to North Korea—the Homicho Ammunition Industry—was established in 1987 as ‘Project 130’ and subsumed under the parastatal Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) in 2010. Based near Ambo, its production lines include: small, medium and heavy ammunition; tank shells, mortar bombs and grenades; and 120mm ‘Katyusha’ rockets.[4] The Homicho complex is the largest North Korean-assisted site. Initially, Pyongyang’s involvement probably centered on the design and establishment of production lines for munitions. These forms of assistance apparently continued through to at least late 2007, and included help manufacturing rocket-propelled grenades and truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers.

Around the same time, it also became clear that Ethiopia was suffering from dependency on North Korean spare parts and machinery for the factory. Because of their (presumably antique) North Korean design heritage, Homicho’s production lines use specific parts and machines, for which there are apparently few cost-effective available sources outside of Pyongyang.[5] Sunk costs in those facilities would have similarly made re-tooling a pricey affair.

Homicho’s centrality to the Ethiopia-North Korea relationship has made it a subject of intense interest and scrutiny. Until at least 2009, and likely thereafter, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa[6] continually exerted pressure on senior Ethiopian officials to sever related contracts with North Korea, much like the US had previously done with governments in Libya and Yemen. In November 2008, it appeared that this pressure might finally yield greater cooperation by the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense, which agreed to let the US Ambassador and a small team into Homicho the following month. Only a few days before the visit was scheduled to take place, the Defence Minister resigned and US access was promptly suspended. The Embassy was told that ‘there would be no problem with the visit if Ethiopia were to get technology or financial assistance from it.’ It is unclear whether access was successfully facilitated thereafter, though the initial offer suggests that the Ethiopian government may at least be open to greater transparency.[7]

In 2014, the UN Panel of Experts spotted public evidence of a possible continuing link between North Korea and the Homicho Ammunition Industry—by then controlled by METEC. Homicho’s official company profile listed the ‘Korea Mineral Trading General Corporation’ as one of its primary suppliers: an entity that does not appear in South Korean company registries. Given the factory’s history, it is therefore reasonable to assume that the company is North Korean. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that reference to the Korea Mineral Trading General Corporation was swiftly removed from the Homicho website following the publication of the UN Panel’s report[8] (though they apparently forgot to sanitize the accompanying PDF brochure).[9]

Gafat Armament Engineering Industry

The second site known to have been assisted by North Korea in the past is the Gafat Armament Engineering Industry, located near Debre Zeit. Gafat was opened in 1989, two years after the Homicho plant. While originally built to manufacture AK-47s and light machine guns, in 2002 it was incorporated into METEC (which also controls Homicho) and was upgraded to produce ‘40mm grenade launchers and other automatic weapons attached on armored vehicles and helicopters’ as well as ‘heavy artillery and howitzers.’ Around this time Gafat’s remit was also allegedly expanded to include armament maintenance.[10]

In addition to the confirmation of early North Korean involvement in Gafat offered in leaked US cables, a glance at marketing material for Gafat highlights the evident overlap between the weapons systems North Korea is able to indigenously produce, and those that Gafat now manufactures.

Gafat Armament Industry brochure. Photo: Metals and Engineering Corporation
(Click to enlarge) Gafat Armament Industry brochure. Photo: Metals and Engineering Corporation
Many of the systems shown above are ones that North Korea is able to produce.[11] Of course, it is worth noting that North Korea originally received or reverse-engineered many of these same systems from the Soviet Union or China, and therefore the Gafat designs bear resemblance to weapons produced by those countries as well. The twin-barreled anti-aircraft gun that is depicted (originally a Soviet design), or twelve-barrel multiple rocket launcher (originally a Chinese design) are examples. Worthy of note is the tear gas gun shown in the top right of the Gafat brochure. A gun of strikingly similar design was photographed in the hands of North Korea’s People’s Security Minister while on a 2013 visit to Uganda—a country also suspected of having received North Korean assistance in indigenous weapons production.[12] While not conclusive evidence, a commonality between many of the designs featured in Gafat’s marketing material is their familiarity to North Korea’s own defense industrial complex.

A gun of strikingly similar design to one shown on the Gafat brochure was photographed in the hands of North Korea’s People’s Security Minister while on a 2013 visit to Uganda. Photo: AFP.
A gun of strikingly similar design to one shown on the Gafat brochure was photographed in the hands of North Korea’s People’s Security Minister while on a 2013 visit to Uganda. Photo: AFP.
More concrete evidence of North Korean involvement in operations at Gafat dates to late 2007. An industrial engineering study of the complex’s inefficiencies, published by the University of Addis Ababa, speaks of a contract with the ‘Korea Ryong Bong General Corporation,’ active at the time of writing in late 2007, to retool production lines for the AK-47 and AK-103.[13] Records of conversations between General Samora and US officials in 2008 discuss what seems to be the same contract between the governments of Ethiopia and North Korea. Samora insisted, however, that “North Koreans have now finished their work and are leaving” Gafat.[14]

The General’s statements regarding the North Korean presence at Homicho and Gafat were frequently contradictory, however. They alternated “between ‘we will continue to source from North Korea’ and ‘we haven’t sourced from North Korea in the past year’ as well as ‘the North Koreans have left’ and ‘some of the North Koreans may still be around.’”[15] It is therefore possible that Pyongyang’s involvement in Gafat and other Ethiopian weapons factories continued beyond 2008. Enquiries into the affiliation of the ‘Korea Ryong Bong General Corporation’ and the nature and duration of its contract with Gafat is therefore necessary.

Build It and They Will Come (Again)

Contradictory statements by Ethiopian officials, as well as fresh suspicions about Gafat’s ties to North Korea, are reasons to continue to ask questions about whether Pyongyang’s involvement in domestic arms production persists. Alleged dependency upon North Korean supply is another. General Samora and other Ethiopian officials have repeatedly affirmed that METEC-run weapons factories are ‘dependent’ upon North Korean spare parts and machines for their production lines, as noted above. Provision of any such spare parts, machines or maintenance services by North Korea would now be sanctioned activity.

Even if cooperation has recently ended, modest but growing evidence suggests that sanctions may at some stage have been breached by the Ethiopian government and/or METEC, which controls the two factories in question. The UN Panel of Experts’ recent interest in Homicho speaks to the Panel’s concern that any North Korean link with the site may be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. Indeed, Homicho’s subsequent, swift sanitization of its publicized suppliers list compounds suspicion that interaction between METEC and Pyongyang is continuing in breach of the current sanctions regime. Furthermore, North Koreans were acknowledged by officials to still be on the ground at the Gafat site only months before Resolution 1874 was passed—as part of a contract between the government-run METEC and the Korea Ryong Bong General Corporation. Temporally, this takes confirmed cooperation too close to sanctions territory for comfort.


[1] “Defense Officials Impose Last-Minute Impediments on Arms Inquiry on North Korea,” Embassy Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), 14/01/2008, #08ADDISABABA87. Accessed via Wikileaks on May 27, 2014.

[2] Homicho Ammunition Engineering Industry—A Fact Sheet, Metals and Engineering Corporation,,

[3] “North Korea offers Nigeria missile deal,” Washington Times, January 28, 2004,

[4] Homicho Ammunition Industry, op cit.

[5] “Ethiopia: Scenesetter for Secretary Rice’s December 5 Visit,” Embassy Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), November 30, 2007, #07ADDISABABA3430. Accessed via Wikileaks on May 27, 2014

[6] “Defense Officials Impose Last-Minute Impediments on Arms Inquiry on North Korea,” op cit.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1874 (2009),” United Nations Security Council, S/2014/147, pp. 35 -36.

[9] Homicho Ammunition Engineering Industry—A Fact Sheet, Metals and Engineering Corporation, A search using Wayback Machine reveals the fact that reference to the Korean entity was removed following the UN Panel report.

[10] Gafat Armament Industry, Metals and Engineering Corporation,

[11] For an overview of North Korean weapons systems in the 1990s, including photographs or drawings, see the “North Korea Country Handbook,” US Department of Defense, May 1997,

[12] Andrea Berger, “A Legal Precipice? The DPRK-Uganda Security Relationship,” 38 North, November 13, 2014,

[13] Tewodros Rufael, “Design of Enterprise Resource Planning: Framework and Its Implementation,” Supervised by Dr. Subhash Chandra at the Graduate Studies of Addis Ababa University, November 2007, pp. 8-9.

[14] “Defense Officials Impose Last-Minute Impediments on Arms Inquiry on North Korea,” op cit.

[15] Ibid.

Found in section: Foreign Affairs
Tags: africa, africa-dprk relations, andrea berger, conventional arms, ethiopia, gafat, gafat armament industry, homicho, Homicho Ammunition Industry, Korea Mineral Trading General Corporation, Korea Ryong Bong General Corporation, Metals and Engineering Corporation, panel of experts, resolution 1874, sanctions, uganda

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Reader Feedback

3 Responses to “Is Ethiopia Violating UN Sanctions against North Korea”

Dereje says:
December 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm
This is very old information. A new ammunition factory built by poly technology inaugurated few years ago.

now, it is mostly from ukraine and china. watch it on youtube

Andrea says:
December 24, 2014 at 8:33 am

I agree that the information is not ‘new’ in the sense of ‘recent’. Some of the information in the Uni Addis paper, for instance is however, ‘new’ in the sense that it has not been discussed by those examining the implementation of DPRK sanctions before. At least to my knowledge.

Nor is the above concrete evidence of a sanctions violation by Ethiopia. It is merely highlighting an important avenue for further enquiry.


Gembre says:
December 24, 2014 at 2:18 am
I do not see what part of the so called evidence is new. All of the evidence mentioned in this article is more than 5 years old. ???

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ethiopian security forces killed at least five protesters and injured dozens more during the Bahir Dar demonstrations


Ethiopian security forces killed at least five protesters and injured dozens more during the Bahir Dar demonstrations

As 2014 draws to a close, the recent defection of several high-level Ethiopian military personnel,1and the Ethiopian government’s bloody crackdown on protests in Bahir Dar2 highlight serious questions about Ethiopia’s tense internal socio-political situation and the West’s ongoing support for Ethiopia’s repressive government.

Late last week, in Bahir Dar, several people were killed and many others wounded after police abruptly opened fire on protesters defending a sacred site against government-sponsored demolition.3 On the heels of the crackdown, several military pilots and a technician absconded with MI-35 helicopters; notably, the defections are only the latest in a series of similar such high-profile desertions.

Although Ethiopia has witnessed several years of respectable economic growth, last week’s developments reflect “the politics of fear” that pervades Ethiopia’s socio-political landscape, and emphasize the country’s significant “challenges concerning human rights, political competition, good governance, and corruption.” 4 Earlier this year, Ethiopian authorities arrested nine journalists and bloggers, subsequently denying them access to lawyers, family, and colleagues. They have been held on allegations they work for foreign human rights groups or used social media to incite violence.5 Such allegations have become common-place, as Ethiopia’s highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws allow the government to hand down long sentences to anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, [or] disseminates” statements the government considers terrorism.6 The arrests of the bloggers coincided with mass non-violent protests led by students in the central Oromia region,7 ultimately seeing numerous protestors killed, wounded, and arrested.8,9

Furthermore, the Ethiopian army has systematically engaged in executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses in its ongoing brutal counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).10 Ethnic groups residing within and around the region have endured arbitrary detentions, torture, and mistreatment in detention, as well as severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, and minimal access to independent relief assistance. Effectively, such abuses constitute direct threats to their survival.11

As well, weeks ago, TV4 reported that H&M, the popular Swedish clothing company, has purchased cotton from regions in Ethiopia where land-grabbing and forced displacement have occurred.12 Problematically, a central component of Ethiopia’s developmental and agricultural strategy involves “villagization,” a program entailing the relocation of millions of people from locations reserved for industrial plantations.13 Villagization has long been condemned by international organizations,14 since it leads to greater food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods, and the loss of cultural heritage of ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s program, which utilizes forced evictions, has been plagued by a plethora of human rights violations, with a variety of human rights groups documenting beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities.15

With national elections on the horizon (scheduled for May 2015), the potential for further instability, discord, and popular revolt loom large, especially considering past precedent. In 2005, following national elections widely believed to have been rigged, the Ethiopian government, under the late, authoritarian leader Meles Zenawi, “massacred” hundreds of protestors, many of them teenagers.16 Moreover, in recent years, massive protests by the Blue Party opposition group and Muslim groups, have ended in deaths, repression, and state violence.17 Finally, in November, a 166-page report on the plight of the Oromo people in Ethiopia was released.18 Concluding that the Oromo people have suffered “sweeping” repression in Ethiopia, the report detailed that between 2011 and 2014, more than 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their opposition to the government, with the majority of those arrested being peaceful protestors or members of opposition parties.19 Looking towards the 2015 elections, Berhanu Nega, Professor of Economics at Bucknell University and former leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy in Ethiopia, asserts that the Ethiopian government can “never have free and fair elections.” Specifically, according to Nega,

“[t]he reason why there’s so much repression, the reason why there’s so much muzzling of the press, the reason why the Ethiopian government is arresting opposition figures inside the country is precisely because they know that this is a despised government. It cannot last a day in an environment of freedom. This is a government that will lose catastrophically if there were [a] free and fair election.”20

Last, it is noteworthy that Ethiopia’s various internal challenges are compounded by its transgressions which extend beyond its borders. Specifically, Ethiopia has continued to occupy sovereign territory of its northern neighbor, Eritrea, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.21 The 12-year-long military occupation has frozen any possibility of developmental cooperation or economic partnership between the two countries, and the military occupation is seen as an influential factor to much of the instability within the Horn of Africa region.

In seeking to address Ethiopia’s flagrant dismissal of international norms and laws, a variety of measures could plausibly be undertaken (e.g. sanctions). However, the first, and possibly most far-reaching and effective response by the international community should be to withdraw its unwavering support for the repressive Ethiopian government. George Galloway, respected British politician, broadcaster, and writer, has often voiced concern of how the West’s (led by the US and UK) support for dictatorial, tyrannical regimes results in harming the populations of those countries. Regarding Ethiopia, Galloway has decried how the UK and US policy of encouraging, arming, training, financing, and facilitating the Ethiopian government’s “reign of terror” is “morally vacuous.”22 Similarly, renowned international economist, William Easterly, has recommended that the international community “stop financing tyranny and repression” in Ethiopia.23

An indication of the possible far-reaching effects of removing external support for a harsh, brutal regime can be seen in the example of Indonesia. Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT) has written and spoken extensively on how US and western support for the despotic regime in Indonesia played an indirect, yet extremely harmful role in the carnage and deaths of hundreds of thousands in East Timor.24 However, in 1999, after much pressure, the US finally “pulled the plug” on its support for the Suharto regime, quickly leading to the cessation of Indonesia’s brutal campaign. Specifically,

“[f]or 25 years, the United States strongly supported the vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, a virtual genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated, after Dili the capital city was practically evacuated. After Indonesian attacks, the US was still supporting it. Finally, in mid-September 1999, under considerable international and also domestic pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals “It’s finished.” And they had said they’d never leave, they said “this is our territory.” They pulled out within days, and allowed a UN peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance. Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done.”

While the socio-political dynamics and historical contexts of Indonesia and Ethiopia are quite different, the comparison presents several clear similarities. Both regimes received decades-worth of external economic, military, and political support (particularly from the US). Additionally, both regimes systematically and persistently violated human rights, transgressed various international laws – such as through military occupation, and engaged in large-scale campaigns characterized as “genocidal.” Consequently, with Ethiopia continuing to overlook basic international norms, standards, and laws, the international community must end its complicity in and (in)direct support for Ethiopia’s various transgressions. As Clinton relayed to Indonesia’s leadership, the international community must tell Ethiopia, “It’s finished.”


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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of hijacking helicopter | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of hijacking helicopter
file photo

The Ethiopian Defense Ministry said in a statement that an Ethiopian helicopter – that has disappeared since Friday – was forced to land in neighboring Eritrea

World Bulletin/News Desk
Ethiopia on Monday accused what it described as the "agents" of the regime in Eritrea of hijacking an Ethiopian helicopter.
The Ethiopian Defense Ministry said in a statement that an Ethiopian helicopter – that has disappeared since Friday – was forced to land in neighboring Eritrea.
It said the helicopter was on a training mission when the Ethiopian pilot forced a trainee and a technician on board to head to Eritrea.
 "The agents of the Eritrean regime had carried out the helicopter hijacking," the Ethiopian Defense Ministry added in the statement.
It denounced what it called the "enemies of peace and democracy", probably in reference to the ruling regime in Eritrea.
It said "anti-peace" groups would not be able to impede development, peace and democracy in Ethiopia.
The Anadolu Agency could not immediately obtain comments from the Eritrean government on the accusations of the Ethiopian Defense Ministry.
Ethiopia and Eritrea have been on no-peace, no-war terms since 2000 when the war between the two African states came to an end over a border triangle.
The war left thousands of people dead on both sides.
The two sides have also been trading accusations of supporting internal opposition since the end of the war.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Two Ethiopian Air Force pilots defected , three protesters killed in Bahir Dar | Diplomat News Network

Ethiopian Mi-35 Helicopter

Ethiopian Mi-35 Helicopter
Addis Ababa ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Two Ethiopian Air Force pilots reportedly went missing since yesterday morning with their two MI-35 combat helicopters.
Due to the increasing number of defection, the Ethiopian Air Force enforced a restriction that only allow flying within a 30 minute flight radius during training periods. The ban, however, couldn’t stop disgruntled members of the force to abandon the regime and seek protection in neighboring countries like Eritrea, flying with their multi-million dollar military machines.
According to ESAT, the two missing pilots are named as Captain Samuel Ghidey and Lieutenant Yililign Mekonen.
Ethiopian Air Force is no stranger to such high profile defection. In October of this year alone, Four SU-25 Fighter Jet captains deserted the Air Force to join armed opposition groups based in Eritrea.
Until the time of reporting, it was not clear if these two helicopter pilots defected to Eritrea or not. However, it is highly unlikely for an Ethiopian Air Force pilot to seek protection elsewhere apart from Eritrea.
Ethiopian Regime Shoots and kills protesters in Bahir Dar
At least three Ethiopian protesters were killed and seven others were wounded after regime forces unleashed a hail of gunfire towards demonstrators in Bahir Drar.
The demonstrators, who mainly comprised of the Christian Orthodox faith, came together to protest the city’s administrator’s plan to take parts of “Meskel Square” for road expansion.
The ‘Meskel Square’ area is largely used by the city’s Orthodox Church followers to observe annual religious ceremonies such as “Meskel” (the Founding of the True Cross), colorfully celebrated on 26th of Sep. each year.
In a similar incident over development, last April, regime security forces shot and killed at least 47 Ethiopian students after they protested the “Integrated Urban Development” Master Plan of Addis Ababa, a plan protesters said is intended at taking lands from Oromos near Addis Ababa and giving them to party loyalists.
Last week, a top Swedish prosecutor told Swedish Radio that 12 Ethiopian government officials and one other military commander who is based in Sweden are being investigated for executing the killings of 193 innocent protesters following the 2005 Ethiopian post election.
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